Tyranny of Distance
It’s mostly newsletters, detailing current legislative debate, recent case commentary, occasional snippets of Hansard (sometimes quite amusing, I have to say), thrilling missives on the new Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, the implications for property transactions of the new Building Act, stuff about tax and trusts and estates and commerce. Ugh.
The pile doesn’t exactly go down, but now and then I finish one, initial it and put it into a second, much more modest ‘to-be-filed-somewhere’ pile. My desk is covered in piles. I am a Piler of Things. Now there’s an analogy…
This is going somewhere. I came across this piece a few weeks ago, and funnily enough it stacks nicely with my own half-formed theories on the societal and cultural influence of New Zealand’s geographical location with respect to the Rest of the World.
Tyranny of Distance
Some things do not change. Professor Michael Taggard prefaces a recent article (2004) 15 Public Law Review 1 with a quotation from Mark Twain's book, Following the Equator: a journey around the world (1897) which read: "All people think that New Zealand is close to Australia or Asia, or somewhere, and that you cross to it on a bridge. But that is not so. It is not close to anything, but lies by itself, out in the water. It is nearest to Australia, but still not too near. The gap between is very wide. It will be a surprise to the reader, as it was to me, to learn that the distance from Australia to New Zealand is really twelve or thirteen hundred miles, and that there is no bridge." In August, the English writer Jenny Diski (London Review of Books, 5/8/2004) observed: "... everything is far away from New Zealand if that is where you are. But that's easy to say if you are merely in transit and you have a return ticket to the far away you came from. All New Zealanders tell you about their European trip, a year or five spent where far away isn't. Or they say that they are planning such a trip - soon or one day. The feeling of separation grabs you, and you rapidly begin to think like a New Zealander. I've never felt the distance of distance so strongly. Not in the Antarctic, not at the tip of Tierra del Fuego, not even in the nowhere of Raton, New Mexico. Only in the grip of a depression have I felt the 'world', whatever I and my New Zealand hosts meant by that, to be so remote."
From The Capital Letter 27 TCL 35, 10
Six months is my longest stretch away from these shores in all my 24 years; I look forward to spending many more months exploring the corners of the world. All I know is that when I moved back to Dunedin after six months in a cultural blender, I felt like I was coming back to mono sound when I had grown accustomed to 5.1 surround. I vividly recall the metamorphosis as I flew home. One minute I was living the dream, and the next (actually a painful 24 hours later) it was over. I recall the drive from Wellington airport – I kept my eyes closed for as long as I could, trying to keep the awful truth at bay. Moving back to Dunedin may well have been one of the hardest things ever, even harder than the idea of my third year jurisprudence exam (which in reality wasn’t so bad). Of course I “got over it”, there’s little choice to do otherwise. I put my memories and experiences away, kept on walking through and beyond the reverse culture shock.
Something I ponder now and then is how our geographical isolation shapes our identity. The potential effects of isolation, insulation, and influences intrigue me. As I said, it's a half-formed theory. Like Mainland cheese...