Thursday, April 21, 2005



Belich vs Hill

It's refreshing to see Kim Hill back on TV, and also refreshing to see her open in a less combatitive style than usual. Rather than a verbal slugfest with the politician d'jour, we were treated to a rather gentle discussion with historian James Belich. It was reminiscent of her excellent interview with Michael King just before his death, in that rather than being about Hill, it was actually about the views of her subject.

As for the views themselves, there was some discussion of why we would choose to celebrate Anzac Day when the Gallipoli campaign was such a bloody disaster, and about appropriate national days (I've been clear in my preference for Waitangi Day, but I like the symbology of declaring our republic in the centenary of our becoming a Dominion. Unfortunately, I think it'll take a little longer than that). But the most interesting part was on the kiwi sense of egalitarianism. (Pakeha) New Zealand was settled by people who wanted to escape the stultifying class structure of Britian, who wanted to leave deference and heirarchy behind - and they succeeded. We used the power of the state to strangle our would-be aristocracy at birth, allowing us to create a society where no-one was considered better (in the sense of having greater moral worth) than any other. This is one of our great achievements, and something we ought to celebrate. But Belich also spent some time bemoaning the "kiwi curse" - a "mutant egalitarianism" which conflates moral worth with talent, in that it insists that no-one is more talented or skilled than anyone else - except on the sports field. This is fairly clearly a defence mechanism against those who seek to claim greater moral worth on the basis of greater talent - but it's a defence mechanism which buys into the very belief it is supposed to protect against. Egalitarianism is far better served by denying any linkage at all, and insisting on complete moral and political equality for all, regardless of talent or the lack thereof.

2 comments:

It was a very good discussion indeed - much unlike Hill's usual 'take no prisoners' style of interviewing.

Posted by Lewis : 4/21/2005 09:12:00 PM

It is indeed very pleasing to have Hill back on TV, combatively or otherwise, though in this case I don't think either Belich or his field of expertise called for an agressive style of questioning.

Did anyone else, however, get the impression that Belich wasn't all that impressed by Hill? I noted, for example, at the end of the first segment as the ad break began that he turned his chair away from the desk and began examining his fingernails as if he had no interest in interacting with Hill outside the strict requirements of the interview.

Posted by Gary Young : 4/23/2005 04:20:00 PM