• An American Colony?

    The end of the Queen’s reign has provided us here in New Zealand with a powerful and prolonged reminder of the extent to which our heritage is bound up with that of the United Kingdom. It may, therefore, be an odd moment to register what is becoming a significant change in our national outlook.

    The introduction of a direct Air New Zealand flight to New York has immediately followed the cessation of flights to London. The change is somehow both real and symbolic. It is real in the sense that it presages the end of the “OE” – the rite of passage that took so many young Kiwis on an exploration of Britain and of their origins and that provided them with a different vantage point from which to assess our place in the world.

    It is symbolic in that it signifies the extent to which we are now beginning to be absorbed into a different – American – culture. The change has been a long time coming; American popular culture – films, pop music, fashions – have long been a major influence here, an influence only partially offset by the amazing vitality of British equivalents like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and our own home-grown heritage.

    But the tide of American culture has continued to roll in remorselessly. We see it in all aspects of our lives; basketball is now more popular than rugby with the younger generation. Our favourite foods are Big Macs and KFC. Our principal sources of information are American-originated social media, with all the dangers that that entails.

    Our place in the world and our view of it are changing before our very eyes. The rise of China as a global power has emphasised to us that we are a Pacific country and that our backyard is an arena in which two rival global powers compete, so that we are, as a consequence, invited (or compelled) to choose between them – and most of us will prefer to throw in our lot with America, which, as a consequence, assumes a renewed strategic significance for us.

    Even our language is being taken over; Americanisms are not new, dating back at least to the Second World War, but other changes are less welcome and are in danger of impoverishing and distorting the way we speak.

    The American insistence that, when we recline, we “lay” down ( as opposed to “lie” down) adds an unnecessary confusion to the language, while their use of “alternate” as a synonym and substitute for “alternative” destroys the meaning of two perfectly good and useful words; our own culture has not been sufficiently robust to resist these infelicities.

    And the American spelling of words like “colour” and “favour” without the “u” is gaining ground, despite the fact that it has absolutely no etymological justification – its adoption here is simply testament to the attempt of the weak-minded to appear trendy and “with it”.

    It may be that my resistance to becoming just another part of an American cultural bloc is best regarded as a Canute-like refusal to accept the inevitable. “Lie back…” (or should that be “lay back?”) “and enjoy it” may be the correct response. But inevitability does not necessarily connote acceptance – and I have enough respect for our heritage to not give it up without a fight.

1 Comment

  1. david says: September 23, 2022 at 7:35 pmReply

    It would be interesting to see who was responsible for flooding NZ -Television with American ‘Product’ from very-early in the arrival of this technology to NZ. It was very-thoroughly and systematically-done . It was definitely intentional as we were very-much a part of Britain at the time, with Ant-American-sentiment verging-on hatred by most NZ’ers . So WHO, Exactly , was controlling/in-charge-of Programming back then ? Their ‘financial-records’ would also be interesting to view . D Cowen

Leave a reply.