Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: As cringers, we're top of of the list

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Why this continuing obsession with how other people rate us?

Wellington topping Lonely Planet's list as a top 10 city to visit fails to impress Deborah Hill Cone. Photo / Supplied
Wellington topping Lonely Planet's list as a top 10 city to visit fails to impress Deborah Hill Cone. Photo / Supplied

Bugger me. We're the fifth most prosperous nation in the world. Who knew? Not me, and I surely ought to, since I am the ninth most influential woman in the media, according to a very scientific study. Thank you, you are too kind.

Not nearly as thrilling as being the fourth most popular folk duo in New Zealand, I know, but in a world of list-mania you take what you can get.

It must be a sign of our incey-wincey teeny-weeny insecurity as a nation that we are so smitten with awards and put so much store by them. Wellington is a top 10 city, according to Lonely Planet. Big wow.

New Zealand is 14th in the world for entrepreneurship and opportunity but we need to have more "self-belief when it comes to business". Good point, but perhaps we would have more if we stopped putting so much store by the opinion of obscure overseas think-tanks.

Don't get me wrong. It's not as though I don't like winning. Lists are great if you are on the top of them. But who are these people who make these lofty pronouncements? I thought these days we had dispensed with fawning over authorities who tell us what matters. Isn't it more modern to recognise that you get more insightful analyses from the man on the street?

I have to say, a lot of my readers ought to have their own columns. Phil responded to a recent column in which I said we were economic dog tucker with his own list. "There's a cluster of memes that I think of as 'Nice Little Kiwi Syndrome' - they pop up all the time in conversations, on the news or in letters to the editor. One, we're clean and green - unlike those sinful big economies. Two, we're nuclear-free 'cos we're morally superior (not because we're a long way from trouble). Three, we're kind and fair - unlike those horrible free marketers. Four, money is overrated - only greedy people have it or want it. No one joins the dots between a strong, prosperous economy and having lots of shiny hospitals and well-paying jobs."

See? I wouldn't dare use the word "memes". Of course, the voice from the street isn't always so erudite but it makes good points nonetheless. "Your article in the NZ Herald sounds awfully like you are turning into a hippy." "Can I use the freedom of speech you claim and call you a bitch?" "I know you have only a week to knock out your regular column for the NZ Herald but I want to know, do you really believe the crap you write?"

Then there are people like John. "Why do people like me hold people like you in such contempt? During my life, I've had a bit to do with people who have gotten so depressed they commit suicide. Basically, the reason is they become so engrossed in negative thinking they decide to end it all.

"The tragedy of too much of your writing is that it, bit by bit, pushes us Kiwis to think like those suicidal persons. That summarises why I believe much of your written pieces are deserving of being put in the 'gutter press' category."

Actually, Sir Rob Muldoon once told me I would end up in the gutter press. I took it as a compliment. Shame he is not around for me to tell him I'm actually the ninth most influential woman in the media.

dhc@deborahhillcone.com

- NZ Herald

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