Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Young women set example

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Lorde with Joel Little.
Lorde with Joel Little.

Events this week have seemed more than usually random and chaotic - to the point where many people lost track of which side was using which conspiracy to divert whom from what.

First the right tried to divert us from Simon Bridges' ineptitude by dumping on Len Brown, but in doing so they also distracted us from trouble at kohanga reo, which really only mattered until John Banks managed to smother himself in ignominy yet again, challenging those with already stretched attention spans until ... oh look, a Booker Prize.

It was a week in which the brilliant singer and writer Lorde (see disclosure) came home trailing clouds of glory after a barnstorming few weeks captivating the world media, and the brilliant writer Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize.

Both successes put a smile on people's faces and they started using the word "we" a lot: "We" won our second Booker Prize and "we" showed we can make music that will be heard around the world. This was especially gratifying coming so soon after "we" lost the America's Cup.

It's quite legitimate to feel a share in Catton and Lorde's successes. This country made them. And their example should remind parents terrified of their artistic children that although, yes, not everyone can get a No1 record or write an award-winning novel, only people who attempt it will do so.

Too many creative voices are silenced by the voice that says: "Yes, you can do that, but you have to get a proper job first".

Meanwhile, back with middle-aged men ... The courts will decide Banks' guilt or innocence but his political fate has almost certainly been decided in the court of public opinion. As for Brown and the reaction to his affair, this was one of those rare events that brings people from all points on the political spectrum together: everyone knew better in a game anyone could play.

It was more than a little sick-making to hear the hounds of opinion baying for blood and watching Brown's opponents expressing their outrage at his perfidy knowing that many of them might be guilty of the same error.

This was a private matter that, so far, appears not to have involved misuse of public anything, except the mayor's time. Others may have felt "let down", as the more sanctimonious commentators described themselves, but I was not among their number. I'm a resident of Auckland and Brown is my mayor. It's not as though he's been running Hamilton behind my back.

There is a clear theme running through all this: role models. Lorde's success has provided a huge morale boost to our music industry, confirming for talented performers that their suspicions that they were actually quite good were correct. Catton's win will have a similar effect on the literary community.

For young women, still under-represented in nearly every area that the world rates as important, this is an especially important result. They couldn't find two finer, smarter, more eloquent people to look to for inspiration.

Final score: zero for middle-aged men who seek power and four cheers for brilliant young women.


• Disclosure of potential conflict of no interest to anyone, I would have thought. As people who follow me on Twitter are no doubt sick of hearing, Lorde's co-writer and producer is my son. But she'd still be awesome if he weren't and I'd still think she was.

- Herald on Sunday

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