Peter Durney: Being a New Zealander opens door to life of privilege

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What a priceless, undeserved privilege that is to be a kiwi, says Durney. Photo / Supplied
What a priceless, undeserved privilege that is to be a kiwi, says Durney. Photo / Supplied

I am always embarrassed when somebody rails against the unearned privileges of royalty because I, too, must own up to a life of privilege, all of it bestowed on me by chance. Not being a celebrity, I am never bothered by paparazzi, nor is the media eager to pounce on my least social indiscretion. I guess that is an added bonus.

I became very aware of my privileged position when I was working overseas. The Asian people I associated with were quick to congratulate me on my good fortune - being born in a Western country with English as my first language. My New Zealand passport allowed me the opportunity to travel to many countries where I could communicate with those who had struggled to learn my language, rather than having to learn theirs.

Mumbai, Seoul, Istanbul, London are great cities, worth a visit, but to arrive back in this country, present my passport and hear the words from the immigration official, "Welcome home," brings a lump to the throat. I feel privileged indeed.

Free from the crush of humanity, I can take stock.

I was brought up a Christian, but I am free to question my faith, my parents' faith and, if I choose, discard it. Not everyone can do that.

I am not clever, but I had the chance to learn a trade and, later, take a university degree. Not everyone can do that.

With my wife, I was able to raise a family, comfortably housed, healthy and well educated. Not everybody is so fortunate.

I've had some health issues. These were tended to by skilled and compassionate professionals. I guess I was lucky there.

This country offers me beaches and mountains and lakes to explore, with good roads and an adequate car. Many people cannot even aspire to owning a car.

Now I am old and have a Gold Card, I can freely travel around what must surely be the most beautiful city in the world - one that is not choked by smog.

By and large, the streets of this country are safe. Crime is an aberration, not the norm. Nobody is shelling or bombing me, or trying to impose a different regime by force. Lunatics with guns are few and far between.

I can criticise politicians and even the Government. I can write letters of complaint and indignation to the newspapers. I wouldn't try that in a number of countries.

Sure, some of my comforts have required effort on my part, but I would hesitate to say that I've worked harder than the man in Ulsan who rides his motor scooter in all weathers to deliver pizzas, or the kids in Chennai who spend their days harassing tourists for a few rupees.

I am not offended by the pageantry of royalty. It amuses me. I love the parades, the Trooping of the Colour, the dignity of public occasions, the quaint rituals whose only justification is that they have been practised for centuries.

It places my part of the world into a historical context. It matters not that the crowned head of New Zealand lives far away. In fact, I prefer it. I saw on television the American presidential election. I did not find that amusing.

And so, Charles, William and Harry and all the rest, enjoy the hand that life has dealt you. I don't begrudge you your rank and fortune. I only know that by sheer accident of birth, I am a Kiwi. What a priceless, undeserved privilege that is.

- NZ Herald

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