A country that can honour a sheep shearer with a knighthood must do more to shape the opinion of the Saudi Arabian sheikhs.

Weird time of year, this cusp. Has the new year started yet? I feel halfway, like I'm still beaming down from 2015, but haven't quite materialised yet. Could be the hangover.

Someone bought a $100 bill for $250 on Trade Me. Clearly having a currency trader for a Prime Minister has done nothing for New Zealand's ability at maths. Either that, or it demonstrates the power of celebrity. This wasn't any $100 bill. It was the famous one. Like a house in Auck-land, it's worth more than the valuation. Hilarious though. Goes to show we're in a good mood.

We gave a sheep shearer a knighthood. For services to shearing. (Surely, services to overheated sheep? Services to shearing would be more like, invent a machine). Could we possibly pander more to the national stereotype? Fair play, he's the best sheep shearer in history. None of us loses anything from him being knighted, and at least it makes a difference to his life, gifting him a lifetime's supply of mockery from friends.

Personally, as a child of Masterton (home of the Golden Shears) I hope he can turn it into money. If sheep shearing is an underrated sport, may I suggest he take this opportunity to pioneer a gym franchise where cubicle escapers get on a machine that mimics a frisky sheep.


(Shearobics? Tai Sheep?) May this become your golden fleece. You can have that one for free, mate. I mean, Sir Mate.

The unnecessary knighthood was to Richie McCaw. His knighthood was so unnecessary, it's silent. He's like a doctor who became a specialist, and somehow doesn't get called doctor any more. In the popular imagination, he was always Sir Richie, and now I suppose he's (pause, blokish nod of approval, inhale skyward) ... Richie. It's like trying to pronounce an asterisk.

So it's 2016. For us, anyway.

But it's not the 21st century everywhere. And by that, I mean Saudi Arabia. Instead of fireworks (which might pose a fire hazard, near so much pulsing oil and crisp flammable cash), Saudi Arabia welcomed the new year with 47 beheadings. Found guilty by a legal process untroubled by defence lawyers, following laws which range from the nuts-out crazy to the merely whimsical - while never veering away from the cruel - these victims were executed Isis-style, minus the GoPro. (In Saudi Arabia, executions remain more a traditional live theatre experience, rather than the snack-able, shareable approach of Isis.)

Some quibble that beheading, Saudi-style, is a particularly nasty version of the death penalty, implying there's a bladeless death penalty that's civilised and modern. (Hey, even Bob Dylan went electric!) But that's like saying it's easier to get away with murder if you make it look like an accident. Certainly, if it was up to me, I'd opt for natural causes, in deep REM sleep, after being served a cocktail by Bill Cosby, at about the age of 90. But that wouldn't make the death penalty right.

So let's not quibble about the technique. Even if the sword was replaced with a syringe, Texas-style, it's still the death penalty, and we should think pretty carefully. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, seems to aim for volume, the main emphasis to get value from the executioner's one-hour minimum call-out.

And we, New Zealand, the nice guys, the first country to give women the vote - WE built these people a sheep farm. The country that knighted a shearer - the country where sheep have mythical, spiritual status - WE gave these cruel despots our highest accolade, the Grand Designs, Elon Musk version of a sheep farm.

Never mind that it's in the desert. (That didn't stop Fifa giving Qatar the World Cup). We've seen how Saudi Arabia treat humans. How do we think they treat animals?

Climate change notwithstanding, Saudi Arabia is the most urgent moral argument for renewable energy. The sooner we all have solar cars, the sooner that evil family's dungeon of torture will be treated the way it deserves to be, as a pariah state. Let's treat them the way we'd treat them if they weren't rich. No more sucking up from spineless democracies, ours included, too star-struck by sodden brute wealth to say anything about, you know, um, those human rights thingies. I don't know much Arabic, but I suspect sheikh translates into English as "Darth".

(But don't get me started on ancient religions).

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