AS I SEE IT : Christian Penny


How would you describe the New Zealand identity?
I once worked with French acting coach. The class was filled with folk from all around the world. He had the knack of being able to nail people’s types and national traits. He called us “proud”. This is my take on what he saw in us. We’re proud without understanding what we are proud of. Another way of saying that is “defensive”. We think we are generous but, basically we are scared. We like to feel safe. We want help and like to give it, but we don’t really like to engage or work through things. We prefer simple tasks. We still think the world knows best, or that at least Europe and America do.

What will be the country’s next major challenge?
Learning how to work together under pressure. We are about to get hit with change, the likes of which we have never encountered, and we still don’t have much practice at how to deal with this. We need plan for the future and need to keep working out what it is that we can be the best at in the world.

What do we need to do to prepare for this?
Get better at the skills of collaboration the Treaty of Waitangi has made us practise. We may not like it, but it is our best hope. Learn to take smaller, more regular steps forward. Stay involved with our differences and diversity. More thinking, less opinion. (I think I just failed that.) Uplift and learn from the great wisdom that is inherent in Maori processes and tikanga. Don’t just borrow this, but understand why it affects us all.

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