February 01, 2015
Catton has a right
02 FEBRUARY 2015
You can’t tell a Man Booker prize winner by its dusk cover, but one who is willing to make a stand to criticise hypocrisy – even at the highest and most powerful levels – shows they at least have a spine.
Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton got up the noses of PM John Key, talkback hosts and likely half the population of New Zealand, when at an international function in India she was critical of the ‘Neo liberal Government’ that was more concerned with profits over people.
She described those running the country as very shallow money hungry individuals who don’t give a toss about culture. Obviously the domain of the literary people only.
Catton was also critical of the tall poppy syndrome she says exists in New Zealand.
Problem is she’s not far off the mark. There is a real tall poppy syndrome within New Zealand and the government, as shown by its decision to sell off thousands of state homes to make others responsible for social issues, is in fact more concerned with the OECD, rather than problems faced daily by many Maori and non-Maori families. We at the Manukau Urban Maori Authority see the real struggles faced every day by whanau. There are not enough jobs and with the attitudes of Government department’s they feel like criminals for asking for help.
Catton, who won the 2013 Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, told the Indian audience that after picking up her prize, she became uncomfortable with the way people treated her in New Zealand. It was probably like winning the lottery – you are not sure who your real friends are from those who only want to know you for your money.
But labelling Catton a traitor for her views by my Radio Live colleague Sean Plunket is over the top.
Straight shooting Plunket said Catton was an ‘ungrateful hua’ who should be thankful for the opportunities she has in New Zealand. While Plunket might have a point in terms of the opportunities given to her and perhaps she could have been more diplomatic with her views. Calling her an ungrateful hua is just silly and offensive, Catton has every right to make criticism she does not have to be a sycophantic patriot.
All star movie mogul Peter Jackson certainly isn’t, it’s well known that Jackson had an acrimonious relationship with the NZ Film Commission and attacked them relentlessly when they owed him money. This was despite the fact that the Film Commission financed his early films and launched his career. But no one seems to have remembered those times, maybe John Key should think about that before he decides to criticize Catton again.
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