Let's not just blindly cheer for Kiwis such as Helen Clark and Steven Adams, let's judge them on merit

I am not supporting Helen Clark or Steven Adams.

Before you choke on your coffee, here’s why. I do not support New Zealanders just because they are New Zealanders. That’s near blind loyalty of the “my country, right or wrong” variety. Neither Helen Clark nor Steven Adams really thrill me and I decline to jump on the bandwagon.

Helen Clark was a very effective and successful politician and a moderately successful Prime Minister. She will, in my opinion, go down as neither one of the worst nor one of the best Prime Ministers. Just because she is Kiwi many seem to think she deserves our unmitigated endorsement as Secretary-General of the United Nations. John Key thinks so. Perhaps he sees diffuse downstream benefits for New Zealand if she gains the top job.  But I do no see why I should root for her.

A respected publication, Foreign Policy, alleged she has been ruthless with her staff whilst head of the UN Development Programme. Clark hotly denied this charge, responding that it was “totally fabricated”.

She is a socialist, or if you like, a liberal democratic socialist, so should I put my (conservative) political beliefs aside and now support her? I did not root for her in New Zealand and I won’t root for her in New York. Would a democratic socialist Secretary-General of the UN be better or worse? I suspect it would be worse insofar as the UN will become more bureaucratic and seek to arrogate to itself more power.

I don’t see our former PM trimming the UN from a bloated ineffectual heavyweight to an incisive welterweight. 

Turning to Steven Adams, the sporting public is encouraged to support him and his NBA team. There has been a fawning over him that is, I think, unseemly. Part of it is the usual cultural cringe. A Kiwi is doing well in Europe or the US and we rejoice. Celebration of success is natural and patriotic and I join in it, but you can take a good thing too far.

As for Adams, he has consistently refused to play for the New Zealand men’s basketball team (I dislike the silly marketing name, Tall Blacks). One day he might; but so far he never has. I am not holding my breath. He declined to do so in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. He declined to do so in the Olympic qualifiers for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Each time he essentially cited his need to secure his playing future with his American professional basketball team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s fine. He is a free agent. But don’t expect me to support him.

I did not like it when Glenn Turner (then at his peak, aged 29) turned his back on the NZ cricket team for 6 years —after, it seems, another spat with the administrators—to play brilliantly for Worcestershire. Take another example: Former NZ football captain, Tommy Smith, these days plying his trade at Ipswich Town, has not been selected in recent times. Current national coach, Anthony Hudson, explained: “Tommy has not been able to commit to us again, and as a result I will not be selecting him for the All Whites going forward.”

You might say I am unrealistic and naive. These sportspeople have a limited career and they must make hay while the sun shines. Certainly I can see that. But just don’t expect me to cheer for them.

I support Kiwis in music, art, science, literature, sport, you name it, when they deserve it. I don't support them just because they figuratively drape a NZ flag around their shoulders.

Let us by all means celebrate the many accomplishments of New Zealanders at home and abroad. But let’s not get too carried away.

Comments (14)

by Antoine on June 10, 2016

However will she manage without your support

by Dennis Horne on June 10, 2016
Dennis Horne

<i>But I do no see why I should root for her.</i>

Hard to generalise from one case. We'll have to wait and see if she's rooted or not.

by Anne on June 10, 2016

"... she is a socialist, or if you like, a liberal democratic socialist,...".

I didn't read past that comment because if you can't manage to describe her political status correctly, then there's not much hope for the rest of your argument.

Helen Clark is neither. She is a Social Democrat. And if you don't know the difference then perhaps you should improve your knowledge before putting 'pen to paper' on this subject. 

by Rex Ahdar on June 10, 2016
Rex Ahdar

Anne: "... she is a socialist, or if you like, a liberal democratic socialist,...".

You are correct and my apology for the loose terminology. I was being tendentious. A helpful article explaining the difference is in Atlantic Monthly: Bernie Sanders is a Social Democrat not a Democratic Socialist. I quote:

"Sanders is not a typical socialist. Sure, he believes in a highly regulated and heavily taxed private enterprise, but he does not seem to want the state to own banks and make cars. Considering the negative connotations of 'socialism' in America, it is a bit of a puzzle why Sanders insists on using that word. It would be much less contentious and more correct if he gave his worldview its proper name: not 'democratic socialism', which implies socialism brought about through a vote, but social democracy.

In a social democracy, individuals and corporations continue to own the capital and the means of production. Much of the wealth, in other words, is produced privately. That said, taxation, government spending, and regulation of the private sector are much heavier under social democracy than would be the case under pure capitalism."

* *  *

It is best to read on though and not get too hung up on terminology. For, example, I'd rarely read much commentary upon social and political issues if I got dissuaded by the writer's incorrect use of 'Fundamentalist' instead of 'Evangelical' Christian.



by Megan Pledger on June 10, 2016
Megan Pledger

If you were really judging them on some objective standard than yes, you would have to put aside your "(conservative) political beliefs" and whether they "thrill you" or not.   

It's not NZers who are getting carried away.  It's the media.   There are a lot of reasons why the media go hot on a story and, these days, one of the reasons is cheap copy - snagging a story about a NZer from an overseas source is cheap and easy pickings. 

by Anne on June 10, 2016

Okay, I accept your points but I believe you are wrong about Helen Clark. For example, your quote:

"I don’t see our former PM trimming the UN from a bloated ineffectual heavyweight to an incisive welterweight."

Her ability to take the hard decisions, even if it means upsetting some people, is imo the reason why she is currently seen as the front runner for the job. Indeed she has recently copped a lot of flak for her successful attempt to turn the UNDP programme into a much leaner and more effective force for change.

by Ian MacKay on June 10, 2016
Ian MacKay

Tall Poppy Syndrome? What a miserable life you lead Rex. 

by Fentex on June 10, 2016

Tall Poppy Syndrome?

I've heard people insulted with that phrase all my life and never seen an instance it was deserved.

A person with a different opinion that is not forced by arbitrary loyalties is insulted for differing? Exactly which tall poppy is being cut back?

by Megan Pledger on June 10, 2016
Megan Pledger


His opinion is shaped by different loyalties - he talks about how his personal politics influence his opinion about Helen Clark.   Her merit isn't decided by an objective criteria but a subjective and highly personal criteria.

by Stewart Hawkins on June 10, 2016
Stewart Hawkins

Agree on all points and, in addition, a socialist is a socialist is a socialist, no need for discussing finer points which fail to define anything further.

by Dennis Horne on June 10, 2016
Dennis Horne

His opinion is his opinion and he makes a fair point. If Helen Clark were French or whatever would Key be backing her?  YES/NO.  Of course it's parochial.

To paraphrase Sharon Stone, some people fake orgasms and some people fake their whole lives.

Which wouldn't preclude anyone from the job.

by Lee Churchman on June 12, 2016
Lee Churchman

While Adams is nowhere near the next Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he's a well-liked, decent NBA centre with a future in the league. There are only a few dozen starting centres in the NBA and competion for those spots is brutal. When Adams is established, he will be better able to play for NZ. Right now he's just trying to get his 2K stats up. 

by Bruce Thorpe on June 12, 2016
Bruce Thorpe

"Myopic loyalty" seems well demonstrated by a total aversion to social democracy, which would be the preferred flavour by the majority of OECD countries, the EU and other developed democracies.

The same ML seems to be demonstrated in complaining that a very youthful athlete has chosen to develop his skills rather than play for a very second class national team.

Helen Clark has a record of being a thoroughly effective manager of government , with a very rational blend of mainstream conservative economics with a modern agenda of supporting social difference and minorities.

Steven Adams has already done more in establishing and funding scholarships for underprivileged kids than any other New Zealand athlete that I know of.

Instead of going along with corporate PR antics like photops with cancer victims  or a rather sad wannabe prime minister, he has committed himself to genuine social and community projects.



by Siena Denton on June 12, 2016
Siena Denton

Helen Clark was a very effective and successful politician 

To all and sundry ForeSure apart from nga tangata whenua kei konei ki roto a ta ratou whenua me tana takutai moana

I have read that the USA are supporting Argentine's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra for the position of UN Secretary-General

How elated I am for her.

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