On Egocentrism

We in America are somewhat known for our indifference regarding the “less prominent” countries of the world. Even that last statement was really egocentric of me. I should have said “We in the States,” because America actually comprises North, Central, and South Americas, not just the USA. But now that that’s settled, I can say that New Zealand certainly qualifies as one of these less prominent countries. It’s a tiny country populated by just 4 million people and about 11 times that number of sheep. It has no enemies, so nobody ever tries to terrorize their planes, which is great because tourism contributes to about 10% of the country’s yearly GDP.

I’ve had people from home ask me where New Zealand falls on a map, and what language the people here speak. To be perfectly honest with you, until I decided to spend a semester here, I would have guessed it was to the southwest of Australia, not the southeast (though c’mon, people… it’s English). If New Zealand were to disappear tomorrow, people in the States would probably never know the difference.

Which is why I love scanning the Otago Daily Times, the newspaper we get delivered every day. While the New York Times is busy battling the Wall Street Journal over this year’s election, while Yahoo tells me North Carolina just passed a ban on gay marriage, while CNN prank calls Kerry Kennedy at 5 in the morning, and while FOX News is still FOX News, there is a whole world of stories completely uncovered by any US sources. Titles such as “Police arrest Mob members, $98,000 worth of cannabis seized in police operation” and “Searchers focus on Dingle Burn area” and “Two jailed for part in kidnapping man” make the headlines of the front page of the Otago Daily Times. 

How refreshing it is to pick up a newspaper and read about someone else’s problems for once. I’d highly recommend you do so once in a while.

It’s great. At the beginning of the semester, there was an issue out in honor of the 150th anniversary of the ODT, and the very front page had a picture of Shrek, the mammoth merino sheep that famously avoided being shorn for 6 years. There he hung around his farmer’s neck, on the front page of a mainstream piece of media, in all his 60–extra-pounds-of-fleece glory. He looked proud.

But it’s not just that some of the stories are comical, in comparison to the usual “Bomber in plot on US airliner is said to be a double agent,” which I picked up just now on NYT.com. It’s that the United States seems to be neglecting a whole side of the world. Sure, maybe New Zealand (and even Australia for that matter) are more peripheral in terms of our foreign affairs, but it seems unfair that while major news stories about US politics make it to their international pages, major news stories about their countries rarely hit our news (except for in the case of a deadly earthquake).

I dunno. I’m not advocating for the Times to include a whole page about New Zealand. That would be silly. But once in a while, it’d be nice to hear about what’s going on in the little countries. That way, maybe people at home would realize they actually do speak English here.

Oh, and by the way: did you know that recent research has suggested dinosaurs’ flatulence may have contributed to global warming? That’s pretty awesome.

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One thought on “On Egocentrism

  1. When I studied for a semester in London 30 years ago, that was EXACTLY how I felt. Funny how little change there’s been.

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