The passionless people – a look at New Zealand’s shadow

The passionless people – a look at New Zealand’s shadow

 The passionless people


In many ways the hobbit analogy is appropriate. New Zealanders are treated like, and behave like children – “little hobbits”.   “Just trust the government”.

The other day I completely took the day off everything after what was for me an upsetting interaction on Facebook.  I am a member of a discussion group that is local and is comprised of people that I either know or know about.

It is a place where people have been exchanging information on covid-19 and the issues around the lockdowns in New Zealand.  I would like to say that it was a place where people discussed ideas but I have seen little signs of that.  

Not exactly a place for brainstorming.

However, I have done along with that and made my contribution.

What distinguished my contribution has always been that I go out of my way to thank people  or acknowledge in some way.

None of that has ever come my way; people seem generically incapable of saying ‘thank you’ (except in one case, below).

They also seem to have damaged thumbs or have forgotten how to find this:

I have to point out that I have had a degenerative neurological condition for the last decade that has severely curtailed my ability to find an outlet, so I have spent most of that time finding and putting out what I regard as important information that is ignored or suppressed by the mainstream press.

I have done it every day (even on holidays) for over 9 years. None of it has been for fame or notoriety. I shall probably continue to do so while I have the mental faculty and physical ability.

I have gradually built up a readership that is international (mostly the US and Canada), with about 2,500 to 3,000 hits a day.  I have noticed throughout that there is a lot of support from overseas but very little from within New Zealand.

Those that are happy exceptions to this will know who they are.

A few days ago I was listening to Billy the Kahika of Advance NZ talking to Del Bigtree and Dr.Rashid Buttar. They were talking about the NZ government was not following WHO and CDC guidelines on masks etc.  I did not have this at my fingertips, so I decided to go onto the  group and ask (politely, I thought):

Billy was talking about how NZ is going against what WHO is now saying. I’m a little behind on that. Does anyone have any links on what their latest policy is?

I got the response from one member:

@Robin Westenra..the search function in our chat thread will be the most efficient way to locate the relevant info ..

I totally got that that person was off to work.  I can only tell you what I would have done, which was to say “I am busy right now, but I will get back to you”

Earlier one of the members put out a request for information.

Hey does anyone have clip of Fauci or some other official saying asymtpomatic carriers would be of little threat to community transmission…. it was early in the piece…later they changed the story to asymptomatic carriers being a big threat to justify obsessive testing. Sure I saw a clip recently

I knew I had it somewhere, so I went and had a look and came back with a video clip within minutes and rare thanks came back.

That’s the one.Thank you so much. Feeding this to a senior health official (altho he will probably fob it off by saying we are allowed to move to work with new information)

This same person came back a little later:

Robin – I opened the group thread in messenger and on the right hand side i clicked on More Actions and it gave me the option of .. search in conversation

Feeling that I was being fobbed off. I started to get more irritated

I must say I work very hard to get information out to 3000 people a day. I might have thought you might have the info at your finger tips. I do respond to calls for help myself.

You sent

3 days ago

I actually want a response.

I came back to you within MINUTES when you asked for something. I asked and I was given the bum’s rush. I am deeply offended, given what I contribute. People all over the world send me intel but people in my community refuse.

You sent

3 days ago

I put stuff up and I immediately acknowledge it with thanks. I say something or post something and it is completely ignored – time after time, after time

This was definitely bringing up issues on my side. As my partner, Pam, pointed out I was actually reaching out and got nothing in return.

Instead, he jumped from telling me about the search engine to this unsolicited (and irrelevant) attack:

so i took the time to help you with that (if it works for you) and so I am going to give you my honest opinion – some of the stuff you share from the US crazy right is…a bit crazy and i reckon as such unhelfpul and counter productive on whats important. Both sides are being fed exagerated fear laden accounts of each other – the left and the right see each other in hysterical crazy ways, The elite want us to believe antifa is lighting the fires and all peopel on the left are communists (and after your kids for satanic rituals) and for the left the far right militias are fascism unfolding in its worst nightmare ways – are feeding exagerated narratives that are going to end badly in a heavily armed populace whose whole foundations of social stability are evaporating. Also – the forests of the North West are victims of extreme run away climate change – everything so so dry and the trees are dying – you dont need space weapons and geo engineering for it alto catch on fire. In insane times full of aweful overlapping conspiracies lets keep our feet on the ground and consider what we share and dont share. If there are space weapons or what have you at work we arent going to stop them but if we post stuff to way out or easily disproved then we cant help people who maybe be open to the unpalatable possibilities bcoz we will be easy to discredit. With respect for all your your great work – pls dont be offended. We dont know we aint God so lets just allow for that – I don’t know

My irritation was rising and I was not prepared to let go.

I just want someone to give me the fucking information. It’s that simple!

You sent

3 days ago

I didn’t ask for an unsolicited review of my blog.


So, now he says he’s not interested in what I was looking for:

its not my interest whatever you were looking for – I just gave you simply instructions how to help yourself search in msnger – you asked for help

I have very much valued all your contribution as a much valued news source over the past few years

“Just don’t expect me to help”

It wasnt my post was it so i for one dont know and maybe others are busy – i was trying to help with the .. how to

Robin you can’t hear that others are outside of your own head mate. I was being honest that I had no idea ..none.. what you were looking for .. I only glance at all the stuff going were talking to someone else

Ok sorry but I couldn’t help coz it wasn’t my post (was it,)

2 days ago

You didnt even say who you were asking

Perhaps he didn’t notice that it was a generic request, not addressed to anyone in particular?

Then it was implied that the problem was that I wanted a instant response. Where did I say that? Was I asking for something really outrageous, something difficult that anyone could have had at their fingertips? They could have done what I would have done for a friend and looked on a proper search engine ( when I realised that help was not forthcoming I looked for myself on DuckDuck Go and found an answer of sorts within minutes.

By now this had become a matter of principle and so I dug my heels in and insisted (and still insist) on the following.

If no one gets back to me with the requested information I shall take that as a message.

Days later and there is still no response and I have no doubt that I am regarded as the most selfish and self-centred person on the planet because I requested some help and became upset that my own helpfulness was not reciprocated. This from people who are quite happy just to soak up what I produce and never acknowledge any information or contribution I make.


The traditional way is to keep it “nice and safe” “Don’t rock the boat”. “Keep it nice”.

Even people of considerable achievement seek to cut themselves down to the general level.

“One person I talked to, who was very politically active and had a great depth of knowledge, said that she ‘tries to understand political blogs and knows a little bit about what they’re talking about’.”

Woodhams said the phrases “tries to understand” and “knows a little bit” is a technique to not appear as if she thought herself too intelligent or informed. As the woman relaxed into the interview however, she demonstrated just how smart and up-to-date she was, he said.

“[She] shows that in fact she knows much more than ‘a little bit’.”

“They have tall poppy in Britain and Australia, but my argument is we have a very distinct New Zealand way of doing it … we subtly knock them down.” 


There is something that I have been struggling with all my adult life and that is something called the tall poppy syndrome, whereby anyone who achieved anything, or had a slightly dissident point of view was put down. It is something that everyone who has achieved anything in the cultural sphere has experienced. I can think of hardly anyone who has achieved anything being celebrated in their own country.

How many New Zealanders are there that have achieved something – small or greater – are celebrated across the world but ignored (or worse), in their own country.

Life in New Zealand was so so insular that one had to go overseas at regular intervals to stay sane. It felt so stultifying that as a young man that if I heard German voices in the street I would bowl up and introduce myself in German and make friends.

I was thinking in terms of the “tall poppy syndrome” until this morning when the mid-1970’s work of Gordon McLaughlan, “the Passionless People” was pointed out to me.

Take this, from New Zealand television.


Looking back, there was a harmless, almost endearing quality to this. This phenomenon emerged, not only of our insularity but also of egalitarianism.

The neo-liberal “reforms” of the 1980’s changed all of that. Suddenly we had espresso coffee and we could order stuff from overseas.

Recent times has shown that this has turned toxic as has so much of New Zealand life. We are no longer the caring society we once were but the “tall poppy syndrome” remains.

I discovered that Gordon McLaughlan has written a follow-up book. Is it a coincidence that I have never heard of it and have to go to Amazon to get it?

I found the following article:

The following caught my attention: 


I just got back from living in Chile for a long time and this is all Ihave to say about New Zealanders.

You’re a cold, hostile, passionless(excluding sport),unwelcoming, complacent, paranoid, fickle people.

I have never met a people so against sharing and passion. I think you call it “tall poppy syndrome” or something like that?

Then, there was this (written six years ago): 

Interestingly, a whole book has been written about New Zealander’s lack of emotion. Kiwi journalist Gordon William McLauchlan’s book The Passionless People probably can’t be bought, or borrowed in New Zealand. Its one of those restricted texts that Kiwis aren’t supposed to read in case it inflames a passion they don’t know how to handle. Its sequel The Passionless People Revisited (2012) is available on Kindle for around $8


When The Passionless People – an examination of New Zealand society and its people – was first published in 1976 it was a sensation, selling tens of thousands of copies. Its title became part of the language. More than thirty years on — have New Zealanders changed?

The Passionless People Revisited is Gordon McLauchlan at his most outspoken: “Thirty-five years ago in The Passionless People I called New Zealanders ‘Smiling Zombies’ – the living dead but happy enough about it, even smug. Then, we were still relatively affluent. But now, we are ‘Frowning Zombies’, still the living dead but impotently aware we have been drifting towards social and economic disaster for decades.”

A major difference between 1976 and now is we have leased our home and are paying rent and homage to outsiders. We have become an economic colony, mainly of Australia.”

McLauchlan covers a broad spectrum of cultural, social and political issues in this witty, insightful and no-holds-barred look at New Zealand today.

Yes, we are all of that  – passionless, complacent and yes, frowning zombies. We are no longer an affluent society but one in decline – economically, politically, ecologically, socially.  We are no longer the somewhat charming but insular people that want to keep everything “nice and safe”, to not “rock the boat” but to “play cricket” and to follow the team rules but we have become angry and intolerant. Just have a look at media themes or at social media.

If someone like a Billy Kahika puts his head above the parapet he not only gets attacked politically but just about everyone on social media (and probably in conversation as well) but gets cut down to size by the population-at-large.

Now, the general response is, toe the line, listen to what the government tells and whatever you do DON’T THINK FOR YOURSELF!

The greatest disappointment is that this is not only true in the population as a whole but is manifesting among those who consider themselves to be social critics.

In my reduced state I can sit at home and allow the world to come to me and by-and-large I don’t feel myself a citizen of a state called New Zealand.

Until I try and reach out to the people down the road, that is.

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