The lack of a national libido —
There is an obsession with visions being developed in business, which more often appear as cryptic statements on the wall at reception. You hear frequently how companies, communities and cities lack a vision. They usually result in endless talkfests and laborious white board exercises which mean little if you weren't there.
Visions are for me, more about a collection of stories; they are the parts of the sum not the sum of the parts. The diversity and tolerance of each other is in fact a reflection of the community they come from and their ability to weave a common thread we define as the essence of a brand within the company, a country or a community. Many countries struggle in defining their identity when in fact it's usually right under their noses for want of an integrating idea from which everything should hinge. This is not some catchy strap line dreamed up by an agency but rather, a spiritual belief held strongly by all those involved.
We have just witnessed the Rugby World Cup and New Zealand and its people have played host to too many nations who have graciously commented as to our hospitality. The event has come at a time, which sees New Zealand into its 3rd year of recession as an economy. A brief rest through this great sporting event still leaves us with the question of where to from here in terms of the development of our economy and our people.
The kind of happy pill of rugby will make us all feel good in terms of an instant rush, however, the question remains in telling our story to the world that we do not have a collective view of where to from here. All of our festivals and celebrations are essentially “the settler story” yet again. With Maori off to one side as the token natives performing traditional art and cultural expression. You see it when we get down to the wire, with showcasing our culture wherein we are hung up on our heritage and seemingly caught in a time warp. We like to tell people about the “Real” New Zealand and the travel documentary looks no different 50 years apart.
We are still talking about “pure” as a word to describe the air, water and the environment as opposed to the way we think and as a word, which could define our place in the world. We try to tell the world so much about what this place is, as opposed to what we are about as human beings. I was mindful of this at the recent Shanghai Expo last year, where New Zealand's Pavilion at significant expense to the taxpayer made us look like an old-fashioned prosaic country akin to Ireland, or the New Hebrides. There was no big idea as we saw in the British, Spanish and Italian pavilions expressing a new sense of national endeavour.
These ideas for national identity do not begin in the architects or designer’s office in that even these professions are struggling to find their own vernacular. Rather, we need to thread our diverse histories together and find common themes, which allow us to see the road ahead. I want New Zealand to be a contemporary place with a sense of connection of course but one that is clear about what kind of role it plays in the wider world 30 to 50 years from now.
Maori is at last coming out of its justifiable grievance mode and has much to celebrate I would hate to see a renaissance in isolation and its failure to share its rich culture with the wider migrations of all.The national libido is all about a passion for life from our perspective, however we define it. And to me the most important thing we can do in the next 5 years is to find this in our hearts and exercise our commercial and community loins in delivering it.
For many years now I have spoken about the national identity. Passionate in my own views about the qualities of whom we are and what we are about. I do observe a dislocation in the hearts I see peering out at me in the board rooms and forums I meet with as we hang onto our pasts, be they Scottish, Irish, Maori or anything else. As our Englishness shrinks away, very few of us know what we should replace it with. The contemporary interpretations in going forward you can count on one hand and our design community continues to struggle to come to terms with a “fresh” interpretation of life in Oceania.
Having spent time in France it seems they have never complied with the normal rules of life. Despite their rich diet they are among the world's slimmest people, they smoke like trains, have powerful unions and long wine-sodden lunches, but still possess one of the world's dynamic economies. Anyone would think the French were hell-bent on enjoying life: but you'd be mistaken. Truth is, just below the laissez-faire attitude is an iron discipline. With one of Europe’s highest levels of productivity, uncluttered by trips to Starbucks, chats by the water cooler or other methods of procrastination beloved of the Anglo-Saxon world. They work harder and smarter than most and know how to play. There is a national libido and sense of identity in every city village and province.
I often think about New Zealand as an adolescent country and in a youthful way being accepted by the rest of the world for these qualities. Unaffected, honest, open, young, active and fresh, are all part of the national traits, if central to our makeup. Building the dream society for New Zealand in 2035 will require prodigious imagination in the development of different scenarios to excite people as to the possibilities for our future. We must turn on generation X & Y who seem to have lost their way and encourage a new breed of entrepreneurs that “make stuff” as opposed to processing it.
Libido means the energy associated with the desires that come from identity and oneself. We have to love ourselves before anyone else will.