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Yesterdaze: Full of Fremdschämen

James Elliott examines several forms of Fremdschämen in his look at significant (some less than others) comings and goings this week

This week started with the Greens recycling their allocated Parliamentary Question Time questions by giving them to the National Party. James Shaw explained that it was so that National, as the opposition, could use Question Time to hold the government to account. He must have been hoping that Simon Bridges took the hint that there was nothing more to it than that and that National remain firmly in the Greens’ friend zone. You can understand his discomfort. At this point the only way National’s attempted courtship of the Greens could get any more awkward would be for Simon Bridges to give James Shaw a mixed tape with only one song - “You’ve Got A Friend”.

Two good friends did get together this week when former US President Barack Obama visited our shores, hosted by John Key. Obama arrived midweek, flying in on a private Gulfstream jet and then buzzing off to various golf courses by private helicopter as part of an Air New Zealand promotion. One of those ultra-cool promotions where you don’t use or even mention the service you’re promoting. And if you weren’t one of the elite 1,000 guests invited to hear him be interviewed by Sam Neil don’t worry, Mike Hosking summarised it in his projection of how he would have done the interview better.

And while Obama was visiting us, a Kiwi was making headlines of his own in the US. New Zealander Chris Liddell was elevated to Donald Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff, a promotion that’s the modern day equivalent of going from deckhand to chief health and safety officer on the Titanic. However, Liddell doesn’t have the excuse of being unaware that the ship’s about to sink. Everyone knows the SS Trump is not only sinking, it’s also on fire, the rats have eaten all the lifeboats and the Captain may have been colluding with an iceberg.

So if you’re wondering why on earth Liddell is doing this and how to describe that feeling of embarrassment you get when someone else has done something embarrassing without realising it themselves then the Germans have a word for you – Fremdschämen. You could apply that Liddell and/or the media’s fawning over the Obama visit. Take your pick but pick both.

You might also care to cast a dollop of Fremdschämen in Shane Jones’ direction after he attended the Obama Air NZ dinner having spent the week lashing out at the national airline for cut-backs in its regional air services. Jones’ attack made some sense given his role as Minister in charge of the regional lolly scramble but he might also be projecting just a tad given that none of Air NZ’s in-flight movies is from his preferred genre of film-making.

Suggesting that he was in dire need of an oxygen mask dropping down in front of him Jones then went further and called for heads to roll at the board of Air New Zealand. This earned him a reprimand from PM Jacinda Ardern which in the nuances of political management is more serious than a rebuke but not as severe as an upbraiding. I’m picking that the PM is going to be an amazing parent given how much toddler temper tantrum training she’s already undertaking. And that includes her writing to Donald Trump to ask for New Zealand to be exempted from US steel and aluminium tariffs. We should secure that exemption provided that she wrote in ALL CAPS and passed on best wishes from Sir Bob Charles.

Further down the list of notable comings and goings this week was Jonathan Coleman. Much further down the list. In a classic case of absentee gamekeeper turned poacher he announced that he was quitting politics. I say gamekeeper because he was Minister of Health from October 2014 to 2017, apparently. I know, I had to look that up to be sure. And I say poacher because he’s going to be the CEO of a private healthcare company. So it’s nice that he’s now getting an opportunity to contribute to the health and well-being of New Zealanders.

In related news Gerry Brownlee is also expected to quit politics to take up a role with the EQC, and Nick Smith will be leaving to split his time between Greenpeace and Habitats for Humanity.

And finally, another notable going happens today with the last production run of Pineapple Lumps at Cadbury’s factory in Dunedin. As I said when Cadbury axed Tangy Fruits, at least there’ll always be Pineapple Lumps.

So all in all a very busy week, unless you were scoring England’s first innings at the Eden Park test match.

Have a peaceful weekend.

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