August 16, 2005


Sometimes erroneously pronounced to rhyme with Ange.

Lange made two genuine contributions to this country:

1) He was a bloody good antidote to Muldoon. After how ever many years of divisive, brutal, nasty leadership, Lange brought inclusiveness, warmth and good humour to politics. In a time when we have two totally ruthless leaders, it is kinda nice to remember a guy who seemed to have the top job because he was talented and wished people well. Interestingly, his biggest regret (from the interviews I've seen) seems to have been the impact that the style and speed of the reforms had on the people it damaged.

2) He gave us a role model of a person who could take an independant, indigenous opinion and defend it on the world stage. The Oxford Union debate was less a wonderful example of how to build world peace, and more a miracle. He was recognisably a New Zealander (probably in spite of his intelligence) but he could actually make people on the telly look stupid by what he said. He made the French look bastardly and small minded. He made the Americans look thugish and dishonourable. He made the English and Australians look optional. I cannot think of another New Zealander who was so good at carving a legitimate place for us on the world stage - on our own terms and whether or not our bigger brothers approved*.

He enabled us to believe in ourself as smart people who could defend our opinions, and gave us the conviction that our opinions were worth defending. And we didn't have to stop being New Zealanders to do it. It is arguable that we would have muddled through finding ourselves anyway, we were well overdue for it, but he was a particularly bright version of how we might approach it.

In the context of giving us our self-belief, it seems to me that the other detail of what he did is largely irrelevant**.


* Actually, possibly Peter Fraser managed a similar thing, but it was a lot less visible to people on account of the lack of telly (and we still hadn't figured out we weren't part of the UK).

** oooh, I can't resist the qualifications on this one, can I? I should point out that his government also built the vast majority of the policy platform which has continued since 1989. But his government was a team, and consequently those changes cannot be attributed to him to the same degree.

Posted by carla at August 16, 2005 01:28 AM
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