Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Dog Registered to Vote

So we went out to a lovely Burmese restaurant last night with our hosts (a former Canadian, and former South African / European Muttman) and co-worker (a former New Yorker) and friend (Tasmanian). With a complete lack of native Kiwi, we discussed the many differences between America and New Zealand.

The most striking difference (after you get past the accent and Christmas during the summer time thing) is the total lack of security and a seeming over-abundance of trust.

They are telling us stories of going to get petrel at an inner-city station. The woman's card wasn't working. The guy behind the counter was like, "no worries -- just pay it when you get the chance." Gas is, like, $7 American dollars per gallon over here! That's an amazing amount of money to just let go on the off chance that this stranger will come back with cash.

They had elections for this club, and one of the ladies became the new treasurer. What do you have to do to get the bank to switch things over to your name? Just call them up and let them know that you're the new treasurer. That's it? Yes. When I became the new VP of the Syndicate, we all had to go in person with two picture IDs and sign a multitude of documents and give fingerprints! Well, close.

There is a fairly lengthy application to register to vote over here. Apparently, for rural locations in New Zealand you don't have a street number, so they give you a box where you can sketch a map of your place of residence (they don't want any bad artists registering to vote). They ask you the names of your next door neighbors, and it's, from my understanding, acceptable to write "the fat man is on my left, and the large family with a new baby on the way is on my right." Or you write, "next-door neighbors Ann and Joseph just moved," and they're like, "oh, sure -- we know Ann and Joseph. Nice folk."

This one guy was frustrated with the lack of security here, so he actually registered his dog to vote. And the registration was approved. Fluffy Barksalot is now a proud member of the voting population of New Zealand. So crazy.

The equivalent of the IRS frequently don't even get the social security numbers right over here. It's amazing. 2 years after doing your taxes, you get letters like, "we think you may owe us money, what do you think?"

The inefficiency of this system kind of makes my American head spin, but everyone who has moved here from other countries seem to just love it. They think it's heaven. All of the trust, homeland security not breathing down your neck all the time, tapping your phone. It's a real freedom for them.

From what I can see and hear, the laxness isn't taken advantage of very frequently. So I wonder, the more secure you are, does that make the people around you more hostile and therefore more likely to try to take advantage of your insecurities? I don't mean individuals -- obviously if you leave your door unlocked in a country of locked doors, you're making yourself an easy target. But if the whole country is a country of unlocked doors, is the average small-time criminal mind less threatened and therefore less likely to do anything bad?

So it's less that the people are very trusting over here and more that they live in a culture of trust, where trust is a way of life and is, therefore, largely unquestioned and unchallenged.

All you need is love (wa, da-da-da-da...)?

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