Tall Poppy Syndrome

Kiwis are by their very nature imbued with a pioneering spirit of self-reliance, hard work, and the desire to achieve a better life for one’s self and family.

And only when, after years of toil, tenacity and luck, these colonial dreams are finally realised, can Kiwis look forward to spending the rest of their life defending their success against the pitchfork-weilding angry mob of their fellow countrymen, whose own ambitions – for reasons of either circumstance, laziness, or misfortune – have been snipped a little lower down the stem.

This thinly-veiled, pack anger at the few bright stars who are able to poke their heads above the parapet of New Zealand’s otherwise level-playing-field, egalitarian society, is known as Tall Poppy Syndrome. And we practically invented it.

It should not, however, be confused with Tall Puppy Syndrome (Fido Horribilus), which is the canine abberation graphically illustrated in The Hound of The Baskervilles.

Some argue that Tall Poppy Syndrome is not in fact broad resentment at other people’s success, but is rather a levelling social attitude, designed to deflate the pretensions of those who take themselves too seriously, or flaunt their success without due humility. But, since I mostly cut & paste that last sentence from Wikipedia to pad out this article, I’m going to dismiss this theory as bullshit.

And although a similar attitude does exist in other parts of the world, they do tend to be whiny, underdog countries like Scotland and Netherlands, which is a particularly dour bag to be lumped in at the best of times.

It would appear, however, that the people of more cock-sure countries where the leaders have larger balls – Heads of State with bulging, football-sized scrotums, like President Obama of the USA, Gordon Brown of England or Angela Merkel of Germany – are comfortable with the success of their fellow citizens. If anything, it motivates the fulfillment of their own personal goals, and is even described in more positive terms like Keeping Up With The Jones’, which sounds more like a light-hearted off-Broadway play, than a fake pseudo-medical condition.

So, until such time as New Zealand has the confidence to either a) build a global colonial empire and impenetrable class system, b) start two world wars and a holocaust, or c) get rich through slavery, it appears Kiwis have just learned to accept that even the relatively modest economic, sporting or artistic successes possible in a country of this size,  inevitably comes with the baggage of a lifetime of being labelled ‘a bit of a try-hard‘.  Either that, or, like 999 other Kiwis every week, they go somewhere where it doesn’t.