What’s more glorious than Justin Timberlake, more iridescent than a sunrise, and more alluring than Odysseus’s sirens? If you guessed a freezer full of pizza when you’re stoned at 3 in the morning, you’re thinking along the right lines. The Discovery Channel special on Tobagan island life? Close.
The real answer: New Zealand.
What spawned my re-energized interest in this half-country, half-paradise was Flight of the Conchords, the folk/parody kiwi duo whose eponymous HBO show just debuted in the post-Entourage slot. Some portions are hilarious, others dreadful, but Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie (last names courtesy of myspace.com/conchords) never fail to impress with their down-under nonchalance and unique brand of Tenacious D-ism: their songs, which are far better than their spoken scripts, include such lines as, “I’m not crying, it’s just raining on my face,” and, “You’re so beautiful. Like a tree. Or a high class prostitute.”
So beautiful, indeed, is the land that spawned their hijinks, a land comprised of two unconnected islands—the North and the South—that offer, respectively, seasonal and temperate climates. But that’s not all—New Zealand is low on crime, high on education (and pot), moderate on politics, and fervent on human rights. Their bill of rights struck as particularly charming, since it includes the semantic flair that the U.S Constitution sorely lacks, and which has become something of an issue in modern Supreme Court cases. For instance, the American Constitution merely references “cruel and unusual” punishment, which leaves the door open to constant haggling over capital punishment, treatment of war prisoners, prison conditions—even prison term length is up for legal debate. New Zealand, though, is a bit more generous with its verbiage, stating in Section 9 [Torture and Cruel Punishment]:
“Everyone has the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment.”
That eliminates astoundingly long prison sentences for things like growing marijuana (for which a number of individuals have been given life sentences with no parole—read Eric Schlosser’s “Reefer Madness” for more on that). It eliminates the public flogging of foreign detainees, and capably dismisses a horde of behaviors that might slip through a loophole in this country.
Next—freedom of religion? Please. New Zealand sees your freedom of religion and raises you the following:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and hold opinions without interference.”
- Section 13 [Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion]
Now that’s what I call liberty. When I’m 38, and enduring a second mid-life crisis, I may move there. My first mid-life crisis is occuring presently, and it’s not all that bad. Some basic questions about the meaning of life, a few fruitful bouts of insomnia, wondering about meditation and spirituality, and a couple of days wherein I don’t feel like shaving. Maybe this is as bad as it gets, at least psychologically, since my life situation is conducive to feelings of aimlessness and melancholy. Once I'm almost 40, I'll hopefully have a couple of sons and a job that is at least tangentially pornographic.
Yes, I'll be 38 , with two boys, and one day I’ll collect them on my lap and tell them, “Jermaine, Bret, we’re moving to New Zealand. And it’s time you knew that I named you after the lead characters from an HBO series. And, by the way, I'm a pornographer. An amateur, but still."
Stay Stupendous, New Zealand