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A connection between Konrad, Judith & Maurice? You betcha.

I blame Paul Henry for my current curmudgeonly state of mind. There was I, innocently browsing the net on my laptop when I spied, out of the corner of my eye, Paul Henry on the TV in the corner of my lounge bobbing his head up and down in the imitation of…oh dear. A thinly disguised act of intimacy. He was, of course, doing a Henry in regards to the Konrad Hurrell and Teuila Blakely’s little home video that has been in the news lately. Not having seen the video, I nevertheless still have a charming set of images in my mind, thanks to Paul. In truth, I had been getting grumpier as the last couple of weeks have progressed as New Zealanders have had, inflicted upon them, story after story with a very similar central theme. That theme is one of hubris: exaggerated pride or self-confidence, and an entitlement by individuals in positions of power/influence to behave badly in defiance of their respective teams. It takes an extraordinary amount of belief in one’s own competence and value to justify, promote, excuse behaviour that is probably dodgy, if only one takes a moment to step back and take a pause. It takes an absolute refusal to live by that wise old adage ‘may you see yourself as others see you.’

I can only imagine that Konrad thought he really was the Mantis as he broke heaven knows how many road regulations, and trashing his momentary partner’s own reputation in the process by sharing his wee movie, which saw it SnapChatted immediately. The usual mollycoddling excuses came out shortly thereafter, he’s a young guy, he made a bad call, it’s unfortunate, move on, people. ”They get a lot of education on this but they are still young men. They have got physically matured bodies, but maybe not in the mind. Sometimes you make the mistakes and he has made one and he is going to have to live with that.’

I think this is right, and too much ought not be made of the incident itself, certainly he should be dealt with proportionately, and the $5k fine appears to do this. I wonder though, if his own hard-earned status as an NRL player, in the Warriors, of at least 42 games, with a pretty lengthy list of social network videos already to his credit, has meant that Konrad lost sight of how vulnerable he really is to same slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that all high performing sportspeople are. His own attitude does seem a bit ambivalent. He said: “I am so sorry this has happened and want to apologise for the trouble I have caused”, ( Curious choice of words, that: “I’m so sorry this has happened”, as if he was somehow passive in the matter. As if hitting ‘send’ was not an entirely voluntary act. Regardless, he is highly social media-savvy, he knows the power of wider media to enhance his own profile as well as that of his team, as a whole. It defies belief that when he shared the video he did not foresee what would happen to it. He just didn’t appear to care. He certainly didn’t waste any of his time asking himself ‘Now, as a Warriors league player wanting to get selected for the next game coming up..should I send this? How will this affect the team?’ Nup. If only.

Other commentators have written at length about Maurice Williamson and Judith Collins’ behaviours (with Donghua Liu and Oravida respectively) and their insistence, initially, that their actions were entirely normal and justifiable and of no moment to the New Zealand public, or their team-mates. While the clock is still ticking for Collins, the jury is well and truly back on Maurice, and the verdict has taken a regrettable toll on a well-liked and ebullient individual. Notwithstanding, I’m less interested in the behaviours themselves as opposed to the overweening confidence that both Ministers appeared to have had that their individual, personal connections, charisma and positions would justify their actions. At no point do either of them seem to have taken pause and asked themselves, as a Minister should I….[pick up the phone and call the police about this man] / [embark on a ‘royal tour’ of this commercial company and go for dinner with individuals including at least one official that can open pathways for that company?]. Neither appears to have considered the impact of their actions on their team-mates. Perhaps it was their positions and their confidence in their individual status that prevented them from seeing what has been so obvious to so many of us from the outset: you can’t use your ministerial position to create benefit for a commercial company, or to influence criminal prosecutions. These are not very complex propositions.

Arrogance is not solely a right-wing problem, contrary to what many on the left might wish. It is not solely the preserve of the well-heeled nor of those in the public eye. Arrogance, even hubris is found everywhere, nevertheless it is an occupational hazard for some people more than others. Supreme self-confidence is required by all three of these individuals mentioned here to stand out in the ways that they have. This is a necessary tool to enable them to get selection, to pull off the moves that get them noticed, that guarantee them some kind of a future in their particular blood sport.

But there should also be a moderator; the necessary creature that keeps that hubris under control, and enables such strong individuals to be a part of a team. This moderator is something we barely ever mention anymore: shame. Shame is a concept that has fallen into disfavour perhaps in these meritocratic, individualistic times. Shame is often now seen as a disabler, something that keeps women in their place and sexually denigrated, a holdover from earlier, socially restricted, communitarian times. But shame (whakamā) has its place. An ability to feel shame, that is, guilt, regret, or embarrassment is a necessary thing to stop ourselves from bringing harm to others that are close to us, by our own actions. One might feel shame indeed, after having done something egregious. Williamson, Collins and Hurrell have all expressed such regret that they caused some degree of harm to their colleagues, their teammates, for example, but even now I suspect both Collins and Williamson perceive themselves as being treated unfairly as individuals. But what is equally important is the ability to imagine the feeling of shame if we undertake some course of action that will lead to guilt, regret, or embarrassment for those around us. This ability to imagine how our actions impact upon the others close to us, those in our team, is crucial, and clearly, in these three cases at least, neglected.

About Sparrowhawk/Kārearea

Legal academic and writer, Wellington. (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Pākeha. Nō te Hāhi Mihinare hoki)

3 responses »

  1. Tahei Simpson

    Spot on, Sparrowhawk. Again.


  2. Brilliant sis. The whakama factor is a goodie and will save us all … one day!



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