It has been ten days since I completed the UA Honors in New Zealand: One Really Awesome South Pacific Adventure. Since finishing the program, I have not stopped thinking about how my life in the US is simultaneously very similar and very different to that of students in New Zealand. Both countries are largely modernized, a mix of urban and rural communities, good access to education, and have many diverse people, races, and belief systems represented in their population. However, the key benchmark that our class discussed was the difference of the emphasis on fairness in New Zealand, versus that of freedom in the United States. Though we have similar systems of government and English-colonial backgrounds, our means of approaching the concept of a people-led government. In New Zealand, people seek for all to be treated the same. The means in which they pursue this includes, but is not limited to, stewardship over the planet to ensure that future generations are able to experience the same earth that current residents do, a smaller wage gap to ensure that all people have a similar general ability to afford housing and other necessities, socialized healthcare to prevent anyone from not having access to care that they need, and inexpensive university costs to prevent students from low and lower middle income backgrounds from being obligated to enter the workforce immediately after school should they desire a university-level education. On the flip side, the trademark of the US system of government is the concept of freedom. In the US citizens feel as though they have the freedom to accumulate as much wealth as possible, the freedom to act without significant government intervention, etc. Americans feel as though fairness comes with the opportunity to be free. Each American can make X amount of money, even if they are not guaranteed to. This idea is intrinsically tied into the American Dream: someone can come from nothing and create something for themself and for future generations. Kiwis, on the other hand, believe that freedom comes from the ability to be fair. There are certain guarantees in a fair system that do not exist in a free system like the United States. While I do not think that the US could adopt policies that New Zealand has for the mere reason that we are a much larger country and our country was built on the principle of freedom, I do believe that we could learn from the actions that Kiwis are taking, such as caring for the planet. Though it has been only ten days, I feel confident that I will continue trying to find a balance between fair and free throughout my life.
It is easy to see why Kiwi’s are intentional about caring for the environment when you look at images like this (even more so when you visit them in person), fairness aside. This was taken at Milford Sound, in the southwest of the south island. It was beautiful!