Hillary farewell fitting - if marred by etiquette lapses
It was moving and heart-felt and humourous and I enjoyed watching it.
Impressions of the media coverage: Radio New Zealand's Geoff Robinson was the best because the man has class and conveys dignity and solemnity. TVNZ's coverage with Mark Sainsbury and Simon Dallow was a far more casual, chatty affair. Dallow has gone up a lot in my estimation over the last few years - I once told their pollers he was smarmy if I remember rightly - and sometimes he makes me wish I could take it back. However today he was simply talking far too fast for a funeral - a State funeral. TV3 just ran TVNZ's feed as did Alt TV in a wonderfully irreverently reverent programme that discussed towing issues and Oliver Driver's vox pop on the streets. The only problem I really had was the Hillary Collegiate's haka that RNZ spoke over and that TVNZ had no camera angle for - what a glaring mistake. What does this tell us of Pakeha cultural sensitivity? Did Robinson talk all the way through Dame Malvina Major's singing? He assumed it was some background warbling from some guy's double-parked car stereo that demanded to be talked over by the way he went about it. Poor judgement in an otherwise fitting broadcast.
What dismayed me, and what I fully expected would occur, was the very modern spectacle of funereal applause. That is to say Hillary's motorcade being applauded and the family following in the crown cars being waved at by the masses lining the route.
I would probably join in the clapping too if I was with them - I would not want to, but how could you not be drawn into it in a crowd situation? But what a Diana-esque marring of what proper respect ought to mean. In my mind my commentary was running:
And as the hearse turns the corner the local population, unaccustomed to both formality and tradition begin to applaud. The same woman in tight white pants who failed to understand that we aren't American clones - and who incidentally started the Halloween craze of sending her children off to beg for lollies in the late 1980s - starts the clapping. Louder now. Louder still as the rest of the prols join in. And now we see a child coming forward - her child - she's pushing her out now - and she hurls some vegetation right at the windscreen of the hearse. Her mother proudly pats her on the head and - yes evocative of the Diana motorcade that she wished she could have been near to throw things at...
Applause to me is inappropriate. Old fashioned though it may be I think the cars involved turning on the headlamps, those along the route taking off their hats, and standing till in respectful silence to remember the fallen is the way public observance of a funeral cortege ought to occur. Quite frankly I regard applause as something done for the sake of others. Being silent is a moment to remember who has passed in our own way. It is a moment to think, to gather our thoughts. Clapping? What is that? I'm sure it was genuinely spontaneous; but so are riots and looting.
Yes it should be a celebration of the man, his achievements and what he was to us, but... of sorts. Just because the man is a public figure does not mean we need to treat his final display as if he were a carnival attraction. Could you imagine, upon seeing a hearse along the street, applauding it, and then waving to the bereaved family as though they were on tour? I simply cannot. Call it Americanisation, call it dumbing down, call it nervous excitement, despite it probably being or seeming natural to the people present - it just sits awkwardly with me.
Anyway, that aside...
Of the many stories about my (very distant) relation that I liked was actually something Dallow said to Sainsbury: he mentioned his legendary bluntness and Sainsbury remarked: If he thought something was wrong he would say so. He is a unique national hero and role model for all of us. Words can never express adequately how we feel about this great man.