At the time of writing, Oracle are four races off dashing the hopes of a nation by retaining the America’s Cup. Every now and then I wish I was part of that nation whose hopes are about to be dashed.
I have regularly made smarmy remarks about Emirates Team NZ’s campaign on Twitter for my own amusement over the past few weeks. Most people couldn’t care less (such is the irrelevance of the Twitterverse), and most people I spend my day-to-day with are deeply enamoured of the competition, the excitement, perhaps even the patriotism. That sense of pulling together with shared purpose clearly has an appeal.
If we were to lose, I imagine the country will feel like a problem gambler leaving the pokies having spent a good part of their earnings on a gamble that didn’t pay off. Stressed, a little embarrassed, self-justifying, and ready to lash out at anyone who might dare to suggest it was a poor bet.
I have nothing in particular against yachting. I’m not patriotic, so I’m not particularly offended by rich men using that angle to gain a following. I like sports and the competition. I am really impressed by their big, fast boat. But the $36 million that our government gave to the campaign is a sticking point for me.
To put it in perspective, you could run between 70 and 100 community centres like the one in our local community for one year on that amount of money. If they were like the Merivale Community Centre, in that year they would work hands-on with over 80 young people, engage with over 70 families in need, and work closely with perhaps 20 families who have significant violence, abuse and poverty in their homes. Or you can have a really fast black boat.
So I am a little hopeful that we will lose. Because if we win, we will be like the problem gambler who gets a win on the pokies, and walks out to have a cigarette before going back in to have another go, encouraged that they’re on a roll. And it seems we could spend something like $60 million next time.
We are told that we need to cut our national cloth accordingly. We see reducing level of public services, pressure on providers, reduced support to families, all explained to us as millions cut off the fat of the state. Yet at the same time we see corporate subsidies rolling out as though corporations exist in a different universe. The black boat is a mockery of the suffering of the poor, and a distraction to the rebellious. So here’s to losing, and the rich men on San Francisco Bay having to pay for their own flights back (I hear the pods in Business Class on Air New Zealand are awesome).