Is “Smith’s Dream” Becoming NZ’s Real-life Nightmare?

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NZ Author C.K. Stead was made NZ’s Poet Laureate last week and the timing could not have been more perfect.

I remember seeing the headline online and thinking “I must read that”, but I got distracted by another headline, concerning a Christchurch man who had been visited by police and warned they had “opened a file” and “were keeping an eye” on him because he was sending an email each day to Christchurch insurance company Southern Response.

Cameron Preston, a vocal Christchurch earthquakes insurance claims campaigner, said he sent emails daily “because they never respond” (hugely ironic, considering the company’s name).

The fact that today, more than four years after New Zealand’s most recent, costliest and deadliest earthquake in 80 years people are still homeless and fighting their insurers for pay-outs would indicate that daily emails and reminders would be more of a necessity – especially from local and national media, or whichever government department or minister is supposed to be overseeing the process.

But, no. That task falls to an accountant from Christchurch and he gets put on a police watch-list for his troubles.

Hardly seems fair, really.

Within 24 hours, I read a tweet from blogger Martyn Bradbury saying the police wanted to have a word with him over a post on his site.

Two cases of police intervention within a reasonably short space of time seemed a bit unusual. But then I remembered the story about C.K. Stead and that, in turn, reminded me about a story of his – “Smith’s Dream” and a few pennies dropped.

I first read “Smith’s Dream” and saw “Sleeping Dogs” – its film adaption in high school and, as a teenage male, was quite taken with its Action / Thriller plot and storyline – made even cooler by the fact it was set in New Zealand.

For those who haven’t read or seen it – the story follows a man named Smith amidst an alternative New Zealand timeline of political, social and military upheaval and makes just as gripping reading today as it did back then – maybe even more-so, when you consider these aspects of the book:

– New Zealand is led by a seemingly charismatic leader, whose image is everywhere and whose work is never questioned.
The nation’s economy is suffering – especially its dairy industry.
“Tens of thousands” are unemployed.
“(Asian) eyes were fixed on fertile acres we no longer knew what to do with”.
Auckland has taken over as the capital of New Zealand.
– As a result of internal and external threats, New Zealand cosies up to America, even allowing US armed forces into the country to help out with “security”.
– And like all such dystopian tales, Smith’s Dream features a special police force (called the “Special X” in this case) whose job it is to silence dissent.

It could almost be taken as a reasonably accurate commentary on New Zealand today – Not too bad for a work of fiction written in 1971!

Stead certainly deserves the prestigious title for his creative fore-sight!

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