Posted on April 30, 2010 by Colin

Tall Poppy Syndrome and the Jealousies

 

I recently wrote a post about how Kiwis will soon take over the online world, and I still contend that my prediction is likely.

That being said, there is one big hurdle other than Internet infrastructure that could hamstring New Zealand’s effort to become a dominant player in international business, and this hurdle has a cute name.

Tall Poppy Syndrome refers to the Kiwi tendency to identify anyone who has distinguished themselves from their peers and tear them down. I’ve seen this concept in practice while playing board games and discussing local politics…whomever happens to be doing the best has an invisible target on their head and is viciously ripped apart.

This isn’t a Kiwi-exclusive trend by any means – I think people from every culture have some proclivity to make themselves feel big by making others feel small – but it’s an especially prominent trait here, due largely to the same pioneer roots that make Kiwis such a strong, innovative culture.

In a small, agricultural community, having one standout farmer among thousands of others just doesn’t jive well. If everyone is able to work on even ground, however, they can share resources and information without one feeling like they are talking up or down to another.

This works really well for small farming communities – it keeps people from each others’ throats, at least – but on the world stage, it’s a huge burden.

If talented entrepreneurs are to be pulled out of the woodwork and displayed for the whole world to see, they’ll have to be assured that in stepping forward, working hard and helping New Zealand achieve a position of cultural influence within the global community they won’t be martyred by the very people they are trying to uplift and represent.

I’m really not sure how an entire culture can deal with an historically ingrained case of the jealousies, but I do know that it’s a problem Kiwis (and everyone else on Earth that has it) should deal with posthaste, lest they be left out and forgotten as another global power shift takes place and the rewards for those who contribute are doled out.