As I write, Zachary and I are somewhere over the Coral Sea just northwest of Brisbane, Australia. You quickly discover on a trip of this kind that you must make good use of the time, and I have 9.5 hours of it on today’s flight.
With New Zealand and Australia in our rearview mirror, I thought I would offer some final thoughts on these countries. I’ve published articles on both, but articles don’t allow for the miscellaneous bits that might be of some interest to people. So, I put them here in a blog. I hope they are helpful.
- Both countries impressed me as much cleaner than America. The big cities, the small towns—it didn’t matter. Auckland, Melbourne, Brisbane—all were much cleaner than any major American city. You saw very little trash (e.g., wrappers, cigarette butts, cans, bottles, etc.) along the roads, sidewalks, or footpaths.
- As young countries, they had the appearance of newness, modernity, and economic progress. America’s infrastructure—I am chiefly referring to interstates, highways, and airports—is old. JFK is an embarrassment. Flying into that airport from, say, Shanghai makes you feel like you are entering a Third World country. The same can be said of most of America’s major airports. I love my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, but the city does not compare favorably in this respect. New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and Los Angeles fare worse still.
- New Zealand seems like a country that is full of possibilities. Roughly the size of Japan or Britain, but with only a population of 4.5 million people, there are wide open spaces, mind-blowing vistas, and the opportunity to make a difference. The cost of living, however, is atrocious. A breakfast of bacon and eggs is $15-$20. A generic bottle of water is $3-$5. In Auckland, a family home might cost 15-20 times the salary of the average New Zealander—and costs are climbing. The South Island is, I am told, worse.
- For what it’s worth, I prefer New Zealand to Australia. While both countries are post-Christian, Australia is much more aggressively so. Melbourne, for instance, which fancies itself as a city of great sophistication, is a very unfriendly environment for Christians who practice their faith unashamedly; more, even, than other Australian cities. But this is not to suggest that cities in either country are hospitable to people of that faith. This is, as I say, true of both countries, but Australia is farther down this road in disposition if not in policy.
- New Zealand and Australia are very much like Europe in their commitment to secularism, but neither country is deeply affected by the blight of Islam that threatens the stability of Europe. This is reason for hope. Unfortunately, the politically correct attitudes about Islam (and everything else) are the same as elsewhere in the West.
- You become immediately aware of America’s influence on these countries. There are two Americas and their influence is very different. One is an exporter and defender of freedom; the other is an exporter and proliferator of evil. The latter carries the day in this part of the world. If you talk with people in both countries you will hear the same narrative that dominates major media in America on topics ranging from Donald Trump to Taylor Swift. Were America to change, that narrative would change, and the world with it.
- Should you visit? I think so. New Zealand especially. The people are friendly, the scenery is breathtaking, it’s safe, and it’s uncrowded. But it will not be an inexpensive visit, so plan on pawning your watch or earrings.
- We have deliberately book-ended our 80-day journey with those countries that we believe are the best candidates for the “World’s Greatest Country.” Tuck New Zealand away in your mind as a genuine competitor for that title.