Heinlein and the Kiwis

Via the Blogfaddah, Dean Esmay Scott Kirwin has a post up about anti-Americanism in New Zealand. Scott notes:

Many are quick to leap to conclusions that the anti-Americanism is a recent phenomenon due primarily to the Iraq War. However anti-Americanism in New Zealand predates the Iraq War by about 40 years, starting with the Vietnam War protests and more importantly for New Zealanders to the country’s refusal to allow port calls by the US Navy starting in 1986, which resulted in a US freeze on high-level political visits there.


Actually, it goes back considerably farther than that. In “Tramp Royale,” a memoir of a 1953-54 steamship voyage around the world, Robert A. Heinlein wrote about the frosty reception he and his wife Virginia received in New Zealand, a reception which apparently had nothing to do with Heinlein’s writing and everything to do with his nationality. Their experience included anti-American rants from tour guides and a local magazine article titled “The Great American Hoax,” which:

…undertook to prove that the American standard of living was much lower than that of New Zealand. The author had figures to “prove” that most of us live in abject poverty, unable to buy necessities, much less enjoy any comforts, such as autos, radios, decent clothes, etc.

New Zealanders believe this sort of drivel. They know they have the world’s highest standard of living; they have been told so repeatedly. Since they are not allowed to travel to the United States without very special permission (they can get a passport but are not allowed to buy dollars to make the trip) and since our magazines and books are forbidden entrance to their country, they are not likely to change their opinions.”


(Emphasis mine.)

RAH later mentioned finding a bookseller who trafficked in “bootlegged American pocketbooks under the counter.” Obviously that kind of total censorship is impossible today (and a good thing, too), but a generation raised on the attitudes described by Heinlein obviously passed them on to at least a couple more. A shame.

It’s been a while since I read the entire book, but if my memory serves, Heinlein only recommended against visting two of the countries he wrote about in Tramp Royale: South Africa and New Zealand.


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