OPINION: We have a quibble – yes, a quibble! – with the latest Reader's Digest poll of most trusted New Zealanders.
We don't trust it.
Or rather, we mistrust it as being much of a gauge of trustworthiness rather than admirableness or likeability.
According to the survey, Winston Peters languishes wretchedly at 96th on the list of 100.
How can this be when both his detractors and his supporters could start a sentence "trust Winston to ... " and proceed emphatically and in detail to a full stop, if not an exclamation mark?
Ranking even lower than Winston we have Sir Doug Graham, no doubt due to his involvement in the disgraceful Lombard Finance company. Yet we retain our abiding admiration for Sir Colin Meads, whose top-10 position is in spite of his "Solid as, I'd say ..." advertising endorsement of another hideous turkey, Provincial Finance.
There is, of course, a world of difference between the level of expertise expected of a company director like Sir Doug and a celebrity endorser like Sir Colin. It's discomforting, though, that his appeal as a frontman was presumably based on his standing – what, that he should know a thing or two? – and that by and large people are not too terribly reproachful now because they accept that, after all, it's not like he knew all that much about what was going on.
We need to remember that trustworthiness is not, necessarily, transportable beyond a person's field of expertise. Even when we admire their character, list-toppers like Richie McCaw and Alison Holst are unassailably deserving of approval because they come up with the goods in ways that we can vividly appreciate for ourselves. We trust him play like a demon and to be onside regardless of what some sluggardly ref or meddlesome touch judge might think he saw. We trust her recipes to work and taste good.
But when they or others venture outside their field of expertise we need to mitigate admiration for their character and skills with flinty assessment of what their judgment is necessarily worth.
If the list truly does reflect a sense of simply reliability, then the scientific community must rejoice at the endorsement that television weather presenter Jim Hickey is eighth. Clearly the reliability of the weather forecast is now a matter of abiding social contentment.
The least trusted New Zealander of 100, ranked by research firm Catalyst Consultancy & Research, was Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki. This is liable to strike his congregation as proof, if proof were needed, of our great wickedness as a nation. Satan has blinded our eyes. His devotees will huddle together just that more closely. Similarly, perhaps, the low rankings of Maori Party leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia are liable to be seen by their followers as racist – in which case is it a reverse badge of honour that Mana's Hone Harawira ranks even lower?
If anything, the people whose positions are most likely to be destabilised by their ratings are every bit as likely to be those who rank in the lukewarm middle. What will Jemaine Clement, at 60th, make of the fact that he's regarded as just that tiny bit less trustworthy than his Flight of the Conchords cohort Bret McKenzie at 54th? Should it happen that the two start discussing this, say lightly at first, then ardently, and then with such rancour and recrimination that the Conchords wind up disbanding as a result, we'll all know whom to blame. Clement. He's the less trustworthy one.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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