Instinct is up close, personal and infectious
Antipodeans instinctively keep their distance from each other. Right or wrong?
Wrong. The inhabitants of the thinly populated South Pacific outpost of British reserve and stand-offish-ness cannot in fact keep their hands off each other
Touching and feeling is the raw material of social codes of behaviour new and old.
These range from modern introduced sporting activities through the run of hugs, kisses, and handshakes to greetings ancient characterised by the Polynesian hongi or rubbing of noses.
The myth is that of the man-alone. The reality is that of the direct opposite. Males of all provenance embrace a tribal lifestyle often described as mateship in which they adore congregating and will commingle together as closely as they can. Whenever they can.
Mandated distances between non familial or non-bubbled humans in New Zealand as elsewhere is two metres and when proclaimed the distance was promulgated in a vein of this being a natural state of separation, removal, anyway.
Yet as we have seen the fervently-followed collection of ancient and modern social customs and practices runs counter to the notion of New Zealand males naturally keeping their distance from each other.
A more recent example of a socially–licensed custom which by definition encourages males to commingle are the officially sanctioned and even encouraged gay parades characterised by males intertwining with each other in order to demonstrate quite literally their solidarity.
Society issues its licence for such parades in what as seen as the public interest of “diversity.”
Rugby football in the event is a reprise of mating rites dating back to the dawn of time.
In its modified and current form it bestows social license on males to achieve a physical proximity otherwise denied to them and confers simultaneously license for a wider spectrum to observe them in this process, and to shape a conversational philosophy around it.
Opponents of this above conclusion when they feel free to discuss the issue, which is rare, say that the other Anglo Saxon-origin sport of cricket in contrast is designed by its nature to keep men apart, at a distance from each other.
A similar pattern of attraction however is now emerging and is in plain sight. It is now observed that an underpinning mating-cum-fertility ritual has begun to assert itself in the form of onlooker spectators seeking every opportunity for physical proximity to the team players.
For example, spectators deliberately position themselves close to team entrance and exit tunnels in order to grasp and then cradle and cuddle the heads of certain players, otherwise total strangers, as the players pass to-and-fro.
The head-hugging now so familiar in cricket and its derived sports such as softball is a conundrum bearing in mind that in so many countries the human head is a true taboo.
In short, far from being keep-your-distance types, the average Antipodean cannot wait to deliver a man-hug.
An approved contact sport (note the word “contact” as the sanctioned generic description) delivers the proximity permission.
For further evidence to support this conclusion we can examine the behaviour of people during the height of the recent Coronavirus lock down which permitted supermarkets to open as essential service providers.
But this came with the caveat that shoppers do so singly, one family member at a time, rather than on a familial group basis.
In the event otherwise responsible members of the community were observed as couples determinedly doing their shopping together, regardless.
In other words, the social license conferred by their pair bonding arrangements of these couples, ones such as marriage, superseded external commands centred on viral contagion.
In the military distance between individuals is rigidly codified and enforced. Elsewhere in the public service attempts to promulgate and enforce a distance cordon sanitaire between the genders has had only varying success.
In life as a whole we can see that contrary to the established myth, universally believed, individuals will trash artificially imposed distance taboos and huddle as close as they can providing they believe that they have social license to do so.
Far from being stand-offish Antipodeans given the social licence instinctively want to be up close and personal and the closer the better.
International artistes marvel at the gigantic audiences they get in sparsely populated Australasia failing to realise that a large part of this is the compound mass proximity attraction – the more, the closer, the merrier.
Nobody doubts that mandated social distancing has been central to Australasia containing the contagion.
Its continuing success will rely on an understanding that this degree of separation is not a natural state of affairs and that people will still have to be levered apart to keep their distance.