QED

The West Fades to Black

It wasn’t surprising when a sombre group marched along a New Zealand beach to protest the ongoing murders of white South African farmers chose to wear black “the colour of death”. Unfortunately, their choice to wear black did little to attract the attention of our media, where this important cause received little mention.  Possibly part of the reason, apart from the increasing failure of the New Zealand media to provide barely minimum  coverage of so much vitally important happening world-wide (except, of course, regurgitating the almost daily attacks on President Donald Trump), is that black is now the colour characterising this country.

Perhaps, initially, this may have been because of the sporting media’s infatuation with the All Blacks, now corporatised (with today’s over-hyped, basically embarrassing haka) to well beyond when farm lads and other enthusiasts looked forward to a great Saturday clash, their heroes becoming sporting legends. However, national pride in a top rugby team did not previously lead to the extraordinary prioritising of this most dismal of all colours – (one, in fact, regarded as a non-colour) but now seemingly creeping over the West, as very much on this side of the Tasman.

Down the country lane nearby, neighbours have painted their house and roof black  — and not just the house but their outside sheds, garage  and letterbox. Predominantly black houses have become relatively common. Black encases the glass of the new air terminal at Nelson Airport. No prizes for guessing the colour of the gloomy Air New Zealand section inside, not with an airline which now also paints its planes black. The most prominent of building firms advertising on television display their houses with uniform black or dark grey roofs, black facings, even black interior accents. Black mattress bases, black furniture throughout department stores – black fridges now available…

Why such a sea-change? I checked with various businesses, including the local council which once insisted new houses use regressive colours to blend in with the landscape. None were able to explain this change in thinking.

Where once “the little black dress“ was a fashion staple but seldom otherwise seen, now black is de rigeur. Lately, female staff in many banks, shops and businesses have been required to dress in black, with one young girl confiding it wasn’t so bad in the shop during summer, with air-conditioning, but desperately taxing going to and fro from work. A department store last winter was a challenge to optimism with black dominating all clothing on offer. Today’s fashion has corporate men all in black; restaurants’ staff now predominantly dress in black; the very restaurants themselves are largely black.

Black has long been the predominant colour of mourning in the West, worn by Queen Victoria for the rest of her life for her beloved Albert. Typically, it is also worn by Greek widows, who however,  are expected to do so for only two years.

What is most extraordinary and challenging of all is that the very caring staff in a local rest home for elderly residents  are required to wear black uniforms. Whatever happened to common sense when those near the end of their lives, who might rejoice in colour, are presented instead with the colour of death? The same extraordinary choice is offered in a local private hospital where those facing operations are, incredibly enough,  issued with black gowns.

Why black as a fashionable colour has spread like a virus throughout the West raises questions about democracies missing the irony of identifying, colour-wise,  with the murdering cults of ISIS and the forced subjugation of Middle Eastern women such as those in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps there is little the wonder at it being forced on countries where women are so subjugated. Saudis — Saudi men, at any rate — claim their dress codes for women safeguard family values from the corrupting decadence of the West, and in so doing disgracefully bully their womenfolk to virtual servitude,  available to be beaten or sexually abused with little chance of redress, even put to death.  It puts that country to shame – given  21st century women elsewhere being treated with respect equal to their menfolk.  Saudi men’s long oppression invites the question of whether the primitive treatment of their women shows they are basically intimidated by the fairer sex.

However, it is by no means the only country where Islamic religious fundamentalism has long battled to subjugate women, with Pakistan and Iran other obvious examples. Nevertheless, the basic hypocrisy in now giving Saudi women permission to drive while simultaneously imprisoning the brave women who fought for this right, doesn’t invoke the response it should from Western feminists long averting their gaze from  genuinely oppressed women world-wide.  I remember one hot Swiss summer in Lucerne seeing a young Muslim woman tripping on some steep steps while carrying a child, but left to recover without help. Together with an older woman companion she sweltered in her black head-to-toe shroud. Their male companions were dressed in colourful Western clothing, jeans and cotton shirts.

That black, with the compulsory abaya the uniform of oppression in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere, raises questions about its mirror imaging by the West.

So what is happening? All fashion, of course, is conformity. But is there a deeper malaise that has caused the West to turn from the colours of optimism and hope to the dreariness of a non-colour traditionally associated with depression, defeatism … and the coming of night?

Amy Brooke lives and writes in New Zealand

7 comments
  • Peter Sandery

    As regards Australia, I notice that it is becoming more prevalent for police forces to change their uniforms to black with those of Victoria and the Northern Territory quickly coming to mind. Black as Amy Brooke alludes to is a sinister and malevolent colour in our society and just sends the wrong message to the public that those who wear it may be of that bent too. Blue, in relation to Victoria and khaki, especially in the Northern Territory are, in the opinion of this old piece of colonial flotsam far more welcoming and thus an asset rather than a liability to the various forces’ public relations.

    • Roger Franklin

      Interesting point, Peter. Perhaps worth considering is Rudy Giuliani’s decision, one of his first as NYC mayor, to replace the light blue shirts of the NYPD with dark navy. He was quite candid about his reason: previous mayors had allowed the police force to fall into disrepute, to be seen as wan upholders of the law who were all too eager to look the other way rather than go to the trouble making arrests. The open-drug markets of the Koch and Dinkins years were proof of that. So he wanted them in black-ish tones to project authority. Whether or not the uniform switch played a part in slashing NYC crime rates is an open question, but drop — nay, plummet — they did.

  • Lacebug

    I only wear black, because as Masha said in the Seagull: “I’m in mourning for my life.” Also, I look damn sexy in it, it’s slimming, and it means I don’t have to think about my wardrobe.

  • Lacebug

    And at the other extreme are those hideous Hawaiian shirts worn by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, and South Pacific tour guides.

  • Wayne

    Black gowns in an operating theatre! Why not blue and white striped butchers gowns?

  • paul scott

    I would like to have been in the march for White South African farmers. I wrote to Minister Lees_Galloway requesting that these people be given priority and subsidised into emigrating to New Zealand. His pompous reply was largely about refugees from the third world prioritised to feed off us before they turn on us in the next generation.
    NZ Visa services for Immigration are outsourced to the country of origin who can’t wait to get rid of the worst. In Bangkok here there are no New Zealanders at all in Immigration Visa services, and this is common in all foreign jurisdictions.
    Lees- Galloway is a disgrace, as was his predecessor Woodhouse.
    New Zealand does have a bleak immediate future, We are a society collapsing to the New World Order We are now rapidly becoming subjects of Global Corporatisation, and social engineering, an experiment welcomed by our vacuous socialist. Prime Minister ..
    I left as overhead helicopters were searching Christchurch for any signs of dissent from Sharai love, and the women Police were wearing hijabs and flowers and automatic rifles.

  • Amy Brooke

    Thank you, Paul. It would be difficult to accept that the Immigration Minister could possibly maintain such a shocking position – but it certainly fits with an attitude I have encountered elsewhere.

    And if New Zealand Visa services are indeed handed over as you described, this is simply unacceptable – an issue which needs following up.

    I’d very much like to view Lees-Galloway’s reply. Would you be able to contact me via one of my web addresses http://www.amybroke.co.nz – or http://www.100days.co.nz

    Thank you. Amy

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