Because no one is as happy as Simon Bridges with a baby yak. Video by José Barbosa.
For a very long time, human beings have been striving to answer a simple, vexing question: how can I be happy?
From Plato’s moral gateways to Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, the search goes on. Some look for happiness through love and companionship. Some through virtue and diligence. Others seek happiness by buying sacks full of self-help books that are definitely true and authentic because they have “fuck” in the title.
But forget those cowardly peddlers of asterisked swears. If it’s happiness you’re after, there is a simple two-step plan. Admittedly, it does involve a quite agonising bit before the really good bit, but it looks well worth it. After all, life is about contrasts. Does your home ever feel warmer and more embracing than when you step through the door and out of a storm? Do you not feel better after a giant bucket of shit is lifted from your shoulders?
The two-step plan is this:
- Become leader of the opposition.
- Get rolled as leader of the opposition.
There is a sound empirical basis for the formula. The last Labour opposition is a veritable parade of miserable leaders suddenly turned into rays of sunshine by the unburdening of the office. As far as I can tell the life story of David Shearer is one great long line of guitars, surfboards, friends, and all-round contentedness, interrupted only by a brief and grisly interval as leader of the Labour Party.
After he was mercilessly defenestrated by his so-called friends, Shearer went to work in the relatively harmonious war-torn South Sudan. And you could just see the weight lifted.
The same could be said of every opposition leader in the history of the world that I can think of right this minute. But never has there been a more compelling example of the two-step plan to happiness than Simon Bridges. He became the leader of the opposition (step one). Then he got rolled as leader of the opposition (step two). And now he is the most contented and happy person in the country.
After he was mercilessly defenestrated by his so-called friends, Bridges very clearly said – and not in a self-help cover kind of way – fuck it. He unzipped the skin of the high-stakes, ambitious politician and stepped out naked as the day he was born. He gently ribbed the poor saps who had mercilessly defenestrated him, as they discovered that it really is an incredibly difficult, thankless, pressure-tank of a job.
He drank beer. He hung out with diplomats. He held a Commodore 64 keyboard over his shoulder as if it were a ghetto blaster. He shared, with a wink at the Ngāti Epsom National front bench, video of Young Simon on the marae. He did it all with a smile and a laugh. But no longer the smile! and laugh! ordered up by political communications gurus.
Most compellingly of all, in scenes that should be lodged forever in the dictionary under the words pure happiness, he went for a crisp midwinter walk somewhere near Nelson in the great country of Aotearoa, in gumboots, in shorts, with a Roxy Music T-shirt, with a baby yak.
In doing so he achieved something else, something that only the truest expressions of unblemished happiness can: from the very left of #nzpol social media to the very right, all the way to @democracymum, came cries of envy and adulation. A baby yak! You’re killing us Simon.
Of his social media strategy, Bridges told The Spinoff this, in a voice message that travelled via rainbow to our office: “Someone said to me recently that a life well lived is the best revenge, so I guess that’s a little bit of the strategy.”
He’s spending time with his family, doing the local MP thing. When Paula Bennett danced out of the scene, he somehow managed to wangle the shadow foreign affairs role, which most experts agree is a very skux portfolio.
And he’s “not going away, I’ve still got something to contribute … As a 43-year-old there’s still lots of life left in me for politics, which I love.”
But, “I now feel a bit of performance anxiety around social media posts. There hasn’t been a whole lot of thought going into them. But with Baby Yak taking off, I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I did have a Mouse Town lined up, my niece’s pet mouse has a series of tunnels and things,” he said, raving incoherently, joyously.
For Bridges, then, life is good. He has laid his hands on something most of us can but dream of: unencumbered happiness. And yet in doing so, paradoxically, he has created a hazard. His newfound glow is intoxicating, alluring. If he isn’t careful he’ll end up hurtling deep in the bowels of misery: he’ll become leader of the opposition again.