Joe Hendren

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Friday, March 06, 2020

Jeanette Fitzsimons

Am sad to hear about the sudden death of Jeanette Fitzsimons. I really respected her fierce but quiet intelligence. When sitting though televised leaders debates during election campaigns, for me, Jeanette was regularly the only voice of sanity and reason. When Jeanette spoke you usually learnt something, but that rarely came accross as the intention.
I have been recently thinking and reading up on the role of intellectuals in New Zealand culture, and the anti-intellectual attitudes they often face. Jeanette is an interesting example of a public intellectual in New Zealand. In some ways her humble, quiet manner allowed her to be intellectual when others would have been shot down over the same issue.
Its also interesting many of the tributes make reference to her work on the farm and using a chainsaw just the previous day - sure that was part of who she was - but the fact this has been highlighted probably also tells us something about how New Zealand continues to value the practical and directly empirical other the intellectual and theoretical.
For a few of us at least, the muddy gumboots are an irrelevance to her thoughtfulness, quiet wisdom and insight.