Saturday, December 29, 2018

Unjust leadership?

The following column appeared on the 14th July, 1993. Considering our current Labour Government, strong on promises and weak on action, we don't seem to be much better off. And the hints of socialism are everywhere amongst their policies.

Unjust leadership? 

After a friend asked me if I knew the opposite phrase to ‘distaff side’ (‘spear side,’ we discovered), she took up my last column’s complaints about Mr Bolger, and said, ‘But who would you put in his place?’ I had no answer.

In spite of the possibilities of electoral reform, we’re still left with the problem of being unable to vote in a party’s leader.

We want leadership in this country, there’s no doubt; but not at all costs. Arrogant leadership of the Muldoon-Lange-Bolger style we can do without.

With the choices we face at present, perhaps it is time (given that it is suffrage year) to have someone on the distaff side: a Prime Ministress.  But the present field is pretty narrow: would we really want the Obsessive Housekeeper, or She Whose EconomicPolicies Must Be Obeyed?

Metropolitan Anthony
I’ve been reading a little book I picked up in the Regent book sale, Man and God, by Metropolitan Anthony (his name has nothing to do with a railway station: Metropolitan is an Orthodox church title, similar to archbishop).

This man clearly identifies one of the problems New Zealand is facing at present, though stating it in a different context.

He says when society defines man (including setting up an Ideal Abstract Man as ‘the pattern for the future’), we always meet – whatever the case, whatever the kind of dictatorship or pressure group – with something which the Russian writer, Solzhenitsyn, in his book Cancer Ward, defined in the following way.

One of the central characters has this said about him: ‘He had the greatest possible love and consideration of mankind, and this is why he hated so fiercely every human being – because they disfigured this ideal so horribly.

There is an echo here of Jenny Shipley, or Roger Douglas. Leaders who appear to have more love for their ideal State, where properly managed finances will supposedly bring proper social order, than for the individuals within it.

As M. Anthony points out, such leaders’ ideals are always focused on the future. Consequently the real people they are dealing with here and now have to be ‘transformed, changed and remoulded.’ Unfortunately, past experience ‘shows that many bones crack and many things have to be changed by force and even violence.’ (The communist revolution is one example.)

Individual people are disregarded in this kind of social change; people are only seen collectively.

Here in New Zealand it is easy to see those who commit benefit fraud as one group who blaspheme the great god Economy. It is also easy to lump the Poor together as one large unpalatable porridge.

Within our leaders’ world view, the poor eventually disappear not because of Recovery but because they have no means of surviving. Crime becomes their only hope and they are committed to prison. The prisons become totally overloaded, and finally something more permanent is done..?

Not in New Zealand?

We need a distaff side to our spear side policies: humanity as well as economy. We need policies that see people not as abstractions, but as unique wondrous creatures, each one called by name ‘out of (the) nothingness from which we were drawn by the will of God.’ (Anthony again.)

Arrogant and unjust rulership tends to arise when we leave God out, and though many of my readers won’t agree, New Zealand still needs God.

And New Zealand leaders need to see people as God sees them: perhaps not going so far as counting the hairs on their heads, but at least knowing that individuals make up the crowd.

Honours List

Honours List - Column 8: June 23 1993 

I am still simmering! It’s over a week now since the Honours List was published, and yet again my name did not appear on it!!

I realise Her Majesty had an ‘orrible year, because she kept telling us so, but is that any reason to continually overlook one of her loyal subjects? What do I have to do to gain Her acknowledgement?

I have worked for the State (being in insurance for five years) and allowed my brain to be on tap at the City Council. I delivered Her Royal Mail at two different times in my career. Like Her forebear Henry the Eighth, I’m a minor composer, writing my first song worth remembering when I was only a teenager.

I have written countless songs since then, some of which have been performed.

While accompanying four opera singers, I played the piano for thousands of schoolchildren around New Zealand, even continuing to play after the lid of the grand piano at Tokomairiro High School fell on my thumb – mid-aria.

I have accompany a pre-Dame Kiri. She condescendingly told me (and I put it down to her youth) that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. (I assume she meant in the way I played the music, rather than in my choice of singer.)

I have listened to more music than all the 19th century composers wrote in total, much of it with my full attention. It has been music that ran the gamut from the extremely incomprehensible (like that by John Cage, who was opaque in everything he did) to the totally sublime.

I have sold goods door to door, and collected money door to door, so you could easily count me as being a community worker.

I wrote my first play before I was out of my teens, and two later ones which I destroyed, since, like Brahms, I didn’t want my juvenalia undermining the fruit of my later genius (which is still to bud).

I have submitted over 300 articles to various publishers not only in this country, but in the United Kingdom (of Her Majesty) and the United States. Two-thirds of them have been published. (And not all in this column, either.)

You’d think in the midst of Her Majestic year she would have noticed one of those, surely? Furthermore, I have read more books than are sold at the Regent Book sale each year, many of them from cover to cover.

Like Paul’s adopted son, Timothy, I have been a Christian since my youth up. I have worked twice for my church in paid capacities, quite apart from the countless hours I’ve spent shifting other member’s furniture from one house to another, and attending pot luck meals, and listening to those who are going through difficult patches.

I have watched thousands of movies, and untold hours of television (which is why I’ve watched thousands of movies). That any person should endure so much and still be ignored each year is beyond my comprehension.

I have enjoyed book-keeping, endured economics, delight in English, and been bewildered by maths – at times. I have studied Trachtenberg’s system of multiplication, the one he conceived in prison without any paper. I can read some Italian, German and Modern Cool.

I live in a house with four teenagers, amongst others. When I remind them that I used to carry each one in the crook of my arm they give that teenage ‘look.’

With all these credentials (and many more that I can’t fit in due to space restrictions), I ask you: Why wasn’t my name in the Honours List this year?

Friday, December 28, 2018

Fourth Column


This column comes from the days of the 1995 Americas' Cup, when New Zealand, my home country, grabbed the thing off the people who'd had it for far too long. One of our local lunatics gave it a thump, but its was put back into shipshape order before the next outing.


Occasionally people ask me where I get my ideas from. There's no great secret: it's a matter of picking up opportunities, just like salesmen do when trying to sell something.

And it really isn't hard to get ideas - I sat in the car one night waiting to collect my wife from work and came up with several possibilities. The problem is to know what to do with the ideas once you've got 'em!

This is the fourth column I've started this week. With four columns sketched out you'll appreciate I haven't lacked ideas, just the right approach. Half way through saying something, I've begun to wonder: do I really know as much about this as I'd like to think I do?

I've said in the past, I'm not a journalist. And I'm not objective. Although I try to get my facts right I'd sooner manage without any facts at all.

That's where the difference comes between an opinionated person like myself and a real journalist. Real journalists have their facts right before they commit themselves to paper. I'm not always even sure which ones are my facts.

In fact I tried to be very factual this week, but my opinions kept tripping me up.

New Zealand's team celebrating their win in 1995
I started to write about the Americas' Cup - but I wasn't sure whether I had the apostrophe in the right place, or if there really was a dash in NZ-L20.

Actually I'm glad it's all over. Never in the field of human conflict was so much hype given to so many by so few. (Until I checked, I'd always thought the original quotation used the word "endeavour" instead of "conflict". Whew! Well, that will do as the fact for this week's column.)

I was going to write about riots, (or is it right about wriots?) both at home and abroad, and injustice (this has nothing to do with the America's Cup) - but such a theme required more space than I have here, (and possibly more brains).

More problems arose when I wanted to right about the Write to Silence matter. But because I was going to comment on what seemed to me to be a very contentious legal area, and one in which lawyers might well have a field day, I thought I'd better give my lawyer a call first. (And got his answerphone.)

I wanted to write about sceptics, and evolution (separately). But reducing these dinosaur issues down to homo sapiens size proved difficult. I could combine them, of course, and say I'm sceptical about evolution.

I've also had in mind to write both about banks, and bouncers. For those of you who immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was going to advise banks to employ bouncers, I wasn't, though it occurs to me that might yet be an idea to follow up.

When it comes to being as opinionated and dogmatic as I am, you see, settling down to getting the right column off the ground can be a tricky matter.

My apologies if you've felt that you've wended your way through this maze, and found no prize at the end. However, consider this column as a trailer, like they have at the movies or on tv, whetting your appetite for controversies to come.

Hmmm...I've just been checking my facts again, and find I've confused fourth column with fifth estate - or vice versa. I'll get it write somewhere along the line.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Published in Column 8 on the 30th June 1993

Once upon a time weather-forecasters’ predictions had some likelihood of coming true. Not much anymore. I suggest, disillusioned weathermen try their hand at something easier: predicting the degree of increase in the word torrent that will gush out of the Beehive prior to the coming election.

We live with an abundance of words. Walk along the streets of any city or town and you’ll be overwhelmed by words, myriad eye-catching, purse-opening, mind-arresting words. They’re an integral part of urban scenery, in greater profusion than plate-glass windows, parking meters, and closing-down sales.

After constant exposure, our brains cease to discriminate amongst the excess. Urban words have only two or three micro-seconds to make their mark before they’re consigned to the long-term memory – perhaps only ever to reappear in our dotage.

Urban words become like squabbling siblings on a shopping spree whom harassed parents try to ignore.

I’ve nothing against words, even urban ones. In fact I quite like most of them. But they tend to take over. (They’ve even hedge in on what used to be the sole province of numbers: registration plates. Now we’re more likely to see a car called SPEED than SP9876.)

Sooner or later there’s going to be a reaction against this plethora of words. Words need space, and don’t like being crunched up against each other. (Numbers cope with crunching much better.) They need time to be absorbed, and shouldn’t be flashed at us like a thousand thousand winking indicators.

For politicians to weigh down the next few months with words is unlikely to make us sit up and take notice.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I came across a delightful story about Coleridge (the Ancient Mariner man). He tells of talking throughout dinner to a man who listened carefully to him, and said nothing. The man constantly nodded his head, and Coleridge concluded he was very intelligent.

Towards the end of the dinner, some apple dumplings were placed on the table. The man had no sooner seen them than he burst forth with – “Them’s the jockies for me!!” The Book of Proverbs makes the comment: “Even a fool when he keeps his mouth closed is considered wise.”

Politicians could learn something from that. As word-using people they should know, but don’t, that ten clear words are better than a thousand befogged ones.

The coming election makes me consider that it would be wiser for politicians to keep their mouths more closed than open in these final few months. Then their words might not embarrass them later. (How they can at present sit comfortably on their parliamentary sheepskins and not wriggle out [of] guilt when their “promises” are thrown back in their faces is beyond me.)

If they said nothing prior to election time, we might be inclined to elect them anyway – just to find out what they were going to be up to.

We’d certainly find them more truthful. People who don’t normally open their mouths can hardly be called liars when they do.

Their silence might even appear as wisdom, wisdom they wish we thought they had. To maintain this aura of sapience would require them to keep their mouths closed even after they were elected, and that could only be a good thing.

In the meantime, the parliamentary minute of silence could be extended to a good half hour each day. The sheer discipline would be beneficial to all concerned.

And the flood of obscure, ambiguous, ill-defined words might then dry up.

After All

Back in the days when I wrote a weekly column, I produced this one, called 'After All'. It came out in 1993, so the references are to a former Government. However, the issues it discusses (with tongue mostly in cheek) have barely changed a jot.

After All 

Mr Bolger’s condescending response to the report on child poverty should have been expected.
His dulcet tones in the subsequent radio interviews were intended to melt the heart of the hardest cynic. His assurances that he knew what the poor were suffering should have convinced us all of our ignorance on the subject.
Jim Bolger
Mr Bolger is Prime Minister, after all. If the Prime Minister doesn’t know what’s going on, who does? The ministresses of social welfare, or of finance?
After all, if the Government is going to pay attention to what people say, especially church people (who are really pretty much on the periphery of society, aren’t they?), then what sort of wimpy Government would they be?
The purpose of a Government is to Govern, after all, to lead, to pass more laws than the Pharisees, to make enormous changes and expect everybody to follow, to fill the newspapers and television with ads that nobody understands let alone cares about, to spend millions of dollars on changing vast structure so that businessmen can run the country like one big business.
Of course, when the Opposition finally gains power – as it probably will because we’re all so sick of this lot – it will change it all back again.
After all, an Opposition’s purpose is to Oppose. In Opposition they really don’t have anything to do all day except come up with mischievous schemes to upset the Government, such as telling us that most of the National Members are millionaires.
Well, they are, after all, aren’t they? I mean if you add the figures up the right way, you can make anybody look like a millionaire; you can even make the poor look well off.
Isn’t that what the Government is attempting to do, by reminding us over and over of the wonderful recovery we’re all part of? How can we refuse to believe the evidence?
Not that it matters what you believe, anyway. What’s a Government for, after all? It’s not there to be nice to us, it’s not there to pay attention to petitions, submissions or reports. It’s not there to listen to the ‘groundswell of current opinion’ (it considers the swell as swill and treats it accordingly). It’s not there to talk Truth but Governspeak. It’s not there to find ways to balance the books that will please everybody – in fact the fewer people this Government pleases the better a Government it believes itself to be.
It is there, however, to say that it’s ‘responsible in seeking to target very large sums of money to those New Zealanders most in need’: $2 a week extra family support, for example, according to the Guinness Book of Records New Zealand All-time Boring Budget.
And even more, the Government hates to think that someone might be getting more than their share, especially if they have the nerve to be on a benefit. That’s why they’ve given themselves the right to investigate our bank accounts, and take money directly out of them if need be.
It isn’t our money, after all, or the bank’s (who now charge us not only for taking our money out, but also when we don’t put enough in); it’s the Government’s money. They gave it out in the first place, and they printed it.
After all, if they give money to us when we aren’t working, we’ll only go and spend it on irrelevant things like rent, and possibly, if there’s anything left over, on frivolities like food and (good grief!) clothing.
We’re only scum after all – the Government knows that if six o’clock closing was reintroduced we’d be back in there like pigs at a trough. We’ve never learnt anything.
Worst of all, we’ve never learnt that if we give our prime public servants plenty of power, law by law they’ll gradually turn the lot of us into slaves.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Crowl or Crawl

Courtesy Pixabay

Trawling through Evernote, I came across a piece I wrote in 2007. It was published on an internet site that faded away through not being able to pay its writers on time...Since it's a piece poking fun at blogs and their writers, I thought it could do with another airing:

Crowl or Crawl

In one of those idle moments when the brain is parked in a lay-by, I typed my surname into the search engine on I shouldn’t have been surprised that a number of people had typed ‘crowl’ instead of ‘crawl’ and had never noticed (who apart from me proof-reads their blog scribblings?), but seeing my name leap out from some of the most random writing on the planet was disconcerting.

It even turns up in foreign language texts. Is it a slang word that crosses borders? Many blog writers don’t have too cosy a relationship with grammar and spelling. We can excuse those for whom English is a second language: “I want to know does search engines crowl websites without submission. Should website important to submit to Search engines. I have some website for promotion so I want to know that Search engine will not crowl without submission.”  

At least I hope this is a writer for whom English is a second language.   

The next writer, however, has style: “I'm detached. I don't want to do anything with this ugly politics anymore. If I'm lucky I'll find a hole in some quiet corner of the world and crowl there and continue my research on Machine Translation and live my own life and don't care a bit about anything that happens anywhere. If I see a needy, I'll help. But I'll forget dying African kids, and greedy thiefs of higher society... Let them do anything they want.”

Perhaps the next writer was too troubled by his angst to notice where his fingers were flying: “I woke up and I looked into the mirror and standing there was someone else...Not me. I have to say that I really didn't like what I saw. What happened with the VERY confident guy that used to stare back at me and say: "Today will be a great day!!"???  I really don't know...What I saw there, in the mirror, was a fraction of what I used to see...My walk has fallen into a crowl...I didn’t want to fall straight into a halt... If that happens I might as well just curl and die...I have never been so close to His will and then everything just piled up trying to tumble me to my knees and admit defeat... But I think I've got some news for ya...I won't give up and I will be at the centre of His will! God...I know things won't be easy... Help me...I think I might be losing my mind...”

Of course, losing your mind, let alone feeling you’ve fallen out with God, may well be the result of falling into a crowl.

And more on the religious life of the teenager: “Today—Monday, July 10, 2006—was a day of relaxation. We slept in and had pancakes for breakfast and then had morning worship and Pray the Bible. After lunch we had Salvationism class (which was really eye-opening to what we need to change in the world). The girls got into an in-depth discussion on today’s RevoDevos of Exodus 19 and 20 and the Ten Commandments and the Articles of War. After dinner we had a Salvationist Missionary/Teacher visit us and talk to us about her 10 month adventure in China. It was extremely inspiring to get out there and do missions. Last night the girls decided to go to Starbucks and then have a “discussion” and because of that the boys decided they wanted a “boy’s night out” as well. As soon as the boys left campus we girls went to Cozy’s for our second dinner. Side note: Thai food is good.”

I began to wonder if many people pronounce ‘crawl’ as ‘crowl’ and have a mistaken view of its spelling. “It seems like my blog has been forgotten again. But in the past 2.5 weeks I was glad if I had the energy to crowl into bed when I got home.”  

Or: “I don't dispute her assessment. It's pretty evident that the forces that brought Summers down were not monolithic and many people found themselves in a firm opposition to him due to a variety of reasons. But still, it doesn't dispel the gloom that comes from the realization that if even such a powerful man as Larry Summers had to crowl acquiescently, rather than stood by his remarks, and was still brought down, the perspectives of simple mortals are that bleak.” 

You have to wonder how a person who uses words like ‘monolithic’ and ‘acquiescently’ appears to have no idea about tense. 

Someone who may be teaching dressmaking writes the following: “At the top that blob like thing would be a pinned on flower of some sort. At the bottom, the sides would be runched up and have ties. The effect given is kind of like a crowl neck, only at the bottom.   More of that crowl neck effect, but just a little tighter, so it wouldn’t be overly exaggerated.   Split sleeves. A sheer see-through material overtop the bottom material, adding a bit of extra length.”  I’ve always had a ‘crowl neck’ of course, but it’s usually at the top, rather than the bottom.  

Here’s someone on the history of swimming: “The first literatures about swimming are dated since the 2000 B.C. However it wasn't since the 1800 the first competitions started taking place in Europe. Back then the most popular style was the breaststroke. The most popular and fast style, the front crowl, was first introduced in the so called civilized world, by John Arthur Trudgen, in 1878 who saw it from the natives Americans.”  

Oh, communication, wherefore art thou?

And finally a person who hasn’t yet discovered the shift key: “what an amazing moment.  i tripped and fell today. i ripped my jeans, skinned my knees and killed my hurts real bad.  everyone looked at me, good thing kate was with me, its always more sad when someone is alone and they fall. but i owned it and it was pretty much amazing. it almost made me late to crowl the warrior king's final. that wouldnt have been good. he was wearing jeans today and it was pretty awkward. but you dont know him so you probably dont really care. well sara knows him. im sure she will agree that its awkward.”

I’m sure she will….and not just the falling over.

All these are unedited extracts from blogs. My thanks to the people who unwittingly offered their writings...