Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
One way to blank out the world is to de-clutter, and downstairs, 25 years of papers awaited the shredder. Up first, old letters, some humbling, others hateful. I’d written a column for the Listener which upset those who, to put it mildly, disliked Jews - and the confluence of dog-eared hate mail along with the slaughter in a Pittsburgh synagogue was disturbing. Worse was to come. The Otago Daily Times reported a racist taunt aimed at a Southland Philipino family visiting Wellington. A woman greeted them by saying: ‘This country is for white people only…" So 1950s, but then racism, like rust, never sleeps.
Absent-mindedly listening to ‘Radio NZ National’ some years ago, my attention was suddenly focused on the words of an elderly caller.
She was reminiscing with then afternoon host, Jim Mora, about her favourite music. Apparently, she’d grown-up in the King Country milling settlement, Rangataua, just south of Ohakune.
The woman remembered fondly a band that used to play the occasional Saturday night in the local hall in the late 30s. Two things stuck in her memory – the small woman who played the piano, and the large Maori man who played the drums. Apparently, the woman had a ‘great sense of rhythm’.
Another day in Auckland and another tree falls. No, not just one but three – all native Puriri.
“Where will the wood pigeons go now?” an anguished neighbour asks as the chain saws roar and a wood chipper finishes the job, grinding once proud trees into garden fill.
Decades after the damage was done, it has finally become acceptable for economists to admit that neo-liberal economics is a politically manipulated means of ensuring that the rich and powerful become more rich and powerful. But with that madness in decline, another has sprung up.
This one is harder to define, but people are angry. Intolerance, and partisanship are on the rise. Hard-won laws of justice are threatened. I believe the New Zealand media’s response to US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, is our small contribution to a growing hysteria.
Media interests, particularly television, give us, or most of us, exactly what we want; the gossipy, exciting, human interest side of politics that requires no thinking. So much so that we tend to forget that Parliament exists to debate and determine the principles and policies that serve the public interest.
So I was pleased and pleasantly surprised when an editorial in the Otago Daily Times raised questions about policy: “What do we want our public health system to look like? Do we want it to be world class and free? Or a safety net with no-frills care for those unable to afford health insurance?” The answer to this question may not be as predictable as we think.
Outside there’s a colourful riot of flowers cherry and pink blossoms and the joyful Springtime chorus of our birds. Out there drunk and disorderly, cheeky Tuis dangle from Kowhais sucking the nectar from the trees’ golden flowers.
I do love this long awaited time of the year especially this year when dreary winter lingered too long.
This worthy philosophy has been attributed to many different people, depending on which book of quotations you pick up. Its origins appear to be French. In the late 1600s the Marquise de Rabutin-Chantal, better known as Madame de Sevigne, wrote in a letter to her daughter: plus je connais les hommes, plus j’aime les chiens – the more I know of men, the more I love dogs.