Miscellany April

First an editorial confession. We’ve been in Oz, but no, there’s no ball tampering copy here, just this:

Condom machine graffiti: ‘ For refund, insert baby here’.

Aussies are not so much a weird as a witty mob at times. Where some residents with dogs might put up a sign saying ‘Beware of dog’, others choose to let passers-by know with much more precision. Take this for example:  ‘My dog can make it to the fence in 2.8 seconds. Can you?’

And and and –  because this is one cause we humanities-types side with –  here’s what needs to be said about education and thankfully it is by no less than NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes.

“From government ministers to journalists, from industry CEOs to senior public servants, people of influence are piling into denounce philosophy, the arts and the social sciences – insisting that only by bowing before the alter of STEM will today’s students be adequately  equipped to thrive in the 21st century. {STEM stands for the study of  science, technology, engineering and mathematics in schools}. In a lead story in the Sydney Morning Herald last month he acknowledged the value of the sciences, but added that the key to a robust 21st century education was ‘not the preferencing of  STEM’ but the championing of a true multi-disciplinary system.  And so say all of us. Any like-minded, high profile debate over this side of the ditch?

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‘…he was in large measure driven by nothing more complicated than the lust for power and domination over others. Attendant on this was an often childish set of reactions at being thwarted in any way.

Having no sense of justice and  no respect for the wishes of others, he took any objection to his actions as rebellion, and responded with disproportionate vehemence. Instead of ignoring a minor setback or turning an obstacle, he would unleash bluster and force, which often involved him in unnecessarily costly head-on collisions’.

Sorry Donald, it’s not you, not even in a silly hat. It’s Napoleon, as described by Adam Zamoyski in his 2004 bestseller, 1812, Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow.

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Broadcasting Minister  Clare Curran might not have known it as she struggled to get her message across last week after respected RNZ Head of Content Carol Hirschfeld resigned suddenly, but Machiavelli summed up the problems she’s about to face. Former BBC Director General Greg Dykes trawled back through time in a memorial speech to quote him.  And this is what Mach the Knife  wrote:

“There is nothing more  difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of  the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by  the new”.

Then again none of this is new. Just look at the opposition and often the derision directed at TVNZ’s short-lived Charter, an attempt to bring a touch of public broadcasting to a model which was killing itself off by over-commercialisation.

Or the independent TV2,  knocked off by Sir Robert Muldoon even though the channel made 75 hours of local drama in its first 12 months –  more than its well-resourced predecessor NZBC, had made in 13 years.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.