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Friday, November 29, 2013

God's Fiefdom



There is a YouTube Video online

Of an exploding Sperm Whale

On a beach in the Faroe Islands.

A man slashes it with a mincing knife

And once the diaphragm is pierced

All the guts sort of woosh out!

Strips and strings burst in a spray

That stings the whaler with filth.


I showed my young son Theo

And he told Hayden his teacher

And all the class watched it -

Over again – and laughed.


It put me in mind of William of Normandy

Who died alone in agony when

No one would trust him enough to help.

He had devastated and enslaved the North.

One in four died from his ruthlessness.

Deaths in battle were the best.

Tens of thousands died as crops went unplanted

Stock died, harvests burned and castles rose.


When he had finally expired

The monks in Caen dallied

For far too long and had to force

The corpse into the kist.

“I fell on the English of the northern shires like a ravening lion. I commanded their houses and corn, with all their implements and chattels, to be burnt without distinction, and great herds of cattle and beasts of burden to be butchered whenever they are found. In this way I took revenge on multitudes of both sexes by subjecting them to the calamity of a cruel famine, and so became a barbarous murderer of many thousands, both young and old, of that fine race of people. Having gained the throne of that kingdom by so many crimes I dare not leave it to anyone but God…..

[Ordericus Vitalis c AD 1130]   


According to record, Orderic Vitalis ‘Angligena’ [i.e. English bred] was born in 1075 in Shropshire at the little village of Atcham on the River Severn. Atcham is about 5 miles south east of Shrewsbury on the A5 [Watling Street] and close to Wroxeter / Uriconium. Although the setting was rural, the village was on the primary route linking north-western and southern England.

It is recorded that although Orderic’s father was a French priest from Orléans his mother was English. And it seems that from the age of five, he boarded at the Abbey School at the Monastery of St Peter and St Paul in Shrewsbury run by an English monk named Siward.

When he joined the Abbey of Saint-Evroul in the Duchy of Normandy, at the age of eleven, purportedly he couldn’t speak a word of French, having spoken English and written in Latin. Given his provenance and upbringing, I am sure that we can rely on Orderic's observations and objectivity on the matter of the Harrying of the North – but not perhaps on his attribution of a heart-felt confession to ‘The Tanner'.

The Harrying of the North ended in 1069 with the fall of Chester [6 years before Orderic was born]. As part of the Uprising, the men of Shrewsbury had joined a raid on the town by Eadric the Wild to attack the new castle built there by Roger de Montgomery. Shrewsbury was burnt during the conflict.

Orderic’s birth in 1075 coincides with the Revolt of the Earls by Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria in connivance with Roger de Breteuil, 2nd Earl of Hereford. Waltheof was the last of the old English nobility to survive the Conquest, being the second son of Siward, the Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria.
Ten years later in 1085, Orderic’s English patron Siward the Abbot of St Peter’s and St Paul’s in Shrewsbury was likely deeply involved in trying to retain some influence on events by the English clergy. As such, he was probably assiduous in helping compile the Doomsday Book which effectively legitimised the transfer of lands to the invaders. This and the forced swearing of minor nobles of direct allegiance to the Crown, under the Salisbury Oath in 1085, effectively marked the successful consolidation of the Norman Conquest.

Clearly, Orderic’s eleven year childhood in England [1075-1086] traversed a dangerous time.

So I start to have some doubts that Orderic was in fact the son of a French priest or clerk settled at Atcham. Conveniently this father is supposed to have originated in Orléans, far from Normandy and closed to cross-checking by acquaintances. And I also find it hard to accept that, if his father spoke French, Orderic knew nothing of the language.

The Doomsday Book puts the population of Atcham at a tiny 5 households. The land was owned in the name of the Canons of St Alkmund, Shrewsbury in 1066 and by Godebold the Priest in 1086. The nearby manor of Cressage had been owned by Eadric the Wild but had been transferred to Ranulf Peverel by 1086.

Was Orderic in reality the son of one of the old Anglo-Saxon nobles? Possibly he was a relative of Eadric the Wild or someone even more illustrious, who was rescued by friendly relatives among the clergy and given a new identity – and then packed off to Normandy where he would be least likely to be suspected, especially on him becoming a French-speaking priest.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dancing a single vortex which grows and dwindles


Thirty-five years on from the publication of ‘A Girl Like I’, Rosemary McLeod has gyred back to prudery via promiscuity and prurience. Like many of those who were challenged by the liberality of the late 1960s and 1970s, she appears to have grown crabby and judgmental.

Typical is one of her recent articles on the Wellington’s newest strip club The Calendar Club where she really lays into the young girls who might gyrate and lap-dance under its strobes [‘There’s No Stopping the March of Progress’, Dominion Post, 01/12/2011]:

‘The patrons will, of course, be men. The young women working there will, just as naturally, require decent central heating to prevent that untoward side-effect of going about half-naked, which is goose-bumps. I have heard that goose-bumps are a turnoff.

‘Industry being thin on the ground in this town, we're adapting, like Darwin's finches. The sex trade which I call light industry provides wholesome work for female school-leavers who'd otherwise be under their parents' feet all day, and will encourage them to keep fit, which can only be healthy.

‘There is, as yet, no formal qualification required, so there's no need for them to lift their sights to say bookish heights. As for the job description, it's as old as time, like the style of the planned decor. The staff there will be work for 80, we're told won't get paid any extra for exams they may have passed, and investors have never followed The World of Interiors; they rely on instinctive knowledge of what constitutes a sure thing.

Now from someone who engaged it seems in more than a fair share of bunga bunga, rumpo rumpo and diggly in her time, with All and particularly Sundry, and wrote a book about it, Rosemary’s comments may seem a bit harsh and hoity toity.

She seems to regard it as a Big Step Backwards that the girls are being paid for a fraction of what the 1960-70 Pill Generation happily shared gratis. Though I am no supporter of sleaze, there is some irony in her puritanical insights into what constitutes Progress.

Who knows - one of the Calendar Girls might go to write a book about her experiences and become a celebrity journalist!

Actually [and this is just between you and I] I am available for parties – no gold coins - notes only in my lycra thong.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cryptic Crossword Espionage and the ‘New School' History

The Internet is an enormous boon to those of us who love to scout and forage for half-remembered quotes, concepts and influences. It can confirm and extend a good memory most marvellously. But there is something about old books that the Internet cannot possibly replicate – personality. This is the personality that comes with authorship, ownership, use and dedication.
After my father was killed in the RAF in October 1943, my mother carefully archived the books that he had accumulated as a professional historian, by more or less sealing them in the Minty bookcase that had been given as a wedding present in 1934. This bookcase and its contents became my companion during long winter evenings on our farm in South Cheshire, and it has followed me through a chain of houses across the world.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to reflect that, with me having been born eight months after my father’s death, the books and the bookcase have a certain sentimental significance. Naturally, when I pick up the books, I look for clues about his character and the ideas that shaped it.
But not only that - many of the books are, as I am discovering in my pre-dotage, very good reads. Quite often now, I check to see what the Edwardians and the Inter-War generation were thinking about topics that still trouble us. Or to use what they have to say as a sounding board for my own opinions.
 One of the books that I pick up is James Harvey Robinson’s ‘The Ordeal of Civilisation’ [1926]. It has always been a favourite. When I was a boy, I revelled in its short paragraphs, pithy summaries and lavish illustrations. And on reflection, I can better value the contribution that some strands of American scholarship made to the study of history.
I also love books in the Oxford History series like E.L. Woodward’s ‘The Age of Reform – 1815 -1870’ [as I mentioned in my previous article] but these have monstrously long ‘adult’ paragraphs that sometimes exceed an entire page. The only concession to reader comfort is the titling of each page with pointers like ‘MAHMUD II AND RUSSIA’.
As you can see from this post, I am finally a convert to the short paragraph, though I will resist the seemingly inevitable trend towards cutting paragraphs down to the lengths of Tweets. And in retrospect, I wish to apologise to my American colleagues at the Asian Development Bank for my paragraphs - though in my own defence, I have to add that they were generally considerably shorter and less obscure than those of my German collaborators.
Where is all this leading? To the dedication that was made by my father’s headmaster L.S. Dawe when he awarded my father the Strand School’s Sixth Form Prize for History in 1927 – with the prize being of course ‘The Ordeal of Civilization’. And, thanks to the Internet, I can now pick up on two very interesting characters: Dawe and Robinson.
Leonard Dawe was noted for being ‘a strict disciplinarian and man of extremely high principle’ as a schoolmaster; for having played amateur soccer at a high level in his spectacles; for being known by his pupils at Strand School as "moneybags", in allusion to his initials, L.S.D. (pounds, shillings and pence); and for having been interrogated by MI5 during WWII as a possible spy for Nazi Germany who was passing on secrets in 1944 about the impending Normandy Invasion by means of inserting tip-off clues in The Daily Telegraph cryptic crosswords that he used to compile as a sideline.
Strand School had been founded in 1875 as a training institution for junior civil servants, in association with King’s College, London. In 1909, the school moved from central London to Tulse Hill and its civil service classes were cut away from the secondary school functions. It then flourished as a grammar school, becoming noted for its high academic achievements and wide-ranging sporting prowess.
My father obviously thrived there and he went on to attend King’s College, London where he graduated with an MA in History and won a half-blue for cross country running. His younger brother Eric, who was less academically-inclined also attended Strand School and he talks about considering the possibility of a professional soccer career in his memoirs – no doubt under the encouragement of ‘Moneybags’ Dawe.
I’ll let Wikipedia pick up on the notorious crossword episodes:
‘In 1925, Leonard Dawe commenced compiling crosswords for The Daily Telegraph newspaper and was one of the first compilers to use "cryptic" clues. The first Daily Telegraph crossword, compiled by Dawe, appeared on 30 July 1925 – he continued to devise crosswords until his death in 1963.
‘During the Second World War, Strand School was evacuated to Effingham in Surrey.
‘Two days before the disastrous Dieppe Raid by the British Army, in August 1942, the clue "French port appeared in the Daily Telegraph crossword, followed by the solution ‘Dieppe’ the next day; on 19 August, the day the raid on Dieppe took place.
‘The Raid was a catastrophe and none of its objectives were achieved. 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore were killed, wounded, or captured. The Allied air forces also failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle and lost 106 aircraft.
‘The British War Office suspected that the crossword had been used to pass intelligence to the enemy and called upon Lord Tweedsmuir, then a senior intelligence officer attached to the Canadian Army, to investigate the crossword. Tweedsmuir (the son of John Buchan the author), later commented:
"We noticed that the crossword contained the word "Dieppe", and there was an immediate and exhaustive inquiry which also involved MI5. But in the end it was concluded that it was just a remarkable coincidence – a complete fluke".
But there was more.
‘In early May 1944 ‘Utah’ appeared as a solution in The Daily Telegraph crossword and this was to have major repercussions. Utah was also the codename for the D-Day beach assigned to the 4th US Assault Division in the D-Day Landings.
‘On 22 May the clue for 3 down, "Red Indian on the Missouri" gave the answer ‘Omaha’.  On 27 May, "Overlord" was the answer to 11 across; and again, three days later on 30 May the answer for 11 across was "Mulberry" - giving a total of four top-secret code-words being given as answers in less than a month.
‘In previous months, answers for clues also included ‘Gold’, ‘Juno’ and ‘Sword’ [the landing beaches for British and Commonwealth troops] and the pattern continued ending on 1 June, with the solution to 15 down being ‘Neptune’ – codeword for the naval assault phase’.
MI5 became involved again and called on Headmaster Leonard Dawe for another gentlemanly chat at his home in Leatherhead, Surrey.
It seems that the Dieppe and Normandy episodes simply reflected absolute coincidences that reflected the large size, intricate nature and regular publication of the crosswords. One of Dawe’s pupils also reported that he occasionally invited pupils into his study and encouraged them to help fill in the blank crossword patterns with ‘solutions’ that he would later furnish with clues.
And there is some possibility that the kids may have been influenced in their choices of words by listening to the gossip of Canadian and American soldiers, as they hung around them hoping for gifts of gum and chocolate. The troops were camped nearby in preparation for the invasion and may have let their guard down on ‘careless talk’ in the presence of the youngsters.
In October 1917, in a wave of jingoism and wartime hysteria, Columbia University passed a resolution that imposed a loyalty oath to the United States government upon the entire faculty and student body. The Board of Trustees then dismissed Professor of Psychology and Head of the Department James McKeen Cattell for having sent a petition to three US congressmen, asking them not to support legislation for military conscription.
Several senior academics resigned in protest, including James Harvey Robinson, who was Professor of History at Columbia. He commented: "It is not that any of us are pro-German or disloyal. It is simply that we fear that a condition of repression may arise in this country similar to that which we laughed at in Germany."
In 1919, Robinson was one of the founding staff of the New School for Social Research in New York City. The New School aimed to spark independent thinking by setting America’s radical tradition within the context of the various strands of Continental Philosophy developed in Europe. It has an illustrious history of intellectual endeavour, a magnificent roll call of teachers that includes people like Hannah Arendt, and a petition length list of famous alumni that includes people like Marlon Brando.
In essence, the New School challenges nationalism with humanism, and not surprisingly most of its staff and students are sceptical about descriptors such as ‘Anti-American’ and distrustful of global ‘Americanization’, preferring to assess problems and opportunities in a much wider context.
As James Harvey Robinson explains in The Ordeal of Civilization: 'as the years went on, history had come to seem to him a more and more vital matter; that should not be regarded primarily as an accumulation of information about the past, but as a means of cultivating intellectual freedom and sagacity.
 ‘It is a realization of how things come about that is the important thing. It opens our eyes wider upon matters as they now stand and at the same time suggests more ingenious ways of forwarding their improvement than we are likely to discover without its aid.
 'The past loses its sacredness and we are no longer its slave.
‘One of the great obstacles to a free consideration of the details of our human plight is our tendency to regard familiar notions as ‘sacred’ – that is, too assured to be questioned except by the perverse and the wicked.
‘This word to the student of human sentiment is redolent of ancient, must misapprehensions. It recalls a primitive and savage setting-off of purity and impurity, cleanness and uncleanness.
‘The French retain the double meaning in their word sacré, which means at once ‘blessed’ and ‘damned’. Blest is he who agrees with me and let others be damned.
‘Partisanship is our great curse. We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other.
‘History should be studied as to undermine prejudice – which means anything of which we are not quite sure – and especially the savage survival of ‘sacredness’.
Some more quotes from his work:
     Curiosity is idle only to those who fail to realize that it may be a very rare and indispensable thing.
     We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposed to rob us of their companionship.
     Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.
     One cannot but wonder at this constantly recurring phrase getting something for nothing, as if it were the peculiar and perverse ambition of disturbers of society. Can the most complacent reactionary flatter himself that he invented the art of writing or the printing press, or discovered his religious, economic, and moral convictions, or any of the devices which supply him with meat and raiment or any of the sources of such pleasure as he may derive from literature or the fine arts? In short, civilization is little else than getting something for nothing.
•     Political campaigns are designedly made into emotional orgies which endeavor to distract attention from the real issues involved, and they actually paralyze what slight powers of cerebration man can normally muster.
    We find it hard to believe that other people’s thoughts are as silly as our own, but they probably are.
So I have developed new respect for L.S. Dawe in his choice of a Sixth Form History Prize for my father at Strand School in 1927.
And a renewed resistance to national historical syllabuses that teach the ‘sacredness’ of 'Our Nation’s Story' as a supposed means developing civic virtue and loyalty to the state, as opposed to developing a commitment to independent-minded historical analysis.

See also, for example:


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Project of Progress


In my last article, touching on my comments to the Canberra Diaspora video archive team about student politics at the Australian National University, I mentioned the ‘Project of Progress’. And I assumed that the term Project of Progress was both well-established and obvious to all.

It seems that it is not.

This has given me a great few hours on the web researching Sir Francis Bacon, Hegel, the Victorian zeitgeist and consulting my father’s book collection which features early 20th Century historians like James Harvey Robinson [‘The Ordeal of Civilization’], E.L. Woodward [‘The Age of Reform 1815 – 1870’] and H.G. Wells [‘The Outline of History’].

Like my father, who was born in 1909, I grew up in a Post-War Era [I was born in 1944]. In the slaughter aftermaths, the sane survivors of the participating generation sought to make some kind of sense out of mass conflicts that had starved, orphaned, widowed and maimed. There was also revulsion at normally law-abiding citizens having been conscripted to murder the fellow law-abiding citizens of neighbouring nations hand-to-hand in trenches and fox-holes – or more remotely by torpedo, artillery and bombs.

Bitter reflection and dreamy idealism became the birthrights of the next generation.

And one of the interesting observations that can be made about the ANU Student Demonstrations in the 1960s [and the related student and citizen unrest in countries like the USA and the UK] is that they were essentially about implementation rather than innovation.

They were about walking the talk – the talk after WWII being the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948.

The Declaration was perceived by many as one of the final outcomes and finest achievements of what I have termed the Project of Progress.

Looking back to the end of WWI, H.G. Wells had this to say:

‘In the trenches of the Western front alone during the late war thousands of potential great men died unfulfilled. But a world with something like a secure international peace and something like social justice, will fish for capacity with the fine net of universal education, and may expect a yield beyond comparison greater than any yield of able and brilliant men that the world has known hitherto.

‘It is such considerations as this indeed which justify the concentration of effort in the near future upon the making of a new world state of righteousness out of our present confusions. War is a horrible thing, and constantly more horrible and dreadful, so that unless it is ended it will certainly end human society; social injustice, and the sight of the limited and cramped human beings it produces, torment the soul; but the strongest incentive to constructive political and social work for an imaginative spirit lies not so much in the mere hope of escaping evils as in the opportunity for great adventures that their suppression will open to our race.

‘We want to get rid of the militarist not simply because he hurts and kills, but because he is an intolerable thick-voiced blockhead who stands hectoring and blustering in our way to achievement. We want to abolish many extravagances of private ownership just as we should want to abolish some idiot guardian who refused us admission to a studio in which there were fine things to do.

‘There are people who seem to imagine that a world order and one universal law of justice would end human adventure. It would but begin it’.

So the 1948 Declaration finally attempted to codify the Universal Law of Justice envisaged by Wells and his contemporaries in the previous post-war generation.

I’ll let you decide how far the provisions of the Declaration are being upheld in the modern world [while asking you to make due allowance for its infelicities in gender differentiation].

It is a pretty shocking tally on my score card.

But Canberra surely has a very special place in bootstrapping progress, having become Australia’s capital in 1927 and been the subject of holistic Post-WWII planning under the National Capital Development Commission [from 1958 onwards]. As Christina Stead put it:

‘I know about Canberra, beautiful, desolate, inspiring Erewhon, where one can feel “I have awakened to the future of the world”; freer because it is unfinished and all its components not yet joined’.



Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

 Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

 Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.



The Drafting Committee consisted of [photo above Top Row from Left]: Dr. Charles Malik (Lebanon); Alexandre Bogomolov (USSR); Dr. Peng-chun Chang (China) [Middle row, from left]: René Cassin (France); Eleanor Roosevelt (US); Charles Dukes (United Kingdom) [Bottom row, from left]: William Hodgson (Australia); Hernan Santa Cruz (Chile); John P. Humphrey (Canada).

The Aussie William Roy Hodgson (1892-1958) was a genuine ANZAC ‘Digger’ soldier who had served at Gallipoli:

‘After the landing on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 Hodgson was detailed as forward observing officer for his battery; his commanding officer subsequently praised his 'great gallantry' in a position of 'great risk and responsibility'. On the third day, however, Hodgson was wounded in the hip joint by a Turkish sniper. Reported dead, he was able to read his own obituary, while he lived to survive numerous operations in Egypt and England which left him with one leg considerably shorter than the other, necessitating the use of a walking-stick’.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Australian National University in the 1960s - Ned Kelly and Germaine Greer


I was delighted to recover a snap for my family album when I went back to Canberra in October for the Australian National University Golden Alumni Reunion. And I was even videoed by the Canberra Diaspora team which is archiving the now emerging history of the world’s brand newest metro-city:

The video shows a snippet of an interview that I gave about my time in Canberra 1967-1973. It focuses on my discovery of a photograph that had been stapled to display boards in the Common Room at University House. The photo was one of a number that relate to the public demonstrations regarding such issues as the Viet Nam War, the Springbok’s Rugby Tour of Australia, Aboriginal Rights etc.

The photograph in question shows me marching and mooching in a band of bannered students and activists. I was shocked to be confronted with the notion that I had once sported a fringing beard like Van Gogh's Fisherman - and ready to deny that the picture in fact related to me, only to be disabused by contemporaries. Thankfully, the remaining photographs that survive of me in this period show me clean-shaven [see above].

The stock of photographs posted in the Common Room had been obtained by Jack Waterford under an Official Information Access request to the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization [ASIO].  Jack was a widely recognized student leader and activist at the time. He later became the Editor of the Canberra Times and still contributes articles to the newspaper. He is also a very wry, witty and provocative public speaker who entertained us Golden Oldies at lunch.

Let me quickly add that I was not an important figure in student politics, though I can still give myself some credit for sticking up for my principles. Notably, I was thrown out of the pub at Mataranka in the Northern Territory for defending government spending on aboriginal development. Arguably, I was much more at risk then than I ever was from the ACT and NSW Police Forces and ASIO.

This morning, I was pushed into writing up my modest contribution to Radical Politics in the 1960s by Dave Armstrong’s article in today’s Dominion Post about ASIO’s ‘Pie and Penthouse’ little sister, New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service [SIS]. Dave notes that his Dad had be subjected to SIS surveillance and interference in such areas as job applications.

Finally it seems that in 1977, after 35 years of ridiculous surveillance, the SIS declared that Dave’s Dad could be recalssified "current security significance minimal.” I can only assume that one of the Aussie spooks has similarly declared me to be an official security minnow – and, come to think of it, I do seem to get through Aussie Immigration much more quickly nowadays.

Getting back to the Canberra Diaspora interview, my longer spiel in front of the cameras picked up on two hot contemporary topics: the prevalence of widespread social disengagement from politics, and the apparent selfishness, apathy and indifference of a rising majority of young people.

Good copy for future articles when I feel a Statler and Waldorf moment coming on.

 You can catch up with a couple of my illustrious contemporaries on the Canberra Diaspora site at:

Owen is a very Old Mate and he flew down from Darwin from the Reunion. Listen to his delightful story about the Fishy Passenger. Megan on the other hand was one of a band of impressive young women who started with Student Protest and went on to make an enormous contribution in developing Feminist Ideology and Feminist Politics. She was out there in the forefront, as her T-shirt attested.
If Owen and I drew our primary inspiration from Australia’s 19th Century anti-establishment vernacular and traditions, Megan and her colleagues were drawing more innovative and relevant ideas together in organizations like the Women’s Electoral Lobby. It was Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and Ned Kelly pitched against Doris Lessing, Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer - though the sexes found common ground in alcohol and the attraction of opposites.
Hardly surprisingly, the history of the 1960s – 1970s rules in favour of the ladies [or should I say women].


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dubious Gifts



There’s another half-dead skink on the carpet

Hunted out of the Bush and delivered as a

Contribution to the household groceries by the cats.

It will be carefully collected in tissue and placed back in the flax.


I tell the boys to feed Scruff and Fang.

‘They’ve already got plenty of food Dad’, they say.

‘That’s not the point’ I advise.

‘They are looking for attention – give them some Treats anyway’.


A wise woman learns that men are a lot like cats.

They need to be given regular attention -

Even if it is a bit of a nuisance and they lack nothing.

They hang around for treats because it’s habitual - craving.


And, as for the men, they’ll then go off hunting.

Memo to self: Bringing back $5 tops and blouses,

Pre-loved from the hanger rails of the op-shop,

May just be a skanky behavioural response.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Cuddly Economist and the Disgruntled, Disillusioned and Disengaged


Back in the early part of the year, I flirted briefly with Mayoral Politics as a means of pursuing my long-standing opposition to the excessive leverage exerted by property developers, entertainment promoters and the doyens of the Wellington City hospitality industry on the activities and finances of Wellington City Council.

In particular, I tried to interest electors in the ongoing radical redistribution of the rates [local taxes] burden from the Commercial / Business Sector to Residential Ratepayers – and alert them to moves towards further exacerbating the inequity – see for example:

This endeavour was not entirely pointless as I received the following responses to my concerns from the candidates who remained after I informed people of my withdrawal:

1.       Dear Keith     Thanks for letting us know directly.
I'm in favour of keeping the current differential.


Celia Wade-Brown

Mayor of Wellington

2.       Hi Keith:

I'm sorry to hear you won't be running. I would have enjoyed hearing your arguments further and I doubt you and I are that far apart on rates.

I campaigned in 2010 on reducing our debt and while it isn't my core issue in 2013, it's still a target for me. Hence running a frugal campaign: if I don't live it now, how on earth would I be expected to live it if elected? 

 I hope I run into you during the campaign in any case, Keith.

Best, Jack Yan
Interestingly, the two Right-of-Centre candidates Nicola Young and John Morrison declined to respond. One can only assume that they would have endorsed a further narrowing of the differential and the extraction of additional money from householders and local communities to fund office building, ‘attractions’ and booze-ups in Courtenay Place.

Of course Celia won – so we have a guarantee on at least maintaining the status quo on relative rates burdens for the next three years.

And I had the satisfaction of seeing sad old war horse Rex Nichols trotted out of his Oriental Bay stable for a run at demonstrating on behalf of the Establishment in favour of screwing young householders for the benefit of property developers like himself, Chris Parkin and Ian Cassels - only for him to be soundly flayed and knackered by the voters.

But then I can’t really talk about popularity as I got roundly trounced when I went on to stand as a candidate for the Capital and Coast District Health Board.

I came last in a list of 21 candidates vying for 7 positions. I received a paltry 465 first preference votes out of a total of 74,704 cast. My consolations were that: 1. Most of those who voted for me are dear friends and people who knew me personally 2. I was in Australia on holiday when the results were declared, and 3. My campaign cost me absolutely nothing.

Though I would love to be able to see myself as Old Boxer the Workhorse shunted out by dastardly deeds, the truth is more prosaic – I am not an effective political animal at all, such that I wouldn't even see the inside of a paddock or a stable on Animal Farm – labouring hopelessly as I do on both building fairy-tale windmills in the sky and then tilting at them!  

Anyhow, the debacle was not a complete waste of time as one of my motives was to better understand the system.


In the aftermath of the 2013 Local Elections, I thought of writing about the political system in Wellington with the idea of trying to improve levels of debate and voter participation but I flagged the idea as it seemed that my assessments would be immediately taken as sour grapes.

I am finally back at the keyboard because one of the Health Board’s successful candidates, Judith Aitken, emailed all 21 candidates to express her dissatisfaction with the process that we had all just gone through. Among other things she asked: how all candidates for DHBs, whether political party-sponsored or not, might get better and fairer exposure during the pre-election period?

Most of us had turned up time and time again at dark halls opened by reluctant and nervous key-keepers to find a convivial collection of contenders but virtually no public. Or where there was a public, the gathering was composed almost entirely of querulous Senior Citizens or zealots who made it immediately apparent that they had already made their choices but that they wished every candidate to subscribe to their pre-determined policy agenda. With most of their sign-up platforms being a visceral reactive to anything proposed by the NZ Government – regardless of the fact that it had been democratically elected.

I penned the following response to Judith and to Sue Kedgley who had joined in the conversation [both of whom are highly effective and personable politicians]:

Thanks Judith / Sue
First off – sincere congratulations – you are both great assets to the community. It was fun to meet you guys and I have no regrets about standing – and to be fair I ran a very laid-back campaign this time around. I have a lot going on what with my kids, consulting etc.

I was thinking about writing a piece about the wider problem of enlivening local democracy and broadening the candidate base – but I don’t want to be thought a sore loser. Anyhow I’ll let you in on some of my musings [if the cat will let me see the keyboard!].

In 2010 I stood as a NZ Labour Party candidate for the WCC Southern Ward. The LP decided that, even though I had been democratically selected at the Ward Level, all the resources should be devoted to my fellow LP candidate. I spent $12,000+ of my own money on advertising and walked every street in the Ward delivering my own material to some 12,000+ houses.

Even though I had spent a lot of money with Cook Strait Times, they wanted to run a rather mocking story about me when they were doing their round-up of candidates – as they, like the Dom, put the candidates through the crush early on selecting a couple for a two-horse race and the rest for the freezing works.

I have been working very hard over the years to try to build alternatives through the Internet but sadly I think now that the early promise shown by the New Media will never be fulfilled. There are too many distractions online and it has largely become a twitter flocking mechanism where birds of a feather reinforce each others’ prejudices and pick on stragglers.

It still comes down to Name Recognition - and for the 10% uncommitted of the 40% who vote, this means the Dom and the local papers.

I am constantly bemused about the casual way in which the newspapers throw around their recognition largesse. Take for example Helene Ritchie’s recent re-election to WCC [no reflection on her ability, integrity etc.]. The Dom ran a story about candidates who were non-resident in their wards and gave what could have been an adverse report an enormous twist of support by accompanying the piece with a large photo.

My assessment is that this kind dedicated story + photo of recognition would be worth up to the spending limit for a rookie candidate [$20,000].

Again John Morrison & Paul Eagle were given tremendous boosts when the latter got pinged by a Parking Warden outside Body Works in Taranaki Street – and they joined together to complain about over-zealous parking administration. I would have thought that the infringement merited a tut-tut 1-liner in the margins in the Dominion Post. It got a special report plus an Editorial! Again this was worth ‘000s in electoral advertising.

The newspapers seem to work on three drivers: a) as far as incumbents are concerned, they are already known and so newsworthy, and therefore able to help sell papers; b) as they are part of the local scene, incumbents become the confidantes and pals of reporters such that an ‘I’ll scratch your back, you scratch my back’ relationship can develop, c) differentiating candidates by policies and experience is boring – and in any event runs the risk of elitism.

Ironically I suggested to Chris Laidlaw that he should stand for the WRC when I knew him back in Kelburn in the early 1990s – of course he is an excellent candidate but if you compare his career and life experience to mine, they are not that different. What he has of course is Name Recognition!

All the best


Judith replied delightfully naming me her Cuddly Economist:

 Hi Keith

Your comments are fascinating – and have enormous validity. The Dom especially is a worry (I literally never have any publicity from the Dom - they clearly hate me and any name recognition I benefit from is certainly NOT from the Dom’s patronage!!)

Helene Ritchie is almost never missed in a Dom week of “Capital Days” and temper-tantrum WCC meetings, and very few of us would ever be able to afford that half page photo and article the Tuesday before voting closed.

But the reasons for all this are worth looking at – Prof Claire Robinson has some very useful analysis and would be interested in our collective and individual experiences on the hustings.

More anon Arohanui


And Sue has just tried to kill two birds with one stone, raising both the issues and her profile with a Dominion Post article [‘Voter Turnout a Bad Sign’: 12/11/2013]:

This notes that:

‘There's been a lot of soul searching about the historically low voter turnout at this year's local body elections, which followed the lowest voter turnout in 100 years at the 2011 general election.

Discussion has focused on ways to make it easier for people to vote, such as online voting. But few have questioned the wider implications of the low voter turnout –and what it might mean for the health of our democracy.

The truth is that in New Zealand, and around the world, more and more people are becoming disengaged with politics, and disenfranchised from the political process.

Politicians rank at the bottom of the scale of esteem in many countries, including New Zealand, and many people feel they cannot trust politicians to represent their interests. Others are disillusioned with the way our democracy works, don't think government is relevant to their lives, or are simply apathetic. This is reflected in a pattern of declining voter turnout at elections, declining participation in political parties, and declining interest in politics.  

A recent audit of political engagement in Britain found that Britons are increasingly "disgruntled, disillusioned and disengaged" with their political system, and indifferent to politics. Only 24 per cent thought their system of governing worked reasonably well, and only 49 per cent felt the issues being debated in Parliament were relevant to their lives.

Ruth Fox, who conducted the audit, said the finding that only a quarter of the population are satisfied with their political system raises serious questions about its ability to maintain public support and confidence in the future.

I suspect we would find similar levels of disengagement, cynicism and apathy here [in New Zealand]. This is a real concern, because ongoing cynicism and disengagement in our political processes poses a risk to our democracy. Public trust and confidence in political institutions is the basis of political consent between politicians and the voters they represent. If public trust and confidence continues to erode, it will undermine the authority and legitimacy of government, and trust in the democratic process itself’.

However, Sue then goes on to argue that as ‘the closer a council is to its local community, and the more relevant it seems to people's lives, the more likely people are to vote and to become politically engaged’ such that:

‘While [through local government amalgamation and reorganization] a corporate-style super city might bring about greater efficiencies (the jury is still out on that), it may well result in lower voter turnouts and even less local political engagement, which would be unhealthy for our democracy’.

This is a fair point but I sense some special pleading and spin from Sue as a Green Party politician. As I have already commented in a previous article [showing my own political colours in some colourful language]:

‘The Greens are by far the most effective political force in the Left of Centre line-up. In our recent Wellington City Council Election, the Green Party made a clean sweep of its targeted seats – including returning the incumbent Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

Wellington City is a paradise for Brown Rice and Sandals Tree Huggers but even so they probably don’t amount to more than 20% of the population [12-14% nationally]. But if this 20% Green tribe votes en masse as it does, and the total turnout is only 40%, this gives the Greens a 50% recorded vote – and it only needs a few fellow travellers and some crass sexism from a 'Good Old Boy' Mayoral Contest opponent like John Morrison on the Right to deliver guaranteed victory.

You might very well reflect that the zealotry and organizational capability of the Greens is not dissimilar to that of the TEA Party - if so I could not possibly comment’.

And though decentralization and grass-roots democracy are natural values for a Left Libertarian Green Party, it is worth noting that Green Party votes across the Wellington Region as a whole are very focussed on Wellington City – such that a super-City might well reduce overall Green Party representation – hence possibly the special pleading.

And I may be wrong but I detect in Sue’s comments a nervousness on her part and that of her Party colleagues that although they can mobilize ardour, they can’t mobilize the mass that would give them real legitimacy.

Anyhow, I’ll leave it there for this article – and carry on to some generic comments in a sequel.


Under the New Zealand Health System the District Health Boards are the main providers of services, with funding drawn from public taxation at the national level. A private health system also exists in parallel that can be accessed on a pay-and-demand basis backed by personal health insurance.

The Capital and Coast Health Board is responsible for providing public health services for about 250,000 people living in Wellington City and its suburbs, the Porirua Basin, and the Kapiti Coast including Waikanae. With about 3,200 full time staff and an annual payroll of more than $190 million, CCDHB is a major employer in the Wellington region.

 It also provides specialist tertiary-level care is provided to patients from the lower North Island and upper South Island, a population of about 900,000. These tertiary services include cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery, vascular surgery, renal medicine and transplants, genetics, oncology, paediatric surgery, neonatal intensive care, obstetrics, endocrinology, orthopaedics and urology, and specialised forensic services.
As there were 74,704 votes cast this year, and each voter gets 7 votes to fill the 7 elected positions on the Board, there were # 10,500 voters. This is equivalent to about 4 percent of the population served. Given that most of the 3,200 full-time staff will vote and that heavy votes will also be recorded from staff working in related but separately funded services in the disability and aged-care sectors, participation in the election is unlikely to be representative of service consumers at large.