Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Rules to Avoid Banishment From Grey-Lynn: No 2

Rule Number Two: Do Not Believe in the Importance of a Viable Defence Force

For some reason believing it is really important that our tiny underpopulated unspoilt country should be able to defend itself is particularly unpopular. This I do not understand. What could be contentious about defence?

Right now New Zealand is woefully equipped. There are simply too many areas we fall down in to mention, and to single any out for special praise would not be fair to all the other failings. For this reason, and to try to stem the feelings of vulnerability a good look at all our gaps inevitably raises, we’ll only talk about axing the Air Combat Wing of the Air Force. At the same time we also appear to be doing our very best to distance ourselves from our natural and historical allies. It does not strike me as a particularly good idea that we should be doing things like removing our Air Force combat capabilities and drawing away from our mates who do have Air Forces at the same time. Surely it is a case of one approach or the other.

In fact, what should we call the Air Force now that we have stripped it of its Force? The “Air Ask Really Nicely” perhaps? The problem is that although that seems ridiculous we have not been asking these questions. What the hell are we going to do if we need an Air Force – we can’t very well borrow one.

It puts me in mind of the Albanians. They took defence very seriously, as you would if you were a country that had five or so different owners during World War One and about 100 over the centuries.

In the late 60s they split from defence arrangements with Soviet Russia and then the Warsaw Pact altogether. So, after losing the deterrent value of these friendships Albania had to protect herself. It was decided that the best way to self-reliant defence was to build pill boxes in backyards and issue rifles to every household. So it was that 750,000 bunkers and pill boxes came to be built. The idea being that if anyone invaded then the entire citizenry would take up positions inside these boxes and the invader would have to fight for every inch of the country. Mad maybe, but effective. Point being that if we are going to break off our good relations with our allies – by doing truly stupid stuff like bailing out of ANZUS – we’d better have a plan B.

Because bailing out of ANZUS was truly stupid. If the shit ever hits the fan again we will go running back behind that banner as quickly as possible, all high-minded moral positions on Nukes will disappear faster than Chief Executives at Maori TV. And we’ll be damned lucky if they take us back: twenty years of looking down our noses at the most powerful nation on earth and of not keeping up with regional defence responsibilities with Australia will not be forgotten or forgiven easily.

The only argument that is ever wheeled out for the way we have let relationships rot and our services atrophy is that we don’t need them now. Rubbish, crap, baloney, bollocks bollocks bollocks. And bollocks again. Are we to believe that for some reason after millennia of conflict humans have decided not to have any more wars, or at least if they do they will leave NZ out? Unless we have that in writing somewhere I’m not buying it. Preferably in writing that means more than, say, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.

Thing is that all this talk of benign strategic environments is rubbish. It is about as clever as declaring peace in our time. Just 60 odd years ago we were at war with half the world. We were fighting Germany, even though after the First World War they had taken steps to ensure that that wouldn’t be happening again. On what evidence have we decided that there will be no eventuality where an Air Force might come in handy? That being matey with the US might not be useful, even vital?

It boils down to something that sounds a bit boy scouty, just without the lawsuits:

You can’t be sure things wont happen, but you can be prepared in case.

And why this viewpoint is anathema to Grey-Lynn I truly cannot fathom. From the reactions I used to get, before I learnt to keep such opinions private, to, say, advocating keeping our military strong and up-to-date you’d think I was suggesting that we should use said imaginary military for whale hunting and permanently getting solo-mothers off the DPB.

It is incredibly un-PC to realise that we are vulnerable without protection. This is odd as that statement and belief is as self evident as saying ‘water is wet’ or ‘Brian Tamaki does pretty well out of that God racket’. It is a simple truth, yet somehow this ill-informed flower-power hangover means prioritising defence is about as popular in these circles as supporting George W Bush.

Which Brings me to the next rule, don’t support Geeorge W Bush (this rule is particularly important)………

Friday, February 04, 2005

How to become a pariah in Grey-Lynn

Steps towards the hopeful end of left and right wing.........

There are a few sure-fire ways to spoil a nice Grey-Lynn dinner party. I’d say that there are four topics that are certain, certain, to upset the mood and leave fellow guests thinking that you are a baby-eating, male (a term often wielded as an insult) right-wing cunt.

Unfortunately for my social standing in respectable left-wing circles I am guilty of all four transgressions regularly though do not identify as right-wing, in fact I don’t think the terms left and right wing mean a thing anymore – lest of all to the people who throw them round.

As it is much easier to point out how you can avoid the social ostracization I faced until I discovered these rules than it is to actually get a left-wing person to define what left-wing economics entails, or even to provide a definition for progressive taxation, I thought I might share these guiding suggestions for the benefit of all.

Number One: Don’t, for godsake do not support Genetic Engineering.

Many a coffee in Verona has been irrevocably changed by the meekest pro-GE utterance. When it comes to tampering with nature and putting fish genes into tomatoes I’m all for it. In fact I thought it the height of wit to remove the ‘free’ from the ‘GE free NZ’ stickers.

‘Fucking go for it’ would be my sage advice to all aspirant Dr Frankensteins.

I’ve found myself having to explain myself to kaftan-wearing advertising executives and washed up pop stars (who really should join Rotary or volunteer with City Mission, I mean if they insist on having a mid-life social conscience crisis I can’t help but feel that the least they could do is play it out privately and constructively….) anyway, you know the types.

To assuage these people my reasoning generally runs that I feel that the biggest lunacy of our age is the way we produce and protect food. It reminds me of the situations we scoff at now – things like feeding the ill Mercury (the kind of thing that these people suspect right-wingers still want to do today) or insulating homes with asbestos or, and this is my favourite folly, using lead pipes to pump in drinking water.

All of these things, thanks to scientific advancement, are now known to be harmful. I can’t help but think that in maybe just one hundred years time you’ll hear conversations like this:

“You know what they used to do with food back in the 1900s? They used to spray poison all over it as it grew to keep the insects off!”

“You’re shitting me? Spray poison on their own food – they can’t have been that stupid.”

“No really, they called it insecticide probably hoping no-one would notice that it was also humanicide.”

“And they wonder why the Cancer epidemic hit, fools”

Or something to the effect.

Trick is that GE is part of that same imperfect scientific advancement that now lets us know not to do stuff like treat a toothache with leeches.

It is true that we don’t know yet what GE might produce – which is, as far as I can tell, the closest thing the ‘anti’ movement has to an intellectualised opposition. I agree, we don’t. The part we diverge on is that I reckon we should be doing our best to find out, while they advocate sitting there – with brand new access to the coolest tool-shed ever – and doing nothing.

I figure that the most likely way to safely and sensibly feed and, in the long run, medicate and protect all humans is to be found in Genetic Engineering. And I’d really prefer it if wives with health plans, royalty cheques and far too much time on their hands would stop impeding the arrival of such a time.

In fact I’d go one further and say start the inevitable process of turning the technology onto humans. With any luck they could cleanse from our make up the ability to confuse fear and ignorance with morality and the protection of mother-nature, man.

Not that I don’t have reservations about the intellectual property on genes being corporatized and the likely emergence of higher and lower classes of human, in fact about the countless possibilities of abuse I can imagine. I’ll contend that I probably have a much better informed full list of concerns than the vast majority of people who consider themselves anti-GE. I believe, however, that we’ll stumble through the problems and that on balance GE is an historically unrivalled treasure trove.

But you’d be astounded how badly such an optimistic outlook goes down in these circles. Apparently it is reactionary to believe in revolution and safe to believe in the status quo. I reckon that alone might say more about the state of the trendy left these days than anything else more pithy. How on earth my position on GE can make me, as it was levelled, ‘more right-wing by the day’ I am unsure. Yet, I hope, not nearly so unsure as the leveller.

In any event in fifty years this whole discussion will be as irrelevant as the near exact arguments that raged against the adoption of chimneys and electricity. It’s the march of progress, or some such cliché.

Three more rules to follow – if there is demand for them. Let me know and I might get around to writing them.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Becuase People Really Care What I thought Of the Big Day Out

This was meant to end up in Rip It Up but you will probably see why it didn't......

There was one act that I was burning to see at the BDO: Le Tigre. Strolling through the gate at a tremendously leisurely hour I managed, indeed, to catch the last bars of their performance.

Thus was the tenor set for the day, both The Hives and Le Tigre missed I re-jigged my priorities around the beer tents.

It was a funny old line-up with no other must must must sees. This being so my compatriots and I shuttled our way from reclining beer to reclining beer, steering in the main well clear of any crowd or, in fact, act for the entire day.

Ignoring all warnings from St John we ate as many party, or otherwise, pills that we could get our hands on and spent a blissful day in the sun people- and munter-watching and doing our very best to hold it all together, thank you very much.

We were all terrified by the crowd for SlipKnot. Terrified because any group that big of people with taste that bad should always be avoided – that is how religions and riots start, and while I like riots I'm petrified of religion. Though it would make a good'un, what with the masks, ritual costumes and sacrificial virgins (at least I figure they must be sacrificial, what woman would enter that crowd voluntarily?).

It was good to see Shihad rocking out, and brought back many happy memories of Powerstation concerts and illicit drinking.

The day was rounded out with watching the Beastie Boys from the top beer garden – the very furthest point from stage, and that was ex-fucking-zactly what was needed. For a bunch of aging politicised vegetarian types they rocked out pretty well we reckoned.

After popping our heads into the Boiler Room for The Chemical Brothers and removing them freshly sweat-soaked, though not with our own, we decided against braving the crowd which resembled nothing so much as Long Bay High on the burn.

A highlight would have to have been the far too many, far too hot and far too young girls, and so it was that we headed home with jokes that Statutory Rape should be renamed Introductory Sex in our ears and a solid recovery session in the pipeline.