What Do You Want From A Prime Minister?

I want a statesman. Or a stateswoman. I want someone who the whole country can be proud.

I want one who has been elected fresh – not boosted from the cabinet ranks in the latest round of musical chairs. I want the apple I bought, not a sudden substitute from further down in the barrel..

I want one who is not radio-controlled from a union party room or some cabal of moneyed backers. I want one who cannot be cowed and refuses to be insulted by other nations throwing their weight about. I want one that can’t be bought or sold.

I want one that is there when the country needs them, and who stays through the crisis. I want a leader who – like King George VI – will never leave.

I want one who knows when to have a laugh and when to be sober. Above all I want a dignified person – not a Pierre Trudeau or Donald Trump – as our figurehead. I want the PM to communicate from Canberra or the Lodge and not on Twitter or Facebook. I’d prefer truth to lies but whichever we get, let us get it through official pronouncements rather than angry rants or press conferences.

 

Sex And Hot Dinners

When I was a callow youth, I once confided an interest in a shop-girl at my summer employment. The manager who heard me scoffed and said that she’d had more encounters of an intimate nature than I’d had hot dinners. I was never given a chance to compare notes, and it’s always been a matter of regret.

Now that I am older, and have had encounters of an intimate nature myself, I could make a more scientific assessment. But I’m afraid that I would start asking questions…What, actually, was for dinner? Were there seconds? Leftovers? Who washed up later?

Hot dinner comparison is particularly British, and of a period. It suggested that there was a paucity of hot dinners in the UK. I would not be surprised at this…I’ve been a tourist there and the options for food were pretty daunting. I remember a large pie emporium in Woolwich that had magnificent signage, comfortable seating, and nothing that resembled a pie – in any culture – at all. Yet they did a roaring trade amongst the locals.

I will let your curiosity off the hook at this point. I have had hot dinners. Plenty of them. Some were expensive and some were cheap , but they were all hot. They did me good. I look back on some of them with fond memories. I look forward to more in the future. If there is a tee-shirt with a meme for hot dinners on it, I will buy it.

My thanks to Lufthansa for the image of their in-flight dinner.

I Can Read You Like A Book

” Oh? As opposed to what? Reading me like a pair of socks? ”

This isn’t about condemnation of trite phrases. I don’t condemn ’em – I use ’em. And when they are particularly apt I like to say they fit me like a…pair of socks.

But when someone says that they can see through you, predict your thoughts, or mysteriously control you by saying that they read you like a book, it’s a load of hogwash. Think of the books that you can read and in which you’ll understood nothing. That can be anything between Hegel and Kant to the instructions for your kitchen blender. The only reason that the world still turns and the blender still blends is that they do these things of themselves without you understanding a damn thing about it.

You may regard me and your regard of me in the same light. I move, turn, and blend whether you understand how or why I do it. I am a mystery to myself, and I never read mysteries.

Note about the heading image: When you were a kid, how often did you find signs or posters around the place that used nothing more than a question mark to try to get you to do something? Whether it was to go to a mystery dance at the high school auditorium or buy some new 45 rpm record…was there ever a triter or more valueless graphic approach than a bare question mark?

I eventually welcomed seeing it, as it was as good as a wave-off or a minefield sign.

A Good Week Of Train Wrecking

Who amongst us has not enjoyed strapping explosives to the rails of the local transport system, leading the detonating wires back to a hillside, and  then calmly turning the handle just as the 5:32 Express roared over the viaduct. For myself, I like nothing more than this and a warm dinner to follow – cooked if possible over the flames of the sleeping carriages.

Of course you can only do this sort of thing a half-dozen times before you get something of a reputation. That, and you run out of viaducts. You need to do something different for a thrill. This is where writing vicious little pieces for the internet comes in handy. You may choose social media memes and posts, savage websites, or…and this is the one I like…a daily web column.

You can be as cheerful bright, kindly, vitriolic, cynical, or vague as you like. You are without an editor, but are honour-bound to perform that function before you publish. And as editor/publisher you can as readily bin your material as you can broadcast it. Therein lies the salvation of the sanity.

I regularly write what you don’t read. It is sometimes maudlin, sometimes horrific. Sometimes very funny. The pieces that make their way to the billboard are good, but the tatters in the bin can sometimes be better. They are never discarded for being boring – rather they are suppressed for being hurtful. Oddly enough, I do consider the emotions of others and spare them if it can be decently done.

It was not always so. I have published and been damned before and felt bad for it. No-one died from my wit but no happiness sprang from it, either. So now I make it a habit to write scathingly salty criticisms and biting little essays and send them to the trash. I can vent steam without scalding the thin-skinned.

One vital precaution: I always empty the electronic trash and make sure no-one paws through it. In the old days of crumpled paper letters left unattended, neglect of this simple precaution cost me dearly. I’ve learned.

Have You Made A Deliberate Error?

Or were you just subject to an unexpected attack of honesty?

I note you shared a piece of cheap political propaganda that used an image recalling Hitler to express your dislike for Donald Trump. It was not your artwork, but you seized upon it to shrill your opinion nevertheless.

I’m afraid it was…how shall we say…blatant. There was little subtlety in it. It was crass. it was cheap. It was propaganda done on the OGPU/ NSDAP model. It was unworthy of you. And of me.

I have no particular regard for Mr. Trump. Or Mr Xi. Or either of the Mr. Trudeaus. But I do have regard for my social media connection. I wish it to be intelligent and cheerful – the reflection of the social connection that one might find at a decent cocktail party. Not the howling swill-swirl of a propaganda meeting.

You’ve a month to spend your spleen and come back clean. I’ll look again in 30 days. If you appear to be the same you may walk off the property permanently.

 

Appropriatism

Do we all remember the 1980’s Premier of Western Australia who always found things that the opposition did were “ inappropriate “? She used the word…though not its opposite number “ appropriate “ as the check and goad for every speech she made. And those who watched her and applauded her gender and her politics took note…and the word became a tool for them to do their herding, as well.

I encountered it a little while ago when passing through a website put up by an Australia university. It wanted to deal with the use of language -specifically any English language that touched upon native or indigenous matters. It set up the two signs;” appropriate “ and “ inappropriate “ and then assigned words and phrases to them. Needless to say, much, if not all, of the commonly used language was deemed to be bad…and suitably-altered new-speak supplied as a substitute.

We’re not talking pejoratives here – foul language, etc. This was everyday language that was rounded up and sent to the camps for re-education.

I was incensed to start with, then amused, and finally grateful. Not for the chance to atone for past sins and to humbly beg pardon…heck, I can spout that sort of cant offhand when needed. What I was grateful for was the comprehensive course in word recognition that would let me identify the cultural toadies of the future. Just like “ inappropriate “ and a peach-coloured scarf, the new-speak is both camouflage and insignia.

The Mockingbird Dance

When someone wants to mock you, to offend you, and to try to pressure you into an angry response, they will very often make a number of foolish errors. How you respond to these can make all the difference.

a. Direct insult in a private place is best answered by either direct insult or genuine laughter. it’s not often that you are overcome with the second, but when it comes, let it flow. The look of horror on the face of the other person is priceless.

b. Direct insult in a public place is best answered with a dog whip across the face of the miscreant ( throw the contaminated thing away afterwards ) or again by genuine laughter. Or you can maintain a stony and complete silence and ignore the ranter – they will try harder and eventually exile themselves from any public approval.

c. Facebook insult is harmless, and can be treated with witticism and lighthearted banter. This may charm the insulter and convert them to a genuine friend. When you next meet you have a chance to dog-whip them.

e. Extraordinary efforts to mock or offend – performances that go beyond the mere side-comment – should be treated as theatre. Applaud them between movements. Encourage others to join you. Sing along with the chorus. Ask for a CD. Shout ” Encore “.

You do not need to make your detractor look foolish in the eyes of other people – all you need to do is make them look foolish in their own eyes. Then close the scene on that note and they will gnaw their own hearts out ever after.

f. Some mockery is deserved. If you perceive it to be, acknowledge it to be so, thank to perpetrator publicly, and offer to shake their hand. 95% of them will refuse, and then will appear to be ill-mannered brutes. This scenario actually raises you in the eyes of the spectators.

g. Some mockery is beneath contempt. Racialism, religious attack, sectarianism…all come into this category. Also any reference to physical distresses or financial circumstances. Just ignore it as you would the sound of someone flaying themselves with their own set of steak knives.