Another Threatened Species by Trevor Plumbly

In the Ascendant

giant pandaSome things in life just fade away like dinosaurs; others, like giant pandas and such, drift into decline then get saved and clapped in cages for Joe Public to gawk at, which strikes me as marginally worse than extinction, but then I’m of the age where a bit of cynicism is fun. Mother Nature however, is a bit more serious: to balance the scales, she provides us with creatures that we can bomb the chemical bejesus out of with little or no effect, such as the Australian cane toad and the NZ rabbit. Mercifully, human examples of such pests are rare, but the odd one manages to survive by morphing into chameleon mode. Thus the 19th Century snake oil salesman is with us today in the form of the telemarketer, while yesterday’s loan shark is today’s investment banker and so on.

On the Decline

PR personI remember back in the early 1960s (yeah! I’m that old), when blind idolatry of the rich, powerful and famous began to be replaced by a more healthy questioning, the chosen ones obviously felt the need for somebody to ice up the bad cakes and thus the PR man was born. Mere lackeys became redundant, replaced by smiling, power-suited ‘facilitators’. The beauty was, you didn’t really need any qualifications to become a PR person, just the ability to sell the theory that two plus two shouldn’t always be regarded as four. The virus spread with biblical magnitude and adjusted itself to modern conditions, much the same as influenza. It bred well, spawning all sorts of exotic offspring; it created an interesting shift in personal liability. We found that people we used to communicate with directly had erected human barriers and they in turn were camouflaged by all sorts of initials and acronyms. Small wonder then that we, and eventually the humble PR merchant, faded into corporate obscurity.

It Ain’t Over….Yet!

The new gang were a pretty formidable bunch to take on, with press spokesmen, client services, publicity departments and even consultants joining forces. PR folk got demoted to spin doctors and their public profile sank to the point that they looked like they might need their own PR just to survive. But, as I’ve reported earlier, when extinction looks inevitable, even the ‘eyelash seaweed’ has friends. PR’s lifeline in this fair land comes courtesy of the NZ Ministry of Education, who, in what I can only assume is educated wisdom, have decided that they need two and a half million dollars’ worth of this PR stuff to function properly. The uncharitable side of my character wonders if those who seek to educate really need a hired voice to articulate that things don’t look so good for our kids. But, Xmas has just passed and with Easter almost upon us, it’s a time for kinder thoughts. So good on the Ministry of Education for chucking a few bob in to save the species. ‘They toil not, neither do they spin’, but I’m OK with the prospect of rejuvenated PR folk roaming around, rather than being gawked at alongside giant pandas… At least for the time being.

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