Fishers of men by Trevor Plumbly

Ploughshares and swords

Turning a sword into a ploughshare in the garden of the UN

I’ve always been reluctant to ‘do’ politics: there’s so little humour in it and social unrest seems to bring out the worst of the breed. If the old political adage ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ stands, leaders have never had it so good. With Afghanistan out of the way, the USA can get back to comparing penis sizes with the Chinese, leaving others with climate change and the pandemic to argue about. China doesn’t seem to worry us much down here; we have a ‘trade relationship’: we send them dairy products, wine, timber and drinkable water, and they send back non-biodegradable plastic crap. It’s taken years for our alpha dogs to negotiate this delicate ‘trade balance’ and, to show continued good faith, we turn a blind eye when they try to lop off a few bits of the Pacific region for their own use.

Apples and snakes

Doctor’s PPE during the Black Death

Crises crop up every now and then and they require more political effort than elections. With the latter it’s ‘Coat of Many Colours Stuff’, real issues get lost in drum-roll rhetoric and dental bleach. The beauty of electioneering is that they don’t actually have to do anything, just promise they will, and convince the more naive amongst us that they can. Crises require a little more thought: Joe Public doesn’t accept pestilence as payback from a supreme being these days so someone’s got to be blamed. For politicians, it’s a time to flag the ‘mea culpa’ stuff; we’re talking survival here! So shelve the teeth and tits stuff and bring on the sincerity shtick; there’s nothing like a bit of gravitas when the going gets tough. It’s a caring time and one would be pretty stupid to pour scorn on the dissenters, empathy’s always a better weapon than ridicule at such times.

Their father’s house

A possum, considered a predatory pest in NZ, surviving attempts at eradication

This does indeed have many mansions, so it’s pretty tough to render the buggers homeless when they fall from grace. History teems with attempts to eradicate them, or render them ineffective, but like the Australian Cane Toad and the New Zealand Possum, they’ve become impervious to outside attack. For their wounded after-care comes in truckloads; there’s lots of good little earners these poor souls can look forward to after being declared unfit: boardroom chairs, enquiry committees, consultancies, even media.

Worshipping false idols

We know we shouldn’t, but we always have! Not in search of great truths, more in hope of a heaven on earth. Take Donald Trump (if you’re absolutely sure you want to!). When you knock out ‘sloth’ he’s done the rest of the deadly sins, plus broken a few commandments and seems happy to present it as a ‘blokey’ virtue to those infantile enough to believe in a political tooth-fairy. Then there’s Boris, the Saville Row smarmy: England struggled for years to outgrow the ‘Hooray Henry’ image, but at the first whiff of Euro bother, the old school tie and cut glass accent rose like a phoenix, in the ‘Temple of the Commons’ no less!

Their wonders to perform

Jesus tells his disciples ‘Leave your fishing nets, I will make you fishers of men.’

I guess when the Greeks kicked it off democracy worked OK, but these days she’s a pretty tired old dog. The original idea was that the best minds would gather to set social standards. The basics apply but with a few tweaks; they still debate, but with less point, because as there are more in the A team than the rest, the result’s pretty well pre-cooked, so apart from airing their tonsils the opposition don’t really achieve anything. There is parliamentary question time which is intended to hold the government to account, but it also gives them a chance to ask themselves ‘suck-up’ questions. In your own interest, don’t take them for messengers from the east, or anywhere else for that matter, they’re following opportunity not a guiding star. They’re fishers of men, equally happy with tuna or bottom feeders. Collectively they’re a weird mob, when they gather together they become ‘sitting members’, who occasionally ‘move into urgency’. The good book doesn’t cover that sort of prurient connectivity; mercifully neither does my imagination. YUK!

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