Reading, writing and reason by Trevor Plumbly

A codger’s lament

I decided to let the brain off the leash this week and wallow in an old-fashioned moan. I’ve found that one of the gifts of age is the ability to use hindsight as a diagnostic tool for heaps of today’s ills. The popular conception is that age brings wisdom, but even in my case that’s not strictly true; however, for those keen to foster the myth, some subtlety of phrase dealing with younger folk is always a good option. For instance, I never use ‘in my day’ because kids don’t believe that sop anymore and those you’re trying to share your wisdom with will probably mutter things like, ‘The old boy’s got a bit gaga lately’ and ‘Shame really, he still thinks Churchill’s got something to offer.’ It’s better to muddy the waters a bit by open-ended stuff like, ‘Of course, weighing history against progress always produces an imbalance of sorts.’ That sort of comment doesn’t really mean or solve anything, but it does fit with the current fad for the obscure.           

Tis the gift to be simple

And without slipping into the pipe and slipper role, I reckon it really is! Put simply, back then we had less to torture ourselves   with; these days, surplus information gets chucked around all over the place. Just imagine, years ago, would a push-button political diatribe from someone in Outer Mongolia have made any appreciable difference to the social wellbeing of Joe Blogs in suburbia? I seriously doubt it. My point being that back then they were more at ease with life by not exchanging torments and trivia, and pretty sensible it was too! I reckon that sort of stuff clogs the brain up with someone else’s problems. I’ve been warning you about this for years: normal brains aren’t equipped to process the flood of cyber-garbage ‘live streamed’ from everything capable of delivering sound. We should try ‘cold turkey’: a free thought day with no devices, a chance to return to times when we were encouraged to think for ourselves.  

Telling it like it ain’t

Not content with battery induced dementia, the progressives have decided that plain language should be replaced by techno-jargon and allegory. Think about the value of that for a bit: Joe Bloggs wouldn’t know what to do with an algorithm if one arrived in the post! Politicians, of course, love this new phrasebook and continue to add to it, it helps them exercise their evasive muscles. ‘Challenged’ covers the possibility that some poor sod is in ‘it’ up to his breeding tackle rather than facing sporting competition; then there’s ‘the new norm’, haven’t these people ever heard of oxymorons? The winner though, must be ‘the alternative facts’ a polite reminder that the other party is misguided or lying through their teeth; take a bow Donald! Lewis Carroll would be proud.

Pricing neglect

Like crime, poverty’s always been an easy target for those wishing to hold or take power; child poverty is particularly emotive and depending which side of the aisle they sit, it’s a placatory lever or effective bludgeon. Having grown up with more than my fair share of it, bought about by poor housing, food and clothing, all of which could have been avoided by an adequate welfare system at the time, I was spared mental isolation by being taught to read and write legibly from an early age, which allowed me to ‘educate’ myself later on. More enlightened and fortunate as we tout ourselves to be in New Zealand, there are still too many children ill-equipped with basic learning skills. Perhaps our parents and educators could start to teach that books are more important than smartphones and a heck of a lot cheaper.  

Bitcoins and bullshit

According to the news, the bitcoin boys have lost a few billion and Twitter could declare bankruptcy. Oh happy day! Maybe the bullshit billionaires will find a more responsible use for money than amassing it. Doubtless the disciples will blithely seek to define the events as ‘asset re-alignment’ or ‘market corrections’, just like the reality of Putin’s ‘military exercise’ or Trump’s ‘great America’. I’m glad I’ve unloaded that lot, but sod this reflective stuff, it’s a nice day here in Auckland and I’m off to the porch to contemplate more important things like fried egg sandwiches, single malt whiskey and the collected works of Hilaire Belloc.              

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