(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, December 7.)
I NEVER cease to be amazed by the number of intelligent people who proudly declare themselves to be socialists, as if this were a badge of honour. A recent example was Gary McCormick, a man I otherwise admire, who proclaimed his socialist leanings on Jim Mora’s radio programme.
Socialism has been disastrous wherever it has been tried. It is oppressive politically and ruinous economically. Why would anyone align themselves with such a failed ideology?
In the case of people like McCormick, it can only be because of a sentimental desire to be seen as standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the underdog. (It shouldn’t be forgotten that McCormick is a Titahi Bay boy, and therefore a product of the Labour heartland.)
Strangely, it remains unfashionable to pronounce oneself unashamedly to be a capitalist. Yet all of the world’s freest and most prosperous countries are capitalist democracies – and usually with a Christian heritage too, although it’s even less fashionable to point that out.
Unbridled capitalism is a bad thing. Even the father of capitalism, John Stuart Mill, saw the need to curb its excesses and inequalities. But history has proved that the combination of a capitalist economy and a liberal democratic state provides the best possible conditions for freedom, human rights and economic progress.
This is confirmed by the masses of people from repressive socialist states who have risked everything to migrate to the capitalist democracies of Europe and North America. They clearly recognise that capitalism works for underdogs as much as for anyone else.
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SITTING down recently to watch a DVD of the award-winning Australian film Jindabyne, I was struck by a warning notice to viewers. “Members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this film may contain images and/or voices of deceased persons”, it said.
This seemed to open up limitless possibilities. If the makers of all films and TV programmes were to issue warnings about who might be offended, where would it end? Just about every film contains images or dialogue that might upset someone.
Roughly 90 percent of what’s screened on television is offensive to me, for a whole lot of reasons, but I don’t expect an advisory notice (“The following programme will render you brain-dead”) at the start of every show.
The question, then, is why should a specific warning be issued to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders about the contents of Jindabyne, which revolves around the discovery of a murdered Aboriginal woman’s body in a remote river?
I don’t recall ever seeing such a “cultural” warning on a film ever before. So what makes Jindabyne different?
The implication is either that Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders’ sensibilities are more deserving of protection than other people’s, or that these two ethnic minorities are too fragile to be exposed to the artistic freedom of expression that everyone else takes for granted.
Either way, the warning seems an example of condescending political correctness of the most cringe-worthy type.
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I AM MORE convinced than ever that the people excitedly talking up the benefits of social media such as Twitter are a noisy, evangelistic minority – eager adopters of whatever is deemed the Latest Big Thing.
They deride non-adopters as technologically challenged dinosaurs. But to put this idea to the test, I questioned my own offspring and their partners – all of them in the age group that supposedly embraces Twitter, and all of them comfortable in the digital world.
There are seven of them aged between 26 and 40 and not one uses Twitter. A daughter-in-law said Twitter just seemed like a great time-waster, which was exactly my impression.
Another daughter-in-law commented: “It falls into my ‘why would anyone think up something so annoying?’ category.” And one of my daughters said that in her circle of friends, only one has a Twitter account, and then only because it’s a requirement for a media studies course she’s doing.
The social media evangelists like to give the impression that anyone who doesn’t tweet or have a Facebook page is a loser, but in fact it’s social media users who are the minority. At a presentation in Auckland recently I heard a speaker from one of the country’s leading advertising agencies, which closely monitor social trends, dismiss social media as “10 percent talking to 10 percent”. But you wouldn’t guess it from all the attention they create.
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LAST Tuesday night, in prime time, four of the five free-to-air channels were screening food programmes. Is this some sort of bizarre record?
At 7.30, TV Two had My Kitchen Rules, TV3 had The Kitchen Job and Prime showed Nigella Kitchen, starring that woman with a figure like an overstuffed sofa who seems to be every ageing Englishman’s wet dream. Prime then screened River Cottage at 8.05 and TV One had Jamie’s Food Escapes at 8.30.
I like my tucker as much as the next bloke, but this is madness. The food porn fad is out of control.