We’ll put the world to rights
By Lyndon Hood
It had been hectic lately. First the Phil Goff saga: a halfhearted apology for his racially-charged and inflammatory statements, calls for him to resign, fighting for his position in the party.
Then the drama of the 2025 taskforce. Charged with improving New Zealands productivity, it became clear they were destined to spend almost half a million dollars and three years making suggestions that it was obvious they’d make from day one – untenable and probably counterproductive – and then monitoring the government’s decision to ignore those suggestions.
So the taskforce did the only thing they could to reduce New Zealand’s waste of manpower and money, and dissolved themselves. Taking with them whatever part of Treasury is responsible for coming up with policy.
After an imaginary week like that, I could do with a drink.
I considered Alex’s idea.
“You mean, he’s secretly working for the other side,” I said, “Undermining his own team from within? That would be a good explanation.”
“No,” said Alex. “It would be a good explanation, but no, I mean an actual plant. I should have said he was a vegetable.”
“Some people quite like vegetables. That is a flaw in your analogy.”
Alex was unfazed. A few seconds thought, then he leaned back in his chair in triumph.
“Mandrake root,” he declared.
“Plant. Weirdly humanoid root grows in darkness. When it finally sees daylight, it makes a horrible noise that drives people bonkers.”
I raised my glass in his direction. Not that it was much of a detour, I was going to have a drink anyway. It tasted bitter. But at least with the beer it said that on the label.
“So what should be done?” I asked. We were, after all, setting the world to rights.
“Well, if we really aren’t allowed to shoot him, I suppose we could start a petition or something.”
I looked over towards the entrance. The diplomatic protection squad did not materialise. He continued.
“But surely this is mostly the freakshows on the outskirts of real politics. How much does it matter? How does it affect policy?”
“It plays to some minorities with really dangerous opinions.”
“Besides, are we talking about Phil Goff, Hone Harawira or Don Brash?”
“Surely we must have said.”
“Yes, but that was earlier, before when it says ‘I considered Alex’s idea’. We are the only ones who know happened before the top of the page, other people are only supposed to notice what happens afterwards. The start of a story is a bit like an election in that respect.”
“You, Sir, are an analogy machine.”
“I’m just a rhetorical device you invented to give this some kind of interest. And, if I may, many authors would use these circumstance to make themselves look witty and urbane, but you have not been very good company at all.”
“You’re here because you’re more glib and opinionated than me. For example: why was John Key go so reluctant to go to Copenhagen?”
“Irrational fear of mermaids. A childhood trauma involving ladies and fish.”
“See? Glib opinions.”
“It makes more sense than any of his other excuses.”
“Anyway, we weren’t talking about Harawira, he had a point.”
“So did Goff, if you leave out all the stuff about brown people being scary.”
“Honesty, I did think it was Phil, but okay. Brash, then.”
“But, with Harawira, I just want to say…”
“…saying they should be lined up and shot. That’s a rhetorical trope. As a satirist I have an interest in people being allowed to use figures of speech. And come to think of it, Ihimaera: as a collagist I have an interest in being able to appropriate other people’s work.”
“So you’re pretty screwed then.”
I noticed the table was shaking from my emphasis. I tried to settle down.
“You know, with your glasses off, you like like that Fort Hood guy. Any relation?”
“Remember I haven’t described you yet, Alex. You might look like Paul Henry.”
“And there is someone else people should stop giving oxygen to. But anyway, collage boy, this racism isn’t so hard is it? You keep illustrating stories about the Maori Party ETS deal with nonhuman animals.”
“Twice. Okay, one of those was an ‘ETS-phone’home’ joke from like July and the other one is a picture of a dog’s breakfast.”
“Neither was a reference to the Maori Party. And nobody complained.”
“Odd that you should draw attention to it now. Defensive much?”
“So shoot me.”
“Headline: Satirist wants to be shot.”
“Why are we here, Alex?”
“The purpose of human life is to provide cautionary tales for the young of the sentient cockroaches that will follow us.”
I had meant to ask why we were still in the garden bar – it had just started raining – but that revelation seemed as good a reason to go inside as any.