From The Hood : Armchairs At Dawn

A mind is a terribly wasteful thing to democratize…
by Lyndon Hood

“Wastage!” – Granger spoke the word like a man who was settling the argument once and for all. Interesting because, far from arguing with him, I had hardly sat down and opened my newspaper. To tell the truth I hadn’t noticed he was awake.

“Wastage!” – I’m not certain that he had said it twice of it was merely his first determined exclamation echoing off the back of my skull. An incantation. Or more, a whole word held at arm’s length, each syllable enunciated with horrified gravity. Way-a-stig-digh-uh.

At any rate, Granger now had my full attention. You must understand that from time to time Granger will seize upon an individual word or a phrase and repeat it at every convenient opportunity (and at most inconvenient opportunities) until it lost all meaning. Eccentric to some, but in political circles it gave Granger a reputation as a thought leader.

“Nine million dollars wasted on some daft referendum! Thirty million if they have voting booths! I expect they’ll give everyone a free iPad while they’re at it!”

It was at this point I stopped holding in my stomach against the chance he was disparaging my girth. Waistage, you see. Granger isn’t one for these modern health fads but he is very much in favour of willpower and I’ll admit my beltline is harder hit by the truffled french fries that it used to be. Not that he can talk.

“I mean to say, this Democracy business is all very well in its place, but what’s the point if they just use it to let the population disagree with the Government? I mean: what’s the Government going to do? ‘Listen’? See! Wasted, every cent!”

“That, by the way, is why Auckland needed to be fixed. Too much of that Democracy business getting in the way of doing what needs to be done.”

“Especially,” his finger here poking deep into the red leather chair arm, “when all this business about widespread public disagreement is such obvious nonsense. ‘Three hundred thousand signatures’ indeed. I know any number of people who were signing the thing with fake names every chance they got. Kind of hobby. Yes, I know somebody checks, but with that many chaps making up names a some of them’ll end up corresponding to actual people. Common sense.”

Granger would do this – pepper the phrase “common sense” through his conversation without any particular care for any other kind of sense. Some people play with their pipe when they’re talking, some go “um” a lot; Granger said things were just common sense.

I once knew a chap who was forever making a sort of sucking noise between his teeth and lips. I thought it was just his way of showing he felt he’d been a bit naughty (and he had an impish disposition), but my chum Barnaby insisted the inrush of air was due to a valve or seal coming loose on said chap’s gaping inner moral and intellectual void. No doubt the truth is somewhere in between. I wonder what happened to him?

“But it’s not just the principle. It’s the lost opportunities. If these people keep wasting taxpayer fund like this the Government won’t have any money to spend on really imporant things like corporate subsidies or tax cuts or… or bribing people to buy shares in state-owned assets. I mean, it’s not on that scale now, but if they do start throwing in iPads it won’t be far off!”

“And it’s symptomatic. We live, Sir, in a wastage society. Wastage everywhere you look. That underclass. Too stupid to realise getting rich is a good idea. So we try to starve them into it instead, but if even welfare reform doesn’t work, what then? Good for nothing. Wastage.”

“But they’re not good for nothing, I really believe that. Everyone has potential. As human beings. I mean if nothing else they can help make that stuff. Saw it on the television, seemed very popular. Soy something. No, not soy lattes. The coming economy does not require us to turn our noses up at perfectly good cows milk.”

“Oh never mind. They point is they won’t be able to do that – if they have to go voting about things out of season!”

I’ve found that if, when Granger reaches his triumphant conclusion, one makes an appropriately convinced noise, he goes back to sleep. It so transpired.

Considering the subject of human potential, I took a moment to wonder what might happen if the gentleman who was then snoring faintly in a corner of an overstuffed chair were to ever actually leave the premises of the club and try to achieve something in the world.

Sometime later, having thoroughly read my newspaper, I obviously disturbed Granger as I rose.

“Oh, I remember,” he said sleepily, “The soy thing. Soylent Green. Saw it on the telly. Amazing stuff.”

Fortunately for everyone concerned, I believe whatever full potential Granger has is unlikely to be realised.