Oh deary me! How things cannot change when you are a ‘pill’ testing the limits of conservatism

It’s a Friday, drizzly grey morning in the Emerald City.   I sat in the coffee shop at the knob end of Balmain with a few desperates watching the poor miserable bastards trudge into town to be disappointed.  Some wore casual clothes. This was because a decade or so ago some bright spark thought by taking the foot off the throat of workers at the end of the week was going to be great for morale.  Yet another corporate miracle baked in the camp oven of a fly doctor that was bound to end in tears.  Possibly because some plumpish males saw it as the signal to dress in tight blue pants and wear brown shoes.  Does anyone know the number of the taste police?

Anyhow I stretched one into two coffees to avoid the inevitable.  But finally headed home to count my franked dividends, scratch my nuts and look at the fields for tonight.  Nothing much to crow about in that trifecta.  However scanning the corporate announcements I found an interesting one from InvoCare (IVC.ASX).   InvoCare is fundamentally in the business of burning or interning you when you cash in your chips. It was a statement from the CEO, Martin Earp that tickled my fancy.

“Operating results for (InvoCare in) 2018 were impacted by soft market conditions, namely, a lower number of deaths. History suggests that these conditions are unlikely to be sustained and that reversion to the positive long-term trend is typical.”

The ‘market’ wasn’t concerned that death was deemed a “positive long-term trend”.  Martin Earp’s statement tickled the ‘market’s’ fancy too as the shares jumped up 7%.  Now I’m not sure whether Martin is related to the gunslinger, Wyatt Earp however I fee that Marty must be.  Like Wyatt, Marty looks death in the eye every day.  Marty knows it’s only a matter of time before a bus, stupidity or the big ‘C’ will gun us down.   Marty goes on to say that “InvoCare will be well-positioned to meet changing customer needs and grow market share.”  Those changing needs will most likely be when the plump, blue panted, brown- shoed bozos need a box to jump into surrounded by regrets including ill-chosen fashion choices.  Marty knows change is inevitable too.

Speaking of death, regrets and change, something weird just happened.  I had some random music playing via Spotify.  Mostly shit but then I was knocked over by a tune.  Vaguely familiar.  It finally came to me. It was “After the Goldrush” originally sung by Neil Young from the album of the same name.  I got up from my desk.  It takes a lot these days.  Generally a call of nature or a wine delivery will do it.  But this time it was this tune.  Not Neil Young but..well I never…it was the King’s Singers.

Now the King’s Singers were/are a British a cappella vocal ensemble founded in 1968. They are named after King’s College in Cambridge, England, where the group was formed by six choral scholars. In the United Kingdom, their popularity peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s.   They were square and squeaky.  Suits, bow-ties and clean.  Jesus were they clean.  I quote from their website;

“The superlative vocal sextet.” The Times (London). Acclaimed for their life-affirming virtuosity and irresistible charm, The King’s Singers are in global demand.”

You’d have to wonder who on the globe would be wanting to dance with these devos? But apparently tomorrow evening they are playing in Bernardsville, New Jersey.  They are up against pretty strong calendar of local events.  For one – the WML 2019 Craft Beer Fest and for two, Jackie Evancho at the Mayo Performing Arts Centre.  Now I know a bit about little Jackie – apparently she matches her extraordinary voice with one of the most exciting reemerging genres in popular music today – the New American Songbook.  Now with a local population of just 7,007 I reckon it’s going to be tough for the “superlative vocal sextet” to draw the punters.  My money is on the Craft Beer Fest.

Regardless, back to their rendition of  “After the Goldrush’.  Some of you may remember, there is a line in the song that goes, “I felt like getting high”.  Woops!  What’s happened here?  After five decades of squeak and clean the King’s Boys are getting grubby?  Can you imagine the Bernardsville Burghers wanting to hear this trippy hippy trash.  No siree Bob…I reckon the lads will be lucky to save themselves from the zimmers and canes that will be hurled at them by the good and decent folk once they break into this tune.
So how did this happen?  Well things change.  Most of us have.  However the sods and the clods that cling to the moral high ground believing that control and prohibition just seem to struggle with change as a concept of improvement.  That’s probably because of their safe position in life they never had to change.
The Injection Room and now the Pill Testing debate is just another example of social conservatives who believe not changing and holding the line on prohibition is showing strength.  In fact all it shows is that they are profoundly stupid pupils of history.  Will these people reflect when further people die at festivals?  Probably not.  Ignorance is such a saver of time.   Perhaps they should look to Portugal if in fact they truly wish to be informed about alternatives to systems of control that have failed forever.
If we look at Portugal, a country of just over 11 million people, we see a country that had to change.  Faced with an escalation of opioid addiction and related crime they couldn’t control they decriminalised all drugs in 2001.   Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection and drug-related crime since that time.  I’ll quote a piece from an excellent article in the Guardian by

Portugal became the first country to decriminalise the possession and consumption of all illicit substances. Rather than being arrested, those caught with a personal supply might be given a warning, a small fine, or told to appear before a local commission – a doctor, a lawyer and a social worker – about treatment, harm reduction, and the support services that were available to them.

Portugal’s remarkable recovery, and the fact that it has held steady through several changes in government – including conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs – could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction – and itself. In many ways, the law was merely a reflection of transformations that were already happening in clinics, in pharmacies and around kitchen tables across the country. The official policy of decriminalisation made it far easier for a broad range of services (health, psychiatry, employment, housing etc) that had been struggling to pool their resources and expertise, to work together more effectively to serve their communities.

So if you are on the conservative spectrum of social politics can I give you a little bit of advice?  Regardless of whether you nodded your fat head or not here it is.
Man, squeeze out of those tight blue pants.  Take your stupid brown shoes off.  Get yourself into a kaftan or something that gives you plenty of wriggle room to move your fun furniture around.  Then roll yourself a nice big fat stokey of Mullumbimby Mellow and put the King’s Singers album, Lollipops on.  You’ll find “After the Goldrush” sandwiched between “Ding A Dong” and “Phil the Fluters Ball”….you’ll be Bernardsville in no time whatsoever my moon dog.  And baby it just doesn’t get any better.  No more thoughts about your franking credits, death or stopping the flow….Man when let go you just change for the better.

I’ll be buggered if I’d go to a private school

An old journalist and scoundrel, Ronnie the Wheel, once told me in Melbourne that if you were capable of rational thought you would lean to the left side of the world.  Ronnie was correct yet still some people who can tie up their own shoelaces and wipe away dribble quickly can viciously cling to notions that are so unhinged and irrational it defies belief.  Then again belief over rational thought is perhaps the issue here.

The idea that private enterprise could provide better and seamless delivery of services to the masses over a lumbering public sector has held true, for most, since the 1980s. Whether, in this country, it was an overreaction to the Whitlam policy juggernaut that swept aside the post-war torpor of conservative back to wall politics or just simply catch-up.  It’s hard to know what motivated the accelerated attempt to sharpen the pencil without proper consideration.

But being a conservative in the 70s in Australia must have been like living on a diet of devon and dog shit. No one wanted hear you or to be near you. You allowed your hair to grow slightly over the collar but you stayed indoors after dark.  You leaned towards Jesus Christ and loved John Denver.  You were generally without deep thought and you never saw “Deep Throat”.  It wasn’t your time.  You had to stay in the shadows until it was.

At this time, if you were a bloke from the middle and upper class your feckless parents sent you to places such as St John’s College in Sydney or to Robb College in Armidale for a tertiary education.  But it was only a holding pattern.  Learning wasn’t your thing. It was purely a social experiment.  There you skirted around the sidelines, played rugby, hated poofs and drank rum.  You found you were not alone.  At Sydney University Tony Abbott stalked the halls, threatening women and charging his conservative credentials. There were others here and at Bachelor and Spinsters Balls you could find equally gormless females to grope and fornicate with.  You despised and dismissed any criticisms of your conservative cocoon.  You looked after you own and bugger the rest. You carried this dislike for progressive ideas with you for the rest of your life.  It meant you didn’t have to ever think again.

Conservative times really came to NSW in the late 80s and 1990s when that low ferret, Nic ‘Otine’ Greiner* got hold of power.  This unprincipled weasel got rid of the public service graded bureaucrats.  He then crudely inserted the Senior Executive Service system in its place. It was a contract system.  You could be punted at the end of your contract.  It sounded sensible to those who found the public service inflexible and unyielding to political nuance.  They believed that a Departmental Head had to virtually expose his todger in Martin Place to get sacked. Unlike politicians who generally did it in their electoral offices and got promoted.  The end result of this virtual privatisation of the public service was to neuter it.  No longer did most departmental heads provide fearless advice.  They knew to survive they now had to firmly tether the public interest against the rampant political good. The sell-off of public utilities soon followed.

In schooling, generous federal and state subsidies saw the growth of private sector schools. In NSW public sector school numbers dropped 20% in two decades.  Conservative parents pushed their fruit of the loin into faith-based and elite private schools.  This guaranteed that their offspring would not be challenged to consider different ideas nor have to confront different people.  And by giving a smatter of scholarships to your odd pov but talented sportsperson and Indigenous kiddies private schools could assuage any semblance of christian guilt.  Parents smugly bored everyone who would listen that they paid more than their share to send their Katies and Keirans to St Bede’s of the Busted Arses.

Little did they care that the role of the local school as a core of the community and its values would decline.  Nor did they connect that the social dislocation they decried was part and parcel of the careless society that had partly created.    They didn’t want their precious mixing with the spotty herberts from public housing.  They wanted a safe, quality education that they had worked hard to provide – in fact they often mentioned the incredible sacrifice they had to make to send them “off to school”.  They wanted gymnasiums, buckets of sporting fields, drama theatres and string quartets.  They wanted to dress their kiddies up in stupid military outfits, tartan skirts and boater hats to show that they were very, very special children.  But most of all they didn’t want them to be different from the ideal conservative nonces that they had become.  A dose of safe Williamson at the Wharf and a bit of rugger was what everyone needed to become balance, conservative cunt.

Of course they got upset when they found clowns like the smug shit-head Timmy Hawkes and his kind allegedly failed their duty of care to their charges by reporting offences to the police.  Surely, they thought, $40,000 a year guranteed a kiddy-fiddler free zone?

And so now in the era of Neo-Nazis, $Trumpet and Abbott, the white breads continue to flock together to breed and prosper – it is their time and be damned if you are one of the poor bastards who think.

 

*Nic Greiner was chairman of the board of WD&HO Wills and then British American Tobacco Australia for the period 1996 to 2004.