NOT PJ: Mourning Helengrad
I have great pleasure in welcoming Bernard Darnton to the regular NOT PC roster -- and he'll be here every Thursday to give you a regular fix! He's not PJ O'Rourke, but ...
On Saturday night I ungraciously raised a glass to Helen Clark’s demise, but there is one thing I will mourn. The useful life of that wonderful neologism “Helengrad” has come to an end. The siege of Helengrad is over although, oddly, it was the besiegers who were the ones swallowing the dead rats.
Coined by a caller to Lindsay Perigo’s Politically Incorrect Show many years ago, the word “Helengrad” captured the mood of a decade perfectly. The search is on for a replacement.
Given that John Key’s stated policies are indistinguishable from Labour’s, a similar derivation is in order. Key claimed that he would oppose interest-free student loans with every bone in his body; it’s now National Party policy. Those vertebrae are missing in inaction. He later called Working for Families “communism by stealth”; a week later it was National Party policy. Previously, when I’ve referred to National MPs as spineless communists it was overblown rhetoric. Now I just repeat what’s in their own press releases.
So – out comes the Russian atlas and I begin the quest for my own little corner in the dictionary of Modern English. There isn’t much. Key-katerinberg? Vlad-Key-vostok? Key-ev? Perhaps – and I apologise in advance for this – Ta-John-Key-stan? None of them work. They’re clumsy; they try too hard, or don’t try at all. “Helengrad” feels right in your mouth, even if it sticks in your throat.
Even if there was a perfect verbal fit it still wouldn’t work because John Key is just too smiley. It’s impossible to imagine him as one of those miserable specimens propped up atop the Kremlin wall on May Day watching the SS-18s trundle past.
He looks much more like one of those nice friendly chaps you’d happily give a seven-hundred-billion-dollar bailout to.
Ignoring his policies, which I try to do, John Key’s smiliness does make people feel optimistic. His ascent to the premiership has given hope to a generation of schoolboys – boys who have never thought it possible that a male could make it into the top job in this country. For years now, boys in New Zealand schools have failed to perform well. Surely Key’s aspirational trajectory, on behalf of lads everywhere, will encourage these boys to do better. Years from now they will show off their NCEA certificates proudly emblazoned with “Not Underachieved”.
Rumour has it that behind the smile is a man of steel, which would be a nice technical acquittal on the “every bone in my body” charge. We haven’t seen this steely frame during the campaign. In fact, if someone had paid John Key twenty dollars every time he did a back flip he’d be a wealthy man. But he’s going to need that steel to face the economy.
Key’s supposed financial acumen is going to be vital if we’re to get through the current recession. My biggest fear is that he ignores what he knows is best and instead pursues an economic populism that will just make the problem worse. More deficit spending and the rewarding of the guilty will turn a recession into the meltdown I have no desire to live through -- and this will be painful: John-obyl.