Susan Ryder finds herself looking through The Listener.
I was reminded of that as I bought a copy of the latest New Zealand Listener on the weekend. I’d always associated the purchase of that magazine with ‘hell’ and ‘freezing over’ and yet here I was, plonking it down on the checkout counter in between coffee and Sultana Bran.
The blame lay squarely with PJ O’Rourke and not enough checkout operators operating checkouts. (What is it with supermarkets having loads of checkouts and never enough staff to man them? Same goes for banks, but that’s for another day). While waiting in line I glanced at the magazines on offer. I can’t remember the last time I bought one – and that’s because I have no interest in Shortland Street, what my stars predict for next month, or whether Brad and Jennifer are back together or not.
My eyes fell upon the Listener. Force of habit saw me look past it as a matter of course – and then just as quickly look back. It was a small picture of the man himself adjacent to the headline: PJ O’Rourke - Raucous with Ralston, an interview conducted in Auckland’s SkyCity Grand Hotel a few hours before O’Rourke’s recent Auckland lecture sponsored by the Centre for Independent Studies.
I was half-way through the article by the time I reached the front of the queue. Entitled “Gonzo Guy,” it was a good read, although I grinned at Bill Ralston’s own claimed aversion to “libertarians . . . the Seventh Day Adventists of all politics, to be avoided at all costs because of their proselytising zeal.” I’ll go along with zeal, but proselytising? Religious fervour is more akin to the Environmentalist movement and the left in general, and I doubt the Seven-Dayers would be rapt with the comparison, either. At any rate, it may well be the first time The Listener has ever seen the words “Adam Smith,” “the invisible hand” and “self-interest can be beneficial to society as a whole” in the same sentence – and said without sneering – and that’s got to be good for you.
Even though The Listener is half the size it used to be, there was plenty to read. I’d heard rumours that it wasn’t as overtly red as it once was, but old habits die hard so I braced myself nonetheless. The editorial, unexpectedly, made a case for more government spending on defence and, even more unexpectedly, Jane Clifton argued that with regard to restructuring (local) government “downsizing officialdom is usually a good place to start.” So far, so good. I read on.
There was a story on SIDS (formerly cot death), also now known as SUDI, “Sudden Unexpected Death in Infants” – somewhat redundant you’d think, in that ‘sudden’ is synonymous with ‘unexpected’ regarding mortality, anyway – where Coroner Garry Evans argues that safety standards are too important to be concerned with issues of cultural offence regarding the inconvenient fact of Maori babies being seven times more likely to die (of SIDS) than non-Maori babies. The article stated that poor Maori mothers were “far more at risk of losing a baby to SIDS than any other group in the developed world.” Commentary from other parties included the Ministry of Health, Plunket and the breastfeeding-promotional organisation La Leche, together with Auckland University’s Maori SIDS Prevention team.
It had to happen. The Coroner called for cots to be provided to all families who couldn’t afford one; the Plunket regional clinical advisor warned about their staff “being careful not to offend” with regard to identifying at-risk mothers; and a recent Auckland survey on antenatal class attendance showed “hardly any first-time Maori mums attend the course because of the costs sometimes involved.” Don’t mention personal responsibility with regard to having a child around here, please. It’s undoubtedly offensive!
Nick Smith was there too, defending the indefensible in his ongoing crusade to make ACC work by saying that “the focus of the stocktake is around how we make it into the very best 24/7 state insurer we can.” So not a very good one, then.
Perhaps the Letters section best reflects the views of a publication. A chappie from Whangarei was fired up over China’s coal-fired power stations, but even more concerned that New Zealand’s per capita carbon footprint is five times that of China. “We’ve all got to start looking in the mirror,” he said, “and make a commitment to minimising our own footprints.” This planet-saviour went so far as to list seven planet-saving points for my reference. I particularly liked the NZTA study that found the health benefits of walking to equate to $4 per km and cycling at $2 per km. That’ll solve the recession! Oh, and spurn red meat, please, because vegetarian Indian cuisine is “tasty,” in case you didn’t know. Planet saved – job done. He won the award for best letter, too, a Ralph Lauren fragrance. I trust that he walked down from Northland to collect it, usual freight means involving carbon miles as they do. And after all, just imagine those health benefits!
“Margaret Shields” from Pukerua Bay may well be Margaret Shields, former Labour MP-cum-feminazi stalwart. If not, she’s another Margaret Shields, eco-fascist. “The warnings of global warming continue,” was Ms Shield’s ominous opening, and though “most of us now think those on the anthropogenic side of the argument are probably right, the argument remains flawed and partial.” Her beef, (that’ll upset my Whangarei walker), is the non-focus on the growing world population and the subsequent increase in carbon dioxide levels.
She writes: “Rarely does it (population growth) rate a mention. Nor has there been more than a passing reference to the tragedy of the recent abolition of China’s one-child policy.” She concludes with “we must also be prepared to limit the size of the population before it’s too late.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Abolishing the terrible “one-child” policy is a “tragedy”? Abolishing that degree of state authoritarianism is tragic? Lord only knows what this fascist would “be prepared” to do with regard to decreasing population levels should she ever be in a position to do so. That this letter was written and published tells you all you need to know about the magazine’s readers and editorial staff.
Perhaps the last word was fittingly found on the back cover. It depicts a full-page advertisement for One News, showing a reporter interviewing a demonstrator during the recent G20 protests in London. The demonstrator is holding a large sign that says: No one has any right to buy or sell the earth for private gain.
If the New Zealand Listener isn’t still essentially socialist, I’m Margaret Shields from Pukerua Bay.
* * Read Susan’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *