Title: Sport 21: Spring 1998

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, October 1998, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 21: Spring 1998

[7] The Mean and Dirty Ruthless The Pesthole

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[7] The Mean and Dirty Ruthless The Pesthole

The same things come up year after year
but it's the first year
I've squatted down to see
how beautiful a particular
five-petalled faintly orange
geranium truly is and I know
there are worms
in the buds of the roses.

Two red buds
whose scripts
are simply to open
have turned onto their sides
and are lying here
dry and shrivelled
on the table.

I've just had a glimpse
of the pale round head
of the worm

sickening and tiny.

Now it's come again
thrusting up and down at the entrance
of the hole
in the half-dead red rose.

It's ecstatic with life.
Madly at work
at its core business.

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Here, doggerel won't do. This isn't the place for the lift of rhythm and the comfort of rhyme. These are the pit-bulls, the wolves. The devils of this century. And first of all we must face them. But we go blind, we fumble with the light switch. It's taking me years to look them in the eye, to write them down: the plain manipulators, the rapists, the drug dealers*, the arms traders*, the child prostitutors, the deliberate liars. They do it for a headline, for power, for sex, for votes, to make their names, and for money. They do it with a camera angle, with blackmail, pure logic, intimidation, a slick ad, force, a PR angle, seduction, language we don't understand. They count on our fear, and our ignorance. And they keep their distance, like terrorists.

The greatest challenge for us now — as it long has been and always will be — is how to deal with heartlessness in others, and in ourselves, without resorting in turn to the ruthlessness which we truly want to stop.

* These are the two largest industries in the world. Is that what we want?

* These are the two largest industries in the world. Is that what we want?