Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 8. 10 June 1970
1990 and All that..
1990 and All that...
My Dear Grandson,
I'm so glad your lesson-cassettes have arrived and that you have now officially started school. You at least don't have to get out of bed-a far cry from the satchel and tears of my day As you're only pushing 3½, I'm not sure it's really wise to ask you on your first day to write an essay in Chinese about life in the dark '60's. But there, I'm so out of touch. You ask me what recollections I have of these pre-revolutionary times, so here goes.
For me, perhaps, the most vivid memory is of a substanced called 'Food'. You won't find this word in your State Dictionary. You'll have to look in that old dictionary, the one your grandmother rescued from the flames of the Great Book Purge of '77. (To Chief of Einsatzkommandos, Wellington: If this letter falls into your hands I know my wife's act was that of a lickspittle reactionary, and I readily agree 'to and will sign anything stating that she is an old fool etc.etc.) Somewhere you may have read of cheese and eggs: well, I must be one of the few people left alive who can remember when eggs eventually went bad and stale cheese became hard.
Anyway, 'Food': once upon a time it had 'taste'. You'll have to look this up in the old dictionary, too. During the years that I was a young man. Generous Wise Experts began adding 'things' so that food would taste even better and vegetables would grow even bigger. Some actually said at the time that people were making money from all this, but I don't believe it. Gradually people began 'to get things wrong with them', and as our Marvellous leaders were not excluded they decided that if they did away with taste altogether then we could live quite well on those little coloured pills, one of which I'm sure you're sucking now for breakfast.
Other strange words you can look up and which might help you are 'animals' (don't be frightened if one's illustrated, they're quite extinct), 'trees' (hold mummy's hand if the description is too much), 'please' and 'thank you' (useless Anglo mumblings, wisely never encouraged here in Kwang-NZ).
Now turn to your State Dictionary and look up the word 'Freedom'. Here you will see that it is defined as "where every individual is quite free to keep his mouth shut, and to be exploited by whomsoever he may choose from the Approved List". You would be wise to keep to this definition: there are some things you are not quite old enough to understand. 'Vote' is another word you could look up, but again you'd be advised to disregard the old definition. Better Stick to "Pioneered by Russia; a right exercised by every registered person just as long as it makes no difference". And you'll find 'Protest' is given similar treatment, the definition I have before me as being "Objection, tolerated if ineffectual." Another interesting word is 'anarchism'. Back in very ancient times, before Uncle Ho-Holyoake even, it was felt by Leaders that the adherents of this strange-ism had tumbled them, so they organized the media to change the meaning of the word completely. It was already grossly distorted when I was young, and as you can see it now means "bloody lawlessness, rampaging, pillaging, chaos, mob-rule, total disregard for organized government, contrary to the sacred wishes of right-thinking people." The Greeks had a word for it, too. 'Anarchos', I think it was.
As I write, many personal memories flood back. Most clear is the memory of your grandmother in her native dress of black tights, mop slippers, a fag in one corner of her mouth, and curlers. I can remember that terrible day, here in Kwang-NZ, when suppliers of services had to go half-way to meeting the needs of the customer. Old Kiwis who had known happier times covered their eyes and wept, burly tradesmen knelt and lit candles, and beer-guts burst. A terrible sight.
Yes, I can remember many strange things you won't find in dictionaries; things which were fast disappearing when I was young. They're probably not even in that old dictionary,'but but of interest look up 'humility' and 'kindness' but try hard not to laugh at those silly old definitions. I can remember when tin monsters roamed the earth and nearly wiped us all out, and whole masses took part in weird rituals known as Kennedy Worship.
Burn this, or better still eat it; it has 'taste'. As always, if you never hear from me again remember I love you, even though you don't know what this means. How lucky I was to be too old for the De-Love Operation! Must close and get this posted; I hear boots approaching.
10 June, 1990