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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 3. March 20, 1952

Posing Problems — And the Cactus... — Sutch - Bisley - Rogers I.S.S - Un - ??

Posing Problems

And the Cactus...

Sutch - Bisley - Rogers I.S.S - Un - ??

As well as problems of the University close to us, those more distant but no less important in the sphere of international affairs were thrown up by three other people.

Mr. Robin Bisley, in the I.S.S. session, gave an account of a recent tour through South-East Asia, and of the appalling conditions in general and especially in the Universities in that area, urging that something be done through I.S.S. to relieve the latter. His talk, however, revealed the enormous depth of the problem, and this was further emphasised by the remarks of Dr. L. S. Rogers on the Middle East. He spoke of the problems of race, of economic development and of political conflict that he had met as Professor of Surgery at Baghdad University in recent years, and particularly stressed the failure of those educated on Western lines to retain Western values, with all the consequent corruption and inefficiency it entailed. Discussion after this talk was lively and serious, and seemed to indicate not only that people were thinking more clearly and becoming less afraid to speak out, but also that they were taking their responsibilities in these matters very much to heart.

Other aspects of world politics were opened up by Dr. W. B. Sutch (Wellington) speaking on "Social and economic aspects of U.N." Analysing the composition of U.N., Dr. Sutch showed that most of Asia and Africa and much of Europe were unrepresented, so that there was a quite disproportionate predominance of Christian, White and Western elements. On the economic and social side, he maintained that hardly anything would have been done for under developed areas had it not been for their, albeit meagre, representation in the organisation. As it was the complete impotence of U.N. in the face of national sovereignty, meant that in the social field, with which Dr. Sutch had been closely connected, a measure would have no chance of going through unless it merely recognised a fact, or was accepted by some countries with no intention of carrying it out. This national egotism, which vitiated social legislation, making it a very low common factor of national policies, was most obvious in countries like U.S., U.K. and N.Z. For instance, the speaker, having cabled to Wellington for instructions on a measure dealing with the traffic in women, was told to "protect New Zealand's interests." The remedy lay, at least partly, in the hands of the public in Western countries, for the negative nationalist attitude was mainly due to the absence of an informed and influential public opinion on the matters. As a practical step we could study the reports and agendas of meetings of these bodies and, by writing letters and talking, attempt to influence New Zealand's policy. With regard to U.N. organisation, Dr. Sutch said, in reply to a question, that he did not condemn the Charter, as it was already the best practicable constitution, but suggested that all countries applying for membership be admitted, and that colonial peoples be represented on the Trusteeship Council to a greater extent. than at present. After a lively discussion, the general feeling arose that we had the power and the responsibility to do something about poverty and disease in a torn world.

It was the same idea of the importance of indigenous, as opposed to imported values, which was taken up by the chairman, Mr R. C. Chapman, in his talk "The New Zealand novel as a social commentary." He observed that literature in N.Z. has flourished mainly in two periods—those of the depression and of the war—one a time of strain, the other of release, during which the cracks appear in the surface of our society. Then the novel especially became an organ of social criticism by mere graphic description. Shaken out of the rut, the writer is able to sec life in N.Z. from an independent standpoint and to point out the gaping disparities between our professed morality and our social environment. Thus the writer seems cut off but in fact is criticising the outmoded foreign idea in terms of a frustrated native reality. For our moral code is that of the revived Calvinism of the Industrial Revolution, which proclaimed work and thrift as the only paths to success and happiness. This suited the Pioneer Age in N.Z., but when the drift to the towns began in the Nineties, society became more or less crystallised, and it became almost impossible for a man to rise by sheer work above the very good competence which the country provided for all. Control passed to the women, for "Father disappeared by tram to the city" and only mother's thrift could realise the ideal of "getting on." But though in fact our society became a matriarchy, we clung to the old patriarchal morality (having long since dropped its religious basis and lost any independent criterion). The family became a frustrating mechanism, dominated by puerile materialism, in which the normal sex-roles were reversed—though this was never admitted—and the man escaped to the garden, the football match or the pub. Women's movements made scapegoats of liquor or the suffrage but found, each in turn, equally superficial. Meanwhile, the drunkenness, the lack of communication between parent and child and husband and wife, the latent homosexuality, the late marriages, the long engagements and the seven-month babies went on stewing, throwing up more and more of the hate and frustration which the novelists have shown in this society of ours, which is economically so unusually well off. Economic security is only a mask on a more profound psychological insecurity than ever before. And what's to be done?... Make bad architecture, mental health, marriage guidance, creches, political issues and take reform from the political and economic spheres into the social. Above all, tell people about it—just show them how crazy it is, as the writers are trying to do, and perhaps if enough do it they will see we are not all mad.

(Concluded on Page S. No Prizes to Those Who Make: Home.)