Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25. No. 11. 1962
Argot & Conart
Dear Sir,—What a lot of useless palaver there is written up here! Useless because it repeats unnecessarily the triteness of life—so much triviality is that it is "realistic." The writers mourn the monotony of life in monotonous phrases—I suppose that is why it is realistic writing! They choose as subjects only the defeated men, the ones who see this monotony and do nothings about it secure in their own conformity: and the ones who just heroic in their self-sacrifice. These writers say "Isn't it a pity that such people are stereotyped—lifeless! So we must by our writing make more people aware that everything is monotonous lifeless. And that way they become paragons of conformity. What are they but the greatest defeatists at them all! Anyone but anyone can be a defeatists.
Three Irish cheers for the Contemporary arts group! It's doing something! After reading "argot" 2 the report of the first concert they gave—and the short story that followed it, I was struck by the incongruousness of them both—the active review and the passive, negative short story. I was struck, enough to write this letter and I won't promise not to be active again—I am, etc.
The Little Magazine
Dear Sir,—"argot"—subtitled less diffidently "A Literary Magazine."—is the archetype of the little magazine. It appears so inherently defenceless that one is loath to attack it. Pick it up: examine its trail, white pages— its almost consumptive frame. In content, and in size it is similar to all the other little magazines that have over appeared.
Generally, it is not the content that needs to be attacked "argot" is to be commended for serving a very useful function in Vic. It will be it is hoped, breeding ground and constant encouragement for the few hardy souls who try to write creatively. "argot" so for has contained some interesting work and some pretty slip-shod still. But all of it has been stimulating in one way or an-rather frighteningly emotional study short story and Norm Bilborough's 'rather frightening emotional study were both raw, but definitely an excellent start. The poetry has generally been sincere and communicative.
What can and must be attacked in the faint niggling of archness, the annoying suspicion that argot and the Contemporary Arts Society may become the sort of avant-garde in-group society that becomes not so concerned with revolt and proselytization as with mutual self-esteem and smugness. Smugness is a word which is just as much a sin of literary clubs as the "average Kiwi" they so contemptuously berate.
Such an argument can only be based on one article but a remarkably offensive little work it is, Mr T. H. Beagle-hole's comment on just the sort of superior archness that "argot" must avoid "Some thinking" asserts Mr. Beaglehole, "needs to be gone on what contemporary art is" Mr. Beaglehole taking up the shield and girding his loins in defence of that greatest vagary of all abstracts, the artistic standard, then sighs that "inexplicably"— a nice touch picture the raised eyebrows and weary expression— "Inexplicably we wasted time with McGonigal." Mr. Beaglehole may have not been able to explain it, but some who were there rather thought it was because the audience was enjoying it so much In his own way McGonigal, divinely inspired poet, satirised neatly the more pretentious forms of poetry— and it is just as easy as it ever was to be poetically pretentious, Some of the student poetry illustrates that very well
"Jazz I suppose" says Mr Beaglehole "is a contemporary art form," How deliciously snide that "I suppose" is! Our crusader pats jazz nicely on the head and tells it that if it is good it can come to contemporary art concerts Perhaps it is too much to hope that the Jazz Club one of the most admirable and refreshingly original in groups will take the hint.
But Mr Beaglehole excels himself in his contempt—charmingly British and restrained still contempt—for the "scoffers" who were restless while Mr. Maconie was slinging the Boulez. He again supposes that the no-nonsense Kiwi attitude has its value but tut-tuts at complacent ignorance, Kiwi! See for yourself how easy it is to say it with a sneer. Should become nearly as good an Aunt Sally as 'Victorian for the little magazines in a few years, and just about as hazy too Kenneth Tynan (please excuse a Kiwi for having heard of him) once said that lust was just as valid an emotion as tears or joy. Perhaps boredom is, too. In another time and another place, Mr. Beaglehole undoubtedly knows, audiences expressed their ennui by tearing out seats and hurling them at the performer. A remarkably attentive and enthusiastic audience was rather strained beyond the limits of credulity by Mr. Maconie's arrogant and perhaps elaborate unconcern— Boulez was a sort of musical slap in the face, a deliberate attempt to antagonise the audience. Thank goodness for "no-nonsense Kiwis" that they were antagonised.
In conclusion let us hope that no more of this superficial attitude will be heard from "argot" or conarts. It has a function—an admirable one—and it can achieve a lot by having some consideration and a sense of justice for its small, but genuinely interested audience.—Yours
Sir—I feel it necessary to point out to the Editor an error he made in SalientS. In this issue the news report of the A.G.M. contained personal opinion. This, sir, is a terrible situation. It is contrary to unwritten laws of journalism, that news reporters should be written as if by independent observers. Personal prejudice and bigotry in news reports are irrelevant. They are also dangerous. Beaverbrook may be an exception to this, but if our Editor is a Beaverbrook then we need a new editor.
One can imagine the chaos if this were not so. Trade Unionists reporting a Federated Farmers meeting; National supporters reporting speeches by Mr Nash. What is worse is that this error should be made by the Editor—he just did not let it go through, he wrote it. Any comments he had to make should have been in an Editorial not put in a news report in extra black type. This way they could not be missed.
In one of these paragraphs he said that students were at the meeting with their minds made up—it would seem that the Editor was one of these students, —I am etc.,
—Mr Powell has a valid point, in claiming, as he does, common must not be mixed with report. It was thought, however. in the case cited above, comment, distinguished by being inset and in bold, signed Editor, could not be construed as part of the report. The opinions expressed are not those of the Editor alone: but the opinion of the Newspaper.—Editor.
Dear Sir,—Mr Spender's reply to my letter about Extravaganza says about as much as the show itself the virtually nothing): however. I am forced to reply in order to correct a few misapprehensions on the part of the aforementioned Mr Spender.
Firstly I did see the show (and borrowed a bob off a friend to buy a programme which I later lost).
Secondly, my comparison between students and labourers could only be taken seriously (he without sense of humour) if taken literally. Mr. Spender invites me to write a plot for Extrav I am quite willing to do this if I find the time; (I would appreciate a cheque in advance). It would not be too difficult to fulfil the conditions stipulated— in fact it has been done often in the past.
Mr. Spender states: "The attack on the very typical of the usual jealous sour grapes that are dished out at Extrav, each year never by anyone who has had a hand in any of the hard work concerned with putting on the show." I would like to inform Mr. Spender that in my immature youth I spent three seasons in the stage crow of Extrav, and perhaps know what I am talking about.
Finally: I do not disagree with Extrav in principle: I merely think a bit of stuffing could be put into it.—I am, etc.
What Salient is Not!
Dear Sir,—Arithmetic was never, is not, and is unlikely ever to be may forte, but I must say that your editorial in the last Salient moved me to spend a great deal of time making a number of extremely involved calculations, the results of which have so impressed me that I should like to communicate them to your readers.
According to your Editorial, one issue of Salient costs a minimum of £110. And that one copy can be produced for 2/-. According to my calculations this means that some 1100 copies are printed for each issue. We are also informed that 10d of the cost of each copy falls on the staff of Salient. We may therefore say that the staff pay 11,000d towards the cost of each issue. This I have computer to be somewhere in the region of £45/16/C per issue, which is apparently footed by a staff of so far as I can gather, 31, who therefore contribute an average of £1/17/0 each to each issue. This seems to me to be a most valiant effort, deserving of the most hearty thanks of all readers.
There is one thing I would like to mention. In the last issue someone called Fulford took upon himself to make a number of uncalled-for and unintelligent comments on Mr. Maconie's Stravinsky review. If Mr. Fulford has "never read such a lot of guff in his life," we can only suppose that either he has not yet lived a very long life, or that he has not employed it to his best advantage. I consider Mr. Maconie's reviews to be the most stimulating and authoritative published by Salient. Unlike Mr Fulford, I do not think that either Mr Everard, or Mr Evans, or even yourself sir can be considered to be a master of English prose and a model of critical technique.—I am etc.,
Harold I. W. Hill.
—Mr Hill states "arithmetic was never" his "forte". We could not agree more! One cannot compute an average from a minimum: Mr Hill should have taken £135 as his figure not £110, which was the minimum cost stated. What we did omit to mention in our last Editorial, is the fact that we pay our cartoonists. This consideration might alter Mr Hill's balance shoot somewhat.—Editor.
View from the Left
Dear Sir,—I see in your last issue (July 23) that Mr Maxwell has failed to answer at least one major point in our letter, probably because he cannot do so What we found detestable in his column was the unproven assertion, the lack of reasoned criticism, and analysis of social political and economic happenings (Mr Bromby's article in the same issue though not perfect nonetheless approximates more to the beau ideal of radical journalism) The emphasis on personalities especially is distasteful to anyone with some understanding of Socialist and Liberal thought Marx, and to some extent theorists before him boasted at their escape from the myth of the "Great Man, " it was the great economic movements and changes that caused social and political revolutions not a single man or group of men.
Mr. Maxwell may be of the "Left" but he has still failed to define what his position is I can only feel contempt for someone who when two serious letters appear challenging his right to speak for the Left, lobs them off with a smart answer and the "reply " "my political position will be clear to any intelligent reader at this column." There is nothing in his column that could not have been written by a not-too-intelligent liberal, christian or even right- winger.
Reading his column reminds me of a quote "Remain silent and be thought a fool—why speak out and remove all doubt?"I commend this to Mr Maxwell.— Yours etc,.
G. V. Butterworth.
—Mr Maxwell did not bother to give a detailed reply to the letter signed, amongst other, by Mr Butterworth. We felt that the letter was not, in reality, an attack upon his column: rather a vindictive, somewhat uninspired attack upon himself. From the large number of comments made from Wvxzfiflff mbc mbc men's made to us, concerning the letter, men's made to us, concerning the letter, it would appear, many students are in agreement with Mr Maxwell's opinion. Already, one signatory to the letter has apologised personally to Mr Maxwell— he had signed the letter, but not read it. This person was under the impression (from an assurance by Mr Butterworth), the letter was a criticism of some of the material in View from the Left. He had not realised what a "squalid personal attack" it in fact was.—Editor.
Sir,— I disagree with several points raised in the last Salient in criticism of Mr Maxwell's View From the From the Left. I disagree particularly with the view that a member of the "Left" can be seen by his attitude to the "day to day" problems of the University and not in his attitude to "far away" happenings. The "Left" is a term used to describe a collection of political philosophies—Anarchism Communism Labour Party membership etc—whose only common point seems to be some from of popular control of the economic, social, and political facets of the community, either immediately or eventually. I have never before seen it limited to an attitude concerning the running of student affairs within a university. Admittedly, the social attitudes of those who would claim to be members of the "Left" would normally be reflected in his attitude to Association affairs but this is surely no criterion for membership.
Further as indicated above the "Left" is not a homogeneous entity— unlike Mr. Maxwell, I consider anarchism to be a legitimate "Leftist" philosophy (although I do not hold, it) but it has no claim to be the sole "Left" group It may be noted that I agree that there cannot be the "View From the Left" but I do not think that this is necessarily implied by the heading of your column. It could easily be read as A "View From the Left."
Mr Dwyer's letter says little. He should know that a University audience requires more that a number of glorious but meaningless cliches. "Liberty Equality and Fraternity" has no meaning unless it is placed in the phrase by the context in which it is used. Are men equal? They should in my opinion, be given equal opportunites (and this implies that there should be no financial barrier to university studies) but can we really claim that men are born equal? I think that this concept is valueless and should be dropped
I would point out that unless supported by reason Mr Dwyer's opinion is of no more weight than that of those "selfish, stupid and oppressive elements of the Right."
Finally sir, I think it hypocritical that some of the writers require a "more mature approach and a greater depth of understanding of social or political problems" when they themselves indulge in an immature "little loyal demonstration" which can have no beneficial effect. Again I would seek to ensure my political future by nothing that I personally agree with the sentiments expressed, therein but I think that a more mature approach to the situation can be found. —Yours etc.,
G. R. Hawke.
Sex: Let's Face it
University education is recognized as a means to more knowledge than mere book learning. The student, traditionally, tests the values of the society from which he comes. He is uninhibited by definition, an eccentric by choice, and a rebel whose cause is ever changing. The community, on the whole, regards him with a tolerance as tender as it is non-comprehending.
One of the popular myths about students is a vague belief in their lack of regard for the sexual code of ethics current in society. The impression, certainly, is not one of New Zealand's 18,000 student as 18,000 young revellers engaged in continuous debauchery—the impression is just one of lingering suspicion.
It is impossible to be dogmatic about the sexual habits of students. Free love is discussed, it is impossible to say to what extent it is practised. Heavy petting (an ugly term for an act of affection) is common, reputedly. But the University is no hotbed of lasciviousness. The trouble here, as in the community outside, is the lack of a coherent, realistic attitude to a topic shrouded in confusion.
Sexual attitudes could become the source of deep hypocrisy in the New Zealand national character. There is no enlightened discussion at a public level on a topic essential to the very maintenance of life. A realistic approach may dispel the undertones, the embarrassment and the puritan remnants which tend to obfuscate any balanced formation of public opinion on sex. What sententious moralizing that is heard publicly on sex does not square with actual practice. It is possible to postulate, but impossible to prove that, more money, fewer inhibitions, and the decline of the influence of the church has loosened society's sexual patterns. Parents tell us in our generation the sexes mix more easily than formerly. It is generally admitted there is more freedom in relationships between the sexes now than in the reign of Queen Victoria. Our practice seems to have got out of line with the publicly accepted ideas about sex. To profess publicly a morality which does not exist in the individual is damaging.
Last year there were twenty-two instances of brothel-keeping, nineteen abortions, and 198 peeping toms reported in New Zealand. In I960 there were slightly over 700 convictions for sexual offence. This is not a high incidence in a population approaching three million The Police Department's annual report for 1961 listed offences against the licensing laws in excess of seven thousand. If Tab turnover and Golden Kiwi lottery sales are an accurate indication New Zealanders are even more addicted to gambling than to drinking. Moralists may call this vice, but it is unnecessary to express an opinion on this. People decided they wanted to indulge in off-course betting—so the Tab inevitably became a national institution. If people decide, many of them have decided, that they want to drink in hotels after six o'clock then, in time, the legislators must allow them. The cumbersome machinery of government may be slow to move, but it will move with pubic opinion when it moves at all. Society's values will be embodied in the law by one means or another—that is democracy.
Our dilemma over sex cannot be cured so easily. The law defines public opinion in a negative fashion—as a series of prohibitions. For rape the maximum penalty is fourteen years. The need for this type of provision is obvious. The justifications for the severe penalties against homosexuality, sodomy, incest and bestiality are more complicated. These punishments seem to be meted out on the general criterion of moral disgust. But these have been crimes for generations—and if that is the way most people feel, in a democracy that is the way the law must be.
With drink and gambling, reformative laws have been dictated by public opinion—the position may be unsatisfactory from ethical viewpoints but it is at least clear. But the law can do little for society sexual mores. Yet far from being an excuse for neglecting sex, this is the most powerful reason why public opinion should be solid on the matter. If it is not, liberty will bring licence. Nevertheless, the subject of sex is a void in New Zealand public opinion. The newspapers are cautious, the NZBC silent, the films censored. True, the convictions are reported, often sensationally. Outraged cries are heard from time to time from women's organizations against the sale of contraceptive to minors. Yet as far as it is safe to generalize on such a vague issue, New Zealanders as a group have no crystallized public opinion on matters pertaining to, for want of a better word, sex.
Perhaps this is good. Sex is essentially a personal matter. Its twin Functions are procreation and the fulfilment of the individual. For as long as anyone can remember it has been carrying out these functions satisfactorily. It could be argued that sex is not a public matter, except so far as legislation is required to prevent excesses and undesirable practises. That is not the contention of this editorial.
Sex is a bogey of New Zealand society—it is immature and escapist to ignore the fundamental place it takes in everyone's life. It is a question of approach. If sex is ignored and bottled up among the unmentionables, this is a tacit admission of failure to cope on a social plane with a problem basic to the individual. A balanced public opinion on sex would help to educate the individual to a sane appreciation of the importance and pitfalls of sex. In advocating a state of openness in regard to sex, which is not the same thing as a state of licence, the University could perform a social service to the community.—G.W.R.P.
Notice to all Club Secretaries:
A New Edition of the Orientation Handbook "An Introduction to the University" is being prepared for distribution to students intending to enrol for the University in 1963.
All copy for this Handbook must be submitted before August 31, 1962.
All secretaries receiving notices relating to this matter should deal with them immediately. Late copy will definitely not be accepted. All secretaries are further advised that we reserve the right to edit, amend correct, or deal with copy in any other way, without consultation with the persons submitting the copy; Where possible, however, particularly if the article concerned has been submitted well before the deadline, the authors will be referred to.