Friday, April 07, 2006

Jim Hopkins: Elephant-tie wearer may well stave off the inedible

On Anand Who? did Helen Clark

A pleasure dome decree

And so this mystery man is now New

Zillun's new G.G.

("Well, goodness gracious me!!")

Anxious to avoid accusations that he may be the Dan Brown of blank verse, our extinguished poet laureate Mr Jam Hipkins has requested full acknowledgment of the (unwitting) contribution made by the opiated Mr Coleridge, not to mention the lovely Sophia Loren and the late Peter Sellers, to his most recent poetical eructation, a work that has already been hailed, if only by himself, as "the best thing since Whale Rider was scratched at Ellerslie".

And, for once, the great man is right. Only a brutish soul would deny that Mr Hipkins' lyric tribute exactly captures the wave of indifference which swept across the nation when the grand announcement was made on Monday that Mr Anand Satyanand was to be our next Governor General.

Not cap in hand, good Satyanand

But the cream of those unseen

Now the undetected ombudsman

Moves omboards with the Queen.

The fact that an accident of birth was deemed the most newsworthy feature of his appointment suggests that "Satch", as he is apparently known, has done little in the intervening years to capture the hearts and minds of Outer Roa.

It's not as if the headlines screamed Aja Rocks Into Government House or Jubilant Jackson Wins Royal Oscar or Kiri To Sing for The Queen or Pinetree Our First Rugby Royal or even Cullen Says "I'm Not Surprised"!

Yet a case could be made for any such headline. After all, if there is a G.G. job description it would surely be: "Must enjoy scones, world peace, have a nice smile, no obvious psychiatric disorders, a proven ability to snip ribbons in all weathers and the good sense to do exactly what you're told!"

The position is, let's face it, almost entirely symbolic. Like the Queen herself, the monarch's representative is a prisoner on home detention. Much pampered, but still the guest of her commoners.

Or his in the case of our Anand

Proud pictured sipping tea

Darjeeling? Bushells? Choysa? Which?

"No, it's my cuppa haka, see!"

True, the G.G. can buck a dysfunctional gummint but given that our leaders are usually tossed out long before they've achieved anything more than mendacious mediocrity this authority is a power almost certainly honoured in the breach.

So we return to the symbolic aspects of the role; being a guardian of tradition, a link with the past, a bridge to the future, unifying, uplifting, inspiring, that sort of stuff. On the face of it, such duties would seem tailormade for an iconic, heroic figure - Peter Snell perhaps, or Sir Murray Halberg, Paul Holmes or Judy Bailey, Dave Dobbyn or Xena Warrior Princess. Sir Howard Morrison springs to mind, as do Buck Shelford, Norm and Carol-Anne, or finally, heaven help us, that most pre-eminent symbol of our present confusion, Mr Ahmed Zaoui.

Any of them would do the symbolism proud. They could inspire, uplift and unify our (un) united nation and become, over time, loved and revered as a Special Rapporteur of Hope.

Which makes the gummint's determination to appoint invisible members of the judiciary as Governors General all the more mystifying.

Of course, politicians do tend to be vainglorious and petty creatures and, when selecting their notional superior, their choices may simply reflect a deep reluctance to have anybody stealing their thunder, hogging their limelight or dulling their indubitable lustre.

The prospect of a Gareth Morgan Harleying through the heartland and bestowing charitable largesse upon every hapless rates and tax payer he encounters would likely send the poor dears into an apoplectic frenzy.

Then again, however charismatic a chap (or chapess) might be, they're only allowed to do what's planned and say what's written for them, so endless visits to broadband relay stations and insufferable speeches about "moving up the value chain" and "rolling out the knowledge wave" should take care of that problem.

So we turn to explanation Number 2, this being the John Tamihere Secret 15-Year Plan theory.

By this hypothesis, it could all be a cunning plan to bore us into republicanism.

Our political elite may have calculated that a sensation-hungry public, wearied by the populated vacancy of Government House, will eventually clamour for balloons and hoopla and cheesy party conferences and silly straw hats and all the other repellent trappings of presidential elections.

If so, good luck to them.

Every generation is sustained by the oxygen of its own arrogance and ours more obviously than most - particularly them as runs the cutter.

And the day may indeed dawn when they can finally administer their constitutional coup-de-grace but, meanwhile, it might be worth noting, as the laureate has, that His Imminent Excellency does have a rebellious streak.

When asked, "What stirs in your

bosom unusual?"

Mr Satch said, with pride in his eyes

That he did have a most harmless liking

For the wearing of elephant ties.

And provided, like that noble beast, he never forgets that he serves a legacy much greater than those who retained him, old Satch may even feel empowered to cast aside judicial reticence and give his tenancy such Earl Grey zest as to stave off the inedible for a good five years.

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