A jester’s take on government

A delightful article written by Jim Hopkins appeared in the New Zealand Herald newspaper: 

Said April’s fool: “Come, my love. Come dance with me, through fields of turnips fine and firm, past the wreckage of our dreams, across the river of time, in caverns of rapture and over the beetled brow.”

She snorted, disdainful as a dietitian inspecting a Double Down burger.

“Let us frolic on the archipelago of happiness,” he continued, unaware of her scorn. “Let us cast ourselves like feathers to the wind and smother ourselves in frivolous glee.”

“Are you mad?” she sniffed. “How dare you speak of frivolous glee when storm clouds gather and wild wolves howl. Our future is dire, you dream-sodden dunce. The poor house looms. Cuts are coming. Mr English has said so. This is no time to dance.”

“What better time could there be?” the dreamer grinned, lighting a candle and inhaling deeply. “When quicksand beckons, the Quickstep calls. We must be light on our feet to make light of defeat.” With the infinite tenderness of a traction engine in reverse, he took her hand. “Be my beacon of hope,” he choked, “be my moonbeam of dreams, be the flare on my seas of despair.”

“Begone, you codpieced fool,” she cried. “You’re missing the point. We’re up the pooh without a paddle. The creek is dry, the cupboard bare.

“Mr English [NZ Minister of Finance] has said as much, with clarity abundant. ‘Nice’ is out. ‘Must’ is in. The grindstone waits. Who knows whose nose will meet it? Or what hardships will ensue?

“‘Pon us no travail falls, my dove, whilst we are glad of heart. There’s no ‘i’ in us, sweet sylph. And, sure, no shame in happiness.”

“You’re not listening!” she yelled, spinning angrily and accidentally knocking a begging bowl from a civil servant’s hand.

“English expects each man to do his duty, bite his bullet, cut his cloth, trim his sail and chart a meaner course.

“We are about to be purged, you twit, our Berlus is coni’d, our budgets cut. In less time than it takes to say, ‘Draft Task Force Implementation Strategy Policy Consultation Document Paper Memo’, our entire ministry could be a fling of the past.

“Have you taken leave of your Census?” he cried. “They’ll never abolish the Ministry!”

“There’s no Census to leave, in case you hadn’t noticed,” she sniffed, “and, yes, they will abolish the Ministry. Mr Business means english.”

“But … there’ll be chaos,” he gurgled, anxiously gnawing the cactus in his lapel. “We’ll have hundreds, nay, thousands of ill-educated, semi-literate social science graduates, unemployed, not a policy to analyse, roaming the countryside, destitute, looting, pillaging, attacking innocent lawyers still clamped to the teat of legal aid. It’ll be a disaster!”

“But they’ll save money,” she replied, lips sharp as a guillotine’s blade.

“That’s not why we have governments,” he squealed, appalled by the novelty of the notion. “Governments spend money. They don’t save it. That’s why taxes make up more than half the price of a litre of petrol.

“It’s not for roads, is it? It’s for folderol and frippery, the funding of a superfluous plethora of DHBs and pointless Commissions, the drafting of Draft Spatial Plans and the subsidising of music no one’s mad enough to buy. That’s what government is for!”

“Not any longer,” she murmured, her face crumpled as an MP’s pay packet. “In days of yore, mayhap, but times have changed, dancing fool. The chill of an axe age is upon us and our Ministry is doomed.”

Shattered, broken, inconsolable, he slumped into an OSH-approved, ergonomically designed, environmentally sensitive, low-carbon-footprint office chair, all thought of dancing gone.

“But …” he choked, “… if we’re de-Ministrated, what will they do to eliminate school bullying?”

“What they’ve done for years – nothing effective!” she quipped.

“You know as well as I do, the closer academics get to a solution, the bigger the problem becomes. Which has been great up till now, because it’s given us a constant supply of more money and extra people so we can pretend we’re on top of things and putting them right.

“It’s true,” he sighed. “The modern mind is no better supplied with solutions than those which went before. I see the latest thing is we’re asking all the schools to tell us what they’re doing to prevent bullying.”

“And they’ll all say they have a comprehensive set of anti-bullying policies,” she chuckled.

“But have they stopped it?”

“No. But that won’t matter. As long as they’ve got a comprehensive set of policies – that’s what counts.”

“And to think, if we’re slashed, if we become casualties of merciless cost-cutting, we’ll never audit any of those policies ever again!” he sobbed. “It’s … unbearable!”

“Maybe,” she whispered, suddenly tender. “But maybe not. Come on.” She took his hand. “Let’s dance. There’s really is nothing else for it.”

Tentative, awkward, they started to dance and into the sunset they tripped, past a group of school kids gently beating a teacher. Before their first waltz was done all the students’ pictures were posted on Facebook.

Said April’s fool: “Come, my love. Come dance with me, through fields of turnips fine and firm, past the wreckage of our dreams, across the river of time, in caverns of rapture and over the beetled brow.”

She snorted, disdainful as a dietitian inspecting a Double Down burger.

“Let us frolic on the archipelago of happiness,” he continued, unaware of her scorn. “Let us cast ourselves like feathers to the wind and smother ourselves in frivolous glee.”

“Are you mad?” she sniffed. “How dare you speak of frivolous glee when storm clouds gather and wild wolves howl. Our future is dire, you dream-sodden dunce. The poor house looms. Cuts are coming. Mr English has said so. This is no time to dance.”

“What better time could there be?” the dreamer grinned, lighting a candle and inhaling deeply. “When quicksand beckons, the Quickstep calls. We must be light on our feet to make light of defeat.” With the infinite tenderness of a traction engine in reverse, he took her hand. “Be my beacon of hope,” he choked, “be my moonbeam of dreams, be the flare on my seas of despair.”

“Begone, you codpieced fool,” she cried. “You’re missing the point. We’re up the pooh without a paddle. The creek is dry, the cupboard bare.

“Mr English has said as much, with clarity abundant. ‘Nice’ is out. ‘Must’ is in. The grindstone waits. Who knows whose nose will meet it? Or what hardships will ensue?

“‘Pon us no travail falls, my dove, whilst we are glad of heart. There’s no ‘i’ in us, sweet sylph. And, sure, no shame in happiness.”

“You’re not listening!” she yelled, spinning angrily and accidentally knocking a begging bowl from a civil servant’s hand.

“English expects each man to do his duty, bite his bullet, cut his cloth, trim his sail and chart a meaner course.

“We are about to be purged, you twit, our Berlus is coni’d, our budgets cut. In less time than it takes to say, ‘Draft Task Force Implementation Strategy Policy Consultation Document Paper Memo’, our entire ministry could be a fling of the past.

“Have you taken leave of your Census?” he cried. “They’ll never abolish the Ministry!”

“There’s no Census to leave, in case you hadn’t noticed,” she sniffed, “and, yes, they will abolish the Ministry. Mr Business means english.”

“But … there’ll be chaos,” he gurgled, anxiously gnawing the cactus in his lapel. “We’ll have hundreds, nay, thousands of ill-educated, semi-literate social science graduates, unemployed, not a policy to analyse, roaming the countryside, destitute, looting, pillaging, attacking innocent lawyers still clamped to the teat of legal aid. It’ll be a disaster!”

“But they’ll save money,” she replied, lips sharp as a guillotine’s blade.

“That’s not why we have governments,” he squealed, appalled by the novelty of the notion. “Governments spend money. They don’t save it. That’s why taxes make up more than half the price of a litre of petrol.

“It’s not for roads, is it? It’s for folderol and frippery, the funding of a superfluous plethora of DHBs and pointless Commissions, the drafting of Draft Spatial Plans and the subsidising of music no one’s mad enough to buy. That’s what government is for!”

“Not any longer,” she murmured, her face crumpled as an MP’s pay packet. “In days of yore, mayhap, but times have changed, dancing fool. The chill of an axe age is upon us and our Ministry is doomed.”

Shattered, broken, inconsolable, he slumped into an OSH-approved, ergonomically designed, environmentally sensitive, low-carbon-footprint office chair, all thought of dancing gone.

“But …” he choked, “… if we’re de-Ministrated, what will they do to eliminate school bullying?”

“What they’ve done for years – nothing effective!” she quipped.

“You know as well as I do, the closer academics get to a solution, the bigger the problem becomes. Which has been great up till now, because it’s given us a constant supply of more money and extra people so we can pretend we’re on top of things and putting them right.

“It’s true,” he sighed. “The modern mind is no better supplied with solutions than those which went before. I see the latest thing is we’re asking all the schools to tell us what they’re doing to prevent bullying.”

“And they’ll all say they have a comprehensive set of anti-bullying policies,” she chuckled.

“But have they stopped it?”

“No. But that won’t matter. As long as they’ve got a comprehensive set of policies – that’s what counts.”

“And to think, if we’re slashed, if we become casualties of merciless cost-cutting, we’ll never audit any of those policies ever again!” he sobbed. “It’s … unbearable!”

“Maybe,” she whispered, suddenly tender. “But maybe not. Come on.” She took his hand. “Let’s dance. There’s really is nothing else for it.”

Tentative, awkward, they started to dance and into the sunset they tripped, past a group of school kids gently beating a teacher. Before their first waltz was done all the students’ pictures were posted on Facebook.