Jim Hopkins on current issues
Jim Hopkins is a Herald columnist

Jim Hopkins: How to make a proper Charlie of yourself


Jim Hopkins writes that politicians are perfectly entitled to hiss at others - once they fix the crises this country faces.

Charles Chauvel told a child on a plane to 'shut up'. Photo / Supplied
Charles Chauvel told a child on a plane to 'shut up'. Photo / Supplied

Let's agree he shouldn't have done it. Let's concede it was intemperate. That's not the point. By rights, Charles Chauvel shouldn't have hissed. But he did. And that's not the point either.

Yes, it was unwise to become so audibly vexed. Those in the public eye must choose carefully how they get into the public's ear - as many a famous throat well knows. So, for the sake of his own reputation, Mr Chauvel shouldn't have said to anyone, "Will you just shut up!" Or opined, with aloof disdain, "I don't know why they let them up here."

Them? Them!? You mean ordinary people? The masses? A man of the left shouldn't get hoity-toity about the hoi polloi, Charlie boy. There's a word for that, comrade. A word scarcely whispered here in Outer Roa, such is our abhorrence of it. Elitist, Charlie, that's the word. Elitist.

It's unwise for any politician - and particularly one of our modern micro-Marxists - to be so offended by a close encounter with the proletariat - or, in this case, the proletariat's children. Suffer in silence, lad. Grin and bear it.

Get a cute photo. Hissing on aeroplanes isn't a good look, Charles, especially when you're not paying for your own seat.

That said, it's safe to say most of us would, if we're honest, admit to a certain sympathy for Mr Chauvel.

Some children are obnoxious, especially so in the cramped confines of cattle class. The airlines should put a little trapdoor in the middle of the cabin, through which unbearably strident brats can be dropped into the cargo hold by the maddened souls around them. There'd be no hissing then, by golly! Just exultant cheers and drinks all round.

None of which is the point. The point - the only point - is that there is no point. There's no story here. One chap gets grumpy on a plane. Another gets grumpy on a blog. No blows were exchanged. No restraints required. There was no "Mayday" in March. They didn't cancel the in-flight service - not that you'd notice.

This was a beat-up, as surely as the Sunday Star-Times 'omigosh, we're not ready for the Rugby World Cup bomb scare story' was, if you will, a blow-up. (Don't miss next week's thrilling issue, when the Star-Times tears strips off the council 'cos it hasn't got its Chrissy decs up for Easter.) Terror and tantrums - neither was a real story, although there was a real story lurking at the end of the NZPA account of Mr Chauvel's airborne outburst. Having declared he didn't consider his hissy flight newsworthy, Charles added, "It's a bit frustrating for somebody in my job who spends half their time trying to get the media to take seriously the fact that we might be in electricity crisis next year, which nobody is interested in."

Sorry, Charles, just run that past us again. An "electricity crisis", you say. Heck, pretty soon we'll have the whole set - health crisis, education crisis, housing crisis, crime crisis, ACC crisis, roads crisis, electricity crisis. You couldn't pop around and build us a mantelpiece to put them on, could you? Don't worry, sir, no kids, just one very quiet goldfish. See, if Mr Chauvel is right, we shouldn't be worrying about him hissing. What we should be worrying about is how many dams we need and where to put 'em.

Alternatively, perhaps Charles could get a whizzy iPod thingee from Parliamentary Service. They probably give them away - like plane tickets. It would be for stress relief, of course, in-flight angst abatement. So next time he copped a couple of clamorous kinder at 30,000 ft, Charlie could just bliss out on beautiful music and dream up 10 brilliant reasons why his party will support nuclear power as the cleanest, greenest, smartest way to fix this bleedin' electricity crisis.

Because it is the cleanest, greenest, smartest way to fix what Mister hisser is predicting. But don't hold your breath, folks. What we'll get is what we've always got; two feasibility studies, three consultation documents and five more years of delay.

And there's the rub, Charles. All of these crises - electricity, housing, health, education, roads, crime, the lot, mate, they're all gummint crises. And they've all been around for years.

They were around when your lot was gummint. And they're still around now the other lot's gummint. Honestly, we've got more chance of finding Laura Bingle's ring than fixing them, sir. In Oz, it's just a diamond down the dunny, here it's the whole damn mine.

Little wonder 500,000 of us have already packed up our ear plugs in our old lugholes (to muffle the screams of travelling tots) and headed for greener pastures.

So here's a suggestion, Charlie. Forget hissing on planes, old fruit. But next time you're in Parliament, and your guys are shrieking at their guys and their guys are shrieking back and everyone's carrying on like a hysterical 5-year-old with terminal ADHD, just turn to your partner, as you did on the plane, and wrathfully hiss, "I don't know why they let them up here!"

- NZ Herald

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