Bryan Gould
Bryan Gould, CNZM, writes an occasional column on current events

Bryan Gould: Max Key suggests we are spawning a generation of Trumps

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Even his father acknowledged that Max Key's remarks were "inappropriate". Photo / Sourced from Instagram
Even his father acknowledged that Max Key's remarks were "inappropriate". Photo / Sourced from Instagram

• Bryan Gould was a Labour MP in Britain before returning to New Zealand.

Being the son of a famous person, and as a consequence finding oneself in the limelight, cannot be easy - especially if that famous person is the Prime Minister, who will inevitably attract approval and dissent in roughly equal measure and whose family and other relationships will always attract close scrutiny.

What are we to make, then, of the crass and coarse remarks made this week by Max Key? His father - himself no stranger to controversy when it comes to the treatment of women - ("pony tailgate" is still fresh in the memory) might have been expected to ensure that his son was especially careful when it comes to language and behaviour concerning the fairer sex.

It is not just the remarks themselves that have raised eyebrows but the fact that he was so keen to let us know that he had made them.

He went to considerable lengths, after all, to bring them to our attention. He not only took the trouble to wind down his window as he drove so as to shout what was no doubt intended as a gratuitous insult at some cyclists he was overtaking; he had also taken care to record what he did and said and then to post it in the social media.

His intention, in choosing his supposed bon mot, was presumably to impugn the masculinity of the cyclists. He seems to have been unaware that it takes a good deal more grit and effort to push yourself round town on a bicycle than it does to drive round town in a fast car - and it is a good deal more socially and environmentally responsible as well.

And, if he had cared to make those same remarks to the same people while on foot, rather than from the safety of his car, he might have found his own manhood subjected to a rather unwelcome and daunting challenge.

But the real question is, why does a young man of Max Key's age and upbringing think it appropriate, not only to shout insults at strangers but to refer to women in such demeaning terms? What is it about our society that spawns such offensive attitudes? It seems clear that the expensive schools responsible for the education of young Mr Key and his like have some way to go in preparing their pupils for adult membership of a decent and equal society.

Even his father acknowledged that Max Key's remarks were "inappropriate" - probably the mildest word he could find to express his true feelings. It is certainly depressing to think that we might be bringing up a whole new generation of Donald Trumps.

As Trump himself demonstrates, those who cross the boundaries of decent behaviour in these respects seem blissfully unaware of how damaging is their lack of respect for that half of humanity that produces their wives, mothers and daughters. And they seem not to know that the "locker-room talk" that they regard as so natural, normal and common to all red-blooded (or, in Max Key's terms "real") men is a piece of pathetic macho posturing abjured by most decent men.

We are not short of evidence of the damage that is done by such attitudes. The high incidence of domestic violence and of sexual assaults, and instances such as the boastful exploits of the so-called roastbusters, are bad enough, but they take no account of the psychological damage that is suffered in our society by so many girls and women who find themselves treated without respect, and as sex objects and pieces of property rather than as people.

We have no chance of achieving a society in which women are treated with proper respect and can take their full and proper place for as long as a Max Key can hurl such a thoughtless and offensive comment at strangers and expect to be applauded for it.

I can, on the basis of long experience, offer a tip that might help Max Key in his search for what it means to be a "real" man. If you treat your female friends and partners as real people, you will be part of a stronger society, your relationships will improve - and you will have a better understanding of the joys that your "love life" can offer.

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