Jim Hopkins: Shift to the hothead zone

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In the old days, when geography was largely the study of things like katabatic winds, roche moutonnees and those areas of the world in which malaria was prevalent, we were all taught that New Zealand was in the Temperate Zone. And that this was a very good place to be.

In fact, the Temperate Zone was any smart country's location of choice - assuming it could choose, of course. But if it could, any self-respecting nation about to be ladled out on a tectonic plate would point to the Temperate Zone and say, put me there.

For several very good reasons: it was basically not too hot and not too cold. It had plenty of rain and an almost total absence of large deserts and mosquito-infested swamplands, other than those on its equatorial fringes.

They don't do equatorial fringes in geography nowadays (or the Temperate Zone either), mainly because the people teaching it are the same people who learned about roche moutonnees and katabatic winds in the old days. And while it may be perfectly acceptable to go to sleep in class, it is still not acceptable to go to sleep in front of the class.

So geography has become new-age, spurning all the boring stuff and concentrating on human interactions and cultural nuances and even feminist perspectives, at least in NCEA questions.

Which is not quite as bad as some would insist, if only because the very fact that credulous 15-year-olds are asked to write about town planning "from a feminist perspective" suggests the latter is as alien and remote from the mainstream as Stalin's views on human rights or Tesla's belief in free energy.

However, that aside, since geography is now a subject more concerned with the human condition than the state of the planet, it may be time to propose a radical revision of the Atlas of Social Behaviour.

Perhaps it is the moment, especially since we are poised on the cusp of another twelvemonth, to suggest it's really not a good thing for New Zealand to be in the Temperate Zone.

Perhaps it is time to suggest we would be much better off in the Intemperate Zone. Not intemperate as in biffing people or calling them "rich pricks", although even that may have its advantages.

Inasmuch as it is only in love and anger that we express our true character, it may be no bad thing if, through intemperance, we reveal that character more clearly.

But it is in relation to the shabby and the mediocre and the duplicitous that a little intemperance would be of greatest benefit.

We need to be much more intemperate about the bollocks that passes for public debate in New Zealand - things like turning the repayment of a public debt into a Starship Hospital publicity stunt, or the manipulative inanities of the new curriculum, or the tosh that gullible journalists feed us about how to reduce our carbon footprint over Christmas.

Intemperate heavens above, these twittering bimbettes hadn't even heard about carbon footprints 36 months ago. Now they're banging on about them like they're articles of faith.

Which, alas, they have become. "We must reduce our carbon footprints in order to save the planet," say the indoctrinated indoctrinators. The science is incontrovertible.

To which the properly intemperate response must be, "Fool. The science is never incontrovertible. If it was, the world would still be flat."

What Al Gore's apostles don't realise is that climate change is actually a doomed marriage of opposites. As the first religion in history founded on science (or interpretations of science), it will inevitably be the shortest-lived. Because the science will change. It always has and it always will.

So we should be intemperate about possibilities peddled as certainties. And about preposterous organisations like the Parole Board or the Wellington City Council, which announced recently it was spending millions of dollars to become the world's first carbon-neutral city but, meanwhile, can't even manage something as necessary and inexpensive as maintaining a fence to save a young man's life.

It's time we became intemperate about such fatal ineptitude. And preening bombast. It's time we became intemperate about many things.

Perhaps we should make January 1, 2008 our first day in the Intemperate Zone. You may decide to be intemperate about the matters above. Alternatively, you may decide to be intemperate about those who are intemperate about such matters. Or about entirely different matters, like txting or twits who walk through airports talking loudly on their cellphones.

Ultimately, intemperance cannot be dictated. But it can be recommended. Therefore, in three days, it is recommended that we begin 2008 in the most intemperate fashion possible by forgetting about making all the usual bland old, safe old, tame old New Year's resolutions and deciding to make some wild, mad, intemperate New Year's revolutions instead.

Start preparing your lists, folks. And in the best traditions of intemperance, be sure you very noisily and assertively tell the rest of us what your New Year's revolutions are.

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