Cartoonists moaned when Rowling became Prime Minister in 1974, being unable to caricature him. Hitherto, Nash, Holyoake, Marshall and Kirk were easy but Rowling's bland appearance made it impossible. Cartoonists then were mostly left-sympathising, otherwise they might have adopted the brilliant Gary Trudeau's portrayal of George Bush jnr as a small air balloon, that is to imply nothing there.
Salvation came with Muldoon - a cartoonist's delight, always sketched with jaw-jutting belligerency. Obviously Lange was easy, Palmer less so while his successor, Mike Moore, was consistently shown with dark-ringed panda eyes. Bolger was drawn unkindly as a potato. Shipley posed a problem but wasn't there long, then came Helen. God knows why she never fixed her teeth but our cartoonists were grateful, hyperbolically sketching her with them splayed everywhere.
Which brings me to John Key, who poses a Rowling-like difficulty given his everyday regular features, was it not for one factor. That is he had a Jewish mother.
Consequently, cartoonists all draw him with a massively beaky nose, which he doesn't have. Considering the fashionable race sensitivity, this is extraordinary and one wonders what he thinks of it.
Last year, the English soccer captain got in big trouble for calling a rival player a black bastard. Had he called him a bastard, no offence would have been taken. But nowadays one must not notice skin colour.
This is taken to an absurd degree in America, as I've written before when describing a telecast of two unknown preliminary boxers, both identically clad, whaling away at each other with such frenzy the commentators struggled to say who was Smith and who was Jones. How I longed for one of them to say "Smith is the black". Instead, practice, and indeed the law, is that one mustn't notice. It's ridiculous.
Recently, all hell broke out in England when an ethnically Chinese London professor insensitively published his study on the problems faced by black people - wait for it - because of their ugliness, as indeed Orientals have always perceived them. I enjoyed the furore much as I would should a Swiss professor publish a report on New Zealanders' ugliness.
Until about 1960, a leading American black movement was the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Then abruptly the ethnically correct word "negro" was inexplicably deemed outrageous. The new power became the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (formed earlier in 1909). "Coloured", too, went by the wayside in the 1980s, replaced with the hopeful catchcry "Black is Beautiful", and form duly dictated American negroes now be referred to as blacks. That too became "incorrect" and today the clumsy "Afro-American" reigns.
The Jewish aspect of these practices interests me. In my recently published etymology book I described the anomalous situation in the 1930s when, next to baseball, boxing was the most popular sport in America. Then it was dominated by Jewish champions, all much loved, this despite a prevailing strong anti-Jewish sentiment including by notables such as Churchill and Henry Ford, both writing about the international Jewish conspiracy, this up there with religion as one of the great mythologies.
So, too, in Australasia, as reflected by my possession of the 1924-1925 copies of a large-circulation monthly magazine called Aussie, published in Sydney but also with a New Zealand edition. It was structured as an Antipodean version of Punch. Every issue had, in the Australian part, two anti-Jewish jokes and in the New Zealand, two anti-Maori. Blacks were always described as niggers.
But that was commonplace then, such as this line from Evelyn Waugh's 1928 masterpiece Decline and Fall: "With or without her nigger, Mrs Beste-Chetwynde was a woman of vital importance."
Typical in Aussie was a cartoon sketch of a grotesquely hook-nosed man walking along taking large strides. Beside him was his equally dorsal fin-nosed young son, also taking large strides. The caption read: "Take big steps Izzy and save on the shoe leather."
That was the tenor of them all, most making Goebbels look like a piker. The postwar Holocaust revelations shifted sentiment regarding Jews, and Israel became a fashionable cause with Western liberals, albeit no longer.
The New Zealand part of the magazine always included anti-Maori jokes along the lines of the stupid Irish of English tradition, only they weren't referred to as "Maori" but as "hori". Cartoons of women, if young, presented them as pretty and dizzy-headed; if over 30, as fat and naggers.
The world has come a long way since. I have a book of historic amusing letters sent to the New York mayor. One from the 1890s from the city's zoo director indignantly protests at busybody parsons complaining about one of his caged specimens, namely a group of pygmies. As with all racial offences, I laughed when I read it.
Eventually racism may be a historic curiosity. When I was young, marrying a girl from, say, Wanganui, was considered exotic. Today, marry an Eskimo or Kurd and no one finds this noteworthy. With the young travelling everywhere, in 100 years we may all be blended into one race.