About a dozen years ago in Sydney, with rain threatening, instead of tennis I grabbed an umbrella and set out for a two-hour walk. Half an hour later the skies opened.
There's no such thing as drizzle in Sydney, rather it pounds down in tropical fashion and very soon the roads are awash. Then up ahead I beheld a miracle for despite the deluge and the eastern suburbs employment of the world's most indolent gardeners, I saw a group of workers simply carrying on, digging over a plot. On reaching them all became clear when I realised they were retarded, their minder disgracefully absent.
Nevertheless, it got me thinking about work options for such folk. Mindful of that, a few days later back in New Zealand I thought "what an excellent idea" as on Sky Sport I came across a struggling interview under way with a plainly retarded chap. Seemingly a soccer team was being formed for these folk. The interviewer duly finished, then to my astonishment, he said, "that was the new England football captain, David Beckham".
I'd made such preconception errors before, for example when Independent News Ltd, now Fairfax Media, had published a book of my columns. They sold over 4000 through their advertising, subject to my signature. So I had to go out to their huge Lower Hutt printing works where they'd arranged the books open on the title page on trestle tables for signing. On arrival I saw a group of plainly retarded people stumbling on to a waiting bus. Once inside the manager's office I asked whether they had many tours.
"All the time", he said, "mostly schools". "Can't see much point in retarded people coming through," I remarked. The manager looked puzzled. "We haven't had a tour today," he claimed. I insisted I'd just seen one leaving. The manager picked up his phone and made inquiries then sheepishly said, "It wasn't a tour. It was the bindery staff going to a union meeting."
John Key has been hammered for describing Beckham as thick. He has disputed the particular words although obviously he had said as much. But I'd wager heavily he said what I have over the years to numerous schools, namely that intellect plays almost no part in success in life. Beckham is an excellent example and I can well imagine the Prime Minister citing him admiringly. By all accounts he is a nice fellow who has achieved considerable commercial and sporting success and goes out of his way to help others.
To reinforce this point, years ago I received a speech request from Mensa. They asked me would I address their next meeting and proffer suggestions why none of them had got anywhere in life? I declined as I rate Mensa up there with the Volkswagen Owners' Club in the pointless organisation stakes. Nevertheless, my experience of life was such as not to be surprised by their comments, for as I have said, high intellect is relatively unimportant for success, rather it's things such as passion, drive, imagination and suchlike which count.
Much of the criticism of the Prime Minister has, at its roots, the all too common tiring of political figures through familiarity. Just as his predecessor's first term was as "Helen", her second "Helen Clark", then finally just "Clark", the Prime Minister is following the same trajectory. First it was "Johnky", then "John Key". Now I note he is often just "Key".
Thus the absurd criticism of him re the jocular gay remark. His critics are gaining courage and ready to jump on him over everything, no matter how innocuous. They're now turning his blokeyness, so critical to his past popularity, against him. That said, I believe it is impossible for any group of males, be they High Court judges or factory hands, to spend more than an hour together without a fairydom jesting occurring. This is not homophobia for most couldn't give a damn what others do with their sex lives. Rather, the tenor of the joking is invariably about a particular aspect of homosexuality, namely high camp behaviour, a source of constant amusement to men and women alike, and on my observation, to high camp homosexuals themselves.
Consider how often there are comedic television shows or lisping, mincing hosts which feature such behaviour, of the Are You Being Served category.
Probably the first to recognise and exploit this public appetite for laughing at camp behaviour was Liberace, much loved, particularly by old ladies. I hugely enjoyed his winning a massive sum from an English tabloid for suggesting he was a homosexual, more so after he eventually died of Aids.
The Prime Minister should ignore the criticism which doesn't reflect the wider public who I suspect are thoroughly fed up with the always present offence-takers.
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