Chapter 10 ...Apathy , a Nation's Achilles
I have been cited in a feature article, of hoisting the foreign land ownership issue ingeniously on the Anzac sentiment. This is not strictly true, for the truth be known there were other factors. Before my Mother passed away, she passed onto me two war medals. They are the only tangible reminder that I have, of two Great Uncles who fought at the Somme and paid the supreme sacrifice. For the record their names were Gerald Thompson, Pte 11696 of the NZEF and his older brother Claude, Pte 8/4495 also of the NZEF. Claude was only seventeen. Yes, they are very special to me, for they were THE Anzacs; it has been left to us to uphold that spirit.
They went to France not by choice but by order of the government of the day. They fought to preserve a way of life that we uphold and a land that is free. For those, they gave their lives, so that we could enjoy that legacy. We who are left are duty as well as morally bound to defend it. If that means offending other people who would covet that land, if it means condemning our duly elected representatives because they prefer to acknowledge the economic value of a relationship at the expense of a dangerous alliance, then it ill behoves those of us who place their right hand across their breast and recite ‘Lest We Forget, to do nothing’.
Another compelling reason was a poem my late father penned, just after the Second World War. The name says it all. ...Apathy. (It is simply called ‘Apathy’. ) There were times over a four year period when I was tempted to throw the whole business away and that poem, challenged me every time I gave it a thought .
As I set out to write this narrative, I remember with deep affection the influence my father had on me. Dad started his life in Greymouth NZ delivering bread baked by his fathers bakery. This was in the days when horse and cart, were king. To his dying days Dad retained a soft spot for Nugget, the cart horse who, he used to tell me, knew every home that bread had to be delivered to.
From Greymouth, Dad crossed the southern alps of NZ South Island, in Cobb and Co coaches and settled in Christchurch. There his father apprenticed him to the long since defunct Lyttelton Times. Journalism was in his blood, he took to the job like a duck to water, only to be pulled out of that potential lifetime career and placed in, according to his father, a ‘real’ job. Times were ‘tough’ and his well-meaning father placed him with a coach-painter, that in time gave way to painting and paperhanging. It was in many ways a tragic mistake, for my father as good a tradesman as he was hated the job. His love and natural bent was for writing. Thirty years later, his son who wanted to become an architect, suffered the same fate. Through a series of personal family traumas in the fifties Dad was forced by circumstances to take up writing again. At first it was freelance journalism, then an old cricketing associate took him on as a proof-reader. Inducted to the Bay of Plenty Beacon, in Whakatane at the ago of 56, he retired twenty years later as it sub-editor, after having turned down the editorial position. That old associate to whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently was Leicester Spring. Whilst the name may not ring a bell to many Australians the brilliant galloper that he owned should. Rising Fast, was deprived of the great distinction of winning the Melbourne Cup in successive years by a scruffy looking nag that used to chew away at our back lawn in Sockburn. Poor old Toparoa, a gentle giant who used to eat grass clipping out of my kids hands. As a post script to this little aside Cyril Neville Dad’s cousin in Greymouth used to sell apples from his parents orchard. He earned for himself the nickname ‘Apples’ and years later took the winners sash in yet another Melbourne Cup. He named the racehorse after his children Dallas and Raymond; they called him Dalray.
But back to my father. Like I said he repeated the mistake of putting his son into a trade not of his liking, but the positive side for me was that in working with him I obtained a great insight I believe into what made people tick. He was a man, given to philosophical thought and when the opportunity presented it self, discussion. I was privy to much of it. He fascinated me, yet as a father frustrated me also. For one who had such insight and vision, he failed to put it to use.
Apathy, O apathy,
Why do you cloud the minds of men
And hold them from their duty until when?
Awakened from your binding spell
With eagerness they seek to clasp
The fleeting opportunity
That once was their's to clasp.
I heard it often that plaintive call, “but what can one man do, what can we achieve?’
My response was simple, “anything we do will be better then doing nothing”.
'But Bruce, your up against big money. These bastards will crucify you.”
It did not inspire me with hope, but the sheer magnitude of self defeat, only fired me to do something.
Of the 159 people who rang that Mothers day Week-end, a mere handful, seven to be precise gathered at my home one evening to discuss what could be done. With three women and four men, their names except for one, now forgotten, reflected the attitude of the majority. They did however realise that if we were to get off the ground at all then, the least they could do was to throw their weight behind what I was trying to achieve.
They were forthright in their comments. They were they said not as committed as what I was, and that was to be expected, but they felt the need to go public. Whether I liked it or not, the hot potato that I had tried to induce an Australian to pick up, had fallen into my lap. And so on the 16th Anniversary of my Mothers death, the die had been cast . The delicate subject of Japanese buying into Australia was set to go public