The ODD ANGLE
By MacCLURB • THE "SMALL" 'UN'S I And now for another little "dig" at me that another correspondent felt he could not resist. "Throughout the length of your columns I fail to find one word of praise for the Really Big Men. While the whole world pays them homage for their noble work, how is it they find no eulogy, hardly even a mention in the Odd Angle. Is it a case of sour grapes, or—what?" Now that is a silly query, but, as the writer is, judging by his letter, a very silly person, he may not think so, so I'll answer his question. MacClure is not one fraction interested in the comings and goings, the peeps-behind-the-scenes, or the radio snapshots of most of those whom his correspondent probably means by "the Really Big Men." And for a jolly good reason. All his life he has worked and lived among folk of a much humbler position in life, the "little" people one sees rushing along to work, catching a bus home, the "smaller" folk one sees waiting in queues for their every-day wants, lined up in doctors' waiting rooms, at pension counters, at post office counters posting parcels to their sons overseas, in convalescent camps, hospitals, in auction marts bidding hopefully for somebody's cast-off belongings, old-age pensioners up Jasper's way almost begging to be remembered "next time you get a shirt in my size," the "little" fellows whose privilege it is to work their guts out to provide the passage money and the luxurious living costs for the Really Big 'Uns when they are set on a trip, and to pay for the flags and decorations, the advertisements and the radio eulogies that greet them (by arrangement) when they return. • "HATS OFF"
This morning I saw the wife of one of these "little" men staggering home with her shopping (all her sizeable lads being absent overseas), and I couldn't help thinking what an outside in heart-attacks any of our Really Big Men would have had they to shoulder her responsibilities, to do her job, to live under the economic conditions she and her kind so often have to—either before or after one of their trips abroad. MacClure thinks the boot is on the other foot —that, instead of being summoned to meet in praise of the Really Big Ones (as her kind so often are) it would not be a bad idea for these Big Fellows to "take their hats off" to the lowly herd who fetch and carry, cart their rubbish away, prepare their meals and make their beds for them and enable them, when the ship's gong sounds, to step so bright and friskily up the gangways, or alight—"looking the picture of health" (vide Press reports) on their return. When Dad sets out on a trip Mum has, as a rule, to work her soulcase out "getting Dad off"—and so with all the Mums and Dads in the country when some Big Fellow feels he is "called." What makes MacClure really sore is the knowledge of the huge costs of all these junkettings and the tiny results— apart from rhetoric and "the putting of New Zealand on the map," etc. • HUMBLER FOLK One last item—MacClure has noticed, as most of you must have, that generation after generation of these "littler" men come and go the same way, toiling, sweating, hoping and despairing, not so wonderfully fed, not so luxuriously housed, and not in particularly .good health, working always just a little harder, just a little longer to make ends meet, being able to buy always a little less, at a little more—in spite of the so-called decrease in the working hours and the so-called "higher" wages, getting out of life just a little less than their parents got—and a lot more economic insecurity—and less to leave behind when they depart. In a thousand places, some not so sanitary as everyone would like, mostly a lot more cramped than their parents and grandparents would have put up with, the writer has known these much humbler folk, and it just happens they interest him far more than these others, these "Really Big Ones." There is nothing personal in all this—with the radio broadcasting the virtues, the wisdom, and "the noble self-sacrifice" of these exalted folk MacClure feels there is no need for him to add any tribute — even if he felt any were due. That is the whole reason why he feels his column should deal with other and more worthwhile topics.
• TIN GODS —WITH MOSS ON
As a matter of fact the writer has, in this column, paid many a heartfelt tribute to the really great, worrying little over the prison record of some of them—as, for instance, in the case of the Kelly Gang, those forthright, consistent (even if unorthodox) pioneers of the art of taking over a bank—or their race. Be it Professor Mac Fungus, author of that monumental wor-r-ruk on the flora of New Zealand or Wa Shing, humble Chinee laundryman, they received equal space, as did MacFungus' brown brethren of Orakei, and von Tempsky, ex-Prussian Junker, and Powelka, that great Lancas-trian-Scot, Richard John Seddon, or those two genial Irishmen, Tom Bracken and Judge Maning. Neither did their religion—or need of it— sway me, for,' a couple of years back, Old Alf and I (as recorded in this column) slept with those two Jains in the interests of science—or, rather, Eastern prophecy, the aforesaid two having made claims (remember?) to know exactly when Hitler's war would end—and how. If I have ignored the many cheap imitations of greatness who, at various times, have ambled through our land, boosted, eulogised,, and ballyhooed as they were at the time—by radio uncles and servile, syncophantic political party publicity agents alike—and if I mistook their haloes for accumulated moss, all I can say is I wrote with the fear that, given too much encouragement, that sort of thing could easily have led to the building up of a legend., a "Fuehrer principle" even, which, fanned by the political fanaticism so evident at the time, would have led to disastrous results—if humoured. Realising, as I do, the natural tendencies of our own people, to trust, to conciliate, to propitiate, appease and bow down to any tinny political gods enthroned, the knowledge of what this attitude led to overseas acted as a keen deterrent, a "Keep Off the Grass" sign. I would not willingly hurt any reader's feelings, but from this correspondent's opening remark ("Talking about snakes, how are you?") he quite evidently doesn't love me—lovers do not write in that strain to one another. As for his final remark re "the political mire in which your kind love to wallow"—I merely ask, "Was that 'nice?" *
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The ODD ANGLE, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 175, 26 July 1945
The ODD ANGLE Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 175, 26 July 1945
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