Advice from my Grandmother about COVID-19 Bullshit

Day Whatever + 1

56 cars in the New World carpark this morning. You’ve discerned by now that one of my strange little lockdown routines is counting cars at the supermarket. Don’t scoff. We all have these odd little rituals and routines in our lives. You too. It’s an intrinsic part of the human condition.

The 10k walk you know is not only about exercise and health. Quite often i will arrive home with an essay or article fully composed and ready to be written. Like this morning. And yesterday of course.

Anyway. In July 2016 I presented testimony at a Waitangi Tribunal hearing concerning Maori and war service. I was debunking some of the mythology about our Vietnam service, mainly about Agent Orange. I mentioned in passing that I did not myself at that time have any medical, physical or mental ailments that could be attributed to Vietnam. Except for one.

The many Vietnam veterans present had read my Brief of Evidence and had unanimously diagnosed me as a pain in the arse. Tribunal member Dr Angela Ballara then suggested that I apply for a veteran’s disablement pension for the condition.

Over three years later I’m still seriously considering doing just that.

I’ve always been a pain in the arse, one way or another, and I blame it on my grandmother Galloping Gertie.

You see, when I lived with her in 1948/49 she told me lots of her stories and histories. Even at that young age I worked out that some of them were pure fantasy and were meant to entertain rather than educate, but mixed up in it were some serious lessons.

One that has stuck with me for the whole of my life is about bullshit. She told me that I should never believe anything I read in the newspapers, or heard on the radio, and that I should only believe half of that which I witnessed myself. It has led to a lifetime of fact checking, long before the era of the Cockwomble-in-Chief in the White House. Google it – go on !!!

I challenge opinions and beliefs and debunk mythologies, ancient and modern. I have variously been labelled a smartarse, a pain in the arse, a contrarian, a dissident, a sceptic, a non-conformist, and an iconoclast, among other not-so-nice things. Sir Wira Gardiner once called me the Thomas Paine of Maoridom, which says as much about his obsession with military history as it does about my obsession with knocking over icons. And other peoples’ opinions and beliefs.

It is said that opinions are like arseholes in that everyone has one. Some wit added however that unlike arseholes our opinions should be taken out regularly and subjected to close scrutiny. Changing our own opinions and beliefs in the light of new evidence is a tough call, but if one is inclined to challenge the opinions and beliefs of others then one ought to regularly inspect one’s own metaphorical arsehole.

Which finally leads me to the point of these musings.

Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Tik Tok, Telegram, and every social media platform, are all being inundated with instant experts, false prophets, conspiracy theorists, confabulating commentators, meme generators, and just ordinary people who pick up on it and pass it around. I take my advice from Jacinda Adern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who take their advice from their teams of experts, and in the face of every instant expert demanding more of this and more of that, have to balance what is desirable with what is possible, and to determine how to do it within what timeframe.

As Galloping Gertie taught, we should not believe anything we read in the newspapers, or hear on the radio, and only believe half of that which we witness ourselves. Without checking the facts. She would have added TV and social media of course.

By the way. I neglected to tell you that Grandmother Gert lived by the sea. and that over the Ditch the West Islanders have memorialised her in a little song that they sing all the time. Listen carefully. to my grandmother’s song.