Island Life by David Slack


No soup for you

Let us deal with all the cliches in one groaning paragraph. All this doom and gloom is impacting negatively on investor intentions, but not mine; I am a glass-half-full kind of person and when life hands me lemons I make lemonade. Let’s start shovelling and see how many ponies we can find. Just off the top of my head I can think of ten reasons to greet the coming Greater Depression with a broad smile and a cheerful disposition.

1. Soup for everybody! And not just thin turnip broth! Since the last depression we have acquired a vastly more sophisticated cuisine. We all know so much about reductions and foaming that any fool with an apron can create a soup that is to die for. That expression will, of course, fall out of favour as we return to times of near starvation. Soup kitchens will be everywhere and for everyone. Except for you Mr Merchant Banker. This is all your fault. No soup for you.

2. Depressions are a time of exciting public works. In the last one, we got Tamaki Drive, we got pine forests across the North Island and how many damn hydro dams did we get? America got a colossus. It’s so big, they say you can see it from space, if we ever find the money to get back out there. I’m going to put my request in first. Prime Minister Key, may we please have a travelator under Auckland harbour? I have written of this before: you make a perspex tunnel like the one in Kelly Tarlton’s, and you run it from the bottom of Queen Street to Stanley Bay here in Devonport - conveniently one minute’s walk from my front door - and you put an airport travelator in the thing. Plenty of work for everyone, especially labourers who enjoy swimming.

3. Speaking of our coming Prime MInister, there will be great entertainment to be had in watching his policy agonies as he grapples with fiscal turmoil. Will his coalition partner Roger Douglas exhort him to do something groovy and dangerous just like he did the last time there was an economic crisis? Or will Honest John “None Of Those Derivatives Ideas Were Mine” The Trader evolve into a kinder gentler sort of chap? Might he embrace the Keynesian spirit of the 1935 Labour government and become a folk hero in the manner of Michael Joseph Savage, with his portrait being fixed to every PC screen saver in the country? There’s a movie in this, every bit as savage and philosophically gripping as The Last Temptation of Christ, or at least that scene in National Lampoon’s Animal House with the angel on one shoulder exhorting our hero to be a good boy and the devil on the other whispering “fuck her.”

4. The Greater Depression will be a time of moral re-calibration, and not a moment too soon. I predict the end of the party for Cathy Odgers and all the other ship girls of the SS Avarice who have been tending the desires of High Net Worth Individuals. When we get to the show trials for moral bankruptcy in a gilded age, the tax lawyers will be in the dock next to Jeff Skilling and Paris Hilton.

5. A new depression is sure to bring us a new dawn in music. Abject despair hardens, in time, into indignation and protest; at that moment, someone picks up a guitar and starts to sing. It begins with Woody Guthrie, it flowers into Bob Dylan. The bloated sanctimony ultimately yields Bono, but the game is still worth the candle.

6. In a depression you mostly make your own fun when you’re not trapping possums and wekas, but there’s always going to be an impressario ready to lighten your heart for the price of a ticket. You’ve seen those marathon dances in the movies. In this celebrity age, we can no doubt expect expect Jason Gunn to do what’s needed, and offer us non-stop fox-trotting celebrities and inanities without end. If you liked Dancing With the Stars for two hours on a Sunday, imagine how much you’ll enjoy it when it's running from Saturday to Saturday with only a five minute break once a day for Suzanne Paul to touch up her natural glow.

7. We will rediscover the romance of rail, because we will, naturally get ourselves about by jumping aboard boxcars to ride the rail from Auckland to Marton and Swanson to Sandringham. We do, however, now live in an electronic era, so don’t be surprised to swing aboard the carriage to find Beth Roach or Donna-Marie Lever broadcasting live and exclusively to the nation. Carry a comb.

8. There will be no quarter final All Black loss in the 2011 Rugby World cup, because in the absence of the investment bankers and the Hooray Henrys filling up the corporate boxes, there will be no 2011 Rugby World Cup.

9. The low point in the desperate years will come when an Asian consortium of investors buys our entire nation in an IMF mortgagee sale. Our spirits will soon begin to lift, however, as we thrill to the spectacle of Winston Peters being repatriated to Taiwan.

10. I have saved the best for last. No-one will be able to afford to drive a car. And you know what that means. Every lane of the harbour bridge will be a cycle lane.

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