SOMETHING NOT SO GOOD- AND A THEORY OR TWO.
Last month, Ashburton (population 19,000) was briefly world news- for very much the wrong reason. Beautiful weather, just getting started
On the 1st September at 9.50am, one Russell John Tully, nursing an aggrieved sense of entitlement, walked into the local office of our Social Welfare Department with a pump action shotgun, killed two of the staff, severely injured a third, missed a fourth and then went out, calmly unlocked his bicycle and peddled off (according to reports).
During the ensuing manhunt, helicopters hovered for a time over the river bed behind our kite factory (upstream from the town centre), causing some apprehension. Tully had actually gone down-river and was arrested in mid afternoon..
Almost the first we heard of this emergency was by way of "Are you OK?" emails from the USA, Asia and England- the world is not only getting smaller but much more connected.
At any time I expect there are maybe 1000 individuals in NZ (population 4.5million) who are sufficiently aggrieved and unbalanced to be a risk to the public in this sort of way.
They give out plenty of signs, but very few do actually go on a rampage Locking away everyone who arouses suspicion is impractical, and there doesn't seem to be any reliable way to predict the few who really are dangerous, so yes, it will happen again somewhere, sometime, and again. There's not a lot we can do about this except take comfort in knowing that the chances of falling victim to such a random act are infinitesimal.
Which is no comfort at all for those in Ashburton who have been impacted by this one.
My heartfelt sympathies to those directly affected, and thank you to our friends in the wider world who were concerned for us.
There has also been a comprehensive failure of prediction here at the Taiwanese International Kite Festival. Taiwan Kite Festival
Our first weekend was cancelled because of an impending typhoon- which never really eventuated.
Sure the weather wasn't perfect- strongish wind and some rain, but not as bad as we've flown in here before- and far from being in even the top ten worst weather kite events I've participated in.
I strongly believe that difficult conditions shouldn't be an excuse for not flying, but this time there were security guards patrolling the beach to keep disobedient kite fliers like myself away.
Actually from the event's perspective, cancelling was a sensible decision as the conditions were not exactly conducive to spectators have a pleasant day at the beach.
So we (the usual suspects) settled down at the delightful Sun Family Hotel just over the road and had the odd beer or three- which has happened here before I recall because this is not the first Taiwan Kite Festival that has been typhooned.
But some things are reliably predictable- and one of these, strangely enough, is elections- and there's just been one in NZ. The result was almost exactly what the polls had been predicting. We ended up with a left wing government (roughly equivalent to the US Democrats), but as the choices for us were left, further left or even further left (Greens), this result was about as good as it could have been. My very great fear for New Zealand is that those whose primary source of income is social welfare of various types may someday have sufficient numbers to swing the result to the further left against the diminishing number of NZers who actually pay tax. And once this tipping point is reached and the further left takes control, like for Venezuela and even France, the future could be difficult indeed. It didn't quite happen for New Zealand this time (by 2% or so)- whew, apocalypse averted for now.
I would have done a lot less worrying if I'd believed the predictions!
Which, straying off the subject of kites by quite a bit, brings me to a question, and a theory of government.
The question is: Taiwan Kite Festival
Why do countries facing daily existential threat from powerful and/or crazy neighbours- like Taiwan, Israel and South Korea - not only survive, but starting post WW2 from almost nothing, now generate first world living standards for their citizens- outperforming many countries with every seeming advantage and no immediate external threats?
And it's not just that these threatened countries are all resource poor, spend more per capita on their military than most countries spend in total, and have still managed to leapfrog to the top,- but that at the other end of the scale, half the world's nations, most of whom have a much longer history, still can't provide their citizens with basic health care. And why are these failure countries also the most fractious- and the most inclined to blame everyone else for their woes?
Is it just the Russel John Tully syndrome writ large?
When given an easy ride- or handouts- are nations, like individuals, inclined to develop a sense of entitlement which rapidly turns to aggrievement when confronted by others who are more successful?
In Tully's case, it's reasonable to consider whether, if he hadn't had the socialist soft option of state hand-outs, he may have used his talents and efforts to support himself instead- and two pillars of the Ashburton community would now be alive. Or maybe Tully's just a nut case (like North Korea is internationally), whom we can only protect ourselves from by harsher measures..
For nations, it's difficult to think of any theory to explain Taiwan, South Korea and Israel, other than that their success is driven by knowing that no-one owes them a living and that the slightest misstep will result in destruction. And at the other end, that foreign aid and endless apologists blaming colonialism, racism, the weather, conspiracies, you name it, may well have the same destructive role for nations that "social welfare" has for the individual.
And as a corollary to this theory, there's another:
Which is that having effective government is entirely the responsibility of a country's citizens. No-one else is to blame if things don't work. This is not an ideological or moral pronouncement, just pragmatic:
Because if anyone from outside ever tries to help by advice, aid, or even 'peace keeping', they earn vilification rather than gratitude and soon become the focus of blame and hate. About the only approach that has even partly worked by which one country can help another is colonisation- but even this is now deemed a sin to be pursued by the 'victim' country against the coloniser even unto the nth generation- or until there's no longer any compensation to be had. The flip side of this theory is, of course, that it IS your responsibility if your government is dysfunctional or miss-behaves- which is why I have been so concerned about NZ's election: If the further left had won, just saying "I didn't vote for them" doesn't absolve me.
Maybe I'll file this Newsletter under Rants rather than Kites!
Nah; having good government is fundamental to kiteflying, because when the focus is on avoiding bullets, or where your kid's next meal is coming from- or having a choice other than burying them when they fall sick- flying kites is not going to be very high up your priorities list
Meanwhile, and appositely, the kite flying here in Taiwan (after the typhoon that wasn't) has been excellent; blue sky, good wind, huge crowds. The kids are keen to learn, respectful, and quick. People work hard and earn their prosperity. Everything works and the organisation has been perfect. Taiwan Kite Festival
The world needs more Taiwans and less Haitis, Yemens and Liberias.
PETER LYNN, TAIWAN, SEPTEMBER 28th 2014.
Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
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