Grant’s Tomb

Boy I’m tired. What a sissy I am. Just because I woke up before dawn and have been slaving away at revisions all day (except for the times I was walking a very slow exasperating dog I know, which is not exercise but a kind of anti-exercise, a kind of minus exercise) – is that any reason to be tired?! Yes, apparently. Anyway I am. But a reader (an avid reader, in fact, he tells me – my favourite kind) sent me a link to this amusing story, which restored my energy and enthusiasm just enough to jot a note on it. Auckland, Auckland – what are you thinking of? Pull yourself together.

A spiritualist group has been given Auckland ratepayer money so it can teach people to communicate with the dead….When the community development committee met on Wednesday, councillors had some reservations and reduced the amount, said chair Dr Cathy Casey. She said there had been a thorough assessment by council staff, who judged that it met the critera for community assistance funding. Dr Casey said the group did more than communicate with the dead: “There is spriritual communication and healing. We have a vibrant, interesting and colourful community in Auckland city.”

Vibrant, interesting, and colourful. I love that. She means wacked-out, gullible, and loony tunes. Vibrant interesting and colourful indeed. Words like that are great, you know, because they can mean anything. Noisy, time-wasting, deranged, conspicuous, stark staring mad, aggressive, wearing a funny hat – anything. ‘We have a community of absurd people who believe or pretend to believe that it is possible to talk to the dead and that they can teach people how to do it – but it is not quite politic or tactful to say how absurd that is, so what shall we say instead…hmm…we have a community of reality-challenged, gaga, wigged-out imbeciles in Auckland city? No…that’s not quite it…we have a community of brazen con-artists and opportunists in Auckland city? No, that sounds a little too judgmental. I know! They’re vibrant, that’s it! That’s what I say when the neighbours wake me up playing reggae at 3 in the morning, so that’s what I’ll call these nice fruitcakes who want public money to teach people to ‘talk to the dead’ – that’s the ticket!’

And not only are they vibrant and colourful, they’re also celebrating diversity. Good thinking, O ye Auckland spiritualists.

Groups became eligible for funding if they were a proper community organisation, open to the public and contributed to Auckland city’s community vision – in this case it was by celebrating diversity, she said…Dr Casey said her personal views on the foundation’s beliefs and practices should not sway her decision to support grants. “Just because you don’t believe doesn’t mean you should deny other people the right to do so.”

True, true. Very true. When you see them weaving their way down the street believing the colourful vibrant stuff they believe, you shouldn’t leap on them and push them to the ground and smack them in the face until they stop believing that vibrant stuff. Quite right. I couldn’t disagree less. Nor should you tear their clothes or fling stones and small branches at them or ask them where they got that shirt and what they mean by it. No indeed. But does that mean that if they ask you for $4500 you should give it to them? Does it mean that if they ask you for $4500 you should give them $2500? Or $25? Or any money in any currency of any denomination at all? I would say no. My considered judgment would be that it does not. Therefore Dr Casey’s ringing statement on the duty not to deny other people the right to believe bullshit leaves me less moved and transported than you might expect. It simply isn’t all that clear that Dr Casey’s clear duty not to throttle the members of Auckland’s spiritual groups entails an equal obligation to hand out largish sums of public money to said groups, and it is even less clear why Dr Casey thinks (as she seems to) that it does. Or why she thinks that her views of the foundation’s beliefs and practices are merely ‘personal’ as opposed to being the sort of thing she ought to be taking into account before doling out cash to any fool group that shoves its head in the council’s door.

That was fun! I feel ever so chipper now. Chipper enough to make myself something to eat and then drag that wretched dog around some more. It’s like dragging a stalled SUV sometimes, I swear. But at least he’s not colourful.

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