The Glutton Seagulls. Thoughts on a Friday Afternoon in March.



LISTENING TO RADIO LIVE, to this bloke’s telling Willie Jackson what he’d do to the Aussies awaiting execution in Indonesia.

“I’d kill ‘em. Yeah, just shoot ‘em. No problem with that at all.”

And I’m thinking, what the hell has happened to us. When did we turn into this sort of country?

Because it’s everywhere. This viciousness. This absence of all civility. This lack of love. What James K. Baxter called “the crushed herb of grief at another’s pain”.

God! Just imagine what our right-wing shock-jocks would make of James K. if he suddenly reappeared to point his prophetic finger at the greasy excrescences that have somehow floated to the top of “God’s own country”.

Hell, Baxter was an angry man in the 1960s and 70s. The 60s and 70s! When kids could go to Varsity for free. When a young couple could buy their first house at 25 with a 3 percent State Advances loan. When fewer than 5,000 people were unemployed.

In his poem, Crossing Cook Strait Baxter has “Seddon and Savage, the socialist father” raging:

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I walked forth gladly to find the angry poor
Who are my nation; discovered instead
The glutton seagulls squabbling over crusts
And policies made and broken behind locked doors.

The glutton seagulls, oh yes, they’re still with us. Still squabbling over crusts. They’ve grown obscenely fat over the intervening years. Too fat now to fly. But just you watch them strutting around their enormous piles of crusts. Running furiously at anyone who comes close. Screeching insults. Their angry voices drowning out the songs of the gentle. The warnings of the wise. Eleanor Catton. Nicky Hager.

“Kill ‘em all! I’ve got no problem with that.”

I was at Radio Live on Election Night as the seagulls racked up yet another win for gluttony. Saw the Seagull-in-Chief on the TV monitor, his vast wings outstretched in a bilious benediction. How the flock screeched. And why not? Their crusts would were safe for “Three more years! Three more years!”

Sean Plunkett, wearing the sort of grin more usually found on the face of a wolf who’s finally caught up with his exhausted quarry, asked me how I was feeling.

All I could think of was James K Baxter’s lines from Pig Island Letters:

The man who talks to the masters of Pig Island
About the love they dread
Plaits ropes of sand, yet I was born among them
And will lie on day with their dead.

I rode home in a taxi as the skies unleashed sweeping showers of Spring rain across Auckland.

Like tears, I thought. Like tears.


  1. I’ve become enlightened about politics over the last couple of years after not caring about politics for much of my life. I was probably sitting in the centre-right spectrum mostly due to my upbringing in a well off family. Nowadays I’ve discovered I’m living in a surreal world though. People standing up for the good – privacy, civil rights, the poor, the populace’s wellbeing and the environment are put on the fringes of society, depicted as nutters and hurled abuse. They usually have evidence and facts on their side, the other side only seems to have money (that subjugates most of the other good values mentioned above), “culture” and the masses on theirs.

    I thought you could change the world if you had an idea that was for the good of everyone in your neighbourhood, your town, your city and your country. But it seems you will just be marginalised for doing so. This culture and those directing its course are a destroyer of children’s dreams and a destroyer of their future too.

  2. Well, I am not surprised about the cold-heartedness and mean spiritedness that abounds, also not that surprised about a shocking phenomenon such like “Jihadi John”.

    The world has changed, human society has changed, and population growth combined with ruthless economic and financial policies has resulted in a world where tension is high, where people are divided, where people look at dividing and separating themselves from others, and where mistrust and lack of empathy are becoming the norm.

    Over 7 or 8 billion people live on the planet now, yeah, a “huge market” the economists and business people would claim, and few realise the limitations we have, not only with finite resources.

    New Zealand has so far been spared the worst, but also here division, tension and selfishness have become the “new normal”, which has been bred into us, through decades of neoliberal ideological indoctrination.

    It is me, me first, and stuff the rest, if they cannot help themselves. I see it everyday. Otherwise technology has a lot to answer for, with every second person I see having their eyes glued onto whatever screen on a device, be this a smart phone, i-phone, tablet or proper laptop computer. Everything is getting digitised and with that very, very impersonal. Do you notice, few out in public ever talk with each other now.

    Our forebears did not get exposed to the massive amount of visual and audable sensations we get exposed to, via these communication devices, and also via television and radio. Endless messages to get our attention, endless commercial advertising, and the news now show the “new normal” horror of szenes preceding physical beheadings, mass executions and also deaths through plagues like ebola. All this is served at dinner time, kids hear and see it, and it is the “new normal” for all of us.

    So we get desensitivised, we get less sensitive, as our senses shut off, given overloading with stressful messages, that the brain cannot process. Add the competition and resulting pressures at work, through job search, study and daily lives, including more demanding relationships and kids expecting to have what other kids have, and people turn into operating units, robots and in some extreme cases hate and killing machines.

    I am sure the massive information we get via the internet is also part of the reason. Who does nowadays relax and focus on their meal when they eat, as many have their mobile phones and so within reach, waiting for the next call or message, never able or willing to switch off.

    So hate is one result of it, lack of empathy the other, and distrust and selfishness other results, all because people are switching into survival mode, trying to keep up with it all, that puts pressure on us.

    I know few people that really enjoy life as it was in older days, imagine even there being no TV, and no smartphones, and to simply be with yourself or others directly around you. Where do we still find this? Some live in eternal solitude, spending their non work activities in front of the computer, and that is their only “communication”.

    The world is no longer a nice place to live in, in NZ it is still not too bad, and some find ways to escape for a while, but Auckland Council want a 2.5 million city for economic and other reasons, and government wants to increase population and economic and business activity, to keep up with the rest of the world, that is already largely screwed up. Will they ever get it, that they simply turn this country into the same mess as most of the world is in?

  3. We are now being controlled by outside forces through our Leader who is a plant as well.

    A bit like the last days of Rome?

    “The Roman Empire not only expanded, but was modified by the conquered people. The structure of the Roman government changed to deal with new situations. Emperors moved the capital away from the city of Rome, not just setting up an eastern capital in Nicomedia and then Constantinople, but also moving the seat of western government from Rome to Milan. They also developed an impressive civil bureaucracy, but such changes were not enough.”

  4. I read a comment not to long ago, which sums this blog up nicely – ‘it’s the tone’ (attitude) of the government that filters down into its citizens.
    At the moment it’s a particularly nasty tone.

  5. It should come as no surprise as to the calibre of people that work for, or phone into, Radio Live .
    They have been grooming the public to accept propaganda over fact since its inception and it is very cynical and evil the way it goes about it.
    From Michael Laws cultivating the word ‘feral’ into their vernacular as a description of the down trodden and less fortunate, to the faux Leftwinger in Willie Jackson who clearly doesn’t give a fuck about ‘his’ people and is more concerned with his ego and his big pay packet I suspect by the way he backs National and rubbishes anything Labour or Green.
    Then there’s Sean and Dunks’ .
    Sean the coward who takes cheap pot shots at anyone who has the temerity to criticise Key or any or part of the neo-liberal agenda.
    This is the same guy who cuts off anyone who dares to debate an opposing opinion.
    Dunks is like the Womans Day of journalism. All hyperbole , scandal and weak opinion.
    Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds, but secretly , like Jackson , a neoliberal because for them and them only , that’s where the big money is.
    Ask the tax payer . They had to stump up $43 million to keep them and the neo- liberal propaganda machine afloat!
    Soulless cynicism is de rigour for this lot and so therefore is the attitude of the majority of their listeners!!

  6. Aye , Laird Trotter, … din ye not recall thine fine lande was ne’er put throughe th’ fire as twas the olde lande?

    And howe can th’ fine folke knowe what tis to suff’r under the yoke when they’ve ne’er burdened it of theym selve’s?

    Nay harden’d throughe battle, nor chasten’d by foe….yea growne fat of th’ lande and its bounty’s.

    Ne’er knowne th’ art of th’ claidheamh – mor , or th’ axe of Lochaber , …twas not theym who knew th’ pain o’ th’ moth’rs at Falkirk , those faire and finest who fell that houre….

    But then came th’ Bruce, that rallied th’ loyale and splinter’d his axe on th’ helm of the craven …..rais’d up th’ standarde and march’d t’wards Bannock burns brydge.

    Spurr’d f’wards bye valoure , thoyse men of th’ Bruce put to fliyhte they’r kinsmens opryssr’s

    Ande th’ pryce of that freedyme twas not paide forre bye slothe or bye av’rice nor cravenyss nor greede.

    But fore Bruce ande thyse host twas paide fore by heroicale deed granting succoure ande goodly favoure t’wards kith ande theyre kin.

    Ne’r onyce dyd theye faltyr in true ayme of theyre blowes , theye dyd it fore freedyme to make theyre lande free , free of th’ powyrs of another Kings lande.

    Aye Laird Trotter…you’ll ne’er rid th’ mailaise of cowardleyness in th’ lande’ bye the preseynce of corrupt ande deceitfyl Kinges or Qweeyns, – tis theym that the peopyle followe.

    Caste ye theym oute! , ande cast ye theym downe !, – ande ye will have peayce ande goode will ande propyr ordere amongst th’ assem’bly once morre.

  7. I’d kill ‘em. Yeah, just shoot ‘em. No problem with that at all… Fuckin’ neo libels.

  8. You know what is also rather sad, that seagulls are actually endangered. I live on the Otago Peninsula and hundreds of seagulls used to fly in formation troops overhead all in one direction then later the other. Not now it is a very dwindled population. I would rather be watching and painting seagulls than listening to the selfish me me media giggling because they are so high on house prices total tossers from Auckland generally. They are corny dull stereotypes of superficial money chasers, and I wish they would all fuck off, they bore me to tears.

  9. That’s a very raw and heartfelt article. As a longstanding leftie I too was gutted by Labour’s defeat at last years election but I console myself with some salient facts. The first of these facts is that John Keys government has stayed on the center line on most things and even strayed over to the left at times. There have been some obvious backroom shenanigans – Lord of the Rings, SkyCity and a reversal in employment law generally but overall this is a moderate government.
    Fact number two is that John Keys government does not behave like a right-wing government,- Health, Education and Welfare spending have all increased. Working For Families – a most blatant piece socialist wealth redistribution – untouched and unmentioned by the National government. His embracing of the Maori Party and a recognition of Maori concerns. Even the assets sales program was softened by being partial. John Key is popular because he knows Kiwis are socialists at heart and he has tempered his own and his governments policies accordingly.
    So while we may despair that the Labour Party did not win the election I think we only need to remind ourselves of the legacy of socialism in NZ – an excellent public health system, good quality schools and social welfare – to feel proud and uplifted. All of these public services do amazing work everyday for all Kiwis. The services are free to all and paid for by progressive taxation.
    That’s what Kiwis voted for when they voted for National and those of us on the left should take comfort in how far National have moved to the left in order to stay in government.

    • Peter, I’m not going to spend much time in dissecting your rah-rah cheerleading for National except to address a couple of points…

      Health, Education and Welfare spending have all increased.

      No, they have shifted money around. For example, the price of prescriptions increased from $3 to $5 – a considerable sum for low income families. Especially where damp housing is creating all sorts of health problems.

      I think we only need to remind ourselves of the legacy of socialism in NZ – an excellent public health system, good quality schools and social welfare … The services are free to all and paid for by progressive taxation.

      Again, not true.

      Aside from prescriptions going up, secondary school education is no longer “free”. One report stated that parents were no having to paying directly for a shortfall in education funding to the tune of $1 billion over the last four years (see: ).

      Social welfare is much harder to obtain, with more bureaucratic paperwork, hurdles, and “work ready obligations”.

      Now, the Tories are set to sell off several thousand state houses, while our waiting lists and homelessness is increasing.

      So whilst the Nats haven’t cut state services, they have engaged in covert increases in user-pays and quietly wound back services.

      It’s called privatisation by stealth. And they are very good at it.

      • I wasn’t so much cheer-leading for National as looking outside of party politics to acknowledge that many of the socialist policies enacted by the first Labour government of 1935 remain with us today in some form or other. This is despite the neo-liberal Labour Party of 1984 and subsequent slash and burn governments up until Helen Clark who steadied the social and economic upheaval that came before her. In many ways John Key has continued in much the same way as Clark with “steady as she goes economic changes” and significant levels of government spending.
        The long term agenda of many in the National Party is lower government spending and more privatization but it is unlikely to be an overall vote winner. Added to this is there is likely to be a cyclical shift back to the left politically and economically over the next few elections. Anyway all I wanted to do was cheer Chris up after a very bleak article. Sometimes we should remind ourselves of what we have now thank’s to what has been achieved by NZ’s left.

  10. Ahh , the tyranny of the Masses . The dreaded hoi polloi . Best to tip toe through them lest they stir !

    ‘ Idiocracy ‘ The movie .

    I sometimes wonder if this Earth is not in fact Hell . And the artists and lovers , thinkers and creators are sent here ( ? ) to pay up . To pay the price for their adventurous spirits before they’re allowed to move on through the Great Door . I reckon that when good people go through the shit that lesser beings chuck at them , they in turn become better people . And the lesser , lesser still .

    Might I suggest a holiday @ Chris Trotter ? I’m not being trite . I’m being serious . Go to where there are human beings in abundance . Try northern India , or lovely little Bali , just avoid Kuta . A hotel in Pemuteran ?
    There’re several French cafes on the beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia . Some have rooms to rent … ? Just sayin’ .

    Don’t listen to talk back radio . You will become depressed . Listening to the opinions of morons can have only one result I’m afraid .

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