Thursday, May 27, 2010

Present and Past

It surprised me that in the rosy glow in which Bill English seemed to be existing after the Budget he cast the idea of privatising, (albeit partially) Kiwibank. Why disturb sleeping dogs. It fitted my conspiracy theory. National will go to the electorate saying ‘ look we’ve no horns’ before moving down the privatisation path in its second term. The recent Labour government followed the same course in its first term except its policies went in the reverse direction.

My gut reaction is one of disappointment. The idea of Kiwibank appeals. It helps keep the foreign-owned banks honest. In the onslaught of another recession the government has a weapon to help regulate the industry. English talks about ‘mums and dads’ buying into Kiwibank. On that basis years ago I bought shares in Bank of New Zealand when it was privatised. My little bit to help New Zealand. The result. I was forced to sell. At a loss. I was at the mercy of global forces. If offers are made for the little mums and dads's shares can the government stop the loss to overseas interests. There is a time and a place for a Churchillian nationalistic rumble.

The other surprising news this morning is that Capital health stopped elective surgery for a week. They had met quotas. Admittedly I don’t know the full story. Staff can accumulate leave, which can be a book liability. But it seems to me folly to have operating theatres lying idle and staff willing to work on enforced leave.

It is with relief that I turn to my reading, Christopher Hibbert’s account of the Borgias, for a while the leading family in Rome. Tom has lent me his copy to read. Hibbert’s a prolific historian, well over thirty books. I’ve read ten and possess four, London, Mussolini, the American Revolution and Nelson. Earlier this year I read his Venice.

He can be described as a pot-boiler – a once-over lightly. But he’s more than that – he’s a good story teller, able to condense complex material and issues into explainable text. So I’m enjoying his Borgias. The very name conjures up images of corruption, nepotism, vice and greed. Pre-Reformation Rome was not a pleasant place. Even for those at the top it was a constant power struggle, bribery, marriage and murder.

The central figure is Cardinal Rodrico Borgia, nephew to Pope Calixtus 111. He served under five popes before bribing his way into the position himself becoming Pope Alexander VI in 1492. He died in 1503. He fathered many children, the two most infamous being Cesare a soldier of adventure and Lucrezia a woman seeking adventure. These three left a legend of notoriety. Hibbert’s account leaves me with a sense that despite all their follies the politicians under whom I live are clean and well-meaning, not corrupt and base. Not for the first time I say I’m lucky in my period and in my place. No wonder Martin Luther rose up in revolt.

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