Lol­lies or NZ’s fu­ture?

How­ever you feel, there’s mu­sic for ev­ery oc­ca­sion, writes David Slack.

Sunday Star-Times - - FOCUS / PEOPLE -

And so this is the elec­tion, and what have we done? If you didn’t get the re­sult you hoped for, mu­sic is there to lift your soul. If you did, mu­sic is there to make you feel even bet­ter. And if you’re sick to death of pol­i­tics but peo­ple are still go­ing on about it, well, maybe put on some mu­sic.

Beau­ti­ful won­der­ful, mu­sic: loud and glo­ri­ous in our head­phones, in our empty house, in our car, turned all the way up to 11.

‘‘Noise-can­celling’’ it says on the good head­phones, and what a prom­ise that is. What they mean is: su­perb sound. What I hear is: you can close the door on the world. Out there is Don­ald Trump. In here, I’m lis­ten­ing to Patty Grif­fin.

Turn it up to 11, who cares what it does to your hear­ing. I lost most of mine to power tools, or agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery, or the Ra­mones in the Win­ter Show build­ing in Welling­ton in 1980.

I’m not kid­ding. The whole way home I couldn’t hear the en­gine of my Yamaha. Never mind, how much more do I want to hear from Win­ston or Jonathan Cole­man any­way? Let’s put on Wil­lie Nel­son. Turn it all the way up.

Oh, but it’s been frac­tious: an­gry farm­ers in Mor­rinsville, gath­ered be­neath their cow god; an­gry peo­ple on Face­book telling each other they can’t tell their arse from their el­bow.

Mu­sic brings us to­gether. I have never felt in dan­ger when mu­sic has been play­ing. Not even at Sweet­wa­ters, drunk, and pick­ing an ar­gu­ment with some Black Power guys. Al­ways be thank­ful for your less­drunk friends.

Turn it up to 11, and come to­gether. In Nashville, my stet­son-wear­ing ad­man friend Brad – cre­ative direc­tor for the 1981 Think Big cam­paign – set me up on a blind date. I met her in a Mu­sic Row bar. The band said to her, ‘‘Hey Clau­dia, come sit in.’’ She took the mic, sang Crazy, more or less just to me, and I have been a Patsy Cline fan ever since.

Is it only go­ing to be coun­try mu­sic in this col­umn? More or less. If an elec­tion tells us any­thing it’s that you can’t al­ways get what you want.

How about Neil Young? Al­most ev­ery­body loves Neil Young. I say ‘‘al­most’’ be­cause a friend is com­ing for Sun­day brunch this morn­ing and I know she can’t stand him. She loves pol­i­tics though. We will talk ex­pan­sively about the re­sult, but here’s the truth of it: the will of the peo­ple re­mains in many ways un­know­able. We have the num­bers, but what ex­actly made them vote this way? Your guess as good as mine. This is what mu­sic can do. It can open your heart, it can warm you.

But al­most ev­ery­body loves Neil Young. Neil Young, and weed. I en­joyed him hugely at the Big Day Out, nicely baked, watch­ing spell­bound as he wound up the set with A Day In the Life. I said to my friend the next day: ‘‘Neil Young was so great. Did you see him?’’ He said: ‘‘I was stand­ing next to you.’’ Sad that de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion didn’t get more of a run in this elec­tion. Maybe next time.

Turn it up to 11, choose your favourite song. As the elec­tion be­gan, an old friend left this life. He had meant to pick the songs for us to play at his ser­vice but the can­cer came on too fiercely and the chance was gone, and it breaks your heart, but you also find the song that re­mem­bers who he was and what he loved. We played a Gil­lian Welch song and Greg said: ‘‘Adrian saw her play and fell in love with her. He was al­ways do­ing that.’’ This is what mu­sic can do. It can open your heart, it can warm you.

I have a fam­ily photo from a Christ­mas Day, Kar­ren and MaryMar­garet danc­ing to a Dido song, just full of joy and love. This is what warms and keeps me: mu­sic, and a care for one an­other. Per­haps it’s what we all want most.

Jacinda Ardern said that wher­ever she went on her thronged cam­paign, peo­ple clam­oured to talk about one thing: men­tal health, ev­ery sin­gle time. How’s life, New Zealand? Not all that great, for way too many peo­ple, is what they were telling her, not great at all.

What should I play now?

When I was a kid, there was an an­nual beach day at Waimarama Beach where a chop­per would fly low along the coast and drop lol­lies for the kids. There would be com­plete chaos as young­sters grabbed and pushed and shoved in pur­suit of sugar. Need­less to say, health and safety reg­u­la­tions have since put paid to that.

The elec­tion cam­paign felt a lot like that five min­utes of mad­ness, like each party was hov­er­ing over dif­fer­ent in­ter­est groups and fling­ing lol­lies out into the ether – the idea be­ing, if you be­lieve you’ll get a sugar hit by elect­ing them, you’ll vote for them.

Maybe you’re more al­tru­is­tic or com­mu­nity-minded than that, but most of us aren’t. Con­sider the find­ings of this study by The Op­por­tu­ni­ties Party.

It sur­veyed 1000 peo­ple, putting a se­ries of dif­fer­ent elec­toral sce­nar­ios to them, and stud­ied the 10,000 col­lec­tive choices made by the group to de­ter­mine what con­trib­utes to how peo­ple vote.

The find­ing: 39 per cent of our de­ci­sion is based on whether the pol­icy will ben­e­fit us per­son­ally, hence the ‘‘lolly scram­ble’’ TV re­porters love to talk about.

Thirty-one per cent of it is based on who is pro­mot­ing it and whether we like them or not – that is, if you don’t like the party, you’re un­likely to like their ideas.

Twenty-four per cent is based on who is pay­ing for it, or more cru­cially, whether you are pay­ing for it, or some­one you don’t like is hav­ing to pay for it. Ob­vi­ously, we pre­fer the sec­ond op­tion.

That leaves just 6 per cent of the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process based on whether the pol­icy is good for New Zealand as a whole. I de­spair a lit­tle at that num­ber, but I’m guilty of it, too.

On elec­tion night 2005, I was sit­ting with a bunch of farm­ers, watch­ing the re­sults come in on the telly in the po­lice bar in Christchur­ch, at the most bizarre wed­ding re­cep­tion I’ve ever been to. The poor cou­ple must have set their date be­fore the elec­tion date was an­nounced.

I was en­joy­ing the free booze – I’d just fin­ished study­ing and Aunty He­len was of­fer­ing to make my stu­dent loan in­ter­est-free. The re­sults swung late in the game: Labour’s gam­ble had worked. That in­censed the farm­ers, who be­lieved it un­fair for their taxes to be spent help­ing me up­skill. See the dy­namic at work? I voted for what I’d get, they voted on what it might cost them.

If votes could not be bought, Na­tional would not have sud­denly ‘‘found’’ the money to ex­tend paid parental leave to 22 weeks, hav­ing pre­vi­ously ve­toed the bill on the ba­sis it cost too much.

Labour would not have brought for­ward the in­tro­duc­tion of its free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion if it wasn’t an op­por­tu­nity to get the votes of stu­dents who would love to pay less.

Win­ston, well, let’s just say his prom­ises topped the Tax­pay­ers’ Union’s Bribe-o-Me­ter. So, who did you vote for yes­ter­day, huh? Not ‘‘which colour of the po­lit­i­cal rain­bow did you give your two ticks to’’ but, did you vote for the lol­lies, or for what’s best for the coun­try? If votes could not be bought, Na­tional would not have sud­denly 'found' the money to ex­tend paid parental leave to 22 weeks.

Happy days: David Slack’s Christ­mas photo of Kar­ren and Mary-Mar­garet.

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