Not a lot of people understand why I set such store by Ayn Rand's description, via her character Steven Mallory, of the "drooling beast" that "prowl[s] through mankind." I set such store by it because it's accurate:
Listen, what's the most horrible experience you can imagine? To me—it's being left, unarmed, in a sealed cell with a drooling beast of prey or a maniac who's had some disease that's eaten his brain out. You'd have nothing then but your voice—your voice and your thought. You'd scream to that creature why it should not touch you, you'd have the most eloquent words, the unanswerable words, you'd become the vessel of the absolute truth. And you'd see living eyes watching you and you'd know that the thing can't hear you, that it can't be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it's breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own. That's horror. Well, that's what's hanging over the world, prowling somewhere through mankind, that same thing, something closed, mindless, utterly wanton, but something with an aim and a cunning of its own.
As appendages of the drooling beast, many people do not recognise themselves.
Others regard the very concept as hyperbolic, or even paranoid and delusional.
Lately, stuff.co.nz has been asking the drooling beast how to fix the economy. An appendage labelled Dave Mollard submitted an article entitled, "Keep Pruning those Tall Poppies." It said little about the economy, but argued for the general efficacy of New Zealanders' infamous capacity for pulling down the high achievers in their midst:
New Zealanders have a knack of not letting others rise up from the crowd. We are quick to find fault in a person and enjoy seeing the high and mighty fall from their lofty perches.
When ex-millionaire Terry Serepisos had to sell his cars to pay the bills, we smiled, when MP Shane Jones was busted watching porn at the taxpayers' expense he got a great serve, when Sonny Bill Williams left the All blacks, we complained of his lack of loyalty.
Many social commentators and many "tall poppies" complain about the "Tall Poppy Syndrome" (TPS), saying it's holding New Zealanders back from achieving excellence.
I actually think the TPS can be a good thing. I reckon the reason New Zealand has been ranked among the least corrupt countries for a long time is because we won't let people get "too big for their boots".
"Closed, mindless [can't even use the comma properly], utterly wanton, but with an aim and a cunning of its own."
Note the package-dealing here: the unconscionable cackling that goes on when entrepreneur Serepisos, developer of several iconic sites in Wellington and saviour of New Zealand Football, goes bankrupt; the impertinent, envy-infested outrage that dregs ejaculate when Sonny Bill Williams exercises his right to do with his life as he pleases; these are equated with, and placed in the same moral category as, legitimate contempt for a sub-dreg (politician) who watches porn on the taxpayer dime. It's important for the drooling beast, qua parasite, to obliterate the distinction between preying and producing, between its own kind and productive humans.
This protuberance goes on:
We demand that our police are honest, and if they are not they usually get caught.
We jealously go over all our politicians' expense accounts, trying to sniff out any rort of the system.
We expect our sportsmen and women to be clean of drugs and to act as role models.
If you're a convicted criminal it doesn't matter if you are a plumber or former world heavy-weight boxing champ, we won't let you visit New Zealand.
It doesn't matter if you have the world's most powerful navy, if you have nuclear weapons, you're not welcome.
We have the right to express our opinion about anyone, and as long as they are truthful, we need not fear the law.
I'm currently living in India, a country with a terrible reputation for corruption. The politicians, police and civil servants, the people who should be serving the people, are actually only serving themselves while filling their pockets.
Some Indian cricket players earn 1000 times more that the average wage. The gap between the 10 per cent at the top, the 40 per cent in the middle and then the 50 per cent at the bottom is wider than the Ganges River in flood. Despite this, instead of saying "no" to these Tall Poppies, many Indians strive to be one.
I don't advocate a "whinging culture" where we constantly complain about the police, the politicians the sport stars and the red tape.
But I do say we should constantly demand our leaders remember that in New Zealand, nobody is above getting their bloom pruned.
Again, note the package-dealing, where the justified shaming of corrupt politicians, police and civil servants is deemed to be on a par with dissing cricketers for their deservedly high salaries or holding a rational position on nuclear-powered warships.
Since he's in India, I'm surprised Mollard isn't advocating the restoration of the Hindu caste system. That had a pretty good knack for not letting anyone rise up from the crowd!
The drooling beast is real, and Tall Poppy Syndrome is its excrement.