Jim Wilson’s Blog, 5 March 2015
It has been a long time since I have written a blog but make no bones about it, I have had plenty to say all along the way.
I am in Thailand as I write this. I am taking a break from the pressure of running a small business (approximately fifty or sixty employees) in New Zealand. To make matters worse, that business centres around the Arts. New Zealand is a small country and once someone ‘makes it’ they hardly ever get to live in the equivalent of Tammy Wynette’s mansion. This is because we just don’t have the population base to support a high standard of living for many of our best creators. In fact, the risk of success in New Zealand is that you may become a household name and get your dole cut off. This doesn’t deter everyone and many people are growing beards and getting tattoos to groom themselves for stardom as we speak. There are endless ‘selfies’ on Facebook in dubious poses and still there are many disappointed people about the place. There are some very fine artists who have gotten thoroughly used to the idea that success is where you sell 50 copies of your vinyl album to your mates. These mates love them and love is the best fuel I know of. I applaud people who take this route and I like people who are able to live on love.
Yet in New Zealand we have untold government subsidies available for hacks to make a living by rehashing the past or by releasing bland and pustular shit, but it’s always a case of being ‘in the know’. If you know someone who knows someone, then there’s a small chance you will get a grant and many people live year in and year out from this source. There are various awards for them and this makes it all makes the ghastly appear seemly.
In my country life for many is to try and follow a bureaucratic process which can be extremely painful. If you can’t navigate that process then you are in the shit and you may be endlessly dismayed and saddened by life itself. But once you have successfully navigated the system just once, you may get to join in with a whole lot of often bland people whose one saving grace may be that they never upset each other. It is like giving a Heroin addict Methadone to keep them quiet and there is money for shit if you know the right people. The best artists I know are never on television and they scarcely ever get grants and subsidies and I am grateful for that. They struggle over every single word and this shows and it is equally beautiful and vulnerable. You know that it is true and it is not ‘manufactured’.
Don’t think that I am unhappy with all this because I am not. Since I was sixteen I have cut my own track and it possibly happened earlier as the result of a great fear of becoming dependent. I am happy in the conviction that Kiwis produce some of the very best literature and music in the world and I have been witness to a lot of it. I have plenty of satisfying memories and they tend to sustain me. Many is the time I have driven over the Kilmog with my mates in a rusted out van in order to play some ratty old gig in Dunedin. Or I’ve stood on the door of the Hotel Ashburton and dealt with 30 drunk farm boys. It’s all beer and skittles until the glass jugs start flying around the room, but that was fun in a way as well. That too was real.
I have seen a lot of powerful statements made in my time through the arts.
On these excursions in the vans, my mates and I would start laughing in Christchurch and we might have ended up in Rattray Street, Dunedin six or eight hours later. The Standard Vanguard van (or Bedford) would break down multiple times and yet we’d arrive at Eddie Chin’s club with someone’s pantyhose being used as a fan belt replacement. They always belonged to the drummer and we always arrived just fifteen minutes before the band was due on stage. Eddie would pay us in what he called ‘cigarette money’ and this did us the world of good. He was a very kind man.
Yes, I have a huge reservoir of good memories and it’s just as well because some of my very best mates couldn’t get liver replacements in time and they got buried along with their Fenders. They were usually unknowns and rank outsiders, all of them. Yes, they were that good. No one ever picked them up when they were poor and starving and they didn’t ask for it either.
Thailand, like many places in the world, is experiencing some sort of boom right now and the economy seems to be taking a shot at the moon. No one can govern this country and so the military must do that job on behalf of the monarchy. At least this cuts down on the politicians usurping each other and nothing good being achieved as a result.
Here you can go into almost any doctor’s surgery and buy a used kidney for about $3 USD and if your body rejects it, then the doctor will give you $6 back in cash money. A new liver is about $5 and you can play these things like an accordion. I am kidding of course, but you get the picture.
Koh Samui (where I am currently) is full of Russian holidaymakers. They are one of the major tourist groups here. The locals tell me they are all as mean as cat’s piss and they don’t give anything away for nothing because everybody has to pay.
The men all seem to have tattoos of Vladimir Putin on their forearms and they universally appear to be about fifty-five – sixty-five years old. They have greying crewcuts atop heads that seem to be about 25 inches wide. Their necks are bigger than the Clutha River and they obviously have more volume as they are continuously throwing back alcohol. There are various gold chains around the necks and their eyes are a piercing psychopathic blue. Their stomachs are large, red and swollen and their scrotums are barely covered by a pair of striped ‘speedos’. Whilst they disgust me, one must always have manners around them. They were the first to make it out of Putin’s new Russia and as such they are greedy and dangerous. The Russian currency has dropped in value by more than half recently and these guys are playing for keeps. They don’t talk, they grunt and it’s like talking to a tree to try and converse with them. I guess Putin purchased their loyalty.
The Russian women, on the other hand, have also had a little too much Borscht and Vodka. They are usually vastly overweight as well and yet they insist on wearing flowery bikinis. They often have wiry blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. It’s difficult for me to imagine a kind word ever going backwards and forwards between them and their husbands – they just don’t seem to have the shape of jaw for any good sentiments. They wear gold earrings and have multiple large rings on each hand. Then there is usually a series of bracelets that go all the way up to their armpits.
You might call these people Vladimir and Olga and they are a stereotype, but whereas it is all synthetic it is also visibly real in a killing kind of way.
No doubt these Russians have close ties to the Yakuza as well because making money these days seems to be related to a political gang of one order or another. It is not what you know, it is who you know. In this sense, Russia is much like China, Japan, France or Italy. Come to think about it there are also many parallels to New Zealand where money revolves around cows, banking, accountancy, and the sale of amphetamines and houses. Then the more you can pay for a lawyer, the better you will do financially in life. If you know a politician then you are set up for a good game. Promise your loyalty away and you will live a prosperous life and the insurance companies will always cover you.
I saw a Russian couple chastise their child this morning at breakfast. The father dragged the little boy of approximately three years of age across the floor whilst he was kicking and screaming. I think he had spilled some orange juice and I felt sure they were conditioning him so he could join Spetnaz at some stage in the future. We’ve all watched these television shows where a Marine sergeant abuses his troops in order to turn them into better soldiers with a higher kill count and I feel these parents were getting in some early conditioning. They say it’s love and so it must be.
The parents were treating the little boy like human rubbish and I feel that he may grow up to treat others the same. I am convinced this is how it all happens. Money is God and expediency seems to be the key in the nurturing or otherwise of the child. Society will pay the bill and it will be rendered time and again. Apparently it costs the US Government $810 million US dollars to buy a B-2 bomber and then $135,000 USD to keep it in the air for an hour. This according to a recent article in ‘The Atlantic’ (a good source).
The ‘culture’ of any country has a tremendous effect on how children grow up and what that country becomes as a result. What any child needs is to be able to express himself or herself in an environment that rewards him or her for what they are doing when it comes from the heart and is genuinely good. Encouragement in the right direction does a lot more than chastisement and brutality. Nurturing is true Gold.
I am very fond of the arts because I think if you encourage and nurture people in that direction and give them plenty of love and bring forward the health in them then I figure that things will eventually get better. There may be some poets flying B-2s, but none that I know of. Most poets I know earn nothing.
It’s been clichéd to all hell and back but I do think love and genuineness are the very best armaments we can ever produce.
I’m going down the beach.
Keep the Faith,