I ran into Jim this morning. It must be over a year since I have seen him. He asked me what I was doing these days. I told him that I was writing a book about how we need to be in control of our own lives in order to be truly happy. But Jim wasn’t particularly interested in my book. He was more interested in giving me gratuitous advice on how to become a successful blogger.
Some readers might remember Jim as a cranky old fool who asks awkward questions and urges me to take up unpopular causes on my blog. I can refer to him as a cranky old fool now because he told me that he stopped reading my blog a few months ago. ‘It’s too boring’, he says. ‘Why don’t you blog about contemporary events like the royal wedding instead of carrying on with all that philosophical stuff?’
I told Jim that today I was proposing to write about something that has a great deal of contemporary relevance - the US Peace Index (USPI) that was released a few weeks ago by an organisation called Vision of Humanity. I explained that this index compares the peacefulness of each of the states in the US. It defines peace as the absence of violence and ranks the states using a range of indicators including homicide rates, violent crimes, percentage of the population in jail, number of police officers and availability of small arms.
Jim said: ‘Well, that might be interesting to people in America, but I don’t see how that is of interest to anyone in Australia - unless perhaps they are thinking taking their family to Disneyland’. He added: ‘I wouldn’t go for a holiday in America myself, even though it has become cheaper over the last few months. The place is too violent for me’.
I tried to explain that the USPI showed that there were large differences between the peacefulness of different states in the US and that the most peaceful states in the north-east of the US are actually as peaceful as Canada and some of the European countries. The words Jim used in his response are not printable here. Let me just say that he used some forceful words to suggest that nothing I could say would alter the fact that by comparison with other developed countries the US has an appalling record in terms of homicide rates and incarceration rates.
It was obviously time for a change of subject, so I asked Jim what he thought I should be writing about the royal wedding. Jim said: ‘Well, you should be underlining the significance of the occasion. It isn’t every day that the future king of Australia is married’.
I told Jim there was no way I was going to write that sort of nonsense. I told him that in my view the concept of an hereditary head of state was indefensible in any case. Sometimes we strike it lucky, as in the case of Queen Elizabeth, but the chances of fate giving us a really good head of state must be fairly remote - even allowing for the possibility that we might be selecting from a superior gene pool and that there could be some advantage in training people for the job from birth. Then I suggested that it was just laughable that an independent country like Australia should still have the monarch of another country as its head of state.
I had expected that Jim was going to respond to the effect that ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. I was geared up to give some reasons why the system is broken and does need fixing to ensure that we continue to have a head of state who is respected by the Australian people.
Well, Jim didn’t respond as I had expected. He just said: ‘So I guess you won’t be watching the wedding on TV then will you?’
I just mumbled and walked off. The truth is that I will be watching the wedding on TV. This is closest I can get to observing a medieval pageant complete with a golden coach and an Archbishop wearing a funny hat. You don’t have to be a monarchist to enjoy a spectacle like this. By the way, I am glad that Will and Kate are getting married!