In his brilliant Intellectuals – From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, Paul Johnson highlights the hypocrisy of what became many of our most highly influential, left-wing theorists, showing the difference between their personal advocacies and the rotten fruit of their legacy. Yet we have arguably fallen into a trap by misnaming as ‘elites’ those prominent in our well-entrenched, left-wing establishments who are basically self-regarding functionaries of the long-sustained Marxist attack on all our important institutions.
So successfully white-anting our democracies, they are in reality far from élite – a term long reserved for individuals revered as deservedly the best and most distinguished in any particular field. So why are we not calling them what they are? Such as indoctrinated, over-bearing hierarchies; bureaucratic mandarins or well-meaning, politicised ideologues? The most pernicious of these theorists uncritically embrace the nonsense of the quite mad French existentialists, long eschewing actual realities in favour of fantasising – even to the extent of promoting the ultimate delusions of individuals claiming to be other than how they were born, male or female.
The legacy of those persuading themselves they belong to our upper echelons has poisoned the well for so many – given that convictions of superior thinking have historically energised individuals into achieving leadership, and attracting followers. Why grant them the intellectual stature of misnaming them, even the well-intentioned – as the elites? Particularly when they are so successfully wielding the weapon of cultural Marxism, communism in drag, with its devastating attacks on the most important, stabilising institutions of our democracies.
Years ago, living in the old Oamaru-stone house built in the early twentieth century for a country doctor in Kurow on the edge of the MacKenzie country footing the Southern Alps, we inherited a magical old orchard originally planted by a pioneer woman doctor. An overgrown Eden, it contained long-forgotten trees including greengages, peaches, apricots, strange black-red apples, a quince, and a medlar – so little known at the time that only five others were listed as seen in old New Zealand gardens. Others had been found surviving still in woodland in Kent.
Our then home had an interesting history, with Dr Gervan McMillan settling there in 1929. Hard-working and generous to his patients, he also became the medical officer for the Waitangi Hydro Medical Association’s establishment of a health insurance scheme for workers in harsh conditions nearby, constructing the dam on the Waitaki river. Increasingly active in politics, and believing in the practical application of the teachings of Christianity, he developed his ideas for a free, universal and comprehensive national health service. Many leading figures in the Labour party stayed with him in Kurow, including Presbyterian minister Arnold Nordmeyer, later to join him in politics and become infamous for his legendary ‘black budget’.
Part of the living room of the doctor’s house now included what had been a small bedroom where the Australian-born Michael Savage had slept, when visiting. Heading the first Labour government from the 1935 election, Savage won support for its economic recovery policies and social welfare programmes. Regarded as the architect of the New Zealand welfare state, he became one of New Zealand’s most revered prime ministers with reportedly 50,000 mourners filing past his casket after his early death. It was while his eventual successor, Peter Fraser, was Minister of Health in that first Labour government that Dr McMillan was appointed chairman of the Parliamentary National Health Insurance Investigation Committee.
This produced a blueprint of the details for a National Health Service, a basis for the 1938 Security Act, which, however, was not supported by many doctors. By coincidence, when we later moved to Nelson, my husband inherited the practice of the well-respected Dr Oliver, son-in-law of the Scottish-born Dr James Jamieson. Formerly Medical Superintendent and resident surgeon at Nelson Hospital and a fellow of the College of Surgeons of Australasia, Jamieson became McMillan’s strongest opponent in voicing disquiet about the new social welfare system. He presciently warned that government-funded doctors would become ‘helots of the State’, with his leadership critical in defeating the proposal to make it illegal for doctors to charge patients.
The unforeseen consequences of so many well-intentioned advocacies are there in today’s culture of dependency, the constant clamour for more and more social welfarism about which the renowned Maori leader, Dr Apirana Ngata, also warned in relation to Maori – particularly given the New Zealand welfare system’s poor focus on employment.
Despite good intentions never being enough, why is that they are so often imposed upon a country? For some reason I recall the then strange tree planted 100 years ago in that old doctors’ orchard – so intriguing that it later became the focus of one of my trilogy of books for young readers, beginning with Night of the Medlar, which virtually wrote itself.
The gnarled, bent old medlar with its beautiful white rosaceous flower was reportedly bought back to England by knights from the Crusades. The Greeks and Romans knew it well. I recalled that in ‘The Leopard’, Guiseppe di Lampedusa mentions princesses of Sicily eating its fruit. Thought to date back over three millennia, it may well have been known to the Abyssinians and Babylonians.
Crucially, its large brown fruit is eaten only when it is bletted. At the time I asked my doctor brother whom we had followed into the old doctors’ house what it actually tasted like. His answer was rotten fruit… adding that, in evolutionary terms, it was the precursor of both the pear and apple tree. Legend had it to be the original tree of the Garden of Eden.
One gets gradually drawn to the flavour of the medlar. But what are we in our Western democracies to make of the fact that we have arguably inherited our own rotten fruit in the form of a kind of cultural collapse, an intellectual and social decadence, given that the old immorality is now praised as the new morality?
Crucially, what of the consequences when what we see all around us is that this is now the dominant, but poisonous philosophy promoted to our young?