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The pile of packaging which Christmas Day produces is something of an issue. In the afternoon I take the three year old down to the creek and he plays for an hour throwing sticks for the dog and heaving rocks into the water. Contentment. And I wonder about all that plastic stuff that Santa has brought.

I get the book, Post Capitalism for a present and begin to read. Paul Mason makes the obvious point that we don’t need a lot of the stuff that we’re persuaded to buy, and in that sense, the market is highly inefficient, particularly when you factor in climate change. With the modern computer and its ability to collect and analyze data, the command economy is now feasible, for people’s needs could be accessed on a weekly basis. The problem for the Soviets was always a committee trying to work out how many clothes pegs were required in the coming year. So, a return to the socialist model is now called for?

He can’t quite bear to go down that path, instead joins the chorus of Utopians who see information technology providing a way out of current dilemmas, via volunteerism, open source design, the creative commons etc. Wikipedia is the model. More and more products are simply information: music, videos and so on. And information can be shared without the profit motive dominating. Giant monopolies form in response (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple…), but these, and the state, can be bypassed through algorithmic devices such as bitcoin and blockchains, crowd funding and referenda. People can really be in charge, these prophets preach, and a new world can come into being.

Housing? Food? I’m of the wrong generation to swallow this. Usernames and passwords are sufficient stress. The screen is already over demanding of time.

The three year old has lost his special pillow slip and weeps loudly. I offer him another pillow slip but that increases the volume of distress. ‘What about a potato?’ I suggest, picking one out of the bag.

‘Are you crazy?’ says his seven year sister.

‘Irony,’ I say.

‘What’s that?’ She’s genuinely interested.

‘Mmmm. If I say the cat is very energetic…’ I point to the elderly ginger who sleeps twenty three hours a day, ‘that’s irony. Or…,’ I indicate the overcast sky which is beginning to drizzle, ‘it’s a beautiful summer day.’

‘‘But he’s lost his blanky,’ she says.

‘I lost my mother at his age.’

‘Eh?’

‘She disappeared.’

‘Where?’

‘Into hospital.’

‘Why?’

‘They thought she was mad.’

‘You still had a father?’

‘He ran away.’

‘So what did you do?’

‘Another family took me.’

‘Your mother never got out?’

‘She ran off and died in the hills.’

Her face has become thinner, her eyes narrow. ‘So, what’s the irony?’

‘Your brother’s lost his blanky, but his mother’s five metres away.’

She pouts and goes back to her leggo. Love is a problem. We need to refind the skill. That’s the worst thing about fascism. It kills the possibility of love.

Little donkey, little donkey, had a heavy day… Perhaps that’s what Christianity is about. Kindling the possibility of love. Making it more possible. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound… My adopted father, once his wife was dead, had a tea towel printed with the words of Amazing Grace pinned to the wall above the dining table.

On those dutiful visits to that small unit in a Napier suburb, I used to ponder them at length. As some sort of clue to whakapapa. I came to prefer the Pai Marire chant: Wairua pai marire, Wairua pai marire, Wairua pai marire, Rire rire- hau (a peaceful spirit and the breath of life).

 

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