We're taking a bit of a breather while the world rearranges its underpants. Meanwhile, the other blog is here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The humanity of the native peoples

Had lunch with Ken Barmy (he was en route to somewhere or other and stopped for a butty and a cup of tea). We shared impressions of our colonial cousins: he's just back from a fortnight's worth of what he calls "taking the magic of rain to the dought-ridden prairie." One of the things that impressed us both is that even small towns have good-sized libraries and that even if the book stock is often weak there's nearly some reader development activity or computer literacy programme going on.

"I look at what they're doing with what they've got and I think to myself: 'we should be able to do better than that, we've got much more resources than them.' But we don't," he says.

"I wonder why we don't," I muse.

"I think it's a cultural thing. It's dead easy to be cynical, and I am, but if your constitution says that you've got a God-given right to the pursuit of happiness it probably pre-disposes you to thinking that things can be done, whereas we're constantly having to fight the mindset that says that nothing can be done unless you provide five proofs of evidence and a watertight answer to the response that 'ah yes, but they don't have the problems we have...'

"Doesn't matter how good your people are, and we've got some good 'uns (don't tell them I said that, mind, they'd only worry), if that's the prevailing culture you're setting them up to fail."

By gum, I think he may be right. Or else the sun has gotten to us both.


Gadjo Dilo said...

Ken does have his lucid side then. Running libraries must be a strange business; I'd like to think that you keep the ridiculous books on your shelves that only one person ever reads in 50 years, 'cos it'll be that person that ends up winning the Nobel Prize and making your town (unjustifiably) famous.

Lavinia said...

I'm afraid you both might have 'gone bush'.

Kevin Musgrove said...

gd: there's always a fine balance to be made between 'popular' titles and titles you think you should hold because how else would people have free access to them. Stock management's a relatively easy art in public libraries, though compared to people management and time management, which our manager consistently muck up so that disaffected and undervalued staff have to do a job four or five times until its finished because their managers can't be bothered with planning and preparation.

Ken does have his lucid moments but he's been working in libraries a long time so they're increasingly infrequent.

Lavinia: I have a horror of ever going native in my working environment, so I'll take that as a compliment!