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.