Brexit and Trident – Putting the Great back into Great Britain?

The Editor,  The Listener,  Private Bag 92512,  Wellesley St.

Auckland 1141

27 April, 2017

Dear Editor,

Brexit seems to be creating the current politics of Great Britain with the surprize announcement of an early election, revealing an authoritarian tendency which must have been lurking just beneath the surface. Read the rest of this entry »


Continuing response to Brian Easton


Yes psychology is involved, but your reference to a response being ‘unlocked’ is a good observation which should be a catalyst to look more broadly than psychology.  To understand the Trump, Brexit, etc phenomina requires a sociological look.  Individuals need to be understood in a sociological sense as well as a psychological sense.  This type of effect should be expected to be more prominant in times of fundamental change and fast change which we are in today.

I recently saw an academic role I’ve never heard of which may be useful for looking at this sociological, or cultural, angle:   sociocutural anthropologist

What do you think?

Response to Robert Borosage of (USA)

‘Perverse populism’ is a good term. But what is different today is that the necessary response to climate change (for sustainability, survivability) requires more fundamental change than progressive populism. The whole ‘consumer man’ culture (exploitation), in which right wing populism and progressive populism are both imbedded, is indicted. The election of Trump, Brexit, the mafia type in the Phillipines, the rise of xenophobic parties in Europe, etc., are intuitive responses from the terror of fundamental change. Naomi Klein in “This Changes Everything” tries to put a soft face on it but the ‘populist’ response today is, for now, of a nature that people will want to preserve any bit of consumer man they can grasp for as long as it lasts (probably not very long) and the centuries (millenially?) long devotion to exploitation as the cultural norm is seeing them accept more inequality.
Richard Keller

Read the rest of this entry »

The Coal is dead – Long live The Coal

Brassed Off, the stage play

“The Coal is dead – Long live the Coal”

Script by Paul Allen – based on the movie screenplay by Mark Herman

Maggie Thatcher had one thing right in 1980 – coal is dead. When coal is burned the planet is heating up threateningly to an uncertain degree.  But what she had in mind as an alternative was oil – a different fossil fuel.  She was willing to destroy an industry with a history of strong union worker representation in favour of an energy source with an aggressive colonial history in the Middle East and other places; it was not about finding sustainable energy alternatives.

Brassed Off is a story of one coal mining town at that time, ‘Grimly’, in Yorkshire, England: coal country. This town, like many coal towns, has a brass band.  Apparently 19th century industrialization combined with improvements in the design and production of brass instruments served to move collieries to sponsor brass bands as a community activity.  ‘Grimly’ is based on actual mining town ‘Grimethorpe’ whose band was, and still is, perennially a contender for the British national championship brass band.

The Tory government intends to shut down the Grimly mine, even though it is profitable, and is going through the motions of a decision making process when they have already made up their collective mind. Locals differ on whether the government process is real or a PR exercise.  An attractive young woman, Gloria, returns to Grimly with a tertiary qualification and a job with the mining company to evaluate the viability of the mine.  (And she brings her flugelhorn, too, being the granddaughter of a famous local miner and bandsman.)  Many locals are struggling financially and may be tempted by the company’s redundancy offer despite their desire to support the union in their traditional work community (“The workers / United / Will never be defeated”).

The Grimly band is a good one. The director, Danny, is determined to carry them through the regional contest to the London national championships, but the pressures of the mine closure are taking their toll.  My favourite case is the one of the director’s son, Phil.  With a wife and four kids they are struggling to make it on a miner’s wage.  But Phil blows the family money and the repo men come to take away the telly, the tape player, the cabinet, and the kitchen table.  And even the baby carriage.  But Phil hasn’t blown it on booze, drugs, or sex; he’s blown it on a better trombone to use at the Brass Band Championships.  His wife Sandra feels no choice but to take the kids and move in with her mother.  Then Danny has a pulmonary attack and is in hospital.  Then Phil tries to hang himself (after poetically describing how God ran out of hearts and brains to go with all the bodies available, so created the Tory party without).

While many band members have recommended dis-band-ing if the mine closes, and the miner vote does decide to take the money, Danny’s and Phil’s troubles bring the band together to do their best at the contest. They win the regional.  They win the national.

Being a band show, the script calls for brass band music to be played. The Wellington production had a six piece brass band playing live back stage.  Other productions no doubt have had larger bands, but there is barely room for six at the Gryphon Theatre.  To have a live band lends more presence to the story on stage.  I loved it and the audience was very appreciative.

The band highlight is the scene where the band collects outside Danny’s hospital room to play the nostalgic “Danny Boy”, or “Irish Tune from County Derry”. The music director had made a fine attempt to adapt Percy Grainger’s classic dense harmonies, portraying a rich mix of emotions, to the five brass at his disposal.  Throughout the show the band played sections of Floral Dance, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (“Orange Juice”), March of the Cobblers, Colonel Bogey, William Tell Overture, and Land of Hope and Glory, and maybe others.

Danny is unable to conduct the band at the national contest, but the band having won the championship, he comes centre stage to give his speech – not an acceptance speech, but a refusal speech, having been moved to realize that the music in not the most important, but rather the solidarity of the people. He passionately rails at the Tory government’s destruction of communities and people’s lives, even bursting out at those who protest about whales but not about people and communities.  (Of course, the band accepts the trophy after all.)

The final spoken lines of the play are curious, here in 2016 twenty years after the original movie production and 30 years after the Thatcher years. Danny wants the band to play ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ but a band member reminds him it is the anthem of the Tory Party.  Danny replies “we’ll have to reclaim it for ourselves”.  That is a Brexit line well ahead of its time.


Analysis after shows by Repertory Theatre production at Gryphon Theatre, Wellington, October, 2016 (19-29). Apologies for no review of individual performances production.

Richard Keller

Education for a future requires the Humanities and the Arts

The Editor, The Dominion Post,  Wellington

19 September, 2016

Dear Editor:

The article on the future of work as examined in the DomPost of 3 Sept (Life in the Machine Age) does at the end express that the reality of the coming “Age” is not primarily about machines after all, as Grant Robertson explains, “It’s collaboration, creativity, dealing with complex problems and understanding ethical dimensions”. Read the rest of this entry »

Response to “From the Hood : The Second Time as Farce” on Scoop

It seems surreal, the politics of today. Trump, Brexit, Key, “four lanes to the airport”. Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit related to Exploitation Ideology

The Editor,  The Wellingtonian,  Wellington

1 July, 2016

Dear Editor:

Immigrants are known not to cause loss of social services, jobs, etc. according to some studies. However that may be, the complaints of the Brexit camp in the UK about immigration are not fundamentally about the loss of social services, jobs, etc.  Read the rest of this entry »