Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Theory of Justice

Guest Ranting Bastard writes:

Mr Neil Falloon reminisces...

I do not rub shoulders with the rich and famous and powerful. I am no Russell Brown, or David W Young. I work a modest job; I am still excited enough when I see a celebrity like Aja Rock or Damien Christie.

Yet Kerre Woodham, who is afforded a full page column in the Herald on Sunday to disseminate her wit and wisdom, was formerly a colleague in the international community of scholars. And, also, in paper POLITICS 320: Distributive Justice at Auckland University in 2002. They were salad days for Kerre and me – we were in the prime of our lives, aged an average of 31 years. We were old enough to know the rules, and young enough to play the game - respectively. We drank deep from the cup of knowledge.

This was a dense paper, full of complex ideas and summarised texts from John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. Issues traversed included the leveling off argument (can we not object to “equality” as a goal since it involves making the strong weak?); a detailed examination of utilitarian thought, and musings on the rights and responsibilities of man.

“Wouldn’t it be better if people could just keep their own money, and everybody took care of themselves and their own families?” Kerre demanded one day in class.

“Well,” our lecturer, the dashing and prodigious Martin Wilkinson explained, “that’s a reasonable response, and you could pursue that kind of distribution by voting for the Act Party, for example.”

“Act?” Kerre hissed, “I’d never vote for anyone so right wing!”

“But what you have described is the Act party’s position on social spending – you don’t pay tax, and you provide for your own healthcare and education and welfare.”

It dawned on Kerre that he was right. Entering the halls of academia, she probably never considered she was beginning a Heart of Darkness-like journey, to a truth almost too horrible to bear. That there, in tutorial room HSB-508, cut loose from the comforting lies of society and civilisation and talkback radio, Kerre Woodham had invented libertarianism.

A hush filled the room. Kerre had not been this quiet since a classmate walked into the room with a copy of the New Zealand Herald proclaiming on its front cover that 1ZB’s prime-time slot had lost a third of its audience in the year since Woodham took over. What would she do with this discovery, this monster she had constructed from the parts of dead philosophers and short-loan photocopied readings? Was talkback radio about to take a sudden turn for the right? Now that the blinkers had fallen from Kerre’s eyes, would her diminishing but still significant audience follow on her damned path?

“Oh, ummm, well, never mind,” she said, her voice trailing off.

My heart broke.


Mellie said...

What a fantastic memory to have. I had the pleasure of being in MW's classes during my time at varsity as well...

Richard said...


Hmmmm. I shared an honours History course with Kerre. Don't remember her saying anything out of the ordinary though. She did get very high marks, however. Louise Wallace was in one of my undergrad English papers, but that little snippet of information is as detailed as it gets.