Editorial: Chasing Rainbows?
Right up against the deadline for getting this issue off to the printers, and aware that I had yet to write an editorial, I scrambled around among some old files to see if I could unearth something appropriately nostalgic to repair to for this, the thirtieth edition of The Free Radical. I found heaps. Damn, I reminded myself Deborah has already covered the nostalgia angle. But the more I delved, the more I realised I could do my own retrospective piece without duplicating hers. The thoughts-to-myself on which the magazine eventually proceeded, for example, are worth reproducing exactly as I wrote them, warts and all, about five years ago:
"Thoughts for new newsletter ... perhaps called The Free Radical, with a Declaration of Principles that would identify the underlying premises on which the magazine is based. Would include such ideas as: TFR recognises that conflict of our time is between individualism and collectivism, capitalism and statism, egoism (properly defined) and altruism, reason and unreason. That in New Zealand we have, albeit inadvertently for the most part, made some progress towards the better half of these dichotomies, and if we now make the process advertent, we might achieve the Second Renaissance right here; but to do this requires philosophy and philosophical education, and a repudiation of everything New Zealanders have taken as axiomatic for generations. That this magazine exists to facilitate that process. That while not authorised to speak in her name, the newsletter is based on the ideas of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. Would include commentaries on current questions, broader philosophical articles and regular miscellaneous features such as a horror file, a hope file, a comic strip ... thus a hypothetical first issue might include a piece on the philosophy of pragmatism and how Winston Peters is its current best and most contemptible embodiment; a lengthy and literate denunciation of the latest victory won by the Femi-Nazis, i.e. the banning of the TV ad for a certain firm's clothing sale; and a treatise on the evils of inflation and how the real answer is privatisation of money. The horror and hope files could draw on any number of things from the daily newspapers, and the comic strip likewise ... illustrating some moral, of course. Regular particular themes would be such things as: the evil of coercive bi-culturalism; the aesthetic bankruptcy of our age; the urgent need for privatisation of the education system; the stupidity and cowardice of businessmen sanctioning their own destroyers; the difference between freedom and democracy and how the latter is fundamentally inimical to the former; envy as the leitmotif of our time; how the latter-day alliance between the churches and the forces of socialism is long overdue and entirely appropriate; the brainless troglodytism of the environmental movement; etc, etc. More fundamentally, it would uphold the values of reason, individualism and freedom in all their manifestations."
These thoughts were typed. Underneath was a hand-written note from me to a friend, to whom I was about to fax them, saying: "Clearing away the mess on my desk, came across these thoughts I put down a few months ago & haven't done anything about. What do you think? Too radical, eh?!"
Too radical or not, the project was dusted down and activated during my self-imposed exile to Wanganui from the comfort zone of mainstream broadcasting. Visiting what he called the "cramped little hole" from which I was now producing this "smallish bugle of liberty," Anthony Hubbard reported for The Listener: "Perigo's tone is sweet and reasonable, his slogans electrifying. Taxation is theft. The welfare state is economic cannibalism. Democracy is institutionalised gangsterism. MMP is the silliest form of democracy ... Perigo is patient as well as intellectually passionate. He will keep talking till the walls come tumbling down. The manner is cool and Olympian; beneath is Vulcan's fire. Just occasionally the flames erupt." (In this last respect at least, little has changed.)
After the official launch of the FreeRad in June, 1994, Redmer Yska wrote in City Voice: "Signs of millennium fever were apparent on Monday night at the launch of Lindsay Perigo's new ultra-libertarian crusade at Turnbull House: the desire for rejuvenation and purification in the face of a crumbling epoch. If the hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping towards the climax of our century couldn't be heard over the traffic noise in Bowen Street, the world-weary crowd of about 60 seemed ready for something fresh and uplifting to believe in." (Redmer's wit was superior to his ability to count the crowd numbered about 200.)
Much was made of the smallness of the first issue (just half the size of this one) and its alleged "elitism." Peter Malcouronne in Craccum opined: "Lindsay Perigo had better hope that size doesn't really matter because his new organ, The Free Radical, is not exactly impressive (a bulky sixteen pages!) And it is even less so when we consider it costs eight dollars, or roughly three times as much as New Idea. On the other hand, the price is likely to be beyond the reach of solo mothers, the unemployed, dumb people and other scum who, let's be honest, don't really deserve to live anyway. Social Darwinism aside, Lindsay Perigo's self-proclaimed position as the sole repository of intelligence [??] on this planet has always been questionable." Jane Clayton in the Dominion seemed to understand and like it better: "Most of the first issue is devoted to outlining why government should butt out of the lives of New Zealanders and is sprinkled with such nifty quotes as 'bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies' from Honore de Balzac." The Employers Federation newsletter called it a "provocative little magazine that should add to better thinking about issues. For instance in a review by Perigo of Roger Douglas' Unfinished Business, he rightly identifies the fact that Douglas would impose another set of bureaucratic rules over us to prescribe how we should behave and give us prescriptive rules to save us from ourselves. Good luck with your mission, Lindsay, but the way the West has organised itself for centuries may see you chasing rainbows."
Chasing rainbows? Maybe. But have I brought to life the vision in the above thoughts-to-myself? Certainly. Am I doing so more effectively now than in Issue #1? With the help of my wonderful writers, certainly. Are we making a difference? In isolation, perhaps not discernibly, yet. But we are no longer in isolation. There are Objectivist groups on campus for the first time ever. There is a libertarian political party. University student magazines are running columns by me and a new discovery, Bernard Darnton. And of course, there is the Politically Incorrect Show. The Free Radical, I venture to suspect, has had a hand in all of these developments.
And if you asked me, are we in toto making a difference, I would reply: ask me another!
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