Whenever he saw that look on my face, he would say, “Just call me a pome-git.”
We had become the sort of friends you seldom meet in life, that understood each other better than most people could ever hope to and some of the discussions are still unforgettable.
A little over 5 years has past since his funeral but it’s longer since Jim Bagnall was able to keep up his enthusiastic pace and the continuing passion for ‘Project Union’; a subsidiary that had grown out of the Union of Fathers organisation.
He had a passion for life, for doing something, and possibly moreso because he cared rather than because he was a casualty of the system.
In the end though, and he won’t mind me saying this, he ended up a somewhat lone icon and an isolated voice working by himself, and exactly what any system could hope for.
A conscientious objector losing their significance and easily forgotten.
I think what brought the memories flooding back was the death this week of one of New Zealand’s best comedians, David McPhail, another of the country’s unique and wonderful personalities, one I also admired and respected for his social contribution, but I have no idea what promoted that particular life-choice.
Jim’s culture shock, had come in a different way … a child sitting in bomb shelters in London during the blitz, watching grown-ups panicking and crying in fear and distress … in emerging afterwards to see the latest damage … to find the bodies of those who hadn’t made it to a bomb shelter. Most often strangers, he told me, but sometimes a local he knew from the perspective of a child, in a much less transient world and one of more stable community.
Jim had an understanding of how a blitz could affect people, how the family court and associated legislation and the surrounding system could have a similar affect during peacetime. He saw the same trauma that he had so often seen in the bomb shelters, and that had become part of his childhood that he couldn’t leave behind and part of his entire life.
Also part of the reason why he became an anthropologist, why his methodology was often unusual and different.
Why his approach was sometimes misunderstood and why he designed much of what he did at a child-like level.
Trying to get his message across. It wasn’t always appreciated in that form … he could be a bit of a comedian and was a master of the, dad-joke, and sometimes forgot the formality that we prefer in organised meetings to create an inclusive rather than exclusive atmosphere.
In a modern liberal, secular, society being any form of influential success is a difficulty few overcome. It’s far easier to be either of the extremes and do nothing or climb to the top of the shit-pile.
The only way to not attract criticism is to do nothing, and be nothing. It is otherwise convenient to be some form of different and be little more than entertaining. To be different, though and give ‘different’ a significant meaning, that’s hard work, and it requires both dedication and consistency and boring applications like research and understanding.
In this same world we’re less inclined to build monuments to service and worthy contributions. This modern world is more inclined to destroy that past and the competition would-be progressives find so hard to match.
There is no easy way to be great or even good that doesn’t start with hard work and discipline and we sometimes don’t see that, when all we remember is the spectacle these people produce, and perhaps not even what we took from the occasion at the time because we were too much the audience and not enough the student.
It’s not so easy for men to grow the next generation today, without many of the male organisations that have been systematically destroyed for being dangerously sexist rather than arbours of talent management.
So, it’s become much harder to be contributors even to our own child’s destiny when the state wants to be everything men shouldn’t be allowed to be.
I’m happy to say both these men left their mark on me. I gratefully took what I could, more so from Jim, because of our friendship.
I wouldn’t change that because I learned so much from the man, that I wouldn’t have if we hadn’t met and I’m becoming increasingly aware of how we’re losing this form of social cohesion.