Sunday, April 08, 2007

An anecdote of a jar (or two)

You might have noticed that Harvest Bird and I have been indulging in a Wallace Stevens poetry jam, lobbing back and forth lines and poems written by the Vice President of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. The most recent contribution by Harvest Bird was Six Significant Landscapes, which ends:
Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses --
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon --
Rationalists would wear sombreros.
Strangely enough, the story I promised to tell you in my last but one post - about how the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) served me a Trespass Order - begins with a Rationalist in a sombrero.

Said Rationalist was Mr Malcolm English, Barrister, Solicitor and member of the NZARH Council. He was wearing a sombrero because he was (a) at a Mexican-themed party and (b) pissed out of his brain. I was also at the party, which was held at a large house in Brighton Road, Auckland. Mr English and I exchanged some words. His were "fuck off" and mine were a little more considered. This, you see, was my first meeting with Mr English or any other member of the Council since the Council had expelled me from the NZARH at the Annual General Meeting in June of last year. We had our differences.

At this point, I am sure you want to know why I was expelled from the NZARH. I will explain that in later posts, for reasons of brevity. I am afraid this narrative must proceed backwards over several episodes. I am sure we are all sufficiently post-modernist round here to deal with that.

I didn't waste much time talking to Mr English, because I preferred to talk to a very nice Goth girl about 19th Century English novels (a classical education sometimes has its benefits). However, two of my friends took over the onerous task and gave him rather a hard time about the Council's actions towards me. I last saw him staring into nothingness, wearing an inane grin and the sombrero.

I thought nothing more of the matter. However, it seems Mr English did, as you shall read. I was surprised he remembered it at all. He and I used to be best buddies and go out drinking most weekends. He invariably got very drunk and forgot most of what happened. On one memorable occasion (for me, at least) he phoned me from a hospital to ask me whether I had been out with him the night before; I hadn't but he been drinking socially and had sustained an injury while under the influence, waking up the next morning in a hospital bed with no memory of the night's events. On another night, I was making the acquaintance of a new friend at Murphy's Irish Bar, when a barman asked me to remove Mr English, who was slumped in a corner and vomiting over himself. After the Brighton Road party, Mr English at least remembered he had met me.

Some time after the party, Princes Street Labour booked the Rationalist House meeting room (which is rectangular but has a floor and ceiling to look at) for a fund-raising evening to support the locked-out workers of Progressive Enterprises, on 16th September. I am a member of Princes Street Labour, as the NZARH Council know. In fact, one of the organisers was asked by Judith de Leeuwe, the NZARH Office Manager, whether I would be attending.

The day before the event, I received a phone call from Ms de Leeuwe. She told me that the NZARH Council would be obtaining a Trespass Order to prevent me entering Rationalist House. The reason for this was that Mr English had told the Council that I had threatened to cause damage to Rationalist House when I met him at the Brighton Road party. This is untrue; I said no such thing. Mr English either imagined my supposed remarks or invented them.

As it happened, I received no trespass order. The event proceeded and raised over $200 for the workers. Rationalist House stands to this day.

On the Tuesday after the event, I was relaxing at home in Absurdist House when I was interrupted by a knock on the door. There, skulking in the shadows was Mr David Ross, then NZARH Treasurer (whom I once named Igor, for his tireless efforts doing Dr Bill Cooke's dirty work). He handed me a Trespass Order, which prevents me from entering Rationalist House for two years, on pain of a fine not exceeding $1000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. I was a little alarmed that they had managed to find me, since I had not told them my new address and had no wish to have the Council know where I live.

The trouble with a Trespass Order is that there is no appeal against it: although the Council did not think it an urgent matter and although my two friends witnessed the conversation in which I did not make the threat against the building that formed the grounds for the Order, there is nothing I can do about it.

The Trespass Order was dated the previous Thursday, but obviously the NZARH Council did not think that Rationalist House was in such peril that it had to be served before the event. Nor had any member of the Council thought it necessary to go to Rationalist House during the event to ensure that I was not damaging the property. Obviously they did not think I posed any clear and present danger to Rationalist House, so why did they go to the trouble of serving me this order?

The NZARH Council moves in mysterious ways, their wonders to perform, but let me tell you why I think they did it. The NZARH Constitution says that any member who is expelled from the Association has the right to appeal to the next General Meeting of the Association and will be re-admitted to the NZARH if two-thirds of the members at the meeting agree. The Council carefully timed my expulsion to occur at the Annual General Meeting on Sunday 25th June 2006. This meant that I could not appeal to that AGM and would have to wait until the next one, in June this year. The Trespass Order means that, if I go to the AGM this year or next, the Council could have me removed from the building by the Police and I would face a hefty fine or a prison sentence.

And why, you might ask, are the NZARH Council so determined to stop me appealing to the membership? Because I have a few things to tell the membership that the Council do not want them to hear. Since I cannot tell the membership, I will tell you.

Watch this space.

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