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           Home >  Culture  > Wizard  :

Logic, Love and Levity - Part II
- The Wizard Of New Zealand - 19/6/97

“The Postmodern Prophet arrives in Christchurch.”

Editorial Support
In the second week in December first "The Star" and then "The Press" wrote editorials praising the Wizard and his impact on the city. In "Magic the city needs", "The Star" editorialist concluded;
"It takes a rare brand of personality, imagination and intuition to make the impression that the Wizard has made in such a short time. Few would be as capable. Some who would haunt the Square would simply be a nuisance. Not the Wizard. A hex on those who speak against him."

In "Nonsense at noon", "The Press" had this to say,
"The new Christchurch City Council will be off to a bad start if it persists in its intention to conjure out of Cathedral Square the city's self appointed Wizard. Hundreds of Christchurch people have had cause to grateful to the Wizard in the last three months; his lunchtime antics appear to have offended no-one and to have added laughter to the attractions of the redesigned Square.

The council's opposition appears to be directed not at the Wizard or at the ancient craft he represents, but at the precedent he sets. If he is allowed to continue, others with less amiable intentions will follow. Some have already appeared; the line between the harmless fun provided by the Wizard and the less attractive spells cast by political and religious cranks in the pursuit of converts is difficult to define by regulation, although the difference is clear enough to those who listen. Without adequate control of public speaking Cathedral Square might quickly become an intolerable place.

The City Council should not find it impossible to devise a way to allow the Wizard his place in sun, while continuing to treat with caution other applications to make speeches in Cathedral Square. A licensed Wizard, whose license was reviewed at frequent intervals to take account of his performance and the public's response, would be a rare adornment for a city. If other wizards attempted to intrude, a public contest to decide which offered the strongest brand of the magic of laughter would soon decide the issue." This excellent editorial, demonstrating a remarkable balance between logic, love and levity, was completely ignored by the City Council who seemed to lack all three. The consequences were as "The Press" feared.

Newton Dodge Breaks The Eighth Commandment
The whole city was arguing about the Wizard. The papers were full of letters and every pub was debating the issue.

Cr Newton Dodge was far from happy. A days after the above editorials appeared he was quoted in "the Press" as saying that he had complaints about abusive and insulting language from the Wizard.

"I went down to the Square on several days to check up, and took tape recordings of this man," he said. "I personally challenge anyone who considers the Wizard is fun and entertaining," said Cr Dodge. "If these people consider swearing and abusive language is fun, they need their heads read".

Cr Dodge said he could not repeat the language used. He strenuously denied that his personal view of the Wizard's incantations (he was the leader of a fundamentalist christian youth movement) had anything to do with the decisions of the council's health and general sub-committee not to bend the by-laws.

Cr Dodge went on to say, "He is offensive, and has even asked in writing to be appointed the Prophet of Christchurch, be paid a salary and be given board and lodging."

Fortunately the Prophet's application to the council had been in writing, and copies had been given to the newspapers and radio stations. Cr Dodge's slander could easily be shown to be smear tactics of a desperate man (witch hunting?).

To maintain his purity and freedom from the demands of Mammon the Prophet had taken great care to avoid being on anyone's payroll for several years. He pointed out in return, that Cr Dodge was himself a hypocritical politician on the city payroll and a business man who had surrended to the claims of Mammon years ago whilst paying lip service to God.

On arrival in Christchurch the Prophet offered his services to the council free and had simply sought their assistance in finding board and lodging, as he was a stranger in a strange land. Since he had no job and could not accept welfare without betraying his calling, he was only asking for some friendly help. Fat chance!

The Prophet was quoted in "The Press" as saying; "I could take Cr Dodge to court and I am certain I would win my case. However as I am a prophet and not a politician I will leave it to God to punish Cr Dodge for breaking the Eighth Commandment so blatantly. May God have mercy on his soul."

It was well known that the Prophet, unlike most other people with connections with the University, rarely uses bad language and never obscene language. Anyone who has any acquaintance with the Bible will know that prophets regularly used strong language when confronted with hypocrisy or decadence.

He suspected that the "foul language" which so shocked Cr Dodge, and which he was too sensitive to reveal, was his particular use of the word "bullshit".

The next day outside the Cathedral the Wizard cast a spell to reduce the size of Cr Dodge's head. He inflated a balloon with Newton Dodge's face painted on it and after a lengthy tirade pricked the balloon.

City Council Debates Wizardry
This was the front page headline in the very conservative morning newspaper on December 17th. There is not space here to reproduce the amazing and stupid debate that was reported. The high light was Newton Dodge's repeated assertion, in his usual Pecksniffian manner, that his head had not grown any smaller, he had measured it!.

The upshot was that The Wizard could stay in the Square until February when the matter would be reviewed. Since there was no way they could prevent him from speaking on Cathedral land which adjoined the Square this was no great concession. He suspected that the Anglian authorities would not go out of their way to please Cr Dodge who made no secret of his dislike of orthodox religion. The Prophet was inspired to write a short poem for "the Press"

Jesus loves you Newton D Even though you are a B B is for Baptist, but not for me For I 'm the Prophet of the C of E

One or two of the city councillors were as amazed as the Prophet at the stupid behaviour of most of the city elected leaders and took action. David Caygill, later Deputy Prime Minister and a lawyer by profession, actually organised an independent petition supporting the Wizard to counter Newton Dodge's technique of collecting children's signatures opposing the Wizard from the Youth for Christ group which he headed.

The Wizard Meets His Match
Among the many signatures collected by Cr Caygill was one from the Rev Ian MacDonald, a Baptist minister, but he could not be traced. Newton Dodge strenuously denied there was any such person, another storm was brewing. "The Star" finally traced him and these were his comments on their front page story,

" I cheerfully confess to having added my signature to the many hundreds of others on the petition. However, since I had no part in organising the petition I am totally mystified by my sudden elevation to the position of spokesman for the petitioners. Perhaps this is another of the Wizard's dastardly tricks. I am now in the hilarious position of being an embarrassment to all concerned. I am an embarrassment to the Wizard, who has lightened my lunch hours with his whimsical nonsense, in that he expects me to oppose his activities from my standpoint as a conservative evangelical minister, a species which he loves to poke fun at. And I suspect that I am an even greater embarrassment to my fellow Baptist , Newton Dodge, whose own convictions on this matter I respect but do not happen to share.

It is not that I agree with the Wizard's preposterous theories but I do defend his freedom to entertain us."

Another example of the right balance of logic, love and levity came from the Rev Ivor Bailey's column in The Star. He likened the City Council meeting which discussed the "Wizard problem" to an episode of the classic BBC radio comedy The Goon Show.

He also found it ironic that the same fanatical evangelists who took great risks trying to bring their form of Christianity to Communist states, where freedom of speech and freedom of belief were banned, would be so incredibly keen to practice banning the same things in their own country.

The Prophet's Mother Arrives
All this time the Prophet had been sending his 71 year old mother in England copies of the newspaper coverage of his struggles with Church and State.

She was rather bored with her life in a small town in East Anglia and there and then decided to sell her house and join her son in New Zealand. During the years remaining to her she had the time of her life. She was feted wherever she went as "The Wizard's Mum". Everyone wanted to know what sort of child he had been. She had to confess that he wasn't much different. He was just a lot smarter now.

"Wizard's Mum Sawn In Half" was another memorable headline in the newspapers, when she volunteered to be sawn in half in Cathedral Square by a local magician.

Early in 1975 the first busker appeared in Cathedral Square and began to sing, accompanying himself on the guitar (a plague today, in those days it was most refreshing). Newton Dodge said he must apply for a license to perform in the Square and the busker left for greener pastures.

Green- Marxist- Feminist On The Attack
Dr Helen Hervey, a very serious environmentalist and left-wing radical of mature years now came into the picture. Responding to the City Council's requests for submissions for the use of the Square, she proposed filling the Square full of entertainers and stalls but subject to strict council guidelines displayed on a board in the Square.

These would be needed because of "the persistent activities of an individual who arrived from overseas a few months ago and who had since flouted the guidelines with impunity." No one person or group would have the right to entertain the people at the popular lunch time period. The new by-laws would enable "infringements to be dealt with".

The Wizard recognised that this was a much cleverer way to get rid of him than the techniques employed by Newton Dodge. He informed the press that Helen Hervey had secretly fallen in love with him and was trying to fight it. "There are lots of old ladies who like me and take money to the council to give to me. I think Dr Hervey should join them."

He welcomed competition and reminded them that the previous week he moved his ladder to another part of the Square to make way for a brass band. "Is it my fault than more people were listening to me than to the band?" he asked.

Council Surrender, Speakers' Corner Set Up
The sub-committee, set up to report to Council on the best use of Cathedral Square, were in favour of a livelier Square, and even recommended a "speakers corner" by the steps leading down to the Square, where the Prophet had been holding forth.

On Monday the 17th of February 1975 the Christchurch City Council Meeting endorsed their proposal. The Prophet's Holy War was over as far as being allowed to speak was concerned.

Wizard Casts Horoscope
Before this meeting the Prophet, in his other capacity as a wizard, had taken the trouble to engage the services of an astrologer to cast a horoscope for the time of the meeting. This was a minute by minute prediction and a copy was given to the Town Clerk for the Council's guidance. A calm meeting was forecast, and thus it was. There was no repetition of the Goon Show-like earlier Council meeting.

An Arts Festival was started with some of the more popular events held on a stage in Cathedral Square with the Wizard as compere.

At last things were beginning to look up. Maybe now the City Council would consider his proposals to be their official prophet, cosmologer and living work of art. This did not prove so easy.

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE WIZARD'S FORTHCOMING AUTOBIOGRAPHY BEING PUBLISHED BY CANTERBURY UNIVERSITY PRESS NEXT YEAR


Other examples of post-modern wizardry can be found on the Wizard's Home Page.




 
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