Friday, November 5, 2010


I have often wondered - in private thought and on the record - where and why our committee culture began. When did we deliver ourselves up to agenda and issues and going forward and setting the date for the next meeting. When did meeting become a substitute for doing and the minutes of the last meeting replace reflective thought?
Thumbing through the opening paragraphs of D'Arcy Cresswell's Present Without Leave published by Cassell in 1939, but serialized in the Christchurch Press three years before, there it was - the answer.

"Their chief industry is farming, which they pursue with attention, and send their produce so far, a great many are needed to deal with shipping, accounting, land-dealing and money matters to handle so vast an outpouring of goods. From this necessity their cities arose, which are mainly governed by clerks, who so throve on this trade they soon had the whole country under their control, and administered everything, and multiplied every office, until now nothing and no one is free from their interference. There is no other land in the World, it is said, so burdened and plagued, nor clerks and officials so overbear ing and saucy."

Beautifully put. This book is well worth another read and a great ponder. Cresswell's writing so upset his fellow citizens, that when he came to sail away to English exile, the waterside workers at Lyttelton refused to load his bags on the boat and he had to carry them aboard himself. I suppose they had a meeting about it. I would have thought they would be glad to see him go.

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