A generation of fools – Ted’s advice as recorded by his son, John Clarke

I’m not too well so thought I would just repost an article from the superb site of Mr John Clarke.

Fatherly advice

Mr Clarke (writer and genius) is, along with the extraordinary cartoonist Michael Leunig, one of a minutiae of people left with a voice in today’s Australian media who basically points out that we are a generation of fools in a world/country that is being run by grade A arse-holes.
He further shows that rather than do something to redress this we are mostly just sitting back and fretting about when the next iPhone might be out.
This beautiful article about Mr Clarke snr talking to Mr Clarke jnr, shows where the young man came to learn of the state of the world & should be on the new national curriculum (oh but that’s designed to further reinforce the economic power base and status quo to the young and gormless and to make them realize they will be tested on this understanding until they get it right and Australia is the most genius country on Earth according to the OECD –

but that’s a whole other rant …)


File as: articles

The following is the text of a lecture given to John Clarke by his father Ted between 1948 and 2008.

The lecturer and his audience, 1951.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Polonius said that. Shakespeare. Excellent advice. You young people; I hope you never have to go through what we went through. With any luck you’ll be OK, you’ll get some opportunities and you’ll be able to grab them when they come along. We couldn’t. I didn’t even finish school. I had to leave. There was a world-wide depression. The stock market crashed. It was terrible. No-one had ever seen anything like it. We had to leave school and get a job. My parents didn’t have any money. We didn’t starve but it was pretty tough. I was working at fifteen. I was lucky to get a job. You were lucky to get a job in those days. I had to leave school and get a job. I’d like to have gone on to university but it wasn’t an option. Economics. I wanted to do economics.

Anyway so there I was working. I was a manager at 19, different branches of the company, all over the country, then bigger branches and then when I was 25 the war started and I got sent to the middle east for four and half years. It wasn’t exactly my idea. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want anything to do with it. But you didn’t have much choice. Anyway there we were, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia and then up through Italy. Sand everywhere. Battles all the time. We were artillery. Unbelievable noise. You can’t hear yourself think. I’ll never forget some of those battles. You wondered how anyone could survive. The Germans didn’t seem to like us very much. They got particularly annoyed with me a couple of times. I don’t know why. I hadn’t done anything. They tried to kill me. Repeatedly. Repeated attempts to skittle Ted Clarke. It wasn’t much fun. I’d rather have been playing tennis.

After the war we bought the house and had you monsters and I’ll tell you something. The worst thing you can do is get into debt. It’s a terrible thing to owe someone money. Never do it. They’re making money out of you the whole time and if you can’t pay, they’ll take everything you’ve got. That’s how it works. If you don’t owe anyone anything, you can hop into the cot at night and sleep the sleep of the just. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it happen. In the depression. People had nothing. They lost everything. People were out on the road. Living out on the road. Literally. I had to leave school and go to work. I was lucky to get a job.

Look at all this credit these days. Lending people money to buy things they don’t need. They don’t need these things. Do you think people need a radio with buttons rather than knobs? What’s the matter with knobs? Perfectly good knobs. You don’t need buttons. Does Mrs Wheelbarrow need a new cake-mixer every five minutes? What’s the matter with the old one? Nothing. And why are they lending Mr and Mrs Wheelbarrow the money? Because they’re charging them interest. They’re making money. That’s what they’re doing. And what are they producing ? Absolutely fanny adams. ‘Usury’ that’s called in the Bible.

We could do that. We could go out and borrow a lot of money and say ‘Yes please. We’ll live beyond our means. I’m a senior executive in a big retail firm but yes, you’re right, we don’t have enough. A boat? Yes, that’d be fantastic thanks. Have you got a big one? A very new shiny one? It would need to be very bright and shiny because I’ve got plenty of friends I need to impress. Great. And has it got buttons on the radio? Good. Put it on the account will you? We’ll pay you later and yes, charge me interest by all means. I realise the value of the boat will halve as I drive it out of the showroom and I’ll use it three times a year but I’ve just recently arrived in the last shower and I have no brains at all and that’ll be fine.’

And now we’ve got all these executive clowns paying themselves millions of dollars a year just for turning up. And you know what they’re doing don’t you? John? Are you there? You know what they’re doing? They’re stealing money from their own shareholders. The company makes money and they’re taking it out before it gets to the shareholders by paying to each other in bonuses and golden handshakes. That’s theft. And they’re borrowing money to run the company. Why the hell do the shareholders let them do it? I’ll tell you why. Because the shareholders are superannuation funds. The holders of the funds don’t even know what they own. And as long as they’re getting a return themselves they don’t care. Well I’ll tell you what. It’ll all fall over. You can’t have companies borrowing these huge amounts and not have the bloke come round at some stage and say ‘we’ll have the money now thanks.’ The whole house of cards will go over. You watch.

And I’ll tell you another thing. The world is being destroyed by greed. And these people who are all opposed to regulations. They don’t mind driving on the left hand side of the road and they’ll be the first people to call the police if they see some bloke coming out of their window with a video-machine under his arm. And this environmental disaster we’ve got on our hands. What’s caused all this? Greed. Same thing. Capitalism. I was in business for over 50 years but I have to tell you this is wrong. They’ve destroyed their own system these people. I’m 93 now and I’ve never seen a bigger mess than this. This is a real mess. Somehow someone’s going to have to make some rules and some of these clowns might find they have to take their rattle and go home. Someone should give them a lift. I’d do it myself but I’m a bit busy talking to my son.

The attentive crowd still hanging in there, 2001.

the words and images in this article are reproduced in full from http://mrjohnclarke.com as a salient reminder of beauty and wisdom

2 thoughts on “A generation of fools – Ted’s advice as recorded by his son, John Clarke

    • So lovely isn’t it – I was actually hunting for some other writing by John Clarke I’d read a few years ago about kids and how clever they are at getting adults (especially their parents) organised – but came upon this and thought it was wonderful.


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