A good list is never boring

A list is a great device for identifying items found inside a dust covered shoe box that sits abandoned in the middle of a cold concrete basement floor in a boarded up house at the end of a cul-de-sac made famous when its widowed owner was eaten by her labradoodle, Pepsi…

But generally lists do no favours to writers or readers, both of whom would rather just get on with the story, without all the pedestrian details.

List – the very word sounds deathly boring.

Then there are startling exceptions.

In his lament for disaffected Maori Youth, author and agitator Alan Duff writes a list to die for.

A list chock full of vivid nouns and brutal verbs, mixed with metaphor and even relating the concept of generational transference.

I don’t mean Maori in the region who have jobs, are law-abiding and raising children on aspirations and love. I mean the small percentage of lowlife filth, the vermin, the welfare-created Frankensteins; the truant youths, the unemployed, bored and seething with anger at their horrible upbringing for which citizens have to pay.

I mean the generational pissheads and welfare-addicts. The meth-users and dope-heads turned psychotic on sustained drug use. I mean the next generation of losers rewarded by government to stay losers by paying them a benefit. Any wonder the good people of Thames expressed outrage, Maori no doubt amongst them.

The group of snarling youths in the street who glare at non-Maori dying to “smack” them over. The drunk and stoned parents who neglected them like they were neglected. The same parents whose self-loathing became transferred abuse of their kids, from violence to sexual to not feeding properly, put-down verbal abuse, bereft of all forms of discipline.

Duff’s list is a ghastly picture of human wreckage.

While I’ve got your attention, check out the repeated key word ‘culture’. Sure drives the point home.

And notice the lovely rhythm it gives his writing – and the missed beat when he places the word culture at the beginning of the final sentence.

The minister is totally not to blame. Culture – or, rather, lack of it – is. The welfare culture. Drug culture. Booze culture. Culture of unread ignorance, complete lack of self-analysis. The outlook, therefore, of a worrying percentage of Maori.

It’s not looking good for some Maori, and Duff’s writing makes it dreadfully real.