Works in the Herald 1933

Now that it has simmered down -- the intense excitement that shook a vast continent to its foundations, and was occasioned, simply enough, by a small crack in the heel of a horse -- perhaps one may be permitted to direct attention to what is, possibly, an even more serious matter.

I refer to the question of disarmament.

Lest it be thought that I have the temerity to venture opinions on disarmament among nations, I hasten to correct the impression. Upon that treacherous and uncertain field angels have feared to tread, and, risking even a charge of inconsistency, I steadfastly refuse to rush in, and thus another exception proves the rule.

With the approach of the summer season, what concerns me far more intimately is the disarmament of snakes!

Like the French nation, I seek merely security -- nothing more. A very long, pliable stick and a short-gun comprise all the armament I seek. The snakes, on the other hand, maintain that these are aggressive weapons.

Like the Nazi brotherhood (whom they rather resemble in other respects), they claim that their own armament is purely defensive.

But they have no respect whatever for frontiers and boundaries, and appear to insist upon equality before they will consent even to discuss the question of disarmament. So, as in other spheres of the same subject, the matter reaches a complete deadlock.

In this, and many other country districts, bushmen declare that the coming summer is going to be a very bad one for snakes.

Snakes, however, seem to think that it will be a good season for snakes!

This, I take it, is merely a confusion of points of view, and really amounts to the same thing.

Disliking and mistrusting snakes as I do, I look upon this sinister mobilisation of serpents in the vicinity of my domain with a great deal of disfavour. But you cannot argue with a snake.

And, as in purely human affairs, when danger threatens and arbitration fails, the only and inevitable alternative is force. It is all very distressing to me who seek only reasonable peace and the right to self-determination. But how may one achieve absolute self-determination when a copperhead calmly takes up his abode under one's dining-room floor, or an arrogant tiger-snake persists in chasing one's own personal mice in the walls of one's kitchen?

A sort of guerilla warfare has been going on between myself and the enemy for many years now in this spot in the bush. And, owing to an unfortunate circumstance, the snakes maintain that the war guilt is solely mine.

Years ago, I owned a dog who was overzealous in my interests. Having observed my way with a snake on one or two occasions, the intelligent animal seemed to conceive the notion that I liked playing with snakes. Thereafter, with zeal worthy of a better cause, he spent long summer hours ranging the adjacent scrub for the most venomous reptile he could round up.

This he proceeded to shepherd cautiously toward the house till he had driven it across the lawn and in at the front door. After that, of course, but on thing remained to be done; and, having witnessed the engagement with much pleasure, the faithful hound went out to look for another enemy.

The snakes now seem to think that all treaties, if any, have been broken and diplomatic relations are entirely broken off.

Meantime, I am strengthening my defences and keeping a watchful eye on frontiers. But the whole vexed question seems to fine itself down to one sentence which I commend to the attention of even wiser diplomats than myself:

"Disarmament and arbitration are beautiful ideals; but you cannot argue with a snake."

Herald, 9 November 1933, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002