Saxons v gladiators: The drones cometh


As regular readers are aware, I tend to stay away from outright political discussion in my column, because I think it is important that we serious1 columnists should maintain a professional impartiality. Also, I don’t want to get shot.

That is a concern because these days, when people disagree with you on a political issue, they tend to react in the same calm, rational and intelligent way that Vladmir Putin reacts when someone looks sideways at him, and with a similar appetite for violence.

So I try to stay away from it, but with a federal election on the horizon, it is hard to ignore.

NB: When I say a federal election is on the horizon, I mean that the election is about to happen, not that we are voting on whether or not we should keep the horizon; if we did that, I suspect chaos would ensue.

Pauline Hanson would insist there is no such thing,2 Clive Palmer would say that he is not against people having one, but that he refuses to; the ALP would say that Scott Morrison is not doing enough to save the horizon, and the Coalition would say that the horizon is a state responsibility – and of course, Mark McGowan would ban anyone from crossing it.

So I am definitely not suggesting we hold an election on the horizon itself. We are, however, confronted with an election regarding the government of the country, and that means we are about to endure an election campaign. Indeed, it has already started.


For example, Anthony Albanese recently said that if elected, he would try to be more like John Howard and Bob Hawke, rather than (one presumes) Kevin Rudd or Malcolm Fraser. This is a bit like a third-grade cricketer asking to be made captain of Australia, and promising to be more like Steve Waugh than Kim Hughes.

On the other hand, Scott Morrison has promised around 327 trillion dollars’ worth of projects, mostly on the Cronulla foreshore. That’s kind of like him saying he’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.3

Because of exactly this sort of thing, I am over the election campaign already, and I don’t really want to participate in it. I have managed this in previous elections because my wife and I have certain strategies we adopt to stay out of it. My wife adopts the ‘environmental’ approach, being so efficient in the recycling of election flyers that she puts them in the recycling bin before they make it into the house, let alone get read by anyone.

This is no good against actual candidates going to door-to-door, but that is where I take over. When a person comes to our house to tell me about the election, our 47kg dog becomes very vocal. Just in case the electioneer or candidate cannot hear the dog’s point, I take him (the dog) out to the gate and let him slam himself against it; while this is happening, I say: “Sorry, I can’t hear you over the dog! I was just about to feed him! Ha-Ha!” I laugh at the end so that they can see I am joking, although I leave the dog’s feelings about it to the imagination.

Unfortunately I fear the evolutionary arms race is about to upscale, based on some disturbing news that a friend of mine sent me recently. My friend is a former teacher, having quit after realising that he can make more money – and be injured less frequently – by being a rodeo clown.

He does keep an eye on the educational world, however, just in case – in a moment of weakness – he considers a return to teaching. Luckily, a quick glimpse at the world of teaching is enough to convince him that he’d be better off having a job using a toothbrush to clean toilets at the gastric clinic, than to go back to teaching.


Case in point is the recent news my friend sent through, which is that in addition to teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, fitness, conflict resolution, nutrition, consent, Brouwer’s Fixed Point Theorem and Yahtzee, teachers are now tasked with teaching drone safety.


Drone safety.

Call me crazy, but it seems to me that this might not be the best use of classroom time. Apart from some of your more exclusive private schools, which no doubt have Predator Drones as part of their debt management strategy, very few schools will have access to really dangerous drones that carry weapons; so in large part the drones of which we speak here are the little ones you see kids buzzing around with in parks. That means, I think what is being suggested is that schools should now teach kids how to play with toys.

Again, you may think I’ve lost my marbles4 but it seems to me that a lot of kids already know how to play with toys, especially electronic gadgety things like drones, iPods, gamestations and tasers.5 Indeed, kids usually show adults how to use these things, often using that leverage to demand pocket-money increases or junk food (maybe that’s just in my house).

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed, along with the fact that you tend to cut your fingers when you rub your eyes, that what will be taught in schools is drone safety, not general use, but to be honest that is an even bigger waste of time. Attempting to teach children the safe use of a toy is pointless, because they can – and will – weaponise any toy or object they get access to.


When I was in primary school we played a game called ‘Saxons and Gladiators’ which involved running around belting each other with sticks and trying to speak in the way we imagined warriors from the ‘olden days’ spoke, and sounding as authentic as you’d expect the people who came up with the name ‘Saxons and Gladiators’ to sound.6

You could have given us a beach ball and a box of sponges and we’d have found a way to hurt each other with them, and no amount of safety training would have helped. ‘Saxons and Gladiators’ violated about a dozen school rules and was the subject of many safety lectures, which only increased its popularity.

It stands to reason, however, that if we teach kids about drones, they’ll show their parents how to use them, and some of their parents will likely be in political parties. This means they will start using the drones to drop election flyers into my yard, and it’ll be hard to stop because our dog cannot fly (which has not stopped him from occasionally trying). My only hope is that my son will work out a way to disable the drones using his iPod.

So it may be that the election campaigns of the future will be even worse than they are now, and you may be dealing with drone-dropped election flyers – which I assure you will be better than dealing with the mail I am going to get from archelogy professors pointing out the mistakes I have made in my references to Saxons and Gladiators, not to mention the people who will write insisting their dogs can fly…

Shane Budden is a Special Counsel, Ethics, with the Queensland Law Society Ethics and Practice Centre.

1 In this sense meaning ‘unpaid’.
2 And for once, be right.
3 If you get that one, welcome to old age.
4 Especially if you have been reading these columns for a while.
5 Note to impressionable children reading this: Tasers are not toys, and should only be used in self-defence or to prevent someone playing any song by Meat Loaf. Note to your parents: why are you letting kids read this?
6 As we know from the Russell Crowe documentary, ‘Gladiator’, Saxons and gladiators did not spend much time fighting each other, although they were known to occasionally play cards.

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