Recently I was standing in the cold wind (well, trying to dodge it) for an hour and a half) while checking absent family members’ furniture, cartons – and all sorts of household items into a storage unit in Nelson.. The driver of the removal van was Maori, in late 40s or early 50s, beautifully spoken, with none of this “eh, bro?” argot which the PC now condescendingly use to get any message across to young part-Maori. He was obviously very intelligent, a decent man (let’s call him John) next on his way down to Christchurch, having left Martinborough the same morning. He’d hoped to make it down to Dunedin, but thought he’d probably have to call it a day before then. John had actually started out co-managing the company, but couldn’t stand all the bureaucracy, paperwork, compliance issues… we all know the increasing burden of government requirements intruding now into so many areas of our national life. We’re also very much aware that, accumulatively, they’re not only wearying – because they certainly don’t lessen – on the contrary – but that they tend to crush the human spirit.
His answer was to jump into the cab instead. He liked the freedom, he said, that dream of The Open Road which appeals to the Toad of Toad Hall in so many of us.
He spoke so well for a New Zealander – (he would put most of our professional radio and TV commentators to shame) – that I commented on this, and asked him where he had been to school. He mentioned a particularly well-managed school based on strong traditions, and I understood, as he nodded and smiled. Along the way, he had encountered valuable conservative standards …and I say this in an age where one of the most blatant attacks on our society has come through ridiculing the word “conservative” – and to ridicule someone or something, is, as we know, a very powerful, and bullying weapon…
I learnt quite a lot in that time, ticking off items as he checked the numbers 18 – 18 and so on while he and his regular off-sider, a local Nelson man, probably in his 40s, an entertaining individual with a heart of gold, talked over a number of issues as they unloaded. They made me a place to sit out of the wind, and when three-quarters of nearly 200 items had been checked off and I knew that I would freeze to death if I stayed much longer…I also knew that I could unhesitatingly trust these two obviously fine individuals to store the rest safely without my needing to be there.
I was reminded of a lot listening to these old friends, one slightly hurt because a truck he recognised as being usually driven by a friend hadn’t responded to his greeting when they passed near Blenheim. Perhaps Martin hadn’t been driving it that day..? Even then? Why hadn’t the driver waved back… What about the fellowship of the road, of the journey, after all?
Very many of us are now well aware how much this country has changed – and that in many ways things are now very troubling.
Driving home to thaw out, I thought of crucial issues again brought home to me… The importance of freedom to the human spirit… And the importance of that feeling of fellowship so very relevant to the people of a country, if it is to prosper. New Zealanders have it in spades, in times of crisis. A burning house? Lives will be risked, to save any possible occupants. A car goes into an icy creek… or even the sea? So-called ordinary people will jump in, without a thought to try to save others. Your car breaks down? Someone will miraculously appear. And I recall years ago riding my motorscooter from Dunedin to Masterton –- including a journey over the Rimutakas in gale force winds with a Siamese kitten in a little box inside a string bag hooked in front of me; a fishing rod for my little brother taped onto the back with my small case)… an interesting trip where a gang of bikies pulled over to get my bike going again for me when it gave up completely between Oamaru and Timaru. I recalled the kindness of some sailors running it up and down the Wellington dock and out into early-morning traffic to kickstart for me in the wind and rain when its electric starter so very predictably failed.
I have learnt along the way to appreciate the great GK Chesterton’s trust in the extraordinariness – and in fact the wisdom… of so-called ordinary people. And listening to those two unloading the removal van, I thought what very good hands we would be in if New Zealanders themselves were able to do what free men and women should be able to do… to themselves be genuinely a real part of the decision-making / with regard to the directions of the country. And of course, the one thing we now all have in common / is that we now have absolutely no real say in this.
In recent years, as the question of what has happened to our now far less stable, less safe society has engaged so many of us – especially when looking ahead to the world our children’s children are going to inherit, what I have found the most positive thing has been the common sense of so-called ordinary people… Not those in positions of power… Not self-appointed leaders… Not politicians – particularly not politicians, given the arguably corrupt environment within which they now operate…Nor often grossly under-informed journalists – and commentators – even, and especially, those very much bathed in self-esteem.
I think of friends in the professions and trades, increasingly ground down more and more/ by government and local body edicts, by the compliance issues dumped on small business owners used as government dogsbodies to collect various taxes from their employees – and in fact forced to contribute to these – why?…so many highly intelligent, small business owners – as they have to be now to survive. An electrician friend, originally from England, and rebuilding a World War I aircraft, battling increasingly senseless CAA requirements and unreasonable costs… A TV technician running his own home-stay, who should be back by now from a motorbike trip across France… I found that Colin had lived for some years in Lucerne, that lovely lakeside Swiss city which we visited last year. Its offshore island is where the Swiss people finally nailed the flag of a genuine democracy to the masthead of the country – that of the most successful democracy in the world – with good reason. Lucerne also has what are Mark Twain called the most moving sculpture in the world, that of the dying Lion… The famous Lion of Lucerne , carved 10 metres across the rock face of a lovely, quiet and secluded grotto, with a clear water waterfall and pool below…erected in memory of the Swiss guard of mercenaries who bravely died to a man, in order to keep their word to protect the French king.
Honour, freedom…? What do these rather idealistic-sounding concepts have to do with our daily lives? Well, everything eventually, if these are to be worth living. But these are troubling times for New Zealanders, and I recall the words of another very nice man, an antique shop owner who left England in the ‘70s to come here in the hope of a better life… and who comments sadly that New Zealanders had so much going for them, and have squandered it.
But have we squandered it? Or has it simply been taken little by little, while we were sleeping…? One more comment which will resonate with many comes from a builder I know. When we discussed in passing yet another particularly extravagant multi-million-dollar “compensation” payment, made by this National Party government to yet another highly manipulative iwi – (very many New Zealanders are now pretty well aware that the ongoing handouts now rest on very thin actual evidence indeed – and far more on a simple endorsement by an undemocratically-inclined non-elected Minister of Treaty Negotiations who quite disgracefully name-calls as “nutters ” or “clowns” highly reputable individuals, well-informed about the history of spurious claims – and questioning why Parliament has been misled by flagrantly biased select committees promoting claims that are merely alleged – and certainly not proven – but which can be well and truly shot down on good historical evidence.
Meanwhile, hospitals are crying out for funding, specialists are leaving – as here in Nelson, unable to face year-long waiting lists… and emergency departments regularly have hour-long waits ahead for the ill and the desperate.
If I were to ask each of you what issues most concern you about this lovely country which should have so much going for it, but with things that are going wrong in so many ways, at the heart of most of the feedback would very probably be what I have already encountered from so many – the dwindling of our democratic freedoms… the growing intrusion of the State into individuals’ lives, and the arbitrary decisions made by successive governments, in recent years, a process markedly speeding up. New Zealanders are basically now almost totally disenfranchised, i.e. deliberately excluded from the decisions-making that affects us all on very important directions of the day – and we are at a very late hour to do anything about it.
When I wrote my recent book – The 100 Days – Claiming back New Zealand… What has gone wrong and how we can control our politicians I dedicated it to the memory of Cliff Emeny, who wrote to me in the ‘90s in support of my regular columns in The Dominion, the Taranaki Daily News, in feature articles for the Christchurch Press and in Australian journals. I was also providing a weekly overview/ of the socio-political issues of the day for George Balani’s Canterbury on Air. Cliff’s own book – the one written shortly before he died in New Plymouth – tells the story of an extraordinary young man who left school when he was about 12, was for a short time in the navy and army, and finally earned three wings – as a radio operator, gunner, and finally pilot and group leader – the only World War II airman to do so.
Cliff commanded a squadron in Burma, where he was shot down and extensively tortured by the Japanese in order to disclose information he refused. Incidentally, Three Wings, the book recounting the life story of this reluctant hero who apparently only discussed what had happened to him near very end of his life, illustrates a heartening distinction between individuals acting under group control – i.e. doing as they are told – ( as are National MPs today – given John Key’s total domination) – and the decency of ordinary individuals.
Although Cliff was tied bareheaded to a stake by day under a burning sun, with no food or water, the Japanese guards on night shift would secretly untie him, lie him down to sleep, giving him food and water, and take him back out at dawn, before the morning shift took over. His book is fascinating for a number of reasons – and includes not only the tributes paid to others who well deserve it – but provides a highly critical assessment of less than admirable RAF pre-war career pilots with their eyes on their own promotion prospects after the war. And while it has long been known that Lord Louis Mountbatten was a far from capable commander, his attempt to take personal credit for the liberation of Rangoon prison – which was simply a blatant untruth – provides an interesting insight into another of those problematic “leaders” whose reputation will be eventually revisited along the way.
At any rate, learning later of Cliff’s story, I felt honoured that this very fine New Zealander (at the age of 80 he reportedly flew his son’s vampire jet trainer over Auckland!) (had troubled to contact me a handful of years before he died. He was greatly concerned, in fact shocked at what was happening to the New Zealand he had given his youth to fight for. His own later political involvement accomplished a great deal, including the provision for referenda, so scandalously abused by our successive governments). He urged me to look at the Swiss system. He didn’t specifically mention their 100 days provision, but when I began to research Swiss democracy – which is a genuine democracy – I began to appreciate the intelligence of the steps the Swiss people – regarded as the greatest fighting force in Europe – took to be able to control their own politicians – which they have since done with singular success – as outlined in my book.
This people’s insistence that any legislation whatsoever passed by Parliament has to automatically undergo a 100 days scrutiny period for the country to examine its significance, and to say yes – or no – has left them firmly in control of their own directions, and turned them into the most prosperous and successful democracy in the world. It has also helped that the people themselves can propose legislation. How we can also achieve this, too – and why we need to – is detailed here on our website – and tactics to eventually obtain this as a 100% democratic movement, will continue to be posted.
After a great deal of thought , and raising this thinking for three years in a row at the then annual Summersounds Symposium – (with its keynote speakers drawn from the political, academic, business and senior media sectors – those involved in debating or determining issues of the day) – with a strong core group of support, I finally launched the 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand initiative, and have stayed as its convener to prevent it being hijacked – its proposals altered, amended, watered-down and made less effective. The essential simplicity of the Swiss system – which sees its politicians meeting only once a week, and holding down other jobs, is its central genius.
But first I ran my thinking past one of our keynote speakers, the Australian Professor David Flint, whose distinguished background and qualifications are outlined in my recent book – The 100 days – Claiming Back Democracy – what has gone wrong and how we can control our politicians – as is his back cover endorsement … “I have come to the conclusion that the only way to control politicians is through your proposal.” David has since paid me the compliment of not only duplicating our claiming back democracy movement in Australia but has sent me a copy of his own excellent recent book – Give Us back Our County – claiming my own book and our 100 Days initiative, as his inspiration.
He is quite right in pointing out that our concern that when the Crimes (Substituted section 59) Amendment Act was passed in 2009 with support from Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark and the National leader John Key, not one of the our electorate MPs stood up to be counted – and to represent the views of their constituents – although polls showed that New Zealanders were over 87% opposed to this ominous and intrusive legislation.
Since then, of course, any pretence that we are a democracy has long gone. Moreover, in 2008, the incoming Prime Minister, John Key, quite blatantly hijacked the selecting of the first 50 List MPs, to surround himself by those he knew would do as they were required to. As local MP Nick Smith says – when his leader tells him to jump, he asks how high. This is not an appropriate response for a representative MP. How far we’ve moved from the days when Keith Holyoake opposed his own party in his maiden speech to represent the interests of his own constituents.
Moreover, a good number of National Party MPs were deeply troubled by the anti-smacking legislation, the Emissions Trading scheme, The Coastal and Marine Area legislation – and now by the GCSB. We ensured a previous left-wing government ruled over by a dominating socialist – and we should remember that the loyalty of socialists historically lies with the movement itself, rather than to their country…No surprises then about Helen Clark‘s boasting that New Zealand was the only country in the world with a Minister for Disarmament and Arms control, Marian Hobbs – and then destroying the combat wing of our air force, which has been in disarray ever since.
But on the Right? What about Prime Minister Key disgracefully sneaking Pita Sharples off to endorse the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – (a fact deliberately hidden from the country at the time – although no international agreement can be agreed to by the Swiss government without this being put to the people to vote on) . There is little doubt that Key’s and Sharples’s disgraceful underhand move is helping to compound the rorts already well and evident in the gravy train of treaty claims. I have a specific section in this book on the case for abolishing the highly damaging Waitangi Tribunal and detailing what amounts to the sheer corruption of its highly dubious and flagrantly biased record.
What do we do? The answer is here – and yes – we can reclaim this country – but it depends not upon the damaging concept of leadership, but on the far more important one of individual action…In the end, everything depends upon the individual. ..You – and I. As has been said…not only can a small group of committed people change the world – but that it is all that ever does.
We know that New Zealanders have no say whatever in what our government decides in relation to the issues above, or the state asset sales. The pattern now is for a political oligarchy – controlled by a determined leader, gifted both with charisma and a great deal of craftiness, to rule the country – with the consequences immensely damaging us to as a people.
Whom to vote for at the next election? How to get rid of the list MPs answerable to nobody at all – so that we now have ministers ruling us who have passed no electoral scrutiny – individuals nobody voted for.
The title of this book, The 100 days, Claiming Back New Zealand… What has gone wrong and how we can control our politicians suggests the ground I have covered in it… detailing the invasion in recent decades of almost every socio-political and intellectual area of our national life. Basically, we have been white-anted by neo-Marxism in what has, rather late, been recognised as the Italian Communist Gramsci’s recommendation of “the long march through the institutions” of the West to achieve its collapse… particularly by aiming to bring about a well-p0lanned undermining of the democratic rights of the people.
The only real defence we have is the genuine empowerment of individuals. And it is above all the Swiss provision of the 100 Days which gives genuine meaning to the word “democracy”. There is no doubt hat we certainly do not have one any longer. In more areas of our national life than many appreciate, our institutions have already been infiltrated, our young under attack – and New Zealanders have lost or are losing control of this country. This wide ranging attack has been occurring through not only our political, but our education, intellectual, literary, and cultural institutions.
I think, as I often do, of the great GK Chesterton’s saying” I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act…
He added that a tired democracy becomes a dictatorship. On the actual evidence, to which would you think we are now closer?
© *Amy Brooke. Adapted from a recent address to Nelson Rotary club.
The destructive capacity of the individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and that destructive capacity necessarily expands too. Paul Johnson.