Are our supposedly superior, wise politicians costing us too much?
Should we keep regarding them as born to be in charge of us all? Or, lest we forget… is it time we grew up, as a people?
New Zealanders have understandably lost confidence in our politicians – not only to actually listen to New Zealanders – which they demonstrably don’t – but to even be competent. Too many government policies no longer favour the public good. So we are joining other Western countries no longer impressed by being governed by political classes paying far too little attention to putting the interests of their own citizens first, and with far too much unwarranted confidence in their own decision-making. Something so often happens to very ordinary people once they become politicians – and the public here – as in England and elsewhere – heartened by Brexit’s stunning win, is now questioning how our political system works, and how we can rein in our born-to-rule politicians. And yes – we do have a practicable solution within reach – The 100 Days – see www.100days.co.nz . Or are we happy to still be led by the nose…?
In a recent massive throw-out from my study, I came across an old reply to me from Bill English. I can’t say I’m surprised at its evasiveness, though, to be fair, it was written in 2002 – 15 years ago – and found again only now. And certainly, people do grow up intellectually. However it’s well said that anyone can become a Prime Minister – as John Key, a supremely ambitious money trader proved – arguably causing a great deal of damage to the country – damage that that would horrify our parents and grandparents who fought in more than two World Wars, so many servicemen and women giving their lives to preserve New Zealand – and a freedom and way of life now fast being lost to us.
So what of our present Prime Minister, whose reply to me came when I wrote, finding (as with others) it almost incredible what he said when comparing one of the Lord of the Rings films to Tolkien’s masterpiece. What he stated was that his “preference” was for the film. But, hmm, well no – he hadn’t actually read the books.
So how could there be any preference there? It won’t be lost on the reader that one can’t compare one thing to another …unless one is familiar with both.
But then, when did the reality that facts don’t line up ever bother a politician? When also queried about his use of the word “elitist” in apparently a pejorative sense, a comment which might well raise doubts about whether he thought Tolkien’s books too high-powered intellectually to be accessible to the ordinary reader (or to him?) – and reminded that bright children down at intermediate school level were reading them) – he pulled a metaphorical rabbit from a hat. With the kind of double-speak in which politicians excel, he replied, “The film is now definitive of the book – people will see Jackson’s Ents, (sic) Helms Deep is now Jackson’s Deep”.
Well no – it isn’t and his “definitive” means basically nothing. Moreover, as an English graduate, our now Prime Minister should have been well aware that the printed word can convey nuances and subtleties which the visual version of a story cannot match. The omission of Tom Bombadil, for example, who represented important things central to the story (as Tolkien himself noted) but was left out of the film, was a disappointment to many readers of the trilogy. In fact, any criticisms of Jackson’s film centres on his lack of much-needed editing, as well as his somewhat ham-fisted approach in areas that required more understatement. Even Weta Workshop’s brilliance was not enough to excuse the tedious, repetitious close-ups of the ugliness of the Orcs – and the loveliness of the land of the Elves was not successfully conveyed. Jackson does a better job with horror, than its opposite.
We’re accustomed to say that people are entitled to their opinion. But what sort of opinion rests upon no foundation? Our present PM’s preference for a film -compared to a book which he had never read – is of course no preference at all. Ah, but politicians can bluster – as in his reply, when he added that, “- well there are lots of books more challenging than Lord of the Rings.” But then, again, if he hadn’t actually read The Rings trilogy…to what “more challenging” books would he be capable of comparing it?
Coming again upon this correspondence, it struck me how far what the Irish call “the gift of the gab” can carry a politician. Add it to an ability to exude charisma – and a country is in danger. It has happened right throughout history and we never seem to learn from it, and to question why we are so foolish as to keep paying lip service to the notion that “leadership” is more important than the knowledge that any real democracy depends upon the genuine participation of so-called ordinary men and women, conducting their own lives, prioritising their families – but with a close eye on what their politicians are up to.
Yet we are aware that the cult of leadership which grows around determined individuals has led to the greatest bloodbaths of all – and the siren call of highly destructive individuals – the Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots, today’s Kim Jong–un and so on whose indifference to what happens to their own people, sacrificed to their leader’s ambitions, should be a lesson to us. Wars in which scores of millions die pointlessly and needlessly are a twisted tribute to the danger of that concept of the importance of leadership which we are always being asked to defer to. And as a well-respected British journalist, under the pseudonym of Alpha of the Plough pointed out, “There is a large part of the public …which will believe anything because it hasn’t the faculty of judging anything but the size of the crowd, and will always follow the ass with the longest ears and the loudest bray.”
If it strikes some readers that this is a very apt description not only of some of our recent leaders – but also now of the mainstream media, playing follow-the leader not only in their admiration for our recently departed and disastrously charismatic Prime Minister – very few of us would disagree. The now predominantly left-wing media have their favourite politicians, and coat-tail one another’s thinking with regard to the mis-called” liberal” and “progressive” issues of the day. Our mainstream commentators’ over-confident pronouncements have become inimical to quality thinking. Editors now routinely suppress letters from correspondents with whom they disagree. Nor is it a healthy sign that comments in response to unsigned editorialists and opinion-writers in some major New Zealand newspapers on-line have now been discontinued. In this respect, the NBR (National Business Review) deserves readers’ support for its healthy promotion of vigorous debate and feedback.
However, that silent majority which the politicians still fear, anxious lest they begin to realise their real power, can take heart. An excellent new monthly, Your Voice, edited by Mykeljon Winkel, available online or as a print subscription, is doing a brilliant job of tackling some of the quite blatant untruths now being peddled in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi…as well as examining other relevant issues of today. It can be found at www.newzealand voice.co.nz. And although an interview with Judith Collins contains a politician’s very typical equivocations and evasiveness in response to direct questions put to her, there are interesting and relevant pieces throughout. An article by John Ansell, in particular, in the February issue – not Race, Not Gender, Just New Zealander… The Reason for the Existence of the Treaty presents admirably concisely the reason that the Maori chiefs at the time had every good reason to welcome the treaty – and well understood that they were yielding sovereignty to the British Queen.
Other excellent articles in relation to our nation’s history throw more light on the truth of Maori European interaction than today’s media bother to attempt. The March edition includes Bruce Moon’s We Have Just One True History (“And so we come to the Rangiowhia affray, about which probably more flagrant lies have been touted than any event in our history”. Moon’s rigorous research reminds me of Alan Everton’s former excellent dismantling of Ngai Tahu’s prevarications and the utter distortions, let alone falsehoods which it so successfully employed to squeeze a third “full and final” settlement for this corporatised pseudo-iwi – one which, on the actual evidence, Parliament should never have awarded.
But today, as we all know, too bad about actual evidence: it doesn’t count. Today’s deliberate muddying of the waters around treaty issues has basically been for the purpose of allowing conniving iwi on the make, (by no means representing the majority of part-Maori) to gain more and more economic and totally undemocratic political advantage. And of course of there is always the much loved-microphone – or the newspaper headline , those sops to vanity and hubris obediently supplied by our compliant media, always keen to stir the pot…but not so keen to allow that very necessary debate which helps to arrive at the truth of issues. Yet we are well aware that, in a democracy, exclusive rights proposed in law, intended to be bestowed on any racial group, are simply untenable…and basically unconstitutional. This hasn’t stopped National from ignoring the wishes of the majority of us. Such a party has become a danger to the country and for this reason, David Rankin’s petition, in Change Org, deserves all our support. https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-abolish-auckland-council-s-maori-statutory-board?recruiter=694585883&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink
In a country like New Zealand we have had democratic safeguards to protect us (to some extent only) from the supremely ambitious individuals always there in our political cliques, some with honourable motives – others convinced that we must be inveigled into subscribing to the ideology to which they are wedded – as with the socialist Helen Clarks’ One World Government – and John Key’s attempt to remove the Union Jack from our flag.
The latter of course was line with the wishes of wealthy Communist Chinese working behind-the-scenes to facilitate this, And what of Key’s neglect of so much that badly needs addressing in this country, denying even the unprecedented housing crisis which now has so many New Zealanders impoverished, living in cars, in garages, on the streets? Bill English also showed himself totally ineffectual here…The damage caused by virtually unrestricted immigration, used to create the illusion of economic buoyancy…the sell-out of this country, our productive farms and businesses to Communist Chinese interests – and the flogging off of our high country sheep stations to the super-wealthy Americans and others seeking a bolthole – all of whom can buy out New Zealanders’ rights to our own land, our remaining productive industries, our housing stock? These are the legacy of our recent leaders, and the yes-men and-women who surround them in parliament. Sycophancy rules.
In all these destructive policies, at least publicly, our present Prime Minister, Bill English, has been complicit. How much can we rely upon his ability – a consummate yes-man, as John Key’s lieutenant, to face up honestly to what has happened to this country? Most of us wouldn’t bet on it. So why ever would we vote for him to be our new Prime Minister? And when the media kept boasting about Key, with his 30% or thereabouts rating as Prime Minister being so very popular, they were guilty of the fact that, looking objectively at the figures, we know that two thirds of the country did not want him there. 60 to 70% did not rate him. But in the eyes of a largely infatuated commentariat, subject to his switched-on charm and smarm; given special interviews; beaming eye contact; flattered by his attention: recipients of bottles of wine, Key could do little wrong – just as Trump can do no right. The lesson from Brexit has apparently been totally lost on our own media circles.
Can we now be called the Stupid Country? What of the then Finance Minister Bill English’s failure in our supposedly representative democracy, to actually represent the wishes of the country when polling made plain New Zealanders opposition to the potentially damaging TPP deal? Where is the actual evidence that he ever stood up to the seemingly folksy but basically autocratic John Key? Compared to other countries – even Australia, for example the ruling National party’s failure to acknowledge this – let alone to acknowledge the housing market disgrace was because if John Key didn’t want to, neither did any of the Nats. No Sir…
Why then of the theory of the wisdom of the crowds – rather than the conclusions of a select few? The ruling National government has apparently been unable to acknowledge the pitfalls in the TPP which have been very plain to the reasonable onlooker. The determination of government to ignore public opinion has perhaps been a tipping point to us all. Perhaps we are beginning to grow up as a people- in the same way as the English have , at last, reclaimed their country from its EU stranglehold. And we in this small country have been equally guilty of allowing to be forced on us every failed doctrine that has already caused so much damage in the UK.
Nowhere has the damage caused by obdurate politicians, convinced of their superior thinking and leadership skills, been more evident than recently, across all Europe . What we can fairly call the sheer stupidity of politicians like Angela Merkel – far too late rethinking her arrogant, authoritarian rulings which have plunged Germany into such disarray – needs to be recognised for what it was. Europe is now overrun by far more refugees than can be successfully assimilated – and among these Isis terrorists have been successfully smuggled in. Merkel’s virtual bullying of other countries, wherever a Muslim population has now established a considerable and divisive presence, has lead there also to growing social destabilisation, violence and crime, the ill-treatment and raping of women, and mounting welfare bills. Even England is in trouble. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10190/islam-england-france
Diversity, multiculturalism – all the much-touted clichés have now been shown to be quite wrong directions for any country to move in. The much maligned Enoch Powell’s warning in the 60s that mass immigration would preclude assimilation, and that such a large volume of foreign nationals inevitably concentrated in major cities would lead to ghettoisation, and Balkanisation, was genuinely prophetic, as Michael Davies points out in a recent Australian Spectator. It was the know-best politicians who pilloried him – aided by an always cooperative mass media. Again, it was so-called ordinary people who also warned against Britain yielding its independence and judicial separateness in important areas of national decision-making – such as allowing the judiciary to become subservient to the rulings of Brussels. So very few politicians, with notable exceptions such as Powell and Margaret Thatcher, (who, loving their own country and its traditions “understood why immigrants would be reluctant to completely abandon theirs) foresaw what lay ahead.
And we in this country are now having to put up with the same sort of ill-thought nonsense emphasising “diversity” – i.e. the lack of assimilation, allowing in those large numbers of immigrants which too often lead to the clash of cultures, the attack on the stabilising values of the home country, the clamour for an undemocratic separateness, and the displacement, today, of our own people in the job market and housing. This, apart even from that fact we are losing our most productive farmland to the rapacious Communist Chinese’s self-serving interests – and the best of our high country sheep stations to those others plum-picking land now priced well beyond the reach of New Zealanders ourselves.
Every now and again we get trotted out Thomas Carlyle’s objection to democracy: as classicist Peter Jones recounts in the Spectator article Enemies of the People. “I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance”. In other words, infinitely wise politician should tell the ignorant mob what to think, not vice versa.
What when we can say, with very good reason, that we do not believe in the collective wisdom of ignorant or self-serving politicians, led by the nose too often by vested interest groups – and/or letting us down by their simple inability to devote time to the thorough research needed to establish the truth of issues?
Athenians invented direct democracy in 508BC, lasting until 323 BC, which handed to the “demos”, citizens in the assembly, the power to decide on policy. Objections were raised from the beginning by those who thought their thinking was superior… Plato thought a state could be well governed only by Platonic philosophers. Aristotle thought that monarchy would be the best of all – Catch-22 – if only someone of the required standard could be found. On went the objections, until as Jones points out, it was Plutarch, “a prolific Greek writer of the second century A.D. with a great admiration for Roman stability “– (a stability which the reader will recall didn’t last for very long after all ) … “who really put the boot in, describing the public as “animals… unreasoning, unruly volatile and degenerate”. Interestingly this description will strike the reader as fairly closely summing up our own politicians’ behaviour in the debating chamber. However, as “Plutarch dominated discussions in the West about the best form of government from the 16th till the 19th century, his idea that rule by the demos could be nothing but mob rule became the knee-jerk position, and still is. Animals, obviously.”
Make no mistake – our politicians love to think this. (Remember Helen Clark’s “feral” and “inbreds”? And Hilary Clinton’s “A basket of deplorables.”)
But they’ve been proved wrong by the most free, successful, and democratic country in the world – Switzerland. And there is absolutely no reason why we New Zealanders can’t turn our own minds to insist that we follow a system which really works – in contrast to the mess our political parties have made to our own country – where the pace is accelerating to destroy of so much of what we have left.
Peter Jones concludes, “In the howls about mob rule, however, Switzerland, virtually a direct democracy for some 600 years, somehow never features.” Switzerland did even better than this – not content with being virtually a direct democracy, the Swiss people themselves decided they had had enough of being over-ruled by damaging leaders. Their brilliant solution was to fight for the 100 Days provision. They won this right about 160 years ago. It ensures any legislation passed by Parliament, no matter by what political party or by whatever coalition is currently in power in the country… every piece of legislation must wait for 100 Days before it can come into force. The Swiss people can themselves then decide whether or not they agree, or whether they want to challenge it.
If the latter, before the end of the 100 Days period, if as few as 50,000 people (in a country double our population, call for a vote – in New Zealand it would be proportionately about 26,000 ) then that’s enough. A vote is held – it’s called the Facultative Referendum, and whatever the people say is binding on the government.
So successful has this been that Swiss politicians are merely part-time. Meeting one day only a week, they can hold down other jobs… as lawyers, teachers, doctors, housewives, tradesmen… and their Parliament needs to meet only four times a year. No Helen Clark or Bill English or John Key can dig in, clinging to virtually supreme power and dominating the ruling party. The Swiss make sure of this by allowing the President to stay in office for one year only. Their seven-only member cabinet, simply take turns to be President. It works very well.
Why can’t we now fight for the same? Well, we can, and should. It is the best possible system to secure a real democracy. And to all the Big Names anxious to tell us it wouldn’t work, we can say – This is nonsense – it does. In fact it is working better than any other political system today.
As the last thing that politicians want is to lose their power, and we can count on a now thoroughly dumbed-down, but highly opiniated media to rubbish any concept that doesn’t send power to their left-wing cohorts, it is up to us, the real New Zealanders, remembering the hard work and sacrifices our own people have made for four generations, to do our own bit.
How? Email your MP. Mail the Prime Minister, the leader and members of the Opposition, the leaders of all the political parties, and ask them whether or not they are willing to hand back the decision-making to the people of New Zealand. Call your MPs….They will be very polite to you in election year…
This is a real test of whether or not our politicians believe in a democracy. But we know they don’t want a democracy – they want to rule us – and are now busy making all those hasty promises routinely made in election-year, promising the reforms so conveniently held until then.
There are so many ways you can help. Tell others…You can send on to as many as you can the fact of our 100 days campaign…both on Facebook, and on- site – See 100 Days – Claiming back New Zealand www.100days.co.nz You can write letters to the paper. You can complain to the Press Council if the editor keeps rejecting them…You can talk about it on Talkback. You can join us – support us, even a little financially, if you can.
It means at least a little effort – not much time in busy people’s lives. But as we all have a moral responsibility, which reaches beyond us and our families towards the community, and towards our country, safeguarding what our parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts fought and gave their lives for, it can be argued that we have no right at all to do nothing. We need to insist on the reshaping of our political and landscape. Will you help?
Help us fight for the 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement!
© Amy Brooke, Convener. See my book “100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand …what has gone wrong, and how we can control our politicians.” Available through Kindle, www.copypress.co.nz or HATM Publishers.
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