Saturday, March 24, 2007

Lucia Chris Trotter - attacked by wasps

Chris Trotter reacts to the attacks on his column last week, where he basically said that citizens cannot be trusted to decide important matters in a referendum. This week, he's decided that those people that believe in referendums are all ex-social-credit party members. I kid you not.

There's no link to the original, because I typed all of this out myself.


What a peculiar little country this is sometimes. The image we present to the world is one of easygoing, can-do friendliness. But the face we show to one another - ah, well, that's a very different story.

Last week in this column I took a swing at United Future MP Judy Turner for attempting to kick the so-called "Anti-Smacking Bill" into political touch by forcing it to a referendum.

I might just as sensibly have taken a large stick to a wasps' nest!

Suddenly I was being assaulted by Helen-haters, social creditors (yes, they still exist) and the sort of landlords who prohibit their tenants from hanging washing on apartment balconies.

Most seemed to belong to an outfit called New Zealanders for Better Democracy (NZBD). Going to its website, my attention was immediately drawn to a photomontage of "well known supporters" of the binding citizen-initiated referendum. The NZBD advances the "BCIR" as the panacea for all of New Zealand's political ills (most of them, apparently, attributable to the Labour Government).

Now, it's possible that an organisation which advertises the endorsements of Winston Peters, Michael Laws, Garth McVicar, Ian Wishart and Roger Kerr alongside those of Christine Fletcher and David Lange might have one or two issues to resolve in the Arthur versus Martha department. But the energy with which the NZBD wasps swarmed to defend the BCIR told me that I had whacked something significant.

Here was the classic political project of the "little man" - those ground down small proprietors who struggle to hold their own against the vast public/private collectives of the modern age. The presence of so many former social-creditors in the NZBD ranks confirms this. These thwarted players on the political stage clearly regard the BCIR as a secret weapon that will instantly take the wind out of the electoral sails of those big political parties which had the temerity to survive after theirs had failed.

As proof of the BCIR's effectiveness, the NZBD points to the example of Switzerland. Blithely ignoring the unique historical circumstances which gave birth to - and preserved - the ethnically, linguistically and religiously divided Swiss Confederation, they celebrate its institutionalisation with the same sort of blind enthusiasm the SUP once reserved for the Soviet Union.

Never mind that the Swiss system kept women disenfranchised til 1971, and granted them full legal equality only in 1981. And don't mention the fact that the Swiss voted to stay out of the United Nations till 2002. Nor, that they refused asylum to 24,000 Jews during World War II, while their bankers discreetly lodged plunder from Holocaust victims in their deepest, most secret, vaults.

Neither are the "propositions", "recall ballots" and "initiatives" enshrined in a number of individual US state constitutions quite the instruments of democratic virtue the NZBD believes them to be. Crafted in the early 1900s, they were deployed by an enraged Protestant elite to control the redistributive impulses of the "corrupt machine politicians" elected by poor, mostly Catholic, immigrants.

There's a faint echo of this hostility toward effective political organisation in Roger Kerr's blurb of the NZBD website: "The rise of political parties has made it possible for governments to virtually unite the executive and legislative functions. Rather than parliament acting as a check on the government, it has been turned into a rubber stamp for many executive decisions."

Like paid parental leave, an extra week's holiday, minimum wage increases, income-related state-house rents, Working for Families and the renationalisation of ACC. Yep, that party discipline's a real bummer, ain't it, Roger?

In essence, the campaign for the BCIR is a campaign to privatise the political process. The NZBD's agenda denies the fundamental collectivism of the democratic impulse, and reduces it - like the Protestant conscience - to a lonely struggle between the dark and the light of the individual soul.

But it is not possible to have a citizenry of one. Political representation, like religious salvation, can only ever be a social enterprise.

The real choice, therefore, is between the symbolic conflict, contained within Parliament's debating chamber, and the very real political violence which inevitably erupts whenever aggrieved social elements attempt to subordinate legitimate collective interests to the frailties of individual judgement.

1 comment(s):

ZenTiger said...

It's bad enough MMP can hold the parties in their sway - but let citizens vote on specific issues? Quelle horreur!

Watch Chris change his tune when National get in. Suddenly, representative democracy and the collective interests will not seem so important.

Socialists treat citizens like they wish to mandate how we treat children. By increasing social welfare and creating a beneficiary mentality, they assure themselves the left wing will get voted in - just as they believe children will vote for the parents that let them stay up late, watch any amount of TV and eat sweets all day.

It's only maturity that can undo these idiot socialists.

Come-on NZ, grow up and vote Labour and the Greens out.

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