21 July 2011

Replies in rebuttal:

From JB

HI Geoff,I think Chris Trotter on his blog No Right Turn has for once said something useful on this topic.  I'm pretty sure that Hone was intending to pledge allegiance to the Queen AFTER he had done the pledge to the treaty and his people first. This is the same as several others have done including Catherine Delahunty and some of the maori party MP's.  the only difference is that at this point the speaker decided to make an issue of it and forbid it whereas before it was allowed. So it's a double standard.  (as Hone is hated, subject to prejudice, racism, classism, as we know. he is a threat. ) Trotter thought that the procedure of doing both pledges allowed people who didn't agree with the pledge to the queen to do it as a formality, more or less under protest; with everyone knowing that really they preferred the other way.

So it could be seen as a step in the right direction; not a complete capitulation as you would appear to see it. On the steps of parliament hone said he had no problem with doing the oath to the queen, it was a formality like wearing a suit and he would do it next time ; since he had already done the other part of his pledge now. Of course having said all that; Hone has already been insulted and had his mana trampled on by the way he has been treated- but I don't think that going back and doing the other " formal" (not really believed) part of the pledge will reduce his mana further; and in fact the fact that he stood his ground last time also ultimately increased his mana amongst his supporters.

I agree the oath should be changed and also that it most likely will be eventually and that these events are all part of a process towards that result.


Geoff Fischer replies:

Given a choice, Hone would not pledge allegiance to the Queen.  He has, as you suggest, tried to qualify the oath, to sweeten the bitter pill he has to swallow, as others have in the past.  I cannot fathom why Lockwood Smith did not let it pass on this occasion.  No good will come to the monarchist regime as a result of Smith's action.

Swearing allegiance under protest is not a complete capitulation, but it is capitulation.   I once would have been more critical of the capitulators.  Now I just see
capitulation as an expression of God's will, and I am relaxed about it, but I choose not to capitulate myself, and I will not accept the argument that there is something
noble about capitulation.

I agree absolutely with your final paragraph.  The oath  will change, and everything that has happened here is part of the process by which change will come to pass.

From DC

Geoff, the common interpretation of events in parliament was that Hone was going to swear allegiance to the Crown, as he has done in the past, but was adding his own words before this, as many other MPs have done.

I think the fuss caused by this issue has already called into question the legitimacy of swearing allegiance to the Queen. Although for many the answer to that question is that the British monarch is and should remain the head of state.

Even if it was, as you suggest, Honeís intention not to swear allegiance at all, then I donít think this stand, even if it meant he didnít take up his seat, would necessarily bring the issue to a head. Sinn Fein MPs have long refused to take their seats in Westminister. It hasnít changed the system over there, and the rest of Parliament hasnít been too concerned about the lack of representation for Northern Irish Republicans.

Itís worth noting that in 1969 socialist republican Bernadette Devlin won Mid Ulster on with the slogan ďI will take my seat and fight for your rightsĒ. Presumably she had to swear allegiance to the Queen. But being in Parliament she was also in a position to stand up for the right of her people, and punch the Tory

If Hone were to refuse to take his seat I think the crisis would be for the Mana Party and the people who voted for him, who expected that he would represent them in Wellington.


Geoff Fischer replies:

Hone is obviously uncomfortable with the oath, as he has demonstrated on past occasions.  He is not alone in that.  A number of Green and Maori MPs have tried various devices to qualify the oath, but in the end they have all felt obliged to toe the line.

There is scope for argument over whether, or how far, a politician should be willing to compromise his or her principles.  I would just observe that people tend to go on as they start.  Once they start compromising with the powers that be, they tend to continue compromising.   Exceptions do occur occasionally, but it is unwise to expect them.

The immediate issue for me is not whether the British Queen should be Head of State in New Zealand.  Personally, I do not recognise her claim to sovereignty.  Others are free to do so as far as I am concerned.  My criticisms centre on the monarchist practice of trying to compel others to submit, or at least make a show of submitting, to the person of the British Queen.

I don't know what Bernadette Devlin achieved by swearing allegiance to the British Queen, if that is what she did.  "Punching the Tory" does not strike me as being a very constructive approach.   Being "in a position to stand up for the right of her people" is all very well, but it does not answer the question of what was actually achieved, by either the Sinn Feiners on the one hand or the Socialist Republicans on the other.   Perhaps there can be no answer to that question.

What might Hone achieve for his people in parliament?    Logically, if  he is going to swear allegiance to the Queen as a pragmatic move, he should follow the Maori Party into alliance with the National Party, as another pragmatic move.  The choice is being falsely presented as "compromise your principles or be ineffective", when the real choice is "compromise your principles and ultimately be ineffective, or stand by your principles and make a serious difference in the long term"

In the present case, the oath of allegiance is morally wrong.  Hone knows that, as I do.  It is wrong to submit to bullies, and it is wrong to bind one's conscience to another human being.  One can say that much without even considering the crimes committed by and in the name of the House of Windsor.

Those on the secular left like to make pragmatic choices.   They call on historical experience and make speculative predictions of what might happen in any given case, but they don't see the whole picture.   They usually cannot see past material considerations, and they cannot see the longterm and wider consequences that unfold from a particular decision.   None of us can.    That is one more reason why we should stick to doing what is right, rather than doing what we imagine might have the best consequences for us.

There is another consideration.   Pragmatism allows us to be controlled and manipulated.   Domestic stock are easily managed because they are pragmatic.   They know that disobedience has  consequences, and so they do not disobey.   An unbroken animal is ignorant or careless of consequence, and therefore unpredictable.  It is self-willed and unresponsive to the will of man, because it has no understanding or fear of consequence and is therefore incapable of reasoning and acting pragmatically.  We respect the wild animal because it is free, and we are wary of the free creature because it is unpredictable.   By the same token the British will only respect us when we are willing to assert our freedom and deny their authority over us.

It is not "pragmatic" to give one's life for a piece of land, or a form of words.  It is not pragmatic to give one's life for anything, but it may be pragmatic to take the lives of ten thousand, or a million others, for a single inch of ground.  That is the nature of pragmatism.  It is the logic of cowardice on the one hand, tyranny and exploitation on the other.  It is the philosophy of the slave and the slavemaster.    Our freedom can only be obtained by acting in defiance of consequence.