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17 October 2011

A realm on the reef: the failure of government.

Last century the state regimes of the Soviet bloc vainly attempted to maintain their power over the people of eastern Europe through covert surveillance in homes and workplaces, an unaccountable police force, a docile legislature, an emasculated judiciary, and a totalitarian government.

Let's look at some of the things that the New Zealand government has been doing over the past couple of years.  It has

- Ousted the democratically elected councillors of Environment Canterbury and appointed its own commissar to take their place
- Given itself draconian powers through the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act, taken the power to legislate away from parliament and banned the courts from reviewing the actions of the executive.
- Imposed an undemocratic Auckland "super city" structure upon the people of Tamaki Makaurau against their wishes
- Overturned a decision of the Supreme Court by giving police powers to use hidden cameras and microphones to watch over the lives and listen to the words of ordinary citizens.

These changes are not a sign of strength.  They are signs of weakness and desperation.  Such measures did not save the Stalinist regimes of eastern Europe, and they will not save the colonial regime in New Zealand.  The state - the Realm of New Zealand - is assuming more and more power while doing less and less to develop, protect, or restore the taonga of the nation and its people.  It has failed its public in the leaky houses scandal, the finance company debacle, the kiwifruit vine disease disaster, the Pike River mine tragedy, and the Afghan war fiasco.   It failed them in the Canterbury earthquakes and now it has failed in the Rena disaster.  One thing that the government will learn from its hidden cameras and microphones is that the people can see through the arrogance of power to the legacy of failure.

In a properly constituted state miners would be responsible for safety underground, mariners would see to safety at sea, engineers would ensure that weakened buildings did not collapse upon their occupants, and agriculturalists would prevent virulent pathogens from arriving in pollen imports.

But the New Zealand parliament knows better.  It has determined that we only have need of economists and policemen.  We need economists to tell us that mines will not explode, ships will not run up on reefs, weakened buildings will not collapse and houses will not rot in their first ten years because  owners and developers have too much money invested to allow such things to happen.  Then we need policemen to prevent people from recovering their loved ones or retrieving their property when, in defiance of economics, mines do explode or cities do collapse.  While the state did officially "close" the beaches to public access in the wake of the Rena disaster, it quick resiled from this dictate and chose not use the police to enforce its mandate.  The New Zealand Police had won themselves no friends from their management of the Pike River tragedy or the Christchurch earthquake. Perhaps the authorities are learning something from their past mistakes.  However this absurd policy of "all power to the economist and the policeman" is deeply entrenched within the regime, and it is not limited to one or another political party.  We have yet to see the worst of its consequences.

We also have to contend with political dishonesty.  Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has claimed that New Zealand SAS forces in Afghanistan  are "mentoring" Afghan troops when they are actually in a combat role, and he has claimed that there is no evidence of their involvement in the  torture of prisoners, when in fact there is irrefutable evidence.  His boss, Prime Minister John Key wrongly claimed that rating agency Standard and Poors had stated that a downgrade was more likely under a Labour than a National government and Education Minister Anne Tolley wrongly denied that an appointee to a government position had been suspended from a previous school principal position.

All these misleading or plain dishonest statements are attempts by Ministers of the Crown to deceive their public, and all have come to public attention in the space of a week.  Why do such things happen?  The stress of a pending election campaign may be a reasonable explanation for this bizarre behaviour.  However when ordinary working New Zealanders find themselves in difficult, dangerous, or stressful circumstances, they do not become dishonest.  If anything they become more honest and more careful to correctly represent the facts, because having the true facts can make the difference between success and failure, or even life and death.

So when stressed and fearful politicians tell lies we need to look deeper for explanations.  Politicians lie because of concern for their own survival in a system which nurtures fear and deceit.  Election is a transfer of power from the voters to the politician.  All the politician needs is for electors to give their vote on the day, and the outcome of that voting process is "all or nothing". The politician will either be in parliament or out of parliament, either in government or out of government. As the election approaches a lie  may seem to be a winning strategy, if it can be successfully maintained for a few weeks or even a few days to the date of the election.  There is even a possibility, indeed the likelihood, that a political lie exposed will have little impact on the outcome of an election, because many  electors have become accustomed to dishonesty among politicians, accept it as being the norm, and make their voting decisions on "pragmatic" grounds.

It is often said that democracy is the right to choose one's own leaders, yet after every general election we will be presented with supposed "leaders" for whom we did not vote.  Perhaps other people voted for them, but that is not the point.  They are not the leaders that we chose.

Real leaders are the people who we choose to follow of our own free will in  our hapu and our places of work and worship.  Their mana is not created or destroyed on a single day when the votes are counted.  It grows as a totara grows, slowly over a lifetime, and it does not fall whenever the wind shifts to a different quarter.  Real leaders do not exchange vain promises for votes, and they are not in the business of trading blankets and baubles for the shadow of the land.  They do not take the mana of the people to wear as a cloak for their own aggrandisement.  They are selfless conduits of the people, just as the prophets are conduits of God.  The wairua of the people flows through them like a river, with nothing taken and nothing held back in service of the self.

As the New Zealand state continues its moral decline, these true leaders of the people will become more and more important in our lives, and politicians of the realm will become less and less so.