Politics - the big picture

This is not a diatribe for or against a political party - "left" or "right". It started with a sick feeling in my stomach as I contemplate issues such as the 2016 battle to represent the parties in the US presidential election, Brexit and our own government's ignoring the vast majority over the TPPA. I came to realise that left and right are not opposites - they are simply two facets of our existence. We have a responsibility to look after ourselves - and family / whanau and community. And as a nation we have a broader responsibility to ensure everybody - regardless of background - is included.

On the US right, Trump beat the other Republicans despite widespread opposition from his party. The one thing Trump has shown is how sick the people are of governments controlled or manipulated by unelected powers - such as big business or bureaucrats. I did see a cartoon saying "2015 - Trump can't win. 2016 - can president Trump do that? 2017."

On the left there was a glimmer of hope that the second candidate might come through - but Hilary won. I saw a video about her - not by her typical opponents but by John Pilger - hardly coming from the right. After watching her record I could not vote for her (apart from the fact I can't vote in the US) and expect her to act solely or even primarily in the interests of the US and the ordinary citizen. An article by David Farrar shows just why many people could not vote for Clinton. Couple that with those who actually liked what Trump had to say (see the link to Michael Moore in the article) and it's surprising she got even close.

On November 19, Abraham Lincoln 1863 ended a speech with his hope “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Those words have been quoted ever since as vindication of representative government. But the words were not Lincoln’s. Most of his hearers would have recognised their source, as our generation typically does not. They came from the prologue to what was probably the earliest translation of the Bible into the English language: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” The author was the theologian John Wycliffe, and they first appeared in 1384.

What about NZ? I've never voted for either main party. It made no difference under FPP, so I voted McGillicudy (or Social Credit if I felt more serious). Under MMP (which gives even less say to voters) I have voted for almost every party from Act to Progressive and Green. This is not because I expect any of them to achieve anything - but to encourage anyone from outside the system who might have a chance of doing something different.

Thinking further about this, and bearing in mind the fiascos around the TPPA and flag change, I'm very keen to see real political change. Other jurisdictions have an inquisitorial rather than adversarial legal system - and I wonder if we could do something similar with the political system. Such a change would see the parties at least agree more on the facts - while still advocating for their perspective.

Of course, this is part of a much wider issue - the whole constitutional set-up needs a rethink - including how we should be governed - and how the treaty fits in - which in itself raises questions about who we are as a nation. The flag would then follow.

Sadly all of this still seems idle dreaming. Those who have the power over our politicians will never willingly accept real government of, for and by the people. Ironically Trump's victory gives us a glimmer of hope  - ironic since he's a fairly extreme capitalist.

Interestingly it seems I'm not completely alone. I found an interesting article about the abuse of power. (Richard Foster, in his book Money, Sex and Power, points out that these three items are all too often badly abused which often leads to labelling inherently good things as bad.) It mentions a lot of bigger issues than Trump and points out the dangers of powers which leave free to those in power to define arbitrarily how and when those powers may be used. It talks of examples including execution by drone, South Korean use of defamation laws to crack down on dissent, abuse of "hate speech" laws and censorship through abuse of copyright laws.

Left and right keep shifting and are becoming less and less respectful and tolerant of those who don't share their views. A bird needs both wings to be able to fly. For example, we should be free to do whatever is right for us - as long as it doesn't do harm to others. The state does not have the primary responsibility to care for us - our family / whanau and wider "village" does. As one who has relied on a state benefit for nearly a year following a major stroke, I am very grateful for the welfare state.

I've also seen it's far from perfect. We ended up grossing about $20,000 a year until super kicked in. That's inadequate for a couple to survive on. Fortunately, it was topped up by my Mum's estate. That wasn't large. and of course meant she'd died, but it allowed us to replace a few things that were past their peak. Our business income came in mostly in the last month of the financial year, although it was paid monthly in advance by clients. WINZ could not handle cash coming in but not being accounted for until we'd done the work. If we'd made the profit evenly through the year we would have had a supplement.

Family support is widely seen as a boon for families, but it eases the pressure on employers to pay reasonable wages in the first place. There is no way we could cut family support without at least two changes. I've already mentioned both. Paying reasonable wages, and real "family / community" support. There are signs of this happening both in Maori / Polynesian communities and in parts of society which are exploring ways to make this "real".

The pandemic and the eco-disaster are two big issues which are taking us, in a sense, back in time. And that is yet another example of where both elements are needed. We need to carry forward the best parts of our cultures (every culture has parts worth not only saving for ourselves but also sharing) and strive to improve those parts not as worthy.

As an accountant who has seen far too much of nurses, I've come to see that business people can learn from nurses things like empathy and caring, while nurses can learn from business people things like organisation and efficiency. Our different ways of looking at things are only a weakness if we fail to learn from each other. Anyone who thinks their way is always the best is already missing the best.

This article is about the big picture of politics, yet here I am discussing smaller details. Again we need both - the big picture and the daily details of life. We cannot escape this reality. Big picture people often fail to appreciate the detail people, and vice versa.

 

Last Modified

Last modified: 14 September 2022.