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Lange: Old Faiths New World

Written By: - Date published: 9:35 am, January 1st, 2013 - 32 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Ethics, Media - Tags:

In the slow summer break, here’s a slow, thoughtful speech to ponder.  David Lange’s last public appearance, “Old Faiths New World”, delivered at the University of Otago on 5th August 2004.  The video doesn’t embed, but click here to watch the Otago podcast.

lange-last-speech

 

32 comments on “Lange: Old Faiths New World”

  1. karol 1

    It’s a long speech, and interesting in retrospect. Lange was asked to answer this question:
    Can people of good will make a difference?

    There is a strong religious theme to the speech, but Lange has a pretty broad definition of religion, that encompasses all faiths. He ponders on the fact that religion has been the justification for destructive aggression as well as a vehicle for good. He warns against the false belief in human omnipotence, and says we should have respect for the beliefs and views of others, however they differ from us.

    He focuses mostly on the illegal invasion of Iraq lead by the US. He describes Blair as having the look of wanting to be teacher’s pet: to be the first in the line to the school dentist.

    I think the most important part of Lange’s speech, for contemporary times begins at about 30 minutes. Using the example of the illegal invasion of Iraq, based on the false manufacturing of the existence of WMDs, Lange says the US-led invasion broke international law:

    If the law is broken, governments we like are as much at risk as governments we don’t like.

    UN intervention should only be to deal with a crisis and no more. But the US-led invasion went beyond that.

    Lange says that, in Iraq the US has created an environment for terrorism to flourish.

    The most powerful nations have always been able to set aside the rights of smaller countries. There is a fact of power. It has happened many times.”

    Lange says that the US has not just broken to laws, but changed them to suit themselves.

    We have entered a stage of instability. International institutions are discredited.

    The authority of national governments is weakening as globalisation makes it harder for governments to meet the expectations of voters.

    To solve the dilemma of following a good path, many people avoid looking for deeper truths, ones that some people in the world call “god”. They avoid this,

    …by looking to temporary palliatives in the form of passing governments or new political allegiances or new political voting systems.

    He warns against the false sense of one’s or other’s omnipotence, as seen in the absolute faith in a politician. Instead, we should respect the views of each other: no-one, even the likes of Mandela etc, are infallible. There is no right to go to war to suppress those with different views. It is important to talk. The response to terrorism can be a solidifying of intolerance. These are political problems, requiring political solutions, with the contest over resources at the heart.

    Can people of good will make a difference?
    Lange says: everyone has the duty to respect the rights and beliefs of others. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    Lange was an engaging person if you ever encountered him personally as I did, and much of his wit is on public record. He had a limb amputated towards the end for palliative respite and quipped to the surgeon afterwards “did you get the right one?”

    It was nevertheless sad the way he somewhat ignominiously avoided a state funeral with the Auckland super top event, on one level it appeared egalitarian, to me it seemed he wanted to slide out quietly knowing he had failed. Failed as all ‘left’ leaders without a strong class analysis and programme fail. The holy grail for social democrats seems to remain contriving the employing class to behave decently, and for international law to prevail above US imperialism.

    So Lange’s legacy remains one of opportunity lost. But of course he was not helped by various unionists who were also captured, or at the very least given the run around by the then NZ new neo liberalism and the undemocratic LP structure which has only recently been given a good look at. I have rarely commented on the LP leadership issue here not being a member and seeing the membership at large running the outfit rather than the parliamentary wing as the significant matter; but it was interesting to bump into D. Cunliffe by chance at a social function. I said that I was a bit to the left of Labour but had good realations with a number of members and several MPs and he replied with a wicked grin “I am a bit to the left of Labour it seems at the moment too”. One should not take unguarded moments too seriously let alone report them publicly, but in this context of the Lange post are relevant.

    • Morrissey 2.1

      Lange’s infamous memorial service was not egalitarian, as a lot of foolish commentators claimed. It was an undignified and crass affair.

    • Margaret Pope 2.2

      David left no instructions for his funeral. It took the form of a service at the Onehunga co-operating parish church, where he went most Sundays when he was well. Mark Gosche MP told me that the government ‘wanted to do something’ but who designed the memorial event at Mt Smart, or with what intention, I do not know.

      • r0b 2.2.1

        Welcome Margaret, thanks for your comment here.

        For all the flaws of the government he lead, many of us remember David as an outstanding orator and a wonderful human being. I will always be proud of the nuclear free legislation that he defended so ably. I consider myself privileged to have been in the audience for the address presented here.

        Anthony / r0b

        • marty mars 2.2.1.1

          Yes indeed.

          I met David a few times and liked him. He remains for me one of the very best politicians and men this country has produced. Kia kaha to all his whānau.

        • Jenny Kirk 2.2.1.2

          And in addition to what rOb has said, not only was David Lange an outstanding orator and wonderful human being, he had the guts to stand up to the neo-liberals when he realised just what the end results would be for people and our country. They battered away at him non-stop – for many months – a verbal lynch mob in full cry. Extremely nasty to witness.
          David Lange tried very hard to stop them in their tracks – but had little support and they would not listen. Can people of good make a difference? Yes – they can give inspiration to others to follow. Lange may have left a “legacy of opportunity lost” as Tiger Mountain suggests, but he also left a legacy of wisdom, inspiration and courage. That is how I remember him.

          • LynWiper 2.2.1.2.1

            That’s how I remember that time and David Lange also. Hate to think how lonely that felt. Speaking of loneliness, I wonder how DC is getting on? Just a thought.

  3. Foreign Waka 3

    Admired him endlessly, even if he was getting a bit over defensive in the last years. But then again who wouldn’t. He was on the political landscape a hero and as such perceived by many Europeans. His insight, empathy, wit and intelligence is so missed in today’s submissive behavior by the many to the power yielded by a few. Lange never submitted to that.

  4. Anne 4

    I think one of his funniest moments was when Margaret Thatcher turned up in lil’ old NZ to ‘talk some sense into him’ over the nuclear issue, and he called out as she was walking away from his Beehive office:

    Hey Maggie, you’ve left your broomstick behind.

    • kiwi_prometheus 4.1

      Ha ha, that’s awesome.

      Was it for real though or just myth?

      • Anne 4.1.1

        I’m fairly sure he mentions it in his autobiography “My Life”.

        My one and only close encounter with David Lange still makes me cringe with embarrassment. Indeed, this is the first time I have revealed it.

        It was the night (no, not a dark and stormy one) of the Labour selection meeting in Mangere following the resignation of Colin Moyle. There were some 10 or 12 aspirants, and David Lange drew the straw for the last speaker of the night. The previous speeches were long and boring, so I decided to slip out into the school quadrangle for a few puffs. (I gave up the habit years ago).

        Pacing the quad. was this large, shabbily suited fellow called David Lange. I knew he was a lawyer of some sort but that was the extent of my knowledge of him. I took it upon me to give him some moral support and – short of actually patting him on the back – I told him… not to worry, it’ll soon all be over. He then went inside and delivered the most impressive speech anyone in that large, packed hall had ever heard before – including me. He had no speech notes, and I realised afterwards that during the course of his pacing (10 mins. max before he was due to make his speech) he had just started to think about what he was going to say.

    • Matthew Hooton 4.2

      It wasn’t Thatcher.

      • Anne 4.2.1

        I stand corrected.

        It was an emissary sent by Thatcher to give Lange a “telling off” – Baroness Somebody or another. Apparently he yelled out “Oi” before delivering his broomstick message to her. Baroness Somebody or another swept into the lift without a backward glance… mission unaccomplished.

  5. bad12 5

    The mans gift for the gab sadly lacked an equal gift for Government, sadly and too my undying shame i trudged the miles stuffing letterboxes to help elect that Government…

  6. Steve Wrathall 6

    I’d rather have uranium on my breath than Saddam Hussein’s boot polish.

    • Morrissey 6.1

      Look out guys, it’s a moron!

      [lprent: Make a point to go with this style of comment. ]

      • Steve Wrathall 6.1.1

        “Making a point” would require Morrissey to engage cerebral functions in defending Lange’s foreign policy. Not likely as on this issue it’s always been:
        BRAIN –> OFF
        ANTINUCLEARISM –> ON

    • mike e vipe e 6.2

      SW WMD words of mindless deception

  7. David Lange was an important Prime Minister in New Zealand’s history. In fact I tribute David Lange with New Zealanders “coming of age” in our thinking.

    When he became Prime Minister and refused to bow down to either France after they committed an act of terrorism in our country then refusing to bow to the Americans over Nuclear powered ships he made New Zealander realise they did have a voice in the world and we had every right to determine our own future.

    Until John Key was shoulder tapped to get New Zealand ready for sale.

  8. Steve Wrathall 8

    Refused to bow to France? He caved and sent the saboteurs to Club Med Hao.

    • Napkins 8.1

      Steve, your ignorance of international diplomacy is legendary. Criminal convictions and prison time was more than enough to send the required message to one of the permanent members of the Security Council.

    • mike e vipe e 8.2

      he also got better access for our primary produce to the EU out of the bargain!

  9. This prophetic and historic lecture was the inaugural Otago University Chaplaincy and Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group’s inaugural peace lecture. For the text of David Lange’s 2004 lecture, and for the text of subsequent peace lectures see http://www.dunedininterfaith.net.nz

  10. millsy 10

    A few weeks ago, I browsed through a few old online articles, that involved interviews with Lange, nearly every one of them has him tying himself up in knots trying to justify the Douglas reforms. He was an active precipitant in the reform process, and only stopped when Douglas was about sweep away our welfare state (Remember: it was National that slashed and burned our health and welfare system, prior to the 1990, we still had things like Housing Corp mortgages, Family Benefits, UB at a decent level, etc).

    Fact: Till the day he died, David Russell Lange never expressed an ounce of remorse or regret that the neo-liberal reforms took place.

    • jenny kirk 10.1

      Yes he did express regret and remorse publicly, and he apologised. In fact, David Lange had doubts about the Rogernomics during the 1987 election campaign and he said something publicly about this soon afterwards – I think (from memory) that might have been his “cup of tea break” comment.
      Haven’t got the details to hand but I’m fairly sure it was over the summer break following that election that he started to express his doubts, and to privately query with Douglas what was happening.

      • millsy 10.1.1

        If he had doubts about Rogernomics during the 87 election campaign he had a funny way of showing it, he could have quite easily demoted Roger and his mates in a cabinet reshuffle after that election (though from what I understand, he proposed that the finance portfolio be split in two or something like that, but nothing came of it), and then take things in a different direction.

        And anyway, when he delivered his valedictory speech in 96, he said something to the effect of “the people thought that they had a right to an endless treadmill of prosperity, and we screwed the lot of them”

        • Anne 10.1.1.1

          I have to assume you have quoted him out of context millsy. I’m not saying he didn’t say something to that effect but to accept Lange would acclaim the view we screwed the lot of them doesn’t fit with the reality of the man.

          My recollection of the ‘cup of tea’ event is that it happened soon after the 87′ election. I doubt he could do it any earlier because of the consequences it might have had on that election.

          In some ways there is a similarity between the Rogernomes of the 1980s and today’s Mallarfia. Lange was answerable to the Rogernomes. They put him in the top job and he relied on their support to stay there. Moreover they were bullies, and they had very powerful non-Labour backers. After he put a stop to the neo-con madness, I recall some of the venal claims and jokes (also aided and abetted by a pliant media) that were made about David Lange and his soon to be wife, Margaret Pope. I sometimes wonder how much effect it eventually had on his failing health.

          Long after the neo-con acolytes have been forgotten, David Lange will be remembered for the intellectual giant that he was… and for his bravery in the face of international adversity and (of course) his legendary wit.

    • mike e vipe e 10.2

      cups of tea are the answer!

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