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Pause For Thought # 1

Written By: - Date published: 7:25 am, September 24th, 2010 - 30 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, democracy under attack, Social issues - Tags: , , , , ,

In the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, our parliamentary representatives seemed –  how should we say? – a little too relaxed and casual around the issue of our representative democracy and suspending its traditional systems associated with degrees of oversight, accountability and redress.

Sure, there was some hand wringing before every single politician in the house voted…with no obvious appreciation of irony… to let our democracy go. And that was it. It was gone. Just like that.

But the actions of our MPs beg some uncomfortable questions for us to reflect on. For if we find it okay at any level that our representatives deem it fine to suspend our systems of democracy in the face of this event, then what type of society and what levels of control might we expect and accept as energy crises heighten and the effects of climate collapse close in?

Because lets face it, the Christchurch earthquake is going to be as a pricked finger is to digits amputated from above the elbows and knees when these things hit.

And if it is the case that we will accept our democracy being locked down by the jangling keys of emergency measures because of what we might reasonably categorise as a  pricked finger event and can accept the army continuing to be on our streets performing law enforcement duties alongside the regular police force even when that state of emergency has been lifted; if we can put up with curfews and fail to be actively outraged by the apparent primary focus of  protecting CBDs over helping people; if we happily and silently allow local political incumbents to cement their hold on power by cynically foisting  campaign free elections on a population still suffering from collective shock, fear and uncertainty; then I guess we can begin to perceive the outlines of any reality that might flow from future realisations that  intractable crises associated with energy depletion and climate collapse have arrived.

30 comments on “Pause For Thought # 1 ”

  1. IrishBill 1

    Nice post, bill. Welcome aboard.

  2. Carol 2

    Good points, bill. This issue, and these questions should be continually asked of candidates for the 2011 election. We should be asking what they are going to do to ensure this dismissal of democracy never happens again, and what policies/laws they will put in place to cope with further emergency recoveries in a democratic and accountable way.

  3. wobble 3

    Some very thoughtful points. Good to see this kind of analysis about what the earthquake bill says about the society we live in.

    The question is: What do we do about it? Because who else here feels completely helpless against the surging tide of cultural and political apathy and downright disregard?

    • just saying 3.1

      spam word: invisible

      Snap. This has been a crossroads for me, and, I believe, the country (though few recognise it yet).
      Can’t vote for any current left “representative” therefore can’t help the campaign to get rid of National as it now stands. And believe it or not I can be shamefully pragmatic, when I need to be. If anyone really can’t understand why this issue is so damn serious, well they’re just one of maybe four million reasons the situation has become all but hopeless.

      Talking with like-minded friends we can’t see any alternative to passively watching the political situation unfold.

      They say in personal relationships the point of no return is contempt – it usually renders a relationship unsalvageable. Well, I’m no longer just angry and exasperated with Labour and the Greens, I’m contemptuous, and wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.

      • Bunji 3.1.1

        Having people passively watching will only make things worse. If you want your opinion to count, that’ll only happen if you do something about it.

        Particularly for those on the left, who believe in community, if one sees a problem the correct answer is to get involved.

        Either transform Labour/Greens from the inside (and the right managed to hijack Labour for their agenda in the 80s, so I don’t see why the left can’t…), or start your own party/movement.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1

          or look at any of the other political parties.

        • just saying 3.1.1.2

          Sometimes the right thing – the ONLY thing to do, is to withdraw your support.

          It’s alarming that many will support the left’s current representatives in Parliamaent no matter what they do, with one provisio – that it is equally or somewhat less bad than what the right is proposing.

          Kill the disabled anyone? It’s alright, Goff’s put in a amendment that the most ambulatory can apply for exemptions under some circumstances. He’ll vote for the cull even if his amendment is vetoed, but hell it’s the thought that counts. He’s off buying a shotgun and some ammo, as we speak.

          Russell has made a stirring speech questioning the need for the killing, but certainly won’t be seen to be a party-pooper at voting time. However he draws the line at shooting anyone himself, and may even turn a blind eye if some ‘wild’ greens’ try to rescue the odd cripple.

  4. Ben 4

    “We should be asking what they are going to do to ensure this dismissal of democracy never happens again, and what policies/laws they will put in place to cope with further emergency recoveries in a democratic and accountable way.”

    Well said Carol however my opinion is that none of the candidates we have representing us should be returned to office. Not one person stood aginst this. We must elect people who will put NZ before their party or their well paid position when absolutely necessary. Not a single member did this. Time for a new independant left and for those on the right side of the house you should be looking at replacing all your people who voted for this also.
    Our parliament is not listening to the people and as long as MP’s have a well paid position they will continue to shut the public out. We must get true democrats on the Left and Right back into our government.
    Perhaps an alliance of independant left wing candidates who promise to repeal and replace CERRA will be be enough to scare the shit out of the current useless Labour MP’s and bring them into line. But we shouldn’t have to do this. Our representitives should have the inherent belief in democracy and be dedicated to the protection of it.This is clearly not the case. They are most certainly not mentally equiped to defend our freedom.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      …and for those on the right side of the house you should be looking at replacing all your people who voted for this also.

      They won’t though as they actually believe in dictatorship. Most of the comments on here from the right have been defending the legislation.

      • Ben 4.1.1

        Yep I do agree that there is a portion of the right wing that would love a dictatorship untill it worked against their own interests. A lot of folk on the right though are just about smart enough to know that any dictatorship might also act against their own intersts further down the line..

  5. the sprout 5

    well put, thanks Bill

  6. BLiP 6

    As the frog wondered to himself: “is it getting warm in here?”.

  7. Lew 7

    Bill, as you know I often find your reasoning a bit .. shall we say, far out. But on this I think you’ve got the pitch just right. Cheers.

    L

  8. Jeremy Harris 8

    Richard Heinberg has suggested a few ways energy descent could go…

    I think what we need to do is ensure we have:

    – Enumerated rights
    – More checks and balances – upper house, head of state with executable veto powers, referendums, etc…

    • Bored 8.1

      Thanks for that thought Jeremy, I bore everybody going on about energy depleted future scenarios. As opposed to the huge unwieldy polities offshore (USA etc) we in NZ stand a good chance of retaining some semblance of national order. The maintenance and nurturing of our democratic institutions is of utmost criticality to how we manage the “new world” of low energy availability.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      Why do people think an upper house provides more checks and balances? I really can’t see it. You still get bad law and party politicisation. MMP in a single house is far better.

      As for the idea of even more executive power? Ah, no thanks.

      • Bored 8.2.1

        A more useful division in my mind may be to take peoples respect for the law and use it to protect them against the abuses of executive power, maybe in some form allow the courts to challenge parliament. Might bear some thinking about as a division of power.

  9. Ben 9

    The upper house should be a peoples referendum. States of emergency should only be applied for a limited time of 1-2 months giving time for a referndum in which the people would decide if they would allow the suspension of law to continue or to agree to some other more specific power. Parliament is elected and any deviation from democracy must be endorsed by the people.We also need a new form of direct peoples television media, an open forum, uncontrolled by mass corporations etc where ideas can be discussed by the people and representatives on live tv with strict debating protocols to ensure free speech for all who contribute.

    As the Main Strean Media operates today it is not required by law to inform the public of vital information they need to cast their vote in their own best interests.

    Just as parliamentary debate is screened live we could also have live community debate discussing the issues as they come up in parliament and also issues that need to be addressed by parliament.

  10. Clarke 10

    I’ve been looking for a silver lining from this particular debacle, and while it’s exceptionally hard to see the upside in the abrogation of our democratic rights, it’s at least clear that we will be able to hold Gerry Brownlee personally responsible for the success (or otherwise) of the Christchurch recovery.

    After all, he’s got the kind of power that would give Mugabe a hard-on, so there can be no excuses as to why the city can’t be put back on its feet. There isn’t any collective responsibility here – it’s solely Gerry’s gig. He can’t blame red tape, due process, the need to consult or any of those other political dodges to fudge the issue.

    So my suggestion is that we hold his feet to fire every time there’s a screw-up in the recovery – and given that we’re not exactly talking about an intellectual genius here, we won’t have to wait too long before the cracks start appearing. Personally I would have thought that an ex-woodwork teacher isn’t exactly the right person to lead a major recovery effort, but maybe Gerry has some (exceptionally well) hidden talents.

    NACT should be very careful what they seek. If they want to remove all the normal checks and balances, it will be exceptionally difficult to somehow pretend that the inevitable problems and failures aren’t directly their responsibility.

    • BLiP 10.1

      I’ve been looking for a silver lining from this particular debacle, and while it’s exceptionally hard to see the upside in the abrogation of our democratic rights, it’s at least clear that we will be able to hold Gerry Brownlee personally responsible for the success (or otherwise) of the Christchurch recovery.

      I’m not so sure that we will be able to hold Gerry accountable. Given the short-term thinking and grasping avarice of National Ltd™, it could be a decade or two before the consequences of hurried, unconsidered, and partisan decisions made in secret and without liability begin to show themselves.

  11. RedLogix 11

    Interesting Bill and as others have said, thought provoking.

    Right now I’m reading Jared Diamond’s ‘Collapse’ which is a rollicking good read. Much of what you are saying links in interesting ways to Diamond’s descriptions of the various ways in which societies respond to crisis, and how this is one of the crucial factors in determining whether they suceed or fail in the long term.

  12. freedom 12

    under a ‘dictatorship’ the loss of sovereignty is easier to manipulate, international commerce is relaxed about its responsibilities and the whole inconvenient truth about the basic freedoms and rights of humanity are simply forgotten.

    On this note, there have been some successes in an Official Information release from the good ol USA
    some not so light weekend reading

  13. uroskin 13

    Mr Brownlee shouldn’t be compared as Henry VIII because he didn’t inherit the throne. It’d be more apt to portray him as Cromwell, who did a mighty fine job as dictator (just ask the Irish who were not slaughtered).

  14. Drakula 14

    That was a good article Bill keep up the good work’

    As a Green member I feel a wee bit let down Kennedy Graham claims that they put down seven objections to CERRA in the debating process that I feel was the right thing to do.

    All seven amendments were opposed by Labour! (never mind NatAct etc.) In all fairness the Greens did try to oppose the bill because they could all see that the Nat/ACT could have been using an emergency situation as a pretext to hijack democracy. Only later to give a little back in such a manner to benefit their clients, big business.

    What I cant understand is why they all voted for CERRA: Is the left that scared of the media?
    I don’t and will not buy; that it’s utter bullshit!

    The way they acted was really wierd it was as if they were all under some hypnotic state under the influence of a ‘hidden hand’. Someone was leading them up the garden path and I think I know who it could be, but I don’t have the facts and I am not into conspiracies.

    I have also seen this sort of thing happen in local bodies.

    What to do about it? Well Lennin (I am not necessarily a supporter of him) said that a strike is worth more than ten elections. I think he has a point.
    Don’t you?

    The power and intent of CERRA can be tested by people in Christchurch doing what they normally would. Including and especially taking strike action on a number of issues, but preferably under one banner say ‘OUR DEMOCRACY’ or ‘OUR NATIONAL PARKS’ etc. etc.

    How Mr. Brownlee and his backers will re-act to this will be tantamount as to how the left will mobalise and recruit support.

    AT THE MOMENT THE LEFT HAS MORE POWER OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM!!!!!!

  15. Swampy 15

    And the one that wasn’t mentioned? Strangely, no limits on media reporting (as there would be in time of war etc) – meaning the Press newspaper published the addresses of all those council units that were evacuated even though the Council asked them not to.

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