Wednesday, 13 April 2016

In defence of New Zealand democracy

An article about Nicky Hager’s sister,Mandy

Politicians say we can’t change things – but we can and must
By Mandy Hager

12 April, 2016

I think one of the most worrying trends that was revealed in my brother Nicky’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ was the revelation that a concerted strategy has been put in place by the National Party (and their ilk around the world) to disengage the public from politics.

Oh, how we roll our eyes when they bicker. How we turn away when we perceive they lecture us.
We laugh when we see polls that put politicians at the bottom of lists for the most trustworthy, but though we can all relate to this sentiment, the outcome is a lessening of democracy because we do not challenge what is essentially an awful truth: our politicians could well be telling lies and working against our interests.
Media ‘carefully manipulated’

Through careful manipulation of media, they have convinced us politics plays no part in our lives, and that those speaking out, the boof-head academics and rent-a-mobs, can argue all they like, they do not live in the real world — and, anyway, we the people have no power to change it.
This final one, particularly, I hear time and time again.
We are disengaged from political discourse because we have been told so often we are powerless.
We start to believe it — and because when we do speak out, our concerns are ridiculed, diminished and ignored.
A self-perpetuating evil’

It is a self-perpetuating evil — one that plays very nicely into the hands of those who use our democratic process to further their own gains.
It explains, I guess, why this corrupt government continues to do so well in the polls.
panama papers
Every time an issue is raised, our dear leader or one of his side-kicks tells us there is nothing of consequence to see here, just carry on; that ‘ordinary New john keyZealanders’, the ‘hard working mums and dads’ don’t care about these trifles such as democracy, transparency, honesty and social supports, and hey, anyway, did you see the latest news about Ritchie McCaw?

The problem is that politics affects EVERY aspect of our lives: what is deemed a crime and how it is handled, how much we earn and what is in place to protect the vulnerable, what is taught in schools, house affordability, access to resources, the health of our environment, finance, trade . . . lob any issue into the ring and there is a political aspect to it – and political interventions and solutions (good or bad.)
If the only source of news you have is commercial radio, corporate-backed media or the TV news, it is little wonder people disengage.
Sound bites but little real inquiry

They get served carefully picked sound bites with little or no true investigation of what is really going on. John Key is a master at playing to this audience, pretending to be an ‘everyman’ good bloke as he whitewashes and diminishes every issue of real importance.
NZ a dodgy tax haven? No, because I say it’s not (and I’ll get my mate to do a report to back me up.)

Gross breaches of privacy? No, because I say there’s not (and I can’t tell you anything more because it’s a secret and hey, anyway, NZ jihadi brides.)
Water quality at breaking point? No, because we say it’s not (despite our technical experts sounding warnings to the contrary.)
anti tppa demoConcerns about the TPPA? No, because I say it’s okay and we’ll all make lots of money (though we haven’t done all the figures and we refuse to listen to those who have.) No fire here, they say, move on.
An age-old trick — divide and conquer
Those who dare to lift their heads above the parapet and speak out are labelled as trouble-makers, ill-informed, a tiny minority, radical, conspiracy theorists, even dangerous.
It’s an age-old trick: divide, defame and conquer, and repeat these accusations time and time again, until they have so settled into the national consciousness that they are taken as fact.
So how does one overcome this? Education, certainly, would help. If our young people were taught civics, including the political and social context for our systems, and encouraged to think not only of themselves but as a responsible member of a whole society, it would be a good start.
If our media were brave enough to challenge their corporate masters and go on the attack when required, this too would be most useful.
But, perhaps most potent is each of us taking the time to think more carefully about the long-term impacts and initiating discussions with those around us.
Let’s talk about politics

We need to rid ourselves of the notion that it is impolite to talk politics, as if it is a dirty secret, and instead realise how utterly necessary it is for people to re-engage and speak out every time they are concerned.
This is how a democracy should work – not just once every three years participating in a popularity contest that often results in those with money enough for the best PR and media campaigns taking top prize.
Democracy is for the people, by the people.
It is our country. Our home. Our children’s futures.

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