Looking Forward by Trevor Plumbly
My last piece was about looking back at some of the positives from last year, so it makes sense (at least to me) to look at the negatives which it looks as though we’ll be carrying into 2015. We’re somewhat isolated from the world’s problems down here in New Zealand. To compensate for that, we grace ourselves with nifty titles to describe our little corner, like ‘Godzone Country’ and to an extent, there’s a bit of truth in that title. We don’t suffer from many of the social ailments faced by others, such as terrorism, religious slavery, starvation, epidemics or even dangerous weather conditions. For those of us who are on a middle or upper income, life, at the moment, is just about as good as it can get. But it seems to my old jaundiced eyes that we should be putting a bit more work in if we want to aspire to heaven-on-earth status.
Whether we admit it or not, most of us have niggling little problems finding stable ground when it comes to conflicts involving a different race or culture; we counter this by applying a self-appeasing double standard. In a recent example of this, a middle-class, white, young rugby player, after being found guilty of a serious assault, was discharged without conviction because, according to the presiding judge, ‘it could affect his potential rugby career’. One wonders if that same benevolence would have been extended to an unemployed Maori teenager. Whilst it’s not 1950s Mississippi justice, it’s an indication that the English legal system is no longer truly effective in our country. The vast majority of our judiciary are white, educated within a British based value system, dispensing justice founded on English moral parameters. An unacceptably large majority of those appearing before this judiciary is comprised of Polynesians, many of whom have little understanding of, or respect for, what, to them, is a ‘foreign’ system. Small wonder many feel entrenched and resentful.
Punching Our Weight
Oh Joy of Joys! We’re going to sit on the United Nations Security Council. It is not yet known how much it cost to host holiday junkets over here for those responsible for voting us onto this august body, but what the heck, it’s only politics! The important thing is that we’re there, right alongside Barak, Vladimir and a truckload of other countries with militant ideals and dodgy civil rights records. ‘We will be an independent voice!’ trumpets our Ambassador (I bet they’re shaking in their boots). The question for me is this: why should we bother adding our voice to a group made up of leaders largely concerned with their own agendas, rendered practically toothless by its own single vote veto rule? Personally, I feel that if there’s any unused talent or cash, it would be better utilised tidying up our own backyard rather than lecturing to predominately deaf ears.
The millions that would be saved by a full and final settlement of all remaining Maori land claims, not to mention the social benefits of a clean slate for the first time in the country’s history. Imagine an efficient passenger and freight system as an alternative to the expensive, pollution-fuelled road network, reducing our dependence on imported fuel. Imagine solar heating panels and water recycling facilities made in NZ providing jobs and cost-effective household services. Imagine a zero alcohol level for all drivers with JPs. sitting in night courts, along with on-the-spot fine options for minor traffic offences, easing the current congestion in the court system. Imagine a well-funded Marae-based mentor/detention system for young Maori and Polynesian offenders to educate them before they graduate to adult crime.
We’re a delightful, small Pacific country, but we have to work internally to keep it that way instead of clinging to Britain’s apron strings, cuddling America’s gun barrels and pandering to China’s trade demands. If we want to make a point on the world stage, let’s show them a clean, green, egalitarian country that’s still a pretty good place to live in.