New Zealand is busily engaged at the moment in a charming little public tea party called ‘The Constitution Conversation’. The government is asking for the public’s views on supposedly important questions like whether all our constitutional documents should be combined into one. It’s the sort of thing that gives you the warm fuzzy feeling of being a member of a terribly civilized, mature, chummy, well-functioning democracy.
Not exactly the reality in a country where members of Parliament can break the law with impunity, where parents are not free to decide how to educate their children, and where innocent people live in constant fear of investigation by the social ‘services’. (An appalling use of the word… but that is a subject for another day.) Not to mention all the legislation that has been passed in the last ten years in the face of massive public opposition.
Now I’m not particularly fussed on democracy myself. I tend to think that there probably isn’t an ideal system of government, and if there was, democracy wouldn’t be it. The problem is, if you don’t have democracy, then you have something else. So what do we have?
We’re constantly being massaged with the rhetoric of democracy. It’s really a kind of mental torture: the representatives we elect do the exact opposite of what we elected them to do, and then they tell us that because they elected us, what they have done is what we wanted. Sometimes it seems that every attempt people make to get a hearing, or to make our political system more democratic, is silenced with the argument that such things are not needed in a democracy.
I think it’s time we got hold of the fact that the Treaty of Waitangi is for all New Zealanders – “nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani”. It’s not about Maori and Pakeha arguing over ownership of land. It’s not about whether we have democracy or some other system of government. The system isn’t important: what matters is what it’s protecting – the state’s power or the people’s freedom.
So let’s stop allowing ourselves to be cowed by the rhetoric of democracy. Let’s stop allowing our freedoms to be taken away in the name of make-believe ‘rights’. And let’s not spend the country’s pocket money on a chit-chat about how to have a prettier constitution. Let’s have a good old-fashioned ding-dong about the magnificent document we already have, the venerable piece of paper that strikes such a just balance between governance and freedom.