Opinion by Tony Orman
The Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has announced the election this year will be held on September 19.
I was talking to a friend, a keen trout fishing and hunting guy the other day and when I mentioned it, he retorted “I couldn’t give a stuff” – well in words similar to that and a tad more emphatic.
He went on to tell me that he didn’t vote last election in 2017.
“What the heck! The politicians have(?) taken no notice. So I don’t give a stuff!” he declared.
Well he’s the problem and there’s too many like him. The reality is if the public at large fail to take an interest in what is going on politically, then governments will? do what they like.
My friend was apathetic – in his words, he couldn’t give a stuff – and together he and other indifferent, disinterested Kiwis amount to a widespread attitude of apathy.
There was old geezer a long time ago born in Greece about 425 BC. He was Plato a Greek philosopher and a wise man. He said in a famous quote “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
It’s the people who don’t vote or are too disinterested to tackle the issues and tell politicians what is needed who are virtually inviting politicians to be “evil”, often corrupt and to ignore the public interest. Business interests, often corporates, feast on the public inertia, making donations to political parties in return for special favours.
Bureaucrats have free reign, for the public no longer hold them to account.
Politicians whether in the House of Parliament (Beehive), your local council or even on your local fish and game council, are in essence, public servants. They are not your masters. Even the prime Minister, too often referred to as the country’s leader, is the country’s most senior public servant.
Should a government dictate to the public or should the people tell the government what to do?
If you believe the latter i.e. government should be fearful of the wrath of the public and a subsequent backlash at election time, well you are out of step with political moods of the last few decades. Apathy is commonplace.
It’s plain to see.
The 2017 election was typical. Around 3.57 million people were registered to vote in the election. But only 2.63 million voted, i.e. a 79.8 percent turn-out. Almost one million did not vote.
Selfish and Short-sighted
Those one million are selfish. They do not care about tomorrow and the legacy they leave to their children and grandchildren. They are short-sighted because they only live for themselves, for today, and don’t give a toss about tomorrow.
Take a look at recent Fish and Game elections where in some regions not enough nominations were received to fill the council seats. The voting turnout by shooters and anglers was poor. From memory in some regions only 40 percent of those eligible to vote bothered to do so.
Sixty percent couldn’t give a stuff.
So who is going to challenge the government on bizarre policies like the government’s anti-firearm measures that hit a low blow to democracy and law abiding people and ignore the gangs, criminals and would-be terrorists?
Fish and Game NZ?
Forget it. In a short-sighted – in fact stupid – move when Fish and Game NZ was established under the Conservation Law Reform Act, it was bound by the letter of the law to the Minister of Conservation and government and the department. It was thus rendered by an ignorant short-sightedness, a toothless tiger.
DOC, obsessed with predators and poison, is woefully incompetent both in intent and action. True there are some fine individuals who do understand the environment and the ways of fish and wild animals. But dominant within DOC are bureaucrats – policy makers, spin doctors, “managers” who are public servants and dictate what will be done.
For example, DOC seems disinterested in river flows and escalating nitrate levels yet those rivers are habitat for not only trout but native fish and native invertebrates too.
That leaves one other option – you.
Collectively, the people.
Do you as a New Zealander care?
Well the record of the public ever since 1984 (and the advent of Rogernomics) has been one of apathy and disinterest – and yes, selfishness and shortsightedness.
Apathy is a major worry. Consequently the world has become ruled by top-down, dictatorial, often arrogant governments. But one country apparently stands as an exception – France. As political commentator Chris Trotter put it several years ago, “French governments are frightened of the French people.”
“Any perceived threat to their rights—is met by the French people, with action – on the streets.”
He said “Governments should always be afraid of their people, but people should never be afraid of their government.”
Think about it, especially come September 19.