Democracy Is On The Way Out
The election of Arnold Schwarzenegger has confirmed something for me; democracy will probably disappear.
You know when you've seen it before. The end of something. Personally I'm extremely familiar with the end of
relationships. As an expert I can tell you there are tell tale signs. You want different things. The love you once
shared has turned to contempt or merely indifference. That lovely way she has of missing the point in conversations, or
the way she slurps a latte, is suddenly excruciatingly annoying.
And then you have the same argument over and over again. It might start in different ways but it's always the same. And
worse still it's just a stupid argument. One of my favourites was her 'you never like to stay home' versus my 'you never
let me go out'. Clearly we just weren't suited, yet we had this argument for 18 months before I finally left. I heard of
one long term relationship that ended over whether a sock was placed on top of the washing basket and fell off, or was
thrown onto the floor directly.
As was the case with me and Melanie, Jane, Sally and hosts of others, I've realised that democracy is also on the way
People and politicians want different things. People want everything and politicians try and give them nothing.
We used to value democracy but now our relationships with those we elect has become a sneering joke.
And those loveable little traits like making laws just annoys us. Don and Doreen New Zealand in moral indignation ring
talkback - "How dare those wankers try and run the country!" "and those so and sos are telling me what to do! Not only
that but they're taking our money! Money I made myself which had no connection to my education, health care,
infrastructure or community, it's mine and they're taking it!"
I want to counsel all of you: as someone with the least successful love life of anyone I know I can tell you the writing
is on the wall. It's over. Really. We don't want to have a parliament and elections and we should get our stuff and go.
Or change the locks. We don't respect each other any more.
We want someone else.
We want unelected celebs like Tom Cruise and Elijah Wood. Princess Diana's dresses got more attention than most MPs get
in an entire career.
Coolio the rap star visited New Zealand earlier this year and dropped into Parliament. There were some kids on site who
had been forced to the Beehive in a bus, from Porirua or wherever by well meaning teachers. In future years some
commissioner or other using a UN convention will prohibit such barbarism. That is if the UN lasts, which I wouldn't put
money on after the Iraq war.
The teachers for their part were trying desperately to compete with hormones, playstations and text messaging by making
Somehow Mr Sadist, Ms Grumpy and Ms Liberal thought a field trip to the House of Representatives might awake some civic
pride in the teens.
While they waited for the Member for Nowhere in Particular there was a shout which rapped through the crowd; 'Coolio was
in da House'. They went wild. It was clear that they were far more interested in him than any old MP. Of course, you
might say. But then it would have been the same for a star from Shorty Street. Or a Warrior. Or even a member of the
The truth is that most New Zealanders would rather spend an hour with a demented great aunt or Paul Holmes than an MP.
A recent survey proved that most New Zealanders have no idea who their MP is but they know they don't trust them. Local
body politics is even worse. There is bound to be a recent survey that says at least one resident of Auckland thinks
that their mayor is Maurice Shadbolt or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Regardless, no one cares.
Which New Zealander would attract the largest crowd: a member of the Shortland Street cast, an All Black, a member of
Salmonella Dub or a member of the House of Representatives?
A librarian can pull a crowd bigger than Clem Simich. One person working in Parliament I talked to recently refused to
believe Simich was still an MP until a list was produced. This was the man who said when he was elected at a by election
that he would be a message to Wellington. Clearly the message was 'let me sleep'.
According to one journalist who has travelled up and down New Zealand with politicians the most individually popular MPs
are Helen Clark, Nandor Tanczos and Winston Peters.
Helen Clark I can sort of understand.
Nandor is a boring skinny man with a clipped English accent and dreadlocks. Take away the dreadlocks and there is
nothing. He's popular because he is proof that the right hairstyle can indeed make you interesting. It justifies the
billions of dollars spent on expensive hair stylists by (particularly) western women.
Presumably Winston Peters is popular because he is (in my opinion) xenophopic, destructive and betrayed his voters in
1997. People like a bit of cheek. I have a cousin who only goes out with guys who will beat her. NZ First is a bit like
No, MPs are as popular as an ex at a honeymoon.
We elect them begrudgingly and then hate them. And most of us don't want them to be constructive. A small party
supporting a larger one in Government is dead. All confidence and supply agreements should start with "I Peter Dunne
being of sound mind and body do bequeath all my electoral support to the opposition to ....."
The people who value democracy the most are those who don't have it. This is interestingly the inverse attitude to
people's views on having children. When the taxi driver from Cambodia who has been in Godzone five minutes is more
excited by our politics than those of us who have always been here, something is wrong.
In the United States less than ten percent vote in local body elections. Less than 50 per cent vote in the presidential
elections. In fact the last president wasn't even elected. And as Scoop has shown, maybe in fact no one is. It seems
over there one person one vote is passé. Some people get to vote many many times using only their PC and a simple piece
of hacking software. "What's your high score Jed?" "The electoral district of Maimi Randy".
The feudal kings of Europe no doubt thought that their system of kingship was the best system of Government that would
last forever, but it didn't. Nation states emerged complete with urban centres and merchants, and with that came freedom
from kings and princes. Governments and the Church were the biggest institutions. Businesses were small and subject to
Today companies are bigger than Governments and have more citizens, both in staff and customers. In New Zealand's case
most international companies are bigger than our Government. We are a small community centre in a street dominated by
large fast food chains, insurance companies and computer businesses.
Kiwis seem to prefer to let businesses run their lives rather than politicians. After all, apart from offering awful
working conditions, destroying the planet and using advertising to warp our minds - what have multinationals done which
is so wrong?
The façade that Marxists complained about whereby the exploitation of workers was legitimised by elections, seems to be
falling away as parliaments become irrelevant and people don't exercise their democratic franchise. And we know what
happens to things that don't get exercise. We lose them.
If things continue as they are it's only a matter of time before we cut out the middleperson and are governed directly
by companies. We will of course vote for them by allocating our money to the ones we prefer. We don't like the PC
Company - we won't vote for them and they can disappear. We like McDonalds; we'll keep voting for them. We hate small
local shops and we'll vote for large multinational ones that make their clothes in Asian sweat shops.
We won't let them take our money we will give it to them.
Poor people who don't have any money, don't vote now anyway so what's the difference?
The irony might be that Marx and Engels were half right; the state could indeed wither away.
One morning we could wake up and realise that it's all over. The state will have gone and we'll be all alone.
As with all break ups, we may join a gym and lose a bit of weight, or start smoking and eating junk food.
There will be no one left to argue with, except those irritating helpdesks on the end of 0800 numbers who can't do
anything at all to help you and seem to be paid to be abused by frustrated customers.
One day some months after we broke up I realised I missed Melanie. I was pining. I wanted to see her slurp a latte. I
wanted to argue about me wanting to go out and see my friends. I needed her more than anything in the whole world.
The solution is clear. Democracy must be taken away immediately. Let the Defence forces remove it now. Install Matthew
Ridge and Mark Ellis, the Silver ferns or Stereo Bus as dictators before it's too late.
We might see a rebirth in democratic spirit unseen here for around a hundred years.
Or we might get some groovy and interesting leaders. Either way it would be something to moan about.
*** ENDS ***
- Biff Guevara is a satirist living in Wellington waiting extremely patiently for $60,000 from creative New Zealand.