Thumbs up to those willing to march for what they believe in tomorrow. But I hope they and the deceitful organisers behind the March for Democracy fail miserably
I want to sincerely wish all the best to those behind the March for Democracy at the weekend. It requires courage to take a stand in the political arena and to confront government, so I hope they shout loud and make their point heard.
All six of them. I also hope that New Zealanders stay away in droves; not just those who support the repeal of section 59, but even those who opposed it, yet value honest politics in this country. Because this march is a house built on the shifting sand of deceit.
For a start, it is not a March for Democracy. I love democracy with a passion - alongside a Churchillian skepticism that it is only the best system of an imperfect lot - and I won't be out pounding the streets. It is most accurately described as a 'March in favour of the right to use reasonable force against your children". It is marginally accurate to call it a 'March for Citizen Initiated Referendum' (although I suspect a CIR in favour of gay marriage would find little favour amongst most marchers).
You could perhaps call it a 'March for Spin', reflecting the organisers' strategy, or a 'March for fundamentalist Christian values', in accordance of the views of many marchers. But a 'March for Democracy'? Na-ah.
Citizen Initiated Referenda add nothing good to democracy. They weren't part of the system imagined by enlightenment thinkers; America's Founding Fathers would be horrified; our own democratic heroes, such as Kate Sheppard would likely be turning in their graves. Those at Runnymede would run a mile from this march.
CIR don't challenge our leaders to think long-term or in the interests of the many, rather they encourage governance on behalf of special interests. They are all about the squeaky wheel getting the grease, not the greater good.
CIR are to politics what the 'Baby on Board' stickers are to family wagons - they may make you feel safer, but they actually make you look like a dick.
You could put that complaint down to a mere debate about political systems, but the march's organisers have also perpetuated the lie that they and their referendum are speaking for the vast majority of New Zealanders. In the Herald today, funder Collin Craig replied to a call from the Children's Commissioner, John Angus, who has asked people to stay away from the march, this way:
"I think it's really problematic when bureaucrats look to suppress the will of the New Zealand people. The statement from Mr Angus is obviously out of step with 87 per cent of New Zealand voters."
I'm tired of this spin. Around half of New Zealand voters turned out for the referendum - well below the 70+ percent its organisers predicted. Of them, 87% said yes to a poorly worded question. They can, at best, claim support of between 30 and 40 percent of New Zealand voters. Their repeated claim that they're marching on behalf of 87% of all voters is a lie, and they know it.
What's more, we're now left wondering exactly what these people are marching for. The right to use reasonable force on children? Or binding referenda? The two issues have no particular link except this single referendum.
The organisers' attempts to link the two issues are looking increasingly like desperation tactics. They seem to have realised that New Zealanders are no longer that vexed about the change to the Crimes Act and so are trying to spin their protest down a new path. Their TV ad doesn't even mention smacking.
Toss in the little-dicussed religious agenda inspiring this crowd and you're left with nothing more than a confused, blurred coalition of discontent.
No-one who loves democracy should march in the streets for people who are so confused and dishonest. The onus is on those who claim the moral high ground and seek to improve 'the system' to behave better than this.
My final frustration with the organisation of this march is the misappropriation of true heroes for the political purposes of a reactionary mob. Singer Yulia MacLean will perform at the march, and yesterday she quoted Martin Luther King Jr, saying, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that really matter".
King gave his life for that belief; MacLean, however well-intended, hasn't begun to earn the right to claim those words. Does the right to use 'reasonable force' on your children "really matter", you may ask. More to the point, anyone with half a brain need only look at the context in which King used those words and see that to apply them to this march is a terrible distortion.
King represented an oppressed minority fighting its way out of centuries of slavery and maltreatment. In the American South, where King lived and marched, a referendum on civil rights in the 1960s would have condemned his cause to the dustbin of history. Racism would have prevailed. Heck, it could be touch and go today. It was only the courage of Lyndon Johnson and enough American congressmen and women to look beyond the howls of the mob to the greater good that gave King his victory, in the form of civil rights legislation.
I wish anyone who stands up for what they believe in all the best. But as for this disingenuous bunch of marchers, I hope they and the cause fail miserably.