The rush by some politicians to abandon our blasphemy laws is remarkable. It only came up as a minor issue in Ireland yesterday and by 3pm today Act Leader David Seymour was seeking Parliament’s repeal of the New Zealand blasphemy law. Failing there, he is now threatening a private members bill to deal with what he has evidently decided is a very important matter. Really?
What is more astonishing than the speed with which this issue has been elevated is the sheer hypocrisy of many of those piling on to the repeal bandwagon. Apparently in the name of free speech it is fine to speak all manner of offensive untruths about religion and people of faith. However dare to raise the slightest question about homosexuality, transgender ideology, or any other favourite liberal cause and you become the reason why we need “hate speech” laws.
Indeed to simply express in a respectful way an orthodox Judeo-Christian position on sexuality, relationship ethics or the sanctity of human life is now to invite threats and intimidation. If it’s not the condemnation of the Human Rights Commissioner or some other liberal group, it’s the outrage of so called “newsreaders” asking if such views are even legal – and by implication asserting they shouldn’t be.
We probably don’t need blasphemy laws. God is big enough to defend Himself. Christians in New Zealand also seem secure enough not to be too bothered about the steady stream of invective that comes their way. However if we are going repeal blasphemy laws in the name of free speech then lets have it both ways. For that to happen all those now climbing on the repeal blasphemy bandwagon will first have to get off their “hate speech” bandwagon. You can’t be on both.
Prime Minister Bill English today told us that our housing affordability crisis “is fundamentally a product of poorly-directed…views about the environment”. He is simply wrong, utterly unconvincing and has his head firmly in the sand.
Aucklanders know what has driven house prices in their city to ludicrous levels. Uncontrolled immigration, unmitigated speculation and a government unwilling to face reality and do anything about it. Instead they have opined lack of supply and used the situation as an opportunity to constantly attack the RMA and local councils – all the while doing nothing about the underlying driver of the problem. Of course supply is an issue, but it is only so because of the excess demand. Demand fueled by both foreign speculators and plenty of local ones as well.
There are plenty of things they could have done do to address demand (refer “Eight steps to stabilising the Auckland housing market“) but instead any action they have taken in that space has always been too little too late. So now we have the problem spreading across New Zealand whilst Auckland sways on the edge of a a major market correction.
In the face of his government’s inaction for the last six years English’s concern about the impact of housing costs on low income families rings hollow. He argues that we can’t expect those households “to carry the burden of arbitrary preferences exercised by people having a view about amenity value that can include everything from furniture layouts in houses that haven’t been built, through to positioning of plants on a section.”
Does he really think this is the problem? If he had visited some auction rooms in Auckland over the last few years he may have got a proper grip on reality.
The euthanasia lobby trumpeted the huge number of submissions to Health Select Committee on their petition seeking to legalise “assisted dying” in New Zealand. They said this showed we needed change. However at the Committee hearing this afternoon some of the 20,000 submissions were heard – and it gave lie to the lobbyists. The traffic was one way. And it was a resounding “NO”.
In the hour I was there waiting to comment on my own submission, the presenters heard by the MPs were literally 10 to 1 against normalising suicide in our country.
There was the young woman who had struggled through depression and was glad no “choice” was ever offered to her of ending her life. She would probably have taken it. But now she knows life gets better.
There was the palliative care nurse who saw death as not an individual right, but rather a communal event where everyone needed to be supported and protected.
There was the school guidance counsellor who described how she was legally, ethically and professionally obligated to do everything in her power to stop young people committing suicide. She asked how could she do that if suicide was validated by the State.
There was the young man opposing normalising suicide because death was final with no opportunity to change your mind. He spoke of a friend who hanged himself – but had scratch marks on his neck where he had desperately but unsuccessfully tried to reverse his tragic decision.
It was raw. It was intense. I was proud of the brave New Zealanders who turned up and put their stake in the ground to protect their vulnerable fellow citizens. Their voices were quiet, but compelling. May they be heard.
I spoke with the Maori Affairs Select Committee recently about the proposed Land Wars Day. Some of those thoughts were published in Stuff today.
Will commemorating the New Zealand Land wars build national unity?
Easter is a marker pointing to ultimate meaning in a cultural and spiritual landscape increasingly devoid of any signposts to hope. Last week our MPs made that marker even harder to see. They voted to open the way for unfettered commerce to further subsume the social significance of Easter Sunday. In their minds the god of shopping must take precedence over the God who defeated death for all of us.
What is most disappointing is that all the Christian MPs in the National Party voted along party lines. Not one of them found the courage to cross the floor and vote against the proposal. Perhaps they convinced themselves that by voting to allow Councils to make the decision on Easter trading they were not actually supporting it. That is hair-splitting. We all know where this is heading.
Perhaps they lectured themselves about pluralism and the need to respect the will of those who don’t share their beliefs. Nonsense again. You can respect others views without abdicating your own. The very logic of pluralism is that all have the right to express their view of what is the common good. If Christians won’t vote to protect the significance of Easter – who will?
This is not about tourism, workers rights or even family time. It is about meaning. Easter Sunday is one of the three and a half days remaining in our national calendar when the all-consuming buzz of business and commerce is stilled. One of those days when the transcendent very briefly touches our national consciousness. Such days are a precious breath of fresh air in a society drowning in shallowness and gasping for meaning.
What will we say to our young people increasingly alienated in a kardashian culture and wondering what life is ultimately about. We thought tourism and shopping were really, really important ?
This was a vote about ultimate meaning in our society. It was not a time to go with the flow. It was time to fight. Michael Jones and David Tua knew that. Sadly our MPs did not.
Economics and ethics are inseparable. For any economy to flourish and prosper, the market transactions propelling it forward must be encapsulated within a supporting framework of ethics and non-market institutions. Jewish sociologist Amitai Etzioni called that framework the “moral dimension”. Without it any economy will falter. The same is true of the global economy.
So this week’s allegations that Chinese officials have threatened New Zealand companies over an investigation into possible Chinese steel dumping, raises doubts about the long term prognosis for our Free Trade Agreement with China. Historically New Zealand and its western trading partners have shared a similar cultural heritage. The same Judeao-Christian values have infused our economic, political and cultural landscapes. Respect for honesty and integrity in business dealings, transparency and accountability, and playing by the rules are part of our common cultural heritage. That doesn’t mean we always live up our values, but at least there is a deeply rooted recognition of their importance.
However we are now increasingly reliant on trade with nations that do not have the same cultural background. Indeed some of them like China have spent decades trying to eradicate any ethic other than the progress of the State. In such cultures where the will to power prevails in politics, it should not surprise us that the will to establish and exert market power also prevails. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t foster positive relationships with such countries. It does mean that we should do so with caution and wisdom.
We should also be careful not to allow our national prosperity to become hostage to a few very large trade relationships. Especially relationships that may not be built on as firm a foundation as we would like to think. With Britain looking for new trading partners after leaving the EU, it is an opportune time for New Zealand to renew old family ties. A free trade agreement with the UK would not only help diversify our trade – we are also on the same page when it comes to the values that sustain democratic cultures and help to grow flourishing economies.