debate issue 20, 2011

Page 25

columns by Vinny Francesco

by Melissa Low

spurious generalities

Homegrown Banana

no democracy in the kingdom of heaven


t may come as a surprise to you that New Zealand is not a democratic country. It is commonly thought that New Zealand is a democracy. However, if we look at New Zealand as a whole, and we compare it to the concept of democracy, we can see many undemocratic elements. This article will debunk but a few of the popular myths surrounding New Zealand democracy. The word democracy comes from the words demos (common people) and kratos (rule/strength), so democracy means rule or strength of the common people. There are various types of democracy, but in a nutshell there are two primary forms; direct democracy and indirect democracy. Direct democracy involves the common people in most, if not all, elements of politics. So for example, in a direct democracy the common people would be able have their say concerning any act of parliament. However this is not the case in our democracy, which is essentially an indirect democracy. An indirect democracy is quite selective about the involvement of the people. Politics and politicking is something which is happening all the time, 24 hours a week, seven days a week, 12 months a year. However, under our indirect version of democracy, civil enthusiasm is seen as a once in a blue moon activity... Once every three years to be specific. For some reason or another, the common people have developed the illusion that ticking a box or two every now and then qualifies as democracy (governance coming from the strength or virtue of common people). So because New Zealand is only democratic in some ways some of the time, the accuracy of calling New Zealand a “democracy” is called into question. New Zealand is more than a democracy. Amongst the modes of control/ authority in New Zealand we have aristocracy/nepotism, monarchy, monopoly, meritocracy, dictatorship and even anarchy. All of these political forms are present in New Zealand. It’s just like we have different styles of cuisine in New Zealand; some are certainly more popular than others, but it would be ludicrous to say there is fundamentally only one. Similarly, there are many political styles which people are a part of and it would be ludicrous to say that there is fundamentally only one. One of these other political styles is monarchy. Did you know that the official leader of New Zealand is the Queen of England? In New Zealand the Queen and the royal family execute their control through the avatar/representative, the Governor-General. Technically speaking, the Governor-General is the highest official political authority in New Zealand. This position is appointed, not elected. So, because New Zealand’s leader (Governor-General) is appointed, I am justified in saying that New Zealand is a dictatorship, or at least a monarchy. (Actually a monarchy is a dictatorship, except that royalty believes they have “the divine right of kings” as their appointment to rule over the common people.) Last but not least, there are entities in New Zealand which are arguably vastly more powerful than our once in a blue moon civil participation; and this we give the name Corporate Aristocracy/Nepotism. Corporate means a legal entity, which is not alive and does not actually exist, apart from within the legal matrix. Aristocracy means rule of the nobility or the priestly and it is similar to monarchy. Actually, most monarchs have an aristocracy which they are affiliated with. Nepotism means, favouring those who are close to you, and giving them appointments out of friendship rather than skill or qualification. Eighty per cent of all financial transactions flow through transnational corporations. So really; New Zealand a democracy? That’s laughable.

“We don’t talk like Sims do”


t was a bad move for me to start playing The Sims Social on Facebook. The Sims is just that type of game that you can play hour after hour; a fantastic (and addictive) procrastination tool. I myself have been wasting time trying to keep my Sim happy so I can buy them the large screen television I will never own in real life. But I’ve noticed something special about Sims, and that’s how easy it is to talk with other Sims. It’s all very straight forward. You just click one of the talk options, and they just chat themselves in their Simlish language. If it all goes well, your Sim gets the green plus marks. If it doesn’t, then it’s a big fat red negative mark for you. It’s just a shame real conversations cannot be as straight forward as it is in the Sims world. Very often I can find myself in the uncomfortable position where I can’t even talk to the person I’m with. This can be due to a various amount of reasons. One: They don’t speak enough English and I don’t speak whatever language they speak. Two: Their accent is so strong I feel myself having to stupidly ask them to repeat themselves. Three: They don’t even look at me in the first place. Four: It’s all of the above. And then it feels awkward. Unfortunately all the above has happened to me before with a woman I had met from China. I occasionally work as a host for a social events company, and 90 per cent of the time I’m perfectly fine talking with people I’ve just met. When they’re chatty and friendly, I know I can keep a conversation going on because they’ll contribute back. But when someone does not want to talk back to me, I will be prone to mentally panic and try to talk about the first subject I can think of, all done to desperately prevent any void of silence happening between us. Now if this were the Sims world, awkward silences wouldn’t happen. One click of a button and suddenly we’d be launched into a talk where my speech bubble would have a picture of a toilet roll and yours would have a picture of a llama. However, it wasn’t easy at all for me to talk to this Chinese lady. I took the Sims approach and started talking about whatever topic subject popped up around my head; asking about her job, where she was from, her interests, the weather, 3D movies, the rugby, and how nice I thought her shoes were. But for whatever reason, she seemed to prefer to sit in silence and not look up at anyone at the table, only glancing at her phone every once in a while. I wish I could tell you there was a resolution to this all, that there was some magic code word that made her open up and tell her life story to me. But there isn’t. She remained quiet for almost the whole night, sharing more eye contact with her phone than with the others at the table. She did however tell me at the end of the night that she did enjoy herself and was interested in coming again, which I guess you can call ‘success’. But the resulting fact is there is no great formula as to how to master the art of conversation with everyone. And trying to talk to someone of a different culture, call it a good challenge instead of a big struggle. All you can truly do is secretly hope that whatever you’re saying, it results in some green plus marks between you two.