Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Greens should be careful what they wish for

(First published in The Dominion Post, July 3.)

I AM NOT a supporter of the Greens, but part of me longs for the day when they find themselves in government.
They are enjoying a dream ride right now, confidently sounding off on every issue from mineral exploration to state asset sales and teacher-pupil ratios.

They are well organised, adroit at using a sympathetic media and blessed with a front line of fresh, articulate MPs who combine earnest idealism with sharp political instincts.
But the Greens have never really been tested in combat. They have never had to balance their worthy ideals against the political realities of being in government.

That’s when the pressure goes on and principles get compromised. Pragmatists and purists find themselves at odds and cracks start to appear.
It’s happened to every minor party from Social Credit (which started to fall apart when its then leader Bruce Beetham did a deal with Robert Muldoon) to Act. It’s likely to happen to the Greens too, should they eventually find themselves in coalition with Labour.

One of the paradoxes of MMP is that the acquisition of power, which is what all politicians aspire to, has been the kiss of death for minor parties. This lends a special piquancy to the old saying that you should be careful what you wish for.
For now, the Greens can take the moral high ground on virtually everything because they have never been exposed to the pressures of office and the compromises it demands.

They are unencumbered by previous form in government and have no shoddy record to defend. They are as pure as they would like our lakes and rivers to be.
I find their self-righteousness tiresome at times. Co-leader Metiria Turei can appear particularly smug. I relish the thought of their self-assurance melting if and when the heat goes on.

* * *

THEY SAY that rugby is a thugs’ game played by gentlemen and football is a gentlemen’s game played by thugs.
I would amend that slightly. Rugby is a thugs’ game watched by gentlemen and football is a gentlemen’s game watched by thugs.

In rugby, violence is confined to the field of play. You hardly ever hear of a brawl breaking out in the stands. Rugby crowds are models of good behaviour. But football seems to bring out the basest instincts in some of its followers.
In the 1980s and 90s, European football was blighted by appalling thuggery, much of it perpetrated by organised mobs of English supporters.  When they couldn’t take their aggro out on the Dutch or the Italians, the English would practise on each other.

The 1985 Heysel stadium disaster, in which 39 spectators died, was a direct consequence of aggression by Liverpool fans and resulted in a European ban on English clubs. Even the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy (96 dead) was indirectly due to hooliganism, since it arose from police efforts to keep Liverpool and Nottingham Forest fans apart.
English hooliganism has subsided since then, but the recent European Championship showed that football still provides an outlet for brutish nationalism and crude racism. Polish and Russian fans engaged in vicious street brawls, Russian fans attacked stewards and racist chants were directed at black players. 

Often, football thuggery is aligned with extreme right-wing nationalism and helps perpetuate old ethnic rivalries. It’s a surrogate form of warfare.
What makes football fans behave like this? Why does the so-called beautiful game have the ugliest followers?

Cricket fans can be yobbos, but they don’t normally attack each other. Tennis spectators are impeccably well-mannered even when the players behave appallingly. And although the Olympic Games are the ultimate arena for nationalism in sport, I don’t recall the Games ever being soured by the nastiness that routinely occurs in football stadiums.
“Monkey” seems to be the taunt-du-jour for racist fans trying to unsettle black players, but you have to ask: who’s more advanced on the evolutionary scale?
* * *
THE VATICAN wasted no time accepting the resignation of Monsignor Fernando Maria Bargallo, the Argentinian bishop who was filmed frolicking in the surf with an attractive, bikini-clad woman with whom he later admitted an “amorous” relationship.

According to one Vatican source quoted in the media, “either he had to resign or be would be sacked, so he decided to get in first and hand in his notice”.
Contrast this decisive response with the scandalous reluctance of Church officials to take action against priests known to have abused children.

Rather than disowning him, the Catholic Church should have adopted Monsignor Bargallo as its poster boy. It could do with some positive PR, and he seems just the bloke.
He may have broken his priestly vow of celibacy, but at least his relationship was with a consenting adult woman. This presents the Church in a much healthier light than the hundreds of priests who preyed on vulnerable minors.


Jigsaw said...

It does seem to make the Grens the absolute darling of the news media who go to them first almost everytime they want a comment. I mentioned this to a left leaning friend who said "well they have something to say". This may be true but so often it's a comment so light in substance as to be almost invisible. Never the less it does seem to me that the only way any reality whatever will ever enter their minds is to have a share of power. I shudder at the thought but maybe it has to happen before the internal tensions which undoubtably exist within the Greens can be allowed to aid their distruction. It might just prick that incredible smugness that is exemptified in someone Catherine Delahunty ( and which I have experienced first hand-scary stuff!)
Seems a huge price to have to pay though..........

Mark Hubbard said...

Agree with your comments on the Greens. Their politicking abounds with unintended consequence, such as how instituting the ETS on livestock would virtually ensure the final conversion of marginal South Island land into the dairy estate. Plus such an ETS would ultimately price protein out of the budgets of their constituency.

Lucia Maria said...

"Contrast this decisive response with the scandalous reluctance of Church officials to take action against priests known to have abused children."

Photographic evidence does go a long way in proving that something inappropriate happened. I am unaware of any pictures that have been posted online of priests abusing children that have been ignored.

It's also not just Church officials reluctant to take action, it's also the legal system, because there is not enough evidence to convict.

There's this whole mythology that has gained traction now that all priests are child abusers, and all child abuse is covered up and every single other organisation always acts appropriately when it comes to child abuse except for the Catholic Church. This is patently false, if you follow the news as I'm sure you do.

What this is leading to is automatic payouts to victims who don't even have to prove any more that they have been abused, because if it's a Catholic priest, he must have done it, and innocent men found guilty of crimes they did not commit.

Sure, we want to get the child abusers. Any Catholic priest who is a child abuser needs to be rooted out. Each child who is abused by a priest is one child too many. However, making it out to be just a Catholic problem leads to a kind of myth that only Catholic priests abuse children and only the Catholic Church covers it up, and somehow being able to have sex with women is going to cure them. It's just ridiculous.

Vaughan said...

I think one of the reasons soccer fans become violent is that their game racks up frustration minute by minute.

It is so hard to score a confounded goal, that the game usually has about only 3 per match-- on a good day.

Supporters barracking for their teams are thus continually tormented and have few opportunities to release their emotions.

In rugby union and league, points are usually scored quite regularly so the crowds can normally have a good old emotional release.