It goes without saying that politics is fraught with people; my thinking on this has been driven by yesterday’s political fiasco around the disclosure of names of COVID-19 sufferers. Politics is no simple matter, just for a start there are many definitions of the word. They include “who gets what, when and how” (Lasswell), “the concentrated expression of economics” (Lenin) or “Politics comprises all the activities of co-operation, negotiation and conflict within and between societies, whereby people go about organising the use, production or distribution of human, natural and other resources in the course of the production and reproduction of their biological and social life” (Leftwich).
The word ‘politics’ is derived from a Greek term which referred to the ‘affairs of cities’. Aristotle wrote a book in the 300s B.C. in which he described the role that politics and the political community must play in bringing about the ‘virtuous life’ of the citizenry. Aristotle critically considered that the ‘state’, controlled by the government, and society, the mass of people, are one and the same thing. He considered that man attains his highest virtue and perfection through the state and its laws. I should note here that Aristotle specifically meant ‘men’, as opposed to ‘women’; he considered women to be inferior to men (but at least higher than slaves). The ‘states’ of today are much bigger than those in which the Greeks were considering government, which were more like ‘city states’.
Aristotle is considered a ‘father’ of political science. He disagreed with his teacher Plato, who considered that aristocracy (government by the best) was the ideal form of government of a six-fold classification for types of government. Aristotle considered that a mix between oligarchy, democracy and the rule of law was the most appropriate balance of government. He noted, however, that government is inherently unstable because of human nature, and will therefore move between forms.
(interests of all at heart)
(interests of select few at heart)
|One ruler||1. Monarchy/Kingship||2. Tyranny|
|Few rulers||3. Aristocracy||4. Oligarchy|
|Many rulers||5. Democracy||6. Ochlocracy|
Another Greek, Polybius took Plato and Aristotle’s ideas and crafted a proposed sequence of evolution of government (anacyclosis), suggesting that there is a cycle that commences with monarchy and ends with chaos and mob rule (ochlocrachy), based on the notion that all governments transition repeatedly from a benign state to a malignant one due to corruption and then back to a benign state again as people rebel.
I was brought up with a related assumption that democracy is the acme of political systems, to be aspired to, and a country is not ‘correct’ until it has reached that state. I can now see the error in my thinking – there is clearly no single ‘right’ political system (or party) as each system has different beneficial outcomes. A prime example is Singapore which is effectively an aristocracy but where the needs of the masses, including housing, food and healthcare, are much better satisfied than in some democracies (one could think of the USA). Nowadays, I also think that the most important matter to recognise in all forms of management, is that stability comes from a balance of diversity – diverse systems, diverse people, diverse goals. It is in the balancing of diversity that results in an organisation, or a country, iterating around a middle ground rather than swinging wildly in one direction or another.
Politically, I feel somewhat doomed living in the Clutha-Southland electorate. Our previous MP was in his early 20s with a job history of working in cigarette advocacy. He was summarily dismissed after he recorded an administrator’s activities on the job, with the intent of making her redundant. The useful piece of information everyone got out of this (other than possibly not to elect young males with little life experience to Parliament) was that if you record and use a conversation you are part of, there is no problem. If you record a conversation in which you are not participating, and don’t ask permission of the conversationalists, you have broken the law. Such behaviour spelled the end of Todd Barclay.
We moved on from Todd to National’s Hamish Walker because Clutha-Southland will probably commit harakiri before it elects a more liberal candidate. The embedded nature of politics in the human psyche is something both strange and unfortunate. Politics is far more like a religion that it is science. People ask which party one supports, as if it is a fixed matter. At least I no longer live in the USA where I think it is tattooed on people’s hearts at birth. My latest response to the question is that, I don’t ‘support’ any particular party. I have certain values I wish to be upheld through the process of government, and I will look for the party (or likely combination of parties) that will deliver to the values I find the most important. There will be no perfect solution and no party will be a one-to-one match. I thank the stars, or the 1985 Royal Commission on the Electoral Systems, that we have an Mixed Member Proportional form of government which provides some of that much needed diversity and consequent balance.
But back to Hamish, he messed up, big time and has consequently had to terminate his political career. He had 10 years of life experience on Todd but it wasn’t long enough for him to learn what he needed to know. It was announced yesterday that Hamish was the source of the leaked document listing people currently with COVID-19. He leaked the document to the media in the interests of improving the system, he says. And no-one’s names were released publicly, he says. However, there could have been a more effective way to get the message out than to hand personal information that Hamish knows shouldn’t be disclosed, to a group of people whose job is to disclose things. Good on the media for not disclosing detail!
This morning’s revelation was that Michelle Boag was the original source of the document. She is now ex-acting CEO of the Auckland Helicopter Trust (the position which was the reason she received the document) and she is also ex of her positions in the National Party. On the RadioNZ Panel yesterday, Michelle Boag was typing furiously while on the airwaves and was mildly reprimanded by Wallace Chapman (I was wondered what that tapping noise in my headphones was, because I was working in the vegetable garden so I knew it wasn’t me). It turns out the tapping noise was the fighting of many, furious fires in Michelle’s life, as well as her clear statement that she was more interested in herself that the public position in which she was placed.
One can imagine Todd Muller sitting with his head in his hands yesterday and wringing them off his wrists today (something like Jacinda Ardern after it was reported that David Clark as Health Minister drove to a mountain biking destination). Hopefully Todd’s head wasn’t covered by his MAGA cap at the time of his despair. However, Todd might well be made of sterner stuff with no need to bewail because, after all, he is in politics. Therefore Todd would know that political parties and movements are absolutely chocka-block full of those very fallible and unpredictable items called human beings.