March for Democracy

It always concerns me when people use the word democracy. These days it tends to be bandied about a little bit, often under the guise of democracy. Let me explain…

The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Need I say more?

OK… the United States of America.

Before I get the usual Bush-lovers bleating on about how good it was before Obama, I wish to explain further.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Let’s start at the most obvious place: the Democratic Republic of Congo. Situated in between Angola, Sudan and the actual republic of Congo, this country dubbed itself the Democratic Republic of Congo after, would you believe, a kind of coup/rebel takeover of the capital Kinshasa in 1997. In fact, since independence in 1960 there haven’t been too many elections there. You might remember President Mobutu from the film When We Were Kings (he starred alongside Muhammad Ali, George Forman and the USA’s own Mobutu – Don King). He was used to be an army dude, but got into power in 1965 by your standard ‘overthrow’ tactic, then he went on to invade and fight with neighbouring Angola. Since they were backed by the Soviets, Mobutu raked in the ideological cash from the US who thought that funding the likes of him and Saddam Hussein would somehow bring down the USSR (???). As we all know, that job went to David Hasselhoff. (As a PS to this paragraph, I like how the country has now dubbed itself on various world maps as Dr. Congo – sounds like a fix-it-up consultant that flies in to restore credibility to Dancing with the Hasbeens).

The second most obvious place is, arguably, the United States of America. I say arguably because I’m arguing my point of view. You may not agree with it, but the rest of the world does. Anyway… the US has spent the best part of the last 50 years telling the rest of the world democracy is the answer. Funnily enough, the rest of the world didn’t really ask a question. The US like to place sanctions against the might of communist Cuba, or invading world terrorising countries such as Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom (just cut out the word freedom and that’ll sum it up), Iraq – Operation Iraqi Liberation, and Panama – Operation Just Cause.

They, and when I say ‘they’, I mean the US government / State Department, not the many wonderful people who make up the rich tapestry of the country, tell us they’re invading/liberating to bring ‘democracy’ to the affected area. I can tell you now that countries or regions of the world aren’t sores that can have the elixir of free and fair elections applied to them and be cured. People in those countries have to want to change and I suspect many inhabitants of the aforementioned countries were none to happy with the US-led forces trotting over their borders waving the flag of extreme shock and death awe freedom.

Democracy is something that can’t be imposed – it has to come from a groundswell of the people. Hang on… isn’t that how the United States was formed in the first place…

So we know that the US aren’t really leading these charges against undemocratic nations in an altruistic way. Nope. It’s got more to do with what type of petroleum-based goo lies under these, or nearby nations, or, in the case of Panama, how they can secure a shortcut for the ships taking that goo to the Californian refineries.

While I’m spouting on and on, as is my want from time to time, why don’t we briefly talk about the example of democracy that the US is setting for the rest of the world. The choice between two parties, one who thinks they’re Jesus and the other who tries not to be but if someone says what they’re doing is wrong then… Democrats too scared to be leaders, Republicans too scary to be leaders.

And so we move on to my actual point of this session – the March for Democracy held in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday. If you want to find out more click here. In short, 4000 people marched up the main street of the biggest city in New Zealand calling on the government to make referenda binding.

Failing to see the point yet? Well, as an aside, earlier on this year the government held a referendum that asked people to vote on the question, “should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Overwhelmingly, and much to my disgust, New Zealanders voted 89% in favour of being allowed to use the defence of reasonable force if they were ever brought up in court on charges of assaulting their children. The new National government had promised the referendum before winning the election last year, and to their credit, delivered on the promise. Of course, New Zealand has this wonderful system of citizen initiated referenda whereby anybody with enough signatures can force (yes, that’s right, force) the government to hold a referendum on their issue of choice. This time, it was the right to hit children with impunity.

As a further aside, the legislation dubbed the ‘anti-smacking law’ does not ban smacking, instead, as mentioned above, it removes the defence of reasonable force from the statutes. Anybody who is in favour of this remaining as a defence for disciplining children needs to think… isn’t reasonable force is something the police think about when apprehending criminals.

And, finally, to my point. Yet again the word DEMOCRACY has been hijacked. 4000 people is by no means a majority. It is, in fact, just 0.0001% of the population. admittedly they looked pretty good having been at the cardboard with black paint, tomato stakes and glue, but it was only 4000 at this “family(!!!)” event.

Now I might disagree with the 89% of New Zealanders who want to use reasonable force on their children, but I don’t care. If you want to use the word democracy, be very, very careful. It is, after all, a government of the people. If you invade, does that mean democracy? If I disagree with your march, does that mean democracy? If you coup me out of office, does that create a democratic republic?

You might just say this argument is all just semantics. I say your anti-semantic.

Until next time, all the best.

Boon x


New Zealand Has Spoken (with the mouths of idiots)

Well, it’s official.

As of last week, and thanks to $9 million spent by the New Zealand taxpayer on a referendum that nobody has to do anything about, nearly 90% of us voted in favour of being able to assault children legally.

The point must be made that when I say ‘assault’ I mean smack. I use the word assault because if I ‘smacked’ any adult in the street the charge I would face is ‘assault’. Do we live in such a backward world where people get so worked up after a law is passed to protect children?

When the law was originally passed all it did was remove Section 59 of The Crimes Amendment Bill which allowed parents to use the defence of ‘reasonable force’ when disciplining their children. For example, 28 strokes of the birch would not have counted as punishment under the revised law. I’m just thinking as well… what normal parent would want to use ‘reasonable force’ against a child. More to the point what adult would believe that using force against any innocent is the right thing to do. Also why would you want to protect your rights to hit the most innocent members of society – those who need the most protection – and campaign publicly to do so? I just don’t understand why or how people see smacking, hitting, or caning of children as OK.

Previously you may have read about my current experiences with IVF and the commencement of our journey through this process (IVF and IVF2). By implication this tells you that I am yet to be a parent. It is very easy for me to say these things when I have never had the fright of my life as my three year old runs out onto a busy intersection without looking. I cannot say what my reaction would be because it hasn’t happened yet and it would be a reaction. But things should never happen when you’re reacting.

Spare the rod and spoil the child? I’m sure we’ve all come a long, long way from this biblical nonsense – or maybe we haven’t. People in NZ obviously want the right to hit their children. They have shown it with their voting pens. Good work there, he says sarcastically. I would now like to hold a referendum and vote in favour of hitting people who don’t indicate when they are cutting across in front of me on the motorway. Just a gentle smack would do. A light smack on the bottom would be all it would take to stop these people from not using their indicators, despite the fact that the indicator switch is one of the closest at hand when you are seated in a driving position. Maybe not just a gentle smack… I would actually like to use reasonable force against these people. Yes… reasonable force. I would like to retrain them by using reasonable force.You can’t do that Boon – it’s assault.

The unfortunate side of this defence of ‘reasonable force’ is the fact that my ‘reasonable force’ might involve a trousers down smack with some kind of reinforced wooden cutlery. However, someone else’s ‘reasonable force’ might include putting their child into a clothes drier and hanging them out onto a clothesline. If you’re overseas reading this think I’m enhancing my point by going to an untrue and exaggerated extreme, cut and paste Nia Glassie Case into Google and see what you find out.

In this referendum month of August two New Zealand children have died because parents and caregivers used what they believed to be ‘reasonable force’ when disciplining – or just had no idea at all about parenting or humanity.

Being part of a couple who can’t get up the duff without a bit of science helping along the way it breaks my heart to¬† hear these horror stories of severe abuse. It starts you thinking… why can these dickheads have children at the drop of a hat and I’m forced to make love to a jar in a room at a hospital and put my sperm in the freezer to bring my child into existence. If these so-called ‘parents’ don’t want their children let me and Mrs. Boon have a go.

It’s something that we’ve thought about. The only problem with the adoption/fostering of children these days is how open it is. Biological parents still have access – to an extent I suppose, dependent on their fitness – but it’s all monitored by the government through their wonderfully resourced and thoroughly agile Department of Children, Young Persons and their Families (CYFS). I don’t think I’d like to be a parent under those circumstances… the thought of giving all of your love to a child and then having that child head off and find biological parents at some later date, or have a relationship all the way through their childhood, would make me feel like half a parent. The carpet of love could be pulled out from under you at any moment.

New Zealand has voted in favour of hitting children. 87% in favour. It’s still astounds that nearly 90% of New Zealanders have voted that smacking/hitting/assaulting children should NOT be a criminal offence. I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe it. What is wrong with you people… (thanks to the nearly 12% that voted with me. You are the right kind of people).

I promise to blog on a slightly more upbeat note next time.

Boon x

It Never Hurt Me Any

There comes a point in a man’s life when he has to admit something he has resisted for many a year…

I’m turning into my father – although this has been a slow process, it is often quite hard to fight. I find myself getting grumpy at the slightest piece of poor driving for example, or I like to complain at things I’m not willing to do anything about to fix.

Of course, I am definitely not my father. And quite thankfully so as I think my wife would be somewhat concerned if I had suddenly morphed overnight into her father-in-law.

Do I have a point? When I started writing 6.5 minutes ago I was going somewhere with this. However, it seems I have wandered off track like the aimless career path of Michael Jackson following the last 30 years of advice from his many, many ‘yes’ men. Before I get back on track I have just one thing to say about that weird pseudo-paedo – man could he dance. Well two actually – did anyone ever find his other glove?

Back in the 70s, when my father had the most influence over me, giving a child a sound thrashing for disobedience, silly behaviour, swearing in the house, stealing etc, was an acceptable disciplinary option for many a parent. Both here in New Zealand and around the world I’m sure many mothers and fathers optioned the occasional chastisement in order to teach their children right from wrong. And it was fine – those were very different times. At one point in the 1970s Richard Nixon was a well respected US president, Iran was pre-republic, and Michael Jackson was black.

So when did it all change? I think the crunch would have been somewhere around 1980 – the year I turned 10. Although my father still used the spanking to discipline, Iran was no longer headed by a Shah, Nixon had been impeached and Jacko was on the road to being the King of Pop (his attempts at being the King of Soda Pop were to fail dramatically, however, after the product used to keep his afro straight exploded in a fireball during the filming of a Pepsi commercial). My dad stopped spanking me around this time, not because I stopped being naughty, far from it (that didn’t happen until my mid-twenties), by this time I was nearly as tall as him, so this kind of punishment was becoming ineffective.

During the 80s and 90s, the sound thrashing that was part of many children’s upbringing was on the decline. During the noughties, with the rise of Supernanny and her wonderful parenting skills, despite the stunning lack of any children of her own. I suppose it’s easy to practise experimental parenting when children aren’t yours (controversial comments once again Boon – grow up!). So Supernanny Jo Frost has shown 172 countries (ABC website bio) that you can raise children without the need to assault them with your hand, a wooden spoon, or some kind of buckled, leather, & gravity-defying trouser device.

So now we move to New Zealand and the current Citizen’s Initiated Referendum we have before us on the issue of smacking or spanking depending on what you want to call it. It was initiated following legislation being passed that outlawed excessive force being allowed to be used as a defence by parents ‘disciplining’ their children. But before I start talking about the subject of the referendum it’s important to point out a few things about referendums here in little old NZ…

  1. A Citizen’s Initiated Referendum is just that – initiated by the citizenry. All someone, or a group of someones has to do is gather up a petition with signatures from at least 10% of eligible voters.
  2. Once the petition has been organised then it is checked by the Clerk of the House to make sure nobody has signed it 500 times.
  3. As long as everything is in order, then it is presented to parliament and the Governor General sets the date or declares a postal referendum.
  4. We all vote on whether we agree or disagree with the question put to us.

All sounds pretty democratic… well, to be frank, it’s bollocks.

Firstly, the whole process is fraught with nonsensical gibbering from various interest groups. It is the people with strong viewpoints on the matter that initiate these referenda. They write the questions, so quite often the questions are politically charged and worded terribly. This current question is appalling: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand? The organisers of this petition question were very cunning. If, like me, you’re against assaulting children in any way, you might decide to answer in the negative – I’m against smacking, so ‘no’. You would, in this circumstance, be voting in favour of hitting kids. The question is so bad that our prime minister John Key and leader of the opposition Phil Goff have both said it’s a waste of money and they might not even vote. Why couldn’t the question just read: Are you in favour of hitting children? If you answer positively to this question, then well done you dick.

Secondly, the whole process is a waste of time because this type of ballot is “non-binding” in that the government of the time can accept the result but the are under no obligation to pass any laws. And why would you? Punters are particularly good at having extreme viewpoints on a variety of issues – why should the politicians, who are all moderate, listen to the public they represent? I’m not sure if you can tell, but the inflection on that sentence is thoroughly sarcaticatory in nature.

Thirdly, because of the first two points, and the fact that this current referendum is costing $9 million ($US5.8 million), why are we even bothering. Couldn’t they save a whole bunch of money by doing a survey? Isn’t there something called the Internet now? Can’t we just log on to a secure page and vote there? I do Internet banking, inland revenue stuff and pay bills on-line using secure log ons all the time.

Fourthly, New Zealand has one of the worst rates of child abuse in the world. You wouldn’t think so, but about 6 or 7 times a year the news media will pick up on the story of a child – usually under 5 – who has faced such neglect and lack of respect that they have died at the hands of the people who are meant to be their carers. The last great example of this was a household of adults, who’ve since been convicted of murder & manslaughter, who ended up putting a 3 year old in a clothes drier and hanging her on the clothesline as punishment for crying. If you are in favour of disciplining children by hitting them in someway and/or with something, then you are on the slippery slope to abuse.

Think about it in this context: if I was to walk up to a person on the street, put them over my knee and give them a sound thrashing for something they had done, I would be charged with assault. There should be no difference for an adult who hits a child. Why should the size of a human determine the severity of the crime? Assault is assault – I don’t care what the bible says.

So, in summary, if you hit your kids you are a child abuser. We got rid of it out of schools in the 80s because it just doesn’t work in the long term. Nowadays there are many different options available to the parents – far more than when I was growing up when a pants-down hiding with the wooden spoon was considered appropriate. If you are a parent reading this and thinking, I smacked my child last week, does that make me a criminal – well yes it does, but you probably won’t get caught because nobody outside your family saw it. If you are wondering where to look, start with the Supernanny website – all sorts of wonderful material is available there, many bits you can download for yourself (rewards charts etc). I’m sure there are many others out there as well. Let Google be your guide.

Until New Zealanders realise that assaulting a child and disciplining a child are mutually exclusive, then our child abuse rate will continue to be above those of all other countries.

The naughty step is definitely the way of the future.

Boon x