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Act and Easter

Entry 880, on 2008-10-31 at 21:00:16 (Rating 3, Politics)

Recently I was invited to take a political survey which was designed to establish which party I should vote for in the upcoming New Zealand general election. A friend who I often debate, and who has more right-wing opinions than me, pointed it out to me and, of course, I ended up with almost the exact opposite preferences to him.

The recommended parties based on my political views were, in order: Progressives, Labour and Greens (tied), NZ First, United Future, National, Act. My match with the Progressives was 81% and with Act 36%. That wasn't surprising because I don't like the general philosophies that Act supports, even though a superficial evaluation of them makes them look quite reasonable (this is typical of libertarian parties).

So just to find out why Act rated so low with me I had a look at where their policies disagreed with my political ideas. It soon became obvious why I don't like them. I found these particularly brilliant comments in their climate change policy: Carbon dioxide is a vital and necessary greenhouse gas crucial for plant growth and human survival. And then there's this: The emissions trading scheme is a worldwide scam and a swindle. Or this: Al Gore is a phoney and a fraud on this issue...

Of course, there is enough truth in these statements to disguise the fact that they are essentially lies. True, carbon dioxide is an essential gas and is vital for life on Earth, but its the amount of CO2 that we are worried about. Its like saying water is essential for life so let's not worry if the whole Earth was covered with 10 meters of it! And the emission trading scheme has its faults but calling it a worldwide scam and swindle is just ridiculous. And what about poor old Al Gore? His film is 99% accurate but a couple of minor errors are always picked on and this is enough for some people to accuse Gore of being a fraud. That's not fair.

So that's Act out of the way (for me anyway, unfortunately they still exist as a potential distraction for many other voters) so what about the Easter part in the title of this entry? Well that refers to Easter Island. Today I listened to a podcast which described the collapse of civilisation on that island. The researcher wondered: what was the person thinking as he chopped down the last tree?

Easter Island had a quite advanced Polynesian civilisation for many centuries but they died out and their island became a wasteland. The question is why? It seems to be because they didn't see what human activity was doing to their home. They had used all the resources, even all the large trees, so they couldn't even escape in canoes. They wasted the island's resources building statues which were part of an ancestor worship religion. As that religion failed them they started destroying the statues but, even as the society died, they were still trying to build more of them.

So what's the parallel between Easter Island and Act? Well, if it isn't already obvious let me spell it out. Ignoring the damage being done to the environment because it suits your quasi-religious views is not a good idea. Denying you are doing damage as you (literally or figuratively) destroy the last tree on your island is tantamount to criminality.

The Easter Islanders had their high priests who encouraged worship of their ancestors. The free marketers, libertarians, and far right "priests" encourage worship at the altar of the free market. The Easter Islanders never seemed to notice that their worship didn't really help them and neither do the believers in right wing economics. Or maybe the high priests who receive the sacrifices do benefit, but only for so long...

So there's my metaphor. Those who choose to ignore the signs that we are destroying our world will send us in the same direction as Easter Island. But there is hope: the whole planet is much harder to destroy than just one island, we have much better technology today which can help improve the environment as well as destroy it, and there are more people today who stand up and reject the dogma spread by the high priests of whatever religion happens to be the order of the day.

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Comment 1 (1792) by Al on 2008-11-01 at 15:12:28:

Many people believe what you call the "new right" policies have saved New Zealand. On the other hand some economic indicators show that things might have got worse. Whatever the truth is its important that NZ has a party like this, just like its important it has a crazy left-wing party like the Greens.

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Comment 2 (1794) by OJB on 2008-11-01 at 22:04:18:

Economics is an "imprecise science" (and that's being generous). Most people think some change was necessary by 1984 but I see no reason to think that the extreme new right monetarism was necessarily the best option.

Actually I agree with your second point. I think its important that all views are covered. That's one reason I like MMP. But I also reserve the right to criticise any particular party, even if I think its a good thing that they exist.

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