SMACKING REFERENDUM: PRAGMATISM, LOSING FACE, THE MYTH OF DEMOCRACY


I guess John Key must have felt better of staying in Australia with all the heat going on: Rodney Hide and the Maori seats and on top of the smacking debate. New Zealand voted against “a smack as  part of good parental correction” being a criminal offence, whatever the media and even the pro and anti smacking are crying in the media. John Key took a series of proposals to Cabinet today following Friday’s referendum victory for opponents of the 2007 child discipline law change.

I am still wondering whether most of the people that voted no, despite my own preference for that, actually understood that it was not about whether a parental correctional smack should be allowed, but whether or not it should be classified as a criminal offence.

I again point out that it does not necessarily mean when you voted NO that you are PRO smacking. Could it maybe be that you do not see how a correctional smack warrants being classified as a criminal offence. Criminalizing should in my view be an “ultimum remedium” and therefore reserved for those acts that cannot be seen as anything else but a crime. The debate and referendum however has lost all its true perspective in any event as it is turned into a are you for “assaulting your children” or not. (That is the position of amongst others Sue Bradford and followers.) It is quite some distance from a “parental correctional smack” to “assaulting your children” I would imagine. It is also a distance from personally being a against a correctional smack to considering that it should be a criminal offence. he discussion and debate however seems to be polarized as FOR or AGAINST smacking. Subtle differences I admit but played out to their max to influence public opinion. 

All that aside, I am intrigued by John Key’s persistence in this matter. What is it that democratically elected members can sort of impose their own perspective or moral values this ignoring what the people in a democratic society want. They want the correctional smack out of the Crimes Act. Do Helen and mob have something on Key? The key to Key? Allegedly he would have said that “parents who lightly smack their children should not fear being treated like criminals, and that he would not ignore the referendum.”

I would like to point out that it is not how you are being treated, but the fundamental principle that despite of your treatment YOU ARE COMMITTING A CRIMINAL OFFENCE. the fact that you will not be treated as a criminal is hardly reassuring. Many high profile fraudsters end or ended up not being treated as a criminal, but does  that make them less of a criminal?  Many don’t get caught, therefore are not treated as a criminal. It’s all non-arguments.

The referendum is pretty clear in what it tried to answer. The outcomes are equally clear. We were asked whether a smack as part of good parental correction should be a criminal offence and we said NO.

Arguments that no one has been prosecuted are not compelling, arguments or proposals that would implicate police discretion are equally not convincing. The fact that there are many potential defences should you be prosecuted is of no importance either.
The simple fact remains that whenever a parent decides that a correctional smack is in its place – based on responsible parental values and experiences – and decides to follow up on that and gives his/her child a light smack on the bottom, that same parent needs to consider that he or she technically committed a crime. To illustrate:

Now suppose your neighbor we’ll call her “Auntie Sue”, sees what is happening, than she could report it as a crime and in Auntie Sue’s case you bet your bottom dollar that she will report that you are “assaulting” your child. There you are, things have settled down and you and your child are by now sitting on the couch reading from “Thomas the Tank Engine” or well whatever and there’s a police officer ringing your doorbell asking questions about a reported incident of assaulting your child, or equally bad, CYFS is doing the same. Regardless of whether you are prosecuted or not, you are investigated as a suspect of a crime that technically has been committed if this law remains unchanged. The mere follow up and questions are enough to make you feel as suspected to be a criminal and since you technically have committed an offence, you are.

Personally I can’t help but feeling that despite not changing the law “if it works” is an unconvincing approach, in fact a spineless approach. Gandhi once said: “Cowards can never be moral.”  And it shows.

Pragmatic arguments such as not wanting valuable parliamentary time being usurped by a renewed smacking debate are a blatant denial of democracy in the workings and also not a valid argument. Will we start taking criminal offences out of the Crimes Act an/or others “if they don’t work?”

Have Key and all those others before him forgotten that they are elected to REPRESENT the people and that it is our tax money that pays their bills and perks? A law was pushed through in 2007 that had no democratic support, Parliament, by allowing this law to pass, already ignored its voters, the people once. And now again? The referendum is to inform out politicians of our opinion, the elections are there to enforce our sentiments upon those we choose to represent us. These boys and girls in the Beehive are getting things mixed up. Parliamentarians are send to parliament every three years as representatives of their voters, they should therefore be adhering to what we want them to do not the other way around. And here we have a John Key, prior to the referendum already telling us that regardless of the outcome he will not change the law. And basically sticking to that position despite the outcomes. Have those politicians  forgotten that the overwhelming majority of New Zealand never wanted this law in the first place? No-one wanted a back-office “compromise” deal of John Key and Helen Clark and in any event, NO ONE PERMITTED THESE POLITICIANS TO GO AHEAD AN DO IT ANYWAY. An yet, here we see it being done twice!

Then again, try to place yourself in Key’s shoes: changing the law in accordance with the documented wishes of the people would mean losing face of course, cause how will you explain agreeing to this unwanted law change in the first place and subsequently changing it back. Step up John, and admit you made a mistake in 2007 and are now prepared to admit this and set the record straight. Now that would be the act of a REPRESENTATIVE. That would be a Parliament that represents and would justify the people to voluntarily comply with, because it represents the consensus of public opinion. TIME TO RETHINK THE BASICS I would say.

Ignoring the referendum results, is like seeing democracy die for the benefit of ELECTED politicians, that have become so power hungry, that they think they have it within their right to ignore those who elected them in the first place. If that is the case, we may as well stop pretending and admit that voting rights are no more than window dressing and keeping up a democratic myth so as to keep the population quiet and unaware that we are actually living under some form of dictatorship.

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One thought on “SMACKING REFERENDUM: PRAGMATISM, LOSING FACE, THE MYTH OF DEMOCRACY

  1. Pingback: Roundup: New virus scanner, hackers prefer firefox, the myth of democracy, new pictures at flickr « John Dierckx

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