Saturday, February 13, 2016

Karl du Fresne: The arrogance of the self-righteous

A letter in Wellington’s Dominion Post last week said that if you wanted a good reason to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, you only needed to look at the people supporting it.

Funny, here was me thinking exactly the opposite. You could turn that statement around 180 degrees and be right on the nail.

The protest rallies that coincided with the signing of the TPPA in Auckland brought out a ragtag, bad-tempered mob eager to seize any excuse to legitimise their anger at the world at large.

And they didn’t stop at merely protesting. With all the customary arrogance of the self-righteous, they decided their cause entitled them to disrupt other people’s lives by blocking streets and paralysing traffic.

A few marchers signalled their criminal intent by concealing themselves behind masks. It’s easy to be bold when you’re anonymous.

Some hothead went so far as to firebomb a cabinet minister’s electorate office. When idealism morphs into acts of violence, protesters relinquish any right to be heard.

It’s sometimes argued that it takes extreme action to be noticed, but I don’t buy it. This is where I parted company with many of my fellow demonstrators during the 1981 Springbok tour. The right to protest stops when it interferes with the rights of other citizens.

The TPPA also gave fresh oxygen to Waitangi Day activists, who justified their latest ritual display of rage on the novel premise that as Maori (however that word might be defined), they were entitled to special consultation.  

At Waitangi, Steven Joyce was hit in the face with a rubber sex toy. That the thrower, Josie Butler, escaped prosecution (as did those who mischievously blocked Auckland intersections the previous day) left the police looking lame and ineffectual.  

“No charges laid woohoo!” Butler tweeted triumphantly. No doubt she will have become an overnight hero of the Left, who are too absorbed in their own sanctimonious bubble to realise that offensive protest gestures ultimately boost support for the National government and play into the hands of the law-and-order lobby.   

If it wasn’t the TPPA, the protesters would doubtless have found some other issue to feel inflamed about. But the multi-country trade agreement has become a lightning rod for a great deal of unfocused rage about a whole lot of things – a one-size-fits-all cause for the chronically disaffected.

It has served as a convenient rallying point for everyone nursing a grudge about the government, John Key, globalisation, the Treaty, capitalism, inequality; in short, every real or imagined assault on the downtrodden and disadvantaged.

Much of the rage has been informed by emotion rather than facts. A lot of the participants in the protests were young and apparently unencumbered by knowledge.

That’s the prerogative of youth, I suppose. It’s a time of life when idealism hasn’t yet been tempered by real-life experience.

I still haven’t entirely made up my mind about the TTPA. The secrecy surrounding the negotiations was bound to arouse suspicion, but that’s the nature of trade deals.

It certainly didn’t help that the government chose Sky City – a symbol of global capitalism in its most vulgar form – as the venue for the signing. How clumsily provocative was that?

But we’ll be in a better position to judge the agreement once it’s tabled and debated in Parliament. In the meantime, we need to remember that no country is forced to ratify it, and even those that do may choose later to withdraw if they feel disadvantaged by its terms. The rabid opponents don’t mention this.

Until we know more, I’m prepared to put my faith in respected, neutral commentators such as the Wellington business writer Patrick Smellie.

In an article last week, Smellie applied a reality check to much of the overheated rhetoric surrounding the TPPA.

He pointed out, for example, that while New Zealand opponents claim the agreement serves American corporate interests, American politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties are arguing that it shouldn’t be ratified because it’s tilted against the US. They can’t all be right.

Smellie also made the point that American drug companies, supposedly the sinister manipulators behind the scenes of the TPPA talks, had been defeated when they sought 12-year patent protection for their products. These facts are strikingly at odds with the claims of the hysterical anti-globalists.

As with any such deal, there were tradeoffs – a win here, a concession there. But until any disadvantage to New Zealand is proved, we should reserve judgment. 

After all, if the TPPA turns out not to be in our best interests, we can toss out the people responsible. That’s the most potent check on any politician who might be tempted to betray us.

In any case, what are the alternatives? We live in a global world whose steadily rising prosperity depends on the exchange of goods and services. 

Presumably the protesters would prefer us to raise the drawbridge and retreat into some dreamy socialist Utopian fortress where we could pretend the rest of the planet doesn’t exist. 

North Korea has tried that. It doesn’t seem to work.

Karl du Fresne blogs at First published in the Manawatu Standard and Nelson Mail.


paul scott said...
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Many people are frightened of the New World Order. The sanctimonious left see this Order as Global Trade arrangements, and I believe there us some cause for alarm, because we just do not know enough about it at all.
But [ Dominion Post ] “ If you wanted a good reason to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, you only needed to look at the people “ // Like the angry foaming Sue Bradford marching down the street, yelling at us, yelling us what is good for us, telling us to stand up. OK Sue , I will.
From my view the frightening New World Order, is that Order which would be imposed on us by the socialist, demented United Nations pontiffs, and from positions within the UN. Climate Change convention Christina Figueres would envelop us in a new world structure while making us pay her for our sins within the Climate hoax, and include massive payments to Africa .
As well we have the structure of an Imperial hierarchy given us by a New Zealand State sponsored race based privilege. I see no good reason why any Minister of State would want to appear before the rabble at Waitangi who misuse a National day for rabid intellectual cause like throwing a plastic penis.
Down where I live we have a collapsed City to live with, an uninterested Country, but they howl at us that we may not trade with Vietnam and Thailand on new and free basis.
We are uninterested in them ..

Anna said...
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Superficial analysis of the TPPA from quotes of one commentator, get informed like the Doctors, for a start

Peter Caulton said...
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Yeah. Let´s just let the globalist corporate elite walk all over us without a whimper. The majority of the apathetic ignorant naive voters in this country don´t even know what the TPPA is or what is in it so it will pass anyway.

Richard Treadgold said...
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Some astounding claims were made about the contents of a wide-ranging trade agreement that wasn't yet concluded. Then more people became enraged and took up the protest. It was quite stupid.

Note that de Fresne says: "But we’ll be in a better position to judge the agreement once it’s tabled and debated in Parliament. In the meantime, we need to remember that no country is forced to ratify it, and even those that do may choose later to withdraw if they feel disadvantaged by its terms. The rabid opponents don’t mention this."

This should return the protester's feet to the ground. We're about to hear the contents of the TPPA for the first time. Then we can respond to the facts, not wild speculation.

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