Quite some time ago, an angry mob stormed a public building which they saw as a symbol of oppression. They finally entered the building and killed the officials in charge. The mob is recorded in history and by their country as revolutionaries and their actions are revered every year as those of brave patriots. That mob apparently consisted mainly of craftsmen and storeowners. France was facing an economic crisis as the industrial revolution spawned even more poverty and unrest in the cities. Their protests to this very day appear more violent than most western democracies.
The event was the storming of the Bastille in France, 231 years ago and was the fore runner to the French revolution. The bastille was in fact a prison which stored a large quantity of ammunition the mob were after but had become a symbol of privilege and the dictatorial rule of France by the monarchy. The revolution itself was based on the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity and is celebrated each year in France with a national holiday.
Just a week or so ago, Russian tanks rolled into Kazakhstan at the behest of the corrupt rulers of that country to put down a popular uprising by another angry mob, this time protesting the price of fuel in an oil rich country. A clutch of the ruling elite of Kazakhstan saw fit to cement their positions and privilege by calling in the irrepressible force of the neighbouring Russian military. Orders to shoot to kill the protesters (who have little option but to take to the streets to vent their anger), is an unspeakable order and action from the political elite. It is the militarization of politics throughout the world that is a far greater threat to democratic processes than protests in the street.
The normal course of political change has no chance of taking root and holding its ground where the courts and the military bend at the knee in subservience to the political elite. Such action is not to defend the country (which is entirely justified) but to defend the Government from the people. The so-called free world watch and do nothing which allows tyrants to succeed. The militarization of politics has occurred to such a degree that the lines of separation between the judiciary and Parliament are completely blurred in so many countries such as Russia and China. Few now dare challenge the might and authority of their lifelong “elected” officials.
Russia is poised to move into the Ukraine as they wait until the West gets used to the idea of Russian control over the wealth of that unfortunate country.
The same free world watched the same process occur as China subsumed Hong Kong into that dictatorship. Taiwan will be next as China plays the long game. It is little wonder then that citizens take to the streets to try to protect their interests, as they see no process of appeal when the natural authority of the people is subjugated to authoritarian rule of the political elite.
Many wonder why our political leaders here in NZ fail to even pay lip service lip to the concepts of freedom by failing to even utter comment let alone criticism of the two communist countries (Russia and China) who now blatantly express their intention to ignore any pretext of democracy.
All of the above leads to the events of January 6th, 2021, in the USA and the storming of the capitol buildings.
Perhaps the real question which needs to be answered is why in a democratic country -the land of the free, did such a display of anarchy occur. One possible answer is that there is no process whereby the people can challenge the political elite in any country who appear to build careers from the grace and favour of a system that allows non-performance of the elected, to go unchecked. Election time under MMP in NZ merely allows the already anointed the opportunity to champion their personal compassion for the less well off or their personal crusade. Any siding with those who follow the rule of law, pay tax and rates and who produce wellbeing in the community – is greeted with distain by the virtue signallers. To use a sporting analogy; try asking a cricket umpire to always err on the side of a bowler who toils all day for no reward and see how you get on.
Conversely a lifetime of service to self can be reasonably levelled at those who manage the election process as a mere inconvenience to their personal job security. Rightly or wrongly the image portrayed by the speaker of the house in America - Nancy Pelosi - seems to echo the ostentatious lifestyle of a – “let them eat cake” Marie -Antoinette, when even bread was unaffordable. Hillary Clinton commented some years earlier during her election campaign on those whom she described as “the deplorables”. Both of these women are on the left of politics. They have never struggled from week to week to survive. The rioters of Jan 6th were not traditional republican voters, nor so-called right-wing extremists according to reports from the federal authorities. Perhaps it was the same or similar reasons the people took to the streets of France all those years ago and were similar in thought and deed to those who stormed Capitol Hill in Washington. History does have a habit or repeating itself from time to time. The real question is -what have we learned from the events of January 6, 2021. More security, more police, more military - or more listening and acting on the will of the people? It is also reasonable to ask why Joe Biden and Donald Trump were seen as the best the USA could offer to contest the highest post in the land.
Here in New Zealand and yes, the name of our country is New Zealand, it appears that Jacinda Ardern is setting her sight on the same UN job that Helen Clarke missed out on. The first women Secretary General of the United Nations. That jig saw piece fits rather nicely.
Gerry Eckhoff is a former councillor on the Otago Regional Council and MP.