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Marc My Words: A Time to Reflect

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Marc My Words…

By Marc Alexander MP

A Time to Reflect

Ask a hundred people what their purpose in life is and I suspect you’d get a hundred different answers. If there is a common thread then I suppose it is that their lives count for something and they can make a difference that matters.

Election 2005 is only a few days away and it is as good a time as any to take stock of things. A number of questions spring to mind. Did the last three years contribute to or curtail our progress as a nation? Are we better off?

The economists tell us we are better off. But life is more than hands exchanging wads of cash. It’s more than products and services. These are no more than the baubles of our environment…in a sense, the clothing of our culture. It tells us how we live, but nothing about why.

What about social justice? Are the vulnerable better off, and do more Kiwis have more opportunities to reach their potential? Any attempt to put a barometer on these things is fraught with difficulties. Is the question confined to greater participation and access, or is it about validating success with social approval and financial gain? Either way we end up with a dilemma - government sponsored patronage, or individual liberty.

My own view is contained in a simple truth: While we may rationalise everything (even down to the chemicals that carry messages to our brain) no government, however well meaning, can replace those things that give true meaning and significance to our lives. For example, no policy…no Act of Parliament…no legislation… can ever adequately explain the feeling that a parent has for their child. The bonds of compassion, friendship and even love that we have for each other may be encouraged or stymied by laws, but ultimately it is not about bricks and mortar but our collective journey of individual explorations beyond the horizon of our hearts which we then bring as experiences into our communities. It is our shared national history in the making.

The catch, as I see it, is that if we resile from responsibility for our material and social wellbeing and accept the beneficence of government, the spirit that fuels our aspirations will be snuffed out. Life’s deeper meaning loses its colour and lustre –only to be replaced by material distractions. This explains why so many embrace self-destructive amusements to try to feel anything at all. Paradoxically, these same people avoid connecting with their families by watching TV reality shows about families!

I firmly believe people are being short changed in getting what they want out of life. Instead of examining what the government can do, we should examine what we can do. We need to have a close look at the state of our enthusiasm for life. Our minds can show us how to do this but it is the strength of our passion that shows us why. Instead of sinking into a Gordian knot of cynicism leading to despair, we can rise to be the change we want to see!

For my part, the outcome of the election is not about if I have a job after 17 September, but more about having acquitted myself well over the last three years. This is a very important consideration for me, and one that I do not know how to measure. Over the last three years I have been talked to, talked at, and talked about – and sometimes even in positive ways!

I have been the recipient of a good number of negative comments; a diversity of cuss words in improbable combinations I have never encountered before! But I have also received incredible kindness and wise counsel; often from total strangers and colleagues of every political hue. And that has surprised me. I have been honoured to meet so many constructive individuals up and down the country who contribute enormously to the well-being of our nation. As a result I am now more up-beat and confident than when I first came to Parliament. In spite of politicians, this country is in great hands because it is in the hands of the people. My time in Parliament has indeed been an amazing privilege.

Time and time again I have been humbled by the heroism of victims of crime who have asked for my help. They, of all the wonderful people I have met, have taught me the most. While criminals continue to be treated with the benefit of doubt, victims are left to fend for themselves. Sadly, I haven’t been able to help all of them, but they have been a wonderful Inspiration. Their experiences and ability to turn tragedy into something positive have continued to encourage me. I never cease to be moved and motivated by their courage and resilience; nor by their ability to see good in dire circumstances that would have easily broken me.

We have many statistics to judge our country: population (4.1 million); unemployment (3.7 per cent); GDP ($145 billion). We also have telling social indicators that are more descriptive: life expectancy (males 77 years; females 81.3 years); a Maori suicide rate of 12.6 per 100,000; and a crime rate of 1.779.657 individual and household victimisations. If we were to look, there would be a number to describe almost anything - except those things that matter most. There are no statistics that measure the bonds of our marriages, love for our children, or the bittersweet tears when they leave home and embark on the adventure of life. There are no numbers that adequately describe our feeling of national pride when we bring home the Americas Cup or beat the Aussies in a rugby match. The potency of our friendships…our community spirit…and our empathy with those we reach out to – all the things that make our country our home: these defy and provide significance beyond the calculations of the statisticians…and for good reason. These things – the things that matter – are the very lifeblood of what it means to be a Kiwi. They can only be felt.

Governments come and go, leaving a footprint on our lives and in a broader sense, our history. Each seems to increase its enthusiasm to extend its influence, all the while diminishing our freedoms. It may sound trite but we all must accept the cards that Providence deals to us.

Our choice is not just about how to play the hand, but how much of that hand we want the Government to play for us.

For me, that’s what the election is all about.


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