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Real issues: this week: No. Fifty-Five


Maxim Institute - real issues: this week: No. Fifty-Five

Contents:

* A new Cold War? It is now just hours before war in Iraq. Will the new power blocs be the US and the UN as a result?

* PC immunity Important questions are raised about what the Race Relations Commissioner can and cannot say.

* Crusade against child poverty A new update says the Government must act to eliminate child poverty by 2010, but the real problem for children is family breakdown.

A new Cold War - the US versus the UN?

9/11 brought us a new kind of world; one that the UN has had difficulty responding to. Will the 'newness' continue? Sir Brian Crowe, a European diplomat in residence at the University of Canterbury thinks US action will hasten "the death of the United Nations as we know it". What might this mean for New Zealand?

There has been a great deal of talk about the legal and moral justification for war on Iraq. The intricacies of both of these issues have been lost in diplomatic attempts to get a consensus in the UN. That consensus apparently determines the war's legality.

In the world of 'realpolitik', however, it is power that matters. If power is accompanied by international law and, even better, by a morality of consensus, the case for war is obvious. But the UN Security Council has been unable to agree, and even if its members could, it has shown in the past it has little will to act without the power of the US. After all, the US funding for the UN in 2001 was a substantial $US 3.5 billion - enough to cover peacekeeping expenses for a year.

The UN was established in a world very different from 2003. The US has become even more powerful since 1945. What we could be seeing is a power bloc emerging within the UN that wants to act as a counterweight to US power. If so, the UN will certainly be irrelevant and New Zealand's policy of support for the UN and not the US could have future implications. Because the US has so much power, because it is the linchpin of the western alliance system and the centre of the global economy, what it does or does not do is so much more important than what any of the other powers decides to do.

PC immunity - complaint against Commissioner dismissed

What happens when the politically correct (PC) step over even their own boundaries? There is confusion and a double standard over what is acceptable speech. Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres has been under fire from National MP Murray McCully for comments last year when he likened treatment of Maori by colonists in the 19th century to the Taliban regime in destroying Buddhas in Afghanistan. In a complaint to the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Mr McCully said the words Mr de Bres used were insulting, abusive and "calculated to excite hostility against or bring into contempt a group of New Zealanders on the basis of their ethnic or national origins."

Chief HR Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said Mr McCully's complaint could not proceed, because current human rights law provides a bar in relation to any statement by a Commissioner made in good faith. In other words, there's one law for Mr de Bres and another for other New Zealanders. If anyone outside the commission made these comments about any group, he or she would likely incur the wrath of the HRC and the Commissioner.

Politics aside, we can sensibly ask: What is the role of the Race Relations Commissioner? And do we need one? Mr de Bres doesn't appear to want open debate in which the hard questions are asked, because that might get in the way of the agenda. If he is supposed to promote harmony between racial groups, he's doing a good job in the opposite direction. Despite the embarrassing contradiction, the PC agenda continues.

PC is a state-driven morality; it tries to tell everyone how to think according to the Government's rule. It also determines the language that we're allowed - and of course, not allowed - to use. American sociologist Peter Berger calls these limitations 'plausibility structures' - what we can think and say according to officialdom.

Dr Frank Ellis recently spoke at Maxim on understanding and resisting PC. He emphasised the importance of not buying into and using its language. An audio-tape of the address is available for $15, to order e-mail amanda@maxim.org.nz or call Amanda on 09-627 3261.

New update - crusade against 'child poverty'

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) released an update this week on the situation in New Zealand. It is demanding more Government action "to eradicate the disgrace of child poverty by 2010" and says the 2002 budget failed to deliver significant improvements for children.

Children are poor because the families they live in are poor. Ironically, 'child poverty' is used because it has emotional appeal, suggesting child vulnerability, whereas other government initiatives are trying to promote child agency and the image that children are independent, autonomous and self-conscious rights bearers. We can't have it both ways. Children are vulnerable because the relational contexts they inhabit - their families - are functioning or not functioning. Furthermore, children are always going to be 'poor' in a money sense because they don't have earning capacity.

There are three flaws in CPAG's recommendations: 1) It assumes wealth redistribution is a self-evident good, 2); that a government acting on that assumption will be successful in solving the problem; and 3), there is no such thing as 'child poverty' - it is emotive term.

Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says, "Raising children and ensuring they get the best possible start in life is a key focus for the Government." If this is true, then the Government must accept the pivotal role the married family has in keeping children safe and creating wealth. Legislation has undermined the married family. For example the Property (Relationships) Act, effectively makes temporary relationships equal to marriage. More than almost anything else, it is the proliferation of temporary relationships that keep families and their children in poverty.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - G.K. Chesterton

There is above all, this supreme stamp of the barbarian; the sacrifice of the permanent to the temporary.

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