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Saturday, 21 April 2012

The passionless people's forbidden subjects


Andrea Vance covers so-called the "forbidden" subjects of New Zealand politics: euthanasia, gay adoption and abortion. All subjects, as a social liberal, I would argue are for private citizens to decide on, not the state.

And they're all subjects I'm sure will make some of you recoil, close this window in your browser and have a strong drink. Which reminds me of something I read in an interview last week with Gordon McLauchlan in the New Zealand Herald, discussing his new book The Passionless People Revisited. It's actually a sequel of The Passionless People, a often funny analysis of New Zealand in the 70s. 

McLauchlan doesn't sound like much of a fan of John Key. Which is not surprising given his generally left-wing take on the world. But what resonated with me was his description of political debate in New Zealand:
"There is no debate in this country. A typical New Zealand debate involves someone shouting and someone shouting back and then there's an embarrassed silence."
McLauchlan is right on this point. There's a clear link between our inability to resolve the above "forbidden" subjects - either way - because we (and by that I mean the public at large) simply won't debate them. Instead, that's left to the special interest groups, who the rest of the population generally regard as strange, slightly possessed and possibly suffering from OCD. Some, such as myself, are.

And because the subjects are controlled by special interest groups, they don't progress anywhere. Which is the obvious question that goes unanswered: why, when there's clearly interest in all of these issues, can we not sensibly debate these issues?