Brethren politics won’t work
That’s it, Don. Away from the Brethren. There we go, that wasn’t too hard, was it?
What the Exclusive Brethren intend to do with their time in the limelight is beyond me. Okay, so it was fairly obvious: concerned about what they see as declining moral standards, they wanted to do anything—and everything—to get National into power. Everything, that is, except vote. Lobby, spend galore, backstab, hell, why not hire a private eye to go round spying on Helen Clark’s husband so that you can catch a photo of him hugging another man (oh my god, hugging another man!)? In fact, you could even try and split New Zealand First in half. Stop at nothing. Except election day.
I could almost have a small suspicion that some of them did vote in secret, but that’s beside the point. Why don’t they vote? As Gareth Hales said, “I see it as a sin and you don’t. So I’m very happy for you to vote because to you it’s your obligation to the community. But to me, it’s my conscience that doesn’t allow me to vote.” (ref) Uh-huh. Encouraging people to carry out what you see as a sin. Surely, then, they must be encouraging homosexuality, prostitution and abortion, or at least allowing it? Oh wait, they campaign against that. Hmm. Makes sense.
So, in a sensical way, they publish a pamphlet in the election lead-up criticising Labour and the Greens. I could understand their desire to work within the law, and therefore not explicitly declaring a support for National in the pamphlet. Their means of going about their support was fine. What perplexes me is their newfound desire to be in politics.
It is, by no means, a desire limited to those in New Zealand. The Exclusive Brethren have, in the past few years, sought political influence in almost the entire Western world. They supported the Australia’s Liberal Party in their 2004 election and look to intervene in Victoria’s elections this year; they’ve funded George W. Bush’s campaign (thou shalt not murder), Canada’s gay marriage parliamentary vote (ref) and they’ve been active in Sweden. (ref)
It is not a shortlived one either. It carries on past the election, into allegations of Peter Davis—wait for it—hugging another man. Oh, my, god. I mean, the guy’s been with Helen Clark for twenty-five years—doesn’t that count? That is a truly sorry excuse for politics. It’s not just low, it’s so low that people couldn’t care less about it. If that was their way of getting attention off the Don Brash affair, then, well, um, good job.
How much more frantic could they be? (Not enough to vote, clearly.) They seek to influence politics in whatever way they possibly can. Unfortunately for them, somewhere along the line, they miscalculated: such is the publicity that surrounds them that their words lose all credibility. National is wise to distance themselves from the sect. Their actions lack both logic and rationality.
They’ve even taken a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, saying that attacks in Parliament breached their civil liberties. (Oh, the irony, the Exclusive Brethren complaining about breaches of civil liberties!) Let me put this bluntly: welcome to politics. It is, indeed, a rather ruthless, unforgiving world. Get used to it.
But the Exclusive Brethren, from what I had gathered, generally seek to be away from the rest of the world—a separatist sect, keeping within their own followers and their own ways. So what’s this hardcore lobbying, spending, anything possible except voting? It’s almost as if they want a spot in mainstream society. It can only make sense that their exemption from union access is removed.
Nevertheless, their lack of experience in politics, combined with the vibe of a try-hard and actions that seem remarkably uncharacteristic of them, means that they are more of a threat to any party they wish to support than a help. They can campaign, they can express views—that’s just democracy—but their latest moves signal desperation and dishonesty, not promotion of principles, and in this way their attempt to enter politics only seems irrational, immature and impulsive. Their influence in politics will be talked about, heard about, criticised and maybe occasionally praised, but at the end of the day, their influence will not be felt because ultimately, no-one really cares enough to take them seriously.
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