Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Voting by numbers – a guide for the terminally stupid

For a very long time it has been apparent that a concerted effort has been made to dumb down the population. This is a practice that is not limited to New Zealand; it is alive and thriving pretty much worldwide.

Not mentioning any names, but some countries need less of an effort in this regard to achieve the necessary level of stupidity for their people to become fully compliant with their ruling regime (be it political or religious).

But my point is that for at least the last 30 years there has been a conscious movement to for example, replace commonsense with simplified instructions that appear to have been designed for mentally challenged people.

The more obvious examples would be warnings on electrical appliances to not use them underwater or to try and snip through their power cords while you are using them. Knives often carry the warning that they are sharp and we are also warned that if we allow our children to shove plastic bags over their heads they will face the danger of suffocation.

I am sure there are people out there for whom these warnings would not have been self-evident. However few of them would or should be walking around ‘at large’ rather than securely held in captivity.

But the safety police are not the only ones pandering to our shrivelling grey matter. The catalogue advertisers are coming out with loads of new and useful devices to make our lives easier such as handle tie bags for your kitchen bin. These are in reality simply supermarket bags that some sharp operator has conned people into forking out money for. Another I saw was a memory foam leg pillow, but I am sure you will be able to recall many more of these pointless items that have been designed to solve a problem that doesn’t exist other than in the mind of telemarketers.

Governments in collusion with the media have done their bit by providing us with sound bites and slogans. These have gradually eroded our brain cells so that few can see that they are like pixie dust and contain absolutely nothing of any substance or have any relationship to reality. We have now reached the point where people are completely ignorant of how our laws have been framed or how our justice system works (or doesn’t as is often the case).

Political parties have replaced properly conducted public meetings where they laid out policies and voters were able to ask questions about the implications of those. Admittedly not all people did this and many simply voted what the husband told them to for fear of getting the bash, or what their parents had always voted for fear of being disinherited. But beyond that group there were a reasonable number of people who made their own minds up based upon their assessment of the policies laid out before them.

Today we seem to have reached the point where policies have been shunted aside and replaced by slogans and for the most part, pretty meaningless ones at that.   

A sample I saw while trawling the party sites were:

National - Working for New Zealand. I had to wonder exactly what and who in that party is working for New Zealand as it seems they are pretty keen to work for both China and the USA and don’t give a monkey’s for Kiwis.

Labour - Vote Positive. This isn’t even grammatically correct unless they are telling us to vote for a party I didn’t even realise was standing.

New Zealand First - It’s common sense. What is common sense these days and where do we find any? Certainly not in our Parliament.

The Maori Party -Tu Maori mai (That’s us). Yes; I get that is you, but so what?

The Mana Party - Movement of the people. What movement would that be, then? A bowel movement perhaps?

All these sorts of dumb slogans do is reduce politics to the level of the sound bite and people not knowing what these parties stand for.

So just when you thought it was safe to go back into the polling booth, along comes Vote Compass. This has been heavily promoted by the nice young folks at TV One as the answer to all our problems; apart from confusing a few people by having them think Compass is a new party seeking their vote, that is.

Vote Compass is an app that has been set up on TVNZ’s website to help people reach a decision on who to vote for! It is a sort of vote by numbers set up where you answer a few rather non-specific survey type multiple choice questions and at the end it tells you whose policies align best with your answers.

Now you can call me paranoid – and many will; but if you take the subjective analysis by the individual out of this particular equation how do you know you aren’t being manipulated to vote the way the designers of the app want you to? Nobody knows what agenda these people might be trying to push.

I see that 176,000 odd (some very odd) people have used this app and I can only hope that most of them did it for a laugh rather than out of any real desire to make a decision on who to vote for. However the cynic in me says that most of them probably did take the survey to help them reach a decision on who to vote for.

Is it any wonder the country is going to the dogs? I expect the next election will bring a board game which is a variation on snakes and ladders (called snakes and snakes) where you throw the dice and vote for the party whose square you land on. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Charlie Segar revisited

Who the hell is/was Charlie Segar I hear many of you ask? Actually, I don’t, but I’m guessing many of you will when you see this title. I know I would have if I hadn’t done a bit of research.

First of all, I should point out that he is no relation to Bob Seger as far as I know, but there is a vague connection. He was a musician; a blues pianist and occasional singer and he wrote a song that many of you will know. It is called Key To The Highway. My own collection of music includes several versions of this song, which to those who love the blues is regarded as a standard.

So what has got me talking about Charlie Segar?

Well, the answer is contained in the title of that song. I feel it is apt as several people have recently found ways to send a certain Key to the highway – possibly permanently.

I haven’t yet read Nicky Hager’s book,but it would appear to be a can that is spilling worms that are all  diving for cover and claiming deafness as well as blindness for their reluctance to come out into the spotlight.

I think most of us had a suspicion that behaviour of the sort exposed in the extracts we have seen was going on, but prior to this week we had no real evidence of it and so it remained a suspicion. Those of us who suggested out loud that it was going on were often regarded as ‘conspiracy theorists’. This of course is usually used as a pejorative term; but what happens when the conspiracy is revealed and it becomes clear that we have been ruled by a conspiracy after all?

There will still be a lot of people around who will try to avoid the ugly truth and counter that ‘everybody does it’.

Well, do they?

If so; then they all need to be outed and following this book, I imagine there could be a lot more revelations if that is the case. Nobody is saying that one side has a monopoly on dirty tricks, but even if everyone is at it, that would still not make it right (small “r”).

In one respect we should not be too surprised about what Hager has revealed because it is an inevitable consequence of personality politics. For far too long we have focussed on individuals. This is largely because they have presented themselves to us rather than their policies. Often it has been hard to determine what their policies are and even when you could identify what a politician stood for you would find out after they were elected to office that they didn’t really stand for that after all.

In short; our political landscape has taken on the appearance of a post nuclear holocaust, strewn with the detritus of broken promises, failed economic theories and secret agenda. The whole thing has been ramped up even more this year with jackbooted responses by the incumbents to any free expressions of opinion, satirical or otherwise. The over-reaction to the likes of Darren Watson’s extremely accurate and funny  Planet Key single, which it appears the electoral commission are trying to ban from all airplay (and possibly more) is not counter-balanced by any similarly robust attempts to shut up the likes of Mike Hosking.

I don’t want either of them silenced. They each have a right to broadcast their views and how it can be considered that Darren might influence the voters and that condescending prick Hosking won’t is bizarre. Surely everyone who expresses a political opinion in public could potentially influence voters. As long as we all know what their motivation is, then why shouldn’t they?

And if the politicians are wondering why we are seeing rallies chanting, “Fuck John Key” and burning him in effigy, then they need look no further than the contents of Hager’s book. The Government of our country (whichever hue they might be) are supposed to be LEADERS! What they are seen to do rather sets the standard for all those people too weak-willed to know how to behave. Unfortunately that group is probably in the majority. Just as people idolise the flawed egotists that grace our TV screens and the pages of women’s magazines, so too do they follow the lead set by the leaders of industry and politics. This gets even uglier when the leaders in politics start idolising the leaders of industry. Many of those industrialists are even more amoral than the politicians, and when they begin calling the tune and the pollies dance to it, the ordinary voter gets even more of a shafting.

Personally I don’t see any need to burn John Key in effigy; I’m surprised they used an effigy when a fireplace would have done the job better. And as for fucking John Key, I reckon I’ll leave that to others, thank you all the same.

I think the release of Dirty Politics will be a turning point in this election campaign. I will be very surprised if the Nats can paddle their way out of this particular pongy creek. It has now got rapids and I can’t see how their canoe can hope to negotiate all of those without the crew getting a serious dunking and many sinking without a trace.

Even if Simon the Pixie was to pour a whole tanker load of that oil he is so fond of on the waters and they actually managed to avoid most of the rocks and reach the dry land of the treasury benches, there will still be a whole flotilla of investigations to encounter after that. We could find ourselves having to go back at the polls again in 12 months’ time.

So thank you Nicky Hagar you have probably sent John Key to the highway and as the song says, (in an opening verse custom made for Key):                 
I got the key to the highway,
Billed out and bound to go.
I'm gonna leave here running;
Walking is most too slow”

Let’s hope he doesn’t dawdle.