John Key made a joke about a paedophile and convicted murderer. He could barely keep a straight face, so pleased with himself, the chuckle starting before he had finished his line. It was serious news – just a week after the NZ justice system had looked silly by being so desperate to charge a plotted murder on AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, only to have the charges dropped hours after attracting worldwide news interest here was another story about NZ’s justice system failing.
Philip John Smith had skipped out of jail. He was on temporary release and hatched his escape plan. Next thing we knew he had landed in South America – his calculated scheme concocted in jail where he’d also earned the money to pay for disguises, a new passport under an old name and to skip the country with over $10,000. Turns out he’d done all that illegally too. So here was the NZ police and our justice system once again looking silly on the world stage. The only thing overshadowing this was our Prime Minister desperate to make a joke. He was hanging out with his APEC friends – he clearly cares about them far more than he does the people he has once again been elected to lead.
The tragedy in Key’s revolting comment – that he would warn the President of Chile not to accept any calls for dinner from a visiting Kiwi – has been explained away now, apologised, we’ve all decided to move on. But the ease with which we move on over these sorts of matters is part of the problem.
In another world – one I’d still like to live in – the PM would be offering deepest sympathies to the family members of the victims, the people who had their lives ruined by Smith. Possibly even visiting with them rather than anyone else.
But New Zealand has chosen to run itself like a business. And a business cares about profits not people. The inconvenience of Key being asked a curly question while on the world stage and hoping to extend an offer for afternoon tea to Mr. Obama (the price? Just our country’s involvement in his war – bargain!) is just one more example of what happens when your country is run as a business.
Most businesses start with some policy around people. Most businesses are – at least to begin with – people-driven. Pretty soon they become profit-driven. Or they don’t succeed. This is the problem with running a country as a business – the people, the ones that are said to determine the leadership – are swiftly forgotten about. Unless they happen to be the kind that are all too happy to sweep smirking statements and callous, mistimed jokes under the carpet as quickly as the PM who makes them. Because, after all, it’s just a bit of humour. And humour is what we all need in these times of economic uncertainty and horrible violence.
Humour. And tax cuts if we’re already wealthy. And if the price is joining in on a war – you know, just a bit more of that horrible violence (but it’s offshore, so kept fairly clean) and a cheap laugh at the expense of a family that has suffered at the hands of a violent criminal then that’s got to be worth it. Besides, the PM apologised right. So what’s the fuss?
It’s sad to live in this world. Particularly when the platitudes of the Prime Minister on election night had him trotting out some nonsense about serving all New Zealanders.
That you or I might have trouble skipping the country on an unpaid parking fine seems absurd in the wake of this.
But then, that’s no joking matter – because that’s easy revenue for the government to collect. And that’s the kind it likes best. The hard work comes from living amongst an apparent majority that supports any of John Key’s worst bungles, so sure that little trivial matters such as a killer and paedophile turning into a vigilante escape artist deserve to be swept under the rug. Because the real issue – always – is money. And the bonus is being recognised on the world stage. How about those All Blacks eh? Doing great. What about Lorde? She’s wonderful. Can we have some lunches for the kids at school whose parents – working two jobs – can’t afford it? Can we have some tact at least from our PM when asked to address these sorts of problems? Don’t make John Key laugh! (Apparently it’s very easy to do that by the way. Just bring up that a Paedophile might be in the same country with a world leader Key is just about to butter up over a scone). Oh look! A photo opportunity. Some more world leaders for John Key to mingle with. Question time is over. And of course it never – ever – gets to actually ever start.