When a red-faced, flag-thrusting, slogan-chanting, over-excited Aussie starts advancing towards one of the most powerful political leaders in the world, what does any self-respecting undercover security man do?

He first smiles, has a bit of tango with the trouble-maker, then raises his umbrella. A well-made-in-China brolly, no doubt. Watching the video replay, all it needed to complete the vaudeville scenario was it to have been filled with red confetti.

Several days after Green co-leader Russel Norman's little made-for-television scuffle with the Chinese Vice-President's minders at the entrance to Parliament, Dr Norman is still playing the victim, now complaining about Prime Minister John Key's apology to the Chinese heir apparent Xi Jinping.

Only a privileged, vetted few were allowed to witness the Chinese leader arrive at parliament, the Green leader among them, so the rest of us have to rely on the television record which is still up on TVNZ's website to judge what happened. It tells a different version of events from Dr Norman's. In a subsequent blog, the aggrieved MP says, "I had no intention of getting too close to the VP but nor be hidden away". But the film shows him edging forward shouting "Freedom for Tibet" and waving a Tibetan (presumably) flag aloft. Then the limousines pull up and the scuffle begins.

It reminded me of the press gallery's jostling of Labour MP Chris Carter inside Parliament, a few days before.

I never thought I'd be leaping to the defence of security guards, Chinese or not, but what other option did they have? The clip shows one of them trying a smile first, which just seems to spur Dr Norman to move forward. He now says he had no intention of getting "too close", but what does he mean by that? Should the guard have waited until the Green leader had wrapped his boss in the flag before intervening?

The plaintive "give me my flag back, give me my flag back" after it was pulled from his hands, and the subsequent scrabbling to regain it, is all rather tragic on replay. Dr Norman is right when he says "it looked a bit undignified". He might also count himself lucky he wasn't around in 1970 when Spiro Agnew, the United States vice-emperor, came visiting, seeking support for the American-led bloodbath in Vietnam.

Mr Agnew's security goons were much bigger and scarier and non-smiley than Mr Xi's, and the bulges in their pockets were not umbrellas, they were small arms.

Of course Dr Norman has the right to protest. Indeed, once he regained his flag, he followed the official party inside the Beehive corridor, his cries of "you might suppress freedom and democracy in China but you can't do it here" echoing around the official party. But in this case, he exploited his special position of privilege as a parliamentarian to get up close and abuse an invited guest to Parliament.

And for what? Some fairytale fantasy about freedom for Tibet.

Even the most primitive cultures had a tradition of being polite to guests invited to your home. This truce might only last until the visitor walks out the front gates in the morning, but while under your roof, they were safe.

In the modern context, it is a tradition essential to modern diplomacy. What leader will come visiting if members of the host's "family" are going to pop up and hurl abuse at close quarters.

It would certainly liven up State dinners, no doubt. But also rapidly kill them.

I've never understood the way the Greens go all misty-eyed about this Shangri-La in the mists, this myth of halcyon times where jolly monks sat around spinning prayer wheels and humming.

Perhaps it's the Greens' admiration for an economic system that seems to have achieved zero growth for centuries on end. One thing the theocracy didn't achieve was democracy or freedom of speech.

The place was run by a hierarchy of priests who seemed to maintain control by, amongst other things, warning that malcontents would be reborn as frogs and stink bugs and other nasty things. Indeed, if you believe the Chinese, the priests used to flay dissidents alive and use their skin for lampshades.

Brought up in a stable democracy, we believe our system is the best form of governance. But even its greatest proselytisers would have to admit that trying to transplant it out of its European nursery has proved difficult.

Look at Iraq and Afghanistan, to pick two recent examples. Or much of the old communist Russian empire for that matter.

There are examples much closer to home. If the Greens want to practise bringing democracy to people, why not take a boat - sail-powered of course - to Fiji or Tonga, and hold a few protests there.

I suspect Dr Norman would be shouting for more than his flag back if he fetched up at Lord High Commodore Frank Bainimarama's front door uninvited.