Earlier this century the incumbent Prime Minister of New Zealand opined that the country existed in an "incredibly benign strategic environment". That might have been true once but how things change and keep changing. It would be easy but unnecessary to include a long list of changes, so let's not.
I will though refer back to what I believe was the first development that has plagued the country, and the rest of the world, faster than anyone expected, including me. It would be tedious if not so important. I have regaled anyone who'd listen since the mid-80s with the dangers of political correctness. What was I told? "Never happen here."
Now it has spawned numerous offspring that have transitioned society into a state of absurdity. PC provides umbrella protection for any sort of nuttiness and it's being exploited by plenty who should know better. Sadly, rather than stand on principle, many adopt the old fail, "If you can't beat them, join them."
This week I came across a commentary on a new book. Well, it's not new but that was the claim: "In his edgy and thought-provoking new book." Except, I've had a copy of it since 2016. It ain't new but maybe it's his attempt to sound "edgy". Not that the published date is the point. Eric Kaufmann is writing about The Demon in Democracy, by Polish professor Ryszard Legutko, a book I've previously mentioned. It's the content that matters. "Political correctness is the tyrannical demon in democracy. A majority of people in the US, Canada and the UK say pc is a problem." And no wonder. "Today, mainstream politicians, parties, think tanks and bureaucrats tie themselves in knots to avoid sound bites that could be portrayed as racist, sexist or homophobic." According to Legutko, the terms "reactionary" and "progressive" were staples of communist doctrine.
Did I mention the headline for Kaufmann's piece? No, because it uses that detestable word "woke". Here it is anyway. "Is woke culture totalitarian?" The woke brigade label anything they disagree with as dangerous, fascist or evil.
That's Alan Jones, of course, all three and more. I'm not interested in entering the fray over what he said about Jacinda. Okay, so I will. There was nothing wrong, nothing, with the sentiment involving the sock. "Put a sock in it" has a long history in Australia. Parents would say it to kids. Time to stop talking was its basic meaning. Colloquial to the ultimate. Polite, even elegant by today's standards. He did, however, express the sentiment in a less delicate way, thereby exposing himself to the left-wing aggressiveness of those who would exploit any opportunity to execute his career.
Retired but never silent Australian Labor cabinet minister Graham Richardson, who's had his own share of media issues, wrote in his Monday column, "It seems to me that far too many people in this day and age spend too much time looking for offence." He continued, "Jones also suffers from tall-poppy syndrome, with too many people death-riding him and salivating each time he errs. My advice to them is get a life." The problem is that everything now is politicised and we are poorer for it. There is Soros money contributing to activism in Australia.
Is New Zealand still too benign for George?
It was the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu that produced the Alan Jones commentary, but there is a far greater issue involved. That of the supposed threat to the Pacific Island countries that make up the bulk of the forum. Each of them has their own issues, some of them shared; but becoming climate refugees is not one of them.
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A recent study published in the journal Geology concluded that sea-level rise will likely not drown low-lying Pacific atolls. The study lead authors were from, wait for it, The University of Auckland and others from Canada and the UK. That's not the sort of news forum leaders want publicised. It makes it harder to play us off against China.
Added to that is the latest input from Dr Fiona Kotvojs. Published in the Australian Financial Review, Kotvojs has an honours degree in coastal geomorphology. She is a development specialist with almost 30 years experience working across the Pacific including Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tokelau, having spent many years working on coral atolls.
She comments: "The main cause of erosion on these islands is not sea level rise. Instead, it is the construction of poorly designed boat ramps and boat channels, sea walls and reclamation works. Until the real cause of the problem is identified, it will never be solved." She backs her comments with fulsome detail.
"The population of Tuvalu will be destroyed by diabetes long before the island is drowned by rising sea level ... the creation of unjustified fear is inexcusable."
Her conclusion, "We have to continue to support our Pacific Island neighbours where they have the greatest need — rather than investing where there is the greatest media focus."