Where politicians are concerned, I maintain the hard bigotry of low expectations. Yet judging from the response of parliamentarians to student action on climate change, you cannot set the bar low enough.

I've been looking for signs of intelligent life in our Parliament and lately it's been a hard slog. A few weeks ago in a column I wrote to counter the fearmongering of the religious zealots like Maggie Barry, who oppose giving people a choice in how they end their lives, I offered that the ELOC standards for making a competent end of life decision were higher than any requirement for service in Parliament.

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As if to prove my point, in their response to teenage New Zealanders taking to the streets in an effort to plead for action to save their future and the life of the planet, parliamentarians evinced such deficiencies of consciousness, empathy and plain common sense, as to make me wonder "who's minding the store?"


In August 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, instead of attending school, sat down on the steps of the Swedish parliament to draw attention to the need for action on climate change or global warming. She attracted a global following of hundreds of thousands of students, organising protests to demand action from the responsible adults. Similar action, during school time is planned here for this Friday.

Instead of welcoming this display of civic engagement, parliamentarians met their proposed march with cynicism and outright dismissal, forgetting that while these students may be too young to vote now they have parents who are already able.

The student march is a clear demonstration of the students having learned enough about the science and the politics of global warming to know that if nothing is done, their future, the one their schooling is supposed to prepare them for, will have been irrevocably blighted.

With the exceptions of Marama Davidson (Greens) and Damien O'Connor (Labour) our pols showed their poor mettle, not only in failing to support the students or address their complaint, our future, but in deriding, diminishing or denigrating this display of civic duty.

Even PM Jacinda Ardern came up lame, claiming "We have less cause to protest in New Zealand." I have only two words for the Prime Minister: Moo, moo.

Winston Peters, demonstrating that, at age 73, he's already past his use-by date, said: "We pay a lot of money for people to get educated. Attending school is compulsory in this country."

My immediate thought apart from pointing out that education may occur anywhere, particularly when it involves civic participation, is that a lot of that money was obviously wasted on his.

The bulk of the discredit falls on members of National, all vying to become the know-nothing party.


In his best incarnation of Marie Antoinette, Simon Bridges tells the pleading students, "Let 'em eat McDonald's."

He had better look to his own neck, as beside him stands the lean and hungry-looking Paula Bennett, claiming no ambition, but just yonder stands the brutish Judith Collins, knife at the ready, inherited from Jenny Shipley. It was Jim Bolger who first gasped at Shipley's hunger, "Et, two, eh Jenny?"

Several of the Nats called the student march a stunt or a prank. The prank is what these elitists play on the rest of us with their tactics of fearmongering on almost every issue that enhances our personal choices and responsibility.

The issue of climate change requires sacrifice to insure our future. That's what these kids are on about. They want our elected representatives to stop fooling around and get busy doing what's necessary to make sure there is a future the kids can live in.

A learning assignment for those wilfully ignorant politicians who refuse to honour our own teenagers — watch this 11-minute TED talk by Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg at https://bit.ly/2Hbf1gC.

Now write 100 times: I promise that in the future I will strive to engage my brain before opening my mouth.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.