The Final Exam of Our Lives | Opinion

There is no autopilot for freedom and democracy. Perhaps it is this fact that should be taken for granted, instead of the goods we derive from them. Itís hard to imagine the end of the present way of life that they make possible Ė too distant a possibility to be credible.

But itís like a final exam: itís too late if youíre unprepared when the time arrives.

We live in a country untouched by armed conflict Ė since 1865 at least. Plague has not visited us since 1918, and our fertile lands mean we have never been struck by famine. Our weather is blustery at worst, and natural disasters are uncommon. There have been no violent revolutions or coups díťtat in our nationís history. With every socially progressive step taken by our law and society, New Zealanders have increasingly become the masters of their own destinies.

This relative tranquility and the seemingly steady march of progress lull us into thinking that weíll know when good things like freedom and democracy are at risk. By the time the issue that will excuse the ending of our precious way of life surfaces, we will have missed all the subtle changes that allowed entry to the thief in the night. What will it be?

The fiscal challenges in the United States, which continue to undermine confidence in the global economy, perhaps? Chinaís ban on New Zealand dairy exports, exposing our sensitivity to international politics and downsizing our economy, maybe? Our essential commodities being consistently interrupted by an increasingly thoughtless corporate culture, brought on by legal monopolies and careless regulation? The dollar drop after the recent Wellington earthquakes proves how shaky the ground is upon which we stand. Anything can happen.

John Key wonít be Prime Minister in 20 yearsí time. Whether thatís a good thing or not depends on who comes next, and whether they use for bad what Key built for (what he considers to be) the preservation of the good.

If or when laws like the GCSB and TICS Amendment Bills are enacted, and when worries contribute to instability here and abroad, we know that the final exams arenít far off. Some leader pretending to have all the answers will be getting ready to take over, perhaps even in this country. There is no asking for an extension and no second chances. But there are last chances, should you wish to seize the moment.
This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2013.
Posted 3:48pm Sunday 1st September 2013 by Guy McCallum.