Words for our troubled times
As we weather a cyclone of words, political claims and counter-claims, character assassination and bitterness in high places, some thoughts on politics, other times, other places, people and what they said.
Quote: A politician knows that his friends are not always his allies, that his adversaries are not his enemies.
A politician knows that more important than the bill that is proposed is the law that is passed.
A politician knows how to make the process of democracy work and loves the intricate workings of the democratic system.
A politician knows not only how to count votes but how to make his vote count.
A politician knows that his words are his weapons but that his word is his bond.
A politician knows that only if he leaves room for discussion and room for concession can he gain room for manoeuvre.
A politician knows that the best way to be a winner is to make the other side feel it does not have to be a a loser.
A politician knows both the name and the rules of the game, and he seeks his ends through the time-honoured democratic means. Unquote.
– Richard Nixon, September 9, 1969, in the days before the 1970s and Watergate, in a tribute to a longserving and great senator. Later, in darker days. Quote: Always remember, others may hate you – but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them – and then you destroy yourself. Unquote
– Richard Nixon, to weeping White House staff, on his resignation, August 9, 1974. And then, in retrospect. Quote: I brought myself down. I gave them a sword. And they stuck it in me. Unquote.
– Richard Nixon, in a TV interview by David Frost, May 1977. Nearer home. He was a much younger man then, an ambitious and successful MP already seen as a developing force in Parliament.
I was profiling him for North and South magazine and our topic at that moment was life as a politician. He defined it this way: Quote: Peacock today, feather duster tomorrow. Unquote.
– Winston Peters
About other quotes, did you flinch? I did.
Did someone tell him later that was a mistake, even a bad mistake?
It was that comparison John Key made in an interview with London’s Financial Times: “I’m a bit like Obama. I’m not institutionalised in Wellington.”
I know what he means. There’s a one-dimensional aspect of life in Parliament and the Beehive offices which John Key seeks for his own.
If John Key was re-stating that his life in international high finance means he hasn’t been infected by life in the Wellington scene then I’m glad for him.
Life in that hothouse which is Parliament and the Beehive does mean that MPs and bureaucrats come to believe they are more than the paid servants of the people.
They forget that there are problems for those people outside the parliamentary walls which officialdom in its little world of perks and prestige do not understand.
In Washington, they talk about this mindset as “The Beltway” because the famous buildings which are the political heart of the city and the nation are surrounded by a motorway system which carries that label.
The Beltway has come to epitomise an area cut off from real life, where only politics and politicians count, where views are held, decisions made, things said and done, in a vacuum.
Which, in so many ways, Wellington is.
Even the media in the Press Gallery can become mesmerised from working in and interacting with what seems another world.
I remember from my long time ago in the gallery.
But it’s also a place where you learn the rules of politics fast to survive and prosper.
And that misguided Obama quote suggests very strongly that John Key has got some Beltway instincts he needs to learn.
Not for the first time. Once asked to nominate three people he most wanted to meet, he quickly and surprisingly opened with Tony Blair, then threw in that man Barack Obama again and haltingly rounded off with Tom Cruise! Asked once about politicians he particularly admired, he opted for Bill Clinton.
Quote: He has aspects that you could argue against but he did a lot for the US. He was a real rags to riches story. Unquote.
Those criticised but sometimes necessary Beltway reflexes ordain that if you’re going to drop names, then surely there must be better examples than Tom Cruise and Bill Clinton. For various reasons.
Even if the riches bit does help to conjure up for the umpteenth time the already overused vision of an ambitious son in a solo parent state house.
But, of course, no Monica. Change of subject: It’s a basic name, just The Building. And it fills a basic need.
Admittedly young people with disabilities have programmes available to them, but socially they want more than programmes – like the opportunity to just hang out and be young people.
The Building does all that, giving Shore disabled and “non-disabled” young people, their friends and caregivers, somewhere to hang out.
It’s safe, accessible, physically and geographically and affordable too. It should be a blueprint for your community, all communities which recognise the need and the opportunity to fill it, a chance for young people 16 to 28 with what are obviously “high and complex needs” to catch up with old friends or make new ones.
There they can enjoy everyday life together, build friendships, respect and admire each other’s abilities.
And it’s cool – with PlayStation 3, flat screen TV, four PCs with multiplayer link-up.
Everything its target users might hope for, plus a full kitchen where you can cook your own.
Open 10am to 3pm for $20 a day. And so new – begun last week and staffed with youth workers and support staff, many with disabilities.
It’s the latest project by PHAB – the apt name comes from the original Physically Handicapped and Able-Bodied group founded in 1973 with a motto which still spells out its purpose “Making more of life together”.
All happening at The Building, 8 Auburn St, Takapuna, phone 488-7490.
To contact Pat Booth email: firstname.lastname@example.org. All replies are open for publication unless marked Not For Publication.