Dis­crim­i­na­tion a catchcry


A very com­mon catch cry these days is ‘‘dis­crim­i­na­tion’’.

When­ever a group de­cides it wants some­thing and can­not get it, the favourite tac­tic is to scream ‘‘dis­crim­i­na­tion’’.

If I am not al­lowed to do what you do, for what­ever rea­son, then I am be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against.

So what ex­actly do we mean by dis­crim­i­na­tion?

The Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights, Ar­ti­cle 7, states: ‘‘All are equal be­fore the law and are en­ti­tled with­out any dis­crim­i­na­tion to equal pro­tec­tion of the law.

‘‘All are en­ti­tled to equal pro­tec­tion against any dis­crim­i­na­tion in vi­o­la­tion of this Dec­la­ra­tion and against any in­cite­ment to such dis­crim­i­na­tion.’’

All of which does not re­ally clar­ify the sit­u­a­tion, does it?

The dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion of the word dis­crim­i­na­tion is: 1. a. To recog­nise as dis­tinct; to per­ceive the dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures of.

b. To make sen­si­ble de­ci­sions; judge wisely.

2. To make dis­tinc­tions on the ba­sis of class or cat­e­gory with­out re­gard to in­di­vid­ual merit; show pref­er­ence or prej­u­dice.

It is this sec­ond def­i­ni­tion which causes us all the trou­ble. No mat­ter how well in­ten­tioned or well thought out a law may be, there is al­ways some­one who will feel his or her rights are be­ing vi­o­lated.

The fact is that we are all dif­fer­ent. No two hu­man be­ings, no two blades of grass, no two do­mes­tic cats are the same.

And by choos­ing any one thing over an­other, you are dis­crim­i­nat­ing (in the first sense of the word above).

We are faced with choices all the time and by se­lect­ing one we au­to­mat­i­cally re­ject the other.

If I choose to go to a Catholic church in­stead of an Elim church, I am ac­tu­ally dis­crim­i­nat­ing. If I choose to eat Chi­nese in­stead of In­dian, I am dis­crim­i­nat­ing.

It’s when such choices in­volve dis­re­gard or ha­tred of other al­ter­na­tives that we get into trou­ble.

It is all too easy for us to fling words like ‘‘ dis­crim­i­na­tion’’ around.

We New Zealan­ders in par­tic­u­lar hate to think of any­one be­ing treated un­fairly and bend over back­wards to pre­vent or rem­edy such sit­u­a­tions. But there is no way in the wide world that ev­ery sin­gle in­di­vid­ual or group will get ev­ery­thing it feels it is en­ti­tled to. And cater­ing to the de­mands of one group will of ne­ces­sity side­line an­other.

Let’s il­lus­trate. An ap­ple looks at an orange and thinks it would like to be called an orange, too.

Some or­anges think this is okay. Other or­anges don’t agree.

They want to re­main the only fruit which can be called or­anges.

The ap­ples, how­ever, are stroppy and loud, and push to get the gov­ern­ment to let them be called or­anges. If this leg­is­la­tion is passed, the ap­ples, now called or­anges, get their way, sure.

But the orig­i­nal or­anges are now dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause their views have been over­pow­ered.

A rider to the il­lus­tra­tion: gov­ern­ments can leg­is­late any way they want but that does not change facts.

They can leg­is­late that ev­ery­thing with four legs will be a ta­ble, even if it is a dog, or that grass is blue, not green – but the leg­is­la­tion does not make it so. Last month we heard from the Min­is­ter for Se­nior Cit­i­zens, Jo Good­hew, about her var­i­ous port­fo­lios and her am­bi­tions for the se­nior cit­i­zens.

This month we aim to in­form our mem­bers about the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion.

Do you know any­thing about this body or how it works? Don­ald Rieze­bos, the Com­mis­sion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, will be ad­dress­ing us, and if any­one knows how the com­mis­sion works, he should.

So why don’t you come along? Tues­day, Septem­ber 11, 1.30pm, The Porirua Club, Lodge Place. Contact: He­len Grif­fith Phone: 236 0112.

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