Ears on the Wall Syndrome: Keep our friends close and our enemies closer...

23 November 2012

In a Polish publication called Poslaniec Ducha Swietego, Father Marian Zalewski of the Congregation Sancti Spiritus subtutela Immaculati Cordis Beatissimae Virginis Mariae (CCSp) recalled stories relating to Christian missionary experiences in Papua New Guinea.

Dr Featuna'i Liua'ana and author of Ears on the Wall syndrome

Dr Featuna’i Liua’ana

In one of his recollections, he wrote, “When the first missionaries reached Papua New Guinea they told what miracles Jesus worked, and what he taught. He gathered the Apostles, prepared them, and he wanted them to work for him later on. The natives listened with interest. Then the missionaries asked them: Which character from the Gospel did you like the best? And they definitely answered: Judas! Why he? the priests were astonished. Because Judas was so close to Jesus, that he could so easily ‘cheated’ Him, so Jesus did not notice he planned to sell Him.”

Judas, to the Papua New Guineans was a hero, because he was not only a close friend of Jesus but he also betrayed Jesus. But, the Papua New Guineans were at least wrong about Jesus not knowing Judas’ plan. Jesus had said to Judas, “Go quickly and do what you must do.”

One notable characteristic of great leaders was to know how to keep their friends close and their enemies closer; and these words of wisdom were never lost to Jesus in his relationship with Judas. And how appropriate was Jesus relationship to Judas as we reflect on the recent leadership crisis within the Labour Party.

It was sad to see David Cunliffe using the Labour party Conference to again ignite his intention to challenge David Shearer for the Labour Party leadership. But, instead of making friends at the conference, the majority of the Labour Party supporters and many Labour party caucus members were saying just one word – Judas!

David Cunliffe had challenged the leadership of the Labour Party once before and David Shearer prevailed. At that time, David Shearer knew he had to keep his friends close and his enemies closer, and promoted David Cunliffe to be with him at the front bench, and made him spokesperson for Economic Development and Associate spokesperson for Finance. But David Cunliffe has betrayed his leader’s trust and jeopardised their friendship by again challenging David Shearer’s leadership at a time when the Labour Party needed to show solidarity.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, he ended up hanging himself; but luckily for David Cunliffe, he is only stripped of his portfolios and demoted to the back bench where he can continue scheming for another crack at the leadership next February. Labour’s internal squabbling has again taken the focus away from John Key and the government’s present boogyman Novopay.

There is no doubt John Key and his colleagues are revelling  in Labour’s woes and are continuing to add wood to the fire by praising David Cunliffe’s efforts. One of the traits that both Judas and David Cunliffe have in common is selfishness; always thinking about what is best for them personally and not what the whole group or organisation needs.

The challenge to David Shearer’s leadership had long been fuelled by bloggers, journalists, and commentators, who misinterpreted David Shearer’s lack of vigour and killer instinct as a sign of weakness and threatening the progress of the Labour party despite recent polls saying otherwise.

David Cunliffe has vowed to disrupt the Labour party’s peace again in February 2013, a sign that he is a bad apple in Labour’s basket. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle once commented on people such as David Cunliffe, saying, “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.”

David Cunliffe, or ‘two face David cunning’ as people on the street are calling him, must realise that voters, and even his own colleagues, do not want a selfish individual who is not a team player; individual glory seeking plays second fiddle to the solidarity of the party. And despite the re-assurance from his New Lynn Electorate committee, his future in parliament is in jeopardy and his own colleagues seem to think along the same line as they fully support David Shearer’s handling of Cunliffe’s betrayal and disloyalty.

David Shearer’s actions has sent a message to his own party, and to John Key and his government, that he is a strong and capable leader now and will be in the future. He has not only dealt with David Cunliffe, but he justified the swiftness of his action in pointing out that David Cunliffe’s “actions at the weekend were disappointing, not only to me but to many party members. That, along with his repeated failure to quell speculation about the leadership means that I no longer have confidence in him…..He has lost my trust….After the leadership contest last year, I publicly expressed my support for David Cunliffe and appointed him to the front bench as a sign of my respect for him and desire for us to work together….I regret having to take the action I have today, but he has left me with no alternative.”

David Shearer is strong and decisive, and unlike John Key who would lie to his teeth to protect the  incompetent actions of his incompetent colleagues in John Banks, Paula Bennett, and Hekia Parata, to name a few.

David Shearer’s action should be a warning to those who had forecast his fall from grace not to read and listen to bloggers, journalist, and commentators in gauging the success of David Shearer’s leadership. Instead, they should have been listening to John Key as the best indicator of how well David Shearer is doing. Claire Trevett’s article, Being nice a mixed blessings in game of cunning tables much of John Keys ridicule of David Shearer as a political leader.

John Key called him “genuinely nice guy” and sarcastically suggested that the Labour MPs were “not a very happy bunch of campers.”  John Key went on to say that Helen Clarke and Phil Goff were tougher than David Shearer, and because of that David Shearer’s term as leader would be “mercifully brief.” But, forgive me if I am wrong. If I know my enemy is weak, I would not be pointing those weaknesses out to the opposition. I would prefer to praise such a leader, as such leadership would be conducive to any cause.

John Key’s comments hides his real intention of wanting David Shearer deposed as leader of the opposition; he sees David Shearer as a threat to his own leadership. John Key cannot read and fathom David Shearer’s mindset; he has a poker face. Unlike David Cunliffe, whom John Key would love to have as opposition leader because he is a reflection of his own kind of leadership and can read him like a book.

What makes David Shearer a better leader than David Cunliffe, and even John Key in the future, he is not unfazed by the criticism being dished out  to him. He continues to focus on his own game plan and as he continues to steer the Labour party to the direction he knows would benefit his party in the future. He will not be dictated to or be influenced by comments being thrown in the air about his performance. David Shearer is a leader who prefers to do his talking with actions; but actions based on listening to people talking about their real problems.

Benjamin Disraeli, one of the great British Prime Ministers of the 19th century, once remarked, “I must follow people. Am I not their leader?” David Cunliffe went to the conference with his own self interest in mind; but David Shearer went to the conference with the people of New Zealand in mind. John Key should be worried, because the real David Shearer is slowly being introduced into the political arena, and his humble low key, non-verbal but more practical approach would eventually be the demise of the present government.

David Shearer’s proposal for affordable housing for low income families at the Labour party conference has been praised by those who cannot afford their own homes; and the best thing about Labour’s proposal is the positive feedback not just from people who need housing but from those who have analysed and critique the proposal and found it a workable proposal.

And to show that David Shearer’s proposal has hit a nerve in the government’s own affordable housing proposals, the Housing Minister Phil Heatly tried to aligned the government’s proposal in the same breath with David Shearer plans. But, Brian Rudman, in his article It’s bold but Labour housing scheme looks doable, has rightly rubbished Phil Heatly’s proposal as ignoring “the reality that the markets is just not interested in building” $400,000 plus houses.

For me, the government’s proposal is still aimed at the rich and wealthy for the sake of making more profits at the expense of the lower income earners who are still trying to save for that elusive first home to call their own.

And I am also not surprised that Bob Jones calls the idea of building affordable housing a “load of codswallop” in his latest article Housing affordability saga a load of codswallop, as he has too much money to spare and can afford anything.

But, while Bob Jones is correct in pointing out that everything is proportional  when comparing the cost of owning a house in the past and today, he has failed to take into consideration that the wages and income have not kept pace with the cost of living, the number of people unemployed, and the wage gap between the rich and the poor today.

There is nothing ‘codswallop’ about Labour’s affordable housing proposals, as Annette King, the Labour party spokesperson for Housing has aptly suggested, “Housing would be absolutely central to our economic policy, to our social policy, to our jobs policy, to our training policy, and our infrastructure. When you think about housing it ticks all those boxes.”

Annette King goes on to give hope to the hopeless, “We’re not going to let that dream go. Not for Pacific people, Maori people, low-income people we’re not going to let that dream go. If your generation, my kids retire in rentals without us having a lot of people in home ownership, we will have poverty in old age. Imagine living on the pension and trying to pay $3-400 a week for your rent?”

There is such a positive mood in the murmurs among the people in our communities, and hope seems to be in the air for those who were condemned to think there was no light at the end of the tunnel. The Christmas tree may yet be dusted once again and placed by the window to signify the hope for better things to come.

The good Book has not failed me yet, as it reminds me again that all good things come to those who wait upon the Lord, and not only that, we have continued to be resilient despite the hardships, and we have not forgotten to keep on praying for a more prosperous New Zealand, as we continue to seek the peace and prosperity of this country to which God has given us to dwell. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…




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