Ears on the Wall Syndrome: Reputation is something, character is everything…

9 April 2013

I was listening to the news recently and I was struck by a report that our Prime Minister, John Key, has in a roundabout way, put New Zealand slam in the middle of the North Korean – South Korean political conflict.

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

Dr Featuna’i Liua’ana

He did this by telling the world that he would not speculate on New Zealand’s role in the conflict if it came to head, but “obviously we have got a long and proud history of coming to the support of South Korea”. He goes on to suggest that getting involved was a very strong possibility by saying that “taken to the extreme, and without interventions and resolutions to the issue, that is of course possible.”

John Key seems to have copyrighted the slogan ‘shooting off my mouth before thinking,’ and after doing so, he always finds himself back paddling or running for cover. John Key should read more of the speeches of past great Statement such as Abraham Lincoln who once warned his political rivals that “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Our Prime Minister’s latest antics in China suggests he has not learned anything from his tongue’s past irrepressible wagging; he has not learned from the John Banks’ storm in a teacup fiasco; he has forgotten the Kim Dotcom security ‘first time he has heard of it’ debacle; he lapsed in recalling misleading New Zealanders by telling parliament in 2011 that a change of government will see New Zealand’s credit rating downgraded; he has obviously forgot that he told parliament fibs over his shareholdings with Tranz Rail; and now his latest ‘brain fade’ over any knowledge of the appointment of his best friend Ian Fletcher to the role of Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Some of the things that has slipped from John Key’s tongue involve life and death concerns for New Zealanders and yet, our Prime Minister sees fit to speak on our behalf without gauging public opinion. And, for John Key to keep on retracting many of the things he has said publicly, just doesn’t cut anymore; and John Key saying sorry is like a little boy saying sorry to his mum for spilling milk on the floor but still continues to do it without remorse. This is John Key’s distorted version of crying over spilt milk.

The thing that worries me about John Key and his tongue wagging is that he is building up a reputation as a strong leader among his colleagues and wealthy business supporters, and it has made him, whether he is aware of it or not, more cocky, and his ‘brain fade – can’t recall – never happened’ modus operandi on issues pertaining to New Zealanders welfare has become standard ingredients in his repertoire. And as John Key continues with this kind of performance, he will also continue to lose touch with what is real and what is fantasy; and that is why it is very dangerous for him to speak on behalf of New Zealanders on any issues that will drag our nation into conflict.

Two weeks ago, I was up in arms when John Key tried to curb the right of the media to ask questions and report on our political leader when he suggested that he would not answer any questions unless the questions were first submitted in writing to him to think about. But, I now know that John Key was just trying to protect New Zealanders, by warning them that he is now more likely to say something stupid – or more likely to say something misleading and detrimental about New Zealand – without thinking, and he did not want the media to report it to the world. I think it is too late for that now; our Prime Minister now has a reputation as one who shoots first and regret later.

John Key has built up a reputation that cannot be separated from his identity; and he carries and works it into New Zealand’s ‘100% Pure’ image that he and many New Zealand businesses have tried to promote over the last decade. But, let’s not be fooled by John Key; as I have often said before, John Key is one of the most astute politician we have had in New Zealand, and I believe he knows exactly what he is doing and uses the ‘brain fade – can’t recall – never happened’ modus operandi to create a reputation, because such reputation, according to scientific research, is known to be “ubiquitous, spontaneous, and a highly efficient mechanism of social control”.

And John Key is no dummy, he knows how to control and he is in control. It is mesmerising control, which has seen his popularity remain strong with the New Zealand public, albeit among the wealthy and the business community. John Keys reputation reflects Socrates’ view: “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of – for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.”

And, Shakespeare sums up why it is so important for John Key not to lose the reputation he has worked so hard to build up when he wrote: “Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” Keeping in mind of course, as I have often been reminded that, “reputation is what others think of us; character is what God knows of us.” It is this aspect of relying on reputation to build up your image that, eventually, your reputation will take over and destroy the God given characteristics that identifies who you truly are as a person.

And when I look back over the last twelve months on how important building and sustaining reputations has become to politicians, especially our Prime Minister, I have noticed that many of our politicians have slowly lost the characteristics that got them elected as politicians. And when we lose our characters or who we truly are, we will end up making decisions that have huge impacts on the moral and ethical foundations of our society. In a way, we are toying with the ‘Dorian Gray’ mentality, or to put it simply, we are selling our (New Zealander’s) soul to the devil.

An article I read recently entitled Same sex Aussie couples eye NZ wedding vows made me ponder upon the ’100% Pure’ image of  New Zealand being promoted overseas. But, even the physical (environment) aspect of ‘Pure’ New Zealand is not ‘100% pure’ as it’s being promoted. Even John Key last December compared the ‘100% Pure’ New Zealand promotion with the hamburger franchise McDonalds; he said, it’s like saying ‘McDonald’s, I’m loving it’ – I’m not sure every moment that someone’s eating McDonald’s, they’re loving it…it’s the same thing with 100% Pure.”

It seems the ‘100% ‘Pure’ image of New Zealand is being question, and its not just its physical (environment) dimension, but also its spiritual dimension that’s being scrutinised. Are we selling our soul (New Zealand) to the devil? How can a nation market itself as being ‘100% Pure’ when in the last decade it has passed laws that increase gambling machines, increase access to alcohol, legalise civil union, making prostitution a legal occupation, and now parliament is on the verge of passing same-sex marriage?

I was at my usual spot in South Auckland two weeks ago listening to the usual discussion on current affairs, and the discussion centred on the article, Same sex Aussie couples eye NZ wedding vow.

One comment, made with tongue in cheek, still struck a nerve in me when it was suggested that New Zealand will become the next Sodom and Gomorrah.

It was a comparison that had me thinking, because Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible were two of the five cities known as the “cities of the plain”. This part of the land situated on the Jordan River had been described as ‘a garden of Eden’ because it was well watered, green and with fresh clean air, and suitable for livestock – it was 100% Pure. But Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because its ‘100% Pure’ image was tarnished by its obsession with corruption and immorality. And of course, God saved Lot and his family, with Lot’s wife turning to a pillar of salt for disobedience.

The comment made may have been whimsical, but the underlying concern was real. There is a real concern with Pacific people with the way New Zealand is becoming less pure in all sense of the word, and all because of individual rights.

There is a huge belief among the Pacific communities in the ‘rights’ of individuals, but the question is, at what cost to society? The average ‘Joes’ on the street are asking, “Are we selling our souls to the devil?”

The discussion in the midst of the shopping centre in South Auckland ended with the realisation that the fate of New Zealand and its people, on whether it becomes one of the “cities of the plain” or not, is very much in the hands of its political leaders. And it was not lost on the group either, the words of the Psalmist, “From the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruits of righteousness.”

In order to do this, our politicians, starting with our Prime Minister, need to put on hold their intense graving to be a ‘reputation junkie’ for political status and personal gains, and put New Zealand and its people first in all that they say and do. And not just for the sake of political, social, and economic expediency, but to ensure that New Zealand and its people still have a soul in the future.

To fail in this endeavour is to commit treason. And I am reminded of the words of Marcus Cicero, one of Rome’s greatest orator, philosophers, lawyer and politician. He said, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.

“For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

Reputation is something, character is everything. And as Dwight L. Moody once said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” So, take care of your character, and 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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