Friday, December 08, 2006

Minority Report

I visited the dentist for the first time in over a year earlier this week. This old geezer on The Terrace has been cleaning the excesses of an epicurean lifestyle from my teeth on and off for a good twenty years. I go to him partly out of loyalty and idle chit-chat, partly because he already has as much money as he can usefully use and doesn't try to up-sell me crap. I gave up on haircuts long ago because I got sick of being hassled by shampoo salespeople.

Anyways, during the forepain, we got talking about his recent trip to Rome. Two and a half millenia of human history accumulated in one city. He stayed in this crap hotel near the Piazza and enjoyed its This. He summed it up: "The river sliding past, the place, the moment. I cannot describe its beauty. Words falsely constrain the idea." I would never know exactly what he meant, but I can approximately understand. Neurons lit up inside me.

This is the tragedy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By naming "race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status," it has niched humans. It is the Declaration of Human Rights that has permitted the Safety Nazis to gain leverage, forcing through bigoted legislation such as the Smokefree Environments Act. The War on Drugs, a proxy war of minority persecution based on a variant of intoxication, is another case in point. Smokers and other dope fiends don't have a 'status'. So you chocoholics, fast food junkies and caffeine fixers better watch out. They're coming for you next.

Is Winston Peters' vote sponge, known as the Supergold card, a breach of the Declaration? It certainly seems so. A clear prima facie obiter dictum habeas corpus ad infinitum case of age discrimination. Winston P's speech on the topic is a goldmine of unintentional humour:
"The Supergold Card is a concession card for the nearly 540,000 New Zealand residents who are aged 65 or over, or who otherwise qualify for and receive New Zealand Superannuation, including non-qualified spouses, or a Veteran's Pension.

It will be available from August 2007 and will provide negotiated commercial discounts from participating businesses, and will help facilitate seniors’ access to concessions on government and local authority services.


The Supergold Card will be credit card sized. It will carry the cardholder’s name, client number, and will indicate whether they receive New Zealand Superannuation, a Veteran’s Pension and Community Services Card benefits.

It will replace the Community Services Card and Super Card for senior citizens. People who currently hold those cards will be able to access their entitlements through the Supergold Card, and other government concessions may be added later."
Old people, regardless of income or assets, will be treated preferentially to standard poor people. Yeah, that's fair.
"The first amendment in Part 1 will allow regulations to be made for cardholder photographs to be placed on entitlement cards. This will enable the government to provide cardholders with the choice of having their photo on the Supergold Card, which will be useful for those who do not have photo ID.

The second amendment in Part 1 will enable regulations to be made allowing a microchip to be embedded on entitlement cards, containing the same information as can currently be contained on a magnetic stripe.

This will allow the future possibility of embedding a microchip in the Supergold Card, should this prove to be useful for cardholders. It is in essence future- proofing the capability of the Supergold Card."
So, these old people will carry a card containing biometric data, even if it is a photograph just for the moment. RFID chip later. Last time time I checked, most old people couldn't tell a modem from a mouse. Is Grey Power at all concerned by this? Judging by their dire website design, poor spell-checking ("New Zeeland") and bad links, I'd say no. Yay. Identity theft, anyone?
"A dedicated Supergold Card website, 0800 phone number, and printed directory will promote the range of concessions and discounts available to cardholders across the country, from central government, local authorities and businesses.

The large number of seniors who will be eligible for the Supergold Card represents a valuable, loyal and rapidly growing market for businesses to be involved in. Already several large companies have expressed a strong desire to be involved in offering business discounts.

Their enthusiasm at this early stage bodes well for the Supergold Card rapidly becoming a valuable discount card for seniors."
This is a government-funded Fly Buys scheme for people born before 1941. And you thought UFO's Families Commission was a waste of space.

Unfortunately, Winston is not alone. There are times when I wish Tariana Turia would just shut up. This is one of them. Although I understand what she's getting at, her suggestion of including Pacific Islanders in the Maori Roll is complete nonsense. It denigrates the whole idea of the unique relationship the her whanau enjoys with the Crown. Shane Jones states the obvious in his designated soundbite: "The last time I checked, the Treaty is between the Maori tribes and the Crown, not the Tongans and the Samoans or anyone else."

Any moment now, I'm expecting someone to suggest making the summit of Mt Cook wheelchair-accessible. Then I remember. NZ is not yearning for a more glorious time in the long distant past, like Italy mooning over Roman times, or Britain and her nostalgia for Empire, or even the Yanks with their present nightmare hegemony. NZ's glory, like Oz's, still lies in the future. We'll suss it one day. Just not today.