Thursday, October 14, 2010

Twangy Wig-out

Richard Feynman's dad was a uniform salesman. The physicist learned from an early age that the pope was just some guy in a suit. Power and authority legitimised by tradition's accumulated mass of threads. My old man was a lawyer, a bastard granted legitimacy with horse hair and mad rector cape. His function was to keep another bunch of uniforms, the police, from ruling the masses like sheriffs from Nottingham.

So I dig Feynman's principle. In her own way, it's what Helen Clark was aiming at in her own blinkered efforts to bring the lofty halls of justice back to street level. Earlier signs of levelling came through Chief Judge Eichelbaum's decision to remove the wearing of lawyer robes and wigs in court proceedings in 1996.

So what's all this about bringing the wigs and gowns back?
Lawyers should return to wearing gowns in court, the Law Society says – but the suggestion has been mocked as silly and elitist, with one legal bigwig arguing the attire should remain "in the dress-up box". 

The Stuff story sources this archaic novelty as the Law Society, but this story at LawFuel reckons it was from Attorney General Chris Finlayson. Wellington Governor's Counsel Lithgow has been liberal with his scorn:
Funny clothes are for private clubs, private schools, freemasons and sects. The gown is the last remnant of the ill-matched black gown of the medieval scholar and teacher and the powdered wig of the restoration fop. Individually and collectively, with or without little bibby things, they are silly, elitist, and serve no proper function in the support of a people first justice system.
TVNZ vox pops the legal brigands as well.

On the police front, Police Minister Collins is foreshadowing the routine arming of police car patrols and holsters as part of police uniform. John Key is saying that to avoid arming the police with guns, we must arm them with tasers. Police mouth Greg O'Connor is ecstatic. It's all his para-military dreams come true.

Guns and taser training. That looks good on an NZ cop CV looking for a job in Queensland. TV3 has more on that story here.

Not only do Finlayson and Collins share a taste for men in uniform - albeit one cross-dressing, one fascist - but they point to a worryingly authoritarian swing in the seat of power. I don't know what kind of pep talk that Nat cabinet had over recess, but something's in the water. Even Simon Power is acting passive aggressive on a relatively sound idea.

Maybe there's something that cabinet knows that we don't. Could be an interesting silly season.