Sometimes doing nothing is the best option.

I have been following the debate around New Zealand sending troops to Iraq to help combat the terrorist organisation ISIS (IS).  The decision to send troops has been made against the express wish of the majority of Parliamentarians, a minority decision.  Such decisions are always problematic however it is not the politics of this issue that I want to discuss.  One of the criticisms that has been levelled against those who oppose the sending of troops is the suggestion that it is ludicrous to do nothing, the question was put like an insult, “so what are you going to do? Nothing?  The suggestion that doing nothing is an absolutely forbidden thing to do is interesting in its construction.

In today’s world we are programmed to always be doing something, more so it is often that we are conditioned to do multi activities at the same time, ie watch television, carry on a text conversation and browse the internet all at the same time.  In our classrooms there are many examples of this, students “browsing” for information but have many tabs open often including Facebook.  I must admit that when I was at university if the lecture was particularly boring I would find myself browsing, sometimes it would be relevant, sparked by something the lecturer shared that caught my attention.  I have a high flicker rate anyway and like things to be fast paced, this fits in with the dominant narrative that pervades society.  We want it now, no delay no time to think, just do it, that’s the mantra.  Entertainment reflects this, attend a Super 15 Rugby match and there is entertainment at half-time, one cannot be left to ones own devices, that would be , well just wrong as they say.

What has happened to our pace of life, our lifestyle, our entertainment choices, our education system.  Studies have shown that by the time students leave school we have somehow extinguished the spark, nay the fire of creativity that is presented at the beginning of school.  Does this happen because we are in pursuit of something that cannot be found?  Do we push our children and young people in one direction, is that we have to be seen to something, pursue the latest and greatest techniques, follow change for the sake of change.  An often quoted saying is that “the definition of insanity is to do the same thing all the time and expect different results”, this goes hand in hand with the imperative that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

The situation of IS is in my opinion symptomatic of this, the world’s policemen (USA) have been intervening in a military fashion for a very long time, most of these post WW2 interventions have been unsuccessful, especially in the Middle East.  Why is it that this is again the standard answer? Why indeed is the US involved?  Well the cynics might say that it is because a few US citizens have died, suddenly it is a US problem, others may say it is oil that drives conflict, others will be inclined to say it is Israel that is the problem.  Some of these suggestions may have some merit, it doesn’t really matter in the end because the response is essentially the same, bombs, missiles guns.  Is this well worn failed approach valid to fight am organisation that has at its heart the wiping out of western values and ideals a valid approach.  John Key cited the radicalisation of disaffected youth in New Zealand as being a reason why we should send our soldiers to ‘train” the Iraq Army to fight IS.  At its best that is a tenuous or in my opinion a disingenuous politically naive statement.  If we cannot deal internally with radicalisation what can we offer to the world in the fight against IS.

It is an unfortunate precedent that a minority government can commit our troops to a course of action that may expose New Zealand to terrorist actions.  This is one of the problems of not having a constitution, no safe guards.  Do I advocate doing nothing in the face of clearly evil actions? Well if the answer is doing what they suggest then probably doing nothing is a better option.  John Key would be better off if he was more honest and said sending troops to IRAQ is the price of being in the club for there is no other logical explanation for the actions, he also would have been wise to consult the rest of the parties in Parliament. If or indeed when there comes a day when we pay a price for this decision, Mr Key will be a very lonely man as he and his party will bear the burden of responsibility for his decision.

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