Elections and choices

It was Election Day yesterday. I voted in the morning and in the evening kept half an eye on the results as they came in, although I didn’t wait up to see who won. There was likely to be some horse trading with minor parties to get a majority to govern and that’ll take a few days to resolve.

I was hoping for a change in government but it’s unlikely. I think it’s unhealthy for any one party to be in power too long. They get complacent and arrogant, and start believing their own hype. Although it gets messy at Election time and figuring out who won can take days if not weeks, the MMP system we use for voting does make for a far more interesting selection of candidates and wider representation of views.

All that representation means many more choices to make. It’s a lot of work to read up on parties’ policies and decide where you think money should come from and where and to whom it should go.

There’s been a bit of misinformation passing around, but nothing like the epidemic of ‘fake news’ (or as we tend to call it here – bald faced lies) seen in the last US election. It’s bad enough trying to decide between policies let alone trying to figure out if what you’re reading is true or not.

I’m not a hugely political person. I take an interest because work demands I maintain a level of awareness, and because I believe in the principle of democracy, which to me means being not just a voter but an informed one.

So I did my reading, made my choice, and instead of going to an election night party I stayed home nursing sore hands, elbows, and hips that have been giving me grief all week. I overdid it last weekend (travel on top of a heavy week of work) and I’ve been paying the price all week.

As an aside, this year marks 125 years since women got the vote here. We’re proud of the fact we were the first country in the world to give women the vote. My great grandmother was a signatory to the petition. It seems disrespectful not to vote.

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Why I am not a lawyer

This past week I got to spend some time in Court. I was there observing, for a project I’m doing at work. 

I attended two mornings of District Court. The first day was for case review hearings, where prosecution and defence are supposed to put forward an agreed summary of the arguments in the case to the judge who then can give early indication of whether there is an argument to be heard and if not what sentence is likely. This theoretically gives the defendant an opportunity to plead guilty, avoid the trial before the judge, and get bonus points for an early guilty plea leading to a discount in the sentence. 

When the process is followed, this is frequently an efficient way to proceed for all parties. Except of course there is endless pissing around on all sides leading to further hearings being scheduled and cases dragging on for months. This probably doesn’t bother the defendant but for the victims and witnesses, it’s a real cost having to come back to court time and again. 

The second morning was list Court where everyone arrested overnight appears including a large number of traffic related offences. This moves through pretty quickly as people are either bailed or remanded and a hearing date set down, or fined and discharged. 

Never having had occasion to be involved in the justice system in this way, I found it all quite illuminating and sad. But more than anything I was struck by how boring the whole process is. A lawyer has to show up for half an hour to represent someone who has made an obviously bad decision, usually while under the influence of alcohol, then try to present some kind of case for leniency or mitigating circumstances or denial of the events. This seems like a deadly mix of repetitive and detail oriented work. Likewise for the prosecutor, worse since there was only one of them whereas at least the lawyers only had to represent one or two clients. For the judge, it has to be mind numbing sitting there listening to one story after another with only minor variations from day to day. The registrar who was managing an endless stream of paperwork as well as scheduling court dates and keeping the whole process moving seemed to be the busiest of the lot. 

If anyone chooses a career in law and especially criminal law based on what they see on TV in shows like The Good Wife and whatever legal dramas are current now (I was going to write “LA Law” then realised that’s decades old!), I fear they’d feel sorely misled.  The same is true of NCIS-type crime shows as a representation of investigative and forensic work. Most jobs are a good deal more boring and mundane than they are on TV. Intellectually I know this, as do most people, but I was still a bit shocked to realise just how much reality differed from drama. 

It makes me realise that my own job is actually pretty interesting. 

What to say

I’m not American so I didn’t vote in the election. But it affected me nonetheless. For one thing, for the past two years my RSS feed has been full of commentary on everything to do with the campaigns. If nothing else I am hugely (or is that yugely) relieved the whole ugly mess has come to an end. And what an end. 

The dynamic of the race and what it says about Americans’ changing view of politics and “the system” is on one level fascinating. I did enough political science at uni to have some interest in that aspect of it. 

But what I find saddest is that playing to racist fears, xenophobia, and misogyny worked. That there’s a large enough group of  (mostly white) Americans who believe that continuing to oppress others is the only way ahead. Apparently Making America Great Again requires Making America Hate Again. 

I don’t know what to say to my American friends. They didn’t vote for this but they’re stuck with the consequences. 

The morally superior humblebrag

To be fair, it’s not Facebook’s fault that people post annoying things on it. My latest peeve is a variation of the Humblebrag that I have decided is the Morally Superior Humblebrag.

This is a typical scenario based very loosely on a recent post that invaded my feed:

I was driving home when I noticed a [person behaving is some odd way that leads to judgement from others]. Drivers were honking at her, passers by avoided her, people hurled abuse etc. I was the only one who stopped to help. I realised she was suffering from some condition for which miraculously I had something appropriate in my handbag/car. I drove her to hospital where the doctors said she’d have died without my help [crucial detail – I saved a life here, I’m a hero but I don’t want to brag …]What is wrong with people that they are so selfish that no one stopped to help? No one cares any more and society is going to the dogs.

In other words: thank god for me, I’m better than all those other people.

It’s a narcissistic retelling of the Good Samaritan story, although rather missing the point of that parable.

Why not just announce, “I did a pretty awesome thing today and therefore I’m a really Good Person”? Because that is how it sounds when the ‘outrage’ directed at others is stripped away.

Self praise is no reference. Especially not when it’s feebly disguised under a pile of contempt for the behaviour of others.