Once again New Zealand is at the leading edge of social reform with the passing today in Parliament of the Religion and Faith Disestablishment Act and the Religion and Faith Freedom of Association Act.
Essentially, with effect from 1st July, 2017, all organised religions or faiths will cease to exist in their current form and be handed over to private enterprise to administer. Assets held by religious organisations will be sequestered and made available, under tender, to the new private providers
The Bills received their third reading today and were speedily ratified by the Unified Parliament. A spokesperson for The Ministry of Social Development said that it was gratifying to finally clarify the distinction between State and Church. ‘These necessary reforms also reflect the Government’s will to allow market forces to shape the future for all of our estates. The Church, in that sense, is no different from Health, Transport, Prisons and Defence – all of which are now being effectively managed by private providers.’
All citizens must register as members of one of the sanctioned Faith and Worship Providers (FWPs).
FWPs must provide a prospectus setting out the full range of services and related costs. Government will strictly regulate how the FWPs operate and ensure that there is no prospect of cartels or restrictive trade practices having a negative impact on competition for worshippers. ‘We don’t want the Anglicans and the Catholics getting together to fix the price of absolution. That would never do’ said a spokesman from the Secular Audit Office (SAO)
It is expected that the advent of corporatised religion will foster a number of radical departures from previous practice and the Government will provide favourable tax concessions to FWPs that invest in approved architectural initiatives that reflect both religious and corporate philosophy.
To ensure that all Citizens’ rights of Freedom of Association are properly observed, units of the newly-formed Shaolin Security plc will be stationed at key Corporate Cathedrals, Mosques and Synagogues throughout the country. ‘We are determined to enforce these freedoms’, the Prime Minister said at a press conference today.
What it is, is positive proof that in the race between disaster and education – disaster is forging ahead. Trump is the first post-literate President of the United States. As Philip Roth notes, Trump is ‘wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better described as Jerkish than English’
Now that’s pretty funny. And the media, the internet, is awash with scathing, humorous critiques of the new President and his entourage. But as we all laugh at these ad hominem attacks and reassure ourselves that we haven’t replaced thinking with laughing – have we paused to consider what it is we’re laughing at and whether we’ve stopped thinking while we laugh?
Before the Election, the television-viewing public was already consuming Trump; Waiting for his admonishment; Gratified by his judgement. Legitimised by his ‘You’re fired!‘ volleyed at an unfortunate contestant. There’s really no difference between that and firing Boeing or a Security Advisor is there? No more than there is telling Putin that he likes him and his product – and will back it.
So while we figure out whether the medium is still the message and whether or not we can somehow restore our attention spans to the degree necessary to withstand the media deluge – we’ll also need to re-establish our desire to have that same media at the forefront of the eternal struggle for decency and compassion. It’s either that or the noxious hybrid of an Orwellian prison hosting an insane vaudeville. And that’s no laughing matter.
As we sat on the terrace at Versailles and watched the fountains playing, I glanced over at Tammy. She had never looked lovelier. Or happier. The early autumn sun, as it filtered through the sparkling fountain plumes, caught the highlights in her auburn wig and gave it hints of dying embers and Oloroso sherry. She caught me looking at her and then that cupid bow smile, the tilting of her firm jaw and those sparkling eyes announced that she was about to speak.
‘It’s gorgeous, isn’t it darling? And we got 30% off the whole trip in the sale.’
I nodded my agreement, content to look into those liquid brown eyes that had captivated the hearts and minds of so many retailers and customers over the last 25 years.
We both looked up as a footman, wearing the livery of the Bourbon regime, appeared and offered Tammy the autumn season catalogues of Galeries Lafayette, Monoprix and Printemps.
‘Merci’, she frothed at the man, tossing her head gaily, causing the wig to bob and shimmer as he retreated backwards, bowing as he went. We both noticed that the servant looked somewhat confused as he walked away – peering over the terrace wall as if looking for someone – and then back at Tammy. He stood motionless for a moment, then shrugged perplexedly before disappearing to wherever such people go.
Tammy sighed deeply. ‘I should have never agreed to that bloody voice-over transplant. He knew that wasn’t me speaking. He bloody knew.’
I summoned up my best comforting smile and kissed her lightly on the lobe of her left ear. I explained to Tammy that style icons, exemplars of wholesomeness, heralds of a consumer paradise – such as herself – would inevitably carry the burden of necessary artifice in order to satisfy the cravings of the hordes of television viewers who tuned in each day just so that they might see her and hear about the latest ‘specials’.
‘That’s all very well’, she ventriloquized, ‘but I can’t even remember what my real voice sounds like – I’ve been stuck with this call centre patois for so long!’
I placed my hands against her shoulders and pressed them reassuringly. I whispered my understanding and sympathy into her ear, once more lightly kissing that delicious lobe. Her agitation eased, the flame in her cheeks abated to its usual peach hue and her breathing became more even, more measured. She was back in control.
I chose the moment to remind Tammy that tomorrow was Mombasa and that she needed a good night’s sleep before the journey. I suggested that she might like to unscrew her right leg so that I could massage her stump before she retired for the night and she gave me that sincerest of smiles that had melted the hearts of so many in the last quarter of a century.
I’m a lucky fellow.