If you find yourself a little grim about the gills, or damp and drizzly in your insides, spare a thought for Sam (not his real name) who started work this year at the Reserve Bank. Or as it is now known, Te Pūtea Matua.
Sam’s plight will make your woes less dire while giving you a quick shortcut to describe the nonsense of government.
Each morning Sam must confront the God of the Forest or Tāne Mahuta. Tāne is not a thing, a block of wood, or a sculpture. No. Tāne is a sentient spirit keeping his eye on poor Sam.
Sam knows this because Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby recently devoted an entire address to the Institute of Directors explaining how the God of the Forest is watching over Sam and all who toil at the Bank.
“Each day as we walk through the security gates to enter our Wellington offices, Tāne Māhuta looks back at us as a reminder of our responsibility.”
That responsibility is to ensure that “Tāne will not wilt and lose mana”.
Mr Hawkesby’s Address makes clear that it is not just him on a New Age journey of discovery but the entire Bank and all who sail in her.
What is poor Sam to do? He could perhaps write a polite email:
Dear Mr Hawkesby
I read with disquiet your 6th May address to the Institute of Directors.
I am a devout Jew/Christian/Muslim. I consider your Tāne Mahuta idolatrous and sinful. It is blasphemy.
I respect your right to your religious views but in return you must respect my right to mine.
Your religious views are a private matter between you and your God/s. They are not a matter for the workplace.
New Zealand also enjoys religious tolerance by keeping the state and church separate. The government and its organisations don’t profess a religious view.
That separation has enabled people of different faiths to live and work together without the violence and upheaval that bedevilled the world historically and which sadly still blights much of the planet. We don’t live in a theocracy.
I respectfully ask that your Tāne Mahuta be removed. That’s for you and your fellow believers in your private time. You can worship him or anyone you like, and build whatever shrine meets your fancy, but such worship and such shrines have no place in the workplace and certainty no place on a state agency.
What would happen to Sam if he wrote such a letter? I doubt his defence of enlightenment values would enhance his career.
He either has to play along or leave.
He will no doubt play along just like all others who choose to work for the government and now, sadly, all those who attend school or go to university. Bit by bit, day by day, his self-respect, integrity and his rational mind must be eroded. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand reveres a block of wood as the God of the Forest. He mustn’t question that. He must just go along with it.
His boss, whom he must respect and be mentored by, is on “a journey” into New Age animism. His boss sees nothing wrong in having the rest of us pay for his journey and his worship.
Indeed, it appears Mr Hawkesby works for his god rather than us. He says it’s his job to make sure Tāne Māhuta doesn’t wilt and lose mana.
Officially, Mr Hawkesby is responsible for formulating monetary policy, providing liquidity in financial markets, managing the foreign reserves, operating interbank payment and settlement systems, and the circulation of currency.
I am a libertarian. It’s wrong to have a bunch of bureaucrats monopolising and manipulating our money. I no longer need to have a long and tedious debate about modern monetary theory. I need only declare that the fellow in charge thinks a block of wood in the foyer is keeping an eye on him. In that one observation the intellectual edifice of big government comes crashing down.
If he believes that, he will believe anything. Facts and reason mean nothing to him. He has no understanding of the proper role of government or proper limits of policy.
The Bank and the Government can no longer claim the intellectual high ground. Tāne Mahuta has taken care of that. We are truly blessed.