by Jerry Flay
Few if any Waihekeans will be unaware of the Waiheke Island People's Parliament - the Facebook page which doubles as a refuge for the sad, the lonely, the misguided and the downright deranged.
A casual visitor might be forgiven for thinking they have stumbled into a Kafkaesque nightmare; the topics under debate are real, and often close to home, but the perspectives are more Munch than Monet. It became an outlandish menagerie, a place where you might rub shoulders with drunken philosophical wharfies, eminent childen's foot doctors, failed Australian law students, all manner of freaks, ageing protestors who’s best before dates are a thing of distant memory, teenage swimming pool salesmen and prepubescent environmentalists.
Such is the rabidity of this outlandish community that anyone who dares question, let alone oppose the particular extreme being espoused, is immediately set upon by this wolf pack of horrors who call into question every personal aspect of the doubter, savaging them so severely that most simply leave. One thing they will never do, of course, is address the concerns or conflicting facts raised, for facts are seen as a mere inconvenience on WIPP, as it is known.
And in it's way, it performed a very valuable social function. It corralled the loonies into a manageable space, and it afforded sane folks an opportunity to experience life in the asylum. Most of the 600+ members merely watched, chuckled and shook their heads in disbelief at some of the improbable positions taken by veteran protestors, teenage idealists and sad old drunks. Until recently, that is.
One of the keys to the success of WIPP was the invisible role played by its moderator, whom I shall call Hans (because it is his name, and he'd never forgive me if I didn't credit him). Hans let you say pretty much what you wanted, and WIPP roamed free and far under his benevolent eye. In fact so lackadaisical was his management that he inadvertently allowed three diabolical insurgents into his metaphorical chamber, Charlie Baggs, Matthew Topsecret and the improbably named Bernard Secretsquirrell.
Although there is neither evidence nor suggestion that these three were acting in pre-planned concert, it became apparent that they shared a mutual distaste for the lies and extraordinary extrapolations spewed forth each day. Baggs was a savage, pithy yet witty assassin who dismembered the vague and improbable expostulations. Topsecret simply confounded them with a calm, irrefutable logic which drove the wippers to distraction, and then there was Secretsquirrel. Quite who this mysterious character actually was, we may never know. Theories as to his true identity abounded. Some even accused me of being him. Actually he sounded like my father, a bluff, old fashioned gentlemen with a kindly and courteous manner. But he was resolute in his defence of fact, and challenged without mercy every lie, every half truth and each postualtion of the absurd as it cropped up.
And that's when it happened. In a swift, unannounced and untypically decisive move, Hans rose from his bed of indolence and purged the hated Baggs and the dreaded Secretsquirrel in the manner of Stalin. But he left Topsecret in place, and in so doing, it may be his undoing, for the reality of WIPP was suddenly laid bare for all to see. Topsecret was spared for the simple fact that he never engaged in issues relating to local politics.
WIPP was ever a safe refuge for those who would further their political agendas: ambitious property developers aspiring at local level, career students, besotted with the vague concept of sustainability and with an eye on the bigger picture, and list MPs desperate for an audience that went beyond janitors and late night security guards. Baggs and Secretsquirrel exposed them for what they were, vainglorious posturers without an ounce of substance, and this is was that proved the straw that broke the camels back.
Who drove this purge remains a mystery. It seems unlikely that Hans made such a choice alone. Such decisiveness, such steel, seems entirely out of character But it made one thing abundantly clear: WIPP is there for one reason, and one reason alone, and that is to further the cause of the political green and left - and woe betide anyone who should try to undermine that cause.
It's actually a shame. Many had long since suspected such a thing, but now that it is irrefutable, the charm has vanished. It's just another political PR machine, and the fun has gone out of it. The hard political messages, previously obfuscated by the insane yet ironically charming babbling of Susi, Frankie, Jaks et all are now too stark to be ignored, and the rest is shown for what it really is - cushioning.
Of course the death of WIPP will be a lingering affair. Many of its most active participants will take some time to realise they have been gulled into making fools of themselves by allowing their ridiculous views to be used to soften the blow of incipient communism. Denial will be a common theme amongst them, but nothing lasts for ever, not even the most intransigent of nutcases, and the moment will come when their disillusion outweighs their need for an audience, and they will slink away, one by one, until only Hans remains. It's sad, really.
Several commentators have asked me to publish their blogs on my site. The blogs on this page are not my own nor do they necessarily reflect my views. However, I do believe there is a need for a place where differing voices to those allowed in the local media can be expressed.