Civil Disobedience

I have previously discussed the importance of New Zealand’s elite swimmers engaging in a coordinated program of civil disobedience. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) bureaucrats Steve Johns and Gary Francis are not going to change on their own. Life is too good for them the way things are. They receive bloated salaries and drive around in expensive leased SUVs while swimmers have to cough up $5,300 each to represent the country at a world championship. Why would Johns or Francis want to change that?

Only when the pain of holding onto the status quo is greater than the comfort of their current privileged lifestyle will they have any incentive to change. It is up to the New Zealand swimming community to make the life of Johns and Francis so miserable that they eventually accept that reform is better than despair. At the same time sports journalists in New Zealand and overseas need to be educated as to why the country’s best swimmers have set out on a program of civil disobedience. The international swimming world is changing. Civil disobedience in New Zealand would receive widespread understanding and support. New Zealand could well become a model for foreign countries seeking to reform their oppressive swimming regimes.

However, make no mistake, Johns, Chairman Cotterill and Francis will fight back dirty. They are not about to give up without a fight no matter how far into the gutter the fight takes them. They will paint New Zealand’s best swimmers as ungrateful, selfish and greedy. They will threaten sanctions and impose selection bans. They will ignore the millions they have spent on administration and the pennies allocated to swimmers. They will exaggerate the pennies spent on swimming and ignore their free ticket junkets to China and Japan. They will lie.

The picture at the top of this post is of Martin Luther King and one of his quotes. He said, “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” That is exactly what all this is about. The constitution, the rules of swimming and the accepted methods of administration are unjust and wrong. Swimmers are treated like slaves while Francis and Johns live off the fat of the land. The priorities of swimming are corrupt and feudal. Johns, Cotterill and Francis spend millions behind the glass door leading into their offices and nothing on swimming pools in Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Hastings, New Plymouth, Auckland or Whangarei. That has to change.

Are swimmers more important than Johns, Cotterill or Francis? It is not even close. And yet if you look at the way the money is spent, Johns, Cotterill and Francis are all that exists. Swimmers are nowhere.

That’s why a coordinated program of civil disobedience is so important. In the previous Swimwatch post I said this.

Imagine if the sixteen swimmers selected to compete in the World SC Championships had publicly burnt their $5,300 SNZ invoices in Auckland Airport and then refused to board the flight. My bet is it would be the last time Johns and Francis would charge swimmers to represent the country at a world championship.

I accept refusing to fly to a world championship is asking a lot. In fact it is asking too much of the sixteen swimmers involved. However whether a stand like that should be made cannot be determined by cost alone. What about the benefit? If no New Zealand senior swimmer ever again had to pay to represent their country the value of the action of sixteen strong New Zealanders, burning their invoices and missing this one meet, would be millions of dollars and a 100 year expansion of freedom.

No matter what the rest of their careers in swimming might achieve, they would have made a mark far more important to them and their sport than any medal or record. In the context of swimming their contribution would have been as important as the abolition of slavery, giving women the right to vote and the Magna Carta. What an achievement; to be known as one of the sixteen men and women who made the world a better place.

Of course the opportunity of that moment has come and gone. Nothing happened. Sixteen swimmers paid their $5,300 SNZ invoices and consolidated the belief that Johns and Francis being rewarded while swimmers are screwed is the way of the swimming world. The old order was preserved. Johns and Francis could smile smugly to themselves and drink their latte content in the knowledge that they had screwed the workers one more time. For them it was mission accomplished.

Some of you may be thinking that it is easy for me to be pushing for swimmers to sacrifice in the cause of justice but what, you may be asking, is David Wright doing to aid swimming reform? It is a valid question. So here is my 2019 SNZ Reform Plan.

2019 SNZ Reform Plan

·         Continue pushing the need for reform through the pages of Swimwatch. The reaction of Johns, Layton and Francis is sufficiently negative to suggest that the blog is having the intended negative affect.

·         Continue the Privacy Commission investigation into the lies told by SNZ about the investigation into my coaching.

·         If necessary extend the Privacy Commission’s investigation into a full Human Rights Commission hearing

·         Open proceedings through the New Zealand Courts that challenge the monopoly power of SNZ by asking the Court to rule that SNZ’s monopoly power of swimming is illegal.

And in addition to these personal goals I will continue to look for opportunities for those who matter most, the swimmers, to cause SNZ no end of problems. I have no idea what they will be. Possibly buy all the tickets for the Awards Dinner and then have no one turn up. It would be a better way to spend the price of the ticket. There will be occasions in the next twelve months when we can let the world know that the autocratic exploitation of Johns, Cotterill and Francis has gone on for too long. We missed a grand opportunity at Auckland Airport before the World SC Championships. Such a moment should not be allowed to pass again.

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