Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 13. 1970
A Matter Of Conscience . . . . .
A Matter Of Conscience . . . . . .
Bruce Preston was convicted and fined $25 last Friday on charges under the National Military Service Act relating to his refusal to submit to compulsory military training and refusing to pay a fine imposed earlier for this offence.
Bruce was denied conscientious objector classification. Evidently Bruce's statement (part of which is printed below) caused some distress to the gentlemen of the Conscientious Objection Hearing Committee.
Sleep-in at Mount Crawford.
Timothy Richard Shadbolt, a well known Auckland journalist, has staged 30-day sleep-in at Mount Crawford prison in protest at the 1970 All Black tour of South Africa. He has the full backing of Her Majesty's Government who will be sponsoring Mr Shadbolt during his vigil and supplying him with bread and water. He believes his action to be a sincere protest against the tour and that it demonstrates a basic democratic right of all people to use public buildings for such purposes. Meanwhile, back at activist headquarters, Mr Shadbolts satellites are bleeping in abject distress. They issued a statement shortly after their leader's decision to sleep-in, which included the advice;
Tim is sharing a cell with six others and it is likely that he will be supplied with pen and paper. It is Important that: 1) No sympathy demonstration be made as this will jeopardize any privileges that he already has. 2) That those interested in visiting do so in small groups (2-3) and behave circumspectly. From all information received disturbance could only jeopardize any chance Time has of doing any writing.
Mr Shadbolt is protesting at the tour of fascist countries by representative New Zealand Teams. His followers are more concerned with their leaders comfort than his ideals. "We must behave circumspectly" said militant Pym Bloqan. "It seems to me that there are two things here, but we must disregard them both if we are to prevent the state pigs from suppressing Tim's pencil and paper."
"Gentlemen, I stand before you, today, asked to justify my decision not to perform the compulsory military training required of me by the State, through the Military Service Act of 1961. It appears that if I am not to be obliged to perform military service, I must show good reason as to Why I should be permitted to avoid what is said to be my duty by being entered in the register of what are termed "conscientious objectors". It appears also that this tribunal will sit in judgement regarding what it considers to be the state of my conscience, and that I must compellingly demonstrate to you gentlemen my moral worth of character—(which without such proof would otherwise seem seriously in doubt)—and a sincerity of belief in which the committee though it thinks this misguided, can find an excuse for me to default on my obligations. It seems to me that there is something strange in this situation, and I will comment on this later in my statement.
"I am not a pacifist. I do not have a religious objection to military training, because I do not believe in God. Thus I do not claim either of the two traditional justifications for conscientious objection. The issue of justification is again something I intend to comment on later.
"Before that, I should like to say a few things about myself, and society, and the world at large. Observing me you may well say, yes, here is a long-haired and apparently rebellious youth—a student moreover—and be pleased with the fact that, you have some initial items of classification to work from. You may well think that, further he is probably opposed to the Vietnam War—and you would be correct. Perhaps you might imagine, he has hippie sympathies—you know, this peculiar peace, love and freedom thing—and almost certainly is in some way involved in this modern phenomenon of decadent youth—this—world-wide growth of large numbers of uncouth, bad-mannered, demonstrating young people, whose morals are questionable and who, as respectable members of society everywhere know, seem to have abandoned all standards of sense and decency."
"Despite attempts by the U.S., N.Z. and other Governments to hide them, the facts about Vietnam have been available for a long time to those who have not preferred to shut their eyes and pretend that they know nothing and are in no way responsible.
"I have been involved in the protest movement since 1965, and time and again I have found that it is the respectable people, the pillars of society the 'responsible' people who will not see because they do not wish to disturb the complacency of their minds.
It amazes me that so many 'law-abiding' citizens consider it immoral to burn a draft card but perfectly all right to burn people. To witness a crime in silence is to condone it, and there are many in this country guilty of the crime of silence. And people still ask me why I lack respect for authority!
"Recently the U.S.S. Intrepid, an aircraft carrier which launched air attacks on North Vietnam, visited New 'Zealand, Lieutenant Commander J.E. Carpenter, a flight captain aboard this vessel, was interviewed by the Dominion. He was asked what he thought about the Vietnam war. 'We never reached a decision if it was good or bad,' he replied. 'This was because regardless of what it was we had a job and had to do it.' His answer was not found acceptable at the 1949 Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, but this article in the Dominion attracted little comment. This man, who daily led air attacks causing death and devastation,'never reached a decision' about the morality of what he was doing. That is what the military mentality does to people, gentlemen, and this is why I despise it.
"As for the issue of judgement. I do not accept that you have the right to rule on the state of my conscience. Your decision either way is invalid and meaningless as far as I am concerned, and if it is negative—that is, if you and the State attempt to force me to undertake military training, I will defy any attempt to implement that decision."
Reprinted with thanks to Cockerel Print.