On March 15, 2017, the Parliament of New Zealand passed a law officially recognizing the “legal personhood” of the Whanganui River. whanganui. What does that mean? It means, among other things, the river “can be represented in legal proceedings.” I am not making this up. Here is what Time Magazine had to say:
“In what’s believed to be a world first, New Zealand’s government has granted a river the same rights as a living person. The Whanganui River, considered part of the living landscape by the indigenous Whanganui Iwi people associated with it, has been granted legal personhood under a parliamentary bill, reports local news service Newshub. Two representatives from the local indigenous community — one appointed by the government, another elected by the community — will be entrusted with acting in the river’s interests.
“I know some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said, according to Newshub. “But it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies, or incorporated societies.”
There are already natural resources that are protected by legal mechanisms, such as trusts established by the Nature Conservancy. I am in favor of such protection. However, using well established legal structures to protect something seems to me to be substantially different from declaring that the resource itself is a legal person. Is that how the law reads? It appears that the law actually does confer a type of personhood on the river, in that it recognizes the relationship that the Whanganui Iwi tribe (Maori) has had with Te Awa Tupua (the Maori name for the river). That Maori tribe began a lawsuit to have the river recognized as an “ancestor” 140 years ago, and this legislation apparently does that.
So another precedent has been set. I don’t mean just the precedent of declaring a river a person. Similar precedents, in principle rather than content, are laws or regulations declaring gender to be a matter of personal preference rather than biology and marriage a union of whomever or whatever rather than between man and woman. This legislation is only the most spectacular example to date of the dominant principle of postmodernism, which is emotions and preferences trump objective reality.
Actually, the river legislation seems less egregious to me than the gender and marriage applications of that principle, because the Maori have held on to their beliefs about their oneness with the river for a long time, and as a spiritual principle it doesn’t need to jibe with the river’s biology. Within the context of how the tribe lives and believes, their oneness with the river reflects how they thrive in their environment and doesn’t harm others. While I believe there is much about this material world that none of us know, the Bible does have some words about those who worship the creations rather than the Creator.
I cannot give any validation to those other applications of the principle, especially as it is applied to “transgender dysphoria” (we’ll call it TD for brevity), the new category of psychological confusion about what gender a person is or thinks they are. Imagine if you thought you had a disease, and decided to self diagnose it and self treat it. If you thought you needed surgery for it or drugs to treat it, would you expect to be able to get all that on your own recognizance? Of course not. But in the case of TD, a confused youth (and what youth is not confused about much?) can get life altering surgery and drugs for a psychological condition that is often temporary and self reported. For a look at what happens to some of those unfortunate people, check out the latest issue of World Magazine.worldmag
This post is REALLY about something more significant than giving a river legal rights. Too many people get upset and distracted by the content of a controversy, while missing the more insidious nature of the principle that is being espoused!