Can I hear the birds? Yes, I can hear the birds and the distant rumble of the traffic- cliché- roar, hiss – it’s there, like the homeless and the rich in the houses around me, swimming pools in every backyard. Who will Winston go with? Winston and his cabal of nonentities, that’s what the press call them. The press are pissed off, for Winston’s controlling the story. That’s what power’s about – who controls the story. I miss the mud and the kereru.
A restless night and still no Winston. I go for a bike ride, braving the traffic and motorway crossings to check out the worth of a classic Leica I bought in 1968 and which sits around in these digital times. Cosmetic damage makes it relatively worthless, so I’ll keep it. Classic has to look nice.
Later, I sit in a traffic jam in order to get to First Union’s offices in Onehunga for a commemoration of the centenary of the Russian Revolution with the union and the Philippine Solidarity Committee. A blast from the past as people discuss the shape of the world – doesn’t happen much anymore. Home to a programme on Aljizeera about the carbon market and the turning of nature into an investment- that being the only way to tackle climate change according to the money men. A few rough looking people disagree with the corporates who are controlling everything. Finally, a stand up transvestite comic takes the piss.
Still no news. Go into town to see the art gallery and the homeless. I realise this is a city of castes: the elite on their yachts, the middle class strutting around the inner city suburbs, the tourists arriving on cruise ships, all those working with their hands have brown faces and high viz jackets, and they are now joined by the new caste of the homeless with their sleeping bags, their scraps of cardboard, their scribbled signs and their op shop clothing worn by the weather. The art gallery has pompous captions but some original Blake, Rembrandt and Goya etchings – originals speak across the centuries.
Finally, the man speaks. There was talk beforehand of Winston wanting to leave a memorable legacy and that this was a key motivating factor. If so, he has succeeded, for in announcing his decision to go with Labour he stated clearly that the main reason was the fact that capitalism, as currently practised – that is, actual lived capitalism – is not serving the needs of the majority of people and that he wants to be part of a government that changes this. The new government is then, based on this ideological premise. Add the Labour/Greens judgement that capitalism is destroying the environment as well and it becomes a considerable intervention.
Winston’s legacy (hopefully) is to have been responsible for creating the fourth progressive government in post settler history, the first being the Liberal Government of 1894, the second being the 1935 Labour government, the third being the tragically short-lived Labour government of 1972. All shared that ideology. It is interesting that they seem to occur at 40-50 year intervals. But we also have to accept that this was a team decision by NZ First caucus and board, a variety of ordinary people rather than professional politicians.
And of course, this government will have a very strong Maori caucus. Thank you, Winston, for silencing, for a moment at least, the mantra that there is no alternative.
The next day a train trip to Manakau, uncovering those with the fixed look of the survivor, the overweight with bad complexions, the elderly woman talking about her husband with Alzheimers, the student trying to hope, past the suburbs with acres of warehousing, the tangle of motorways, the crowded housing of the poor and nevertheless, the good humour of Polynesia.
The new government is already getting buried in the digital noise. Politics takes place mainly in the media, who become an occupying army constructing games of winners and losers, the defeated Bill walking into the sunset hand in hand with his supportive spouse, the new leader on the front pages of the world’s press… The support team is joined by the makeup artist and ordinary people form the cast of extras. Like climate change it can seem unstoppable.
Today I fly south to the open spaces, to smaller local tasks, to walk in the beech forest, to try and negotiate with a council planner, to an environment where there is space, some gaps in the noise, where moments of silence are possible, to a place where the ancient patterns can still be detected.