Jacinda Adern in Chch Stacey Squires

Photo: Stacey Squires/Stuff.

It’s a wonderful photo. Instead of a photo of power, it’s a photo of vulnerability. The schoolgirl is hugging the prime minister; each party is giving the other strength. The schoolgirl is crying and the tears will be complex: excitement, joy, but also crying over the trials she has already experienced in life. She is a working class kid. How do we know that? She isn’t polished. She isn’t masked. Her hands are both gentle, yet still curled in defence.

It is a photo of hope and we are still getting our head around this, that we can hope again; that, as Fidel constantly said, A better world is possible; a statement filled with solidarity rather than the rags to riches dream of the John Key era.

We are still getting used to cabinet ministers who sound like normal people. They pause, they are still thinking, there are moments of uncertainty, there’s a lack of spin, they don’t have the smug certainty of the powerful, for whom the act of speaking is an assertion of authority. They know they’ve got a job to do and they could stuff up.

The media are non-plussed, scurry around trying to dig some dirt, to uncover some flaws, pouring over past statements for inconsistencies, supposedly holding power to account, for we should not hope. Whereas, really, they should be trying to explain, to tell the story of hope. This is why John Campbell is different. He listens. He is willing to wait for the story.

The prime minister is given a painting created by a young woman at a therapeutic art class; it will be the first painting on the wall of her office. That is a considerable statement culturally, so much so, that I feel it is not pointless writing to her as Minister of the Arts, asking for there to be some adjustment of arts funding to take more account of community, to take more account of the regions. At the moment, it’s mainly subsidising a middle class urban lifestyle. A month ago writing such a letter would have been an exercise in futility.

I get a haircut and the hairdresser links the rise in petrol prices to this new government. That’s how she refers to it, this new government, this strange beast that has arisen (it’s got the Greens in it as well), lumbering toward Jerusalem? The petit bourgeois, heads full of reality television, haven’t had a thought for years, the last time was probably the Springbok Tour.

A better world is possible. Perhaps we can solve the problem of those seriously dysfunctional families who murder their toddlers with horrible regularity, solve the issue of why a country with a small population, many forests and lots of space, can’t house its people; solve the issue of kids going to school hungry in a food exporting nation; of people being cold in a temperate climate; of suicide rates exceeding the road toll; of polluted rivers and lakes.

A better world is possible. The hairdresser isn’t feeling it, but the kids are feeling it. The old lefties get into snappy mode, nothing will go far enough or quickly enough, we’ve been saying stuff for years and no one listened. We were right all along. Take heed or we’ll disown you.

Just give each other a hug and accept vulnerability, that would be best. Let’s trust for a while, even if it means we feel naïve at some stage in the future.

Here’s the reverse angle, as they say in the film business.


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