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New Zealand politics

Ironies

The ironies in the current political landscape, woven by the Covid virus, continue to unfold. In a climate of NZ first, the NZ First Party, built around that very agenda, is threatened with collapse.  The xenophobia has been mainstreamed into a kindlier version. It is no longer about appealing to a certain red neck and pearl and twinset sector of the regional population but has shifted to the urban liberals where the grumpy and cantankerous patriarchal role as played by Winston and Shane is not acceptable. And then there is the mainstreaming of Social Credit policy. After ninety years of being marginal and eccentric (‘funny money’) the idea of low-interest state credit is suddenly top of the pops. The party stalwarts stir in their graves.

Just below the surface of things the memory of the first 1935 Labour Government is being evoked. It was the longest running Labour government (14 years), Micky Savage was a kindly figure, and Bob Semple and his wheelbarrow is replaced by shovel ready projects (with diggers and dump trucks) but the agenda is the same: jobs.

Travel ahead to the war – leaders love the crisis of war – this time the war is the war on Covid, but as in any war situation the persecutor-victim-rescuer syndrome becomes the dominant pattern. We have been rescued from foreign invasion but the threat of persecution remains. Suddenly poor old David Clarke is the persecutor for stating the reasonably obvious: once policy is set, management is responsible for administering it. Ashleigh Bloomfield became the victim in need of rescuing through a gift of cut flowers. The compassionate lockdown leavers (victims of family circumstance) became persecutors. Returning Kiwis, like returning soldiers, threaten the national purse. Bunjy jumping is having to be rescued but that somehow persecutes small businesses, Our kindness doesn’t extend to work visa holders who could become swaggers reminiscent of those depression blokes wandering from farm to farm and sleeping in the woolshed. Somehow they don’t figure, are a sort of non people who will hopefully disappear.

A mythical homeless person inveigled themselves into a quarantine hotel (the hotels must be doing alright out of this) and supposedly lived in lockdown luxury – was he a persecutor, a victim, or was he being rescued? The new Greymouth hospital overruns its budget by 60 million (80%) and I wonder whether the old one couldn’t have been fixed up for far less. The Pike exercise has rescued a broken robot and a review of the health and disability sector, led by Helen Clark’s fix-it person forgot to consult the disability sector. The most technologically advanced country in the world can’t manage to do postal voting and I’m getting confused whether a document is on my computer, on my backup hard drive or on google docs or on all three and if the latter, whether they’re the same document. Meanwhile my daughter showed me the hotspot and tethering function on my phone, we tried it out briefly and the next day the offer of a new plan arrived. I didn’t get paranoid but did wonder whether we are being constantly processed by algorithms and if so, why there isn’t an algorithm that picks up viruses.

Meanwhile Rocket Lab sends up satellites for the US military and we are reassured that the 5 Eye system remains benign. We have sufficient morality to modestly protest the Israeli takeover of the West Bank (confirming Palestinian victimhood) but not sufficient to whimper against the US blockade of Cuba (persecuted because they refused to be victims).

Roll on NZ first.

Theatre of the absurd

 

The final leaders’ debate was a strange affair, dominated by the set, a monstrous rostrum affair, like something out of a theatre of the absurd play, perhaps symbolising how the importance of ‘the leader’ has grown out of all proportion. Suddenly, that’s all we have: leaders with a mass following. A dangerous syndrome.

Jacinda Adern, after promising relentless positivity, had a melancholic air. After all, National had waged a relentless campaign of lies: there was no fiscal hole, there was no raising of taxes, the tax on irrigation is token, the capital gains exploration is to find a best practice solution to a dire and complex problem (a population having a roof over its head), to deny foreigners the right to purchase property is common practice in many countries, especially small ones where the possibility of the nation’s fabric being sold is real. All these were lied about and a paranoia created. It was a move toward a US political culture with campaigns based on lies and invective. Camus wrote about the Spanish Civil War: It was in Spain that men learned that one can be right and still be beaten, that force can vanquish spirit, that there are times when courage is not its own reward. It is this, without doubt, which explains why so many men throughout the world regard the Spanish drama as a personal tragedy, (Preface to L’Espagne Libre, 1945). It is possible that this election could be a scaled down tragedy for this country.

Bill English, who can appear a likeable enough bloke in some settings, wore a strange, sickly, embarrassed smile, like a crim who’s got away with it. For if the Nats get away with it, it means the democratic right to govern is based on fraud and manipulation. It was, accordingly, a programme where the advertisements in the breaks seemed meaningful. Those absurd invitations and promises made by smiling idiots, that if we acquire some object or machine, we will enter nirvana, were the reality of the system we live under.

What are the options for the voter? To thoroughly research and fact check? Some manage that. Scoop for example, published research on the dairy-farm water question. Here are some facts. Dairy farms use as much water as 60 million people and have the environmental impact of 90 million people. There are 12000 dairy herds using 4.8 million cubic metres of water, but of those farms, 10,000 (80%) do not irrigate so would be unaffected by a water tax. Of the 20% who do irrigate they would be faced with an annual bill of $10-15000. And of those, there are a few mega farms run by corporate interests. They are the ones who would be hardest hit. And fair enough. This research is hardly front page news. It’s the truth but the truth is dangerous to the class interests that the Nats represent. So, what was going on in Morrinsville? More theatre of the absurd.

As a child, I could never figure out why my adopted father was so anti Labour, when his experience of the world as a working man aligned him with the party’s agenda, until I came across a 1935 election poster showing a red, communist monster clutching at the family home and the attached wife. Message: the reds will take not only your house but force your wife into becoming a slave to free love. Fred had bought into the message. As Chris Trotter pointed out in one of his better columns, nothing has changed. The Nats and the farmers and the business people believe they are born to rule and the rest of the population are a dangerous and recalcitrant rabble and don’t let them organise.  You can no longer beat them into submission but you can befuddle and scare them.

So, there was reason for Jacinda to feel melancholic. If you are created by the media as a necessary story for what was promising to be a dull election, then the next media story is your downfall.

Maybe she should have turned up to the debate with a balaclava and a bandoleer?

Zapatista

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