This is the weirdest New Zealand election I can remember. I have been angsting over it all, along with many others, and often the discussion comes down to what Labour stands for. I’m not sure, any more. But we want the left to win, so that includes the Greens, for the most part, and the Mana part of Internet-Mana at least.
But for that matter, what is ‘left’? What does it mean? And is that term itself redundant?
Well, yes and no. The fundamental principles of the left still stand. Unfortunately the semantic war has been won by the right if the term ‘left’ makes you squirm, and some Americans even use the term ‘socialism’ as a pejorative with the same weight they managed to attach, throughout the Cold War and beyond, to the term ‘communism’. And they knew very little about either. (I’ve always believed ‘know your enemy’, myself.)
But I think calling the left something else is pointless. I’d be more keen to reclaim it from the right-wing ideologues and propagandists. Otherwise the whole concept just gets even more dissipated, and this works to the right’s agenda.
Wikipedia defines it well enough: “left-wing politics are political positions or activities that accept or support social equality, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. It is typically justified on the basis of concern for those in society who are perceived as disadvantaged relative to others and an assumption that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished.”
If you already think any of that’s wrong, we know which side of the divide you’ll be on. For this is how Wikipedia defines right wing politics: “Right-wing politics are political positions or activities that view some forms of social hierarchy or social inequality as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically justifying this position on the basis of natural law or tradition.”
Is that really you, right-winger?
People who place themselves on the left typically want equal opportunity, the chance for reconciliation, and rehabilitation (even in the case of societal offenders). Anyone who says that the left is tainted thanks to Mao and Stalin is profoundly ignorant (wilfully or otherwise). What these two (and their many lesser versions) represented was actually right-wing appropriation: Mao and Stalin were ruthless opportunists who cleverly hijacked left wing societal impetus to set up very right-wing regimes.
Stalin and Hitler have far, far more in common than Stalin and Ho Chi Min.
People on the right typically want ‘freedom’, but what they mean is the freedom to make money by whatever means possible. They want freedom from societal constraints because they’re so fixated on personal gain. They dislike taxes and any other checks placed upon them, and conversely seek to punish anyone perceived as transgressing against their personal and familial wealth acquisition. As Judith Collins plainly stated, in agreement with Cameron Slater: ‘punish twice’. That’s why you see groups like Act and the Conservatives crying for harder sentences and less reconciliation. That’s why, rather than fix problems with WINZ and CYFS and trying to deal with desperate people after their benefits have been reduced, John Key’s solution is to post more security guards.
One of the weird things I’ve noticed about New Zealanders overseas is that they’ll brag about New Zealand in left wing terms: ‘we gave women the vote first, pioneered social welfare and housing, we’re the most egalitarian, the most multicultural …’ and then you find out they’re Act voters from Remuera. Darling.
Which just goes to show you they are (justifiably) ashamed of what they truly believe in. Because these are actually all things they’d like to get rid of.
For the fact remains: many New Zealanders are right wing at heart. If the polls are accurate, half of the country that will vote, will vote right. The strange thing in the polling, which Mike Williams pointed out on National Radio, is the larger proportion (compared to previous elections) of people refusing to say who they’ll vote for.
Unfortunately, I think this is because they want to vote National, and they’re ashamed to say so.
As they should be. As that means they want to vote National despite all the revelations about how National really operates.
Despite National having no ideas to fix the mess they’ve made.
Despite the national debt they’ve created.
Despite the inequality that’s spiralled out of control under their watch (but that is policy, actually, as that’s how rich people really make profit and feel elevated).
And despite National not wanting to ‘change’ anything, because they’re doing all the right things already. Does New Zealand look right to you?