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Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

  1. Praise the Lord and pass the luke warm dishwater

    May 5, 2016 by emweb

    Out there in the big wide world – or at least the big white western world – traditional politics has polarised. When anxieties rise, people think more left or more right. The Great Depression of the early 1930s led to the massive increase  of Fascism and Communism, bloodshed and trauma.

    When things are going well, economically at least, the extreme ends of the spectrum shrink and the middle expands. Look at the 1950s.

    The middle of New Zealand has definitely expanded – and it’s stuck in spread mode. Trump is so right-wing in his pronouncements, even dyed-in-the-wool Republicans tremble. While the United States tussles with the mawkishly Hitlerian antics of Trump, Sanders almost daily surprises with increases of a constituency that self-admits to being left – quite incredible in itself, in present day America. The only figurehead left upholding the middle, currently, is Hilary Clinton, the darling of her own establishment, and the pillar of its own smug ennui. If she wins (and we have to hope she does, over Trump, as unattractive as that prospect is), she will have a vocally and avowedly disenfranchised left wing to deal with on her own side of the fence – something that hasn’t properly existed in the US since the 1960s.

    In England, Jeremy Corbyn is hated by his own party establishment but loved by its members. Those members put him there, whereas here in New Zealand, the practically useless unions still managed to get their own man in, instead of change and vision. In Europe and elsewhere, right-wing anti-immigrant and refugee parties are surging as people fear the future; fear the mini holocausts that flame across the Middle East; fear the consequences of their actions and inactions while struggling to stay out of it no matter the cost.

    Here, the Left let a middle manager of a union rule the Labour Party again, eschewing the chance to break out of the white hetero middle class male mould even a little.

    Here, the political fight is for the middle.

    Here, it comes down to who you’d rather have at your barbecue, or currency trading at your bank, or who you think is a good bureaucrat. Someone who looks the same, doesn’t stand out, but can still make the ‘hard decisions’ to let a few rich people make even more money.

    It’s boring. They’re boring. Rather than a titanic struggle, we have a disagreement over that bowl of boiled potatoes on the table. Who gets the biggest piece of white bread. Incremental shifts in slight tweaks of policy.

    Labour won in New Zealand a few decades ago by embracing the middle. National won that middle back and now enacts Labour-type policies (what National used to refer to as ‘nanny-statism’) while pretending to still represent conservatism: laissez faire economics and farmyard interests under the smokescreen of increasingly telling people what to eat, drink, smoke and what medicinal drugs it will or won’t allow.

    Is the middle a fight we can win? Not any more. It’s irrelevant, it doesn’t engage youth (and who can blame them), and it’s just bloody boring.

    The world is under increasing stress.

    And the middle’s not going to solve anything.


  2. Lefter 80 ~ Things fall apart …

    February 18, 2016 by emweb

    The centre cannot hold … this country (and, OK, many others to be sure) has developed into a fight for the centre over the last few decades in a race to who can be the most mediocre. Awesome, right? Fighting for the centre? I mean, once it was a battle to drag the country, then the rest of the world, into a future in which women were allowed to take an equal role in society, workers had rights as well as their exploiters, in which all people were cared for … we had the 40 hour week, the first real Welfare State, New Zealand mandated and ensured minority representation in parliament, at least for Māori… I do dare say it: all that made New Zealand a great nation was firmly on the left.

    And now the hardest fought battle is for the centre.

    And yes, John Key has won that battle. Repeatedly.

    But the world is changing and the centre is no longer holding. The battle for power in the United States may devolve to Trump on the far, crazy right and Sanders very distinctly on the left. In Britain, avowedly left-wing Corbyn took the top job in the Labour Party, much to the chagrin of the Labour Party’s ‘leadership’. What is the appeal? Both are not scared to say they’re left, for a start. Something both Labour Parties have found difficult for decades.

    Neither are centrist.

    That’s what you get after years of battling for the centre. Over here, Labour ‘likes’ Sanders but is worried by Corbyn, who has created a groundswell of voter support and who has already been responsible for a massive rise in grass roots Labour Party membership. NZ Labour’s attitude here reflects connections to Labour UK’s leadership more than anything else. We bought Tony Blair’s popularity contest off the back of our own terrible neo-liberal dalliance and we’ve been stuck there since, despite John Key doing it so much better.

    Of course, Labour here could actually grow some convictions and come from a similar stance to Sanders and Corbyn. Actually, you don’t even need to grow some – just resuscitate the ones the party was founded on.

    Remember those?

    Too scary? Then you really don’t deserve votes.

    Because National is currently staggering, Labour – what are you going to do? Never before has ennui so dogged this party of the moneyed and the glib. Key catastrophically mishandled Waitangi Day, then got booed at the League. That would have been unthinkable even a few months ago. Meanwhile, up north where the running-scared Key should have been, Stephen Joyce went from looking like an imperturbable manager to just another suited dickhead thanks to a very deftly-pitched toy penis.

    The ‘new flag’ looks awful – want proof? Even many National MPs think that. John Key’s personal vanity project to foist his corporate conservative logo onto the nation’s masthead is faltering badly, meaning they have to turn up the heat to bring even their own people in line. Once again, this would have been unthinkable a short time ago, when National’s caucus was as tight as Judith Collins’ pursed lips. Meanwhile people like me, who have long hated the Union Jack being part of ‘our’ flag long after England turned its back on New Zealand (a process which has accelerated recently, with punitive measures against Kiwis who want to work and live there) finds myself about to vote to keep the damn thing, both to spite John Key and because, frankly, the alternative sucks and the process to come to this design sucks more.

    Two million dollars was promised to ameliorate emergency housing months ago and … surprise! Not a cent has been spent. Meanwhile, 27 million has been squandered on the ‘new’ flag. How much of that has been spent? How many people made tidy profits from that process while other kids go hungry and while people have to live in cars, garages and on the street?

    State house evictions have accelerated. And concurrently, National has cut funding for mental health in Canterbury coz – who cares? Clearly not the National Government, which has failed to rebuild the city, failed the traumatised citizens of quake-ridden Christchurch and clearly couldn’t actually give a shit apart from keeping its insurance cronies sweet and crowing about a little building work – much of which has been mishandled.

    As for dairy, are we crying foul yet? We should be – how have all the eggs in that basket actually worked out for this short sighted ‘governance’?

    Gareth Hughes absolutely skewered Key in a speech in Parliament in an excoriating and painfully-accurate dissection of our Prime Minister’s current state of affairs … oh for someone like Lange in Labour who could do this so well! Now it’s the Greens we have to turn to for in-depth socio-cultural commentary.

    Meanwhile, National has its Trump in waiting, in the form of Judith Collins champing at the bit to muscle in and erect her police state. Her alternative is ‘bite the hand that feeds’ Bennett.

    Who has Labour got?

    This is your chance. Like never before.


  3. Lefter 78 ~ New Zealand at heart is bitter. And dark

    November 22, 2015 by emweb

    You may have heard that most right-wingers consider left-wingers to be stupid. Left wingers, on the other hand, consider right-wingers to be evil.
    Presumably they think we’re stupid because we don’t channel all our energies into making money. Into ourselves. We – I certainly – think they’re evil because they are so selfish.
    I had two experiences lately that made me reconsider the usual established, fluffy view of New Zealand as being an upstanding nation of citizens who share a fairly general belief in equality. Egalitarianism. Fairness.
    The first: I went to a hospital pick up a relative who had just had a knee operation. I had to wait with them until the surgeon signed them off. Forty minutes or so. Waiting with them – note this was a public hospital, not private – was a middle-aged bloke who was very chatty. Let’s call him Geoff. He insisted, first, on showing me a picture of one of his cars. He’d hot-rodded a Rolls Royce. I’m not kidding. Now to me, hot-rodding any old car is already an indicator of bad taste, with a few notable exceptions. Notable in their paucity. You’re basically wrecking a classic to fit some kind of petrol-head fantasy.

    But to do it to a Roller is entering a whole new level of new-money gauche. Even so, what he’d done to it was bloody ugly in anyone’s book. Well, anyone’s except his.

    The nurse came in and he immediately started regaling her with financial advice. She’d just bought a house in Grey Lynn. ‘Sell it!’ he said. ‘Buy another one. Wait two months. Sell it! When the market crashes, live in that last one. I bought some land last year on the outskirts of Auckland for half-a-million, waited two months, sold it for 1.5 million.’ Now at this point, I was thinking he might have been a blow-hard, but even if he was, this was his belief. He said we have to capitalise on the Chinese driving up our house prices. His words.
    The nurse replied ‘But I like Grey Lynn. I want to live there.’
    ‘Have you got a mortgage? Well, sell it then. Within three or four sales, you’ll have paid it off. Soon after that, you’ll be rich.’
    Then he told us, unbidden (although we were being polite, considering he’d just had surgery), that he’d found a good woman, although the last one, with whom he’d fallen out, had set fire to his house while he’d been in America. ‘So I moved the two boats off the tennis court immediately so she couldn’t torch those as well.’
    Then he said he was rebuilding a Spitfire aeroplane to carry four people. It was a Supermarine, so it could land on water. This was so he could get to his exclusive Nelson property when the apocalypse came. ‘It’s only accessible by water.’
    I raised my eyebrows. ‘Apocalypse?’
    ‘The anarchists,’ he said. ‘I’ve talked to them. They want to get rid of people like me.’

    Which was funny, considering who he was talking to and his lack of recognition of the import of the exclusively black and red clothing I was wearing. I considered his words, whether they constituted contributory negligence, weighed up my pacifism … but all I had on me was a pocket knife and besides, we were in a hospital … anyway, he then went on to tell us he’d hot-rodded the Roller so he could ship it to Hong Kong and drive it to Europe, all the while looking for a new place to live because ‘New Zealand was going to the dogs.’
    Driving home, we reflected how he’d just had his knee fixed at tax payers’ expense.
    Dogs.

    Then, a few weeks later, I visited an elderly man. He was someone I knew, got on with, had decided was a nice guy. He’d worked at a school for years – one which benefited from public money, but was a fairly exclusive boys’ school. Before that he’d been an accountant. He showed me his computer and how he liked to have his stocks and his spreadsheets visible at the same time.
    He lived in a large, well-appointed Remuera old people’s home. Blocks of apartments. He went on two big trips a year. He bade me sit at his computer – his web browser was open to Whale Oil Beef Hooked. His emails, also visible, showed he was on the Act Party mailing list. I could not help but see – indeed, had the impression he wanted me to see – his investments. There was a long column, but I only noticed the first two before I looked away: $1.1 million, $760,000 …
    ‘I like to have them both open at the same time so I can move things around,’ he explained, ‘Because I hate to pay tax.’
    Noticing my startled expression, he added ‘Legally not pay tax.’

    Both these guys had a strangely aggrieved air about them!

    I honestly wish I was making this up.

    I’m not.


  4. Lefter 71 ~ Dot-con

    July 17, 2014 by emweb

    There’s an election coming up. Once again, National is polling strongly, Labour has yet to make real headway, and the Greens (and Labour, for that matter) have what percentages they do retain threatened by the Internet Mana party. This new hybrid party will only do any real good in the current socio-political scene by appealing to those who would vote National, but if anything, having Laila Harré as head of The Internet Party and teaming it with Mana makes them look left wing, rather than as a party typical National supporters might swing to. The only real impact this unnatural hybrid can make is to energise the overly large sector of the young adult demographic that doesn’t actually vote. This is also, of course, the most attractive sector (and the only place for any real traction) for the Greens and Labour too, to increase their vote. So once again, this new party conglomeration is actually more threatening to the left than it is to the right, despite the stated intentions of Kim Dotcom and his oft-quoted deep (and justified) dislike of John Key.

    Even this is a marker for the left – it’s an attractive position to those who already dislike National and Key, while being unattractive to those who do like Key. Internet-Mana is unlikely to sway anyone from the right while simultaeniously adding to the fragmentation of the left.

    So, thanks a lot.

    Of course, philosophically, Kim Dotcom belongs on the right – after all, he’s a laissez faire trader who made millions from selling other people’s intellectual property illegally. At heart, he belongs with Act.

    Meanwhile, what does National actually stand for? As we have seen repeatedly, it’s a party run by the rich. Almost every week for the last year we’ve had our faces rubbed in the directorships, landholdings, property portfolios, company and international trade interests and the personal wealth of ministers in National. We also often see that John Key is once again holidaying in his luxury pad in Hawaii – he has another at that rich people’s preserve at Omaha north of Auckland.
    So who do you think these people instinctively serve? Not ordinary New Zealanders.

    Let me be clear, here: nobody ever gets rich from just doing good. Meanwhile that vast pool of people that has little is where wealth actually comes from. They buy stuff. It doesn’t actually matter how little they can afford, as long as you can get them to buy something they don’t need, you’re onto a winner. And when they run out of money completely and end up out on the street, so what? Social services have been cut to make the current account deficit look better. It’s good PR.

    If a large proportion of this struggling market doesn’t vote at all, National couldn’t be happier.

    And if you think National has anyone at all in the party with a good heart, look who they need as their allies. You’d have to be pretty blinkered to think Act was a party you’d want to go into coalition with. Its leader was found guilty of fraud, its founding philosopher sounds like a fizzing right-wing nutcase and it’s new leaders are, frankly, both naive and hilarious. And if the blank-eyed ravings of Colin Craig and his personal Conservative Party doesn’t make you feel odd in the stomach, well, vote National. Because these are the only viable partner options for National, although the vestige of the Māori Party might still be around. For the fact remains that National has been slowly dismantling Māori ever since the party made the mistake of its pact with Key.

    National needs to be as popular as possible – it wants and needs to govern with a full majority. Then it can finish destroying New Zealand’s egalitarian society and welfare state all by itself.

    The only hope for New Zealand is that National doesn’t make it.


  5. Lefter 19 ~ Going to Prison

    September 23, 2009 by emweb

    In New Zealand, currently, there is some disquiet about our exceedingly high ranking of numbers imprisoned. We rank well above many other Western-style democracies. New Zealand seems to be throwing people into prisons at an unprecedented rate.

    The prison population was too high under Labour (a slightly left party that has been in power for three terms until ousted last year by the more right wing National Party). However, it’s now higher still, and National’s response has been to build prisons from shipping containers and to make more prisoners share rooms.

    This is so typical of the difference in right versus left philosophies, I just have to comment.

    The left (again, and understandably, generalising) tends to look at why people commit crimes, and tries to target resources accordingly. Not that this was super-effective under nine years of labour. But the left generally believes that people are good, although guidance can be called for.

    But the right, generally, thinks people are bad. The right therefore prefers to capture and punish offenders, rather than try and figure out why they are offending. You can tell somebody is right wing as soon as they start spouting off about locking people up, and getting certain people off the streets, and about ‘punishment’.

    The difference is illuminating. Philosophically, the left is saying ‘as people, how can we assist other people to be/do better?’ while the right is saying ‘criminals are other. As so  they are beyond redemption; they should be segregated from normal society.’

    The left’s efforts get characterised as those of a ‘nanny state’. Anyone against the left eagerly seizes on such catchphrases and they get repeated so much, any real meaning soon becomes lost.

    But what do the right’s efforts get characterised as? Perhaps the left just isn’t as good at one-liner denigrations.

    (Perhaps it should be.)

    But that’s beside the point. New Zealand has a high prison population because we have large disenfranchised minorities, and because the gap between rich and poor has been growing quickly over the last two decades.

    Just as wealthy people seem to be much more preoccupied with securing themselves and their property, they also seem to be much less willing to look at the possible causes of high offending rates. Partly because they are, themselves, partly responsible.

    I’m not defending criminal activity, by the way. I find violent crime utterly abhorrent. Physical violence immediately denies a victim their human rights. It’s prehistoric.

    But yes, it’s very effective. When you have nothing, or you have a drug habit, or when you’re bored out of your mind, it’s a relatively obvious and immediate option.

    So expect National to keep throwing people into every more crowded jails as they protect the farmers, the landed gentry and the business-owning classes from the other, while promising ‘better’ (as in lower) conditions that can be forced upon workers because of high unemployment.

    Does it make you feel proud?


  6. Lefter #15 ~ Treason!

    June 15, 2009 by emweb

    In Lefter 10 ‘A Good War’, I said that “National’s efforts will expand an increasingly desperate unemployed sector which will work for less and less money and under more onerous conditions.”

    I also said “… instead of NZ trying to trade its way out of this recession, Prime Minister John Key will just follow his experience. Which means he’ll borrow to raise money while pursuing a right-wing agenda of making the lower classes poorer while rewarding his wealthy Pakeha cronies with more access to that wealth.”

    I hate it that I’m right in this case, but National’s first budget confirms exactly what I imagined back then. It’s just so commonly a right-wing response.

    For the record, I don’t care about scrapping future tax breaks – they were only going to benefit the wealthy anyway.

    I’ve also said before that it’s a shame this recession will give National license to push out the right-wing agenda much more quickly. I believed that National was going to tread softly for the first term to win a second, and then it was all right-wing guns ablaze. However, the recession has made all that subterfuge unnecessary as any measure, pronounced with faces grave, can now be blamed on the recession.

    The Herald reported that business has welcomed Budget measures. Surprise! So have the medical and science fraternities. So has the private school sector, that privileged breeding ground of National and Act supporters. (You know it’s true. Well, so does National). While most New Zealanders face cuts and unemployment, private schools get 30 million dollars more!
    However, union groups and public educators are among those not so impressed. This is also predictable. National would actually prefer that unions and their members simply evaporated. They virtually made it happen, too, a few years ago. ‘Workers have rights? Preposterous! That would be an impediment to profit.’

    Bill English also dealt to the Super fund. Does that surprise anybody, with National’s record? Muldoon did the very same thing, disenfranchising a generation of their old ages in the process.

    The tried and true path to negotiating a recession (although it may be a Depression soon) is to invest in skills, thereby stimulating the jobs market, or at least preparing for a turnaround. Infrastructure is ripe for investment too, and pays dividends in the future for the whole country. Instead, National is intent on merely propping up its class. While doing nothing for long-term or even immediate growth.

    Unemployment is forecast to rise. Of course it is – then business owners can demand lower wages and impose worse conditions. This is nirvana for the greedy, and see how they love it. It’s evil, frankly.

    Remember the ‘jobs summit’? Why did Bill English tell a meeting of business representatives a few days before the summit that good times were coming, because soon business ‘leaders’ would be able to ‘do anything’?

    It’s treason, if you ask me. Against most New Zealanders. And does anyone still trust John Key’s ‘management’ after Melissa Lee and Richard Worth? He’s been so keen to get on TV at the drop of a hat – suddenly he’s absent or running for cover.

    We’re screwed.


  7. Lefter 5 ~ Politically Correct

    December 10, 2008 by emweb

    Bizarrely, as I write this, two young men with swastika tattoos are washing the house. The house washing people didn’t say anything about neo-Nazi operators. It’s not like the firm was called Himmler Housewash or anything. 

    ‘Politically Correct’ is one of the catch phrases people seemed to love to use to label all sorts of sins of the Left, and of the Labour Party. 

    But what does it mean? 

    Being politically correct means you don’t act on racist, sexist, or homophobic assumptions – or that you try not to, assuming you’re aware of these tendencies in yourself. You live and let live. You don’t promote racist or sexist acts. You try and be mindful of the rights of others and to treat people as your equals. 

    What on earth is wrong with that? Every major philosophy and religion in the world says essentially the same thing.

    You have to wonder if those who rail loudest against ‘the PC brigade’ are the worst recidivists of racism and sexism. It’s easy to assume they hate the strictures of being politically correct because it’s the antithesis of their real beliefs. And if their real beliefs are the antithesis of being PC, you probably won’t want much to do with them as they are not rational, reliable human beings. 

    When people ask me, with a withering tone, if I’m politically correct, I say ‘Yes, I am.’ Then I ask them ‘What’s wrong with that, exactly?’ It pays to challenge people on these statements as, unfortunately, you’ll discover they don’t often know what they mean. They just like the easy put-down. But it’s time to pull the rug out from under their feet, especially as National sets about dismantling the structures that attempt to keep our society decent and fair. 

    So explain what it means, then ask them to explain what is so wrong with treating people with respect. Be proud to be politically correct.


  8. Lefter 4: the Middle Class

    December 3, 2008 by emweb

    A few years ago my younger brother, who I respect and like, told me that the Middle Class basically paid all the taxes here yet was being squeezed continuously by successive governments. He said the Middle Class was shrinking and this was bad for New Zealand.

    I challenged him on this, and he annoyed me further by saying “Think about it. The Lower Class doesn’t, essentially, pay taxes because it earns too little or is actually costing money through benefits, education programs etcetera. Meanwhile the Upper Class will pay any amount of money to avoid paying taxes. That leaves the Middle Class carrying the tax burden — and the country.”

    I was angered at his words, due to my own working class pretensions, I suppose — but over the next couple of weeks, I realised he was essentially right. The Middle Class does carry the country and the tax burden. The Middle Class also produces professionals, artists, academics, educators, writers, managers, small business entrepreneurs … and New Zealand used to be renowned as a Middle Class society.

    And it did used to be, maybe up until the 1960s anyway, but over the last few decades the percentage fairly counted here as poor has risen dramatically, while the gap between the very rich and the rest has also widened dramatically. As a result, the Middle Class has not only been under financial pressure (for example, GST), but has been shrinking in size as members drop into the lower categories. This process may be about to accelerate as the debt burden, due to this current economic crisis, effects more people. 

    Side-stepping the issue that it was really bloody stupid for people to borrow so much money on so little equity just to have stuff they didn’t need, or ever bigger houses, for now, this perhaps-subconscious perception of stress probably added to the grasping at ‘lower tax’ straws that I think was short sighted. As call me old fashioned, but I don’t mind paying taxes as I quite like having roads, water, rail, power, schools — come to that, a defence force tat can help with disaster relief — and I like knowing that if I have an accident I will be cared for. Contrast that with my friend in Europe who had an accident on the motorway and nearly died because his medical care was so poor.

    This because, in amongst all the blood and mess, the doctors couldn’t find his medical insurance card so they got him out of the hospital next day, despite gaping wounds and multiple fractures, and he almost died of blood poisoning five days later. 

    Be proud to be Middle Class. It’s time we fought back.