When I have discussions of left and right – not that I do very often in New Zealand, where political discussion is not favoured – some like to say that you can’t boil fundamental ideologies down. I think this argument is facile. Of course you can. It’s the detail that leads to all those arguments that the left traditionally overindulges in to dash itself to bits against the hard shore of daily reality.
But if you grasp a basic understanding of what left is, and what right is, it should inform you how to live your life. And who to vote for.
I am not a strong supporter of the Labour Party. I’m certainly not a member. Labour is far too centrist for me. The Greens have the right idea – ‘we shouldn’t shit in our nest’, basically. But is it a left wing party? I’m not so sure. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
I often vote Labour (and sometimes Green). I would prefer that the left wing view prevails for the good of the people of New Zealand (and not just for the good of the wealthy, for whom I have no patience).
As I said in my second blog “the left puts people first, the right puts money first”.
Consider this statement: “To a great extent the left over-identifies with the other as a victim, which locks it into a hierarchy of suffering whereby the wretched can do little wrong. To a much greater extent the right disidentifies to build political solidarity through fantasmic fear and loathing. Faced with this impasse, critical distance might not be such a bad idea after all.”
[from The Return of the Real, p203 by Hal Foster, published 1996 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
This book discusses art and theory and the quote appears in a chapter on the Western world and the other world. I think it’s a pretty good summation, too, of broad philosophical and cultural differences between left and right. If you’ve seen Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine, the final message is that the governing forces of the US have been fostering fear to maintain position. Fear of ‘the other’. Look at the complete lack of discussion post 9/11 about why on earth somebody would feel they had to carry out those attacks. To spend all that time, money and energy organising them, then carrying them out. From the US perception, it was as if the attacks were carried out simply because ‘terrorists are evil’. This was further propagated by the misidentification of Iraq with Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately, to most Americans it didn’t matter. Iraqis were ‘other’ anyway. Attack them.
How about “critical distance”, though? In the passage quoted above, Foster is talking about art in relation to society. But if you believe either or both of those summations (mine and Foster’s), you start to see daily events in a different light. Underlying motives become more apparent.
As we head into a year in which the recession looks like it will show its effects more deeply, you might be thinking about what kind of government you would prefer to have in place.
What caused this recession was people so eager to have what the Western promise offered, they would borrow far more than was sensible. These loans were vended to them by greedy bankers over-keen to take their money, at any cost.
Now, in the environment of worldwide recession, our National government rolls out no tax breaks to those earning under $40,000 per year but progressively higher tax breaks above that to people who earn more. National has modified the life-saving KiwiSaver scheme – potentially life-saving to low income workers who now have savings, and to those who would buy a first home – to pay for those tax breaks for the wealthy.
If you ever wanted a regime that fosters the division between the wealthy and the poor, this is it – National is consigning lower paid workers to penury and unfair competition for dwindling jobs while rewarding those who manage to stay employed in jobs earning over the national average. This would be bad enough if the economy was humming, but to do this now?!
Is that what you voted for?