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August, 2011

  1. Lefter 43 ~ By the balls

    August 31, 2011 by emweb

    “A moral collapse over generations …” That’s the UK’s Prime Minister’s excuse for the recent English riots. David Cameron calls his country a “broken society” and to accentuate what, to him, is essentially a class war, he keeps using the word ‘fight’, as in “We must fight back …”

    It’s always the easiest response of somebody of his position. Rather than try and understand, it’s easier to demonise. He couldn’t be further, in every way, from the typical ‘shopping rioter’ he’s so afraid of. It’s also a very easy way to gain support with the other fearful members of the British middle and upper classes. It’s so obvious.

    Myself, I find it deeply ironic that while the West trumpeted the Arab Spring and the way it was co-ordinated by Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry messaging, suddenly, in London – Effendi! – the shoe was on the other foot, and the government is now considering ways to limit these social network communications systems.

    I found it disturbing but emblematic that England’s politicians were coaxed back with visible reluctance from their luxury holidays abroad to deal with angry looters trapped back home in the summer heat.

    It could happen here – the gulf between the haves and have-nots has widened considerably. While cutting benefits and services, at the same time modern life means the spoils of wealth are continually dangled in front of everyone’s eyes. iPods, BMWs, bling, designer clothing … But New Zealand has a Rugby World Cup to distract everyone.

    But will it?

    I don’t like rugby. At my Auckland school, it was an emblem of the bully culture perpetrated by both students and staff. Then the 1981 Springbok Tour sealed a profound dislike of the game and all that it signifies in New Zealand culture.

    In England, they differentiate the two codes, soccer and rugby, as ‘a sport of thugs, played by gentlemen and the sport of gentleman’, played by thugs.’ In New Zealand, it’s just a thugs’ game played by thugs. And the game here is run by thugs.

    It’s the same old story, though: the wealthy making money out of working class pursuits, in the process becoming so greedy as to make those pursuits unaffordable. At the same time, it represents an escape to a very tiny proportion of the underclass – a path to glory and money, however temporary, as a rugby star.

    After decades of corporate sponsorship, monster salaries and Rugby Union greed, no one should be surprised at rorts on tickets, hotel prices going up dramatically, pubs charging admission for the duration, the crazy prices of supporter shirts – and wait till you hear of the profits made in some quarters from Rugby World Cup-related construction and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the country will most likely post a considerable loss.

    Will it be good for the country? Almost definitely not – that’s not the experience of other countries, anyway, hosting similar events. But a win might make National’s race to govern with a full majority an even stronger possibility. Shudder.

    In England, some working people even take out mortgages to pay for their soccer season tickets. All the profits go to the super rich, who have the fans literally by the balls (pun exercised in full cognisance).

    Here in New Zealand, we could be heading for the same situation as England – ‘shopping riots’ by the angry dispossessed. Would John Key bother coming back from his luxury pad in Hawaii for that?

    Except that support for rugby has been waning for years. It’s just that no one’s admitting it. Even a few years ago, there were 160,000 New Zealanders signed up to play soccer but only 110,000 signed up to play rugby, yet the dumb and virtually single-sex sport is still considered the national game.

    By contrast, despite the numbers actually playing, there were three times as many ACC claims for rugby injuries. So it’s already costing the country plenty.

    In Auckland, every weekend there is constriction on every soccer field while there are often two or three rugby fields standing empty right beside them. Yet the council still prioritises rugby.

    And I’m supposed to appreciate thugs travelling to my city to enjoy their thugs’ game.

  2. Lefter 42 ~ Here comes dystopia

    August 22, 2011 by emweb


    Apart from my revulsion at the fact that so many New Zealanders actually profess to like John Key, I honestly thought Labour could win the next election. Or at least, I did think that, a month ago. But it seems Labour just can’t mobilise itself to do … anything much.

    Despite being continuously handed ammunition on a platter, Labour has fundamentally failed to capitalise on any of it. We’ve seen some sporadic sniping, but it has all proved ineffectual against National.

    One has to wonder why Labour has failed to capitalise. To me, the two major parties seem two empty shells. Except one has a leader.

    As for Labour, Goff has stated he will go when he’s ready, and you can only assume he will be ‘ready’ after a crushing election defeat. And that seems to be the consensus in the ranks – that the forthcoming election failure is the only real way to replace Goff.

    As for his successor, there’s … nobody.

    For who would replace Goff? There’s a colourless bunch to draw on. If there was a successor in the wings, they should now be trying to show some life, but so far, we haven’t seen anything like that. Even Shane Jones seems to have had the life sucked out of him. Goff must have some kind of hold on the ministers that we can’t discern.

    Why has their been no cohesive resistance to National? Labour’s just not ready. Labour gave itself a moral and social mandate with the capital gains tax, and actually stole headlines from Key and left National floundering, then … what? Nothing. I maintain that Labour doesn’t know what it stands for anymore. If Labour doesn’t know, how can we?

    National has become so emboldened by Labour’s patent inability to engage that it’s even been announcing punitive measures against New Zealand’s poor and disenfranchised, for next year, and still, there has been very little reaction.

    While this once again demonstrates a fundamental difference between left and right (the left looks for the good in people, the right assumes people are bad so need punitive measures and strictures to keep them in line), the measures also offer something worth resisting. Not only that, National has handily helped define the constituency Labour needs to engage with.

    And Labour has done … nothing.

    National has even announced it won’t be campaigning till after the Rugby World Cup. Labour has reacted by doing … nothing. It’s so worried at looking unseemly in public, as with the Christchurch situation, Labour has gone for ‘pathetic’ instead of unleashing … anything.

    You have to wonder why. To me, it looks like the principal Labour members are failing to support Goff in any effective political way (not that he’s giving them much to support) because they are too intent on lining up their personal ducks for a Labour comeback in three years time. Which would mean personal ambition is trumping collective aspiration. For, and I hate to say this, while you might be a suffering beneficiary who’s going to find life really difficult until at least 2015, those Labour ministers are receiving bloody good wages for themselves. What do they care about you? Not much, by the looks of it. And we need to think they do care.

    If this cynicism is true, how does it make you feel about Labour? It makes me feel sick. If true, it’s malicious, and to the detriment of the classes that are supposed to be Labour’s core constituency.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    I suspect I’m not.

    So we will get inflicted with another three years of National because of one man’s vanity combined with the inability of Labour members to rise above their own personal ambitions for the good of their electorates, condemning us to another term of an increasingly oppressive dystopia that is using a recession and an earthquake to justify anti-humanistic, culture-quashing policies.

    What are the alternatives for us? Mana looks like a left-wing party, but it’s seemingly not for the general New Zealand left-winger. Much as I like Hone Harawira’s gumption and honesty, when he talks about his constituency, he can’t even bring himself to mention Pakeha. He has Sue Bradford on side, and I think she has some credibility, but John Minto? He has unfortunately become the rent-a-protestor he was unfairly accused of being in 1981. He might be there as a sop to the Pakeha left, but many of us on the Pakeha left just find him embarrassing.

    Makes you want to vote Green, doesn’t it?

    [You can follow lefter on Twitter: look for ‘lefterNZ’ . Note the initial ‘l’ is lower case.]