Friday, September 16, 2005

Final words from Keepleft

Keepleft have a final video - a compilation of Don's campaign highlights - here. They also have a heartfelt plea from Yoko which sums up exactly what this election is all about:

Will your vote be about the here and now? How far ahead are you prepared to look?

If you are at the end of your time in high school, are you thinking about cheaper fees at university and about interest fee student loans?

If you are retired and have grandchildren, do you wonder whether NZ will be as clean and as green for them as it was for you?

If you are in your middle years, what kind of health system do you look forward to for you, and what kind of education system for the young people you care about?

If you care about New Zealand's place in the world, do you value our independent thinking and action in foreign policy? Or would you cast it aside in favour of mysterious and uncertain future rewards?

National is all about short-term thinking, the tax-cut now at the expense of the running down our infrastructure and public services. What's made Labour such a good government is that they have taken the long view. Their restoration of social services isn't based on living beyond our means, but is affordable. The return to universal public health care is affordable. The investment in children through Working For Families, and the middle-aged through the Cullen Fund is affordable. Even their no-interest student loans policy is affordable. National's plan to borrow for tax cuts puts all of that at risk.

But the part which resonated most, and which most clearly defined the election for me, is this bit:

In the final one-on-one debate last night, Don Brash was asked who was not mainstream. Don Brash said that Helen Clark was not a mainstream New Zealander. And he said that anybody who shares her vision for a vibrant, diverse, progressive New Zealand was also not mainstream.

What this election is all about is a battle for cultural control between those who continue to believe in this mythical mainstream, and those of us who have accepted - in the words of Nandor - that

there no longer is a mainstream. We have become a braided river.

The believers in the mainstream - dead white males, all - refuse to accept that the "good old days" when New Zealand culture was defined by white, middle aged, straight farmers, are gone. They refuse to accept the changes wrought by urbanisation, immigration, globalisation, generational and demographic change, even (judging by their dark mutterings on women holding power) feminism. They refuse to accept that we are becoming a Pacific nation. In short, they are in denial. But that denial could cost us dearly, and make New Zealand a nastier, angrier, and far less comfortable place to live. I don't want that, and I don't think anyone whose views belong to the twentieth (rather than nineteenth) century does.

That's what's at stake here, that's what we're voting about. And I urge all of you to cast your votes for the future rather than the past.


I/S, I'm still waiting for you to explain why all adherents to National/the 'mainstream' are 'dead white males'. This arguably racist and certainly misinformed generalisation does you no credit, and you shouldn't post on bigotry and sterotyping if you yourself indulge in it. As I said in response somewhere else, National seems to have a strong following among the university student pop, and to be polling where it is, must be making substantial inroads into the female vote. Can you defend your 'dead white male' claim, or is it just as removed from fact as any other piece of racism?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/16/2005 10:35:00 AM


I agree with this blog. You've hit the nail on the head. It's all pivots on individulistic greed, how much you want that LCD screen TV, the ford explorer that the National tax cuts will help pay for, against whether people want a quality, long term future for New Zealand, our children and theirs.

The world has changed. The old rules don't apply anymore. We are moving into a period where energy will become the key issue. The only crowd that understand that are the Green/Labour lot.

A vote for anyone else (apart Maori) is a vote for a world that no longer exists. A desparate hope that our drive in happy shopping greed based consumptive society will continue to provide the goods. That is not going to be the case.

I urge people to vote with your mind - put your desire for more and more crap aside. Leave your wallet at home when you go to the polls and think about principles.

As for Adrian - jeezus mate, are you a poofter or something. (joking). Grow up pal. It's been a while since I read so much PC oriented namby pamby whining. Perhaps they're not "dead white males" more like "pasty faced clueless tossers". Is that better?

Posted by Steve : 9/16/2005 11:35:00 AM

I/S - you are too bizarre!

The notion of a mainstream, norm for a society - which expresses not only what a society is but also what it hopes/aspires to be is invaluable. There's absolutely no way to do without it.

Here's Bill Clinton leaning on something like it repeatedly:

"There's less disposable income for most working Americans than there was just a decade ago. Many people can't even imagine being able to afford a vacation anymore, let alone send their children to college. And I'm talking about hard-working Americans who play by the rules; they're tired of watching their earnings benefit people who don't.
There's no greater gap between mainstream American values and modern Government than we find in the welfare system. The welfare system was set up for all the right reasons: to help people who had fallen on hard times temporarily, to give them a hand up for a little while so they can put their lives back in order and move on. And it still works that way for an awful lot of people. But for millions and millions of people, the system is broken badly, and it undermines the very values, work, family and responsibility, that people need to put themselves back on track."

Nobody can get away from the sort of normatively-inflected generalization that this represents and no one should even try in my view. (You saluted reamrks by Michael King recently - they were of couurse partial characterizations of the NZ mainstream.)

It is utterly baffling and self-defeating that the Left in NZ would try to give up or mock the idea that there is anything like a mainstream of NZ life, just as it is utterly baffling and self-defeating to try to resist or mock the idea that there should be one public law for all.

In the US in the 1980's Ronald Reagan became an icon of the right by *incoherently* combining conservativism and strong individualism (If you as an individualist believe that individuals should be free to pursue their own conception of the good life with as little interference from the government or from the community as possible, then it's hard to see how you can be putting much of a premium on conserving existing lifestyles and norms. Shouldn't the individualist bet instead on the emergence of a wild assortment of lifestyles and on the collapse of uniformity, homogeneity and traditional ways of life (except perhaps for the great western tradition of radical individualism itself).

The NZ left has a problem of inverse-Reaganism - and I'm calling out I/S as a good example of this syndrome - it incoherently combines anti-conservatism (what the anti-mainstream fulminating seems to amount to) and strong anti-individualism (lots of noodling about bigger government, common good, common future, etc.). I leave the working out of the details of that incoherence as an exercise to the reader.

Under the influence of their incoherent inverse-Reaganism and the self-defeating gainsaying of utterly essential terms of social description, the left then offers wave after wave of unreliable caricature of those they take to be their opponents.

Brash may well have certain views or feelings that it's possible to regret, but merely believing that there is a mainstream of life and that it's both possible and desirable to govern in its name is not at all regrettable. Hell, I thought distinguishing families for tax purposes a la Labour was *entirely* about that - if you aren't reproducing then you are an essentially exceptional case, one that could never be the norm in any human community, and it's perfectly respectable for a government to acknowledge that in the tax code (this is one of the points that Labout has right and National has wrong). You can see here where a profitable direction lies: people can be in the mainstream in some respects of their lives and complete freaks in other respects (acknowledge/celebrate your freakiness! don't tell yourself you're not freaky!). Mainstream-ness, as it were, contains both multitudes and degrees, and it's an *absolutely* essential idea. The bizarro world of the Left in NZ, however, means that all of this gets left out and instead they (i) play bizarre "Who is/is not mainstream?" games in some sort of pathetic undergraduate, gotcha mode, and (ii) caricature anyone who disagrees with them as forcing rigid conformity of some kind (a suggestion that is multiply confused).

I'm a pretty center-left person, but the left in NZ is *so* slovenly, and intellectually virtually bankrupt.... It should spend some time in the political wilderness to get its house in order, as well as to learn some basic humility. Unfortunately MMP prevents the "complete tossing out of the bums" that happens under FPP so arguably there isn't a mechanism left to encourage such learning/rethinking. And, of course, the center-right in NZ is itself pretty awful and incoherent (and has special risks of its own) so those of us who care about such matters have almost nowhere to go.....damn it! But the case for the broadly left to punish the current political left in NZ is *very* strong in my view.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/16/2005 12:51:00 PM

And the NZ left's rush to the bottom of all things continues here:,

(the "All the pretty voters" post)

wherein David Slack not only argues against the *current* applicabiility of a concept of "mainstream", but also (by a combination of fallacy and pure assertion) against that the idea that it was applicable in the past.

That is, Slack tops Nandor's and I/S's absurdity (see argument above), "there no longer is a mainstream", adding "and in fact there never was".

I take this to be essentially a proof that there is *nothing* that the left in NZ won't say, nothing that it won't deny or ridicule in the name of momentary partisan advantage. Perhaps we should be glad that Brash didn't describe himself as defending truth or liberty or human rights or justice, for there seems little doubt that the NZ left would have then set about sophistically poisoning ("There is no more justice, there's just a braided river of us." "And it always has been thus"...).

Any serious center left personality must reject the vile center left political culture that has arisen in NZ.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/20/2005 05:23:00 PM