[ETA: IB has taken my comment on board and edited his post.]
Damn, IB. I was hoping you’d not join the ever-growing list of Standard writers to throw around words like “loon” and “batshit crazy” to describe someone whose actions you simultaneously want to ascribe to logical, “sane” causes.
Yes, rightwing extremism is a problem. Yes, violent hate speech should be challenged whenever possible. But either those two statements are true, and there’s a societal problem which society needs to confront, OR certain people are just obviously crazy and dangerous and therefore should be pre-emptively locked up because we can all tell they’re not stable, amirite?
It’s probably obvious I’ve got an axe to grind in this fight, but here’s the thing, it’s two axes. One about casual fucking ableism which makes the lives of people with mental illness shittier than it has to be, and one about the sheer fucking laziness of writing off violent, terrorising extremists as “nutters”. If we allow that people like Breivik or Jared Lougher are just irrational/mentally ill/crazy/insert slur here, we deny ourselves the right to call that shit out, because the extreme Glenn Beck types who egg them on will just say “Oh, but they’re craaaaaaaaazy, it has nothing to do with my continual eliminationist rhetoric”.
So I’m going to get on my soapbox and plead with y’all. You’ve got an opportunity to deny hate-speakers an excuse to ignore the consequences of their actions, and you get to make the world a better place.
Seriously, people. I know we on the blogging left like to get all high and mighty about how awesomely smart we are – what kind of idiot votes for National because they like John Key’s smile, right? Who seriously watches Fox News [unless it’s for awesomely cool hipster lulz, y/y?]?
But it seems like we lose sight of the fact that the people who do vote in a way we don’t like, who do trust news sources we scoff at … are still people. People probably getting just as, if not more, fucked on by capitalism as the rest of us. People who don’t have the privilege of time and spoons for political awareness and sarcastic bloggery.
Those people are not insane. I mean, do I even have to say that? Apparently.
Because it’s not insane to be raised in a culture with ideals and memes about journalism and the news, and believe what the news tells you.
And it’s not mentally ill to accept that politicians who get elected to office, or people who write books which become bestsellers, or people with big fancy letters after their names, are people we are meant to listen to, or people who are assumed to have integrity, or people whose status indicates knowledge and entitlement to lead.
And maybe if it’s not insane to watch the news, to trust journalists, to listen to politicians, in general terms … it’s probably not insane to end up with a general sense of unease and distrust and xenophobia. It doesn’t take mental illness to become convinced that basic democratic principles are under threat wherever one may be, and it’s not subnormal to be swayed by rhetoric and propaganda techniques developed over fucking centuries and which societies have become pretty good at using to perpetuate their own values and avoid change.
It certainly doesn’t require an assumed lack of intellect or cognitive function to gather that we are at war with [Muslim] Eurasia and have always been at war with [Muslim] Eurasia.
It’s not batshit to watch any action film produced over the last thirty years and pick up the idea that lone operatives who are the only ones who know the truth and must struggle against a conservative/ignorant/bought-and-paid-for-by-The-Man authority have to take matters into their own hands and will be proven right some day.*
It’s not a cool idea to play with, people, but we live in a world in which it is simply not illogical or utterly irrational or obviously nuts for someone to come to the belief that [insert political demon] is a threat and [insert political authority] won’t do anything about it and [insert way of life] is getting destroyed and oh, did we mention that pop and folk culture are full of awesome heroes who Made A Stand, usually with lots of guns and frequently for nationalistic purposes?
Either that, or everyone’s fucking insane and the label has no fucking meaning any more, so stop fucking using it to dehumanize people whose actions you want to pretend are inexplicable and incomprehensible (especially while also claiming that they are completely explicable because, um, you ran out of fat jokes to make about Cameron Slater).**
We might sit at our ivory fucking keyboards feeling all high-and-mighty because we never grew out of our adolescent punk/goth/anarchist/general period of saying “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” to the world, but we are in no fucking position to pass socially-twisted pseudomedical judgment on the vast majority of the human race. Judgment which has shitty fucking consequences for people who do experience mental illness or neuroatypicality, and judgment which destroys our own credibility in challenging extremism.
It’s not fucking hard.
**And since 1 in 5 people experience some mental illness in their lives, there’s going to be overlap between People Who Do [Thing I Want To Blame On Mental Illness] and People Who Have Mental Illness, but until someone works out that whole “correlation ain’t causation” thing you are welcome to blow yourself.
Originally guest-posted at The Standard.
I suppose one must be grateful to Alasdair Thompson for one thing; at least he didn’t imply that we feeble little women should just avoid all sudden movement lest our ovaries fall out. (This is not to say that all women have ovaries, or even periods, or that men cannot have ovaries, or periods, but I don’t want to blow Alasdair’s tiny mind. For those feeling brave, check out this hot childbearing bamf.
Lew at Kiwipolitico thinks it’s a good lesson in not believing your own hype, and certainly Helen Kelly’s got to be viewing this whole situation as a gigantic win for putting the spotlight on the pay gap and the slightly-scary amount of bullshit our Captains of Industry are seriously small-minded enough to buy into.
But that’s what gets me. Fear not, readers concerned that I’m never going to find a man because I’m such a bitch; I’m not offended. I’m not even contemptuous towards Alasdair Thompson. I’m just a little baffled.
I mean, Alasdair Thompson is the head of an organisation whose sole purpose is to basically convince us that everything is a beautiful level playing field and pay is totally based on ability but also maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone else what you’re paid because then, um, the total fairness of your pay might shock you so much you’ll get confused and fall down. And really being forced to take four weeks off every year is just terrible. And getting a bunch of your coworkers together to negotiate a shared set of terms, well, no one should have to do that.
That’s not actually the easiest sell.
So you’d think you’d entrust the job to someone with enough basic political instinct to not say, in front of a woman union leader and a microphone, that “Women do, in general, [take more sick leave] why? Because once a month they have sick problems.”
(It’s okay, Alasdair. In the 21st century we use the word “period”. And if you’re going to use code, break out the fun shit like “they have Communists in the funhouse”.)
He does seem to have got his bullshit-mojo back though, as he’s had a bit of a whinge at being accurately quoted and is now spamming people on Twitter saying,
Of course women should be paid more than men where their output and productivity is greater than men’s. It’s a pity if saying this is un-PC.
Yes, Alasdair. That’s totally what people are complaining about. Who thinks he’s a clever little derailer den?
But it brings up another of those wonderful rightwing slogans: output and productivity.
Given how committed Alasdair is to his principles, I can only assume his personal KPIs are based on “saying things which your old, white, male Board think are just plain common sense” and measured by “how many women who are obviously on the rag take offence.”
But let’s face it. If that epitome of modern capitalism, the IMF, is anything to go by, all Alasdair has to do is go on being an old, white, rich dude who works for and on behalf of a bunch of other old, white, rich dudes. And the hypocrisy is simply never going to occur to him.
PS: inevitable neggers: go read this shit and know that every time you whinge that it’s not sexist, early childhood teachers just aren’t worth as much as fly-fishing chief executives, God kills a merchant banker.
PPS. Thought about kicking this off with a nice snappy self-aware disclaimer about my own menstrual status. Like you sexist pigs who are already drafting your “lol ur on the rag” trollisms care.
Related Link Round-Up
Because they really like having a population who, even if they remember the difference between mean and median and why these can be flawed ways to measure things, don’t really have the time in between just surviving on shitty wages and crap job security and rising costs of living and lack of social support mechanisms to get all critical and cynical about blatant political lies.
(A competent media could help them out on that, but none have been seen in the wild in this region for years and the species is now feared to be on the point of extinction.)
Still, props to Bright Red for this guest post at The Standard laying out why our Minister of Finance is either amazingly incompetent or feels very secure in the knowledge that he simply will not be called on this shit.
Our teacher had 10 of us line up at the front of the class and measured our heights. From that she calculated an average.
Then, she got the tallest boy to stand on a chair and measured his height again. He was now 50cm higher. The average of the ten kids went up 5cm. But nearly all of were the same height.
That was the first lesson: average does not mean typical, it can be influenced by movements in outliers.
Though I always like the “kill two rhetorical birds with one stone” method of getting 6 people in a room, working out a rough average wage for them and then saying “Oh look, here comes the CEO of Telecom! Now you all have a mean wage of $1 million a year so you must have no financial worries!”
I’m sorry, everyone.
I’m sorry Chris Trotter likes to wax lyrical, pretending not to know what people are talking about when they’ve taken the time and energy to provide all the relevant links to his own previous sexist whinging.
I’m sorry Chris Trotter has so little respect for women he thinks we can’t concentrate on more than one issue at a time.
I’m sorry Chris Trotter is so defensive about being called on his and the “mainstream” Left’s misogyny that he has to ironically apply a “you’re either
Nexus with us or against us” strawman on feminists.
I’m sorry if any of you sustained abdominal injuries while cackling* at Chris Trotter of all people calling someone else a “bully”.
I’m sorry if anyone had to waste 5 minutes on Google to reassure themselves that Chris Trotter has no idea what he’s talking about in regards to the US antichoice movement, which has been incremental and smouldering and very subtly engineered for the most part.
I’m sorry that my heretofore mild tone is about to be cast aside in favour of my usual “expletives-included” style.
Because fuck you, Chris Trotter. Fuck you for using vulnerable solo mothers as a fucking weapon against a feminist who actually gives a fuck about helping women take charge of their bodies and doesn’t cast them aside once they’re no longer useful. Fuck you for trying to turn NZ feminists against each other and using a woman public figure, very thinly veiled, as another weapon. Fuck you for fucking implying with scare quotes that that woman was somehow being dishonest in describing herself as a mother.
And fuck you, you pathetic, outmoded hack, for trying to say “that’s politics” as though you have a single fucking clue how to get the left back into power in this country. Let me know when that brilliant racebaiting manoeuvre from fucking 2009 starts paying off, mmkay?
But thank you, too, Chris. Thank you for continuing to demonstrate your utter irrelevancy. Thank you for proving for me (as though it needed to be proven) that feminists cannot assume the left are allies (hey Marty G, if you’re reading this, remind me why you were surprised my post was less than flattering of Labour?).
Thank you for the hilarity of the fact that you have no fucking sense of history, when you try to say that the people who stood up and made noise never achieved anything. I’ll remind every civil rights activist ever, shall I? Guess they should’ve just got up and asked quietly from the back of the bus if they could be treated like full, worthy human beings, etc.
You’re not scary, Chris. You’re not intimidating. You haven’t put me in my place. You’ve just made my entire argument for me. And I thank you for that.
[This post was originally prepared for The Standard, where it was given a very interesting thumbnail image and a fascinating intro paragraph, and promptly attacked by writers of that site for being anti-male and anti-Labour and why didn’t I just be nice to them since they were so kind to set me up as trollbait for pageviews.]
Chris Trotter’s worst nightmare came true on the weekend of 12-13 March, as 70-odd bloody liberal lefties* came together (phwoar) to figure out how we were going to just ruin Labour’s chances of winning the 2011 election.
In short, they vowed to (whisper it) talk about abortion. Loudly. Publicly. This year.
Put this one on for size: you want to buy a car, so naturally you go to a car dealership. But sorry, says the car dealer, the law says first of all you need to go see this auto mechanic so he can sign off your car ownership.
And once you’ve got your appointment the auto dealer looks at you and says well, technically the law says you aren’t really allowed a car. Nope, not even if your last one got stolen and driven off a cliff. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll just put on the form that you’ll go crazy without a car.
Fine, whatever, you say. Being labelled crazy is worth it to get that car. … You can get a car now, right?
Nope. You’ve got to see another auto mechanic. And maybe they’re actually an hour’s drive away and only take appointments on every second Wednesday, but you need a fucking car, so you do what it takes, you lie to your boss, you put the goldfish in cryofreeze, you get to that appointment. And another auto mechanic says no, sorry, you don’t actually qualify for a car, even though you live in an area with no public transport and are employed as a courier. But hey, they’re charitable, they see a lot of people who really, really need cars, so they’ll just tick the “crazy” box again.
[If you’re lucky. You might not be, and then there’s a fun process of shopping around different auto mechanics hoping one will tell you you’re crazy. Only in months containing a J during full moon, though.]
Finally, you can get your car! Except that you have to wait for an appointment at the car dealer. And they’re not even in your town and while they could theoretically give you a nice, efficient car they actually only stock the ones with shitty suspension and brakes that bruise your tailbone and give you constant whiplash.
And it seems so fucking stupid, because you’re a driver, you can choose to buy a car if you need one, often you can’t actually live without one or your job and finances and emotional and physical health require one, and yet the law makes you jump through hoops to get one – and labels you as infantile and crazy into the bargain.
But quit yer bitching, lads. I mean, you can still get a car, even if sometimes you have to fly to Australia for one, so let’s not ruffle any feathers trying to change the law and get you treated like people deserving of dignity.
You wouldn’t fucking put up with it. We are not fucking putting up with it. We deserve better and we expect more. And when Labour refuses to take a public stand on this and continue to waffle and the feminists their allies don’t just tick their ballots like drones, Chris Trotter, who I feel almost certain has never had to worry about being pregnant, can just go cry into his fucking moustache about it.
The NZ prochoice movement, gents. Come onboard – because whether you do or not, we mean business.
*Left-ness largely assumed but put it this way, no one objected when the conversation veered off into government obligations to put extra funding into healthcare.
In her inimitable style, The Queen of Thorns has a go at Chris Trotter, Labour, readers of this site, and even poor old Garth George explaining why New Zealand’s abortion laws are shite. As usual she makes her point in a style that resembles a head on car crash and usually excites considerable comment.
Shorter lprent: fuck this QoT is a manhating bitch but she does bump our pageviews.
Someone remind me how I was totally wrong about the Left once again fucking themselves over by treating women like shit?
Full text of original post to be reproduced here tomorrow for those who, I think we can all agree entirely understandably, don’t want to get dogpiled by the insecurely yapping chihuahuas at The Standard.
And just a short coda on the entire point: abortion rights is going to be a fucking issue this election. People are going to learn how fucked up our laws are and they are going to be reminded that our major parties’ leadership does not fucking care about forcing women into having babies or fucking over their lives in order to avoid having principles.
I said you could be with us or you could be against us. Thanks for making your position utterly clear.
There isn’t just one hard truth to NZ politics at the moment. The second is equally unpopular with people, but if it doesn’t offer a clear way forward it at least suggests a fixable problem. At the same time, it’s not the kind of thing Labour/the Left want to have bandied about too publicly in an election year.
Everything Labour does is waffle.
No, seriously, everything.
Where my previous post argued that NACT are motivated by a clear and demonstrated drive to financially benefit themselves and their class and keep the true “middle New Zealand” distracted by shiny, often illusory toys (beneficiary bashing, north-of-$50 tax cuts), this one poses more of a question I wish I didn’t suspect the answer to:
What the fuck is Labour doing except waffling?
Waffling, swaying, flip-flopping, whatever today’s pop-propaganda term is, from one statement to the next, one lukewarm denunciation to the next, since the 2008 defeat Labour has basically been a yacht captained by people who figured hey, it was their turn so they might as well have a go, desperately seeking the right current to sail them into Getting Elected Harbour and getting caught on the treacherous reefs of No1curr and Fuck You’re Uninspiring every single time.
Everything is waffle. Waffle doesn’t win elections.
A first pre-emptive rebuttal: Key/National did not waffle their way into victory in 2008. They made explicit, just-qualified-enough statements which set them firmly and believably (to the middle-voting public) in the role of Just Like Labour Only Without The Sense You’re Being Put On The Naughty Spot.
But what the fuck does Labour stand for at this point?
Waffle. Whatever the headless chickens and soccer-fan octopi in the strategy team think is a winner this week.
What month is it? Are we panicking about the loss of the “centre” vote and rehashing really obviously-going-to-backfire Brash/Orewa dogwhistles? Hmm, fuck, that didn’t go so well (hint for Labour strategists: when Idiot/Savant is telling you you’re fucking hypocrites, be worried). Best throw some “I can’t believe it’s not a real leftwing policy” bones to the fanbase! A fanbase who, possibly in serious need of some reassurance that the Apocalypse had not in fact left them in a better-treed version of Transmetropolitan, thought “fuck yes! A real turnaround!”
‘Cause you see, “the many, not the few” involves such fantastically leftwing setpieces as “listen to the stories about gang members ripping off WINZ, those fucking bludgers!” and “young offenders need intervention and literacy skills AND a kick in the pants, am I right, holla at your boy Garth McVicar!”
But some celebrated nevertheless, right until the rightwing research unit bots said “Oy, bitches, how’s 1985 treatin’ ya?” and silence descended, because not all the pretty speeches in the world from Goff count for shit until he utterly disowns that Rogernomics crap. Prediction: never going to happen.*
January 2011. Election year, baby. And someone gets it through HQ’s hivemind that maybe being a bit fucking bold could be a good idea! Let’s do it! Let’s face down those NACT bastards with their relentless “the left doesn’t understand how the economy works” meme and release completely uncosted tax policy! How could this go wrong???
Oops, even one of the staunchest left bloggers in the country came to the conclusion: waffle.
Which is not to mention that whole not condemning Paul Henry’s vile fucking racism thing – can’t upset the white underclass since we’ve thrown those nasty identity politics types under the bus (oh wait, but the Big Gay Out’s on this weekend!). Or the neverending quest to try to turn a stern, serious, career politician into his affable, smarmy, shallow opponent (because of course the only way to defeat an opponent is to become him … wait, what?). And let’s not forget that this isn’t just a Goff problem when suddenly Annette King tooooootally wants to help out those poor people who incidentally Labour royally fucked by defending a discriminatory policy tooth and nail.
Not just waffle. PowerWaffle.
To put it bluntly, fellow lefties: we are in an election year with a main-left-party leader who thinks the appropriate response to “I told my mate Tony Veitch that Liz Hurley’s a hottie” is “I think she’s hot too butIlovemywifebecauseI’mabetterfamilymanthanyou.”
You thought we were fucked before?
We are so fucking fucked.
*I’m like Ken Ring, only I admit I make shit up off the top of my head and act smug when I’m correct anyway.
Originally posted at The Standard.
There’s a hard truth to NZ politics at the moment. It’s not one people like to think about, it’s not one people readily accept, and it’s not one that gives Labour/the Left any actual tools to dismantle the shitty state we’re in. But it helps to be reminded every now and then:
Everything NACT does is a lie.
No, seriously, everything.
The topical example of the day is the Welfare Working Group report, with its vicious, predictable, you-could’ve-paid-Danyl-Mclauchlan-a-lot-less-to-write-it-as-satire recommendations, including forcing some women to look for work when their youngest child is 14 weeks old.
This is bullshit, the blogs cry. The Smiler is quick at hand to (predictably) rule out the most extreme measures. But even the more moderate measures won’t work! We complain. This is no way to get people off benefits! You need job creation, not forcing drug addicts to starve, that’s only going to make things worse!
We are too charitable.
We assume, as does the media (even the good ones) and as do the general public, that the leaders of the Left and Right in this country are just approaching the same issues from different perspectives. They just have different ideas, different theories about human nature and economics, but they’re still looking at the same situation and aiming for the same results.
NACT are not aiming for the same results. Everything is a lie.
I hear the objections already. I just want you to think: which is the more likely scenario, Occam’s Razor-styles?
That our Government is run by people who cannot see that tax cuts don’t stimulate the economy, who do not understand that there are no jobs, who will not acknowledge that being “tough on crime” and simultaneously starving/victimizing the most deprived people in the country are not going to make our society safer …
Or that they just don’t care, and everything is a lie.
Thus we see the entire existence of the Welfare Working Group is a lie. It’s not about people, or liveable incomes, or hope, or dependency, or jobs. It’s all a sideshow, because to people like Key and English and Brownlee and Hide it doesn’t matter what they implement, how or if it’s going to work. The goal is power, the goal is scapegoating beneficiaries (for now), the goal is getting you to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain while he’s stripping your assets for lolly money.
This is the NACT modus operandi: do the bare minimum to keep the economy going. Throw out Crosby/Textor lines to persuade the voting public – a public sadly not entirely made up of people with enough time/energy/interest to argue this shit on blogs – that Scapegoat of The Day is the source of all their problems (beneficiaries, Maori, Greens) without actually doing anything. Pillage everything in sight. Once unelected or bored of juvenile tussles in the House, fuck off in your spaceship to Hawaii and let everything end in fire.
And we are fucked. Because if the comments on this post don’t contain at least one person accusing me of jealousy, of tall poppy syndrome, of conspiracy or paranoia … well, I’ll wonder where all the good trolls have gone. But that is exactly the argument that will be made, and when the kinds of people the Left has to convince in 2011 are exactly those people most susceptible to C/T spin and cheerful Smiler soundbites, and when the truth you’re trying to convince them of is really fucking unpalatable … proper fucked.
I had set my mind to writing this article a few weeks back after IrishBill said some charming things to me on my own blog.
Then, because this is how the Universe works some days, the very issue came up on Kiwipolitico when Pablo sought discussion on where all the young left thinkers at. George D commented:
I know perhaps 20 or 30 minds as sharp as the ones you mention, all to some degree politically engaged. But absent a home – they are just speaking into the wind. Most prefer to save their breath. Many have deserted “left politics” for more direct forms of struggle/praxis: working class, union, and beneficiary activism; tino Rangatiratanga; environmentalism; feminism; and animal rights. Most engaged in at least one, with the knowledge that the structural conditions that enforce one enforce them all.
By this home I mean a space in which they can express their ideas and be taken seriously, at the very least by each other, and from which to develop a sustained and productive critique of society.
This really crystallized one of my key arguments: that the Left in New Zealand has been weakened by (among other things) the loss of activists and voices to other issues that aren’t specifically focused on class struggle or strictly economic leftist ideas. (I really focus on feminism here as that’s my baby.)
To put it in my more usual terms, the Left, and especially Labour, have screwed up by ignoring, cutting out and downright condemning feminists and other progressive activists and they need to get the fuck over themselves.
Also, it’s your own fucking fault.
Part One: history lesson
Second-wave feminism grew out of a lot of things. Yeah, there was dissatisfaction with horrific job discrimination and middle-class housewives were finally getting mad that their supposedly perfect lives left them feeling unfulfilled and directionless and women were haemhorraging to death in hotel rooms after botched abortions. And some women were feeling a wee bit angry about that.
But one thing that really helped kick things off? Leftwing men. Leftwing men who could talk your ear off about the oppression of workers but let the women volunteers stuff the envelopes and make the coffee. Leftwing men who were all about opposing men being drafted for a capitalist war but didn’t have time to think about how, war or no war, women got drafted into producing the next generation of cannon fodder.
Leftwing men who tried to tell us (and the people of colour, and the people with disabilities, and everyone else) that the problem was capitalism, obviously. It was all about class and once we got rid of that mean ol’ power dynamic all those other oppressions – those oppressions that didn’t matter quite so much – would just vanish.
Now could you please go make some coffee while the boys are talking?
And those angry women realised that relying on men to give a shit about issues that only affected the segment of the population categorised as “food provision/fucking” was about as good a strategy as deploying marshmallows against a Flammpanzer II.
Thanks, guys, I don’t know if we could’ve done it without ya.
Part Two: more recent history lesson
Nine long years of Labour, etc etc and oh, there was a lamentation and a crying of neckbeards, for women occupied a few powerful positions simultaneously and surely the end was nigh. And thanks to the 9th floor being transformed into a feminist lesbian cabal or something, we now have basic social support for parents (predominantly women) to take paid leave and not get fired, and The Gays can get almost-but-not-quite-proper-married, and you can’t just rape hookers safe in the knowledge that the cops, with their wonderful culture, will just arrest your victim because you’re a nice white pillar of the community etc. etc.
Oh, for shame.
Then our Beloved Leader smile-and-wave got into power, Auntie Helen handed over the reins and headed off to the UN just to let y’all know that the cabal is everywhere (or she could be immensely talented and qualified for the role) and lo, there was a great releasing of pant top buttons and a relieved round of burping at the caucus table and, well … the guys went a little silly.
Did I say a little?
These people have become the fervent champions of an indigenous culture they can never truly join because, fundamentally, they despise their own.
Yep, things got to the “white leftwingers who talk about Maori issues are race traitors stage a little quicker than I might have expected…
But don’t think Trotter reserved his scorn just for tino rangatiratanga:
[The] ideological roots [of “knee-jerk liberal orthodoxy”] descend into the swamp of identity politics and the New Social Movements which were at that time engaged in tearing apart the complex web of personal and political relationships that made up the traditional labour movement.
Trotter is speaking about the 1980s, that golden age of namby-pamby identity politics when the left got distracted by piffling little side issues like whether men should be held accountable for raping their wives and whether gay men should be allowed to be gay.
A time when the Left wasn’t, to quote Phil Goff’s own advisor John Pagani on that thread, “connecting with things that matter to people”. You can probably draw your own conclusions as to the kind of people he means.
I must admit to some naivety, because it came as a bit of a shock to me that identity politics could so easily be divorced from leftwing thought and cast as unrelated to the struggle against capitalism.
I mean, what is sexism if not a manifestation of capitalist reliance on women’s unpaid labour and reproductive capacity? (More on this in a later post, methinks.) And what is racism if not another handy way to separate out one sector of society to be exploited for their labour, all wrapped up in “science”? What is ableism if not driven by capitalism’s need for the most “productive” labour at the lowest cost and accommodation? How is enforcing heterosexuality and strict gender roles not about ensuring an increasing population to fuel the capitalist eternal-growth pipe dream?
(I certainly don’t want to imply that capitalism is the be-all and end-all of these oppressions, see previous “we’ll let you make speeches when the revolution is over, kitten” commentary.)
But nope, apparently these issues and concerns and theories were all just chaff getting in the way of the real workers’ struggle and the things that matter to people.
[W]hen two guys get in a huddle and start slanging against the Liberal Left and the evil distraction of identity politics, and whinge about how we need to think about ordinary people, I think we can make a few very good guesses as to the kind of people they’re talking about.
And I’ll give you a hint: it ain’t you or me, assuming you are not a middle class white heterosexual cisgendered currently able bodied male.
Because here’s what matters to me:
It matters to me that I not be passed over for a job or a promotion because I’m a woman who’ll obviously just leave to have babies.
It matters to me that I have the right to be paid the same as a man for doing the same work.
It matters to me that gay men and women can have their relationships recognised by the state just like every two-in-three-chance-of-divorce hetero couple.
It matters to me that people of colour not get pulled over by the cops because brown people shouldn’t be driving expensive cars, or are obviously on drugs because they’re brown, or not be played by white people in movies about their lives.
It matters to me that people with disabilities can travel on aeroplanes, and get into buildings, and pass exams at school (look out for that incredibly-expletive-filled-post tomorrow!) and go shopping without worrying some bastard’s going to throw them out for having a hearing dog.
It matters to me that trans people shouldn’t have to worry about being murdered because someone else feels they have the right to judge what defines a man or a woman.
It matters to me that people should be able to practise their faith without fear of persecution, and that people not-of-faith should be able to say so without harassment.
But fuck all that! That’s just identity politics! That’s just me assuming that the way people identify, the way society wants to identify them, the assumptions others feel free to make about you because of your identity or assumed identity, might actually affect people! It might actually rate a bit higher on their List Of Things That Pissed Me Off Today:
- Harassed on bus by guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.
- First question asked at job interview: “Do you have kids?”
- Threatened with sexual violence by blog commenter.
- Still alienated from means of production.
TL;DR: when a capitalist society chooses to force identity markers on you to aid in its goals, the shit you get for having those markers is probably going to be a bit relevant to your interests.
Part Four: how’s that centre vote treating you?
Going by Chris Trotter’s figures, the choices are between sucking up to the “5,000” nasty liberal left bastards who want to ruin everyone’s fun or bringing back the “150,000-200,000” voters who went over to National last election.
The assumption being, of course, that they did so because whinge cry nanny state nasty feminists etc.
Or it could be something to do with a notion roundly accepted and bemoaned on leftwing blogs at the time – the idea that the voting public just thought it was “National’s turn”. Or to quote a certain teacher in my family, “at least we expect to get screwed under National”. Or simple voter fatigue with a front bench of far-too familiar faces with too much baggage attached. Or the eternal tax-cuts bribe which probably seemed to make a lot more sense with 9 years of healthy surpluses dimming the traumatic memories of the last National government. Or fuck it, maybe a lot of people do just think John Key is a nice down-to-earth chap.
Nah, probably just the evil feminist cabal chased them away with our brooms.
But if the question is “why did a bunch of traditional Labour types vote for a cuddly, definite-statement-free-zone John-Key-led National” one is really struggling to think of why anyone in Labour thought the answer was “because they wanted some more of that uncuddly strong-statement Don-Brash-led-National type racism”.
And when your answer to anything is “make ourselves more like John Key” it doesn’t matter what the question is, you’re probably just fucked.
So, leftwing men being douchebags who refuse to consider the distinct oppressions suffered by other, not-them groups of people have managed to drive a lot of natural allies away. Natural allies who surprisingly don’t take it well when told that shit that affects them every day of their lives isn’t that important. Most recently in NZ this has been done by the Labour Party because everyone wants a piece of the elusive, self-contradicting “centre” vote. And as we approach a general election, a heck of a lot of good liberal-yet-still-left people just don’t know what the fuck to do to set things right.
Here’s a few ideas.
Stop buying into the idea that acknowledging the actual harms suffered by actual people is “polarising” or “distracting”. All it does is signal loud and clear to women and Maori and queer folk that they are expected to once again sacrifice themselves For The Good Of The Left. We’ve already seen how that kinda doesn’t work out so well.
Acknowledge where relevant that if you are white, male, cisgendered, currently able-bodied, living above the poverty line, and reading this post online and in vivid Technicolor, you have privilege. Probably another post in that concept because I’m just so sure a few types will refuse to get it.)
If you want to throw around concepts and slogans like “for the many, not the few” try to bloody well remember that the “few” in that should be the people on the top of the heap, not the bottom.
If you want to make any kind of political play on a platform of fairness and ability/need and compassion and social justice it might fucking help to do some social justice.
And when the Right (and your own mainstream commentators) decide to attack you for focusing on “fringe” elements or “irrelevant” issues, you just look those bastards in the eye and say “Our society should be free and fair for everyone. No one should be attacked or discriminated against just because of who they are. We are doing this because we care about people, even though some of them will still vote against us for other reasons or even though they’re already a part of our core vote or even though their votes won’t make a difference in the election. It’s the right thing to do and we are going to do it because all New Zealanders deserve to live in the kind of country that takes care of its people.”
Just remember: an issue may not be important to you. But if you’re on the Left you better be motivated by something more than what you fucking get out of it.
Allow me to let you in on a secret, dear friends: Zetetic’s “guest post by David Farrar“* on The Standard actually has nothing to do with health. And nothing to do with caring about young people.
But your Majesty! you cry. Isn’t it about exactly those things?
Alas no, dear readers.
You see, Zetetic’s post is all about how fat kids can’t run and fat kids need to put down the chips.
If Zetetic’s post actually were about “health” …
Maybe Z would talk about poverty.
Maybe Z would talk about the fact that even a family on a double income may not be able to afford the necessities of life at people who work 80 hour weeks probably don’t have the time to cook from scratch with local/organic/wevs ingredients every meal.
Maybe Z would talk about how our modern society has fucked with people’s connection to their cultures and food traditions in favour of consumerism and greed (but not greed associated with food).
Maybe Z would talk about the obscene markups supermarkets put on “healthy” foods and fresh ingredients. Or about the higher markup and lower availability of “healthy” foods which haven’t been liberally bathed in pesticides.
Maybe Z would talk about the stigma associated with obesity, with “over”weight or even with just being a little on the chubby side, and how maybe, you know, kids who are constantly shamed and criticised and teased – and whose shaming and teasing and abuse is fucking justified and sanctioned by adults – might not feel like getting dressed in a changing room full of their abusers and judgers, and might not feel like submitting themselves to further humiliation when they commit the cardinal sin of Running While Fat.
At intermediate, I had already undergone significant preparatory stages in my journey towards being a Fucking Hot Fat Chick and having Fucking Amazing Big Breasts. And burned into my memory for all time is the day the class was running short laps back and forth across the netball court and a boy pointed at my swaying bosom and laughed really nastily and called his mates over to share the “look, proto-QoT has boobs” joke.
Guess how keen I was to ever repeat that experience? The answer, internets, is not very fucking keen at all. I ended up so hating my breasts that I slept in a sports bra for three years. I did not remove my bra except to bathe. I was convinced that to be seen with visibly moving breasts was absolutely the most shameful thing I could ever do. I refused to run at top speed (not hugely fast, of course, for I am one of Nature’s Long Distance Walkers) until I was well into adulthood and priorities like “catch the bus and make it to work on time” took precedence – briefly – over shame.
And if I had read a post like Zetetic’s during adolescence, when I hated every mouthful of food I ate and certainly knew I wasn’t “healthy” – I couldn’t BE healthy, after all, I was FAT – well, I’m not going to say it would have been hugely traumatic. It would just have been another straw on the camel’s back and maybe the one that might have triggered an eating disorder or another depressive episode.
It wouldn’t have made me fucking thin, though.
No, Zetetic – and his many supporters – aren’t actually interested in how these things – poverty, capitalism, social pressure – actually contribute to actual health problems of which fatness may in some cases be a symptom. Z just wants to play know-it-all and get a warm tinge of superiority by hating on children – but just the ones it’s socially OK to hate on, I mean, we are talking about fatties who can only be fat because they’re stupid and lazy.
You may be sceptical, I know. Litmus test time!
the 12 year-old who can’t climb a flight of stairs without wheezing and going red in the face
If you’re a 9 year old and you want to stuff chips into your face until you’re obese
Oh, QoT! you cry. Zetetic is just concerned for the kids’ health! He’s just riffing on rightwing/libertarian freedom-of-choice dogma!
No, dear readers. You see, if Zetetic is “concerned” about that 12-year-old’s health – in this case apparently completely measured by ability-to-climb-stairs** – then Zetetic should also care enough not to use that child as a symbol of The End Of The World As We Know It. And how convenient for Z that “satirising” that particular style conveniently allows him to parrot classic fat-hating, bullying tropes about how fat people “choose” to eat themselves into Horrible Obesity!
Tell you what, inevitable concern-trolling objecters: a challenge! Criticise the earlier scrapping of Fruit in Schools or similar programmes … without making cracks about how Fat Kids Can’t Run or Poor People Are Stupid or Everyone Knows Fat Is Bad. You’ll get a fun mental workout and might learn something – about yourself and how big a bigot you really are.
(Zetetic, sorry, probably too late for you given previous form.)
*I imagine Zetetic also feels amazingly clever because, lol, David Farrar is fat, so that makes it, like, ironic!
**More on why this is full of bonus ableism fail in an upcoming post!