Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Would John Key Have Pulled A Right-Wing Ponytail?

Set And Setting: Was the Prime Minister's harassment of waitress, Amanda Bailey, a form of political punishment? The behaviour of right-wingers when confronted with left-wingers in "places where they don't belong" is often both punitive and confrontational.
 
DID THE PRIME MINISTER pull Amanda Bailey’s pony-tail because her “strong political  points of view” conflicted with his own? (We know that Ms Bailey holds strong political views because that information was passed on to the NZ Herald’s gossip columnist, Rachel Glucina, by her employers.)
 
Now, many New Zealanders will object that a waitress’s political views cannot be used to justify prime-ministerial hair-pulling. They’re right, of course, but I hope they’ll bear with me a little longer, because an examination of the way powerful right-wingers behave in the presence of left-wingers promises to recast John Key’s acknowledged misconduct in a new and very interesting light.
 
Let me give you an example of the phenomena I’m describing from my own experience. Some years ago, I was the guest of the French Ambassador at his official residence in Thorndon. An hour or so after my arrival, the Ambassador and his guests were joined by the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jim Bolger. Spying me, Mr Bolger called out in a very loud voice: “Good God, Trotter, when did they let you out of jail!”
 
"Good God, Trotter, when did they let you out of jail!" - Jim Bolger.
 
I took his “jest” in good part and joined in the rather startled laughter of the other guests. But I did wonder how the former Prime Minister would have responded had our positions been reversed. Would Mr Bolger have openly challenged the misbehaviour of a person holding such elevated political rank? Or would he, like me and Ms Bailey, have let the indiscretion (or, in the case of the Parnell waitress, the first of many indiscretions) pass?
 
Jim Bolger, the blunt King Country cocky and son of impoverished Irish settlers, may well have returned fire without inhibition, I simply don’t know. What did intrigue me, however, was the former National Party leader’s motivation. Quite simply, I believe it was shock. Encountering a well-known left-winger in what, to Mr Bolger, must have seemed the most unlikely of settings, can only have been profoundly surprising.
 
And, perhaps, just a little affronting. Because the presence of a person holding views so radically at odds with his own was likely received by Mr Bolger in the same way as a soldier on neutral ground would respond to the presence of a soldier from an enemy army. One can no longer speak freely, for fear of giving away important secrets. One’s behaviour, too, must be carefully controlled – lest the enemy be given an opportunity for ridicule or reproof.
 
Was this how Ms Bailey’s presence at Rosie’s Café, in upmarket Parnell, was perceived by the Prime Minister and his right-wing supporters from the neighbourhood? Did they fear that their “fun and games” and “horseplay” were being silently judged by this left-wing waitress? Had she overheard them saying things that might – if taken out of context – have sounded just a little bit racist, sexist or homophobic? And wasn’t that just a little bit unfair? That John Key, his wife Bronagh, and their friends and neighbours, couldn’t let their hair down and speak freely without every word and action being recorded and used as evidence by this young thought-policewoman?
 
It may not even have been conscious on Mr Key’s part. His fondness for dangling tresses is now well attested in the photographic and video record. But it’s also possible that the urge to tug Ms Bailey’s ponytail was driven by the same feelings that prompted Mr Bolger to put me so firmly in my place at the French ambassador’s residence.
 
The New Zealand Right has always had huge difficulty in accepting the Left’s socio-political legitimacy (and it’s by no means alone in this). Throughout the Cold War, self-identifying as a left-winger was tantamount to acknowledging high treason in the eyes of many National supporters. Trade unionists, particularly, were received with venomous hostility by National, which “made its bones” as a conservative political party by brutally enforcing the great Waterfront Lockout of 1951.
 
But the Cold War isn’t the sole explanation. The New Zealand Right’s hatred of the Left predates the onset of the Cold War by several decades – extending all the way back to the strike-breaking actions of the Reform Party government of William Massey. It has also survived the Right’s victory in the Cold War. To declare oneself a person of the Left, even in the twenty-first century, is to define oneself as not-quite-fit for polite company: “Good God, Trotter, when did they let you out of jail!”
 
With each tug of Ms Bailey’s “tantalising” pony-tail, was the Prime Minister sending a very similar message of “light-hearted” political disapproval? Was he telling her: ‘You really shouldn’t be here, but, since you are, it’s only fair that you join in (even unwillingly) all the “horseplay”, all the “fun-and-games”, in which the other wait-staff at Rosie’s Café happily engage.’?
 
What’s the matter, Amanda? Can’t you take a joke?
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 28 April 2015.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

How do you get from 'John Key being a dick horsing around'* to 'The right hate the left'?

Consider that you may be over politicising everything. And paranoid.

*And immediately apologising when called on it.

Gosman said...

This is at odds with a previous post of yours where you stated you are often times received more politely and warmly at right wing events than similar events organised by the left.

Chris Trotter said...

I think the difference, Gosman, is whether or not you are there by the Right's invitation. If you are, then, yes, they almost always treat you with great courtesy.

It's only when they find you in a place they believe is "theirs", uninvited, that the aggression comes out.

Not at all, Anonymous@11:44.

It is precisely the fact that "horsing around" was taking place in the presence of a person who was not "one of us" (and therefore potentially dangerous) that heightened the social tension.

What we fear, we hate.

David said...

Key may not even have known Amanda's political leanings - just "smelt a rat."

Anonymous said...

How did Key know the waitress was 'not one of us'?
Did they exchange political views?
We now know she considers herself left wing (as is he right), but did Key know this?
Or is there an assumption that all waitresses are automatically left wing?
I've worked in retail, customers do all sorts of odd things usually either because:

1) They are trying to shoplift

2) They are trying to be funny, usually with a joke/behaviour you've seen 10 time already that day. This gets wearying.

Anonymous said...

The divide is not political left vs political right, it is actually a class divide- wealth, power and status vs someone John Key appeared to regard as a feelingless nobody because they had no wealth, power or status. John Key seems quite keen on the British royal family. If he is indeed just a casual guy who likes to joke around, then surely everyone would be fair game for his "banter", including say Kate Middleton. Would he have pulled Middleton 's hair repeatedly when he was in her company? Not a snowballs chance in hell.

Anonymous said...

"To declare oneself a person of the Left, even in the twenty-first century, is to define oneself as not-quite-fit for polite company:"

Depends on the company. At University (esp in Arts) and in education, being a leftie is the assumed norm. Righties kill dolphins and hate the poor.

Brewerstroupe said...

Having grown up near Bolger both in time and circumstance, I think I grasp what Chris describes. Although my Tory family were essentially kind and generous folks, there was an "us and them" that permeated their relations and took root in my own sub-conscious until I came of age. "They" were Labour supporters, Catholics and other races. It would have been hard to detect in a one to one situation - one was friendly to but usually not friends with, as it were.
The property-owning class did indeed consider themselves the backbone of the Nation though they deified the Professionals. The rest were looked on with a sort of benign contempt, rarely stated. Overt antipathy was reserved for trade unionists and Labour politicians, expressed among one's own kind.
In my view, this class distinction has evolved, along with the wealth gap, into a more vehement form and is now closely tied to ideology - free market conservative capitalists versus social idealists, regardless of occupation, religion or race.
I suspect my Presbyterian folks, born before 1910, would have had difficulty with Mr Key and his ilk. Whereas they might have overlooked his hair pulling, the source of his wealth (ergo his fitness to rule) would be questionable in their eyes.

"DID THE PRIME MINISTER pull Amanda Bailey’s pony-tail because her “strong political points of view” conflicted with his own? "

Naah. Its a fetish. Too many occurrences to be anything else. Furthermore, I don't believe Key has a political philosophy of any significance. He is a situation ethics man if not a sociopath.

Unknown said...

I suspect he is quite indiscriminate in his hair pulling, but the right-wingers would probably take it as some kind of benediction because they're sycophants.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I somehow doubt if Key considers the political leanings of those who provide him with services. I suspect they are more like items of furniture.

tony ricketts said...

In 1980 I was, as a long-haired non-suit-wearing 33-year-old, Managing Secretary of the Auckland Technical Institute Students Association, Jim Bolger was Minister of Labour. The first time we came face-to-face was at a semi-social function. The Principal was leading him round, introducing him, and he visibly flinched when he was led towards me, then gave me a very unenthusiastic handshake.

I get a strong impression that as the years went by his comfort zone enlarged, though I would not be surprised if there are parts of the 21st century National Party where he'd now feel less at home in.

pat said...

the correct response to.."when did they let you out of jail? is..."the day after they let you out"...for future reference

Anonymous said...

I suspect you're over-thinking Key's actions Chris -- although I think your broader points about the 'them and us' perspective are spot on.

The emerging historical record suggests that Key has a 'thing' about pulling the hair of those who are less powerful than him. As his victims are all women, this reinforces the recognised power dimension of abusive gender dynamics.

I'm not qualified to speculate on the subconscious conditions that motivate this particular behaviour of Key, but it's clearly taking place in the context of a man asserting his social and gender dominance over women. A man who has yet to catch up with 21st century norms of respect.

Greg

neilandersonish said...

I think this is a fair reversal of the Rachel Glucina victim bashing, in stating the waitress had 'strong political views' therefore deserved bullying.

Davo Stevens said...

The girls' politics should not come into the conversation, however she may feel. It was a gross invasion of her personal space and he had no right to touch her anywhere without her express permission. This is a case of power over the non-powerful.

John Key is a weird and strange man with a hair fetish. Nothing to do with his politics either, he just is.

This also shows just how our rulers treat the peasants and serfs who wait on them. I hear the Graham McCready has filed a charge against him and I hope that he gets convicted.

Anonymous said...

Was Bolgers quick wit any different to comments that someone like Cameron Slater might get if he turned up at a Green party function?

As for pony tail pulling, it's actually a very common. When I had one, it used to get pulled all the time. Without exception it was done light-heartedly as a tease with no ill will.

The only thing that makes this case different to thousands of other similar cases every day, is that none of the others have tried to turn it into a situation to score political points.

Tiger Mountain said...

If Key had heard through the “cafe grapevine” that–that waitress goes to demos or supports Green issues say–Chris scenario becomes plausible–the PM may have targeted her for reasons other than lustrous locks.

While a union rep on the DWF, NDU, Auck Trades Council and industry negotiations (acronyms not important now) there was definitely the ‘look’ of what are you doing here? in TV studios, Koru lounges, parliament, company HQs, Employers Assoc. offices, certain hotel lobbies and conference centres. And those are reasonably public spaces.

You still get the ‘look’ in Eastern suburbs restaurants and a myriad of other air conditioned spaces that the 1%ers pass through en route to valet parking and the next flight.

There is also the rural aspect. Fire and Police stations, sports clubs and lodges are not places of succour for the activist!

peter petterson said...

Being an active trade unionist undoubtably affected a few of my job opportunities in decades gone by, plus my letters to the editor especially during Muldoon's term.

Charles E said...

Since you and some of your troops are into hypothesising about animal behaviour, perhaps you could consider the possibility he engages in 'distraction activities' as I would think it may be called. And successfully.
Instead of concentrating on getting the left's act together and winning policy for the next election, we have you guys focusing on Key, and what some minor odd antics he displays mean.
Meanwhile National is on 51% and Key on 64%.
He's got you doing what he wants you to do, waste time, energy and probably political capital, by antics that actually mean nothing.
Next minute the left will be fighting about whether the blogger, the other media and all have exploited this woman and getting a union in on the feast to do so too!
Brilliant distraction behaviour by the alpha male ape, causing the monkeys and hyenas to scrap over a mirage.

Anonymous said...

The place you have to be in by their invitation is the world.


One of the people on redneckradiozb gave an opinion questioning John Key’s tugging and to some of his supporters that was the biased leftist msm attacking their PM. Um, in a building where most of their front people have the constant proximity to his derriere of conjoined heptuplets?

I certainly doubt Amanda Bailey’s politics had anything to do the incidents. It is just that John Key can do what he likes. Playing golf with Barack, gee whizzing with some of the richest people in the world, mixing with our top sports stars, being jolly with the royal family ? Ms Bailey was just a bit of Parnell poodle poos

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Lightheartedly... With no ill will.

Ah, the "it's only a joke how could anyone be offended" form of bully." Similar to the it's only a joke how could anyone be offended Jeremy Clarkson type of racist. If it's a joke – of course that makes it all right, no matter how the victim feels about it. Or anyone else for that matter

Barry said...

Why didn't he repeatedly pull Sharples' ponytail?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Unfortunately Charles, you don't seem to realise that it's considered a mistake to give the opposition ANYTHING to play with :-).

Christian said...

I'm a leftie and have been so all my life. In my time I have found myself being ragged and teased because of my beliefs in various work places.
I remember being called a "Trendy Leftie" meaning I couldn't possibly be sincere.
Now of course it's not trendy to be a leftie at all. There seems to be no distinction in the mind of a right winger between a society with co-operative social policies like Finland and the Pol-Pot regime. This is why National characterises labour as hard left when infact they are very much in the middle of the political spectrum.

peterlepaysan said...

The nats have always had a "born to rule" sense of entitlement.

Key's pony tail behaviour is merely another manifestation of it.

"You mean cafeteria employees have rights?"

"Well goodness gracious me!"

ponytailgate said...

Key definitely knew, from when they first meet he knew she didn't like him. She said on Facebook Feb '13 that she thought he was a dick so surely despised him at the cafe. Like Collins, Key gave back double. http://ponytailgate.wordpress.com