Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Straws In The Wind

A Change Is Gonna Come: The militant solidarity and bi-cultural unity on display in the anti-TPPA protests has delivered to the neoliberal elite a symbolic message which they would be wise to heed. They have grown accustomed to dominating this country’s political discourse as effortlessly as they dominate its economy. They are not used to being contradicted by people they dismiss, contemptuously, as “losers”. But as Bob Dylan reminds us: "the losers of now may be later to win – when the times they are a-changing."
 
TAKEN SEPARATELY, a series of unusual incidents may not amount to much. Taken together, however, they can suggest that, politically, something important is happening. Specifically, that the long-quiescent New Zealand population (the people upbraided by top left-wing blogger, Martyn Bradbury, as “sleepy hobbits”) are beginning to bestir themselves.
 
Consider the following straws in the wind.
 
Straw No. 1: As last Thursday’s massive anti-TPPA march swung sharply left at the bottom of Auckland’s Queen Street and headed back towards Sky City, construction workers began punching through the white plastic of their “petticoated” building sites and urging-on the marchers with clenched-fist salutes.
 
Straw No. 2: Seasoned activists insist that the huge demonstration was the first Pakeha-organised political protest to be led down Queen Street by a Maori Kapa Haka group. (Some claiming that these toa (warriors) were members of the same group who’d earlier refused to provide a Maori welcome to the TPPA’s signatories.)
 
Straw No. 3: John Key was booed when he turned up to the Auckland Nines on Waitangi Day.
 
It’s this latter event that will have stung the Prime Minister most painfully. His easy, apolitical rapport with sports-mad Kiwis has been one of his greatest electoral strengths. That a major political issue was able, finally, to penetrate the feel-good force-field that has for many years kept our sports stadia politics-free-zones must have given him genuine pause. It may not have been the whole crowd, but it was a large enough section of it to warrant the journalists present filing a story. And that, as Mr Key well knows, is all it takes.
 
The mass participation of Maori in last Thursday’s protest activities is also a highly significant development. New Zealand has seen big Maori protests before: the Seabed and Foreshore hikoi of 2004 being the most impressive. Separate Maori contingents, like the Patu squad of Springbok Tour fame, have also featured in Pakeha dominated protest movements.
 
The 4 February demonstration was different. Last Thursday’s was a genuine bi-cultural protest (the first of any size that the writer has witnessed) in which thousands of Maori bearing fern fronds, and Pakeha carrying placards, marched side-by-side; English and Te Reo mingled seamlessly; and where scores of New Zealand Ensigns flew proudly alongside an equal number of fluttering Tino Rangatiratanga flags.
 
This is a politically explosive combination: at whose heart lies the frightening realisation that more and more Pakeha New Zealanders are losing control of their future. For Maori, that is, of course, a far from new revelation. As Marama Fox, Co-Leader of the Maori Party, told the Anti-TPPA rally held at the Auckland Town Hall on 26 January: “Welcome to our world!”
 
For 176 years the rulers of New Zealand have lived in fear of this alliance. Captain Hobson’s 1840 declaration “now we are one people” notwithstanding, the intention of New Zealand’s British colonisers has always been to separate not only the Maori from their land, but to keep forever separate the interests of colonised and colonisers. The Powers-That-Be may have paid lip-service to the ideal of bi-culturalism by linking together the interests of the Pakeha and Maori ruling elites. But the very idea of non-elite Maori and Pakeha making common cause in defence of their common interests, and their common homeland, has always been culturally and politically terrifying.
 
The fear inspired in the political class by the clearly bi-cultural quality of the 4 February demonstration was expressed, at least initially, in the scornful depiction of the protesters as ignorant dupes of the usual “commie” suspects. What those making fun of New Zealanders very real, if ill-expressed, anxieties about the TPPA simply ignored was the fact that in democratic societies most citizens take their cues from trusted cultural and/or political leaders, by whose deeper understanding of complex issues they are more than happy to be guided.
 
Only a few days ago, it was to Labour voters’ trust in Helen Clark that the TPPA’s promoters were appealing, in an obvious attempt to convince them that Andrew Little’s opposition to the agreement was mistaken. When, however, it became clear that Centre-Left voters put more faith in Jane Kelsey’s assessment of the TPPA than Helen Clark’s, its promoters immediately began mocking them. The very idea that ordinary people’s views might be taken seriously was treated as a joke.
 
Which brings us back to those construction workers’ fists breaking through the plastic.
 
In that arresting image of militant solidarity there is a symbolic message to which the neoliberal elite would be wise to pay heed. They have grown accustomed to dominating this country’s political discourse as effortlessly as they dominate its economy. They are not used to being contradicted by people they dismiss, contemptuously, as “losers”.
 
But as Bob Dylan reminds us: the losers of today may be tomorrow’s winners – when the times they are a-changing.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 9 February 2016.

30 comments:

peter petterson said...

Indeed, times are a changing and the elite would be advised not to ignore it.

Anonymous said...

A inspiring article but its lacks one fact and that is protesters do not enjoy political support for their cause which is that New Zealand should not be in the TPPA
Only this morning James Shaw on national radio refused to say that the Greens would walk away from TPPA if they became part of a coalition government.
This is the same position as Labour.
Both parties are supposedly against TPPA but both parties will keep the TPPA if they become government.
The TPPA protest movement is up a creek without a paddle unless they can convince both Labour and the Greens to vow they will withdraw from the TPPA once they have government benches.
Unless the anti TPPA movement can win that battle with the Labour and Green parties then they will lose the war.

Anonymous said...

What annoys me Chris is the fact that our 'elite' leaders who are supposed to represent the citizens are so dismissive of such a majority view. This goes back years though, way back to Rogernomics. So true that ordinary people are viewed as 'losers'. Yes, our so called leaders treat the average Kiwi with the utmost contempt. I sometimes think they go to each others homes, fire up the barbies and laugh at us all over their chardonnay filled flutes!! God treats all men the same, our leaders do not!!

Tiger Mountain said...

“Even the losers get lucky some times…”
–Tom Petty

“One brotherhood, Aotearoa…”
–Herbs (lyrics Phil Toms), 1981, Whats Be Happen EP

oppression, exploitation and marginalisation does not guarantee resistance or fightback, such states can plateau for a long time under the influence of embedded neo liberal orthodoxy, a bent media and structural unemployment and poverty

but with the splendid Feb demonstrations a new generation has felt the power of united action; as has been noted a lot of organisation was required, the tactics will have to be revised along the way as the Police catch up, they were rather restrained on the 4th apart from several intersections where helmeted cops laid into AAAP protesters that just happened to contain some old adversaries from the “burn Shipley burn” days

but all in all the Real Choice group deserved the apology they got from Chris and others who viewed the changing of the guard with trepidation

Māori/Pākehā/Tauiwi unity is indeed the holy grail when it comes to going on the front foot against the corporates and the Torys

Andrew Nichols said...

When a critical mass of pakeha NZ finally understands the impact of land and resource loss to foreigners on Maori (the same inane arguments _ They cant take it with them) then they will realise that agreements like the TPPA will do exactly the same to them.

Anonymous said...

Tiger Mountain 12.37,
"Maori/Pakeha/Tauiwi "unity is indeed the holy grail when it comes to going on the front foot against the corporates and the Torys".

Tiger you have omitted to add 'against' "Labour and Green parties" of NZ.

You and other good folk are being asked to accept "we are against TPPA but will not withdraw".

It is a sham, cowardly and shameful of the Labour and Green political parties of New Zealand to pretend and play political charades.

John said...

Jane Kelsey's predictions on the China FTA were wrong.

(she said it couldn't possibly increase exports by the predicted $300m per year - so far it has increased them by $8000m per year)

Jane Kelesy's predictions on the tobacco companies suing under the TPP were wrong.

Jane Kelesy's predictions on the TPP destroying pharmac were wrong.

Her disciples seem to have the ability to parrot vague fearmongering mantras, but lack the ability to articulate how the TPP will actually negatively effect them.

Sooner or later many of even the most ignorant protestors will realise the TPP did not bring the doomsday they thought it would.

Exactly like they did when 40% of New Zealanders were against the China FTA, but came to realise it wasn't the doomsday Kane Kelsey promised it would be.



Hi Vis. said...

I admire your writing Chris , your unreserved apology to Real Choice with whom I held some concerns., and feel your sixth sense which I feel I also own. On the earthmoving site where I wear my hardhat badged with " Our Flag " where Hi Vis. vests are necessary for the safety of all amongst these " large lizards , machines sculpting the earth " and where I listen to my workmates talk amongst themselves at smoko of their families, their work which they take immense pride in,mand work with great skill and their futures and yes , the TPPA. Hi Vis. Is a uniform like DPM and Army sweat rag which I wore and served with quiet dignity, and it is just with those " bros Pakeha and Maori and Pacific Island who punched thought the " petticoats" on site. You see for every man with a Hi Vis. helmet on his head at the March of February 14th, allow me to call it the " Fourth of February " there were dozens who could not march because they had families to feed, to clothe and to educate , to raise to a " dream of a higher station in life ", and all on $20 an hour if they are lucky.
When I grasped the left hand of my friend with my right hand I had a lump in my throat. Further down the street after I embraced my son at the protest we both smiled. When I walked away after seeing the " bros " up high , listened to the Haka not just from the TOA but the people and when I had time to reflect I wept. As I write this I know that my friend in the street who offered his hand to me at that significant and empowering day knew something I knew. As I write this I have tears from my eyes. But they are tears of pride ,commitment and passion for a change.

" Now this is not the end.It is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
CHURCHILL

Jigsaw said...

Being in the demonstration obviously gave you a strange idea about the mood of the nation - one I suspect that you will not find continued - but we shall see.
Calling Martyn Bradbury the top left wing commentator - now there's a scary thought!

greywarbler said...

John if you want to be taken seriously you will give a link to the telling statistic that you are hanging your argument on. I think Jane Kelsey has more credence than you have so you have to work harder to persuade me of your correctness.

We on the left are interested in finding common ground on the premises that - "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Benjamin Franklin from BrainyQuote.

So neither you or all the sneering Anonymi who haven't the commitment to the charisma of an identity, facts, truth and thorough discussion will succeed in undermining the left with your spurious wisdom.

John said...

greywarbler - it's all widely published and publicly avalailable, and pretty common knowledge for anybody who has followed the China FTA. Just go to MFAT and see their facts page on the China FTA -
https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements-in-force/china-fta/

Through the boom time of the mid 2000s, it took a decade for our exports to China to increase by $1b. Since the signing (and during the global financial crisis) they've increased by $8b - that's 80 years worth of growth at the old rate.

When it was signed, the tariffs reduced by $118m, which would lead to an estimated $300m increase in exports. Kelsey scoffed at this. As mentioned, the actual increase is now $8000m per year.

But then pretty much every prediction she makes on trade deals has proven (by history) to be more wrong than anyone else.

The TPPA isn't even a left /right argument - it's a forwards / backwards argument.

That's why every Labour leader for the last 20 years (except Andrew Little) can see it's hugely positive for New Zealand. Not even the Greens will repeal it if they get in next election.

And that's why it should be remembered that the China FTA, complete with secret negotiations and investor disputes settlements (the things Andrew Little is now hypocritically complaining about), has been a massively successful trade deal that has benefited New Zealand 2600% greater than predictions.

Labour should be proud of it.

But Little has the conundrum of trying to look like an opposition while every ex leader in the party (and there's quite a few of them) can see the TPP is great for NZ.

bob said...

That must be why national is polling really low numbers, and labour and the greens are riding high.

Alternatively, Chris living is a dream world.

Anonymous said...

greywarbler 20.31 9 Feb,

You are one of the 'sneering Anonymi'. No one knows who you are!

Wayne Mapp, Brendon Harre, Andrew Nichols, peter petterson, Yes.

pat said...

@ bob 08.29

am beginning to wonder if its not the polls that are detached from reality..

greywarbler said...

John
Interesting figures you provide, and thank you for your link. I'll study your link when I get some obligations to a flailing business attended to. I'll also keep in mind that understanding how the figures have been gathered, and whether they take in all the salient factors, may require close scrutiny. I think Jane Kelsey is likely to be good at that, seeing what lies behind the figures. Are they net of costs and losses, and do the returns from the exports actually provide any revenue that stays in the country on the credit side, rather than as a debit to be returned to overseas investors.

But what are the outcomes of all this trade for the people of NZ? Why are we sinking down in the OECD stats after all these wonderful years of It seems that this trade is ultimately toxic to local business. To make those wonderful exports to the large countries of the world, (great, we are The Little Country that Could), we have opened up our country to their imports. The macro figures show it as good. But here at the grassroots, the country is shutting down, wages and salaries are capped. All except for those at the top, who get into a class that has earnings in the lower stratophere. The ordinary person is undergoing a situation where there is a race to the bottom for the lowest wage, or no wage.

All this has been known for years and that knowledge is bypassed by those in power as just externalities to the fine working system they enjoy.

To make a change in that trend line, and introduce a chaos theory variation, I am looking to popular culture for examples to illustrate the situation. So I recommend Monty Python's The Four Yorkshiremen, where they relate fictitious stories of how they have risen through hard times, to their present affability and comfort. We know its a load of bollocks, and so similar to the tripe we hear from leaders, financial leaders, business leaders etc. Revelling in comfort and totally self-involved they continue the preent destructive draconian mercantile and financial system.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

John said...

greywarbler - you don't have to dig into much detail to see how wildly successful the China FTA has been for NZ. (and if Jane Kelsey is good at that, why does history show her predictions are continually and absurdly wrong)

Before the FTA we imported $5.8b of goods from China, but exported just $2.1b - a balance of payments deficit of nearly $4 billion.

Since the China FTA, that is totally reversed and we now export around $750 million more than we import from China.

According to unions, each $1m of exports creates 9.2 jobs in the economy. If the unions are correct, then $8000m of extra exports to China means 73,000 New Zealanders have jobs they otherwise wouldn't have.

Your claim that grassroots wages are shutting down is simply not true. In the last 15 years the minimum wage has gone up close to 100% ($7.55 to $14.75 with another rise coming soon).

Compare the 100% rise in minimum wage with inflation over the same period - just 42%.

greywarbler said...

You are ignorant Anonymous. I have a recognisable identity - you do not.
I have to identify you with a time, otherwise you are just part of the drifters who pop in and out and leave little trace. So you are 8.52, and I hope the rest of your day produces a more valuable contribution to society.

Names can be pseudonyms too you ought to realise. Pseudonyms have a long history and allow for a wide input from society. I choose to have a pseudonym so I don't have personal attacks from obssessive, negative people if I think differently and more widely than their deeply held truths. Though these may be actually litanies of lies, any consideration of them is too disturbing and must never happen.

greywarbler said...

Hi John
Simple contrasts - wages up faster than (measured) inflation. Each of those is an overall figure. They are bare, lack detail, and are quantitative not qualitative. Unions have been asking for a living wage.
That's what unions think about present remuneration.

The low inflation isolates and holds house prices separately, what is the measured inflation in houses over the past 15 years? Also what was the ratio of median wage to median house price 15 years ago compared to 15 years before that? And then what is it now? What progression does the rise in median house prices show? What does the similar rise in median wage show? That sort of comparison needs to go alongside triumphant export figures. Measurement at grassroots level shows what advantage there has been to NZ from our exports. And the grass is short, there is a drought of tain and money too.

I want to see NZ labour force feel the improvements if there are any, in our economy. At present they are suffering zero hours, a brutal depression type imposition, they are fighting for government employed health and safety inspectors to keep standards up fairly across the nation's businesses. And for business not take action against workers who want to have an important and meaningful national holiday, Waitangi Day, but their bosses have set such tight schedules and output levels they can't make time for the real workers to live like people.

Wellbeing indices need to be in the mix, and people need get advantage in time free of worry, and money from the good news of higher exports, more revenue. Bare facts on an export league billboard don't give the full picture.

Bushbaptist said...

Re: TPPA;

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/09/how-corporations-killed-medicine/

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Seems to me that there are two misnomers in the retoric around the TPPA that shouldn't be being accepted. Firstly that it is a free trade deal. A free trade deal would be about removing rules that bar free trade, not creating 6000 pages of new ones. It's the exact opposite of a free trade deal . Secondly its discussed as if it was a deal between nations; as if the nations were bargaining between themselves and some might negotiate an advantage for themselves and some might not do so well . But it isn't agreement between nations at all , it's between the collective government of the group of nations and the multinationals that operate within them . And the essence of it seems to be the collective government handing over control of the economy the are responsible for on behalf of their populations to these corporations to exploit to the advantage of a small group of the very wealthy . Corporations in all countries ,but mostly in US will gain throughout ,and the public in all countries will loose.
A question not exactly tied to the TPPA I would like to put to Jane Kelsey or someone similarly versed in the relevant law is this .... If a US Dairy company buys a few dozen farms here, and sets up a factory or two, what if anything prevents that company from pooling their product from here with their domestic product in the U S , paying no tariff on it as it enters the US , and claiming the 300% subsidy available to them as if it were produced there?
Cheers David

Nick J said...

For as long as petrol stays cheap enough for people movers to range the carparks of Pac'n Save and the Warehouse to buy low priced goods from China then all will be fine for John. The straws to watch for are salaried class panic as house prices tumble and foreclosures send the chill wind of Chinese economic strife and Wall Streets current stock crashes into the homes of Keys core support.

jh said...

The left are responsible for the second colonisation of Aotearoa.
I heard a discussion on why Maori are "less warm" about Asian immigration. The Maori academic didn't seem to know what would be behind such a good thing saying "more study is needed".

Charles E said...

I doubt your dream of a coalition between the left and ordinary Maori workers will work any better than the protests last Thursday which clearly were another fail for the left in it's attempt to find cohesion.
The majority of NZers would have seen the government's hosting of the TPPA signing and Key's decision to avoid Waitangi as a positive. WE, the majority, do not appreciate our democracy being influence by a tiny proportion of the citizens blocking streets and shouting at us. And worse, joining Maori idiots abusing our elected leader who conducted himself with grace and tolerance.

Waitangi is over permanently now I reckon and it has been another big mistake of the left to attach itself to Maori opposition to the TPPA when we all are aware that Maori and the Treaty are the only native peoples and native Treaty mentioned in the TPPA, despite almost every signatory having a far worse record on indigenous rights than NZ.
Then there is every one of the last democratically elected governments for about nine elections and their PMs in favour of it and you have to wonder at Kelsey and her team, of fans, of which you are one. What are they hoping to achieve, if it isn't another term for Key and his?
A shame really because we do need a sensible, coherent and broadly electable opposition. It isn't there in the TPPA/Maori separatist field guys.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Really interesting how when Helen Clarke misses a Waitangi Day, she should toughen up and just go. But when John Key misses one it's with grace and tolerance. :) In fact Key himself had the nerve to criticise her for not going. Typical.

A O said...

@Charles

WE, the majority do not give a flying fig about democracy because if we all did, then this undemocratic deal would never have gotten off the ground in the first place.

And yippee, Maori get a mention in the TPPA. And what do Maori get that non-Maori don’t get for this special privilege. Answer – nothing. This is just a big fat red herring, but Maori are somehow supposed to feel grateful anyway.

And the Left didn’t attach itself to Maori to oppose the TPPA. These groups, which in many instances are one and the same, came together along with others to oppose this deal. As for democratically elected governments, being able to elect someone every few years does not guarantee that true democracy (i.e. ruling for the majority over the minority) will transpire.

And Jane Kelsey is just one of many highly qualified critics (Robert Reich, Chris Hedges, Ralph Nadar and Lori Wallach just to name a few others) of this deal. And what do they all want, well, simple – true democracy.

Charles E said...

GS: I was no fan of HC but she deserved respect for her leadership which was very good on the Waitangi thing and seabed issue with Maori. Key was in opposition then & had little idea of what the PM position is actually like and it's responsibility to the whole nation. He has learned.
AO: "..undemocratic deal.." Really? How so? All except a few countries in it are sound democracies & in our case several prior elected governments supported entering it. That is democracy in action. Following loud & sometimes violent protests or a few academics would not be democratic. You are confusing democracy with freedom. We have both here.
Guess you only support some freedoms though. Not free enterprise or free trade.
And true democracy is not about majority rule, it's about majority vote translated into the elected forming a government which then rules for a term and goes back to the people. You want government by referendum? I reckon that would bring us capital punishment and the abolition of the ToW, Maori representation and half the welfare sate. You want that?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

John Key wasn't the only one on the right who criticised her for not going. Still I guess it just shows how cynical the right are when it comes to politics. But if it is such a pain in the arse Charles why do they go? I presume they all feel as you do? In which case you'd think that they wouldn't bother crawling over broken glass to get to Waitangi. Yet here they are every year unless there is some hitch. They don't care about Maori, it's just a photo op to them. I would in fact respect the more if they didn't go. But not for the same reason as you. :)

A O said...


@Charles:

So, where’s the democracy in granting business interests’ unfettered access to the TPPA while heavily restricting access to all politicians outside of those negotiating this deal. Same goes for the much talked about secrecy surrounding this deal, why does this apply to most people bar certain big business interests. Clearly, if this deal really was a true expression of democracy then access to it would be government heavy and big business light. The fact that it isn’t just highlights not only the undemocratic nature of this deal but for whom this deal actually is for.

True democracy is the ability to have a say in the decision making process. That’s the nuts and bolts of it. Simply possessing the ability to vote someone in does not ensure that democratic decisions will be made. This is where we’re at with the TPPA.

What do I want? I want our elected representatives to act for the many rather than for the few, more often than not. There’s plenty of room there for enterprise and trade. It won’t be free though and the simple reason for that is that all these things are human constructs and all humans have failings. Therefore, certain rules of conduct need to be adopted for the greater good of all.


Charles E said...

AO I accept your argument except that is not 'true democracy', as there is no such thing. It comes in different forms but my argument is that best functioning democracy is where the elected majority make serious decisions for the overall good of our nation, and that is exactly what has happened here. The unusual and very solid thing in this case is that many governments, many majorities, left & right have crafted this thing so that must be very democratic indeed.

GS: My point is that Waitangi just damages all (especially ordinary Maori who know they are bi-cultural, ie Maori & Pakeha both culturally and genetically) so the PM should not go there and thereby represent us properly as Maori do not represent this country and should be told very clearly that they can act in their own interest but not in the interest of the other 90% of us. We are a bi-cultural nation yet only Maori are truly bi-cultural, so far. I doubt that will change and it certainly will not as long as their activists insult our elected leaders and keep trying to maintain a status based on a minority of their ancestors. That is not a sustainable position in a democratic pluralist society.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny Charles, you're not at all happy with Maori trying to influence democracy – yet you seem perfectly amenable to the system we have at the moment, where a large corporate political donor can in his own words "ring up the minister's office and expect instant access." This is not the elected majority making serious decisions for the overall good of our nation. Which is in itself a misstatement. The right-wing elected majority always makes decisions for the good of its constituents, which these days tend to be crony capitalists. Of course, they would never admit this and tie it up in two-faced doublespeak.