Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Unconvincing: Labour Appeals To Its South Auckland Base.

"We can't do it on our own." Andrew Little appeals to the voters of South Auckland to, once again, push Labour over the line to victory.
 
SOUTH AUCKLAND is another country. The country New Zealand could have been, had colonisation unfolded differently. The country New Zealand may yet become, if current immigration policies are abandoned.
 
South Auckland is a Pacific country: where the faces are brown; the neighbourhoods are poor; and the churches – of which there are a great many – are full of worshippers.
 
South Auckland is also Labour country – and that is not something one can say about many other places in New Zealand. In 2005 it was the voters of South Auckland that saved Helen Clark’s Labour-led Government and sent her back for a third term as their Prime Minister.
 
If Labour is saved again: if it avoids a fourth consecutive defeat at the hands of the National Party; then it will be the people of South Auckland that Andrew Little and his party have to thank.
 
No surprises, then, that the place Labour chose to launch its Community Action Network (CAN) was in the spacious hall of the Otara Mormon Church.
 
A sprawling state-house suburb, Otara bends itself around the Tamaki River and Otara Creek. It has the dull topography of a former swamp: low-lying, flat and featureless. Trees are few and far-between, but power pylons bestride the land like H.G. Well’s Martian fighting machines. The streets are full of bright-eyed kids riding bicycles. White faces are rare.
 
The Otara Mormon Church is itself a sprawling complex set in the middle of an even larger car park. It’s sheer size confirms the central role of religious observance in the communities of South Auckland. As the venue for Saturday afternoon’s launch, however, it also drew into sharp focus the huge cultural gulf separating Labour’s parliamentary leadership from its most loyal South Auckland supporters.
 
To be sure, the Labour MPs from that part of the world: Jenny Salesa (Manukau East) Su’a William Sio (Mangere) Louisa Wall (Manurewa) and Peeni Henare (Tamaki Makaurau) all offer a comfortable ethnic fit with the communities they represent – and all of them were present in the hall, but none of these politicians are members of Labour Leader Andrew Little’s inner circle of confidants and advisers. That group remains an overwhelmingly Palangi affair.
 
CAN itself is something of a paradox. It’s prime organiser, Keiran O’Halloran, is an import from Ireland via the British Labour Party.  Now, someone who grew up under the government of Tony Blair, and has the accent to prove it, might not strike every observer as the ideal pick to organise the South Auckland Vote. Yet, there he was on Saturday, belting out slogans which may have resonated in the London boroughs, but which left this “Southside” audience visibly underwhelmed.
 
As an organisation dedicated to recruiting and training hundreds of local volunteers to get out Labour’s South Auckland’s Party Vote, CAN boasts a rather confusing name. A cynic might say that CAN’s gloriously non-partisan moniker testifies to the dwindling potency of the party’s brand. “Volunteers For Labour” would have been a more accurate description of the project: but if that was its name – would they have come?
 
In introducing Andrew Little, his new deputy, Jacinda Ardern, talked about Labour being “the people’s party”. Its National opponents may have a lot of money, she told the 300-strong audience, but we have people. Engaging those people in a genuine conversation was critical, she argued: “ordinary people talking to ordinary people”.
 
Little, himself, reiterated Ardern’s sentiments: telling his listeners that: “We win with the love and conviction and passion of ordinary New Zealanders”, admitting, almost plaintively, “we can’t do it on our own”. Exactly why Labour merited Southside’s help remained frustratingly frothy. The audience’s response, as befitted its overwhelmingly Pacific composition, was warm and polite. It was not, however, the sort of speech that inspires young volunteers to form queues at the recruitment trestles. (As they did for Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders in 2016.)
 
Had Donald Trump been in attendance he would undoubtedly have described Little’s performance as “Low Energy”. Given the week Labour had just been through, its leader’s lack of fire was, perhaps, understandable. It was not, however, forgivable. Not in front of that audience.
 
Because the stand-out moments of Saturday’s launch came not from Labour’s politicians and apparatchiks, but from the South Auckland people themselves. Such energy as was on display all flowed from them. From the child soloists, the traditional dancers, the little Mormon choir and, most especially, from the Pacific audience, when it lifted up its collective voice in song.
 
That richness of sound; those effortless harmonies; spoke of faith, passion and conviction beyond the reach of Labour’s current repertoire. It spoke of communities forged out of enduring values widely shared - values which Labour was challenged to embrace not only tactically, but emotionally. It commanded them to stop talking – and start listening.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 9 May 2017.

23 comments:

Slugger said...

Years ago John Key took a walk thru Otara market. Helen Clark said he would be out of his depth down there and she was probably right.

Equally you could say the same about Little: a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out who probably has had very little contact with the PI communities across his professional life.

Still, the strategy is plain: win Auckland and you've won the country.

peter petterson said...

He was a union leader and would have undoubtably had Pasifika support, if not their communities as such.

Victor said...

Chris

What can Little or any Palangi politico do in such circumstances?

I've worked with quite a few Pasifika people, I've been privileged to be welcomed
into their homes and (more than) enjoyed their food and the company of their families. And, of course, I stick out like a sore toe in these situations and not just because of my pale pigmentation but because I'm sort of stilted, over-nuanced, prissy and cold in comparison with my hosts.

Conversely, (as a non Anglo-Saxon immigrant) I can feel excessively exuberant, a bit too abrasive and insufficiently focused on sport when visiting the (equally nice) families of some of my mainstream Kiwi pals.

So how do you think quiet, mild, upper middle class, Clem Attlee felt when visiting Nye Bevan's constituency in South Wales, with its sonorous male voice choirs and emotive chapel services. And how do you think Michael Joseph Savage felt on a Marae?

My experience is that Pasifika people take cultural differences on board and understand that we're not all the same with respect to such matters. And you can bet your sweet life that the younger members of the family all understand the Palangi rather better than the Palangi understands them. That tends to be the way with disadvantaged minority communities.

I don't know whether Little is the leader that Labour needs to take it to victory and then lead an effective government. At present, I have my doubts. But, if he and his team can project competence and a credible and persuasive grasp on what to do about the issues, then my guess is that they will succeed, irrespective of an inevitable tendency to cultural stiltedness.

BlisteringAttack said...

Compared to Trudeau and to a lesser extent Macron, Little is barely moving.

It comes down to the uneducated halfwits that surround and 'advise' him.

Always has.

Lets's hope the 'Southside' debacle doesn't end up with something similar to the moron that said to Hilary Clinton: 'Don't worry about the Rust Belt; we've got it in the bag'.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The days when Labour leaders actually had any direct relationship with the people they allegedly serve seem to be long gone. Weren't we just saying the other day that Kirk and Savage actually did manual labour of some sort? It's sort of sad that Gerry Brownlee probably has more experience of manual labour than Andrew Little. Although admittedly it was working for his family business. I mean Little seems to have worked for 2 years in a manual capacity. I've done as much as that, though I was the first in my family to not take it up permanently due to being able to get a relatively free education. So Little has only an academic knowledge really of what ordinary people's lives are like. That's the case with most politicians these days. I expect that of National Party politicians, because essentially they don't care about the "little" people – you know the ones who pay taxes :). Still, the man has probably worked in that area for longer than most of his cabinet or member colleagues. So that's something.

Polly said...

A perceptive piece.
Say what you like, but Little and Labour do no seem to have the ability to be the Prime Minister and Government of our country.
They are in a shambles about charter schools, immigration, housing, Maori prisons, job creation or a forward NZ.
Trevor Mallard is sticking the knife into his own party because of his position on Labours list, so much for party unity.
Little is not clear and precise in his answers to MSM questions, it shows and it hurts.
Jacinda Ardern is massively over-rated and continues to smile and say nothing of real importance. She is adept at coffee shop meetings in Ponsonby. South Auckland is another country.
Sixes and sevens coupled with bollocks come to mind.
its a fuck up in a brewery and a piss up in a brothel.
David Cunliffe and a different NZ, was shafted and belittled by these pretenders.
The pox on them.

Jack Scrivano said...

Churches worry me. I can understand how, in pre-science times, they provided an ‘explanation’ for thunder and lightning and solar eclipses. But come on ... those days are at least half a millennium behind us. In our age, membership of a church should automatically disqualify you from having a say in anything important – like how the country is governed.

Anonymous said...

What a bigot you are, Jack S. So church membership should make you some sort of outcast. Science has never proved there is not a God, by the way. Also, many Kiwis are still members of churches, but you'd take their vote away. Thank goodness you are not in charge!

greywarbler said...

Scrivano and Guerilla Surgeon
GS - National Party politicians, because essentially they don't care about the "little" people – you know the ones who pay taxes :). "

But democracy in the Enlightened Age was meant to recognise that EVERYBODY is a distinct, worthwhile being to be acknowledged, considered, respected and included for the 99% who had not committed crimes against humanity. Paying taxes is the demand of economic man, claiming the right to put up a systems barrier against the primary right of people to be included - our slogan must be 'Humanity Rules OK!'

J Scrivano
Besides religious establishments providing early theories on the environment, thunder, lightning, and defining everything that people might want to know they are more.

Churches are man-made institutions that give a group a common purpose, meaning in life which appeals to people who seek to gather together with like minded people, follow a known path with precepts that all can agree with beyond the law of the land, and looking for individual behaviour guidelines and rules followed by all in that group.

Like all man-made entities churches are prone to their leaders adopting practices with advancement and competition factors, both with themselves in mind and for the entity they serve. But they are a group that encourages thoughts of behaviour control, others welfare etc. and cannot be dismissed because they show faulty or embedded behaviour that is not of an enlightened age, or a rational character. They often provide the theatre in which problems and behaviours are tested like a Court of the Mind rather than that of state law.

A bit from the web on the Age of Enlightment and the Enlightened Age which are different things apparently, when studied.
http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992009000100001
and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment
and
European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” (1685-1815) as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment.

Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, in France and throughout Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change. The Enlightenment produced numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions. The American and French Revolutions were directly inspired by Enlightenment ideals and respectively marked the peak of its influence and the beginning of its decline. The Enlightenment ultimately gave way to 19th-century Romanticism.

In his essay "What Is Enlightenment?" (1784), the German philosopher Immanuel Kant summed up the era's motto in the following terms: "Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!"

http://www.history.com/topics/enlightenment (includes presentation)
and
A list of people who were trying centuries ago to bring to the fore ideas we are still working with now! How far have we got, and are we falling back into the pit?
http://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/enlightenment/terms.html

David Stone said...

Jack Scrivano

Religon serves many different functions for different people. I think in the Polynesian community it's pretty positive.
Good people embrace the best it offers and it enhances their outlook. Bad people embrace the salving of conscience it offers , their misdeeds are forgiven so long as they truly believe. Crafty people use it to control populations.
It is profoundly impressive that doctrine developed thousands of years ago with the scientific knowledge available back then, can still hold the thrall that it does now. It says something important about humanity. How about that Mike Pence is a dedicated creationist . What hope is there for peace in the world.
All the same it's a positive community strengthening force in the context that Chris is describing , but his narrative is powerfully emotive .
Cheers David J S

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
What a bigot you are, Jack S. So church membership should make you some sort of outcast. Science has never proved there is not a God.

That is a ridiculous thing to say.
Any one with half a brain can work out that all these so called Gods are a man made fiction.
It is not sciences roll to prove that he/she or what ever they are do exist.
Religious beliefs are for those afraid of the dark..

Jack Scrivano said...

@ Anonymous, 10 May 2017 at 23:49

I am not the only person ever to have held this view.

‘A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.’ – Albert Einstein

Also, in the matter of bigotry, I think that the accepted definition suggests that the 'bigot' has to dislike the person with the other belief. I have several close friends - several of them of Maori or Pacifica heritage - who hold religious beliefs. I do not dislike them. I am very fond of them. But I don't want their 'infallible man in the sky' thinking guiding their choice of elected politicians - even if they are Labour candidates. I want my friends to think for themselves. And I want them to vote for themselves.

BlisteringAttack said...

'I want my friends to think for themselves. And I want them to vote for themselves.'

Quite right Jack.

Charles E said...

Jack S has my vote.
I think there is a parallel with most of the Arab world, in that the Island world suffers from backward oppressive cultures. That is why it is poor. Fine people but poor culture is a tragedy.
And so we should therefore encourage those that come here to adapt fully to Western culture or modernise their imported sub-culture. They have no right to install their culture in our country anyway. Yet why would they when they come here for a better life? Why bring your failed baggage with you? I guess not all do so studies of those that break away should inform us no doubt.
Church or Mosque may well be a healthy focus for their communities but also often parasitic as it demands tithes from those who would do better to save that money to get out of poverty and educate their children in say, science, and Western history..

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"They have no right to install their culture in our country anyway."

And yet Westerners have imposed their culture on every country they have colonised. Wonder what the original inhabitants thought of that. If only Europeans have been greeted at the borders of various countries by Native Americans or Maori with forms they had to sign saying that they had the intention of being fully compatible with the culture of the country they were migrating to. Might have saved a lot of trouble in the long run.

Charles E said...

Well then GS if it was wrong then, it is extra wrong now because we sure know that now do we not?
Now GS, what you need to answer is why Maori or Native Americans or Chinese for that matter did not sail up the Thames 500 years ago and declare England theirs, AND be largely welcomed, even signed up to with a treaty?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The problem is Charles, that people like you don't admit or even acknowledge that it was wrong then. Otherwise we'd all be speaking Maori right? And EVERY immigrant group has imported their culture.They had no option but to install their culture. And they have established it, and rejected it, and re-embraced it with various succeeding generations. That's why there are Irish parades in New York City. That's why there are Dragon boat races almost everywhere. And immigrant groups with a strong culture do better. Simple. What you're trying to disguise is the fact that you don't like some cultures, those that you think are "unsuitable" for our society. Blah!

greywarbler said...

A sagacious question Charles E!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I should also perhaps of mentioned that my statement said "imposed" not "installed". I don't think without a great stretch of the imagination, anyone is actually imposing their culture on you. Except perhaps for Maori, and you presumably impose your culture on them as well. And that's all perfectly legal. :)

Charles E said...

GS I don't think it was wrong then, but I think it is wrong now.
Or put more precisely, I think that back then, if I had lived then I would not have thought it wrong. I imagine I would have thought my utterly superior culture, particularly it's religion, its rule of law and it's science was a gift to these poor primitive stone age people, cruelly cut off from the wonderful world of human progress. Further, I would have thought they were so lucky it was we wonderful British taking over and not those bloody awful French, Germans, Portuguese or Spaniards!
And pretty much, I would have been right about the latter, I would argue. Not the former though.
But today I do not think what anyone imagines they would have thought was right or wrong 175 years ago is particularly relevant.

What I think now, aware of the past but not guilty of it, is that liberal, secular, human rights based Western cultures should not let people who do not share their values set up their own failed or failing cultures in large groups within our very tolerance societies. Otherwise they will become less tolerant, less compassionate, even nasty.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Charles. Most of the people who come here from your "failed" cultures are fleeing to a liberal and more tolerant society. Most of them are extremely grateful to have one. And I don't think there are any large groups setting up failed cultures in opposition to this in New Zealand. Perhaps you could provide some evidence of them? Like the Muslim no-go area of Birmingham.

Charles E said...

GS I agree. I was talking about the UK, France, Italy, Austria, Germany etc. Perhaps NZ if a future government decided to open the gates to 50k Muslim refugees as some want us too.
Here we do have areas where immigrant Polynesian cultures are dominant but so long as their children become more Kiwi than e.g. Samoan our bi-cultural nation will not have imported trouble. NZ is doing well in this regard and I have no complaint about even current immigration highs, yet.. Aussie has some issues.... many others too. Basically I am saying I do not support multiculturalism, at all.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Just a thought Charles, their cultures may be "failing" in your view – but migrants commit crimes at a much lower rate than natives. So maybe their culture is better than ours.:)