Tuesday 2 January 2018

Carrying The Torch.

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. 

–  John F. Kennedy

NOTHING IN PRESIDENT KENNEDY’S inaugural address resonated in the hearts of young Americans, and the youth of the world, like the words quoted above. Asking what you can do for your country is all very well, but unless what you’re proposing elicits a sympathetic response from the seat of power; some sign that your motives are understood and your values shared, then your question will be lost on the air. It is from this rejuvenated sense of connection that generational shifts in politics acquire their transformational power.

The big question for 2018, therefore, is: what are the motives and values connecting New Zealand’s 37-year-old prime minister with the generations born after the post-war Baby Boom?

Kennedy was, of course, a member of what some have called “The Greatest Generation”. Raised under the pall of economic depression, and then thrown into the most destructive human conflict of human history, they were nevertheless determined to create the fairest and most prosperous societies the world had ever seen – and in that regard, they’d been spectacularly successful.

The full measure of that success is captured in Kennedy’s proud boast that, thanks to humanity’s technological prowess, “man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”

The Ancient Greeks would have called this hubris – and they would have been right.

But what of the generation for whom Jacinda now speaks? Untempered by war; undisciplined by the existential stakes attached to global ideological competition; unimpressed with their nation’s colonial heritage; and uncommitted to the universal definition of human rights for which Kennedy pledged his country’s all on that chilly January morning in 1961: for what will the Millennial Generation “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe”?

Well, for a start, they would probably refuse to be bound by such an open-ended and reckless pledge. “Any Price?”, they would respond. “No, not any price. The world has had enough of men who commit the lives of millions to the fulfilment of promises they had no right to make.”

For a great many millennial women, JFK, himself, is a problem. “If #Me Too had been around in 1963,” they ask, “how many women would have come forward to denounce the President?”

No, Jacinda’s millennials are not well disposed to big promises, all-encompassing systems and unyielding ideologies. They have grown up amidst the havoc wrought by a generation far too prone to alternating fits of selfless idealism with bouts of hedonistic excess. That all their Baby Boomer parents’ enthusiasms boiled down to, in the end, was the cold and selfish cynicism of neoliberalism, taught them all they need to know about the malleability of human aspirations. The Labour Leader’s brisk “Let’s Do This” slogan was perfectly pitched to an audience more intent on achieving small dreams than grand visions.

The two great exceptions to this rule are Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. On the face of it, their ability to draw tens-of-thousands of young people into their campaigns seems counter-intuitive. What could these two, ageing, Baby-Boomer males possibly have to say to the Millennial Voter? They had, after all, spent most of their adult lives achieving sweet-bugger-all: two old leaves swirling aimlessly in the stagnant backwaters of left-wing politics.

But that was the whole point. Unlike so many of their contemporaries, Sanders and Corbyn simply refused to surrender the hopes and dreams of their youth. While all around them lay the jettisoned ideals of former comrades, they had kept on singing the hallelujah song.

Sanders and Corbyn were the proof that growing old did not have to mean growing cynical and cruel. The Millennials looked at the career politicians of their own generation and saw far too much evidence of wholesale generational surrender. How had so many twenty-something minds been taken over by so many hundred-year-old ideas? Sanders’ and Corbyn’s bodies may have been old, but their thinking was as young as the kids who cheered them on.

This, then, is the torch which the Prime Minister is being asked to carry into 2018. The inspirational torch of authenticity which dispels the darkness of hypocrisy. If she truly wishes to change their world, Jacinda must first prove to her generation that the world is not changing her.

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 2 January 2018.


Kat said...

"The inspirational torch of authenticity which dispels the darkness of hypocrisy"

Well said Chris. If I am regarded as a function of the Labour Party central computer you must surely be its code jockey.

greywarbler said...

I really like the points you make Chris. The baby boomers got in to hippyism and brought a more open sexual acceptance to the fore, it seemed like heaven for blokes. It brought women to the fore demanding that their abilities were acknowledged, and it did.

But the sisterhood and love another in the agape sense just did not take in that you can't make good things keep on happening in a practical way, unless you have thought to put good philosophical underpinnings into your culture. Complacency set in, individual consumerism set in, and I am convinced by those books on the term affluenza that it sets in whenever we get comfortable and let our self esteem get too high.

The story was that the hippies turned into stockbrokers in the USA, here they seemed to become afficianados of share market strippers, climb onto the information technology bandwagon that undermines our humanity and our jobs, and also look to real estate for the big money, except for a shower of dairy farmers, demanding much and returning little to the polity that we can embrace with pleasure. As in the Cabaret song on youtube, we are all painted puppets singing about Money, and finding amusement in laughing at our plight. There's a feeling of frantic pleasure seeking that echoes what I have read about the flappers era between WW1 and WW2.

There is involvement in constant doing and activity, but not much time for reflection and discussion with the television turned off and no music either punishing one's ears or the fine playing of highly evolved instruments where one is bound to pay full attention. Thought and
debate has its place in the corner for special occasions but gets drowned out by the entertaining, or our culture of physicality; presently mountain biking, marathons, record breaking of all sorts.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Here's the thing. Kennedy and just about every other other American president claimed to be the epitome of liberal principles, while at the same time supporting right-wing dictators, simply because they were "our right-wing dictators". The Americans have talked a big deal, but never really done much more than talk. In the main other Western governments followed their lead. So no wonder some people are cynical – and not just millennials. No wonder politicians are seen in the main as hypocritical. No wonder fewer and fewer people are voting. And no wonder people have lost faith or are losing faith in the democratic system. We really need a new generation of politicians – I sincerely hope Ardern is it, because young people need inspiration. And they're not going to get it from the tired old neoliberal bullshitters.

David Stone said...

A significant difference between Corbyn and Sanders is in their foreign policy. Sanders was not very outspoken about this but what he has said does not suggest much less belligerence would emanate out of the US under his leadership than has under Obama Bush or Trump, or would have under Clinton. A UK under a PM Corbyn would certainly look very different in this regard.
What is Jacinda's approach going to be? Looks OK re Israel so far.

Kat said...

What we really need is no more politicians! The very term politician is as tired as the neoliberal bullshitters you mention. No matter how true Jacinda Ardern flashes the light of inspirational authenticity it can only be a momentary flash of hope in a giant cloud of political darkness.

Look at what Bill English the leader of the opposition said back in November "Its not our job to make this place run".

To paraphrase Chris I am picking Jacinda Ardern's major achievement so far is the bringing of the torch to confront the darkness. It will be up to others to keep up the supply of batteries. Our PM needs all the help she can get.

Wayne Mapp said...

Three articles, all posted today,all calling for Jacinda to be a radical, on top of the numerous articles where you have already pleaded to to her to follow your advice. though to be fair this latest article sore tempered.

So far she has not taken the radical road, although there are many like yourself who wish she would.

But does she a) have such a mandate, and b) the inclination.

As for a), in my view she has no such mandate. It is not what she promised the electorate, in fact she made much of being fiscally prudent, limiting the size of government, and no new taxes. So if she did try and go down that path she would be immediate breach of her covenant with the electorate (or at least the majority of it). In any event, Winston would almost certainly block it. He did not choose her to be radical, although he clearly wanted more change than National was prepared to offer. He also has not spend 40 years in politics to restore an all powerful socialist union movement. More likely the opposite.

More significantly is b). Is Jacinda actually a radical? I think not, even though she clearly wants significant change, all of which was well signalled during the campaign. But she does not want to completely transform society, lets stay the left equivalent of Roger Douglas. It seems to me she would see that as very risky, and likely to result in a one term government.

In many ways she seems to espouse an updated form of "Third Wayism". Obviously twenty-first century version of it. More emphasis on the environment, which is in effect the global mission that all Third Wayers seem to have. For Blair it was humanitarian intervention (until that came unstuck in Iraq) and for Kennedy the words "pay any price" summed up defeating communism.

The latter two involved the muscular use of armed force, clearly not where Jacinda is at, and in any event it is something only big countries can lead on. A small country has to choose something more collaborative, and given our history, more peaceful.

A question, when would Jacinda commit troops, both where there is a UN mandate, or a self evident exercise of self defence under article 51, by say South Korea.

Polly said...

Chris, well said.
It is still a wait and see situation.
What Grant Robertson wants from their coalition deal with NZF and the Greens, and then what they want from that coalition is the key to knowing our future.
The secret coalition deal between these parties should not be secret.
I suspect that Ardern is willingly committed to this secrecy.
New Zealand's Labour/ coalition government is starting the New Year with a Blot against it's citizens.
That's Shameful.

Victor said...

I dislike the concept of "baby boomer", as it embraces far too broad a segment of age groups to have much meaning.

As someone born in 1946, I might find that I have a lot in common with someone born in, say,1962....but not because we're both part of the same imagined age-quartile.

I grew up in the shadow of the most terrible war in history but spent my childhood and teen years seeing my world grow rich and comfortable beyond previous comparison.

But my younger friend grew up knowing no other world yet was not quite a teenager when the affluence and opportunity of their earliest memories hit the wall of oil shortages, stagflation and disenchantment.

Moreover, like many of my highly specific age group, I keenly recall the promise of the early 60s and the sense of loss in the latter part of the decade, when the bombs fell by their millions on Indo-China, when perceived avatars of change such as Bobby Kennedy and MLK, were gunned down and when the tanks rolled into Prague.

Yet my younger friend is unlikely to have those precise memories unless he or she had been unusually precocious.

btw. I came across a US news clip recently of a young congressman, with a big jaw, toothy grin and obvious New England accent, eloquently giving Trump heaps over his anti-immigrant stance.

It turns out, this young man was Joseph P Kennedy III, Bobby's grandson. I don't think democracies should seek to have political dynasties. Even so, I was briefly overcome with intense nostalgia for better times. And I'm not even American.

Victor said...


Mistaken identity is one of the less fortunate consequences of commenting on this site.

I recall being accused of being a leftish trade union official from the South Island when I was, at that time, a centrist small-business owner in Auckland.

More to the point, he was accused of being me and was, hence, pilloried on-line for his obvious abandonment of left-wing orthodoxy.

I sensed a witch-hunt brewing and sent him a note clarifying matters. And all this, because his name was "Victor", albeit that he hadn't been "Victor" for as long as I had and had not, to the best of my knowledge, ever posted on Bowalley Road.

So, if I were you, I wouldn't be too fazed about being mistaken for an algorithm. They're very fashionable at present.

But, just for the record, are you "kat" as well as "Kat", or is "kat" someone different?

countryboy said...

Ugh !
I've pruned down my comment to 4068 and the robot tells me no!
Will only accept 4096. Someone. Give it a calulator.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor. Someone asked me a question the other day about whether I'd had a better life than my father. As a baby boomer I was going to say "of course". But then I thought about it. Between nineteen twenty-eight and roughly 1949 when I was born, I would have to say yes I had a better life than his. He lived through the depression, when his father was sacked basically for being too ill to work for a couple of weeks – he almost died. Then of course there was World War II, when dad froze his arse off escorting convoys to Russia and others across the Atlantic, then spent two years or so in the tropics and a ship designed for the North Atlantic with no air-conditioning, being kamikazied a couple of times, luckily without result. And then some years after the war in Britain where there was still rationing. But from nineteen fifty onwards it was pretty good, earning a decent wage which enabled him to bring up his family with my mother working only sporadically, having enough job security to buy a house, and in the last years of their lives travelling.
I had much the same life as the latter until nineteen eighty-four, when in general pay went down, employment became much less secure and unemployment rose. So for that period I would have to say no - and his grandson I worry about.

Countryboy. Maybe if you didn't use quite so much word salad.

David Stone said...

@ Wayne Mapp
I have sadly to agree the probability of all you say here Wayne. Including that it is unlikely that Winston is angling for a powerful social unionist movement.
A powerful union movement was needed esp in the UK pre WW1 and 2 . A fairer share was needed and better conditions. But when they got the legislative backing that power was, in critical vital industries, esp state run monopolies , abused. The unionists when in control were no more responsible to the country as a whole, or other workers in industries that lacked their clout, than industry tycoons were/are. So the public mood swung against them and Rogernomics got it's opportunity, and the balance has swung back the other way again. Not for all employees but for many especially on the fringes of employability.
Winston has seen it all evolve. My hope is that he can guide Jacinda through a transition that will not be in isolation from radical changes in the rest of the world we trade and identify with.
Let's hope it will be done in peace.

greywarbler said...

Well I have had on the face of it, a better life than my father. He had me, went to war for about 17 months and was killed at the age of 32. But before that he had a solo mum (grandad died early by virus) and she was able to keep the home, and bring up three children who had a good life and got jobs, travelled (Dad was a practical guy and early in the surf lifesavers and made his own surf board).

WW2 was very destructive of a lot in our lives and was followed by a brief period of consumerism and apparent stability which was ephemeral as shown the Vietnam war, the Cold War with nuclear threats, the Communist threat and other forgotten threats no doubt.

Some cultural changes, ability to take charge of our own lives to some extent have happened, gender considerations, abortion enabled to some extent, contraception available, but all is given on a temporary basis somehow, and to a diminishing number who remain part of the country that could be called Godzone. And the damning realisation that people can change from having ties to the community and working together to something else in one or two generations. We see that fair and healthy cultural understandings are hard to pass on, unlike genetic material. And that when one reaches the Nirvana of security, good living standards etc. one becomes prey to that individualistic, humanity-denying disease 'Affluenza' which seems to result in a constant feeling of being unsatisfactory and unsatisfied, and chasing after sensation.

Listening to Lloyd Scott (a well-remembered, treasured voice) reading Maurice Gee's 'The Half-Men of O' on RadioNZ I see much more in it than before. It's a young adult's story of a quest to regain a previous culture of people living simply and graciously in harmony with the other beings of nature surrounding them, finding peaceful ways of co-operation and respect. Can we defy Otis Claw and find and guard our lodestone for the future wellbeing of all?

David Stone said...

cut it in half Countryboy
It doesn't cost any more

Victor said...


I largely agree. My old man had plenty of tough times before about 1950 but it got easier for him after that and he was eventually able to retire in the comfort which I think he deserved.

As for me, I had a tough time in the 70s. But that was largely my own fault for too much lotus eating in the 60s.

After that, my fortunes tended to wax and wane with economic cycles. But I don't think I've ever enjoyed the same level of security that my dad had latterly.

I should add, though, that those of my UK contemporaries who didn't eat as many lotuses in the 60s seem to have done pretty well for themselves.

Be that as it may, today's twenty somethings have a much tougher road ahead of them.

Anonymous said...

The reason why an unwanted pat in the bum is now equated with or takes importance over the many grave human rights abuses being perpetrated around the planet, now, is that an unwanted pat on the bottom is one of the only deprivations or offenses middle class women in New Zealand and other lands of privilege can reasonably expect to experience. It is the worst thing that reliably happens to a middle class white woman and therefore it has taken the place of much worse, ignored crimes. That’s privilege, honey.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

FFS anonymous 00.50, it's often more than an unwanted pat on the bum. And working-class women if anything have it worse than middle-class women in this respect. Perhaps you should get out of your mother's basement and talk to some women before you start trivialising this shit. I'm assuming you're a man here, because I suspect the woman wouldn't make such an idiotic/demeaning remark. Women have had their careers threatened unless they had sex with someone. That's far from trivial and far from an unwanted pat on the bum for that matter. And you only have to look at pictures of female film stars versus male film stars to notice the difference. I wonder how much of your income you would be prepared to sacrifice to avoid "an unwanted pat on the bum", all standing in the various simpering poses women seem to have to adopt when being photographed in the film trade. I wonder what percentage of your income you'd be willing to sacrifice before you got the girls out. Pah! (You might think I've had something to do with the victims of this sort of thing – you'd be right.)

David Stone said...

That was rough everyone deserves a dad (though some get dads they would be better off without) I was very lucky . when mine went to sign up they told him he was more use carrying on producing food for the troops rather than joining them. So he was always there. Looking back he was always an educated person with a wide knowledge of literature though he left schooling England at barely 14. Came here to work in the back blocks at 16 and spent his whole life outside. They must have known how to run an education system back there and then.
Cheers D J S

David Stone said...

To GS question an quality of life generationally; as above my Pa dodged direct involvement in WW2 . Shot of what happened to Greywarbler's dad that must have made a huge difference to the overall life experience. having said that, P's life was at first a struggle and involved long hours of hard work and no play, But it was a healthy environment, he ate good home grown food had a lovely wife and kids he loved and was in a land of opportunity.. I'm sure we are of the most privileged generation of the most privileged nation there has ever been, but there was nothing to complain about for Pa. He had a good life.
Cheers D J S

greywarbler said...

Anonymouse 4/1
That's male and class privilege showing up I think. And men and women are intent on their own privileged culture which we are told uses in a few countries the majority of resources and advantage, with the rest stretching to get a little. So milk and honey for all of us, and huge deprivation and offenses elsewhere. But wait, that was how it was. Now we have a lot of d & o in NZ. But do we know how much so we can verify this. Probably not as our government understands the Johari window and the advantage of truth of Rumsfeld's explanation about 'knowing and not knowing'.
Which was broadcast by Donald Rumsfeld : https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Donald_Rumsfeld

David Stone's comment at 12.39 is true and of concern:
A powerful union movement was needed esp in the UK pre WW1 and 2 . A fairer share was needed and better conditions. But when they got the legislative backing that power was, in critical vital industries, esp state run monopolies , abused. The unionists when in control were no more responsible to the country as a whole, or other workers in industries that lacked their clout, than industry tycoons were/are. So the public mood swung against them and Rogernomics got it's opportunity,

I reiterate my point from above that we need to take more responsibility for being informed, understanding the financial system and our own political system and the diverse groups that form and relate to it under the slogan of government for the people. Not 'which' people, but ensuring we are all in there having a say and having informed input. Many of us didn't like what militant unions were doing, they were splitting off from the labour movement to hack out a special niche for themselves. Ultimately they lost both the goodwill and respect of the broad mass of people, and their ability to watch over their members, and the whole union movement was tarred and feathered. A foul end to a practical and effective system of improving conditions for the working class doing the physical yakker and with specialised skills in that work.

Talking about how the country is going and what is behind the latest news at the table would be good. It seems to me that NZs consider politics to be like a hobby like poultry raising, a foul joke! Instead of thinking its about how we order our lives, we sit back on the sidelines and sneer or accept creative lies.

It's lazy and somewhere recently I read, maybe here, that the young people today who are in unions treat them as a service provider that they purchase, like insurance, but not as a group of similar people trying to co-operate to maintain standards, and watch wellbeing is improved when reasonable. 'The price of freedom, or rather personal and societal integrity, is eternal vigilance'. Our attitudes have been too complacent
and with neo liberalism's version of human traits, and individualism rampant, it's divided we fall. Co-operation, goodwill and commitment to each other are words that should be behind all our goals if we want society to flourish, with fairness and everyone having basics, encouraged to put in as well as receive. And Hotel California indicates that necessity -
""We are programmed to receive
You can check-out any time you like
But you can never leave!"
(Thank you AZLyrics)
And we have to recognise this. We are all in this together, can't check out until we die. And the latest is that if we take certain pills many more of us can go till we are 100. WTF. This is no time for complacency and the status quo. It's 'Keep Calm and Carry On' time for thinking, discussing, researching real facts and scenarios, formulating intelligent and humane policy and implementing it.

JanM said...

To Anonymous:
Obnoxious and uncalled for comments. In fact you seem to be saying that a pat on the bottom (ugh!!) is all you think you, as a male, can get away with in a Western country and so we should thank our stars that it isn't any worse. It's as bad as it gets, mate - the intentions are the same

Nick J said...

Victor, try GenNet, 1995 onwards. What, wherefore and defined as? All I know is that they are definitely different to people who lived closer to physical reality prior to then.

Nick J said...

And the damning realisation that people can change from having ties to the community and working together to something else in one or two generations.

Grey, that is the most honest and bleak assessment of our times I have heard. So true, so gut wrenching.

Nick J said...

To Anonymous, you have raised a valid issue within what JanM rightly calls an obnoxious example. A pat on the bum is akin to ponytail pulling; it's an assault.

If you were merely to note that we in the West need to examine our priorities and concerns then I'd agree.

Kat said...

I'm Kat.

David Stone said...

On the anonymous 'pat on the bum' question, it's fraught and complex in our society; Girls of all ages are constrained almost by society's expectations, male and female, to look physically , sexually attractive. Think about the approach of Islam where women are forcibly hidden from view entirely. Even more drab shapeless and uniform in costume then our men in grey suits. There must have been a reason for that to become an established norm for a huge part of humanity. But for life to carry on in the Islamic construct arranged marriages are necessary , and do we want that?
If we are going to continue with our freedom of choice of partner the someone has to take the plunge. Some people both men and women never have the self assurance to make a first approach and would not make a match if someone from the other sex didn't clearly convey that their attention would be welcome. Some at the other extreme (men mostly of corse but not exclusively ) just try it on indiscriminately at every opportunity in a sensitivity vacuum. Maybe they really don't have any sensitivity and half of life just passes them by, but one way or another there are going to be mistakes made in this arrangement.
But I must offer Anonymous some support for the observation that the media and public attention that this "pat on the bum issue is receiving while America is making war in Afghanistan , Syria and Yemen, and threatening war on North Korea and Iran. And families here are living in Cars and on the streets , seems a bit out of proportion. Even perhaps a deliberate diversion in US from what their public should be being informed about .

Victor said...

Nick J

Maybe the first quartile of Boomers, of which, I'm one, weren't the fully fledged article.

That was certainly the view of my three-years-younger-than-me girlfriend in the late 1960s, who found me curiously old-fashioned.

Conversely, I don't think I'm much different to friends who are just a few years older than me and, hence, "war babies".

Anonymous said...

I admit it was obnoxious. Sometimes one does feel like giving people a bit of a slap about their priorities, or even seeks to provoke in a perhaps wrongheaded attempt to rock people out of their smug liberal consensus. Still I maintain that such people are still very much focused on what happens or could happen to them rather than arguably much more horrific crimes. Evidently I shouldn’t have used “slap on the bum” but the use of offensive language, like “tart” or “slut” for example. Fair call.

Anonymous said...

NZ by-in-large is far from the average Islamic country although some pretty shocking community policing goes on in that community or those communities. But yes let’s not use women’s rights as an excuse to bomb them or peep on them on top of all the peeping on monitoring they inflict on each other.

It’s the policing that is the problem. I won’t be policed and I don't appreciate others shutting down others for ever for bad language or attitude or yes even a minor sexual infraction. People are calling for Matt Damon to be dropped from a movie role for having a different take on the power dynamics being played out in Hollywood. You’d think he was a rapist. In France people want to throw Celine out of the cannon because he was antisemetic. Unfortunately, he was, shockingly so. He was also one of the greatest French prize stylists who ever lived.

We need to stop being hysterical to the point where we can allow people to be a little hysterical at times, to say the wrong thing, to make mistakes - within reason. Even to forgive the unforgivable. We need to stop policing each other and be more robust, especially when near-screaming at each other, before we move in for the kill. Increasingly the line between social policing and government policing is being blurred. They much is evident.

The policing of social and even private behaviour is totally out of control. Indonesia is instituting a system whereby students are rated including in their behaviour and religiosity. They will presumably judge that in part through social media monitoring - of posts of us policing each other. China is implementing an outrageously oppressive system whereby people are given a social score out of 100. The best kinds of their generations will therefore from now on be destroyed by a lack of decorum and etiquette.

Fuck the police and in most cases fuck decorum and etiquette. All this to makes me feel like it is the obligation of thinking and feeling people to be bloody, healthily, generously rude when it is warrented.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

FFS anonymous, because people are more concerned with what's happening to them. That's human nature. But there is nothing smug about women coming forward about sexual harassment, indecent assault, and rape. This isn't an either or situation, we don't have to completely abandon Syria or whatever just because we think sexual harassment is trivial. I'm sure most of us can cope with both. And I'm pretty damn sure that if something less horrific was happening to you, you might consider it a priority over Syria. And I'm sure you get a bit upset if you asked for help and someone trivialised your experience.

Anonymous said...

GS, I'm overstating my argument, and coming at it from the wrong way. I have failed to articulate what I feel.

I don't want to trivialize rape or sexual abuse. However, I think that we do need to be very careful about criminalizing personal behaviour, because, inevitably, it will just provide another lever of control to the people with the ability to pull on levers: the state, and those who can otherwise exact social revenge. Those two groups are becoming increasingly intertwined. Just look at the "influencers" out there, taking government contracts from government departs one day and from a religious group that oppresses women the next. And their judgements filter down and around social media and they are bought and paid for.

There was a time when a person's homosexuality was used to blackmail or destroy people. Now, light sexual assault is not a right, or a harmless thing like being gay. Still, we should not blow things out of proportion, and be careful not to let people use accusations to attack people they do not like. Accusations are not crimes and we need to be careful about that. And it is clear that accusations only affect people according to their social power and influence. Famous broadcasters can continue on having committed serious assault while someone without that influence can be ruined for allegedly saying this or that - not even doing. Matt Damon can have thousands of people calling for an end to his career for offering a slightly controversial interpretation on events, while senior (the most senior) politicians continue to get away with everything. And now those senior politicians have access to every wrong word and deed of yours, while you don't have the same access to evidence of their much worse crimes.

Rights are required by the powerless, the weak - even the criminal and hated. The powerful don't need them and are typically not subject to them.

Compassion, like rights, should not be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Anonymous said...


There's some flaws there; I'm still failing to articulate what I aim to describe, hovering on our horizon.

E.g., I should have said: the powerful don't need rights and are typically not subject to the law, unless in extreme cases where public condemnation reaches a crescendo. But is that how the law operates, with the executive only acting in relation to some powerful men, only in respect of some form of form of abuse that has become temporarily fashionable and only after a rabble has gathered to demand the scapegoat's execution?

The rabble will fall back, happy that the social fashion for despising an injustice has been satisfied, in the form of the chosen scapegoat. But yet similar crimes go on everyday and are not addressed, and the rabble ignores them, unless some provocateur brings them to attention and hoists another guy on social media. Is this how some social problem should be addressed, according to the whims of some determined citizen in respect of an individual, and according to the fashionable crime of the moment?

What about the child miners in Africa or elsewhere. The raped, murdered and beaten whose perpetrators are as faceless and so difficult to make an example of, as faceless as their victims are invisible?

Sexual assault is a serious problem but do people really think that it can be combated through the occasional ritual destruction of someone prominent but take-down-able? Scapegoating is an ancient human ritual or rite but does it actually help to change behaviour like it did when we lived in clumps of 50? Who will start a Rose army for the domestic assault victims being beaten around New Zealand daily? Or will the academic attacks on Matt Damon's really go to change a drunken mobster's mind as he moves in on his battered wife? And what of the other crimes and injustices, happening right now, including to women, around the globe? Must we wait for celebrity endorsement?

You say that I would care more about some minor problem of mine than some larger social problem in the world and you would be wrong about that. For all you know I might have ruined my life through trying to address some larger social problem.

Nick J said...

Anonymous, How to slap the buggers kindly...a vexed question indeed. They do need waking up.

Nick J said...

Accusations have got to the stage that an individual can have their whole life wrecked merely by being subject of an unproven "offense" against some newly sanctified victim status / identity. Madame Guillotine consumes the revolution. If we enforced the rule of law, the right for innocence to be assumed, for the burden of proof to rest on the accuser, and the right to redress for those wrongly accused this would not happen. Hard won principles and rights have been gifted to those who will violate them. I have had enough. Vive la contra revolutione!

Victor said...


I know you're "Kat". But the question is: are you also "kat"?

Sometimes I see an upper case K and sometimes a lower. I just want to know if it's the same person.

Why is it so difficult to find this out?

Anonymous said...

"Madame Guillotine consumes the revolution."

Love it, and very true. We must not let our better nature empower our worse natures.

I am guilty of doing this. I have been monstrous in my revenge, for all the kindness I have offered in trying to make up for that.

But if we believe in sin, we must believe in redemption or we are truly done for.

For you, Nick J:


sumsuch said...

I always respect you kat -- I mean, you've shamed me into sadness about saying what I thought about your comment (and possibly still think, forgive me!). Respect comes first, when there are so many NZers in politics I can only honour in terms of my philosophical belief I would respect Hitler as a human if he came into my hands.

Greywarbler, respect for your background. And for Victor and Guerilla Surgeon who all turn out to be 20 years older than me. I'm c.50 and am disgraced by my generation who learnt through their pockets rather than their heads. Doubly sad I don't have the verbal ability or lack of humility to bring them around.