Tuesday 24 April 2018

Letting In The Light.

Lighting Up The International Stage: New Zealand's young, pregnant prime minister has won the hearts of the French, German and Commonwealth leadership. Her easy familiarity and great personal warmth has proved to be as captivating as it was refreshing. Even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Paula Bennett, was moved to describe Jacinda Ardern as "beautiful".

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE for fair-minded Kiwis to be anything other than immensely proud of their prime minister. Watching Jacinda Ardern interact with the likes of Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau, one is repeatedly struck by her easy familiarity and personal warmth. That she has captivated these leaders is obvious to all but her most hardened opponents.

According the latest One News/Colmar-Brunton opinion poll, the Labour-NZF-Green government continues to be the clear choice of a comfortable majority of the New Zealand electorate. The same survey puts Jacinda an embarrassing 27 points ahead of the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges, in the preferred prime minister stakes. There is a strong sense of purpose about this government which is keeping the electorate on-side. Its supporters should be feeling confident and relaxed about the future.

So why aren’t they?

At the core of their uneasiness is a sense that Jacinda’s government is seen by an alarmingly large number of New Zealanders as something akin to the sort of puppet regime an occupying army might impose on a conquered population. They look at Jacinda and her ministers through narrowed eyes – suspicious of everything they do.

Even when the measures this government announces are for the benefit of themselves and their families – like the winter energy subsidies soon to take the sting out of cost of keeping their houses warm – there’s a sullen refusal to be impressed. As if the payment was nothing more than a bribe.

This deep-seated cynicism towards Jacinda’s government has its origin in New Zealand’s very own Dolchsto├člegenden. (Stab-in-the-back myth) Just as the German Right refused to believe that Germany’s armies had been beaten decisively in World War I: preferring instead to believe that they had been betrayed by treacherous left-wing politicians and shadowy Jewish influencers in the rear; the New Zealand Right is firmly convinced that the National Party was kept out of power by the self-interested (and probably unconstitutional) machinations of Winston Peters.

That a government which does not include the party receiving the largest number of votes can nevertheless be accepted as legitimate by the “liberal elites” is, for the Right, a mystery reeking of treason.

The position of Jacinda’s government is not made any easier by elements within the news media who act as if the Right’s suspicion and resentment is, in some unexplained way, justified. In spite of the fact that the Labour-NZF-Green government has been in office barely six months, and ignoring the almost daily revelations of the previous government’s extraordinary derelictions and mismanagement, they lash Jacinda’s ministers as if they alone are responsible for the fact that the country’s infrastructure is, quite literally, rotting away.

These alarming displays of the media’s mendacity have lately acquired a much more sinister tone. It’s as if every editorial office in the country has received a memo from somewhere deep inside the Five Eyes’ national security apparatus that “Russophobia” is the order of the day; and that, for failing to follow its orders with sufficient enthusiasm the Ardern Government must be brought to heel by unrelenting media pressure.

We are thus treated to the spectacle of Newstalk-ZB’s Mike Hosking taking Jacinda to task for putting her faith in diplomacy and the UN Charter – as if the doctrine of “Might Makes Right” has not, over the course of the last 104 years, turned the world into a charnel house and made possible the worst crimes in human history.

It was the American journalist, Upton Sinclair, who remarked that “it is very difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it”. The near unanimity now prevailing in the New Zealand news media that the West must “stand up to Russia”, coupled with its refusal to subject the claims of the United States, the United Kingdom and France to even a modicum of critical interrogation, speaks to a level of hysteria which, in the past, has been the prelude to war.

This is the bellicose atmosphere in which Jacinda, with all her openness and warmth, has been determined to represent her country’s long-standing allegiance to the UN Charter and her own transparent preference for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis. Her courage and honesty are contagious: as may plainly be observed in her colleague Megan Woods’ steely determination to bring the EQC into line; and in Andrew Little’s fulfilment of Labour’s promise to open the Pike River drift.

It is the illumination which this government’s actions continue to generate which explains the rising level of hostility to its policies. For nearly ten years this country was kept in the dark. In that darkness, tragedy and failure could be kept hidden: and what too many eyes refused to see, too many hearts declined to grieve over. But now a majority of New Zealanders’ eyes are open, and they can see the decay, destruction and delay that are John Key’s and Bill English’s true legacy. For the 44.5 percent of the nation who voted for National, the shame of its legacy is hard to bear. Much easier, is to translate that shame into hatred for the people who forced them to feel it.

In a country where darkness and deceit allowed the lucky to grow fat undetected, while others less fortunate suffered unseen, a government determined to bring light and uncover truth will always, by some, be regarded as the puppet regime of an occupying army.

The question facing New Zealanders now is: “Do you intend to fight that army – or join it?”

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 20 April 2018.


peteswriteplace said...

After nine years of being treated as mushrooms, we are now treated to human decency and beauty. Sorry Nats, criticism of Jacinda won't do it.

Pinger said...

Historically, National governments in New Zealand have been mere administrators. They consider it a success to do, essentually, nothing.

Labour governments, on the other hand, have been governments of action and progress.

Unknown said...

Chris, do you think it is wrong for the media to question the Prime Minister's "courage" in upholding the UN Charter when it is obvious that the UN cannot do anything due to Russia's veto? Or can you, under absolutely no circumstances do anything to criticize Russia? You do not think it is naive to think, oh the UN will deal with Syria when it has failed so miserably. is there something that I am missing, but what confidence do you have that the UN will address things in Syria

Kat said...

Jacinda Ardern is portrayed by National and its supporters as being "anointed" by Winston Peters. She is the "accidental" PM and although perfectly legal under the MMP system National and its supporters can not accept that their party with the most votes has missed out of being in govt.

It is as simple as that and until Labour is "elected" by the people by getting the most votes National and its supporters will leverage the situation and keep up the barrage and personal attacks. Being "Fair minded" means nothing to National and its supporters, politics is war in their view and all's fair in love and war. The guns, and a few hand grenades, are being primed right now and will be blasted at Winston Peters during the time he is acting PM.

Richard Mayson said...

Chris this article is superb and extremely insightful from an emotional and psychological point of view. I have no doubt that the Hawkesby, Hoskings, Deborah Cone hill, Du Plessis Allan,Soper crowd have identified themselves with the scenario you've outlined and cynically seek to exploit encouraged by the mad dog of Dirty Politics, Judith Collins.
I have no doubt that this will come back to bite them, though in the course of time as just with Slater and the repugnant Whale Oil crowd, once an initially naive public go along with them, this gradually evaporates as they see the cynical motives and extreme right wing positions of these messengers. Their echoing of Collin's prejudices and extremist mantras wont help them one bit.

AS thoroughly well thought out and expressed article

Nick J said...

Richard, you might equally mention the difficulty of upholding the UN Charter whilst those you are associated with are actively undermining it with their disregard for process and law. And why Richard do you think the veto wrong unless you too have decided on the "truth" without any verifiable evidence? And on that basis do you really wish us to remain the cheerleaders for our "friends" lobbing missiles around at countries who our buddies don't like? Do you want us to be like the drone pilot located somewhere in an Arizona bunker who can bomb and assassinate then take a peaceful lunchbreak at MacDs? I'd prefer we were better than that, and if Jacindas stance sets that tone then perhaps maybe one less missile Will be lobbed at some defenseless "collateral" person.

Wayne Mapp said...

I know you are of the left, but the extreme hyperbole of the words now used by the left, including the government; "decay, destruction, and delay" and "darkness, tragedy and failure" and "deceit" are certainly helping to mobilise National and its voters.

When the major p[arty of the government gets 7% less than the other major party and becomes the government due to the choice of one man, and then try to discredit everything the previous government has done, you can see why the opposition and their supporters are fired up.

Your choice of language shows that the government and its supporters believe that no quarter is to be given. If that is the new rules of the game. then that is how the game will be played. No wonder Heather du Pliess Allan saw Trump aspects in the government.

It is not the way Key and English played politics, who both showed due respect to Clark and Cullen, and indeed appointed Cullen to a variety of roles. Going by this article and other indications, that level of civility is apparently not going to be reciprocated.

No wonder some in National are looking to the example of Muldoon in how to defeat a government after one term.

speiro said...

Richard Swan - assuming the Russian Federation didn't use its power of veto in regard to Syria, what do you think the UN should do to 'deal' with Syria?

Bearing in mind that UN imposed sanctions on Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 (that was strongly pushed for by the U.S) is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi civilians

Perhaps this outcome contributed to the UN not supporting the U.S & U.K in their invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on not buying into what we now know as the lies and deception used to sell that war. The Russian Federation along with many others didn't support the U.S & U.K on that occasion - has history proved them right or wrong?

What would it say about the UN and adherence to its charter if it had advocated for and approved military intervention in Iraq?

You seem to suggest that the Russian Federation is solely responsible for the UN not being able to uphold its charter yet Russia isnt the only country that objected to the most recent attempts of the U.S, U.K & France to intervene in Syria. Bolivia & China also objected and many other countries chose to abstain from the vote.

One country alone however has chosen to use its power of veto over decades to protect Israel from any form of international condemnation, or sanctions for its repeated violations of the U.N. charter and international law. That country certainly isn't Russia.

Perhaps if Bush and Blair had been held to account for the Iraq war in the international criminal court (ICC) then maybe Syria wouldn't be the issue it currently is. But as these two countries that portray themselves as moral leaders and fighters for democracy and human rights haven't managed to sign up to the ICC then of course this cant happen.

Is the on-going carnage resulting from recent western intervention in Afganistan, Iraq & Libya (all without the approval of the UN) not enough to show clearly that military intervention that isn't mandated by the UN simply doesn't work? (Unless of course you're in the arms business where it works extremely well). Is this not enough to push (very) strongly for adherence to the UN charter, rather than ignoring it?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Why on earth do people put so much emphasis on preferred Prime Minister percentages? They are essentially a test of name recognition. As soon as you cease to become Prime Minister, you pretty much cease to register. Helen Clarke's preferred Prime Minister statistics before she became Prime Minister were woeful. So it seems to me that actually being Prime Minister adds at least 10 percentage points if not more to your figures. So they are essentially meaningless. Unless of course a sitting Prime Minister gets really low figures, or if the leader of the opposition got particularly high ones. That would be a lot more meaningful. What we're seeing here is pretty much the status quo.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I was out running the other day and listening to that Sunday morning fella, and they as usual had 'Media-watch' on and they had a story about Hosking which amused me mightily. Apparently he was blagging on in his usual fashion about speed limits and claimed that the only reason we needed speed limits was because of the idiots on the road, and he took his flash car regularly to a track, and never had the slightest bit of trouble there because of course the track was full of dedicated drivers blah blah and no idiots.......

And then he took his car to the track and crashed it. Well, as a Chardonnay Socialist or whatever they call us, all I can say is – there's nothing like a glass of Chardonnay and a whiff of schadenfreude.

Geoff Fischer said...

I consider myself to be fair-minded, yet I see no reason to be "immensely proud" of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Perhaps because she is in fact Queen Elizabeth's Prime Minister and not "my" prime minister. I did not vote for her, elect or appoint her to office and while I wish her well I do not see that she has done anything remarkable so far in her tenure. Neither am I one of the New Zealanders who voted for the National Party and feel cheated by the outcome of the MMP negotiations. Among voters there will always be those who feel robbed by an election result because, having been promised the democratic right to "choose their own leaders", they are foisted with a leader who they did not choose and do not want. That is no fault of Ms Ardern personally however. It is a fault of the system, which should be addressed. The media of course will attack Ardern without scruple if it and when it suits themselves, the New Zealand security chiefs, or their "Five Eyes" partners. Even though I did not vote for her, I would be "immensely proud" of Ardern if she had the courage to stand up to the security chiefs, but so far there is no indication of that possibility becoming a reality.

Hilary Taylor said...

Some folk are 'forever' voters for a particular party but I prefer to think most aren't. I'm not. So I prefer the 4th estate to prod, poke & lob for me...that's what they're meant to do. Who of us wants sycophantic columns. Or Have seen plenty of admiring cover...pretty much total while Ardern was overseas. She's a 'feel-good' persona, bit like Key.I can swallow the MMP result...it's fun actually, keeps us guessing. As for the UN..are you telling me you don't hold your head in your hands these days? It's just not that dichotamous I don't reckon Chris et al. Happy to give most a fair suck of the sav Kat but spare me the 'with us or agin us'thing. (And it's HOSKING & HILL CONE.)

Hilary Taylor said...

Meant to say too..sorry I will be unable to read you in the Press now. May I ask why?

Andrew Nichols said...

Chris, do you think it is wrong for the media to question the Prime Minister's "courage" in upholding the UN Charter when it is obvious that the UN cannot do anything due to Russia's veto?

You mean the same media and commentators that for the last 50 years have consigned to the memory hole endless US vetoes to protect Israel from accountability for its atrocities? Not alleged atrocities or conspiracy theories but genuine BBC/CNN/TVNZ covered ones

Perhaps you are unaware of these 43 vetoes?

Kat said...

Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

Victor said...

New Zealand is a small country without wholly reliable allies and without the ability to defend itself.

It therefore follows that our approach to international conflicts should be the UN Charter first, the UN Charter last and the UN Charter most places in between.

That doesn't mean that we might not, from time to time, need to soften our tone in pursuit of other legitimate interests (e.g. securing of major trading opportunities).

But the essence of our approach should never be in doubt.

Nick J said...

You have got it right Wayne, the hyperbole is over the top, but you might wish to check if it's not coming both ways....how does " the choice of one man" fit the hyperbole?

greywarbler said...

hilary 531
We could have worked out for ourselves the names of the commontaters thanks.
We knew which minor celebrities he/she was talking about.