Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Killing The Nats With, Of All Things, Kindness.

Powerful Connection: Neoliberalism is the antithesis of everything that has traditionally been associated with the feminine aspects of human nature. Kindness and compassion, nurturance and inclusiveness: such qualities have no place in the neoliberal order. When Jacinda proclaimed her determination to practice the “politics of kindness”, she was, wittingly or unwittingly, raising a revolutionary banner.

WHY ARE THE RIGHT so very, very frightened of Jacinda Ardern? Are the fears of the Mike Hoskings of this world driven solely by the fact that she is a woman? Or, is it about something deeper than that? Is it actually driven by the fact that, as a woman, she is given the cultural space to deploy ideas which would, were she a man, be denied her?

From the moment she became New Zealand’s prime minister in 2017, Jacinda’s signature theme has been “kindness”. Theoretically, there is absolutely nothing to stop a male politician from adopting the theme of “kindness” as his own. The fact that so few – anywhere around the world – have done so is, however, instructive. To elevate kindness and compassion over all the other traditional political virtues, such as strength, sound judgement and decisiveness, is not something 999 out of 1,000 male politicians would do. Why not? Because in the minds of far too many voters such a move would be interpreted as effeminate and weak.

Recall the fate of David Cunliffe? With rare emotional honesty, he responded to the shocking domestic violence statistics presented to him at a conference of Women’s Refuges by telling the assembled delegates that there were times when he was “sorry I’m a man”. How well I recall the evening of the day he uttered those words. My drinking companions, all of them good, card-carrying “progressives”, had their heads in the hands. Male or female – it made no difference – everyone around the table knew that Cunliffe’s heartfelt admission would sink Labour’s campaign. Socialists, feminists, socialist-feminists: we all knew that no New Zealand male, much less one intent on becoming prime minister, could so openly cast aspersions upon Kiwi masculinity and be forgiven.

So ingrained is this fear of being branded weak and effeminate that even female politicians have made it their business to present themselves as the best man for the job. Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Jenny Shipley and even Labour’s own Helen Clark: all of them worked tirelessly to come across as tough, strong, decisive and, yes, ruthless politicians. Each of them, in their own way, echoed the words of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth:

Come you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait upon nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry ‘Hold, hold!’

Tellingly, it is no great stretch to imagine Judith “Crusher” Collins smiling grimly at Lady Macbeth’s terrifying repudiation of the feminine. Equally tellingly, it is impossible to credibly attribute such sentiments to Jacinda Ardern.

It is Jacinda’s refusal to “thicken her blood” that has caused such fright among the Right. In spite of its apologists’ protestations to the contrary, managing the neoliberal order requires very thick blood indeed. And although neoliberals would recoil from the description, “direst cruelty” is precisely what the free market inflicts upon those lacking the resources to engage with it successfully. In other words, neoliberalism is the antithesis of everything that has traditionally been associated with the feminine aspects of human nature. Kindness and compassion, nurturance and inclusiveness: such qualities have no place in the neoliberal order. When Jacinda proclaimed her determination to practice the “politics of kindness”, she was, wittingly or unwittingly, raising a revolutionary banner.

Jacinda’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic has proved particularly difficult for the neoliberal order to swallow. Her refusal to place the needs of the few ahead of the needs of the many continues to enrage its defenders. For the first time in 35 years, the New Zealand State has told its business people: its employers, bankers and landlords; that their interests must take second place to those of ordinary working-class New Zealanders. Billions have been – and continue to be – spent to keep the nation’s households functioning. Rights have been constrained, not, this time, in the name of “labour market flexibility”, but in order to keep the whole population safe. For the first time in a long time, the New Zealand government has instructed its people to be something other than “competitive”. For the first time in a long time, it has asked them to treat each other with “kindness”.

The Mike Hoskings of this world are telling New Zealanders not to believe the numbers thrown up by Newshub’s Reid Research poll. They simply cannot accept that the social solidarity which was asked for, and given, during the period of Lockdown has paid such handsome political dividends. Clearly, they are no historians.

Eighty-two years ago, an equally flinty-faced National Party described Labour’s Social Security legislation as “applied lunacy”. The Prime Minister, Mickey Savage, responded that all his government was offering the people of New Zealand was “applied Christianity”. Mickey could say this, of course, with complete confidence. New Zealanders in the 1930s were an actively Christian people. The injunction to “love they neighbour as thyself” constituted the beating heart of the Christian religion. “Humbug!” cried the capitalists. “Amen!” shouted just about everybody else.

The secret of Christianity’s power has always been it’s capacity to integrate its unashamedly feminine values with the all-too-masculine impulses of the classical and feudal regimes it tamed and civilised. For two millennia, frustrated patriarchs have railed against the womanly weakness of this “slave religion”. Everyone from Gibbon to Nietzsche has lamented its tendency to soften and re-direct the all-important will to power that makes societies such wonderful places for men to live in.

New Zealand is no longer the Christian country it was in Mickey Savage’s time, but “kindness” makes a pretty good substitute for “applied Christianity” nonetheless. I strongly suspect that Jacinda knows to the decimal point the mighty harvest of votes her predecessor reaped in the general election of 1938. The 55.8 percent given to Labour for its “applied Christianity” isn’t far off the 60 percent currently being offered for Jacinda’s “kindness”. Right now, though, I’m pretty sure our young prime minister, who is modelling a whole new way for women to do politics in the Twenty-First century, would happily accept either figure!

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 28 July 2020.

22 comments:

John Hurley said...

The most important quality is honesty (not kindness). We are still being worked by the elites. We are "decolonizing" (renaming while the past is [still being] "ransacked to provide illustrations in support of a position in our current debates about either racism or sexism'" (Stead 1989:124). Also we are being molded into a nation where Maori culture is elevated but New Zealander is devalued as "common humanity" (that is only happening in Western countries). Jacinda's kindness reminds me of te reo advocates: they are all smiles until you disagree and then the smile becomes a snarl.

oneblokesview said...

Interesting you say

Her refusal to place the needs of the few ahead of the needs of the many continues to enrage its defenders

In fact that is exactly what she and her governmnet have done.
Placed the needs of the few (those who may have received the virus) against those of the many. The hundreds of thousands of Kiwis whose life is in upheaval because of her policies.

We can all trot out the 20/20 hindsight cliche
But the facts were available before the panic lockdown decision.
Even the advice of her own MOH.

But what is done is done and she is the new Messaiah as has been appointed by the labour movement.

I am reminded of the life of Brian. Where the uneducated masses will annoint anyone the messiah such is their need for such a personage.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I think a lot of conservatives don't like women in power, unless those women act in some sort of hyper- masculine way. But even so they certainly don't like progressive women. Finland elected three and has them at the top of its government, they were vilified, and God help us that's Scandinavia.
Ocasio Cortez and the states is a target of the right, although to be fair all of those who cross swords with her end up looking like an idiot or a prick – sometimes both. So it's a bit much to expect conservatives to take to Arderne, who let's face it is "a girl" who has "never had a proper job" as opposed to John Key who helped save the world as a currency trader, and was man enough to pull a waitress's ponytail. Anyway, according to some sort of poll or other people don't trust Collins. Now I must say I don't know the woman and she could be a lovely trustworthy person, but just judging on her public persona, I wouldn't trust her to see me across the road if I was blind.

Chris Sullivan said...

Thank you Chris for a brilliant, and very Christian, analysis.

QuinnaginO'finnigan said...

When encountering unknown tisk factors one plays to the worst case scenario. That is entirely logical, and as it happens, was the best play and hence we are in yhe best position in the world. No one is going to the damn shops if they think the virus is out there, regardless of what some so called captains of industry think... End of debate sory buddy, your biterness and mindless ideology are if no use here. Evidence based decision making is king. Or queen in this case. So cry me a river, nobody cares. Least of all kiwi voters.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Placed the needs of the few (those who may have received the virus) against those of the many. The hundreds of thousands of Kiwis whose life is in upheaval because of her policies."

The few... Those who might have died, against those who have become unemployed. Not to minimise the problem here, but there's no way that the tourism sector in particular was going to be able to survive this even if we hadn't prioritised the needs of "the few".
It's funny I thought those people who were saying that we should have done what Australia did or Sweden did or Britain did would have had the sense to shut up by now. Sweden for instance had 10 times as many deaths as the rest of the Scandinavian countries, and its economy has still tanked. Similarly Britain, similarly the US.
So please tell us how could we stop the economy from tanking, given that much of it relies on tourism – and people are not flying any more worldwide. I think somebody said it as this crisis was beginning, we are not going to get our economy back on track until everyone else's economies are back on track. I'll say no more, I'm trying to be polite these days.

mikesh said...

@oneblokesview

She is actually protecting the "many" from being infected by contact with the "few", rather than the other way round.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

'Kindness' is highly subjective. Having made herself Minister for Child Poverty Reduction Jacinda's best shot was redistributing more to families. It didn't matter to her if that resulted in more children being born onto benefits so long as they lived in households with slightly higher incomes. Yet the links between benefit dependency and a host of poor outcomes for children are well-documented.

Mickey Savage's idea of 'applied Christianity' did not include the state assuming the support for children that was rightly the responsibility of fathers.

Kat said...

It has been my observation from reading some comments here and elsewhere that there are a number of people who must have been raised either in a brutal closed community or some far flung out-post away from mainstream New Zealand. Among this group misogyny is rife along with religious prejudice and a jaundiced view on economics, democracy and political views.

Science says the human body is similar to an electrical circuit, when the positive wire touches the negative wire sparks happen, even a short-out can occur. There certainly seems a growing number of sparks appearing from the woodwork. Hopefully this picaro current will be short lived.

kaya said...

She's the new messiah thanks to the 30 billion and change she has thrown at a seasonal flu.
Her comments about "tens of thousands at risk" at the beginning of this fiasco were almost as idiotic as that clown Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London. His 13 year old computer modeling predicting 2.2 million dead in the USA alone has been ridiculed by those who know computer modeling inside out. It has also turned out to be total crap.
None of the numbers are stacking up. They are now reporting cases rather than deaths because the number of deaths aren't scary enough. NZ has kept numbers very low. So what. We're an island with a 3000km moat around it. If we couldn't manage that then there is a serious problem. But now we have a bigger problem. We can't engage with the world anymore.
Your blind ideological loyalty is touching, but it's utter garbage and in a year or two anyone with any brains will be looking back on decisions made this year in disbelief at either the gullibility of those involved, or their pure evil in being willing players on the biggest psyop ever played on the people of this planet.
Call me "conspiracy theorist". It's the usual cop out of the feeble minded and those without the ability to debate rationally.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Mickey Savage's idea of 'applied Christianity' did not include the state assuming the support for children that was rightly the responsibility of fathers."

Michael Joseph Savage was essentially a 19th century man and a Catholic. I wouldn't expect them to have a charitable view of solo mothers.

"So what. We're an island with a 3000km moat around it. If we couldn't manage that then there is a serious problem. "

Judging by the way that conservatives were concerned at the beginning of the crisis not to shut New Zealand down, and a bit later on calling for a much earlier opening up of the country, I suspect we would have had a serious problem. If you have any evidence to the contrary, perhaps you could supply it?
Computer modelling? Well – that's science. You start by speculating and work your way towards what you think might be close enough to the truth. Science changes its mind, ideology as in your case, tends not to. Even so, the USA has 4.5% of the world's population and about 1/4 of the deaths. And certainly historians in the future will be looking at the decisions made here in deciding that they were if not gullible, then incompetent and self-interested.
I'm off for a bit – enjoy yourselves while I'm not here.:)

Dave said...

The problem with National is that they haven't realised they are way out of touch with what most people want. They're not just conservative, they are promoting "Grandad's values". People will increasingly turn away from a party who voted against euthanasia legislation, voted against marriage equality and refuse to criticise Christian evangelism in our secular state primary schools. If they don't change, we will mock them in the same way that we currently mock the New Conservatives.

Kaya, your comments on Covid don't make any sense. Britain is also an island. We have planes, so the size of the moat doesn't matter.

greywarbler said...

Kaya your own blind ideological approach is noticeable but to what? I don't know if there is a loyalty to anything; you sound Ayn Randishly devoted to yourself and your own ideas. But please don't try and destroy our touching belief in doing things better. Call m feeble minded in wanting to plan for a good society that has both fairness in distribution and practical systems in it, with the freedom to think along a number of lines, not a narrow railtrack.

greywarbler said...

I was thinking of you the other day Lindsay Mitchell wondering what you are doing - whether you have taken up some new vocation. I see that you are still beating out the rhythm on the heads of mothers without men; they are such a fertile field to expend your energies on. But please can't you replace them with another target, perhaps pruning fruit trees which if done by an experienced person will both cut them down to size, and enable them to grow better fruit.

Len Richards said...

Is it just a political ploy then; this "kindness" call? Revolutionary though it might be, little does it inspire me with confidence that the incoming Labour Government will carry through a revolutionary social, economic and environmental programme of action.

Odysseus said...

Give us a break Chris, the "kindness" meme has run its course. There was nothing "kind" about imposing without legal authority an unnecessarily harsh and capriciously enforced lockdown, there was nothing "kind" about buying the media for your election campaign with $50 million of taxpayers' money, and there's nothing "kind" about leading the most incompetent and profligate "government" in New Zealand's history while all key social indicators head rapidly south. "Kindness"? No thank you, we've had enough of it.

Nick J said...

Kaya, I've heard any amount of theories, any amount of disputes. Lots of non scientific or non medical types calling Covid anything but a pandemic. If I can't trust my doctor who can I trust? I'm certainly not going to trust you when if either of us catch it we might end up maimed or dead.
Do I think we have overreacted? Maybe but what's money compared to life. The only point you made that I agree with is that we will be in trouble down the track.
As for psyops ever heard of chem trails? Must be the same people, Dr Evil maybe.

kiwidave said...

I think Jacinda is genuinely kind but, in a world in which deception, greed, envy and genuine malevolence exist, kindness needs to be tempered by that reality. The mother bear, filled with kindness and compassion for her cubs will, no doubt, tear any animal threatening them limb from limb; she will also challenge her cubs, push then into danger danger even, to teach and strengthen them.
The unpunished poor performance of her cabinet display an imbalance, a foolish propensity toward forgiveness that is not serving the country well.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"a seasonal flu." Yeah... right.

For every death:

• 19 more require hospitalization.
• 18 of those will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
• 10 will have permanent lung damage.
• 3 will have strokes.
• 2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of coordination.
• 2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.

oneblokesview said...

Guerilla Surgeon.
I do wonder how you can operate given you only seem to have one eye? :-)
Your comments about closing down the country seem to have been picked from a dark hole.
Maybe some facts and references might help.

Simon Bridges wanted the borders closed..
15th March
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/120422887/coronavirus-simon-bridges-calls-for-complete-border-shutdown-for-all-nonresidents

Government Closes boarders with self Isolation
14th March
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/120422887/coronavirus-simon-bridges-calls-for-complete-border-shutdown-for-all-nonresidents
Note:1
People travelling from the Pacific Islands to New Zealand will be exempt, unless they show symptoms of coronavirus.
Note:2 No screening/testing at airports
Note:3 I was travelling in Asia(Thailand/Cambodia) 13th14th February. ALL arrivals and departures were being screened.
(So please dont buy in to the we went hard we went early. Its provable untrue.)

9thApril
NZ Finally closes borders and locks up arrivees for 14 days.
Note: We seem to have skipped screening everyone and testing on arrival

SO back to your point. NO National weere not calling for no lockdown they were calling for closing borders WITH CONTROLS.

Computer modelling? Well – that's science
I dont know what university you went to but computer modelling is definately NOT science.
Is for trying to make guesses/predictions using a superfast calculator.
Science
""the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment""

I love your set of numbers. Did you get them from Readers digest or is there some real science/research behind them.

For every death:

• 19 more require hospitalization.
• 18 of those will have permanent heart damage for the rest of their lives.
• 10 will have permanent lung damage.
• 3 will have strokes.
• 2 will have neurological damage that leads to chronic weakness and loss of coordination.
• 2 will have neurological damage that leads to loss of cognitive function.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

Greywarbler, If you mean am I still battling for children to be born into stable, working homes, ideally with their fathers ever present, yes I am.

greywarbler said...

Lindsay Mitchell
I don't think anyone would disagree with that ideal, It us just that you have adopted an eccentric way that is unlikely facilitate it.