Friday 22 September 2017

Some Things Never Change.

Sheer, Red-Baiting Idiocy: Here, just five days out from a general election, was proof that, in this country, there are still places which remain entirely untouched by the sunlight of the twenty-first century.

ON THE EVE of Women’s Suffrage Day, a Waikato cow-cockie was photographed carrying a sign declaring Jacinda Ardern to be “a pretty communist”. In terms of reasons for feeling outraged and affronted, Labour supporters were spoiled for choice. Should they be outraged at the overt sexism of the “pretty”? Or affronted by the sheer, red-baiting idiocy of the “communist”? Then again, a compelling case could be made for being disturbed by the whole extraordinary image. Here, just five days out from a general election, was proof that, in this country, there are still places which remain entirely untouched by the sunlight of the twenty-first century.

So unenlightened are these ideological troglodytes that they have yet to grasp the fact that the milk from their cows; the liquid that gets processed into powder in Fonterra’s factories; the export product that gets loaded onto ships; is bound for a country ruled entirely and exclusively by members of the Communist Party of China. That’s right! The people who keep our cow cockies in their tractors and utes may not be all that pretty, but they are, most emphatically, communists!

Another fact these strange subterranean folks seem to have forgotten (assuming they ever knew it in the first place) is that the comprehensive free-trade agreement between New Zealand and the Peoples Republic of China – the first such document ever signed by the Chinese state and a democratic western nation – was negotiated by the Labour Government of Helen Clark. That’s right! The world’s largest market for milk powder; the market that kept New Zealand’s dairy industry afloat through the dark days of the Global Financial Crisis; had been opened up for them by a left-wing woman – from the Waikato.

Not that the New Zealand Right’s blind hatred of all things Left is anything new. Throughout this country’s history, conservative Kiwis have demonstrated an exaggerated fear – bordering on full-blown paranoia – of “the wrong sort of people” (i.e. those not farmers or businessmen) being able to exercise the slightest measure of control over their lives.

The Right’s fear of being governed by the Left is not born out of strong libertarian principle. It is not as though the very idea of one group of human-beings exercising control over another is anathema to right-wing politicians and their supporters. After all, the Right is only too happy to use the full panoply of state power against those whose economic and social subordination is deemed essential to securing their own social and economic ascendancy. Indeed, the history of New Zealand is little more than the record of the Right’s never-ending struggle to resist and reverse the egalitarian policies and achievements of the Left.

Even when those policies and achievements have been to the obvious benefit of the nation as a whole, the Right has not, for a single moment, relented. On the morning of the 1938 General Election, for example, after three years of extraordinary progress under the First Labour Government, and with the ground-breaking Social Security Act due to come into force on 1 April 1939, this was the editorial warning the capital city’s morning newspaper delivered to its readers:

“Today you will exercise a free vote because you are under this established British form of government. If the socialist government is returned to power, your vote today may be the last free individual vote you will ever be given the opportunity to exercise in New Zealand.”

Over the top? Not according to a 1938 National Party circular to its parliamentary candidates:

“Oppose! Oppose! Oppose! That is the essential duty of Nationalist speakers. Use every possible play of words, every fact you can advance to show that your opponents are fools, political hypocrites, opportunists, seekers of power, despots, traitors to their own class, to their country, or their Empire.”

It was curiously reassuring, following the recent National Party claim that there is an $11.7 billion “hole” in the Jacinda Ardern-led Labour Party’s fiscal plan, to discover how little the Right’s strategic approach to fighting general elections has changed.

Be it the democratic nightmares of conservative leader-writers, or the fever-dreams of red-baiting Waikato cow-cockies, the right-wing reflex to “Oppose! Oppose! Oppose!” remains as strong as ever.

What is it the French say? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 22 September 2017.


Ray said...

And I guess you had a good belly laugh at Tremain's cartoon in yesterday's ODT that presented Bill English wearing a white blood stained sheet a la Klu Klux Klan.
As compared with a banner held up that says "Pretty Communist" oh the horror

Brendon Harre said...

I fear for our country Chris. I fear that National's do whatever it takes to 'oppose, oppose, oppose' progressive liberal causes has meant NZ has taken another step into a scary post-truth world. I write about it here.

peteswriteplace said...

We will have to just wait and see. The media in NZ is a petty tool of the Rightwing cabal.

Brick said...

Not that the New Zealand Right’s blind hatred of all things Left is anything new. Pot kettle Mr Trotter. The Right's view of the left is far more likely to be "how can people be so stupid" with some feeling of compassion. However, roll on Socialism and New Venuzealand. That is when the hatred really kicks in - best of luck to you all.

pat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guerilla Surgeon said...

Great strawman there Ray.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Fortunately you won't have to suffer NZ farmers much longer. It won't be long before all farm land in NZ will be owned by overseas interests. Mostly the "communist"? Chinese. Who are turning out to be far more effective capitalists than we are.
Fancy doing a trade deal that says " if you will be so kind as to buy our milk powder today ( that you would not dream of buying if you didn't need anyway) you can buy all our dairy farms tomorrow. So far that seems to go just the same for labour as national. Seems more of an issue going into an election tomorrow . Only Winston seems to be against it but perhaps the Chinese will be more polite about the water tax as long as it isn't more than .01c per bottle.
Cheers D J S

Unknown said...

Tremaine's doing his job - as a political cartoonist, it is his role to provoke, lampoon, and prick the balloon of pomposity that surrounds those in politics.

The dairy farmer with the 'Pretty communist' sign is not employed to entertain us with provocation.

You're attempting to draw a false equivalence between two very different forms of criticism.

Peter said...


You are misrepresenting Tremaine’s cartoon.

First, Bill English is not caricatured as a KKK member but as someone who has disguised himself as a blood-stained ghost in order to knock on doors and frighten people. The point is that those he calls on cannot take him seriously: the householder who answers the door immediately sees through his charade, the same way we see through the pantomime hysteria that National has staged around Labour’s tax policies.

Second, the cartoon works because its central ploy is to manipulate the whole idea of caricature: Bill English is not *really* the blood-stained ghost depicted – just a politician whom the canny voter can read like a book.

The Morrinsville slogan, on the other hand, cannot be elevated beyond the lowest bigotry.

Charles E said...

And she's not pretty either. I find her repulsive.
But she's certainly no commie. Indeed she is truly Nat-lite so really there is no point to her.
And yes we Tories do not want to be ruled over by a totally unqualified child like person.
It's a simple thing, we see government as all about competent, wise management. We don't need a leader, as we are grown ups. Grey oldish brainy Bill will be fine.

But I predict here and now that the over toothful one will be the next PM. WinFirst is really pissed off with he Nats who have ruined his whole career so he will swallow his hate for the greens and go with Cinderella.

Guillaume said...

Bullseye Chris! Once again you hit the nail on the head. The troglodytes in the rural sector just don't know on which side their bread is buttered.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"And she's not pretty either. I find her repulsive."
Gosh, I think she'd probably be really, really sorry about that. Not. Basically Charles you're just doing what the man with the sign did. But why would I expect anything else from someone with the sensitivity of a dead possum.

Anonymous said...

Charles E
Repulsive? not just unattractive, perhaps? really? You really are showing your colours.
As for myself, I don't want to be ruled by a liar and self-interested benefit bludger.

Anonymous said...

i think the whole thing really comes back to education.

Kat said...

Charles E, you are the perfect National/Act party cheerleader.

sumsuch said...

I hope you won't mediate this at all: publish it. So much more important on Sunday, Monday...But I think this is a high torso tackle--the guy with the sign defeated himself, a strawman, when there are so many legitimate middle torso tackles.
In NZ, for the moment, with the lack of born-again Christians--those intrepid rationalizers-- free discussion corrects false arguments (e.g. $11 billion hole).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I've been thinking about chances statement. It seems to me typical of many conservatives that they denigrate people rather than their ideas. It's interesting isn't it that Muldoon was physically repulsive in my opinion, yet nobody thought it mattered a great deal. Particularly not conservatives, even though he wasn't always a favourite. And none of the New Zealand male prime ministers have ever been particularly physically attractive, partly of course because they were mostly old. I found John Key particularly repulsive, both physically and mentally, but I would never bother mentioning the physical side. Because it bears no relationship to his ability to run the country. And no one has ever asked a male New Zealand candidate anything so stupid as are they going to have children. As I said, all the sensitivity of a dead possum. Or as someone said in a book I read a while ago "He was of the Guards Brigade, and not sensitive to atmosphere." It just goes to show how little social progress we've actually made when it comes to women and power.

manfred said...

For the little that it's worth, I find her the exact ideal and crest of feminine desirability. Her idiosyncratic teeth prove that she is comfortable and confident in her own skin and does not need any measure of Kardashianesque surgical onanism in her life.

Her face is beautifully proportioned and reassuring, her long black hair is something 19th century highwaymen would have killed for and faced the gallows for and her figure is as devastating as a lovingly worked and richly-commissioned Mycenaean statue that Persian kings would hear of but not believe to be possible in the rebel states of their dreams and nightmares.

Charles E said...

And GS you will not be surprised to know I think Bill is good looking.
But of course these shallow things should be irrelevant, although they clearly count.
I have heard female reporters talk about his 'rugged good looks' and certainly some women fancied JK.
But your side is just as guilty of this superficiality. A ludicrous academic wrote in the Press last week that Ardern had a lot in common with Kate Sheppard, including her good looks!
So there you go, a female academic, so obviously of the left, making dumb statements like that.
I guess it is not surprising if she thought our wonderful Kate, who was a conservative btw, was remotely like the toothful new kid on the block.
But you see, as the left thinks its ok to vote for someone based on their gender or for one of their parents' race, like with Clinton & Obama or Arden, for their youth, it opens it up for others to openly not vote for them for that reason.
So we can say part of Bill's attraction is he is a grey haired white man. You asked for it.

Charles E said...

Well I was wrong and now I'm amazed Bill & Co pulled this one off. Incredibly sensible and wise electorate I think. Refuses to change horses unless the fresh one is truly fresh, but also solid in the hind quarters.
Cidarella is a fresh horse but clearly the solid half of the electorate thought, nah, too thin on form, a bit flighty and mouthy. She'll be better with more time in the job so, next time. Perhaps. And as for the rest of the left field. Too tired and way to flighty to risk.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Charles. I honestly don't care what you think about about Bill's looks one way or the other. You probably thought Muldoon was cute and cuddly. What I disliked was you denigrating a politician because of their looks, and then trying to excuse it with a Tu Quoque, which is a fallacy rather than an argument. Although there are legitimate reasons to perhaps mention her looks, if you feel they might have some relevance to someone's electability. But not in the way you said it. It is low even for you.
Neither do I care about Kate Shepard's politics. Many of those early suffragists were middle-class and therefore naturally conservative. Many were eugenicists as well.
And of course your reasons for voting are your own. It's always open to vote for someone simply because they are a woman or a man. And it's not just the left that thinks this. That's why you people elected your man Trump.:)