Friday 21 May 2021

Getting Our Politics Sorted.

Sorting Us Out: In many respects political beliefs, and the way we respond to them, play a very similar role to J.K. Rowling’s Sorting Hat. An expectation that people will be treated fairly assigns us to one political “house”, while a belief that people must learn to stand on their own two feet sends us to another. A love of Mother Nature pushes us in one direction; a love of Lady Liberty somewhere else.

THE SORTING HAT is one of J.K. Rowling’s cleverer inventions. In the first of her best-selling series of children’s books, Harry Potter and his fellow First Years are sorted into their appropriate Hogwarts houses – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin – by the all-knowing Sorting Hat. As the Harry Potter saga unfolds, it resolves into a life and death struggle between the evil denizens of Slytherin, and everybody else.

In many respects political beliefs, and the way we respond to them, play a very similar role to the Sorting Hat. An expectation that people will be treated fairly assigns us to one political “house”, while a belief that people must learn to stand on their own two feet sends us to another. A love of Mother Nature pushes us in one direction; a love of Lady Liberty somewhere else.

Such diversity remains healthy only for as long as there is something greater than houses holding the Sorting Hat’s assignments together. In the Harry Potter novels, that greater thing is Hogwarts itself. In societies like our own, it is the nation state which binds us: an indissoluble collection of political principles to which all citizens subscribe.

Looking around the world, it is becoming increasingly clear that the nation state is struggling to retain the universal allegiance that prevents it from descending into a partisan war of all against all. Whether it be Donald Trump’s Disunited States of America, or Boris Johnson’s Disunited Kingdom, the all-important “whole” shows worrying signs of becoming something less than the sum of its parts. The houses have become more important that the school.

One of the first people to notice this phenomenon was the American writer and journalist, Bill Bishop. His 2008 book, The Big Sort, was subtitled: “why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart”.

The natural tendency of birds of a common ethnic/cultural/political feather to flock together – in discrete neighbourhoods, suburbs, towns and (smaller) cities, where everybody does the same sort of work, has the same sort of educational credentials, earns the same sort of money and, crucially, shares the same sorts of views, is making it harder and harder for them to understand (let alone stand shoulder-to-shoulder with) those who don’t.

John Harris, writing in The Guardian, recently raised the possibility that this propensity to “cluster” might produce an historic reversal of traditional political polarities in the United Kingdom:

“If you want a possible vision of the future, picture a liberal, university-educated middle class concentrated – by choice – in the affluent south, while a reactionary conservatism speaks for more deprived parts of the country, and the tensions that surfaced around Brexit burst forth again and again.”

Could something similar happen here? Is New Zealand society sorting itself into similar clusters? And if it is, how likely is it to effect a reversal of our politics?

If New Zealand’s four “houses” are Taking Care of Business, Taking Care of Others, Working With My Hands, and Working With My Brain, then New Zealand Labour is unlikely to suffer the fate of British Labour. The latter lost its supposedly impregnable “Red Wall” when its liberal, university-educated middle class lost touch with (and all-too-often actively alienated) its working-class base. Here in New Zealand, however, Labour’s strong relationship with Maoridom makes a similar rupture most unlikely. Overwhelmingly, the house members of Working With My Hands are brown.

Far from losing touch with its brown working-class base, New Zealand Labour’s liberal, university-educated middle class: the house members of Working With My Brain and Taking Care of Others; are doing everything they can to empower Maori and Pasefika New Zealanders. They are doing this by strengthening their unions; by increasing their benefits; by more appropriately tailoring health and educational services to their needs; and, most significantly, by reconfiguring New Zealand’s constitutional structures to ensure their voices are heard and their cultural needs recognised.

Ironically, this leaves New Zealand’s National Party where British Labour now appears to be standing: with insufficient allies to win a nationwide election. Of New Zealand’s four houses, only Taking Care of Business (especially rural business) is overwhelmingly loyal to National. Increasingly, the house members of Working With My Brain, once more-or-less evenly split between National and Labour, are clustering around like-minded “progressives”.

The Sorting Hat has distributed Labour across Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. National’s stuck in Slytherin.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 21 May 2021.


Unknown said...

Well written - thanks Chris. I especially like the identification of the four houses of NZ political thought.
Alex Stone, Waiheke

John Hurley said...

Matthew Tukaki
Today i joined the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet and the social services sector as well as Te Ao Maori for the announcement of budget 2021 - and it is a significant win for Maori - as it is for all New Zealanders.
A great win for anyone with Maori ancestry. Too bad poor white in equal circumstance. Maori society is unequal.
· Reply · 2h
Margaret Burton
John Hurley whatever! We've been downtrodden and walked all over for too long!
They always say "when Maori win everybody wins". Because we will never sell; we have been here longer and know how to manage the environment etc. None of which is convincing.

The NZ/Western project is based on anti-racism but when you bowl it what do you replace it with. Societal rules develop through geological time.

I come back to RNZ A Slice of Heaven both subjects parents were welcomed to Chch but then (they profess an inability to understand) there was talk about "too many" because politicians stirred the people up - caught the mood.

I'm reading Chapter 7 of Recalling Aotearoa. Gosh this multicultural management stuff is hard but the bottom line (as I see it) is suppression of dissent at every angle: 1. Youtube Algorithm 2. Cancelling 3. Funding left-wing media. 4. Education system.

What if they fail? The Hollywood style NZ Wars Documentary Series didn't work - we now have to have our kids noses rubbed in it.
We have endless moans about what white people did but to me it is like "you stay in your house; I'll stay in mine and we'll wave as we pick up the paper but my house will be full of positive stories about me and your house can keep it's negative stories".

Spoonley is saying with so many Chinese now born here we may have to look at the flag and anthem whereas when Peter Brown complain that it would cause friction and division Mr Campbell gave him a severe scalding. Mr Campbell wasn't having a bit of his nationalism.

It is recogising ourselves as a common people that holds us together now that they have broken that how will they sew us together? Society is now top down and inauthentic.

swordfish said...

Pretty sure a little over half of the lowest income quartile are Pakeha/Euros (ignored, minimalized or scapegoated by the bloated Woke New Middle Class).

Kiwi Red Wall ... take a close look at streets in low & mixed income suburbs where social housing is being exclusively allocated to the underclass ... a segment of which is intensely anti-social ... nighttime / early morning raucous noise & outright violence in previously very peaceful, highly-social, community-minded (& largely Labour-voting) neighbourhoods ... keep an eye on the building anger as longterm residents (some as poor as the underclass) realise they're effectively powerless to do anything about it ... if the Nats have any sense (& you'd have to harbour serious doubts that they do ... they're as clueless & divorced from social reality as the narcissistic Woke Fake Left) ... then they might just consider focusing on this potential (MMP-style) Red Wall issue.

Promising to end the Govt's tacit No Eviction policy would be a good start, with very clear & stringent expectations of behaviour. Much more cautious & nuanced allocation decisions, with a focus on the basic human rights of long-standing neighbours of social housing tenants would also be welcome (given the horror stories that are currently going on). Tbf, Collins did take up some of these concerns during Ardern's first term ... but only really skirted around the margins. She could certainly deploy & play on the ignorance of the Woke Upper-Middle Class & their tendency to marginalise & scapegoat whole swathes of the working class & poor (the Intersectional 'Outgroups') in their on-going orgy of self-congratulatory virtue-signalling & social media prestige enhancement. Might just induce a little Red Wall crumbling as long-term Labour voters realise they're being (at minimum) systematically taken for granted.

DS said...

What protects New Zealand Labour is that New Zealand has never actually industrialised properly when compared to other First World countries. In contrast to Britain, where the realignment is taking place around smaller towns with dying heavy industry, New Zealand Labour gets its support from the big urban areas (which aren't swinging even in the UK - see Manchester and Liverpool). Basically, New Zealand has few equivalents to the Red Wall.

There is only one real candidate for a UK-style realignment in New Zealand. The West Coast of the South Island. And take a look at the results out of there.