One of the right’s responses to the Hikoi yesterday has been to complain about the presence of children on the march which disingenuous comments like “Why are there school children there?”. One could criticise these comments for relying on barely hidden stereotypes about Māori, or for gross hypocrisy given the “family values” movements “family friendly” week day marches, but anyhow … what I actually want to talk about is why it is important that children are politically active.
As a child I attended many demonstrations, protests and marches: some at the suggestion of my parents, some off my own bat. I remember, as a 14 year old, asking my parents to write me a note for school so I could attend a rally at parliament in support of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill; I attended in school uniform with no school friends or family members. I also remember being in Parliament the night it was passed and realising that we had done it – I was a very very small part of that “we”, but I was a part of that “we”. I grew into a politically engaged young adult, and now adult. I know that one can make a difference, I know that my voice matters and that I can make it heard.
That is an amazing thing to know, and that is at the heart of democracy – knowing that our opinions are respected, and that raising our voices is worthwhile.
I hope that, when Key and Hide back down, every child on that march is told “you did that, together we made that difference”, I hope that when they get old enough to vote they will vote in the seats they created, I hope that when they see something wrong in the future they say “I know I can do something about that”.
Raising democratic children is about way more than school, it is about raising children who know they have power and know how to exercise it.
It is nearly impossible to steal emails, because to be stealing you have to take something so that the owner no longer has it (not only blindingly obvious but also in the Crimes Act).
So if we go with the common rumour that Brash’s emails were printed out, and imagine someone with legitimate access to them made copies then it’s not theft, in fact I can’t see how it would even be criminal. Another scenario, someone forwards the emails on to someone else, again not theft, and I can’t see how it’s criminal.
The Nats know this, they know it won’t have been theft and is really unlikely to have even been criminal but they keep saying “stolen emails” over and over. They say it because it’s spin – the exact same kind of spin documented in The Hollow Men – they say it because it smears Nicky Hager and it distracts from what the emails show about their behaviour. That makes sense, that’s politics: dirtier than I’d like it to be but no more dirty that we expect from the Nats.
So the question becomes, why do the media keep repeating that National spin?
Much has been said about the poor reporting of the case of James Mason, who was yesterday found guilty of punching his four year-old in the face, but the thing I can’t figure out isn’t the focus on the ear-flick or whatever, but why anyone thinks it is a s59 test case. From having read the Stuff and Herald stories, I gather the following:
It may be because I haven’t read widely today, but the only other person I’ve seen make this argument is RedLogix at The Standard. Are we missing something here?
Aside from which, let me repeat the sentiment that those who want to burn political capital by defending a man who punches a four year-old in the face in public are more than welcome to do so.
I knew about sow crates, I know about poultry farms, plenty of people always have.
It is inconceivable that any politician has not had every chance to find out about sow crates. Any MP who doesn’t know has avoided knowing, any Minister of Agriculture (past or present) who didn’t know has been completely remiss.
 I have been vegetarian since my early 20s so I have no reason to pay attention to pig farming practices, I have never been involved in the animal rights movement. I have less reason to know about this than the average NZer.
Before I start, over here I criticise her appointment as a Families Commissioner. I still believe that she is the wrong person at a time when a consensus needs to be built around the fundamentals of family in New Zealand.
Over the last few days I have become more and more revolted by the media’s intrusion into Christine Rankin’s person life, and the analysis and commentary that has accompanied it. I’ve tried to write this post a couple of times, and I’ve finally unpacked the three issues that I find so offensive.
Stereotyping and dismissing women
75% of the commentary has focussed on Rankin’s sexuality – her skirt length, her earrings, the response of men, her relationships (frame as a seductress) – as if a woman’s only power is her sexuality. She was a senior public servant, she has run a successful lobby organisation; she is clearly an effective political and administrative operator who uses her intellect and eloquence to gain power.
Why oh why is it acceptable to reduce a woman’s power to her sexuality? As if women were no more than breasts and a vulva and all our power comes from our ability to seduce and trap men.
The growing culture of personal attacks
Over the last few years there have been more and more personal attacks masquerading as commentary. Between the reasonable accusations of divisiveness and standing in opposition to government policy, there have been loads of unjustifiable personal attacks on Rankin.
When did it become acceptable for politicians and their allies to use personal attacks? When did the media start running them with glee rather than challenging the ethics and motives of the attacks? When did the Left start to stoop that low?
Unjustifiable intrusion into personal lives disguised as political analysis
Rankin’s marriages and relationships have absolutely no relevance to her role as a Families Commissioner. It is not the marriage-for-life commission, it’s not the the perfectly-respectable commission, it’s the families commission which is intended to look after New Zealand families in all their shapes and sizes. Rankin’s family is not the same shape as mine, but that is not newsworthy or politically significant.
What justifies the increasingly prurient intrusion into the lives of the famous (and not so famous)? Are we really a country of judgemental curtain twitchers whose only engagement with our communities is condemnatory gossip, rumour and innuendo?
Apologies to the rest of the country :)
Monday 18 May 12noon-1pm Cake stall to support Lane Walker Rudkin workers. Outside Westpac House on Willis St. Turn out to show the government and Westpac that the workers deserve to get their redundancy paid out now (plus for the baking of course :)
Wednesday 20 May 7pm- Wellington Hand Mixer
Saturday 23 May 7pm- Terrorizing Dissent & community solidarity dinner, New Crossways, Roxburgh St. Curries and movies to support NZ and US activists arrested in terror raids.
Posted on 15:59, May 16th, 2009 by Lew
Eddie at The Standard has posted the latest in a long line of post-election attacks on the māori party, this time for Tariana Turia criticising Labour’s filibuster against the supercity bill. Leaving aside the fact that I disagree with Tariana’s remarks on the filibuster, this attack is typical in that it picks up some specific decision and applies a convenient ideological misinterpretation of its purpose and likely consequences to prove the existence of a traitorous conspiracy against Māori, the working class, the broader left, freedom, truth, justice, motherhood and apple pie. The Standard is far from being alone in this – others on the left resort to this tactic, and the the original and most egregious example of the form is Chris Trotter’s rabid “Kupapa” attack on Tariana Turia (which doesn’t seem to be online but was helpfully reproduced in full by DPF).
There are good grounds upon which to criticise the māori party, but engaging with the government in good faith and using their independence to progress their agenda, however incompletely, isn’t one. Or to put it another way, it’s reasonable to criticise them on the success or failure of their programme, but not for having a programme at all. Having been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea the māori party decided that the devil needed to be taken at his word for once, and at this point their good relationship with National is all that stands between us and a National/ACT government with a clear mandate to enact precisely the sort of jack-booted majoritarian agenda against which Labour and the Greens are now filibustering. The decision to work with National was a risky one, and if that risk doesn’t pay off they will be sorely punished by their electorate. Labour supporters seem intent on undermining the relationship in order to regain the political allegiance of Māori, and that’s a very big risk. They are also intent on undermining the Greens’ more recent relationship with National, thereby undermining what few progressive options exist for this term. Just because Labour has to sit out the coming three years doesn’t mean others on the left must do so – or even that they should, because every progressive voice involved in the governmental process has a moderating effect on what would otherwise be a very ideologically homogeneous group. The māori party isn’t strictly a left party but it remains a potential ally which Labour alienates at its peril.
If it is to be a credible force, progressive politics in this country should be about more than the kind of `my party, right or wrong’ partisan blindness that these sorts of attacks suggest, and which Trotter’s columns make explicit. The greatest weakness historically faced by progressive movements is their fractiousness in the face of a united opposition movement who are just as strongly factionalised but are prepared to put their individual differences on hold in service of common goals. The greatest strength of progressive movements is their independence and tactical diversity, but this is only of value when that diversity is allowed to stand, rather than being cut down if it does not conform. The left must be as politically inclusive as the society it wishes to create. Howling denunciations and ostracising those who disagree plays directly into the hands of the massed forces opposite.
The impression given by attacks like this is that Labour want three disastrous years, so they’ll have an easier time regaining the treasury benches in 2011. I hope, for all of our sakes, that they have a Plan B.
The recent announcement that a Defense Review Board has been convened with the charge of issuing a Defense White Paper in 2010 (13 years after the last one) is the subject of this month’s “A Word from Afar” column over at Scoop: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0905/S00152.htm . Lets just say that there are some troublesome aspects to the issue.
Posted on 13:37, May 15th, 2009 by Anita
To borrow from The Sprout for a moment
One of these things is not like the other…
When Lee is described as any of the first three it is a comment on her behaviour. When people say “shrill” of someone they are simply attacking their gender: they are saying “she sounds like a woman” and semaphoring “that is unacceptable”. Apparently they think MPs shouldn’t sound like women.
Over the last few weeks and days more and more lefties are using “shrill” to describe Lee in blogs posts and comments. What do you mean? Would it be an adjective you would use about a male candidate? Why is it negative? And, more importantly, why is a bad thing to sound like a woman?
P.S. You could consider whether writing “looks slitty eyed” would be acceptable in place of “sounds shrill”
… or in this case, trying to brainwash them. Ali Ikram’s Political Week in Review includes a clip of John Key at a rally against the Waterview decision telling a wee kid in a stylish National-Blue jersey with ACT-Yellow shoulder pads:
Now, he’s clearly hamming it up for the camera crew and present adults, but this is nasty, divisive stuff. Leave the kids out of it, at least until they’re old enough to know that you can’t always believe what strange men tell you.
This isn’t quite as outrageous as those parents who took their hapless kids along to protest in favour of violence against children, but it’s more evidence against the moderate, inclusive Brand Key.
(Thanks to D for the tipoff.)