If you are not a Member of Parliament or New Zealand’s elite you can stop reading here.
Let’s take a step away from the current day to day of the election cycle and fix our gaze on the larger global political landscape and how NZ might fit into the dynamics of what’s going on.
Recently the world has seen a definite movement towards a series of events, opinions and ideas that people have termed populist.
Events like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit and even our very own Winston Peters all have the populist tinge.
Unfortunately most of the people who use the term populist use it in a negative or pejorative manner which reflects either their own elitist opinions and views or that they are echoing those elite opinions and views (as fed to them by the media).
And to be fair to you elites you should be worried about populism because it is, in essence, a rejection of your self-interested views and market orientated way of doing things and a call to change the direction of not just politics, nations and economies but also whole regions, and perhaps even the world; away from mostly serving only the ultra-wealthy few and realigning it towards that of the common person and the greater good.
Of course at this point the more Right wing of you will be tuning out as you anticipate another “left wing rant” while others on the Left might be gleefully expecting another round of “Bash the Tory” but neither of you are correct because both Left and Right are just vehicles for elites and their politics and as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows I have (and will) bash both sides should the need arise.
And this post is not about what’s wrong on the Left or the Right but what’s wrong with the system because Left and Right are just different symptoms of the same disease, a disease called political decay, and populism, no matter how much you deny it, is the cure.
Thus with the 2017 election shaping up to be an exercise in both mediocrity and banality without even the previous freak show antics of Kim Dot Com or Dirty Politics to make it entertaining that populist undercurrent that has been ticking away in the background, like some weird noise you keep hearing under your floor boards at night has grown from a few isolated bumps into a full blown home invasion.
You can try and bolt the door, desperately hoping to stave off the inevitable by voting National or Labour (or even the Greens) but it will do you no good as New Zealand is not immune and those dark seeds which you sowed over 30 years ago and are now bearing their ominous fruit.
It only took 30 years, approximately time enough for those who grew up in this bleak age and for those who lived though it, to see that there is no greater good waiting for us at the end of the franchise rainbow and that the only way we will get what we want is to take it ourselves, from you.
So if we could consider the body populace like a human mind, the elites might be seen as the “rational” and conscious aspect of that entity while the vox populi is the darker and deeper subconscious, and as modern psychology and science has shown, the subconscious is the far more numerous and powerful of the two and that the ability of the consciousness to control its other is often tenuous at best and pure illusion at worst.
And, if you’re part of NZ’s elite, those nagging voices in the back of your head and that eerie feeling that whatever is scritching away down in the basement is not friendly are not going to go away and will in fact get worse.
Your creeping paranoia that “they are out to get me” is entirely justified, we are out to get you but at this point we are out to get you to do your job, not rip your class out by the roots from this society and plant someone new in charge.
However the recent release of Stats New Zealand’s “Well-being Statistics” when contrasted with the fact that NZ has the most expensive housing in the OECD and all other sorts of negative social indicators shows the struggle between the two parts of the NZ psyche is growing and the gap widening between the populist dreams that helped shape New Zealand in the 20th century (because if we went back to the 19th we would have other issues to deal with and that’s for another post) and the harsh reality that we have become in the 21st.
And as that gap between dreams and reality grows so too does the populist sentiment and the voices in your head.
And at this point I can hear some of you saying “But it can’t happen here! We are not going to have riots in the streets or mass protests or social disorder. This is New Zealand!”
Really? It can’t happen here?
There is nothing special about NZ; not its size, nor distance from the rest of the world. Nothing in its cultures or demographics which will guarantee insulation from a populist outcome sooner or later.
To be sure populism in NZ will be have a strong NZ flavor (remember the Springbok Tour?) but populism it will still be and the longer it’s takes us to wrest your scaly claws off the levers of power and to steer New Zealand back onto a more equal course the more extreme and negative the outcome will be for you and us as well.
This is the lesson of history that elites rarely bother to learn, the longer you stand in the way of the greater forces of the vox populi the angrier the result and the more likely that you will also be permanently removed in order to enact needed change and that sometimes the change wont be what any party desires.
Take for instance Zimbabwe, which was once Rhodesia. The white elite in Rhodesia fought long and hard for its right to racial minority rule, it won on the battlefield but in the end lost the war; and due to the length and brutality of that struggle the result was not a better place but a new racial elite and dictator, the average person no better off and a pariah nation with crippling debt.
Or how about tropical Singapore which has been under rule of one family almost since independence from Great Britain 50 years ago where harsh censorship, gerrymandering, draconian laws and a “Disneyland with the death penalty” facade are the only means hiding the seething racial tension, political dissent and grinding poverty which many in Singapore face.
And just to round things out how about the UK where one year ago Jeremy Corbyn was being called a political looser and fighting off challenges from inside his own party but nearly won the UK general election and he and his party would win if an election was called today.
This is the power (and peril) of populism; this is what happens when elites decide to gut democracy for their own selfish benefit and refuse to give up their privilege and this is what can happen when even in the face of clear calls for change you won’t back down on your greedy agendas.
This election you’re trying to dampen down the flames of the populist fire that has been burning a long time but with the usual escape hatch of Australia swinging shut there are a lot more refugees from your skeezy dealings than ever before coming home to roost.
You’re working hard to keep us focused on our tri-annual ritual of going to the polling booth and pushing the button for one of your “representatives” in Labour, National or the Greens while trying to contain your agent provocateur over in NZ First, and you might just pull it off this election but for how much longer?
Sooner or later a result will emerge that you cannot contain or control (like Brexit or Trump) and the longer you try and delay things the more extreme the eventual outcome will be.
Have you not figured out yet that people like Trump, Bernie Sander and Jeremy Corbyn are just avatars for change, any change where you are not in charge? They are not there for their good looks or sound policies but because they position themselves as far away as possible from your own dull faced politicians.
Can you not see that we might have a “Kiwi Spring” with crowds milling in Aotearoa Square and that you’re going to have to engage in more repressive and severe means to keep Smith’s Dream in check if that happens.
So this election a vote for any of the mainstream parties is simply a waste and I encourage you to vote for one of the minor parties as you can still do your duty, as the elite of this country, and lead the way rather than slack off at the back, eating all the pies.
You can vote National in the hope of maintaining your illusions for another few years before your front door is kicked in and your dragged out to be put up against a wall or you can vote for Labour with the self-sanctified smugness of the ideological zealot but will still find yourself facing the grim reality of fighting for scraps when things finally go bad.
You can even cast your vote for the Greens as a safety valve “third option” and watch a bunch of political shape-changers slide into parliament and then achieve very little but it won’t stop populism.
This election don’t fight populism, give the people what they want, embrace it, ride that wave of change and ensure your survival rather than your vilification and eventual demise (as a class, not as individuals).
All societies need elites to run them but those elites need to maintain a degree of responsiveness to those who you rule (the Noblesse oblige as it were**) or you will face the consequences when your refusal to do your job leads to the very chaos and anarchy that you have sought to prevent.
You might be able to stave off things in 2017, but its taking more and more energy to do that and sooner or later you’re going to make a fatal slip and no slick talking PM or dead eyed party leader is going to talk their way out of it. You will find the merest thing, the slightest scandal an excuse for behaviors and activities that you won’t be in charge of and people who you won’t be able to get back into the political conga line.
When 2020 comes round you will have fewer options and fewer friends to turn to and populism will be bigger, stronger and way more pissed off as you will have failed to do anything real to stop it and just backed the same broken parties and policies you always have.
So do the right thing this election, back the real parties for change and get rid of your failing lapdogs on the left, right and center*.
*-Possibly for new lap dogs but as they say change is as good as a holiday.
**-explored further in an old post of mine back at Kiwipolitico