Yes. You did? Well come sit on my knee and let me tell you a story.
I have not been blogging much lately because I have been travelling quite a bit.
Most of it has been work related (a meeting here, a surprise visit there) but some has been for other reasons (such as seeing family and watching roller derby in exotic locations like Timaru) and as such I have either been zipping in and out of airports like a refugee no one wants or booming around the countryside behind the wheel with some good music playing and the thrill of the open tingling up my spine.
And in the course of my travels I usually end up meeting lots of people (mostly through work but also because I am one of those busy-body chatterboxes you occasionally get stuck next to on a flight somewhere when all you want to do is just chill out for the duration of the flight and they won’t shut up!) and I have been sensing the mood (or taking the temperature – rectally of course) of the NZ electorate as I went.
I usually don’t do it by asking direct questions about politics but by engaging in general discussion about life in NZ and then letting the discussion slowly morph into areas they are interested in and from which I can get a handle of how they view things by chatting about the various policies or politics which affect that which they hold important and see what comes up.
So it’s interesting to note that with an election four months away the general comments I got about this pending event ranged from “what election?” to “when is it?” to “meh!” to “what’s the point they are all lying bastards anyway” to a fascinating discussion about the politics of selling high end mechanical equipment to the farming sector in NZ during the dairy boom and that the best measure of how the business is doing is the weather*.
And if none of this sounds particularly enthused about the upcoming Olympics of Banality** then you would be right because none of the people I talked to were particularly into politics like I am or you are (because if you are reading any of the nonsense I write then you are a definite political junkie).
And self-confessed political junkie Liam Dann’s article in the weekends NZ Herald sums the mood of the junkies up rather well, short of whipping his arm out and showing us the track marks, and gets the point that most Kiwis don’t care about politics because they have their own drugs to get high on but then misses the reasons why.
Because there is a reason why Kiwis are not shooting up on the latest exploits of Bill “why aren’t you John Key” English, or thrilling to the minute of the latest cabinet reshuffle or any of the other political activities which get the junkies all buzzed up and salivating like a Pavlov’s dog whenever the bell is rung.
So why is’nt the political Division bell tolling for so many Kiwis? Why are so many other things on Kiwi minds other than the coming election? Why, when on a vomit inducing plane ride, was the topic of discussion not who we should be voting for (or where are the parachutes?) but instead the matrix of weather and equipment prices in relation to the farming sector?
To start with while the election is not on people’s minds the issues certainly are because as I blogged about back in January there are plenty of issues coming to a boil and they are getting plenty of traction in the media but there is little correlation between that and the need to get out and vote in September.
Things like the environment, water, immigration, housing hernia and all the rest remain things which Kiwis see as issues and want to discuss but they don’t want to discuss them in the context of which Goombah will be getting the top job in September because none of said Goombahs seem willing or able to do anything about it.
And to be fair to the average non-political junkie Kiwi voter, it’s even been hard for me to get excited about the coming election with such a selection of mediocrity running for office and I am a political junkie though and though, snorting up lines of political news like it’s going out of fashion or taking heroic hits from the bong of politics blogs on a daily basis.
So if the issues still matter why is the coming election not being tossed back like shots of tequila or passed around the kitchen like the spotting knives?
The reasons for this are clear. It’s not the politics or issues, it’s the politicians!
Because aside from the small contingent of people who get their rocks off to the swinging beat of a parliamentary debate or bliss out on the glorified office gossip of ministers, MPs and such and the small but influential parasite class which dumps as much money as possible into political parties in the hopes of the big pay out (because no one donates $20,000 to a political party out of the goodness of their heart) there are few people who know (or care) who the main players in the political game are.
Some people I spoke to did not even know the name of their local MP or what party controlled their seat and nor did they wish to know.
And when you see Labours continuous and shambolic struggle to get its act together or National just perpetuating the same old evil it’s really hard to choose who you want running the country because neither of these parties are giving voters any confidence that there is any worth spending 30 minutes on September 23rd going to the ballot box.
Sure National controls the public vote rump at this time but don’t be fooled it was Labours a decade ago when National was lower than Labour has ever been and Bill and Co hold it now purely as incumbents not because anyone is thrilling to his tune now that JK is gone.
To most people I spoke to the coming election is like being woken in the middle of the night by some strange noise and having to get out of bed and investigate.
So you climb out, pull on something warm and plod down to the kitchen to see what the hell is going on. You open the door turn on the light and to your surprise find something horrid.
In the case of “Dollar” Bill English and National it’s like throwing on the light to see a swarm of cockroaches dash for their hiding places, reminding you that just behind every cupboard door wait an array of filthy and disgusting things which will ruin everything they touch and leave your skin crawling for days every time you go to get some cereal or bread.
In the case of Andrew “why aren’t you Jacinda Ardern” Little and Labour it’s like throwing on the light to find your brain dead house pet has failed to open the dog door and soiled itself all over the kitchen floor again, leaving a dirty stain and a foul reek that lingers no matter how hard you scrub the lino. And the kids seem to love its dopey behavior so you tolerate it hoping that it will one day run away of chase one too many cars.
And the other parties are no better.
NZ First is like turning on the light to find your racist uncle, who is always spouting gibberish straight from talk back radio, making himself a cuppa after having climbed in the window and invited himself to stay “for just a few days” while the Greens are like the charity door knocker, who trapped you at your front door for 25 minutes earlier in the evening while he badgered you into donating to “a good cause”, now caught in the act of burgling your stuff.
Meanwhile Maori/Mana are like turning on the light to discover some deranged celebrity couple, who keep getting back together again to make the TV ratings go up and get headlines but can’t stand each other and start squabbling as soon as the cameras are turned off, having a barney on top of the dishwasher (complete with film crew), and the less said about ACT the better.
And if you would like some barometers of this then let’s try these metrics.
To start how about the declining numbers of people voting in NZ. From a high of 93.5% participation in 1946 and 1949 through the to the 93.7% in 1984 (showing how serious people were after nine years of Muldoon and National then) to the 77.9% in 2014 and the dismal 74.2% in 2011 less people are voting now and you have to go back to 1908 to find similarly low levels of voter participation (79.8%).
Perhaps there is no correlation between lower voter turnout and scumbaggy politicians but I am willing to put money on that there is given that if the public were more invested and voting more such scumbags (and I am not knocking just male MPS here, female MPs can be scumbags as well) probably would proliferate less and be able to spend so long in parliament (are you listening Nick Smith?).
Or if you want something more direct how about the fact that politicians and journalists in NZ are the least trusted professions out there. Would this have something to do with the fact that both are often well paid liars who have zero accountability but maximum impact***?
Or how about the fact that while the issues bedeviling NZ (like the Housing Hernia, clean water, dirty diary, immigration, beneficiaries living in motels or all the rest) never seem to be resolved by the current governments who often do nothing but pass the buck down the line to the next generation by making policies that come into effect in 2040 or after.
Or how about that most “effective” politicians out there seem to be the ones that find ways to stay in office (or opposition) the longest regardless of how really effective or competent they are (are you listening Gerry, Jerry or however you spell it?).
Overseas it’s been described as a “failure of the elites” and led to things like Brexit and Trump while here NZ faces the prospect of our racist uncle deciding who get to be the next government (as the odds of National/Maori/Mana keeping the numbers to hold off Labour/Greens is slim) and with it unleashing NZs own brand of chaos (as Dann notes).
But Dann’s comment about wanting to “get back to market fundamentals” misses the point as it’s just the shift away from any major differences in politicians and their politics in the last 30 years (a focus on “market fundamentals” under the black hood of Neo-Liberalism) that has lead us to this state
What we are experiencing now is the desperate crisis of authenticity created by politicians who sunk their differences into a style of political compromise that has led to the current state where one bunch of rubber Johnnies is just as bad as the other.
Politics by middle management is not politics its middle management, dull, boring and incapable of effecting real change as it’s all about moving things round to provide the illusion of change.
Politicians in NZ, and around the world, are now trying to “make it real” but as the song says “compared to what”? And that is the million dollar question here, what’s the baseline for a good politician in NZ?
Don’t say its Bill “compassionate catlick” English, or Andrew “can’t manage a piss up in a brewery” Little or any of those others who might be springing to your mind because if they were "that person" then they would have done so already.
What is rarely acknowledged in politics these days is personality counts and dull faceless drones and careful men in suits are not always going to be the right people for the job.
It helps if those with personality have the moral compass to not turn tyrant as well as the heart to fight the good fight but in the end it does not always matter (although with Trump in the US it sure did) as people want something, anything, over nothing and when all a political party has to offer is more of the same rubbish or bumbling incompetence (you decide which one refers to Labour or National****) they will choose the crazed dreamer ranting about a better day, with foam in his mouth and that look in his eye which says “year zero”, every time.
And dreamers in NZ politics, or people with vision are real thin on the ground in Godzone these days but unfortunately it’s thick with hacks, cheats, liars and grubby scroungers doing nothing but making themselves and their patrons’ rich.
And even those once wild eyed rebels, the Greens, see to be something less since James Shaw started to turn the party towards the economic and away from the one thing that really separates them form the rest of the rabble in their attempt to be “more mainstream”.
So, junkies cravings aside, do we really need to have an election in September, will it be enough if all we end up with the same creeps as before or some brand new creeps. Is democracy going to be served on September 23rd by allowing any of these cretins back into office?
And if that sounds pessimistic or wanting for the “third option” ala Trump then you would be right.
I am hoping for a change in September, I have been hoping for a change, a real change, since John Key quit in December last year but after watching Labour flounder again (and again) and National crank up the drum beat for another three year death march for anyone not a rich homeowner, tourist or a foreign billionaire I no longer want to entrust my vote to any of the current inhabitants of parliament.
So let’s cancel the election until we find a better means to deal with the issues we have because we don’t really need an election just to decide which government we will get to continue the inept mismanagement of our nation.
We need an election to decide if we really want the same brainless maggots in the same two parties doing the same piss poor job as before.
And that might sound like a minor difference but its not and its a vital difference that matters to people.
That is the message I got from two weeks out on the road (complete with the various descriptions of politicians I have included in this post), I got it again and again from people across the spectrum who had issues they passionate about and were wanting to see something done about it but who did not give a flying fajita about any of the political parties or their assorted monkeys.
But sadly its often the political junkies who control the debate, as we are the only ones who care enough to write about it, so on that front I am breaking ranks and ratting out the rest of my drug addled brethren who continue to perpetuate the myth of the politician and politics in NZ as a status quo situation where we all file down to the voting booth once every three years and pull the level for Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum before immediately forgetting who or what we voted for.
If we want real change (not just shuffling the faces around) and to avoid the kind of populist backlash that has dropped on countries elsewhere then we need to connect those issues which people are serious about to the politicians who will enact them and carry them forward into government and to do that we need to start having faith in who we vote for and that will only come about when those we elect are actually seen as trustworthy genuine people and not in the same category as sexual predators.
How do we do that? There are only two ways and I have discussed them before. Reform from above or revolt from below or NZs case chaos as a substitute for action as Kiwis cant connect with any of the talking heads which front this year and elect, by proxy, anything or anyone which shows the slightest spark of difference but with no substance behind it in a populist turn which will reap what it sows.
So lets give our populism some flavor so its not just the redirected anger of a pissed off populace (because all an election is is a bloodless revolution).
Populism can be a wonderful thing but in the twisted middle ground of NZ politics it’s going to hand us the worst possible outcome if we let it.
Therefore my next post will present a new political manifesto for how to deal with this problem, it will be breath-taking in scope and have all the answers to all the questions and provide the perfect road map out of this wasteland of political mediocrity.
Until then, Vootie!
*-This conversation was had while flying back to Christchurch from Invercargill in a small plane in rather rough conditions which was punctuated with a series of strangulated noises every time the plane dropped like the pilot has lost the will to live and my fingers dug into the armrest while I desperately tried to remember what my jump master used to say right before we always exited the aircraft, something about “perfectly good plane” but since he was an ex-Para it could have also been his usual motivational speech of “If you don’t bloody well jump yourself I will push you out!”.
**- As Frank Zappa described it.
***-Yes I am taking a swing at the Fourth Estate and will do so in more detail in another blog post soon, so any offended will have to hold off till then for reasons why.****-Surprise, both of them applies to Labour and National, psyche!