Monday, 23 April 2012

Smile & Wave at the Passionless People

After the weekend’s polls, poor old Scott Yorke is wondering what his Labour Party has to do to get a break.

Asset sales, the Crafar Farms issue, the Sky City pokies deal: every time there's a poll on these issues (however unscientific), the results are damning.
So if people hate these policies, why do the polls say it's business as usual for National?

Scott offers five suggestions to explain this apparent conundrum. Let me offer one more.

The clue to this one was supplied by thinking about the release of Gordon McLauchlan’s Passionless People sequelIf McLauchlan is right, then NZers would generally rather sit down to a nice tea than take an abstract idea seriously—even one to which they are supposedly violently opposed.

"New Zealanders don't give a stuff about anything too much,'” he says with just a bit too much relish.

New Zealand has become "a broken country, and no-one wants to fix it.” And New Zealanders have lapsed "into a lack of passion bordering on inertness.” If a New Zealander feels a bout of passion coming on, "he goes and paints a roof.”

So a smile and a wave and a relaxed backroom deal or two is apparently the right approach for folk like this.  You don’t want to overbalance on the roof.

Mind you, there is another answer that Scott doesn’t really canvas either. It is that , bad as this lot are, we are so scarred by nine years of Helen Clark that anything that comes in her colours is going to take years to trust again. (Which is why so many of even Smile and Wave’s detractors are now supporting the Greens’s Ginger Whinger instead of Labour’s Mr Invisible.)

You could object that Smile and Wave has failed to overturn anything that was introduced by Helen Clark—even things to which he was previously “passionately” opposed—so is no different to her in substance. But that would be to take ideas seriously.

PS: There is actually one other possibility to consider.

“There's no question that the Key government has been taking a hammering in the media,’ says Scott.  But I wonder if NZers truly take their piss-poor media seriously any more?


  1. I think I canvassed that in option 2:

    People don't like National, but they dislike the opposition parties more.

    That would fit with your theory that people are scarred by the Clark years.

    Of course, I don't actually agree with it...

  2. Just to pull you up on one point: I get the feeling from the blurbs I've been reading that what McLauchlan wants us to get 'passionate' about is more income redistribution. No thanks.

    And while it's commendable to launch into politicians, he's pretty much against 'business types'.

    Just more Statism.

  3. @Scott: At 14%, it seems some people do like at least one opposition party...

    @Mark: Indeed he does. But that's not the only, or most fundamental, part of his thesis.

  4. Perhaps I better give it a read then: you think it worth it?

    I'm just so 'over' everyone pushing the Statist line, I'm worn out, and normally can't be bothered anymore, even if they may be making some good point by the by (or even mainly).

    Indeed, if someone is pushing the State in my face, I just don't see what they can possibly offer me, because I know that at last resort they're looking at my wallet to fix their perceived problems, and they're always willing to take away my liberties to ensure I've got to cough up. I don't know what's worse in that: boredom or the offensiveness of it.

    Sorry, Rambling. And I'm on holiday ... waiting for the next high tide and some fushing ;)

  5. "After the weekend’s polls, poor old Scott Yorke is wondering what his Labour Party has to do to get a break. "

    How about come up with some good policies?!

  6. I blame the piss poor media, they get obsessed with trivia that half a dozen people get excited about. They all pretty much follow the same lines and suffer group think, quoting Sue Bradford and Doug Sellman as if they are somehow sane and representative.
    Most people I work with figure out the world has changed and we may have to take one or two for the team and I don't think labour have figured it out yet.
    Who in their right mind would turn down a 1000 construction jobs because of a couple of gambling addicts who have no end of outlets anyway to fuck up their lives.

  7. First off, PC and Scott are the only blogs I read on a regular basis these days. Both have a unique voice on the internet.

    IMO I think issues like asset sales and so on simply do not resonate with the 'ordinary NZer'. And really Labour should be saying "OK we will create the economic environment whereby Kiwis can afford to buy land in their own country so we don't have to sell to offshore interests."

    Another thing (which I have always drummed into my kids) is an old saying I read in a book by Nathaniel Branden-- "No one is coming." As in no one is coming to make your life great, to give you a job, or to make you happy.

    I believe the NZ voter has taken that thought on board over the years and is a lot more intelligent than a lot of folk think.

  8. Richard McGrath23 Apr 2012, 19:10:00

    If the Labour Party want to gain some traction, they could do a lot worse than promote the policies of 1985-1988.

  9. Tom Hunter said ...

    Snort! I finally got hold of Gordon McLauchlan’s original Passionless People for a couple of bucks in a used bookstore in 1980 or so. I'll grant that I laughed in a few spots, but the overall tone was more snark than smart. Check out his "clever" little quips about Charles Upham's VC-winning actions. But back then Gordo was part of the BabyBoomer literary avant garde, determined to shake NZ out of its pathetic traditions. Kicking the crap out of everything was expected, especially if it was perceived as "conservative". If it was all torn down, surely something better would rise in its place, probably led by the left-wing?

    Just five years later of course his countrymen would refute his thesis and engage with a degree of passion that scared the crap out of themselves. And a few years beyond that they'd take him at his word and tear down many other aspects of conformist old NZ, destroying the work of generations as it were.

    I don't recall Gordon and the rest of the left being too happy about that, although he at least would adapt by donning those symbols of the 80's - aerobic tights and being a salesman for SOE privatisation. Quite conformist actually.

    So now he's back - and still missing the point. Perhaps he and Scott Yorke would do better to read this article from the US - In Nothing We Trust - which notes the collapse of people's faith and trust in almost all the institutions of society in the US, with Muncie, Indiana as the selected aiming point.

    The left and right-wing simply do not get this, but especially the left. As the The Dim Post plaintively pointed out some months ago, left-wing parties all around the world are failing to make much traction at all during tough economic times when they should expect to be hailed as saviours.

    Sure, they'll win elections like Obama did in the US and as Hollande might in France. But bewilderment and disappointment have quickly followed the former and will follow the latter if he wins.

    The reason is that the traditional left have nothing to offer but new government institutions as well as bigger, better forms of existing bureaucracies (with new "systems"), all fed by wonderful new types of taxes that will also act as incentives to guide society in the direction of genius planners. The new left and far-left (even the so-called anarchists) are little different, which is why the Greens will screw up royally once they have some real power.

    The left simply refuses to accept that those approaches don't work anymore (if they ever really did) - but ordinary people actually do increasingly understand the failure, perhaps only in a gut sense rather than the desired intellectual level. Still, why sneer at Kiwi's refusal to engage at the level of ideas when so many of them are stale.

    Meanwhile the traditional right will simply offer to try and cap all this insanity and "manage" it better. That's the final ironic capstone of Gordon's interview; that he has a degree of veneration for Holyoake, whose primary argument was exactly that - and who I've long believed has a direct descendent in the form of the very man Gordon so gleefully denigrates - smiling John Key.

  10. Sean Fitzpatrick25 Apr 2012, 19:28:00

    McLauchlins basic point is that the 'she'll be right' attitude of kiwi indifference and apathy is the core of the problem. Can't be denied.


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