Positive and Solution Based Politics

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It has been a fascinating month – at times depressing – to be watching New Zealand politics from afar.

Over here in Pakistan where I am currently working we have seen the Government begin a military offensive in North Waziristan to flush out the Taliban following failed peace talks. This offensive has led to the displacement of over 500,000 people fleeing conflict and uncertainty.

Just think about that for a second: in what was little over a week, we had 500,000 people being forced to move. That’s basically Wellington city and its surrounding region.

Most of this has a direct and ongoing impact in the regions around the city of Peshawar. I will be heading to Peshawar next week, so it will be interesting to hear more about the emergency and how people on the ground are able to provide food, shelter, and hope to this mass of people equaling the region surrounding our nation’s capital.

In response to this offensive, the Taliban and associated militants are threatening retribution against Government entities and, basically, foreigners. In Islamabad, where I live, there is a real sense of tension with a feeling that something could happen at any time coloured by the airport attack in Karachi recently. I am basically living in lock down.

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So, in my times of lock down, I search for respite with news from home. I mean, we have an election this year, so there must be interesting and engaging analysis from Aotearoa. A frank assessment of where our country stands, suggestions for the future targeting gaps in our societal and economic outcomes, along with charismatic leaders looking to take us down a brighter pathway.

Right?

There must be…

Well, and as you will all appreciate, this last month has seen the more pernicious side of politics rear its ugly head in our governing landscape. The “gotcha” attempts by the National Party through a willing and suppliant media betray the realities facing New Zealand.

This past week, I checked the website of one daily publication where on the home page the reader was confronted with David Cunliffe apologizing for being a man, two additional headlines critical of the Labour party including an opinion piece written by a media commentator who holds another platform at 7pm every weeknight on a national broadcaster to promote a particular perspective, and a photo of Cunliffe looking awkward next to a smiling John Key.

Well, you know what? I’m sick of it.

More important than my own personal aversion, this attempt to control the narrative and pre-determine the electoral outcome by sectors of New Zealand completely undermines our democracy and plays only into the hands of the privileged.

Here is the thing: we have a moment right now. Actually, we don’t really have much of a choice when you stand back and think about it. There are two fundamental and interlinked issues we absolutely have to address as a nation.

First, we have not responded to the reality presented by the Global Financial Crisis. Instead of confronting this, we have returned to business as usual neo-liberalism with minor tinkering around the edges.

In truth, and supported now by more and more writing out of academia from Piketty et al, we need to abandon thirty years of neo-liberalism and this religious adherence to an economic doctrine that was fundamentally proven wrong by the Global Financial Crisis.

That doctrine wedges inequality further into our society, does nothing to address it, and has no plan for economies of the scale such as New Zealand as witnessed by the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector and the pushing of New Zealanders into primarily service driven employment.

As an aside, one aspect of New Zealand politics features an individual heavily immersed in that doctrine. An individual who worked for Merrill Lynch, a company so compromised by the Global Financial Crisis that it required saving by Bank of America, an almost incestuous relationship, one which I suppose the Act Party might support given its leader’s expressed predilection towards relationships of this nature. It follows that this aspect of New Zealand politics is unlikely to confront the objective reality of the Global Financial Crisis.

Second, the final reporting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaves no room for debate. We need to engage in policies to protect the environment, not continually exploit the gifts of our blessed country kidnapped by short-term lazy thinking.

These two themes for me are fundamental. I appreciate there are more issues to discuss, in both the macro and micro sense. But, as a citizen and someone engaged in our polity, I want to know what the options are.

In short, I want to hear positive and solution based politics.

Instead, I am served up a diet of material that takes us no further in addressing these issues. That distraction is deliberate, of course, as it serves the minority holding the reins of power.

Over the last few months we have seen some parties attempt to engage in policy debate. The roll out of key platforms from Labour show that it is a government in waiting with genuine ideas. This is supported by strong socially progressive ideals from the Greens and we clearly know the bottom lines for the Internet Mana Party. Even Act has released some policy, which is to be lauded for engaging in the discussion.

Meanwhile, we have a government with no ideas. Policy transparency is wafer thin, with the only suggestions to date being to corporatize our education along with a Labour-lite budget clearly designed as an election bribe.

The challenge for you, dear reader, is to not buy into this fog of distraction. Demand and seek out the policy ideas for our country. Bring these discussions to your family and friends, and do not fall for the pre-determined narrative.

For, if we demand positive and solution based politics, we inevitably engage our people into thinking about what their vote can do. Otherwise, they won’t vote.

And, guess what? One side doesn’t want them to vote. The side that doesn’t want you to vote.

16 COMMENTS

  1. It’s much easier to talk about problems rather than solutions.

    Even on The Daily Blog posts are almost entirely about problems not solutions.

    This may even be deliberate as talking about problems can create unity while solutions, which require a change in thought to be accepted, usually end in division.

    Your own post after all contains no solutions.

    • Solutions will not come and solve problems over night, and some will be painful and costly. We see it with the situation in Auckland City, where massive infrastructure development and investment is needed, to change to more public transport and more efficient use of limited resources.

      The voters to bring needed change are also the rate and tax payers. As most have got used to driving around in cars to every place, to live in roomy homes, to shop and turf waste away as if there is plenty of everything forever, they will be hard to convince to give up what they have and at the same time pay into future investment that they are not used to.

      Change and giving up some of a convenient lifestyle, and paying into the needed investment, that is seen as a risk. Most people are “risk shy”, and so it is probably very many of the voters that are in some ways their own worst enemies, as they do not dare to take steps into a very different future.

      Also, to abolish the present economic and fiscal systems, or to change them substantially, that will not be possible while New Zealand is locked into international trade and financial agreements and systems that actually make much change impossible, or at least very difficult.

      You may need to bring in more regulations again, and the same voters may say, hey, I want my cheap imports from cheap labour countries, and not pay more for stuff made here. Setting up more manufacturing here would also necessitate investment, whether by private or state owned enterprises, and that again bears risks, like all the rest mentioned already.

      I fear that people, that is us human beings, we are the biggest challenge for our own future. To change thinking, which is necessary to bring change, information must be spread to not just inform, but to convince and to spirit and encourage people.

      As Michael admits between the lines, the challenges are formidable, and it starts with a rotten, poor and biased media. So that explains perhaps, why he has not presented the obvious solutions. He is simply hopeful, but also a bit doubtful and worried.

      We will have to see what Labour, Greens and others do in the coming weeks, to assess how the change can be brought about, and how it may work. There are enough solutions, they just need to be made convincing and acceptable to the wider public and voters.

      • I’ll say it again, you should be writing the articles here. Your insight and writing depth are, I think, greater than any of the regular contributors to this blog.

        Solutions will not come and solve problems over night, and some will be painful and costly.

        It was not easy to send people to the moon either, but the hardest part was deciding to go there at all. As I understand it it was an unpopular decision to start with.

        Also, to abolish the present economic and fiscal systems, or to change them substantially, that will not be possible while New Zealand is locked into international trade and financial agreements and systems that actually make much change impossible, or at least very difficult.

        A similar change has been made at least once before with the shift from classical liberalism to social democracy.

        To change thinking, which is necessary to bring change, information must be spread to not just inform, but to convince and to spirit and encourage people.

        I do still read this blog after all, it is not without some merit in the informing department. I am merely pointing out that it is far from as it could be and providing a possible explanation for that.

        We will have to see what Labour, Greens and others do in the coming weeks, to assess how the change can be brought about, and how it may work.

        Mere systemic band-aids I suspect or maybe even a cast. They will be better than nothing though (or the active economic self-harm of National and Act).

      • Ah, I was just providing a tiny sample of evidence to back up my assertion – something you do yourself to great effect in your own articles.

        I was well aware of the irony that could be taken as I am sure you are of your own comment.

    • You do realise the enormous and glaring irony of your comment, don’t you? What answers are you providing? It is such a hackneyed response to say that. Yes, of course people are raising issues. Yes, of course people are voicing their problems. We are human, that is WHAT WE DO. Not all of us have the answers. Hell, if we did, we wouldn’t need to raise the questions. Pointing out that people are asking questions is such a self-defeating practice, and wastes far more time than the asking itself. I say bravo for those who seek to engage their fellow citizens in a healthy debate. Bravo for trying to at least get a forum going where someone might, if we’re lucky, chime in with the answer we need. And to those who pooh-pooh that search for a solution – Good riddance to you, you serve us no purpose, other than to make us feel more determined that there is a laziness and cynicism that we have a duty to fight against. Begone with your tiny thinking, begone with your automated response. Give us some real meat to chew on, not your street corner hamburger patties that John Key would happily fry up as you shared a beer with him, marvelling at what a great guy he is to have a beer with. Bollocks to all of that. Let the discussions continue.

      • I was implying that the problems are well known and that there is little point in having a discussion if we don’t propose solutions. I realise now that I did not make that clear enough.

        For the record I wish John Key would go back to the US and never return – he seems to like it better there anyway.

    • Korakys,
      Mr. Timmons post, and the main thrust of many TDB articles, is to encourage people to vote this government out of office. In my opinion this act would be an excellent start to finding a solution to our many problems.

      • I have recently started working on that. Alas I am a very slow writer so it is not done yet.

  2. Quote:
    “There are two fundamental and interlinked issues we absolutely have to address as a nation.

    First, we have not responded to the reality presented by the Global Financial Crisis. Instead of confronting this, we have returned to business as usual neo-liberalism with minor tinkering around the edges.

    In truth, and supported now by more and more writing out of academia from Piketty et al, we need to abandon thirty years of neo-liberalism and this religious adherence to an economic doctrine that was fundamentally proven wrong by the Global Financial Crisis.”

    AND: “Second, the final reporting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaves no room for debate. We need to engage in policies to protect the environment, not continually exploit the gifts of our blessed country kidnapped by short-term lazy thinking.”

    Yes, that is very well put, Michael!

    I agree with you, but am distressed like you and others, that we have a mainstream media, that is dominated by commercial interests, that employs under resourced, non-researching, too uncritical, partly just career aspiring, opportunistic average reporters and presenters. They are encouraged by their editors to write short, hitting headlines about scandals, about trivia, celeb, weather and sports news, about emotive stuff, that distracts from the bigger picture and what really matters. There are other, even worse ones, called “media personalities” or “broadcasters”, who have names and big egos and profiles, who get paid mega bucks, and who have fully adopted the neo-liberal economic philosophy and mantra, which matches the ideological set of ideas the government clings to.

    Social media is just not able to sufficiently counter-balance the commercially dominant media forces as some hoped it may this election, and bloggers have not got the same financial resources, given less advertising and other revenue, so it is limited what we can discuss and present in information here. People do nevertheless still largely rely on “media” to gather information of political and economic value, so they rely on what they get presented via TV, radio, in print and online.

    Sadly too many out there are rather poorly informed, some do not even know an election is on this year, many struggle to name five names of politicians that lead or are seniors in various parties, and few have any significant knowledge and understanding of complex policies and programs.

    Many are also very busy with daily survival, or personal “betterment” in monetary and other terms, pursuing work, training and education to earn needed incomes. Decisions for the future are often made rather short term, and those that have privileges, they do not want to give them up, for sure. Others may want a change, but they do really want it both ways, not give up life styles and habits that are wasteful and unsustainable, yet wish for a “better future”.

    So a lot of work is needed, and I am sure the opposition parties, their members and supporters will do as much as they can. Yet I worry that they will not reach enough, as the dumbing-down and consumerist brainwashing has been so massive, it is hard to reach enough voters.

    Let us hope that enough will heed your call, to look at what matters, and to not let themselves be distracted this time. We must all try and reach out, and generate lively discussion about the core issues and possible solutions for a really better future for all of us.

    • I believe an ideal could get people interested again, but it has to be concise and explainable. It has worked before with Democracy and later Communism.

      You may say this is too dangerous to try, contrarily, I would say it is too dangerous not to.

      Actual difference will get people interested.

  3. Michael – well written. I believe the lack of coherent policies from that Nats will slowly diminish thewir poll ratings as Mana-Internet, Greens, and Labour begin to put forward solutions to problems confronting our nation.

    Labour has been on a steady roll so far, even with the screw-ups of certain excitable MPs getting noisy over Mana-Internet.

    The Liu Affair has collapsed into a mess and even some journos were left with egg on their faces.

    From here on, it is the Left that will set the agenda.

    • Great post. I share your views Michael. I´m an online teacher living in Brazil, digital artist, activist, blogger – and I´ve been studying edtech for 4 years or so.

      Solutions.

      1. A Participatory Culture

      Watch 2 videos and an article that came out last week about the city of Sao Paulo adopting this format to run the city.

      http://serious.kiwi/par-ticipatory

      2. The Flok Economy

      This system is being implemented in Bolivia – and is worth your time.
      Watch the video and download the PDF.

      http://serious.kiwi/flokeconomy

      3 The Creative Economy

      There is quite a bit of reading on this topic – scroll down to the tweets, and recent conference which bought artists, activists, coders and hackers together.

      At present I am studying at Coursera (free) and via http://www.progressing.org to learn to create goods and services using visual software, that moves, speaks, is visual, is portable etc In the process I´ve been learning about secure IP, encryption, distribution, copyright etc

      Which brings me to TPP, and the potential curse if New Zealand decides to push forward. My TPP page here http://serious.kiwi/tppeeee

      There is an enormous movement, growing by the day, and interest in ‘social change’ – see here http://serious.kiwi/socialemuda

      New Zealand lives in the old economy while other countries and municipalities are finding new answers to big questions. Detroit is another example, where we see communities of art, digital hubs, community food and water, emerging which is creating an energy, a force which is much more powerful than the ‘democracy’ we knew before it. Dunedin have made some changes too I think – can’t remember.

      Democracy is not Me, it’ s We.

      Education is a right, not a debt so we need to change it. University debt is soaring and we do nothing about it, expecting it will somehow fix itself. We know 80 percent of jobs in ten years time are not being taught today. So, time to change it. New plan, new ideas, new education systems, completely free.

      By the way, I am now reading that it is predicted that university exams, certificates and the like will be things of the past in the not too distant future. Employment will instead be driven by skills and portfolios – ‘show me what you can do’.

      It’s like the housing market – it is 100 percent a government created, council created problem, promoted by ‘the bandwagon’ a and lead by one man – the narcissist Key, the global money trader. Here’s my Key page –

      http://serious.kiwi/jonnykey

      I´ll stop there. New Zealand – heads up. The hole is getting deeper.

      All the best,
      Robert

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