Last Tuesday I was a panellist on the AM Breakfast show. The panellists are there to comment on the latest stories but much of the panel time is spent on light-hearted banter. Naturally I was unable to stick to the formula and threw in some serious points about the failures of capitalism. One topic was theft, inspired by the very sad story of the stolen alpaca whose blind comrade is now sitting lost in a field missing their guide and companion. Alpaca are herd animals, as indeed are human beings. Asked if I had ever had anything weird stolen I commented that Roger Douglas stole my country. What else can you say when Jordan Williams from the Taxpayers Assoc is sitting next to you? Asked what I would want to steal I said I was brought up a Communist and taught to share not steal. After the inevitable reaction from others I commented that socialism had a lot to offer and capitalism was not working and we should at least debate this. The show ended on this ideologically controversial note.
Later at home my partner showed me the tape of the end of the show. I was somewhat surprised to hear the comment I had missed just following mine made by Amanda Gilles who is always on the show. She says quietly “doesn’t it just make you want to vomit”.*
She is entitled to her opinion, in fact it’s her job to have opinions but her comment has caused me to reflect. It’s a strong statement to make when someone is a calling for debate. I am not sure if even mentioning the C words provoked her nausea or my audacity in attacking capitalism. I know breakfast time media panels meant to be fun and games but I am the kind of person who does want to talk about system change at breakfast. Everyone is welcome to our house where every meal time we debate changing the world and I can sense you all wish you were there right now.
However the media at any time of day seems increasingly allergic to serious discussion. The opinions of some of us informed or otherwise are taking up more and more space. I do not actually know but I think Amanda Gillies was being honest that talking about the failures of capitalism and socialism having something to offer does make her feel sick. She will not be alone.
These days everything is about the individual, good people and bad people, fun and sad stories. To talk about systems and their failures and to attack the capitalist norm is deeply alien. Call me a conspiracy theorist but I do think this is no accident and that someone (possibly the 1%) is benefitting from a depoliticised culture.
Naturally we had no time to discuss why I think a system that leaves increasing numbers of people homeless, water unswimmable and a destabilised climate etc needs to be questioned. But why not throw in the C words and have the debate? If not at breakfast what about over dinner? The only serious political debate is corralled into a bubble on Sunday mornings when much of the population is vacuuming or jogging.
The public are not the blind alpaca; helpless without its companion, but the companion of a decent society which rejects gross inequality is a media capable of system critique and we are lost without it.
If people can get over their nausea at the very thought of naming and critiquing economic systems we might be able to talk about the naked emperor “ progress” and the devastating effects of “growth”.
My goal in life is not to make people feel sick, but I feel sick already about the level of debate in the mainstream media. We worry for the blind alpaca in the field whose lonely isolation touches the heart. However we are also capable of more than passive emotional empathy for charismatic mega fauna. After the Am panel I was walking in Cornwall Park , a jogging man came up to me and said “ I just saw you on TV and you were great, its common sense, capitalism is not working” .
So let’s not assume everyone is disinterested or sickened by this debate.
Catherine Delahunty is a former Green Party MP and high ranking Left wing Jedi.
*UPDATE BY TDB:
We’ve ben contacted by Amanda Gillies with the following explanation…
…this is a great relief because Amanda Gillies is the only reason you would ever watch The AM Show and it was incredibly surprising that she would say anything like this. While Gillies didn’t make the comment, the point remains it was made by Garner pressing his toy box of sounds and that the type of contempt for any actual intellectual rigour on The AM Show remains. Thank Allah that there will soon be a brand new late night politics show which will specialise in actual political comment starting soon.