Dr Liz Gordon: Opposite reactions

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It is an axiom of Newtonian science that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  This is, of course, an expression about force in the physical world. But to a great extent in recent times it seems to be about politics, and about the opposites which are simultaneously in the public view in this complex world.

We have seen plenty of opposites over the past week. Jacinda Ardern was once more a very compassionate voice of the people over the tragedy at Whaakari/ White Island.  She showed immense leadership by her presence, her voice and her strength. She has an unrivalled ability to mourn with people in terrible times.

I must also acknowledge the iwi of Whakatane.  They filled the silences with karanga, waiata and the message that all were in this tragedy together. I do think that a lot of Māori culture has been absorbed by all cultures in Aotearoa.  We are good at mourning during times of death. A song is always better than a silence.

Māori hold quite strongly to a view that there is no such thing as death.  The tupuna ‘go behind’ but continue to act on this plane with and with the people.  For a group that was strongly colonised by Christian beliefs, it is a singularly non-Christian view of death, but one that speaks of togetherness and community even into the beyond.  I like it very much – much better than Christian beliefs or my own poor atheist view that in death there is nothing but death.

In the meantime, the land of my birth continues its march towards self-destruction in the name of Brexit.  And what does that stand for? It is not even clear what anyone thinks about it anymore. The Brexit views appear to have merged in with the Trumpian perspective that those in the establishment need to be brought to account, even if it is the very establishment doing the accounting.  It is extremely confusing.

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What they have elected, spread as far as any Measles rash, is a Tory government full of extreme right wing scoundrels.  Thatcher times two. As my late husband would say, they couldn’t lie straight in bed. Scotland is now on a second, and I suspect likely successful, run in towards independence for the United Kingdom.  Northern Island, abandoned as a sea of Brexit in the green pool of Ireland, is almost being forced towards that sacred goal of reunification, with a Brexit border in the Irish sea. 

Part of me likes the fact that they now have to deliver Brexit, but of course we know that the cost of that will not fall on the wealthy that run the elected government, but on the poor, the sick and those requiring access to education. The welfare state has been under attack over there for decades, and those lifted out of poverty in the post-war period have well and truly sunk back in.

The northern cities that have hitched their star to the Tories, for the first time ever in many cases, will pay the price, I am afraid. There is no northern boom coming, but just more of the same – more inequality, fewer well-paid jobs and many more barriers to a good life.  It is dreadfully sad. The people of Whakatane should sing a waiata for you, for what has been lost.

And over in the States we have a president about to be impeached for abandoning the national principles of his union in favour of narrow and treacherous political gains.  Not that it will make any difference. And the re-election of the Tories in the UK might well herald the unthinkable – the re-election of Trump. This is very depressing but is also so dangerous.  Countries in the world have pinned their fortunes to rightist separatists and empire builders in the past. The outcomes have never been good. Vision has been replaced with protectionism. Nation-building has become an anti-diversity agenda. 

We are the opposite end of the world, with the opposite politics at present, the equal and opposite reaction in our warm and balmy south seas summer. We still live in a neo-liberal state, but there are signs that, slowly, slowly, it is being unpicked. It is a fragile situation, but one to be maintained at all costs. We, Aotearoa, must stand up for all that unites us, against the great tide of hubris and mischief coming at us all from the north.

Finally, there are positives to be gained from Newton’s third law. There are plenty of oppositional elements in the world – #MeToo, Extinction Rebellion, democracy riots in Hong Kong, France and other countries.  The left is not dead. It will not die, but still must do much better. It is a time to rebuild, a time for hope and action.

 

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Where did all the jobs go….. the answer starts with Thatcherism…

    Why doesn’t Britain have a Huawei of its own? The answer speaks volumes

    The UK’s General Electric Company was a global tech titan in the 1980s. Then it was swept away in the riptide of Thatcherism

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/08/britain-huawei-general-electric-company-thatcherism

    The problem for UK Labour is that they are fighting themselves on many issues with some in the party being completely unable to grasp the fairness, when many in their party seem more interested in giving jobs, voting and opportunities and services to migrants mostly from other parts of Europe, than they are to British born people, who seem fast becoming outsiders and a laughing stock, in their own country.

    It is nothing to do with colour, because many migrants from the EU are whiter than the brits who are a pretty multicultural lot these days. There is nothing wrong with migrants from the EU, but clearly without jobs that were decimated under Thatcher and modern management/stakeholder driven profiteering like General Electric, more plentiful high paid work opportunities have not continued in line with the UK population growth.

    The problem with unlimited immigration it that is becomes about resource control not race. But clearly the remain are not meeting the perceptions and reality of the NHS, housing and jobs that are being run down in many areas.

    Very few people want to live on benefits and handouts for the rest of their lives if they don’t have to, which now seems to be a Labour solution rather than looking at better employment conditions and real high paid jobs for existing people.

    Instead Thatcherism makes people now pay for tertiary education, remove local jobs, bring in migrants that get subsidised by the state for many resources and in many ways undercut the wages that don’t go up at the same pace as other constraints like housing.

    For remain, to bring more people along they had to go with a remain that protected UK jobs and health care and social services, instead of neoliberal thinking of bringing unlimited immigration into the UK, without the practical considerations of how that plays out. Which is to make the state pay for the necessary health care and infrastructures out of debt and existing taxes while continuing to sell off ‘British’ business and contracts to overseas multinationals.

    • “Very few people want to live on benefits and handouts for the rest of their lives if they don’t have to, which now seems to be a Labour solution rather than looking at better employment conditions and real high paid jobs for existing people.

      Instead Thatcherism makes people now pay for tertiary education, remove local jobs, bring in migrants that get subsidised by the state for many resources and in many ways undercut the wages that don’t go up at the same pace as other constraints like housing. ”

      There’s a lesson here for NZ Labour.

  2. The world is going through the same stresses after GFC as after 1929.

    There is protectionism and there is pandering to popular nationalism by so called strongmen (Mussolini existed before 1929 as did Putin before 2008 as role models for those to come).

    The junkers used the fascists in Germany to crush left wing, and we are seeing something similar today. The use of the term woke (for urban liberals) parallels the use of the term Un-American fellow traveller and Jew in those times (usually to slur anyone for equal civil liberties and human rights for all).

    And it now dominates the political landscape. Xi in China and Netanyahu’s Jewish state of Israel and Erdogan’s Turkish Moslem regime, Modi’s India, Brexit England and Trumps white race nation GOP.

    Multilateralism is in full retreat from the WTO to China in the south China Sea Tuirkey in Syria and Israel’s annexations. And so is collective security, thus the age of regional hegemony has returned.

  3. I read this with scepticism after the opening sentence.
    Stating something is an axiom that has no relation to your primary argument, whatever that is, gives no import to your message whatsoever.
    The biggest issue is that the left are fractured and have no common message that the populace can relate to.
    The right have a simple message, greed is good and money or religious beliefs will save you.
    But they are fearful, and until the left can unite and use this fear to create a more progressive society the left will be steamrolled into the tarmac.

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