Dr Liz Gordon: Has there ever been a year like it (since the 1930s anyway)?

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What a way to end the extraordinary year of 2019, with the report that Sir Ron Brierley, the corporate raider, greed is good, mate of Roger Douglas, who shot to fame as a role model at the very beginning of the neo-liberal capture of Aotearoa in the 1980s, has been arrested with a laptop full of child abuse images on his way to Fiji, and has freely admitted liking young Thai girls.

Yes, I know that sentence is very long, thanks.  But who woulda thunk? Actually, I take that back.  I wandered around the place for hours afterwards in a glow of “of course”. Rich white men, sex, and young brown girls.  Or young white girls. The story is as old as time.

And in the same way, the finding that there was no evidence the Labour Party staffer sexually abused his accuser, though he apparently admitted to being a bit of a bully, is much the same story. Punch and counterpunch.  The tale of 2019.

Christchurch suffered the double blow of having 51 of our people murdered by a person with fanatical beliefs and the revelation that there were plenty of those in our community. It seems every second house either contains a stash of abusive materials or a white supremacist.

Thankfully, too, though, there are plenty who were prepared to walk into Hagley Park to decry what happened and to stand tall with the families and the victims.  As a result, the plight of Muslims in New Zealand has been brought to the fore and hopefully things are changing for the better for that community. They have had a voice this year, facilitated by the very person who tried to silence them forever.

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My best friend died, the wonderful Wendy Craig, her brain taken by a nasty dementia that left me wondering what it was to be human, and thinking we are just a walking chemical reaction. All that passion, hope and spirit, down to a few sparks in the brain, easily extinguished.

Now I’m getting morbid.  Sorry. Internationally, Boris Trump (you know what I mean) has displayed new heights of petulance.  The impeachment of the American half has come at the same time as the re-election of the British half. It has somehow raised the spectre of the re-election of Trump in a year’s time. Politics is just crazy and also very worrying with the continued rise of the racist right. It feels like 1933, not 2020.

And after 1933 there came the rise of racist policies that were driven by the Nazis but tacitly condoned by other countries and we all know where that led.  This time the target is not Jewish people but all migrants, particularly those of dark skin. There is recent evidence that racism is not far below the surface even now in New Zealand.

In the letters pages of the Press in Christchurch people have been decrying Lianne Dalziel’s failure to declare individual donations to her campaign fund, an issue raised with justification by John Minto. But, notably, it was the Chineseness of the donors that really set off the people of Christchurch.  There must be a foreign plot! This must be about influencing and begging favours! The leap to distrust is never far below the surface in our race relations, and we are much better at having migrants than most European countries, the USA and Australia. It is worrying and I know that John will hate the racist tones that are coming through as a result of his intervention.

Domestically, the unpicking of neo-liberalism is mostly continuing, albeit at an excruciatingly slow rate. There are now some indications that 2020 will see the pace pick up and of course there will be an election.  I am still wrestling with my party vote. We shall see.

The thing is, I love kindness and caring and I am pretty smitten with Jacinda Ardern as a person.  I am also very fond of several of the Labour Ministers. Despite what the media says, there are some great people in cabinet. But there is a gap between their persons and their ability to overthrow neo-liberalism, although all state it as an ideal.

Once again, I would like to thank my readers for, err, reading, and those who have taken the time to make comments and debate the issues.  I always write this blog from my own views, however clumsily expressed, but hopefully also, at times, well informed by research and experience.  Next year is Gold Card yar for me, which I am looking forward too, although I do not expect to retire just yet.

I am not a Christian but am happy to celebrate the birth of Jesus the social activist.  To you all, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a sleigh ride of a 2020.

 

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.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Just to reply to your last sentence, Liz.
    I am happy to find another person who thinks like me: respect for Jesus – the social activist and trend setter rather than believing that Jesus was the son of God.
    What makes Christians uncomfortable with this is that they don’t like to think of Jesus as a politician because it threatens their belief in his divinity.

    • Mike – Just when I’m really appreciating what Liz wrote – especially about kindness, I read you and start a laugh. Thank you. Shh. Jesus was actually a revolutionary, with a stunning impact which has conquered time more than most revolutionaries.

      And what’s more, I have it from a friend visited by an official hospital visitor: Jesus was an Anglican.

      Merry Christmas.

      • Snow White: “Jesus was an Anglican.”

        Heh! And therefore indisputably an English speaker, as an American pollie is said to have claimed in the 19th century.

        Urban myth, I believe. That having been said by any American pollie, I mean, not the language spoken by Jesus. Though the same applies, of course.

  2. Nothing wrong with your views Dr Liz. Merry Christmas. As for “their ability to overthrow neo-liberalism”. I kinda wonder where everyone’s patience has gone? The commenters and writers on this site are forever stating how deeply entrenched neolib is in our ministries, politicians and the people as well, or half of them anyway. Doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that progress is crawling along, but this is huge! Every step in the this direction is hard one by everyone envolved and will be instantly be repealed by National should the unthinkable happen.

  3. Thanks for your contributions this year Liz. Christ was a socialist and if anyone thinks he was some non-political person then think again. I was raised in a Christian household and remain a Christian. But I do not worry about whether he was the son of God or any of the stuff regarding his birth to the virgin Mary, frankly I don’t care. The man was undoubtedly a prophet and role maker as to how we should live our lives.

    The church is the problem really, not the doctrine.

  4. This government is not going to “unpick neoliberalism”. It’s just not in their political DNA – have you not noticed who the finance minister is, or what his priorities are? This is not a democratic socialist government – this government majors in identity politics, and minors in neoliberalism. Same basic formula as the previous government, albeit with a switch of major and minor.

  5. I’m looking forward to being exposed as having “plight” in the same way NZ Muslims do. The ones I know live good regular “Kiwi” lives, living pretty much like you and I. Nothing special, just “us”. We all have crosses to bear and help another with. Here’s to all our plights, our triumphs, our just being us.

  6. “Has there ever been a year like it?”

    Yup. Every year that I can remember, going all the way back to not long after WW2. Nothing exceptional about this one. Even though, in its the-sky-is-falling! fashion, the msm would have us believe otherwise.

    Growing up in a large Irish Catholic family, I was from a very early age aware of politics and what was going on in the world; such matters were discussed around the dinner table every night by parents and older siblings. We had a radio (tuned to NatProg and its predecessor), and it was switched on for news broadcasts. I can attest to the fact that, for all of my longish life, the world has been a very busy place.

    “I wandered around the place for hours afterwards in a glow of “of course”.”

    I didn’t: there’s no “of course” about it. My first reaction was shock, quickly followed by revulsion, given the egregiousness of paedophilia. However, Brierley’s yet to appear in court; it remains to be seen whether he’s found guilty. Though if it’s indeed child abuse material that’s been found on his devices, all the clever lawyers in the world won’t get him acquitted.

    “And in the same way, the finding that there was no evidence the Labour Party staffer sexually abused his accuser, though he apparently admitted to being a bit of a bully, is much the same story.”

    You’re not, I hope, comparing this story to that of Ron Brierley? They aren’t in any way commensurate. To suggest otherwise further shreds the reputations of people who didn’t actually do anything wrong.

    “It seems every second house either contains a stash of abusive materials or a white supremacist.”

    When I worked in ChCh, there was certainly a bit of skinhead activity – the Harris gang and the like – but it’d be a bit of an overstatement to claim that it’s widespread there. In any event, nobody can ride shotgun over what other people think. It’s what they do that is of moment. And though I recall one of the Harris gang (I think) murdering a Council worker in Cathedral Square, it wasn’t ethnically motivated: the shooter was out of his tree, I believe. A tragic case altogether. In those days, ChCh was a crime-ridden little city, but that was largely burglaries and the like, to do with poverty, and the gap between the very poor and the very rich.

    “….plight of Muslims in New Zealand….”

    Plight? There have been Muslims in NZ since the 19th century, I believe. There was quite a community in ChCh back when we lived there, many years ago. It seemed to me that, like the rest of us, they were just getting on with life. The March shootings were carried out by a random loony with weird ideas, and Australian to boot. I wouldn’t blame the rest of us for what he thought and did. Nor – based on his particular brand of awfulness – would I leap to any conclusions about the living conditions of Muslim people generally, many of whom have lived here for generations.

    “Boris Trump (you know what I mean) has displayed new heights of petulance.”

    Sigh…here we go again. I remind you that a) Trump isn’t our president (and Johnson not our PM); b) he’s neither a diplomat nor a pollie, so he doesn’t use weasel words, but rather says what he thinks. This is the great diplomat Lavrov’s perspective:

    https://www.rt.com/news/476619-lavrov-trump-us-russia-talks/

    c) he has Twitter, so we know what he’s thinking almost immediately, rather than our having to wait until his papers are declassified; d) he hasn’t started another war. Yet. Though not, it seems, for the want of the Establishment’s attempts to bring that about.

    Trump came to power with good intentions, but has been comprehensively hornswoggled by the Washington Establishment and its msm poodles. Thus the US has slapped sanctions up the wazoo, to the point of utter ludicrousness. But no actual shooting war. Unlike his predecessors, especially the most immediate one.

    The impeachment is another piece of ludicrousness, based on nothing. It’s the Dems’ latest attempt to get him out of the WH, after he horribly offended them by having the temerity to beat that awful Clinton woman at the 2016 election. There has been no interference, from anywhere, in US elections. And as to the Bidens in the Ukraine, Joe Biden incriminated his drug-addled son out of his own mouth. I have a link somewhere, if I can find it. Apropos Biden, a family member hopes that he becomes the next president of the US: in said family member’s view, the Americans deserve him. Heh!

    You speak of Trump as if he were uniquely awful. He isn’t. In fact, he’s by no means the worst US president in my longish lifetime. That crown would probably go to Lyndon Johnson (you could ask Holyoake about him, were the latter still alive), probably closely followed by – er – most of the rest of them, in truth. Jack Kennedy was a possible exception, at least in respect of foreign policy. Though he was a hard dog to keep on the porch….

    “Politics is just crazy and also very worrying with the continued rise of the racist right.”

    Politics has always been crazy; that’s my view from a lifetime of watching its ins and outs. I take issue with the notion that there’s been a rise in the racist right. What has been happening is that ordinary citizens worldwide are rebelling against neoliberal policies, including uncontrolled immigration. Right-wing maybe, but that doesn’t entail racism – which, I point out yet again, is the bailiwick of governments, not of individuals.

    “Domestically, the unpicking of neo-liberalism is mostly continuing, albeit at an excruciatingly slow rate. There are now some indications that 2020 will see the pace pick up….”

    If there’s any unpicking going on, it’s glacially slow and subterranean. I see no sign that the current government is any less committed to neoliberalism than any of its predecessors.

    “…I love kindness and caring…”

    Don’t we all. But in the first instance, I want a government which keeps its nose out of issues that don’t concern it. Ardern committed a colossal blunder with regard to Ihumatao; now her government is trying to wriggle its way out of the snafu in which she’s landed it. Dumb, dumb, dumb….did she have no advisors who had the wit to warn her of the dangerous shoals into which she was rushing?

    And – speaking of governments keeping their noses out of that which doesn’t concern them – the same applies to the US, the EU and the feebly twitching remains of the British Empire. The world would be a great deal more peaceful place, and a vast number of people would not have died, if these polities had, since the end of WW2, stuck to trade, instead of (on the basis of inaccurate information or outright propaganda; lies, even) attempting to tell other countries what to do, and invading them, or overthrowing their rulers, when they disobeyed Uncle Sam or Old Blighty.

    That’s my New Year wish: a multipolar, non-interventionist world, in which the big bullies don’t finger-wag and lecture other countries about how they run their affairs.

  7. “But, notably, it was the Chineseness of the donors that really set off the people of Christchurch.”

    Or was it the notion that wealthy lobbyist may be manipulating our elected representatives for their own purposes

    • John W: “Or was it the notion that wealthy lobbyist may be manipulating our elected representatives for their own purposes”

      Yeah, I’d go with that interpretation. Best not to attribute to the citizens of ChCh motivations that they don’t necessarily have.

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