Killing The Nats With, Of All Things, Kindness.

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WHY ARE THE RIGHT so very, very frightened of Jacinda Ardern? Are the fears of the Mike Hoskings of this world driven solely by the fact that she is a woman? Or, is it about something deeper than that? Is it actually driven by the fact that, as a woman, she is given the cultural space to deploy ideas which would, were she a man, be denied her?

From the moment she became New Zealand’s prime minister in 2017, Jacinda’s signature theme has been “kindness”. Theoretically, there is absolutely nothing to stop a male politician from adopting the theme of “kindness” as his own. The fact that so few – anywhere around the world – have done so is, however, instructive. To elevate kindness and compassion over all the other traditional political virtues, such as strength, sound judgement and decisiveness, is not something 999 out of 1,000 male politicians would do. Why not? Because in the minds of far too many voters such a move would be interpreted as effeminate and weak.

Recall the fate of David Cunliffe? With rare emotional honesty, he responded to the shocking domestic violence statistics presented to him at a conference of Women’s Refuges by telling the assembled delegates that there were times when he was “sorry I’m a man”. How well I recall the evening of the day he uttered those words. My drinking companions, all of them good, card-carrying “progressives”, had their heads in the hands. Male or female – it made no difference – everyone around the table knew that Cunliffe’s heartfelt admission would sink Labour’s campaign. Socialists, feminists, socialist-feminists: we all knew that no New Zealand male, much less one intent on becoming prime minister, could so openly cast aspersions upon Kiwi masculinity and be forgiven.

So ingrained is this fear of being branded weak and effeminate that even female politicians have made it their business to present themselves as the best man for the job. Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Jenny Shipley and even Labour’s own Helen Clark: all of them worked tirelessly to come across as tough, strong, decisive and, yes, ruthless politicians. Each of them, in their own way, echoed the words of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth:

Come you spirits

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That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full

Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,

Stop up the access and passage to remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between

The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts

And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,

Wherever in your sightless substances

You wait upon nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,

That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,

Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,

To cry ‘Hold, hold!’

 

Tellingly, it is no great stretch to imagine Judith “Crusher” Collins smiling grimly at Lady Macbeth’s terrifying repudiation of the feminine. Equally tellingly, it is impossible to credibly attribute such sentiments to Jacinda Ardern.

It is Jacinda’s refusal to “thicken her blood” that has caused such fright among the Right. In spite of its apologists’ protestations to the contrary, managing the neoliberal order requires very thick blood indeed. And although neoliberals would recoil from the description, “direst cruelty” is precisely what the free market inflicts upon those lacking the resources to engage with it successfully. In other words, neoliberalism is the antithesis of everything that has traditionally been associated with the feminine aspects of human nature. Kindness and compassion, nurturance and inclusiveness: such qualities have no place in the neoliberal order. When Jacinda proclaimed her determination to practice the “politics of kindness”, she was, wittingly or unwittingly, raising a revolutionary banner.

Jacinda’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic has proved particularly difficult for the neoliberal order to swallow. Her refusal to place the needs of the few ahead of the needs of the many continues to enrage its defenders. For the first time in 35 years, the New Zealand State has told its business people: it’s employers, bankers and landlord’s; that their interests must take second place to those of ordinary working-class New Zealanders. Billions have been – and continue to be – spent to keep the nation’s households functioning. Rights have been constrained, not, this time, in the name of “labour market flexibility”, but in order to keep the whole population safe. For the first time in a long time, the New Zealand government has instructed its people to be something other than “competitive”. For the first time in a long time, it has asked them to treat each other with “kindness”.

The Mike Hoskings of this world are telling New Zealanders not to believe the numbers thrown up by Newshub’s Reid Research poll. They simply cannot accept that the social solidarity which was asked for, and given, during the period of Lockdown has paid such handsome political dividends. Clearly, they are no historians.

Eighty-two years ago, an equally flinty-faced National Party described Labour’s Social Security legislation as “applied lunacy”. The Prime Minister, Mickey Savage, responded that all his government was offering the people of New Zealand was “applied Christianity”. Mickey could say this, of course, with complete confidence. New Zealanders in the 1930s were an actively Christian people. The injunction to “love they neighbour as thyself” constituted the beating heart of the Christian religion. “Humbug!” cried the capitalists. “Amen!” shouted just about everybody else.

The secret of Christianity’s power has always been its capacity to integrate its unashamedly feminine values with the all-too-masculine impulses of the classical and feudal regimes it tamed and civilised. For two millennia, frustrated patriarchs have railed against the womanly weakness of this “slave religion”. Everyone from Gibbon to Nietzsche has lamented its tendency to soften and re-direct the all-important will to power that makes societies such wonderful places for men to live in.

New Zealand is no longer the Christian country it was in Mickey Savage’s time, but “kindness” makes a pretty good substitute for “applied Christianity” nonetheless. I strongly suspect that Jacinda knows to the decimal point the mighty harvest of votes her predecessor reaped in the general election of 1938. The 55.8 percent given to Labour for its “applied Christianity” isn’t far off the 60 percent currently being offered for Jacinda’s “kindness”. Right now, though, I’m pretty sure our young prime minister, who is modelling a whole new way for women to do politics in the Twenty-First century, would happily accept either figure!

 

26 COMMENTS

  1. …” In other words, neoliberalism is the antithesis of everything that has traditionally been associated with the feminine aspects of human nature. Kindness and compassion, nurturance and inclusiveness: such qualities have no place in the neoliberal order. When Jacinda proclaimed her determination to practice the “politics of kindness”, she was, wittingly or unwittingly, raising a revolutionary banner”…

    ————————————————–

    Chris Trotter at his finest.

    When I was young, my father said a few extraordinary things regards the feminine. Which was totally out of sync with his 1930 birth-date, … he said that he was – figuratively, – in agreement with women leadership, in letting the world be more inclined to female leadership,… I suppose because his was the generation that endured Hitlers war… he furthermore expounded upon the fact that women should be paid to bring up children, that it was a full time job…

    At 12 years old I found this rather an affront to my masculinity, whether he was hoping for more pay from the state I do not know, but I did find his argument quite persuasive as the years rolled by… but all this is besides the fact.

    Here we have a female PM, who not only is comfortable in her skin as a woman, but who also champions many of the classic feminine quality’s that have been downplayed, disparaged and held in contempt in a male dominated cutthroat world of competition and belligerent neo liberalism.

    And who proudly and unapologetically proclaims the ‘ politics of kindness’.

    She is a once in a lifetime political leader.

    Michael Joseph Savage, with his ‘applied Christianity’ was one such. Norman Kirk was another. And so is Jacinda Adern.

    ——————
    …”The secret of Christianity’s power has always been its capacity to integrate its unashamedly feminine values with the all-too-masculine impulses of the classical and feudal regimes it tamed and civilised”…
    ——————

    And I would say that this has always been the missing component that was always left out and led to so many masculine dominated travesty’s of history: that being the feminine attributes.

    The truth is, that the feminine is part of the make up of the masculine, and to deny that is to deny our humanity. When women are pushed by men over to the masculine side to act more like men and deny their femininity, …the tragic consequences often are that men are denied a vital part of their own humanity. The masculine and the feminine are complimentary.

    Adern is showing us that the classic feminine values of cooperation, non competitiveness and networking as a group in the long term,… is far more powerful than selfish ambition, ruthlessly competing against one another and one upmanship can ever be.

    As for Shipley, Collins, Richardson and Thatcher?

    I’ll let you be the judge.

    • Wild Katipo, to use your methodology I am using lyrics that are pertinent to this subject, it applies to both right and left…

      If you see your brother standing by the road
      With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
      And if you see your sister falling by the way
      Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way
      You got to try a little kindness
      Yes show a little kindness
      Just shine your light for everyone to see
      And if you try a little kindness
      Then you’ll overlook the blindness
      Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets
      Don’t walk around the down and out
      Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
      And the kindness that you show every day
      Will help someone along their way
      You got to try a little kindness
      Yes show a little kindness
      Just shine your light for everyone to see
      And if you try a little kindness
      Then you’ll…

      “NARROW MINDED PEOPLE “

    • Wonderful piece Chris.

      A note of caution though, Labour may be presented with a window of opportunity to achieve true transformational change. Don’t waste it. These moments come along infrequently, in the last 100 years we’ve had only two governments that changed the nation, 1935 and 1984.

      NZ’ers have been somewhat awakened by Covid and the real question is whether Jacinda will join Lange and Savage as the two most consequential prime ministers in NZ history or whether she will go down as a popular leader but made no difference like Key or Clark.

      Under MMP very few leaders will get this opportunity please don’t waste it.

  2. Chris, you are drawing a very long bow to connect being kind with the comments of the woefully inept David Cunliffe and his pathetic and embarrassing apology.

    Being “kind” encompasses many attributes. Being thoughtful, honest, inclusive, sensitive, unselfish, caring etc etc. Any male can display these qualities without appearing to be a big girl’s blouse. These should be qualities all leaders have and display regardless of gender. Being female does not guarantee these attributes. They for example are largely absent with Judith Collins and it’s alleged that she’s female.

    I sincerely believe Mike Hosking, for example, is a wonderful example of an….inadequate man. A big part of the problem in NZ is that a narcissistic and pathetic creature such as him should have such a loud voice and platform here. Having a person like that setting society parameters is an appalling benchmark.

  3. These comparisons with Savage are fairly misplaced, expect Labour to struggle getting off the ground with their reformist agenda next term. Faced with rapidly rising debt, their fiscally conservative tendencies, and agitation among lefties for actual transformative change which Robertson and Jacinda don’t want to deliver.

    • @ hunter
      Well, I might have bad news for all you little rightie princesses because I see dead agendas.
      There is talk about the reanimation of our agriculture in its original, classic form. Individual farmers farming within the security of each other while sheltering the rest of AO/NZ behind a stack of cash export revenue while heading back to climate friendly holistic farming practises. You know the ones, right? The ones the mercantile firms like wrightson pgg, feltcher challenge etc lobbied gubbimints to steer farmers away from by fair means and foul to sell addictive chemicals to farmers thus getting farmers hooked and dependant on them to speed-farm to keep ahead of the demands of foreign banksters and all the while making ‘good coin’ while walking over the suicided bodies of trans generational farmers, aye Boys?
      Jonky, the hook nosed little dark lord did a runner like the coward he is because he saw the writing on the wall. He may have written the wall himself to cover his tracks because someone had to lest he and his rightie hair tugger, bike seat sniffer, kiddy porn watchers were sprung, aye Boys?
      jonky and his little righty clones weren’t the only ones making money at the expense of our farmers and by association, our environment. It would be a glorious Machiavellian irony, to benefit from his own treachery while succumbing to it at the same time.
      You little righties, banging on in your swinging dick/big balls way when really? Your undies are falling down and all we can see is a little mushroom and a couple of jelly beans in a thicket of wilting bean sprouts.
      You’re done. Get over it and now imagine going off to open those letters from WINZ while shaking in fright as you huddle in front of that one bar heater in your cold, damp house. If you’re lucky. Thanks to you, there are now many people out there in the fucking streets dreaming of a cold, damp house.
      While there’s ink in my veins, that’ll be where I’ll write, that, that’s where you should be.
      Bad little righties, naughty little righties? What you gonna do when your easy money dries up. Doesn’t rhyme but you get the drift.
      RNZ
      Regenerative agriculture: How a dairy farmer learned to trust his instincts
      https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/country/416143/regenerative-agriculture-how-a-dairy-farmer-learned-to-trust-his-instincts
      RNZ
      Farmers dig deep at Regenerative Agriculture workshops
      https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/country/421075/farmers-dig-deep-at-regenerative-agriculture-workshops

      @ The Greens? Where the fuck are you? Do you know what a ‘farm’ is?
      Clue.
      A farm is a thing that’s covered in plants and animals and is run as a business and is not in funny little auckland behind a Ponsonby Cafe.
      A farm, run as if a factory, will fuck eco systems, will root the soils and water, will consign animals to a life of unimaginable Hell and when those same farms die as a consequence of such abysmal exploitation and neglect will go broke and then we’ll all go hungry.
      The Greens !? Hello? Hello…?
      ( I know you’re really just a hand job reaching down the trousers of the polite urbane latte sipper when in reality you’re a cunning manipulation set forth on us by the little righties to ensure an on-going source of good and easy coin. You fake little feet-in-the-trough greensters don’t fool me. )

      @ CT? How about mandatory voting instead of a revolution? I wrote to the electoral commission and asked why they were steadfast and ominously serious about how people who can vote MUST be enrolled and yet they can please themselves as to whether we vote or not?? I don’t understand that…???
      Neither did the electoral commission. They simply said ” Not our problem. Talk to central gubbimint.”
      Could it be that people are easily manipulated into voting blocks. The ones most likely to vote are the greediest and most self interested while the rest of us simply give up and turn on the glass barbi?
      Then surely, mandatory voting might just change that dangerous vector?
      ( Labour, it looks like, will get in again but will it be for the right reasons? And if so, will those reasons prove to be enduring?

      • When are you going to publish your writings as a small book countryboy? Get a few off-beat cartoonists in with it and perhaps some choice amusing pieces from others you know, and sell it as a memento to this historic period in our history/herstory in these turbulent and epic times. Countryboy’s & Co Covid-19 Rural Ravings or something? Crowd sourced?

  4. When Jacinda proclaimed her determination to practice the “politics of kindness”, she was, wittingly or unwittingly, raising a revolutionary banner.

    Vive la Revolution!! 🙂

    • Reminds me of how ‘Bald-headed forgettable chap’ acted when (sadly the all too RARE) genuine press scrutiny; utter failure.
      Nice Judith lasted all of 5mins before the real lying, hard nosed dirty-politics politician could NO LONGER be hidden.

  5. That was an interesting read, Chris.

    Adding to what you have written, much (most?) of the Christianity practiced in NZ is of the faux variety, in which acquisition of possessions and consumerism, along with the commensurate rapid looting and polluting of the Earth, feature prominently.

    Imagine the shock and horror if so-called Christian politicians and captains of industry were required to actually follow the teachings of Christ.

    Thus, declaration of being a Christian is mostly a cynical vote-catcher, designed to suck in equally worldly voters and get one’s snout into the public feeding trough, and get handsome rewards for implementing policies which are the very antithesis of anything Christ stood for.

  6. To answer your opening question Chris:
    I don’t think it’s a male or female thing at all. We are not frightened of Jacinda but of this style of governance per se. Because, philosophically we have a problem with the concept of ‘being dependent on the state for survival.’
    You guys don’t seem to have a problem with that. You seem to love it.
    It feels like underneath all that ‘kindness’ (which is clearly a pitch for that big UN job) Jacinda and her govt are doing a damn fine job of making more and more people ‘dependent’. The state has become the drug, the addiction.
    Would it not be ultimately much kinder, and less costly for all, to make people less dependent and less addicted?
    You know, not long ago, NZ used to be the ultimate No8 wire nation. Now you have plead with the the govt for permission to use No8 wire. In triplicate with attached engineering report and environmental impact study! Plus H&S plan! Only to be rejected. Govt has become bigger than the nation itself. Where is the revolution for that?

  7. This is a timely post Chris. And I think there is something amiss with NZs masculinity in general. Plenty of good blokes around but sometimes their understanding is too bounded by attitudes either limiting or expecting too much from females, and their generally accepted nature.

    I have wondered why the Maori boys colleges had to close down amidst accusations of bullying, and why with a religious backing, they could not have found ways of changing and trialling different self-control methods. It seems to me Alan Duff has been exploring his masculinity, his cultural maturity and the affect of pakeha masculine values on it. What he might say about the drives and values that NZ males have would be interesting and ideas he had about how kindness and practicality could be incorporated into a nation that could stand with respect for each other to forge a new and sustainable way forward.

    Tried to log in a large comment to this post on your own site Chris and it is not accepting. Thought I would just mention it.

  8. Wonderful article but if I may offer a word of caution: Labour absolutely MUST use this good will to implement actual fundamental change to NZ and repair the wounds of 3 decades of Rogernomics, neoliberal bullshit, and consequent rampant inequality and poverty.

    Labour should take note of what happened after Obama rode a huge wave of popularity and essentially changed nothing, paving the way for a disaffected working class to vote Trump.

    It remains to be seen whether Labour has the gumption to recognise the enemy and crush them. Not try to appease them like Obama did.

    The Greens have better policy IMO but lean too far into divisive identity politics. I hope Labour returns to its working class roots and legislates on behalf of renters, min wage workers, and beneficiaries for a change.

    • roblogic you make good points. Yes Labour must not sit on its laurels, that was for the Romans, here and now we must be active and repair, maintain and build all at the same time in practical quantities. And that Obama example is a very good one, very apt. People were so disappointed, it probably shook many of them so much it opened the way for Trump. You didn’t know what to expect with him, but it would be different. You thought you knew Obama and gave him your heart and showed you how wrong you were when he threw the hearts away.

      The Greens seem to always go for the utopian response. Sympathy and should be’s are encouraging for a while, but also there can be too much talk to action. I find that many middle-class people are busy worrying about the finer details and not getting stuck into giving personal immediate relief. Learning to walk, before you run around the park ten times seems a wise word for them. Saying every Kiwi should be able to come back free from overseas is one of their beliefs. I note that many Kiwis can’t afford to go to visit family within NZ. Poor people have to pay to get job training in hope of getting a job, and are lucky to be able to borrow to get a student loan. That’s not fair but look on the bright side of getting the opportunity. Paying a share of the cost for getting back to NZ will cost but people can be fed and housed and then will still need help. On the bright side, if they get all that help, they’re lucky and likely they will get a job. I think the Greens have largely come from the entitled middle class, while Labour used to be only partly entitled, from the working class. Different perspectives.

      • Can they do it though, Rob and Rosielee, given one of the major impediments to change will remain from this current term?
        Namely, ministries and departments still infested with brainwashed folk from the tertiary institutional production line waving their MBA’s and B.Com’s who believe neoliberalism is still best practice – despite it’s complete failure to produce Roger Douglas’ imagined land of milk and honey.
        They are the one’s providing advice and guidance to their Ministers, and are meant to enact policy at the end of the day.

  9. There is a poll, people respond to the questions, their answers are tallied, the results are published.
    Mike Hosking says the numbers are not right.

    An exercise like that happens and we are not to believe it. We are however to believe Mike Hosking, that miss mash of contradiction, subjectivity and shallowness, that paragon of pathetic.

    • One day Sci-Tech may find a way to give them the vote. Then things may change. Think ultrasound scans with either ‘Thumbs up!’ or tight fists and scowls (as one of the jnrs in my family had).

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