The most insufferably woke Media in NZ thinks that maybe the cancel culture that their columnists have claimed doesn’t really exist might in fact be causing social alienation…
As with all social justice movements, there has been a backlash. Pākehā defensiveness has largely manifested itself online. Brewery owner David Gaughan’s Facebook comments were abhorrent, but he’s no lone wolf: read to the bottom of any news article about Māori inequity or cultural appropriation, and you fall down a rabbit hole filled with bitterness, resentment and brittle superiority.
It’s often undiluted racism. But it also reflects discomfort and a fear of being demonised. It often dovetails with panic about free speech, cancel culture, and ‘wokeness’.
Is it small enough that we can afford to ignore it? Do we accept that white fragility, and the hostility and denialism that goes with it, is an unavoidable consequence of a necessary conversation and will eventually die out.
Or do we acknowledge that a bunch of people aren’t on board with change, and try to turn that around? Cancel culture might be satisfying, but shutting people down ultimately doesn’t work. It entrenches positions, because people need to feel heard before they can open their minds to other points of view.
And just because New Zealand politics offers no obvious Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen figurehead, that doesn’t mean they aren’t yet out there.
This is difficult. But rather than scorn, belittle, and label them bigots, can we persuade them there is no existential threat to their way of life, and that lessening the gaps is good for everyone?
As someone who likes to credit myself with the wide spread use of the word ‘woke’ as a derisive term aimed at identity politics activists in NZ, I should respond.
As a class lefty, I see identity as an important personal journey that leads you to politics but feel Identity Politics becomes terribly limited in gaining the democratic 51% as its most shrill advocates in the cancel culture landscape manage to make progress as alienating as a cold cup of vomit.
Class solidarity can gain 51%, Identity Politics risks pure temple over broad-church and you get endless schisms and little to show for it.
For most ultra woke activists, their starting point is all white people are racist, every man is a rapist and anyone supporting free speech is a uniform wearing Nazi.
There’s not much intellectual wriggle room there.
That virtue-signalling-middle-class-micro-aggression-policing-identifiably-Green-Party-militant-bike-riding-vegan-condescending-supporting-pronoun-Spinoff-subscriber in your social media feed screaming endlessly at you in the ubiquitous world of social media certainly thinks they are shouting truth to power, unfortunately it all ends up as a cacophony of self righteous struggle sessions alienating the vast chunk of voters who just want to know how they are paying for the roof over their heads and the food on their tables.
There’s this terrible truth that once you go middle class woke you start doing 5 things:
1 – You start loudly correcting Te Reo mispronunciation in public.
2 – You become humourless about your veganism.
3 – You pay a subscription to The Spinoff and Stuff.
4 – You buy Tim Minchin concert tickets.
5 – You become unbearably militant about your cycling.
Twitter outrage is woke righteousness porn for the middle classes. A puritanical razoring where the self elected morality police publicly shame and cancel anyone for not using the language protocols of the conclave.
Andrea is right to ask who will tap into this reservoir of building culture war resentment. National are too hamfisted and blatant with their racism at the moment while ACT have become the unofficial right wing values party.
In terms of what the potential trigger for that resentment could be – I think there could be a couple.
HOUSE PRICES DROP- Let’s not forget those same middle class home owners who love Jacinda now voted in John Key despite his mass surveillance lies, his dirty politics or his abuse of power all because he kept house prices going up. You watch those allies turn far more cold hearted when they feel the pinch of deflating wealth.
WHITE PRIVILEGE EDUCATION- Most NZers under 60 don’t feel intimidated by Maori co-governance and don’t see the Maori Health Authority as separatist or segregation, but they will get very angry if their children are made to feel guilty for being white at school. The local community flexibility of how far you can take this new history curriculum means some earnest Teacher will go full woke and ACT/National will go to town.
HATE SPEECH LEGISLATION- The looming hate speech debate is supposedly a response to the white supremacist terror attack in Christchurch, but the solutions of criminalising hate speech are all identity politic based intersectionist roulette virtue signals that will obscenely use the terror attack to justify gagging speech that the woke can’t tolerate while not protecting us from another white supremacist terror attack!
CANCEL CULTURE SNUFF ACTIVISM- a trigger could be if one of the cancelled commits suicide after their woke shaming.
The solidarity from the unique universal experience Covid has produced alongside Jacinda’s leadership and use of kindness as a political strength are still holding us together, but the greatest danger identity politics presents us with is when white men start seeing themselves solely as an identity.
That’s when shit starts getting nasty. If there are not shared values and only a political culture based on identity, the progress of democracy quickly flips to the tyranny of the majority.
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