Residence on Earth Carried by the Wind

Generation zombie, it’s a worry

By Rowan Sylva

source: NZ Herald

source: NZ Herald

Those of us who support progressive politics in NZ have a sinking feeling (given the mainstream polls) that despite Whalegate, despite Orivida, despite all the evidence that National is brazenly corrupt, we may be facing another three years of National government – and with it will come more assaults on our environment, education, more debt, more income inequality and a lower standard of living. We will have to live with the shame that we knowingly elected a government that is unscrupulous and corrupt. And will be forced to watch on as our beautiful natural areas are torn up. How could this happen? How can National constantly poll so high? Perhaps as Bomber Bradbury argues the polls are deceptive, but this can only be part of the picture. Another part of the picture, and the one that is the focus of this article poses a very, very worrying problem for progressive politics not just in New Zealand, but globally. It is a problem that is not going to go away, and it is a problem that has not been noted by the main stream media. So what is the problem: growing conservatism among youth. This is a frightening prospect for progressive politics because historically, youth can be counted upon to support the progressive side of politics, and while that may still be true, I would tentatively suggest that it is changing.

source: The Dogs Space

source: The Dogs Space

I was unable to find any hard statistical data of youth voting trends, other than increasing apathy, (itself a potential indicator of growing conservatism). But there are detailed studies of youth attitudes in the UK. Consider some of these trends – the UK tory party more than tripled its share of the youth vote between 2005 and 2013, moving from 10 percent to as high 31. Another UK study (2013) showed that 48 percent of 18-25 year-olds believed that people received welfare payments because they were lazy rather than unlucky, while only 25 percent of over 65 year-olds believed the same thing. Another interesting stat from another UK study shows that only 20 percent of under 30s believe that more money should spent on welfare even if it means higher taxes. 70 percent of people born before war believed that it should. Last year’s elections for the European parliament showed an unprecedented swing to the far right of politics, particularly in France and Britain, where Frontnationale and UKIP swept to the elections; they were not voted in by old Pétanque playing frenchmen suddenly changing their vote, but by the young, educated and increasingly vile right. British youth atitudes are succinctly summed up by a writer for the Guardian, John Harris, when it comes to questions about the welfare state, work and the like, the younger you are, the more rightwing you’re likely to be.” The UK is of course not New Zealand but in the absence of hard data, the UK is a pretty good proxy. And looking at the similar way that Cameron and Key have run their campaigns it is fair to assume that National have increased its share of the youth vote by similar, if not greater, proportions.

a John Key selfie, gone wrong. source: national billboard makeovers

a John Key selfie, gone wrong. source: national billboard makeovers

There is also anecdotal evidence to support the notion that National’s high polling is supported by youth conservatism. I was reading a comments section of the Herald the other day, an uplifting exercise as the 90 percent of the comments support the left side of politics – suggesting the Herald’s tone is out of line with its readership. I came across a comment that got me thinking and led to writing this article. The comment was from an old time Labour supporter bemoaning the fact that his son was a nat voter, and that he would at least cancel out his son’s vote. I then read an article in which ordinary people were being interviewed on their political views, a young woman said she would vote for John Key “because there was nobody else to vote for.” I then watched a clip where Campbell Live went on the road to interview people about their views on the dirty politics debacle; many young people (Wellington excepted) were apathetic about the allegations, or worse supportive of the National Government. This put me in mind of conversations I had with a friend of mine, who had an important position in the New Zealand Students Association – student unions were becoming more conservative, the Waikato Student Association, for example had been taken over by the Young Nats and they were trying to destroy the whole structure of student unions from the inside. The Young Nats’ facebook page has 12,906 likes; the Young Labour page has 5,679 likes – less than half, while the Young Greens have a measly 1,534. None of this amounts to iron clad evidence but when taken together it paints a picture that should give progressives pause for thought.

John Key playing beer pong

John Key playing beer pong

Now consider National’s electoral campaign: John Key swans around the country taking selfies of himself with smiling young people, while spouting nifty but meaningless catch phrases. Consider some of Key’s media stunts over the past term in office – selfies at the Big Gay Out. Key playing beer pong with young bogans. Contrast this with Labour, where Cunnliffe seems to spend more time in retirement villages than universities, and it seems likely that Labour’s woes have less to do with their tax policy and more to do with their increasingly ageing support base. National is aggressively, and possibly successfully, targeting young voters. The irony is that National party policies will harm youth, with decreased spending into education and neoliberal economic policies that tend to keep young people out of employment. the National party is also resistant to raising youth wages and its environmental policies destroy the basis for a good future for the younger generation. It would appear that the age old adage that, he who is not communist at twenty has no heart, and he who is not a conservative at 40 has no head, is no longer the case. If ever the left has taken the youth vote for granted that attitude needs to change, now. As a committed Green voter, and myself a member of generation Y, I am saddened by the apparent trend toward conservative politics within my generation. It is not something which can be easily changed, and my suspicion is that the move comes from living in an increasingly uncertain world and an increasingly atomised society.

But sadness should never lead to apathy. We need to stand by the values we hold to be true, stand up to corporate interests and save New Zealand from a corrupt government. Youth conservatism may be growing but it is not yet dominant. And I will finish this post with a quote form George Monbiot, “[hope] can transform what appears to be a fixed polity, a fixed outcome, into something entirely different. It can summon up passion and purpose we never knew we possessed” 

 

Hikois From Hell

By Rowan Sylva

In a recent herald “hot seat” interview, John Key was asked if he would consider implementing the long standing National party policy of abolishing the Maori seats. He replied that such a move would mean, “hikois from hell.” Key’s comment, typical to his evasive style, did not answer the question. This should set off alarm bells to Maori, and pakeha who sympathise with indigenous rights because 2014 election is looking likely to result in a government to NewZealand’s world leading indigenous programs and settlement processes. Four parties in the election have decidedly racist agendas and policy – New Zealand first, the Conservatives, Act and National. With abolishing New Zealand’s “race based laws” being on of NewZealand First’s “bottom lines,” and that party looking increasingly likely to hold the balance power, it may indeed be time to start sharpening the tiaha.

In 1860 Maori held, in legal title under the crown, over 80 percent of the North Island (approximately 23.2 million hectares). After the hugely expensive New Zealand Wars 1860s, new views of scientific racism which held that the Maori race destined to extinction were applied in New Zealand. Through military seizure and forced land sales Maori lost half of their land by 1890. This was accompanied by drastic demographic decline which the government did nothing to arrest. Maori were forced off their land and employed as labourers on the land they had once owned. By 1910 only 27 percent of land in the North Island remained in Maori hands. Land seizures continued throughout the twentieth century and by 1938 Maori land had been reduced to nine percent, and by 1970 only four percent. During much of the nineteenth century the government pursued a policy of assimilation where Maori cultural practices would be stamped out, and Maori would europeanised. Such measures included banning Maori language in schools, the mass burning and destruction of sacred sites and the criminalisation of tohunga and traditional lore (this happened especially under the tohunga suppression act 1907).

Since the the maori revival beginning in the late 80’s maori have been able to regain some of the ground lost to over a century of colonial abuse, however, economically little has been achieved. The New Zealand deprivation index published this month, shows that NZ’s most deprived areas correlate precisely with areas that are predominantly Maori, areas where people live well below the poverty line. One of the most shocking things about the index is that it shows no improvement for Maori in the twenty years since the index was first created. With a 2012 prison population of 8700 New Zealand has one of the highest rates on incarceration in the developed world, and that rate is rising. Maori make up roughly 14 percent of New Zealand’s population but comprise 51 percent of our prison population; many are in prison for drug offences. The median maori annual income is $14,800, while the national median is $35,650. In addition to this shocking evidence of racial inequality, Maori are a rapidly growing demographic, suggesting that number of people living that are deprived of economic opportunity along racial lines is growing. These are the people that Jamie Whyte, leader of the Act party, described as analogous the French aristocracy on the verge of the 1789 revolution. That someone with doctorate in philosophy could spout such nonsense makes one doubt the academic rigour of Cambridge where Whyte lectured.

source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Party-Billboard-Makeovers

source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Party-Billboard-Makeovers

Fortunately for New Zealand, despite Act’s disproportionate media coverage and large amount corporate funding, nobody give a shit what they think, and the party consistently polls under one percent. A much more dangerous threat to Maori sovereignty comes from NZ First (consistently polling over six percent). In a statement to the media in January, Winston Peters attacked Maori party policy as “apartheid,” and insisted his party would work to dismantle programs such as specialised assistance to Maori prisoners and whanau ora. He would review the need for maori seats and work to finalise settlements under the Waitangi Tribunal. Peters has also ruled out working with “race based parties,” (Mana and Maori parties). If NZ first holds the balance of power, and such a scenario looks increasingly likely than even a Labour /Green government may be forced into making concessions to Peters’ racist policy agenda. Further to right is the new rising star of the right wing minor parties – the Conservatives (the preferred coalition partner among national voters )– which have polled as high as 4.6 percent. Their “One law to rule us all” policy (I wonder if Craig realises the Sauron reference in his policy title) makes Peters look like a regular tohunga. The Conservative Party would seek not only to abolish the Maori seats but the Treaty of Waitangi as New Zealand’s founding legal document. They would seek to abolish the Waitangi tribunal, reverse the seabed and foreshore legislation and essentially all the programs Maori have fought to establish. All of this is glossed over on their website in languge that looks likes targeted to five year olds. (let us pray that such insidious party never reaches the five percent threshold.)

For the last two terms in office, Key, to his credit, has played the moderate when it comes to Maori affairs,while pursuing economic polices which further entrench Maori deprivation. His strategic alliance with the Maori party allowed him to keep National’s core racist policies at arm’s length while retaining them on paper. The National government negotiated a historic agreement with Tuhoi and supported the token whanau ora program. However, a third term looks likely to spell the end to National’s soft approach to Maori issues. If Key requires NZ First or  the Conservatives to form a government, the Maori party will not have a seat at the table. National, bleeding votes to the Conservatives, are already under pressure from their core constituents to end perceived Maori privilege. The conciliatory mask will slip and Maori will see their programs slashed or axed, while mineral exploitation brings the National party into conflict with Moari Tikanga and another three years of neoliberal polices will entrench New Zealand’s economic segregation. National is and always will be an anti-Maori party, and a third term for National is certain to see NZ’s racial wounds reopened. What is clear from history is that Maori cannot depend on pakeha voters to protect their communities. Maori must deliver on Key’s fear and give National hikoi from hell. For the rest of us, who want to see New Zealand remain a positive global example of post colonial race relations, we need to vote for those parties who will protect that status – the Greens, Labour, and Internet Mana.