Just putting a pin in this day.
Marama Davidson’s campaign launch
I was beyond excited to see Marama Davidson stand up to announce her bid for the co-leadership of the Greens.
I’ve been a Marama fan for an age, so I was very biased in her favour. But reading her speech from today’s launch in Ōtara just reinforced it.
Together, we can build a country that ensures everyone has what they need to live good lives, and that recognises that a healthy environment is crucial to that.
Together, we can change politics forever.
Together, we are many.
New Zealanders want their Government to reflect our values of care and compassion for communities and the environment.
Because progressive values, Green values, are New Zealand values.
It’s not just powerful, it’s incredibly effective.
There are three fundamentals for modern progressive communications (which I’ve shamelessly stolen from Anat Shenker-Osorio’s website):
- Don’t take the temperature, change it
- Stop feeding the opposition; show what you stand for
- Engage the base to persuade the middle
As to the first: we aren’t thermometers. We can’t be content to reflect where people are. We have to be thermostats, pushing the political temperature in the right direction. And Marama Davidson is doing that just by being who she is: a Māori woman, a mother of six, launching a political campaign at the leisure centre in Ōtara where she learned to swim as a kid.
(Jacinda Ardern has also been doing this, by taking a drastically different approach to Waitangi and defying the standard frame of “one day of tension and shouting which doesn’t ~bring the country together~”.)
But it’s further reinforced in a speech which does not make a single mention of economic growth (she does cite the “steady economic development” of her grandparents’ day) or business but uses the word “communities” 20 times. This will be decried by the Kiwiblogs and Whaleoils of the world as demonstrating her inability to be part of a proper government.
The second point: we can’t just be a resistance. A resistance is defined by what it resists. There has to be more to progressive politics than hating everything National did for the past nine years. I really hate the word vision (thanks, David Shearer), but it kind of applies: you need something to aim for. To build a better world, you’ve got to know what that better world looks like, otherwise how do you know you’re going in the right direction?
This is Marama Davidson’s vison:
Aotearoa can again be a country of care and compassion and a world leader through the greatest challenges of our time.
A country where all children grow up in healthy, liveable cities, are able to play in their local stream and forest, and have the support and opportunities to realise their full potential.
And a country that recognises that upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi as our founding document is essential in achieving this.
The third point is something both Labour and the Greens have been … not brilliant at over recent years. Instead of getting the hardcore fans excited, appreciating their role as communicators and agitators in their own communities, parties have taken them for granted. They’ve assumed the way to bring in people from outside was, variously, “say what the mainstream media wants to hear”, “try to look like National”, “tell people who hate us that we’re not that scary” and per point 2: “reinforce the right’s framing and priorities”.
The result … well, 44% of the country still voted National last election.
While it’s easy to write off Davidson’s approach as pandering to the fans (which wouldn’t exactly be a bad idea since they’re the ones voting for her) it’s important to understand how staunchly declaring Green Party values and the need for a fundamental shift in New Zealand politics and society will energise those fans, and make them feel there’s a real result from donating, volunteering, spreading the Green message.
Besides those three key points – and getting those right would have been entirely sufficient for me – there’s a few other things. Stuff you may have noticed me go on and on and on about, which progressive politicians just have to stop doing if they really want to achieve change.
- Parrotting “my values are New Zealand values” without explaining what those values are
- Using passive language instead of naming the villains
- Using language that reinforces rightwing ideology.
Marama Davidson nails every single one of these. Her values are “care and compassion for communities and the environment”, working together (a prominent theme). The villains are “our elected representatives” who “tore apart the social safety net”.
That last point, that’s where I turn into the eyes-for-hearts emoji. One of my most-read posts last year was about how we (should) talk about child poverty: not as a passive force, but a created injustice. Well:
We could have chosen to pull communities in to our growing financial prosperity. But instead we further alienated struggling families and pushed them to the margins of our society.
Instead our elected representatives tore apart the social safety net we had built up over generations, pushing hundreds of thousands of children and families into hardship and deprivation.
Not “young people from vulnerable communities fell through the cracks”: “we built barriers for youth who simply were not born in to wealth”. Not “families ended up on the streets”: “we took families out of State houses that we sold to rich developers.”
We did this. We can fix it. Political messaging doesn’t get much clearer or paradigm-shifting than that.
Tinkering and half-measures will not be enough. Now is the time to be bold and brave for those who need us most.
A quick and clean exit
I was off social media for much of yesterday avoiding spoilers for the Royal Rumble (WORTH IT) and missed this rather, um, celebratory article at NBR about Wellington restaurant Five Boroughs’ “quick and clean” liquidation:
Popular Wellington diner Five Boroughs has moved across town into smaller premises after the company was put into voluntary liquidation, which the owners say give it greater opportunity to chase more profitable business.
[The company] owes $32,400 to employees in holiday pay, $27,000 to unsecured trade creditors, and about $360,000 to Inland Revenue, though that number is yet to be confirmed.
One of Five Boroughs’ owners has made an open statement on Facebook challenging some of the article, but it’s hard to argue with quotes like
“We could see ourselves on this slippery slope where we were basically just becoming a hamburger restaurant, and neither Elie nor myself really wanted that. It was sensible for us to move to a smaller site, where we could really get a handle on the product and the quality … We decided we’d get a handle on everything now and do it on our own terms.”
Other reports (from people claiming to be staff) indicate that the timing was deliberate – workers were given 4, 9, 11 or 13 days’ notice that their jobs were ended – and in my experience, employers sometimes schedule redundancy announcements around or before Christmas to avoid extra holiday costs (usually because they don’t understand how holiday pay works).
The fact that Five Boroughs’ owners owed $32,000 in holiday pay tells us the staff were employed on a casual basis, instead of permanent; which is common in the hospitality industry and generally exploitative [I’ve been corrected on this point; it’s also possible staff are owed accrued leave as permanent employees]. Sure, there’s sometimes a genuine need for casual or on call work, but knowing what the basic requirements of your operation are is business competence 101 – and you can, and should, hire permanent, decent-fixed-hours staff accordingly.
This is horrific for the people who have been essentially turned into disposable assets by their employers, and it highlights the wider issue of how fucking terrible New Zealand business owners and managers are.
We’re persistently fed this myth by rightwing politicians and lobbyists: the market knows best, businesses are more efficient than the public service, the profit motive encourages good, clean, efficient, smart behaviour.
Yet again and again we see businesses which are only able to be “successful” by shafting ordinary workers. By relying on poverty wages or tax loopholes to make the books look good. By making short-term cuts and bailing before the long-term effects are realised. By literally putting themselves out of business to make a quick cut-and-run to a more central, “slicker” venue.
There are good businesses out there. There are Living Wage employers, bosses who understand the benefits of having collective agreements, companies which see the huge advantages of engaging constructively with the people who make their operation successful.
I want to see other business owners get angry about this story. Tell us that this isn’t how you run things. Show that you’re not just exploiting loopholes and grinding people’s faces into the mud for a bottom line. Because we have too many examples to the contrary, and your self-appointed spokespeople like National, ACT, the New Zealand Initiative and NBR telling the world it’s just hunky-dory.
We cannot accept a situation where ordinary people – the people who did the work every day of preparing food, serving customers, cleaning tables – are left in the lurch, and it’s hailed as savvy business practice. We cannot accept the “wisdom” of a market which relies on bullshit and crossed fingers to make all the numbers line up on a spreadsheet and call it “growth”.
Success is when you make a contribution to your community, when you nurture and protect the people around you, when you create something good for the benefit of everyone.
This isn’t success. It’s greed. And greed is poison.
What I read on my holidays
We’re still in that quiet time of year where not a lot is happening unless you’re into cricket. Here are a few longer reads I’ve been enjoying over the downtime.
New York Times: How tough is it to change a culture of harassment? Ask women at Ford
The jobs were the best they would ever have: collecting union wages while working at Ford, one of America’s most storied companies. But inside two Chicago plants, the women found menace.
Bosses and fellow laborers treated them as property or prey. Men crudely commented on their breasts and buttocks; graffiti of penises was carved into tables, spray-painted onto floors and scribbled onto walls. They groped women, pressed against them, simulated sex acts or masturbated in front of them. Supervisors traded better assignments for sex and punished those who refused.
That was a quarter-century ago. Today, women at those plants say they have been subjected to many of the same abuses. And like those who complained before them, they say they were mocked, dismissed, threatened and ostracized. One described being called “snitch bitch,” while another was accused of “raping the company.” Many of the men who they say hounded them kept their jobs.
Al Jazeera: Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring Ahed?
Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, was recently arrested in a night-time raid on her home. The Israeli authorities accuse her of “assaulting” an Israeli soldier and an officer. A day earlier she had confronted Israeli soldiers who had entered her family’s backyard. The incident happened shortly after a soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet, and fired tear-gas canisters directly at their home, breaking windows.
Her mother and cousin were arrested later as well. All three remain in detention.
There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls’ empowerment.
Giovanni Tiso: On polite Nazis and the violence of speech
The error in believing that fascism can be defeated through debate stems partly from the failure to see violence in speech, and in the exercise of speech. Few would fail to recognise that violence when watching the 90-second video, and the fixed stares of those fifteen men, whose every gesture signified: ‘We could hurt you, but choose not to. For now.’
Graham Cameron: Māori health and education models can work for everyone
We need to move past the assumption prevalent in our public services that if it was written by a Māori academic, has Māori words and concepts, and Māori people are using it, then it is only aimed at Māori. These models are aimed beyond the individual to building functional communities and whānau; ethnicity has very little to do with it.
Do National know they lost?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but do National know they lost the election?
The tone of National’s messaging hasn’t really shifted since the formation of the new government, nor from the days John Key was their leader. It’s still snarky, soundbitey attacks on Labour’s credibility which are designed to stick in the mind just long enough to create a sense of disquiet.
But it simply doesn’t work when you’re at the very beginning of a government’s term, and even less so when you were holding the levers of power just over one month ago.
I remarked on Twitter, “If only Steven Joyce had very very recently been in a position to seek official advice on such matters.” Because that’s the kind of line you trot out when you’ve been in Opposition for a couple of years; when the government of the day has presumably had time to staff up, plan their work programme, and start getting full detailed policy advice from their departments.
The balance of power does not flip overnight. Ordinary people are quite willing to understand when it’s your first day on the job, things are going to take a while to get up to speed – which is a significant reason that the new government’s swift and decisive announcements about te reo in primary schools, the three-strikes law, foreign land ownership, and equal pay have been so delightful. We’ve all become comfortable talking about “the first 100 days” but to be honest, no one expects the first week or two to be that interesting. And yet they have been. No wonder the Tories are scared.
This next tweet strikes a very different but equally odd tone – and given the fixation with fritters and fishing I start to wonder if someone on Bill’s social media team wants to chuck it all in and get out on the water:
Obviously “great gains” is up for debate and exactly which “NZers” have made them likewise, but have a look at the overall vague, managerial tone of the thing. This is the press release you put out when you’re still Prime Minister and you’re calling back to the “success” of your much more likeable predecessor to distract from the fact you’re one more junior MP’s police investigation away from implosion.
But this has been National’s double-sided problem since Key stepped down: they’ve tried to keep politicking as though he didn’t, and they tried to do it with Mr Managerial Boringness as leader. They’ve continued to market themselves in the same snarky laidback guy-you’d-like-to-have-a-beer-with tone, to horrible spaghetti-related effect, and they never figured out how to make English’s boring-but-safe managerialism into a campaign asset.
He’s great as a Minister of Finance who pushes through damaging rightwing policies as though they’re plain old common-sense fiscal management. He’s terrible as a fighting champion. He was meant to be above petty politics and throwaway insults about snapper quotas, but that’s all they’ve given him.
The bigger problem for National is this: ordinarily you’d say they’ve got three years to work this out, while the new government is busy finding the caucus rooms and pathfinding to their offices in the Escherian nightmare that is the Beehive.
But this is an activist government which is already rolling out strong policies and re-writing the story on employment relations, justice, education, and health, the very purpose of government and its relationship to people. And National is offering no serious critique, no alternative narrative, no vision (admittedly it would have been miraculous for them to find one between election day and now.) Add to that: voters like to back winners. Add to that: National has tapped all its possible reserves of support, sucking every other rightwing party dry. It has nowhere to go but down.
Maybe they’re worried about leaving any space for the new government to fill and mark out its agenda. But they’re only doing more damage to themselves by continuing to mis-market their leader, or acting like there’s going to be an election in a month and all that matters is getting points on the board.
They just end up creating exactly that space for Labour, the Greens and NZ First to demonstrate that there’s a much better way to run a country. Works for me.