Boots Theory top 5 for January

It’s no great surprise that three of my top five posts in January were the Big News ones:

Why I’m Quitting Tobacco

I wish, like Don Draper, I could say I’m relieved. That I now have a chance to really do my own thing and break out of the mould. But I don’t have Don’s writers, and only the roughest idea of what I’ll do with myself in 2018.

I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep having opinions. Maybe pitch that novel I’ve been working on for years. I’ll need the support of readers like you – and you can buy me a virtual coffee if the holiday spirit takes you.

I guess something will come up. It always does.

The year of living recklessly

I’m going to write. I’m going to write the truth – my truth, my understanding of the world: how it is and how it should be. How we can and must bridge the gap. How we might be failing and how we can do better.

Some people won’t like it, but I’m taking my own comms advice: they aren’t the audience, and I can’t keep biting my tongue in the hopes of reaching those who cannot be persuaded.

What I need from you

… this blog is labour. It is a product of my time and expertise. And it changes things – not in the most dramatic, final-uplifting-speech-of-an-episode-of-The-West-Wing way, but in shifting how politicians talk and what we think progressive politics looks like. Challenging the leftwing status quo and offering ways for us to be better and do better.

And to keep doing this – to post regularly and devote the resources I need to keep it current and interesting – I need it to be more than a hobby.

But I did also talk about some current events and big political ideas, starting with:

What did she expect?

It would still be assault if she’d been dressed “properly”. “Properly dressed” women are assaulted every day. Because there’s always another reason why he couldn’t stop himself, and another thing she should have done to stop him.

The person responsible for assault is the person who commits assault. And this guy committed assault. And he could have stopped himself. And it is our job, as members of the society he lives in, to send that message.

And stop treating walking garbage heaps like Gable Tostee as celebrities.

And [updated – we had a late contender!] a quick and clean exit:

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.

~

Given the above it’s a little redundant to remind you that I’m now on Patreon – and asking readers (who can) to support me on a monthly basis and keep the good fight (or at least the good writing) going.

Or if you like what I wrote this past month, buy me a virtual coffee or two. You know how Wellingtonians are about coffee.

500 posts!

Bit of a milestone around these parts. Boots Theory kicked off in February 2014 with a post explaining the Pratchett reference in the name for all you heathens who haven’t read any of the Discworld saga. Go! Now! Start with Guards! Guards! or maybe Witches Abroad or Hogfather (though that’s best enjoyed at Christmas) and get your kids onto The Wee Free Men while you’re at it.

Here’s another great quotation from A Hat Full of Sky. It describes Tiffany leaving home to live with Miss Level and learn how to be a witch.

Tiffany couldn’t quite work out how Miss Level got paid. Certainly the basket she carried filled up more than it emptied. They’d walk past a cottage and a woman would come scurrying out with a fresh-baked loaf or a jar of pickles, even though Miss Level hadn’t stopped there. But they’d spend an hour somewhere else, stitching up the leg of a farmer who’d been careless with an axe, and get a cup of tea and a stale biscuit. It didn’t seem fair.

“Oh, it evens out,” said Miss Level, as they walked on through the woods. “You do what you can. People give what they can, when they can. Old Slapwick there, with the leg, he’s mean as a cat, but there’ll be a big cut of beef on my doorstep before the week’s end, you can bet on it. His wife will see to it. And pretty soon people will be killing their pigs for the winter, and I’ll get more brawn, ham, bacon and sausages turning up than a family could eat in a year.”

“You do? What do you do with all that food?”

“Store it,” said Miss Level.

“But you -”

“I store it in other people. It’s amazing what you can store in other people.” Miss Level laughed at Tiffany’s expression. “I mean, I take what I don’t need round to those who don’t have a pig, or who’re going through a bad patch, or who don’t have anyone to remember them.”

“But that means they’ll owe you a favour!”

“Right! And so it just keeps on going round. It all works out.”

“I bet some people are too mean to pay -”

“Not pay,” said Miss Level, severely. “A witch never expects payment and never asks for it and just hopes she never needs to. But, sadly, you are right.”

“And then what happens?”

“What do you mean?”

“You stop helping them, do you?”

“Oh, no,” said Miss Level, genuinely shocked. “You can’t not help people just because they’re stupid or forgetful or unpleasant. Everyone’s poor round here. If I don’t help them, who will?”

I think Helen Kelly would have been a damn fine Discworld witch. Kindness, but steel principles and no tolerance for injustice. Something we definitely need more of.

~

And now for something a little different – signing off with a song.

Sie wollen mein Herz am rechten Fleck / doch seh ich dann nach unten weg / da schlägt es links
They want my heart on the right, yet I look down at it; there it beats left

Boots Theory top 5 posts for January

Let’s get this election year party started.

naomi-glow-entrange

Far and away the most-read post for the first month of 2017 was Unity, a poem entirely constructed from the verbatim writing of Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury.

Twitter can be rough
a boutique shop down a tiny alleyway
for Militant Free Bleeders and Beard Glitter aficionados
screams of ‘hate monger’ if someone gets the wrong pronoun
fucking worthless as a political measurement tool

outside the tiny little alienating echo chamber
the impenetrable little echo chamber
the Emerald Stormtroopers
are itching to start a schism of religious proportions.

St John ambulance officers took industrial action over rostering and rest breaks, and we asked Who wouldn’t want ambulance drivers to be safe and healthy at work?

So tell St John. Tell every employer who tries to walk away from the bargaining table when they don’t like people taking a stand for health and safety and decent work: it’s not on. It’s not how we do things. And tell the politicians, too. Because laws change when we make them change.

Stephanie spoke at a Wellington Fabians meeting about The political prospects for 2017: living our values.

I don’t want to assume everyone here has sat through at least one Labour Party conference or candidate selection, but I know you’ve heard the line: “My values are Labour’s values. And Labour’s values are New Zealand’s values.”

We understand the importance of values. But we’ve forgotten that they’re not theory. They’re practice. We need to live them.

When we live our values, nothing’s a distraction. Every issue is an issue that matters.

We applauded Richard MacLean of Wellington City Council for confronting the rampant hypocrisy of the Taxpayers “Union” in our quote of the day for the 18th.

And here’s an important reminder: The only minimum wage is a living wage.

If you cannot pay someone enough for them to live on, you aren’t paying enough. The minimum wage you should be allowed to pay is not determined by invisible market forces or Treasury forecast spreadsheets; it’s determined by human life. We do not work for the economy. We do not have to sacrifice ourselves to its glory.

All wages should be living wages. Or they’re just a dolled-up kind of servitude.

Now let’s set our sights on 23 September – it’ll be here before we know it.

Our top posts of 2016

Well that was a bastard of a year. Here’s the Boots Theory posts y’all enjoyed reading the most.

10. How we got here

A long time ago in New Zealand we all, through public services run by the government, ensured every family had enough money to feed their kids and a safe house to live in. We used to make people’s jobs secure and support people who weren’t able to work.

We knew some things were too important to leave in the hands of private companies whose first priority was profit. We knew together, as people who are part of a community, we could help each other. And the government, or the state, was the best instrument of that – because it wasn’t driven by making a quick buck, because it was accountable to the people.

We lost that. But we didn’t lose it by accident. It was by design.

9. There is no surplus

This surplus isn’t a success for our government. It is a sign of their failure. It shows they do not understand what their job is: to look after the people of this country. To govern us – not bean-count. It shows they do not understand what success looks like, because success should never be measured on a spreadsheet while children are dying of preventable diseases in mold-ridden houses.

8. Beware, creepy men of the Right: Rawshark returns (briefly)

Rawshark’s brief return sent a very powerful message to the Dirty Politics crew. I’m still here. I’m still watching. And there’s a lot I didn’t reveal, so don’t make me want to come back.

Good on ya, mate.

7. On Brexit

Rob’s response to the reasons for that result.

The danger is that by not taking this lesson on board, and instead dismissing the electorate as ignorant or racist, social democratic organisations in particular would move further away from their traditional base and cede even more ground to the right. Because people can sense when you don’t like them and they don’t support people who don’t like them.

6. Nicola Young’s scary “solution” to people begging in Wellington

In a year of tragedies, at least this woman didn’t become Mayor.

The kneejerk reaction is “wow, banning people who beg? Dickensian villain much?” but Young has responded to many critics asking that they understand it’s a broad policy and that exiling people to the outskirts of Panem is just “part” of the solution. Read the whole post, she says.

I did.

brody jaws zoom

5. 2016 local government endorsements

No surprise that in a local body election year (with typically sparse media analysis unless it involved John Palino’s book or the Wellington Tory meltdown), you were keen to check out our master list of different organisations’ endorsements.

4. Where those Kiwimeter questions came from

Many far more qualified people addressed the problems with TVNZ’s Kiwimeter survey (links in the post!) but Stephanie’s love of screencapping weird things allowed us to see how the sausage is made.

3. I say no to rape-promoting meetups in my city

This feels like an age ago.

6 February won’t just be Waitangi Day and Bob Marley’s birthday this year. It also sees – allegedly – a set of coordinated meetups for “neomasculinists” – adherents of the teachings/writings/bizarre YouTube videos of “Roosh V”, variously described as a “pick-up artist”, “relationship guru” and “incredibly creepy rape promoter”.

The Stuff article on the meetups planned in Australia/New Zealand provides a pretty good summary of the beliefs of Roosh and his fans. But it’s really easy to look at one paragraph with ridiculous concepts like “rape should be legal on private property” and shrug these guys off as a bunch of fringe weirdos.

It’s much worse.

2. When the creeper is your mate

When you know in your heart you’re A Good Dude, you can be oblivious to your friends’ creeping. You tell yourself you’ve called out Bad Guys on their creepiness, you look out for your women friends – therefore the way your mates behave isn’t the same. Because they’re your mates.

This is the danger. The creepy dudes who you think are charming and affable are using your status As A Good Dude to harass and abuse other women. You’re their meat shield. They’re your mate, so they must be safe, because you wouldn’t stand for creepiness.

Believing women can’t just be about believing them when their experience aligns with yours. It has to mean reflecting, checking your instinct to say “but he’s my mate”, when the creep in question is your good friend.

Given that this post was initially inspired by Alex Casey and Duncan Greive’s incredible coverage of allegations of persistent sexual harassment by Andrew Tidball of Cheese on Toast, and given that a major leftwing blogger has seen fit to label this “a modern day witch hunt” in the closing days of 2016, a corollary should perhaps be added to the above: If you dismiss women’s experiences because it allows you to attack a news site you don’t like, you’re not A Good Dude at all.

1. Massey Chancellor: women graduates only worth 40% of a real veterinarian

Absolutely no contest on this one, with over 10,000 pageviews – more for one post than literally any other calendar month in 2016.

Does this actually need unpacking? Are we actually on the cusp of 2017 and I have to spell out why it’s so insulting, small-minded and frankly bizarre to be write off women’s professional abilities and value because they might have babies?

What about women who don’t want to have kids? What about women who enjoy more practical study than theoretical? What about women who don’t just go into veterinary science because (as implied further on in that godawful article) they love puppies and kittens and ickle babby wabbits?

Please note: as Chris Kelly apologised, admitted his statements weren’t factual, and subsequently resigned after publicly trashing Massey’s reputation, any comments about “maybe he has a point” or “but it’s true, women just love having babies” will not be published.

So that was 2016! 2017 promises a NZ general election, the inauguration of the Donald …

At least we got a new RTJ album to carry us through.

Boots Theory top 5 posts for October

A quiet month, but a good one.

Stephanie commented on the government’s triumphant crowing over a budget surplus: There is no surplus.

If you aren’t providing the services you are contracted to do – in this case, maintaining the public services and promoting the welfare of New Zealanders – and declaring a profit, you’re not running a successful business. You’re running a Ponzi scheme.

This surplus isn’t a success for our government. It is a sign of their failure. It shows they do not understand what their job is: to look after the people of this country. To govern us – not bean-count. It shows they do not understand what success looks like, because success should never be measured on a spreadsheet while children are dying of preventable diseases in mold-ridden houses.

There is no surplus – not if you care about people more than money.

And suggested ten useful things politicians could do instead of jumping on the sugar tax bandwagon:

Our distaste for the huge corporations who sell the packaged/processed/unrecognisable/cheap/nasty food we label as “junk” distracts us from the reality that they are only able to profit because far too many people do not have the luxury of picking and choosing a perfect organic macronutrient-balanced meal plan every week.

I get it. Those guys suck. But ultimately, a sugar tax does nothing but make the cheapest food available more expensive, in an environment where many people cannot make ends meet anyway. Those people won’t find magical quinoa salad under the mattress in the boot of their car if a bag of potato chips costs 50c more.

And tried to lift the mood by reminding us all not to despair:

And god, I know the frustration you feel at your fellow New Zealanders. When you’re faced with what seems like an unstoppable war-rig of capitalism, it’s so much easier to scream at the people who voted National, or didn’t vote at all. “This is your fault! If you weren’t so stupid and self-absorbed and watching Real Housewives of Auckland we wouldn’t be in this mess!”

But we have to rein that in, folks.

We have to remember that a defining part of being on the left and being progressive and believing in social justice is that we have faith in people. We know people are fundamentally good. We know humans are social animals who form communities and friendships and look out for each other, when they’re not being hammered every day with rightwing narratives about bludgers and self-interest and YOUR taxpayer dollars being wasted on those parasites.

Rob addressed one of the great shibboleths of leftwing politics: The middle vs the centre

The trick is to find the shared middle values that align with your core principles as a political party, or don’t strongly run against them, and play them up to the electorate. National understand that: it’s why John Key plays to “the centre” on a regular basis. But it’s not the centre he’s playing to, it’s a broadly shared value set that happens to be progressive. And it’s important to note that he never ever plays to a progressive value that cuts across his constituency’s interests – eg any policy that might seriously harm speculative investment in housing, any hint of drug liberalisation, any increase in work rights that might significantly tip the balance away from employers.

The best thing an effective opposition can do is map the middle values that the government can’t touch, such as deterring housing speculators, investing in health, or strengthening work rights, and play these up as much as possible to wedge the government against middle voters.

And we took on that Aaron Smith toilet “story” together.

Honestly, mistaking feminist (actually humanist) concern for abuse of power (ie what happened with the Chiefs) for some kind of Victorian prudishness only shows how dangerously out of touch and unqualified to provide role models to young men like my son, you are.