What I need from you

Eagle-eyed readers will already know where this is going.

In my New Year’s Day post I wrote about my hopes and dreams and, dare I say, vision for 2018 and my work. And a lot of it was about this website, and how I’m going to make a living doing what I love: writing and advising on political strategy and messaging.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been blogging for a long time now. It’s always been free. We all tend to look at blogging as a bit of a nothing – just some words thrown out on a webpage, a side hobby, a distraction.

But 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.

In 2018 the old ways of making a living aren’t relevant.

Especially, as I noted in my 2017 sign-off, when you’re an opinionated sheila who rocks the boat. We need boat-rockers. And boat-rockers need you.

So here’s the value proposition. If you get enjoyment my work, and want to see it continue – and fancy getting an inside look on what’s coming next – I’m asking you to support me with a monthly pledge through Patreon.

Patreon is a platform for creative people to get direct support from their fans. You can set how much you want to contribute – from $1 per month to $10+.

In return, you get early access to most of my posts (the ones that are planned ahead and have a bit more work put into them), the ability to vote in polls about the future of Boots Theory, and even a Christmas card at the end of the year.

Look at the alternatives.

Other NZ politics bloggers charge up to $15/month for subscriptions and put their content behind a paywall. For $35/month you can get all the rightwing propaganda you like at NBR (and occasionally me cackling at Nick Leggett). Cameron Slater even tries to charge $2,000 per annum for his “Platinum Annual” INCITE subscription (really, Cam?)

$10 per month to keep Boots Theory fresh and free for all to share sounds like a pretty good deal.

So head over to my Patreon page and sign up. You’ll need to set up a Patron account to access your rewards and manage your pledge. Currently Patreon uses PayPal to manage payments.

And thank you.

Afraid of commitment?

If a monthly contribution is a bit scary, there’s another option! Whenever you see a post you like on Boots Theory, you can make a one-off tip through Ko-Fi – another online platform helping people reward the creators whose work they enjoy. (And many, many socialist bouquets to those of you who already have!)

The year of living recklessly

That was the year that was.

2017 ended up being a bit quiet around here, but we had some good times, and it’s really important to remember what you’ve achieved even when things turned a bit shit.

So I’m kicking January off by revisiting the ten most-read posts of the past year. There’s some damn fine writing in there and some critical subjects which I know will come up again over the first term of our new government.

I think they also show what this place can become with a little more elbow grease and support from people like you – but more about that next week.

In the meantime, here’s to 2018, which I’m dubbing the year of living recklessly.

What does that mean? Well, I’ve got a mortgage and no full-time employment. That’s not how you get a front-page article on nzherald.co.nz about how sensible millennials can build a successful property portfolio through sheer hard work and massive parental subsidies. That’s pretty reckless.

But more importantly, 2018 will be the year in which, if I earn any new regrets, none will be “why didn’t I …?”

So here at Boots Theory, 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.

Some will think I should keep my opinions to myself, or proper, private channels. Don’t air disagreements in public! Well, I think we’re better than that. We’re strong enough in our principles not to flinch when our opponents try to turn them into weaknesses. We have to be.

Some people will love seeing a dissenting leftwing voice because they think it can be used to undermine the left. And you can bugger right off back to your sham of a “union”, Jordy.

I’m writing for the people who want the world to be better but think they’re alone, or there’s no space to talk about what change looks like. (Don’t air your disagreements in public!) If not for the people who can be persuaded to join the good fight – they’re not really reading political nerd blogs – then the people who will do the persuading, but need some extra tools.

There’s a broader objective: we – the left, the progressive movement – need to be able to question and discuss and make political debate something anyone can be part of. As I said on NYE, in some quarters anything short of 100% enthusiastic support for everything the progressive parliamentary parties do is tantamount to voting ACT.

But we’re progressives. It is core to who we are to debate and discuss and not simply accept whatever authority tells us to do. And when we’re in government, especially when we’re in government, we need all those voices pushing the limits of debate, rebutting the right’s propaganda, creating the space for change. Continued change.

I know I can be one of those voices, speaking from the leftwing, feminist, campaigning side of things. I don’t cover all the bases by any means, and the left will also need the voices of people who are Māori and working-class and queer and trans and who have disability. Parents and grandparents and aunties and young folk, students and retirees. It will take all of us because leftwing politics is about all of us.

I have my voice, and I know change happens when I use it. So that’s what I’m going to do. And I will need your support – but more of that in a bit.

I have to believe real, significant change is achievable, and not in ten or twenty years’ time – now.

I have to believe there’s a place for my voice and voices like mine – and unlike mine.

I have to believe there are people out there willing to listen, and act.

I’m doing this.

Why I’m Quitting Tobacco

2017 was really a bit of a shit year, friends. So sorry-not-sorry in advance for closing it off with a maudlin little piece.

In season four of Mad Men, Don’s concerned about the future of his agency after losing the contract for Lucky Strike cigarettes. He pens an open letter in the New York Times spinning the whole thing as a relief, a clean break, a way for the firm to start doing good, nice advertising. Everyone’s horrified. What company will work with a firm that trashes its former clients so publicly?

It turns out for the best, because all Don’s big dramatic flounces do. He’s Don Draper. He’s a fictional white guy in 1960s New York with great hair and an army of competent women sacrificing their own happiness daily to keep his legend going.

But we all know the real world doesn’t work like that. You have to pick your battles. Keep on smiling. Don’t burn bridges – New Zealand’s way too small. Everyone knows each other!

And besides, Stephanie (yep, this is segueing into the personal narrative) you’re smart and an amazing writer and so good at what you do. Labour and the Greens are in government! They’d be mad not to hire you (have said at least three different people who know about these things). Bite your tongue. Something will come up. It always does!

Well, nothing came up.

And I am ja so müde of biting my tongue. Because New Zealand is that small and the Wellington left and union movement is even smaller and once you’re an outspoken political commentator that’s the public sector pretty much locked off for all time.

What do you think the paucity of recent posting here has been, if not biting my tongue? Hoping the big boys would notice how good I’d been, how quiet and compliant and definitely a constructive, useful person you want inside the tent?

No one wanted to hear what Labour and the Greens could do better when we were in Opposition. Christ, Stephanie, isn’t it hard enough fighting National without Our Own People attacking us? Just get in behind and help us win. Now we’re in government … can’t you just be happy?

No one wanted to ask why it’s seen as a joke that unions are the worst employers in the country, LOL ironic or what we could do to change that. Just keeping doing what you can, it’s the cause that matters, not whether we’re actually doing the job well, never mind your own health.

It’s never about picking your battles. It’s about picking no battles at all. But I did.

And boy, when I did, I picked them good and hard. Publicly calling out important men for their sexism and bullying, questioning the anointing of Willie Jackson, defending Metiria Turei at a time when actually, Stephanie, what we needed to do was Look Like A Government In Waiting.

And in private – well. You get found out as the girl who (after a year of crying in the toilets on a daily basis) won’t accept bullying any more? Who tells the (union) boss that his micro-management and disciplinary threats breach the (union) collective agreement? You take part in in-house democratic processes against the will of the factions in charge?

Might as well have arrayed myself in purple and scarlet and written BABYLON THE GREAT ‘pon my brow.

I’m damn good at what I do. I write blisteringly sharp prose (wait, can you get blisters from sharp things? – ed.) I run campaigns that get the last guy on the Labour list elected leader and overturn government legislation in an election year. I’m at the bleeding edge of values-based narrative and framing, something which frightens the hell out of the right because they know if we get this going strong, they will never see power again. I’m the multi-talented strategic/operational media/online/print comms/PR witch of your dreams.

And yet it feels like I just can’t get a job in this town. Because I picked battles. I tried to do good instead of making insecure important people comfortable. I questioned the party line. Hell, I questioned the Party line.

Perhaps I should’ve listened to all those men who supported me and talked me up just so long as I was useful for their projects. Who promised we’d change the world but always had one reason after another to not do it today. They’ve got highly-paid jobs now, and I don’t, and if capitalism has taught me one thing, it’s that people with highly-paid jobs are the smart ones.

Besides, we did win, and that proves their strategy and policies were right all along, and has nothing to do with Jacinda Ardern being a uniquely charismatic person on whom dissatisfied voters projected a huge volume of principle and progressiveness the Labour Party had generally failed to demonstrate for nine years.

… but that’s a post for another time.

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.