Pointless negativity and the left

This is a slightly whingey post about how much we whinge, so let me state right up front that I can spot my own irony!

There’s a lot to get us down as progressive/lefty folk. The dominance capitalism feels insurmountable, we’re insulted at every turn for not getting with the cool neoliberal programme (or “learning math”) or sneered at to stop making such a bloody fuss.

It’s only natural that we will, now and then, throw up their hands and cry “this is all just useless, why do we bother?” It’s probably even natural – though often it’s also self-gratifying – to lament “why don’t people understand? Why do they keep electing these bastards?”

community why
And I don’t want to say “shut up, everyone, quit whinging.” Venting is great. It stops you exploding. We bond by being a sympathetic ear for each other when it all just seems hopeless.  And there’s plenty to critique our opponents for – we cannot accept their framing that the very act of opposition is “just being negative for no good reason”.

What I want – if I may make a tiny plea which everyone’s welcome to take or leave as they see fit – is for us to remember that yep, the task is difficult. The road is long. We’re all going to get really, really angry about it, many many times, on the way. But let’s bear in mind that we’re all meat popsicles, and we all have a limited amount of energy, and none of us can thrive and keep up the good fight if the only thing we ever hear is negativity, even from our own side.

fifth element meat popsicle

Specifically, this means that, dear comrades, we don’t have to add a nasty little comment on every single blog post or tweet or Facebook status update we see. We don’t have to snark “Not bloody likely, everyone loves John Key because they’re sheeple!!!!!” every time someone says “here’s a great new idea about how we change the government in 2017.”

(We definitely need to never, ever use the phrases “sheeple” or “sleepy hobbits” ever again.)

Maybe this is just something I notice because I spend a lot of time on blogs and social media. But it feels like every time someone says “here’s an interesting article. What do you reckon?” or “here’s my latest cool idea. What do you think?” the first comment is inevitably, “IT’S POINTLESS BECAUSE WE’RE ALL DOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED AND THE SHEEPLE ARE STUUUUUUUUUUPID.”

And there’s only one situation in which it’s acceptable to use the word “doomed”.


Find the place for ranting. Vent when you need to. But remember that we’re a community. And our experiences and attitudes are heavily impacted by the statements and images we see. When you’re screaming “John Key is destroying our country and there’s no hope”, you’re reinforcing, for everyone who reads it, that there is no hope. Who’s going to turn out to vote when there’s no hope? What do we campaign for if there’s no solution?

The other side want us demoralized and uninspired. They want us so focused on tearing each other down that we don’t organise to defeat them. Let’s stay angry – but stop playing their game.


Statement of the damn obvious: there’s a difference between pointless negativity and genuine disagreement. There’s a difference between pointless negativity and justified outrage. You can probably figure out which one I’m talking about.

The “No” Prime Minister

A favourite meme of disingenuous rightwinger commenters is that no one likes the Left/the Opposition because we’re so negative. “You just say ‘no’ all the time, why not stand for something positive?” they say, being very concerned about our political fortunes.

Yet less than a year into his third term as PM, it’s John Key who seems to be saying “no” a lot.

No, you can’t have 26 weeks paid parental leave – it’ll cost too much, and no, we don’t want to look at your costings.

No, you can’t give all workers the right to elect health and safety representatives.

No, you can’t have the flag you want, you have to have the flag I want.

No, we can’t take more refugees, the system is too stretched already – and no, we can’t increase funding for that system either.

amy winehouse no no no

Time and again the government will make the bare minimum gesture possible. 18 weeks’ paid parental leave – all we can afford, really. All workers in large workplaces or small workplaces in “high risk industries” will get H&S reps – just don’t expect him to have a coherent idea of what those industries are. On the flag, we’re meant to accept that Key’s hands are tied, because they’d have to change the law to introduce a new option – except that’s not true, and anyway, isn’t changing the law kind of his job?

And on refugees, it’s not even a thousand. It’s 150 from our current quota, plus 100 this year, and maybe 500 jars of jam tomorrow over the next two financial years.

John Key couldn’t even bring himself to a one-off doubling of our quota, because God forbid it look like he’s listening to a suggestion made by the Opposition.

When our Prime Minister was thunderously declaring that the Opposition needed to “get some guts” and support a military deployment to Iraq, he nicked a line from his 2011 campaign song – “it’s time to stand up and be counted.” His charade of a consultation process for selecting a new flag kept asking New Zealanders what we “stand for”.

Right now, it doesn’t feel like John Key stands for anything – except saying “no”.