Friday, 22 July 2016

The 2017 Election will be fought over Housing

Housing - a subject that can only be avoided until you
lock yourself out at night drunk and 3 hours before work
Election years are like Christmas - we all have different ideas about when its time to start talking. Just as you might hear the odd murmur about Christmas Club or Secret Santa, there are basically two main things you begin to notice when it's time to start thinking about an election:

  1. You start seeing advertisements from political parties
  2. Both parties start arguing over a specific issue which will be central to swaying voters

And would you believe it - that has already happened! Both those boxes have been ticked in the form of this National Party advertisement promoted on Facebook:

Understand this: Every election has a theme. And I don't mean like a Christmas theme either - I mean a central issue which the parties are all expected to deal with. For our American counterparts and their election, it was Income Inequality and fighting the establishment. What else could give rise to prominent 'champions of the marginalised' like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?

We had a theme last election too - it was Dirty Politics. Whether you acknowledge it or not, that was the theme. The problem of course, is that National didn't acknowledge it. They refused to see Dirty Politics as an issue. And by pretending it wasn't an issue, they stopped it from ever being one.

I just love this dialogue so much I have to quote it:

Reporter: Why should we believe Cameron Slater over Nicky Hager?

John Key: Because Nicky Hager's got nothing to prove it.

Reporter: But Nicky Hager's got a bunch of e-mails.

John Key: Ah well. *mumbles*.

Nothing softens a serious issue like using the tone of two old friends idly discussing the weather in Hawkes Bay. A movie about John Key would actually be very boring. He needs an epic 'I am not a crook' or 'If the Prime Minister does it, it's not illegal' moment.

Anyway, back to housing. So yes. This time, the issue is Housing, but I don't think National can continue to deny it. Generally politicians only care about something if it's big enough to sway voters, and an issue will only sway voters, (or, at the least, encourage people to actually get out and vote) if it affects enough of us us on a personal level. As horrid as the Dirty Politics revelations were, they simply didn't personally affect us enough to really care.

But we do care about the housing crisis, and National is grudgingly coming to accept that. By sending 1 billion dollars to local governments to alleviate housing pains, and then going on to advertise it through social media, National are trying to set the stage for the next election a whole year in advance - talk about time to prepare! After years of ignoring an issue until it reaches a breaking point, they really have to buckle up and plan ahead now.

But they're also doing something more clever. Sending 1 billion dollars is probably the most effective way of catching up with an issue Labour has been campaigning about for years and National have been denying for years. It doesn't matter if the government has refused to even acknowledge a housing crisis. The fact is, money talks.

And it shows - people have already bought into it. A New Zealand Herald video article published on 6th of July asks New Zealanders for their thoughts on Labour, and one 28 year old former Labour voter has 'seen the homeless on the street' and believes National are the only party that can and will solve the housing crisis.

This is despite the fact that, along with John Key personally stating that 'homeless people don't want help.' National has persistently refused to even acknowledge a housing crisis. I pulled out just a few examples for fun:

I'm a bit idealistic. I grew up watching Dr Phil, I'm afraid to admit, and you don't get much more idealistic than that. One of his Texan proverbs I enjoyed was 'You can't change what you don't acknowledge'. And I'm sorry, I just find it really hard to think National will solve this issue given they've been dragged into it kicking and screaming.

So we get it, voters are dumb. But that interview says a lot - the 1 billion dollar proposal has worked according to plan.

Of course 1 billion isn't directly going to fix the issue, but it's a darn good way of telling people 'Hey, we're obviously trying to fix it.' Because how do you make up for years of a bad image? That's a good question, because it takes a long time to earn your reputation back.

But you can always buy it for, let's say, the approximate sum of 1 billion dollars. That's an expense National are willing to take.

So the National Party, frequent critics of Labour's 'chuck some money at it' policies, are now the ones doing the money-chucking. And if you think it's just because they're trying to solve the housing crisis from the good of their hearts, well, try to read between the lines. Remember, these are politicians we're dealing with here, not a bunch of Nuns.

National can now claim to have set the stage for the 2017 election - Housing, sweeping the rug from under Labour's feet by stealing a claim which should be rightfully theirs.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Do We Need A Left-Wing Mayor?

Right (pictured Left) and Left (pictured Right)

Recently I did what virtually nobody else is doing – I had a conversation about the Mayoral election. We were sitting outside a cafe drinking coffee, and so we started talking about politics, which is what usually happened before smartphones were invented. So my friend asked me 'do we really want another left-wing Mayor?

Like most young people who type better than they talk, I never have the perfect response until much later. In hindsight, what I should/could/would have said is:
'I don't know, do we?'
Do we want a left-wing mayor? I don't know. Check the polls. Here's a more interesting question: do we need one? Because maybe it doesn't matter what we want. If this year has proven anything about politics, from the Brexit to the rise of Donald Trump, it's that what people think they want isn't necessarily what they actually need.

Instead I just said something about Len Brown not really being left-wing, well, not compared to my definition of left-wing, anyway. In the end we decided that Len was 'left-leaning' at the least. As you can tell it was a riveting conversation.

I literally transformed into this guy
But seriously, who isn't left-leaning? How can any self-respecting human of the 21st century not consider themselves at least partially left-wing? To me, every progressive advance the us humans and our wacky civilisation has made in the past 5,000 years could be interpreted as a form of left wing. Free the slaves? Left wing. Women's rights? Left wing. Marriage equality? Lefty left left baby. Republicanism? A left-wing concept. What's more Left than the idea of abandoning an absolute monarchy? Yet the conservative United States Republican Party has claimed the term for its own.

Speaking of the United States, that country was founded on a bunch of rebels who wanted more democracy; representation and freedom. At their core all left-wing concepts. That's my view of history. Sure, it's gone haywire here and there – you get the odd Marxist here or the odd Domineering Union there, but all in all, left-wing politics has a pretty good track record of constantly trying to make the world a better place.

On the other hand, when I think of distinctly right-wing things, I think of every regressive and backwards decision of the human race. Apartheid? Right-wing. Japanese Imperialism? Right-wing. Nazism? Okay, there's a lot to be said about Nazis. You can't really compare them to anything else, but you wouldn't be wrong for calling them 'far right' either.

Well, democracy and elections did teach me that you win if you get over 50%.

Now obviously I'm biased. It's me looking through history with left-leaning lenses. I'm sure if a staunch conservative historian would look at history as one big conflict between the wild loony left trying to 'shake things up' for their own greedy purposes vs. the humble right who knows it's best to keep things the way they are, and only welcome in change very slowly and skeptically so nothing goes out of hand.

But thats kinda the point. Maybe we both have equally valid arguments to make. Maybe there's something to learn from both ways of thinking. A bird can't fly with two wings on one side, right? The laws of aerodynamics dictate that in order for a bird to fly, it needs one wing on the left and one wing on the right.

Angry Birds: teaching Millennials
everything they need to know about politics
That's why we have parties safely comfortably in the centre, leaning in one particular direction, like the National government with its right-leaning. Even National could be considered to have some left-wing tendencies – wait, what are you talking about? National is centre right! Wikipedia says so! Yes, but centre-right means you're basically right-wing but veering to the left. You may be right wing, but you're still, in a way, left-leaning.

So it got me thinking about what it means to be left-wing, and more importantly, why left-wing politics just aren't as popular as they used to be.

My conclusion is quite simple: we don't really need them anymore.

Don't go away – this isn't a criticism of the left (of which I am proudly a member). In fact, if anything it's a praise of the utter importance of being left-wing, and why you must never shy away from proudly admitting it to yourself. How many people do you know would proudly admit to being left-wing? Okay, now compare that to how many people proudly admit to being right-wing? Who the hell would want to admit that?

No John, saying 'I'm Always Right' doesn't count.
Heck, that's not even a joke. According to the UK news website The Telegraph, 'Mr (John) Key nonetheless sees himself as more of a centrist'. Of course. Why would you want to call yourself right wing? Considering all the bad things associated with it?

Because frankly - and this my left-wing biased view of history again, we never really need right-wing ideas. They either come around when everything is perfectly fine (gotta keep the status quo) or when everything has gone to shit and the wrong person is getting blamed (Hitler blaming Jews, Trump blaming Mexicans, Reagan blaming Jimmy Carter).

Pictured above: Pure, unadulterated evil.
On the outside he looks like a nice guy,
but on the inside he's...well, a really nice guy.
Left Wing politics, on the other hand, has always arisen in times when people have actually needed it, precisely because they have needed it. Have you noticed how so many African and Latin American countries have a long history of, and still have, left-wing governments? It's not because they're too stupid to realise the folly of seductive left-wing populists, it's because, and this may surprise some people, they're poor as fuck, they have a starving population, and they need results. To them, at least, The Left is the only hope of this. What is The Right going to do? Tell the poor to be more responsible with their weekly bag of cornmeal and cassava root? When is the last time you heard of a third-world nation rise out of poverty as a result of a generous right-wing government?

Pinochet: 'I won't help ya but I'll make our neighbours
too shit scared to fuck with us. And the world will
fucking love to import our wine.'
Here's the trick: it doesn't happen. It goes against the whole nature of right-wing governments, which are inevitably heirarchal. Francis Moore-Lappe's famous food manifesto Diet For A Small Planet explores the effects free-market policies have on developing 'banana-republics' in South America and Southeast Asia. She explains how cheap-labour, long thought to 'bring people out of poverty', actually just creates dependency by subjecting a workforce to extremely long hours and low wages to produce tropical foodstuffs for export to the developed world. These people earn peanuts, and live in houses owned by the companies they work for. Us in the western world love our tropical goods which we spend more money on per week than these workers make per month – chocolate, coffee, bananas, all delicious, and even more delicious if you mix the three together. Frozen Monkey Smoothie, anyone?

Sorry. Back to talking about poor brown people. So we pay for all the goods but as you can guess, the money doesn't go back to the workers. Now, I like capitalism. I think it's great, but the one major problem with capitalism, if I'm picking just one, is the concept of the middle-man. The middle-man is the eternal thorn in the side of the free market. It's the annoying sea-lice biting your crotch when you're just trying to enjoy a swim at the beach. The problem with the middle-man is that he always gets the best deal. The workers earn little for breaking their backs producing something wonderful and the consumer pays more than the cost to make it. The middle-man is always there, laughing maniacally as he throws money into the air. The middle-man is the engine of capitalism, but also the eventual root of its destruction. Peasants are powerless, but they're not stupid. When they see a left-wing party, they see the hope of a better future. Even if they don't get it in the end, it's sure as hell better than the right-wing government, because all they see is that laughing middle-man lighting a fat cigar with a 100 dollar bill.

This explains John Key's three-way handshakes

And who can blame them for seeing it this way? For most of history, The Right has been the enemy of change. The enemy of progress. The enemy of improvement. Say what you want about The Left, but The Left gets shit done. What turned Cuba from an impoverished gambling hole into one of Latin America's healthiest and most educated nations? Left wing policy. What put an end to Apartheid in South Africa with a relatively peaceful transition into a democratic government? It certainly wasn't Reagan or Thatcher - it was decades of hard work from the left-wing African National Congress.

Pictured above: a 'communist terrorist' who would go on to become
one of the most beloved world leaders in history
Say what you want about Cuba and Fidel Castro, but his socialist regime came to power because, in some form, Cuba needed it. Sure, Fidel is a narcissistic dictator, and he went too far with the persecutions and censorship, but what you can't deny is that Cubans were being marginalised by a right-wing dictator for too long, and eventually they just got sick of it and drew arms. It's easy to criticise Cuba for being ruled by a dictator when you forget that that's all they've ever known. The CIA set the standard by supporting Fulgencio Batista.

Even the use of the term 'left wing' emerged from the French Revolution, when the downtrodden masses simply grew too tired of the reckless greed of the aristocracy. What a bunch of loony lefties! After India broke free from British rule, they elected a series of left-wing governments under the Indian National Congress because... how could they not? They needed that kind of idealogical backbone to emerge from a hundred years of British exploitation. Yet now, in the 21st century, they have elected the right-wing BJP, whose main goal seems to be religious persecution and Hindu nationalism. Thanks, Nahendra Modi. Because of you, India is no longer a developing nation. Now, you're a declining nation regressing back into the past. Damn it, we need back Akbar The Great! He knew what he was doing!

Pictured above: the current Prime Minister of India
Here's a trick, right-wingers. If you hate The Left so much, stop forcing The Left to exist. If I want someone to stop hating me, I try to find common ground or follow that Abe Lincoln quote about destroying my enemies by befriending them.

But that won't happen, and for obvious reasons. We like to hate each other, even though we're both important for the function of a civil society. It's just that... I happen to feel a lot happier to be on the side that is always aiming for better, fairer, kinder, more equal. To be honest, I don't care if The Right hates me. Hating seems to be one of the prime objective of being right-wing in the first place. They are inherently negative people.

So we sit with our chocolate-banana coffee in our developed western nations and vote for centre-right governments. The Tories in Britain, The Liberals in Australia. The Nats in New Zealand. The.. whatever the heck those guys are in Ireland. The parties that promise not to 'rock the boat', to keep things the way they are. After all, we have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Maybe if we go through a massive global economic meltdown, we'll ask The Left for help again. In the meantime, we'll stick with the status quo.

So do we need another left-leaning Mayor? I don't know, but for fucks' sake just vote for Phil Goff.

Vote Goff: Because Why Not

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Key To Announce New Name for Housing 'Crisis'

John Key and his cabinet to discuss the new name for the "housing crisis"

The Prime Minister has arranged an impromptu cabinet meeting to create an "official name" for New Zealand's housing crisis, which is also known as the "housing challenge" or the "housing boom".

The decision came from John Key's dissatisfaction with the label 'Housing Crisis', calling the name 'inaccurate - a crisis, you know, is generally something you experience when you reach your midlife. I see people in their midlife, myself included, we all seem to be doing okay,' the Prime Minister stated before closing the meeting room door to the media.

Two hours into the meeting, Junior Whip and Spokesman Tim MacIndoe emerged to address the media:

'Yeah look, we want a name that grabs people's attention, but also one that is uniquely New Zealand,' MacIndoe stated, 'We want something that will draw in keen eyes to say "look, we're open for business", but at the same time it has to be thoughtful and acknowledge the seriousness of the issue. So you've got those dual competing elements to find a great name and that's what we're look towards achieving.'

McIndoe also provided a complete list of the names being considered (in order of preference):

  • The Housing Challenge
  • The Housing Boom
  • The Housing Non-Issue
  • The Housing Overreaction
  • The Housing Dilemma
  • The Housing Question
  • The Housing Arousing
  • The Housing Debacle
  • The Housing Thing
  • Resident's Evil
  • The Haunting of Hill Housing
  • Te Whare Raruraru
  • Hao Zedong
  • The How Sing Cries Is
  • The Housing Crisis

'Yeah look,' continued MacIndoe, 'What we really want is to use this as an opportunity to promote the New Zealand brand. If there is an issue related to housing - which I'm not asserting or denying, we really want to make it look appealing as possible to the world. You know, we really think that if we stuck with "Housing Crisis" well, look, that just wouldn't look good for New Zealand on the world scale. We can't, you know, let this confusion detract from promoting continued foreign speculation. The last thing we need in the middle of this crisis is to lose out on the foreign investment central to our economy.'

MacIndoe later returned to formally retract his usage of the word "crisis".