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

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