I went to Te Radar’s Eating the Dog at Downstage last night, and, as is customary when you get free tickets to something and it turns out to be good, I recommend you go and see it. The show is a stand-up comedy routine in which the material is drawn from New Zealand history, and watching it I was reminded of Bill Bryson’s latest book which is a history of domestic homes.
See, some people see history as the words and deeds of great men, and Marx teaches us that it’s the operation of economic forces and clashes of classes, but Bryson points out that history is mostly just billions of discreet human moments and lives, which generally aren’t all that tragic or dramatic, but are often absurd and comic. That’s roughly the approach Te Radar takes to New Zealand history
Meanwhile, Trotter blogged a few days back about the wonders of compulsory unionism. Funnily enough, I’ve just started reading Margaret Pope’s book about her time in the Lange-Douglas government. On, I think, the second page she explains that as an educated, urban liberal female in the 1970s, she voted for the National Party because of her intense dislike for Labour’s policy of compulsory unionism. I guess Trotter would reply that Labour could do without the support of urban liberals (their current core demographic), because they’d be a ‘workers party’.
This perpetual fantasy about a ‘workers party’ (see, also, some of the Mana Party rhetoric) is based on the same misconception as the religious parties that occasionally flare up: people look at census results and think, ‘Look at all the people who identify as Christians/earn low incomes! If we get their vote we’ll be in government!’
But it’s not the 1930s. We’re an individualistic, post-industrial nation. People don’t see themselves as ‘Christian’ or ‘working class’ in a political sense. We’re no longer ‘labourers’ – we’re human capital, or, to put it another way: our poor aren’t poor, they just haven’t made their first million yet.
Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a place in politics for improving the lot of ‘workers’ – just that unions are no longer the way to go about it. We have a political party (Labour) who are supposed to advocate for these sorts of policies – and they did get us that fourth week of compulsory holidays – but on the whole they’re pretty quiet on this front. Back in government they talked about compulsory redundancy, which would be tax-free, but they had better things to spend their time on, like regulating light-bulbs and shower-heads.
My theory is that Labour are reluctant to pass too much ‘pro-worker’ industrial legislation because that undermines the power of the unions, who fund and support Labour. There’s no point in paying a union fee if there’s a political party who will act directly on your behalf.
The new Fairfax poll has the Greens on 10% and Russel Norman registering as preferred Prime Minister for the first time, albeit with 1.7%. We keep hearing about how the media will only focus on trivialities and so the public are ‘switched off’ to politics, but the Greens’ radical strategy of releasing policy and talking about things they think are important seems to be playing out pretty well.
In the same poll National is at 54.3% and Labour 28.1%, proving that if you offer people a small bag of cat-shit and a large bag of dog shit, they’ll generally, reluctantly, take the smaller bag. And then the people trying to give away the dog-shit will cry, ‘Don’t you know that small bag is full of cat-shit? Wake up!’ And people like John Armstrong will write ecstatic columns about how New Zealanders love bags of fragrant, wonderful cat-shit. You get my point.