The other day I wondered what was driving left-wing success in local body elections. I wonder if it’s a combination of things:
- Decline of traditional media. Younger demographics (<50) especially are getting their news online, and mostly about celebrities and kittens instead of about local politics and local politicians. So they feel less informed and less invested in outcomes.
- People tend to vote on the basis of social and/or group identity, rather than policy or ideology, and that privileges the left-wing candidates affiliating with political parties – even though nationally those parties are quite unpopular – as opposed to right wing candidates running as independents who have no identity affiliation.
And, finally, groups have never thirsted after truth. They demand illusions, and cannot do without them. They constantly give what is unreal precedence over what is real; they are almost as strongly influenced by what is untrue as by what is true. They have an evident tendency not to distinguish between the two.
Sigmund Freud – Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. 1921
Via Radio New Zealand:
Helen Clark has congratulated Portugal’s Antonio Guterres as the “clear winner” in the selection for next United Nations Secretary-General.
The former Portuguese prime minister is poised to take up the role after none of the five UN Security Council veto powers voted against him in a sixth secret ballot, diplomats said.
Helen Clark ended up fifth overall but three of the permanent Security Council members voted against her, effectively vetoing her selection.
In a statement, Miss Clark thanked everyone who who supported her campaign and said she deeply appreciated the backing from Prime Minister John Key, the the government and the public.
Domestically the big winner in all this is Key, who got to demonstrate to a couple hundred thousand female swing-voters what a progressive, balanced women-leader-supporting, generally great guy he is. It’s conventional wisdom on the left that Key et al are morons, and the left is morally and intellectually superior, and I’m not sure how this squares with Key and his party constantly doing very smart things, and the left’s parties and leaders mostly, consistently being pretty dumb. But we have all those withering take-downs of neoliberalism and books on Gramsci! It’s almost as if we congratulate ourselves on metrics that have nothing to do with success in modern democratic contests.
The New York Review of Books has (probably) revealed the identity of Elena Ferrante. Vox has an overview here. (I’ve only read the first of her Neopolitan books and enjoyed it less than seemingly everyone else who’s read them, but I liked this essay by Giovanni Tiso about her work.) I can think of three contemporary anonymous famous people – Ferrante, Satoshi Nakamoto and Banksy, and Nakamoto seems to be the only one we still don’t really know about, despite several attempted investigative exposes. Are there others? This column makes a strong case for the obligations of journalists to reveal the identity of very famous and influential anonymous individuals.
There’s this big debate among literary elites about the intersection of fiction and identity politics – what do novelists have the right to write about, can they write outside their own lived experience and privilege, etc, and Ferrante is – or at least was much celebrated as a feminist author writing about poverty so its interesting to learn that’s she’s also guilty of the the alleged crimes of appropriation and ‘writing outside her own experience’.
I wonder what the total cost of Colin Craig’s political career has been? There was an unsuccessful mayoral campaign, two unsuccessful election campaigns, his referendum to repeal the anti-smacking law, the cost of his ‘Mr X’ pamphlet, the as-yet unknown cost of his settlement with Rachael MacGregor, $128,000 for breaching the confidentiality of that settlement, the $1.3 million to Jordan Williams, and the legal fees for his cases against McGregor, Williams and Russel Norman. My guess is that he’s spent over $10 million. Does that sound right? Does that make him the least successful politician in New Zealand history?
Also, I’ve been reading the Usborne Book of Bible Stories to my daughter. It is incredibly weird: filled with charming little cartoons but the text is quite faithful to the spirit of the Old Testament:
Update: DPF reckons:
I think closer to $9 million than $10 million. I make it $3.5 million donated to Conservatives, $450,000 on anti-anti-smacking march, $570,000 on Mayor, around $400,000 in total on Macgregor case (guestimate includes his legal costs) and up to $3.6 million on the Williams case (guestimate) and $300,000 for his pamphlet. Total $8.8 million.
I’m not sure if Don Brash is a character from Tennessee Williams, endlessly reliving the glory days of his heroic football playing youth or, in Brash’s case, those few months in early 2004, after the Orewa speech when he surged in the polls and was all set to become Prime Minister. Or is he like Charles Foster Kane caught in a love nest with a ‘singer’, devoting his time and fortune to turning poor Susan Alexander into an opera star and taking the quote marks off the word ‘singer’ which, in Brash’s case, would be trying to win the argument that he really is about equality and not just race-baiting.
What is Orewa’s legacy? It worked for maybe five months, and then Labour was ahead in the polls again. The general theme of the campaign has been repeated pretty much every year since by people like ACT and Brash and John Ansell and David Farrar and – arguably – Phil Goff when he was Labour leader, but never accomplished anything.
Dame Patsy Reddy has been officially sworn in as New Zealand’s 21st governor-general at a ceremony in Wellington.
Hundreds of people, including film-makers Sir Peter Jackson and Reddy’s former neighbour James Cameron, were at Parliament’s grounds on Wednesday morning.
Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it seems very symbolic that people like Peter Jackson and James Cameron now oversee the swearing in of the new head of state. Like, a couple decades ago it would have been the clergy who represented a higher power sanctifying the occasion, but now that role is played by celebrity members of the trans-national elite.
Musk sketched out a vision of thousands of ships launching toward Mars, each carrying up to 100 or 200 people a flight. If we had, say, 10,000 flights, we could start building actual cities on Mars, although it’d take decades to actually get a self-sustaining civilization on Mars, Musk said.
Musk even hinted at the possibility of terraforming Mars — releasing huge amounts of carbon-dioxide to warm the planet and bring back liquid water, making it habitable for humans. “If we could warm Mars up, we would once again have a thick atmosphere and warm oceans,” he said.
You know what they never had in Robinson’s Martian colonies? A dentist. So what happened if one of his super-genius left-wing intellectual colonists needed their wisdom teeth out? The question isn’t as trivial as it sounds. If you’re going to build a self-sustaining colony you don’t just want scientists with radical political views, you want dentists, and dental equipment, and obstetricians, and all of their equipment, and engineers to service it all, and the infrastructure to support an education system all the way through to advanced degrees to train the next generation of all those specialists. I wonder what the minimum viable number of people is to support all that?