Written By: - Date published: 11:46 am, February 21st, 2014 - 104 comments
Categories: activism, class war, david cunliffe, election 2014, equality, john key, Metiria Turei, news, poverty, Satire, spin - Tags: Rob Muldoon
Popular songs can often capture the heartbeat of communities, in ways the serious media fail to grasp. Today’s infotainment media can ignore the meanings, while drawing on the celebrity culture at the centre of much of the popular music industry. Many in our media are cheering on our (alleged) “Rock Star” economy. Meanwhile the inequality gap, and life damaging poverty are there for all who dare to see it, un-diverted by the beat-ups and politically motivated shenanigans of the neoliberal PR machine.
Some have drawn similarities between our current PM, John Key, and Robert Muldoon, Prime Minister in the 1975 to 1984. This was the period leading up to the Rogernomic, “neoliberal” revolution that began in 1984. Muldoon was a polarizing figure, much like John Key (though our media tends to talk up Key’s positive following). Muldoon’s outlook on life was mocked in an iconic NZ song, “There is No Depression in New Zealand”
He was one of the most polarising figures in New Zealand history, failing to address the growing economic depression and consequent unemployment, the racial unrest and the threat of civil war “World War Three“ when a racially repressive Springbok Rugby team toured New Zealand.
Muldoon divided New Zealanders into two camps. Some saw “Piggy” Muldoon as a dictatorial Prime Minister who came close to destroying both the economy and social fabric of New Zealand through his arrogance. Others, “Rob’s Mob”, revered him as a supporter of the “ordinary bloke” and an icon of the New Zealand national character.
The above linked web site, New Zealand Folk Song, outlines the history of the ‘No Depression” song. It reveals a people’s slant on the country’s changing political landscape: one that links creativity, entertainment and youthful rebellions, while also revealing similarities and differences between then and now.
The sang by Blam Blam Blam was a protest against the Muldoonist mis-representations of the conflicts, struggle, insecurities and dangers in NZ society of the time.
The Hamilton-based “Swamp Stomp” Gumboot Dancers still use it regularly as part of their eclectic range of antics.
The web page reports on the use of “No Depression in the McGillicuddies”:
The McGilliduddy Serious Party was formed as a political party to use satire as a way of highlighting the absurdity of other partys’ policies.
McGSP leader Graeme Cairns explains:
“In about 1990 Mark Servian of the McGillicuddies was doing a radio broadcast over the Waikato Students’ Union radio station. It purported to be the National Radio’s Saturday Night Show, 50 years in the future, and the final piece of music they played was Blam Blam Blam’s There is No Depression in New Zealand,” which Mark prefaced with; “And we’ll say goodnight with the National Anthem”.
There was a failed attempt to use the song as a stunt during the 1993 or 1996 elections.
Green Party Co-leader, Metiria Turei, was part of the McGillicuddies. In her maiden speech in Parliament in 2002, she performed a Te Reo version of “No Depression”.
In doing this, Turei brought together her radical beginnings in politics, where fun, humour, satire and street politics were part of her activism: an activism embracing a deep and serious commitment. Her maiden speech outlines her journey from growing up in a poor, Maori, working class family. There are more details of Turei’s life story on the Green Party’s website. There are some similarities with John Key’s very politically-spun origins, but Turei has taken a different route.
Metiria’s life is peppered with challenges that have been successfully converted into opportunities. She remains resolutely unbound to any particular ideology (“the dusty tomes of old, dead guys”) and developed her political theories alongside the practical application of dissent and organisation.
Much of Metiria’s political action has centred on the rights of beneficiaries. She well remembers unemployed life as an 18-year old in Wellington
Unlike Key, and like David Cunliffe, she has not pulled the ladder up after herself. As her response to the attempted smear of her choice of clothing shows, Turei remains down-to-earth, and focused on helping to make NZ a better place for all Kiwis.
Blam Blam Blam’s song still strikes to the heart of today’s political realities: as Tracey commented:
An economy that sees families struggling, which sees the gap between the bottom half of kiwis and the top half increasing by the decade is not a Rockstar. We should be saying it is an economy that has failed. No matter how well you handle THAT economy… families struggle, gap widens and child poverty grows.
The rockstar is a single person, at the top;, with the money and the fame. Of course he/she is happy and smiling and likeable.
The roadie is in the wing doing the grunt work for no credit and basic pay
The majority have to pay for the pleasure to line the Rockstar’s pocket
History never repeats…. or does it?