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Keeping going

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, October 17th, 2015 - 28 comments
Categories: activism, Politics - Tags:


“Where must we go,  we who wander this wasteland in search of our better selves?” – Mad Max, 2015

After the 2008, 2011, and 2014 national defeats, and through many specific losing campaigns since, it’s not unreasonable to slip from melancholy to utopian unreality.

In fact, it’s entirely reasonable to slip back back and forth between the two.

Seven years into this government, hope is very hard to find. Especially anywhere near our Parliament.

In this political era, it’s hard to sustain enthusiasm let alone political hope. Yet we are supposed to be the hopeful end of politics.

I’m employing the abstract noun ‘hope’ because this is as much a spiritual and motivational problem as a political one.

So here’s five ways to blow on one’s own coals, at lest until 2017.

  1. Meet every Friday, in real life, for real conversation, and name the evils of this politics. Shut your phone off, foreswear all other digital realms, and rediscover actual conversation.

    This can lead to …

  2. Book an actual home dinner once a month for your really good people. if you’re feeling bold, invite your local MP or Councillor along. Being in Opposition sucks their soul even more than ours. The organized dinner is a dying art, whatever the cooking shows imply.
    But they are events to savor.
  3. Build a little boxed garden. Not for the self-sufficient fantasy or Good magazine virtue, but simply to appreciate fresh daily growth.
    Nothing like taking a nurturing metaphor to heart.
  4. Volunteer at something that helps actual people. Granted not all have time or energy. But one hour at a City Mission, Big Brother, Sisters of Compassion soup kitchen or Shakti will see your own time multiply into strength that people take away.
    It’ll make you smile all week.
  5. Recapture something of the world.
    That means perhaps another declining New Zealand sport – tramping. Or temporarily joining a group weeding and replanting a degraded stretch.
    Or re-setting some pest traps. When you get onto your first ridge, you’ll remember what this country is again.

Nothing major. Not full time commitments. Just a series of little events that sustain you.

You can still march and shout, attend party meetings, rage with the digital throng. It’s not about substitution.

But in this era it’s OK to admit it’s hard to keep going. To hope again requires reconnecting the head, the heart and the spirit with physical discourse with the world.
For the disenchanted, seven years into a nine year stretch, it’s about starting the re-enchantment of everyday life.

28 comments on “Keeping going”

  1. RedLogix 1

    That means perhaps another declining New Zealand sport – tramping

    The regulars here might recall that from time to time I mention my first passion. It was one of the things I strongly identified with in Helen Clark.

    In my youth it was about adventure, challenge and scratching that itch to ‘see what is over the next ridge’. As I get older it’s something more subtle.

    Whenever you set foot into the wilderness, whether for an hour or two, or several weeks – there are just four things which matter: the terrain, the weather, what you are carrying with you and your own experience and judgement. Everything else about the modern world falls away. Your existence is honed down to the purely personal, and you are responsible for your own choices and their consequences. In a very direct way we rarely experience in our usual lives.

    I find this – regenerative.

    JMG took this notion even a little further in a series of three essays starting here:


    The interplay between the human brain and the natural environment is considerably more significant than has often been realized. For the last forty years or so, a scholarly discipline called ecopsychology has explored some of the ways that interactions with nature shape the human mind. More recently, in response to the frantic attempts of American parents to isolate their children from a galaxy of largely imaginary risks, psychologists have begun to talk about “nature deficit disorder,” the set of emotional and intellectual dysfunctions that show up reliably in children who have been deprived of the normal human experience of growing up in intimate contact with the natural world.

    In other words, our constant immersion in a world full of straight lines, flat surfaces and binary choices actually dumbs us down. It forces us into the constant habit of linear thinking, and diminishes our senses of intuition, insight, observation and wonder.

    • Ad 1.1

      Last week I did a couple of stages of the Hilary Trail through the Waitakeres.
      Up hill and down dale, mud, but I noticed a couple of fresh things.

      Firstly, specific species like to grow in large groves.
      Nikaus. Black Mamaku ferns. Kauri. Even a good stand of Kowhai, in which the Tui’s were going nuts.

      Secondly, going down the ridge from Mt Donald McLean to Destruction Gully and then to Whatipu, looking right into the valley I noticed that despite it being over 150 years since mature kauri felling, they are not really coming back.

      Reminded me of the last scenes of Princess Mononoke, but not as bad.
      Sadly, when you really clear the major trees with the gene pool for really massive trees, maybe they’re gone for good. Maybe there’s just a clump of them that ever get going again.

      • RedLogix 1.1.1

        That’s a magical area Ad. I miss it a lot.

        Proximity to the Waitakeres is one item on a very short list of good reasons to live in Auckland 🙂

        • mickysavage

          Yep. It is even better if you live within the area. Makes you never want to move …

      • maui 1.1.2

        Both nikau and mamaku you usually see on wet hill slopes, in those wet conditions they seem to proliferate. Totara seems to be one of those big native trees that comes back by itself, go for a drive in the countryside anywhere and you should see them. They like colonising open ground if they get through the pasture grasses.

        I was thinking about my house the other day, rimu framing and matai flooring. Resources that we’ve more or less exhausted that we’ll probably never be able to use properly again (or not for a very long time), yet they’ve kept my house up for about 100 years. In a similar way we’ve exhausted most of the world’s oil to our great advantage. What comes next has to be more in tune with our environment and with a longer term focus in mind, because there’s not really much else to exploit.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      Wordsworth et al were way ahead of them.

      As for ecopsychology…I’m not so sure. Perhaps someone can replicate these findings opinions before we get too excited 🙂

      • RedLogix 1.2.1

        While I won’t claim to be certain of the idea OAB – but it is a very old and respectable one.

        Emotional health aside, JMG’s argument is that our cities are self-referential models of our own habits of thinking. The straight lines, angular corners and flat planes we surround ourselves with – reinforces the relatively narrow ways of thinking our industrialised societies approve of. And this is responsible for ‘dumbing down’ or muting our intellectual capacity – so that ultimately the ‘barbarians’ who are not so diminished more or less walk into town and take over. Hence the “Cimmerian Hypothesis’.

        One of the people I most admire is an old friend whose powers of observation are quite extraordinary. While his entire career was solidly centred in science, he brought to it a capacity to look at the natural world and see things the rest of us could not. Yet I’m sure his ability would not have been at all remarkable to our non-industrialised ancestors.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          I’m not questioning the value of the idea, I’m questioning the value of “eco-psychology”.

          Your scientist friend, as someone said to me once at Realclimate, is probably motivated by curiosity 🙂

  2. Rosemary McDonald 2

    Perhaps an addition to the list….

    Acknowledge, respect and revel in diversity.

    Making the effort to engage with those who are ‘different’. Diferent culture, different socio-economic group, differently abled (the ‘disabled’), the LGBT community…et al.

    Being able to find common ground….its akin to coming home.

    The thing that struck me most about the anti TPP rally in Kaitaia was the sheer diversity of the participants.


    • Ad 2.1

      In political activism there are at least two different kinds of people:

      Those who gain energy from interacting with large crowds.

      And then there are those who feel like they can do it for a few hours and then need to go and have a cup of tea and a lie down.

      I’m in the second. Marches are indeed therapeutic, but for me, only up to a point of about two hours.

  3. savenz 3

    Good posts and points.

  4. Jenny Kirk 4

    And summer is finally arriving – always a hopeful time – you feel like getting out and about!

  5. Anne 5

    The Mt Albert Labour party of the 1970s did exactly what you are advising AD. It wasn’t just about the politics for us. We tramped the Waitakeres and elsewhere. We leased land and grew rows of strawberries, packed them and took them to the local vege market. We popped into each other’s abodes for chats and a cup of tea – occasionally something stronger. We kept in touch with our elderly members by visiting them at least once a year to collect their subs and have a chat. It was always rewarding because many of them had a treasure trove of stories to tell about bygone political days.

    They were hopeful times even though we had a certain Robert David Muldoon to contend with. Not dis-similar to the present day in a lot of ways.

    • Ad 5.1

      In a curious comparison, the Auckland Catholic Tramping Club is a strong little unit.

      They own their own house, which they rent out. They support the Auckland Tramping Club with their facilities. They subsidize massively, even to the extent of subsidizing flights for some of the major tramps down country.

      They are also a really good way of breaking in new migrants in to the country, so it’s not just full of the usual older Europeans, but also lots of Koreans and some Japanese as well.

      On Labour Weekend I am doing the Abel Tasman tramp – I’m determined to do all of the NZ Great Walks before I get to 50 in three years’ time.

      Tramping just gives me such a great sense of the sublime and the epic in my life. Which I also very luckily get at work, but not with the same immediacy and beauty as our forest.

  6. maui 6

    3. Build a little boxed garden. Not for the self-sufficient fantasy or Good magazine virtue, but simply to appreciate fresh daily growth.
    Nothing like taking a nurturing metaphor to heart.

    Everyone gets a kick out of producing something that they they’ve done through their own work. For me the biggest benefit is feeling like you’re getting something for free, which is a rare occurrence in the western world nowadays. I also think it’s empowering for people, that they’re more in control of life’s neccessities and they’re more connected to how food is produced – like knowing where it comes from and how it comes into being. It’s just not as satisfying going to the supermarket..

    Oh and nice positive post as always Ad, I like seeing your problem solving ideas.

  7. Thinking Right 7

    The reasons why the left (and Labour in particular) have never recovered from 2008 are simple and has been stated a number of times.

    1 No generation change. When Clark signed off after the election in 2008 Goff ended up with the leadership – Goff has been in Parliament from the time that dial telephones were a new invention. His leadership was rejected by the voters in 2011.

    Even now with Little in charge, most of the front bench MP’s are has beens – tainted by political wars of the past. There has never been a wholesale cleanout of deadwood which should have occurred 2008-2010. If it had Goff and Cunliffe would have had teams full of fresh blood; not carrying past baggage.

    2 Policy Disconnect. In 2011 and 2014 Labour has advanced Policy Platforms which have reflected the party’s base supporters views. Nothing wrong with that however it hasn’t resonated with the voters. At some point you have to ask the question what is more important the views of the supporters or the views of the voters?

    3 Low talent MP’s. An unfortunate side effect of Labour’s focus on diversity encouragement is that people have been elevated to Parliament based on the diversity boxes they tick rather than purely on talent/ability.

    Its a hard fact to face that the voters support competence over colour. (For colour replace with every other diversity attribute)

    4 Uninspiring Leadership. Goff, Shearer, Cunliffe, and now Little are good faithful party members but all of them lack the leadership skills required to win over more than the party faithful. Because of the lack of turnover it is hard to see this changing.

    It is unfortunate as I think that NZ needs a competent Opposition to hold the Government to account – the status quo is not good for Democracy.

    Until these changes happen Labour is going to continue in the doldrums for sometime yet.

  8. Esoteric Pineapples 8

    I’ve been feeling those who are actively opposed to this govt should be getting connected whatever political party they support and even work outside their parties for political change – as a more broad based political movement at the same time as supporting their own parties. I think this especially makes sense in provincial regions with smaller populations. Should involve unions and those concerned with protecting the environment as well.

  9. Muttonbird 9

    I was going to contribute and offer services which should be devoted to my own family but then I read Thinking Right’s post and realised that whatever charity and time is offered will be scorned by the selfish, conservative middle class.

    It takes all my energy to look after my own, so I’d better just do that.

    • Just A Dad 9.1

      You’re right Muttonbird – time spent helping charities and volunteer groups will always be scorned by the selfish, conservative middle class. It will also be scorned by the selfish working class, the selfish non-working class, and the selfish liberal elites. However, fortunately we have a large number of non-selfish, conservative middle class people able and willing to help out with many charities in many ways. And in my experience such people are the backbone of many charities we’d struggle to live without.

  10. Smilin 10

    The reality of this govt social policy hit home today, none of the govt departments or adhoc social services monitor any of their commitments to beneficiaries or the people they have charge of until notice is given by the police or a member of the public who is affiliated in some way with the processes of these govt organisations and then there is no actual responsibility acted upon to either legally inform parents of the danger they are in by their action until a crime is actually committed
    This is not acceptable people who deal with children in religious or community activities have a moral responsibility to inform parents directly without impunity from the law their concerns but many of these organisations are prevented from doing so as there are laws that limit public involvement when presented to the police
    We need a bottom like operates in mental health to be applicable to all dangers to families, minors that any person who can prove they are directly involved should be able to demand police action when any of the above groups mentioned face serious danger
    It is not sufficient for the police process at present to cover these situations as they are so often not the standard PR exercise or MO that the police operate on and the police do not have a specific MO relating to follow up of these domestic situations as they the police are only geared to actual crime not prevention all though some police do go further than their brief to help
    What Im getting at is the lack of police resources by this govt to be far more like they use to be under Helen Clarkes govt so that the community involvement of the police has a greater power to educate the public on police procedure to avoid this escalation of everyday danger that is becoming worse for those in society who have the least help
    Its better we have people like Tam Iti protesting on public occasions than suffering in silence and anonymity because our police resources are taken up protecting the unnecessary pride of our PM by him demanding protection from his crimes in Dirty Politics aka NZs Watergate that should have been

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