Left wing activism and the humdrum need to maintain jobs and careers

Written By: - Date published: 9:58 am, October 4th, 2015 - 173 comments
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LPrent had a line about many commenters here being time-poor and being in influential positions, and Bill talked about “coordinators”, which got me thinking: can a Progressive be “in the world, but not of the world”?

What kind of person can really be a compromised leftie activist?

See if this rings any bells. You’ll have your own stories on this.

You’re highly qualified. You can’t trust those around you with your politics. Random restructures hit teams around you. If you’re outed, you’ll likely never work in your chosen field again. Your few close friends are allies, others have flamed out like a final Mad Max ride. Your nom-de-plume protects your mortgage.

A few peel off to work in Parliament, others to minor NGOs, some reduced to commenting alone, still more get post-campaign burnout and become melancholic muggles.

The choices narrow for the remainder. Build or find a project in your “spare time” and believe in its ability to inspire; this site is one. Choose union activism to rail valiantly against the rising exploitative tide, and forgo your career arc. Some retreat to the grey economy, rebuke the world, retire from the field early, sending occasional missives on purity.

Others keep their suits on. They find social reform, or governance positions, or built infrastructure projects, on a monumental scale, and push their shoulder in. They make deals. They compromise everything especially themselves. They are strategic brokers, and they are paid for it. One’s function in politics changes as one’s ideals are replaced by instruments.

And it gets harder, the longer you do it, for a Camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Much harder, but not impossible.

173 comments on “Left wing activism and the humdrum need to maintain jobs and careers ”

  1. Don't worry. Be happy 1

    Don’t be dense. If you think for a second that Christ meant it was very difficult but not impossible for The Rich to enter Paradise then you know very little about camels or needles.

  2. savenz 2

    Personally think everyone can do their bit. I don’t think you have to hide your political views although scarily in some jobs you do and the pressure is increasing not to talk about any ‘left’ views. When people talk about what is going on, then it shows that actually a lot of people are in agreement. They do not like the current government.

    • Ad 2.1

      Ever been in a job where there were significant limits to your freedom of expression?

      • CR 2.1.1

        I was in a job where there were limits to freedom of expression, association, etc. Not a ‘corporate’ job, but one with a social service-providing NGO, supposedly committed to ‘challenging evil, injustice and oppression’. Oh, and other goals like ‘eradicating poverty’.

        I was passionate, enthusiastic, and achieving results in my work.

        In my view our organisation should have been leading by example – implement the Living Wage, stop using zero hours contracts, provide adequate (at least to the minimum standard) training. We paid minimum wage and kept staff hungry for ‘hours’, and basic training was minimal. It makes me sick to think about it.

        I saw and experienced bullying. Staff being targeted, e.g. Plots to ‘restructure their jobs without officially restructuring’, so the staff would leave voluntarily. Because the staff were Union and church members (breach of human rights). I saw breaches of employment law – e.g. Hiring on temporary contracts and extending those when the period expired – in lieu (illegally) of 90 day trials or to try to deny staff sick leave entitlements and training.

        I spoke up about what I saw as wrong. I don’t regret speaking up for my values and principles. Even if it didn’t change anything.

        My teams’ work was sabotaged because the main ring leader of this ‘axis of evil’ in our organisation didn’t believe there was any ROI on training staff…WTF?? So my staff left, I ended up on stress leave, hired a lawyer and got the best settlement I could prior to mediation.

        I think this is an important topic, thank you for this article, Ad. I don’t know what the solution is. The marginalisation of left wing/progressive voices is something that has happened in a sickening and destructive way in New Zealand, with the help of the mainstream media over the last seven or eight years. It seems to be getting worse not better.

        • Draco T Bastard


        • seeker

          A very valid and important topic that certainly needs airing …thank you Ad. I won’t elaborate, but have experienced a few instances of which you are ‘speaking’ . ( I learned to be very careful about speaking my mind in a couple of staffrooms.)

        • Ad

          Cheers CR.
          Yours is exactly the kind of non-theoretical life example I was hoping for.

          There is astonishing personal cost to resisting, particularly under the current employment law framework, and even if one is a union member.

          I have had a few significant scrapes myself – nothing on your scale. And I took them for every cent I could get.

          • Chris

            “I have had a few significant scrapes myself – nothing on your scale. And I took them for every cent I could get.”

            It’s good you’ve done that. These people need to be severely punished. But sometimes that’s not an option for workers especially when the Employment Relations Tribunal doesn’t usually suppress workers’ names. A lot of NGO workers are highly skilled and can’t see their names splashed around the employment law reports. The community sector in NZ is small and insular enough as it is without shouting from the rooftops someone’s had a scrap with their NGO employer. I think that the Employment Relations Tribunal at least should suppress workers’ names. Then there are people who see even a mediation as too confrontational so don’t bother and let themselves get rolled over big time. Don’t know what to say about this group. Then there’s the larger NGOs that hire lawyers from big firms at the drop of a hat, defend everything to the hilt until either the worker backs down or a result is reached either way even if the employer loses because it sends a message to all other employees “we might be an NGO but don’t mess with us because if you do we’ll go all the way”. Very right wing thinking, really, dressed up in left wing clothes.

      • Tracey 2.1.2

        Yes… and fears of computers being checked…

      • Chris 2.1.3

        Working in the community sector can be a mixed bag. Often depends on the personalities of the employers/management. One manager can run a workplace entirely in line with left wing principles of fairness and respect, then their successor comes in and changes the culture of the place overnight. Then there are other corporate NGOs that do nothing except work to justify and preserve their own existence. Often these NGOs are headed by sociopathic and hypocritical bullies and split their time between restructuring the place and bullying and scapegoating individual staff they see as being too skilled at their job so are threats to them personally. The rest of their time is spent licking the government’s arse. The real nasty ones can do all three things at once. Just goes to show you don’t have to be a right winger to be a prick.

        • Ad

          You sound like you’ve been through it.

          Burnout is almost an entirely new post.
          I’ll get on to it. Something about therapeutic communities.

          • Chris

            Wasn’t talking so much about burnout than getting slowly ousted from a large NGO that purports to have left wing values but then when you start doing the work and doing it well they do their darnedest to pull you back into line and if that doesn’t work you’re down the road. The MO is scapegoating and sociopathic bullying. Skilled left wing thinking workers in some NGOs are punished for doing a good job because they’re seen as a threat to what those within the NGO see as their corporate machine. Very strange when you think it happens in left wing NGOs where smoko-room trash-talk about the likes of Key and Bennett and English and Tolley and Brownlee and even right wing Labour gits like King and Goff and Nash is perfectly acceptable but when you start getting up the government’s nose in your day-to-work you become a target in your own organisation. Very strange indeed.

        • Chris

          Although often, I’d add, many of these pricks are in fact right wingers masquerading as left wingers.

        • seeker

          Yes, yes and yes Chris @ 3.11pm……especially the ” bullying and scapegoating individual staff they see as being too skilled at their jobs so are threats to them personally”.
          Can’t stand these faulty and unprofessional perceptions in the mix.

          • Chris

            That’s where you get torn between the importance of the work and the importance of your own happiness. Might start valuing the former but if things don’t improve the latter usually prevails. And who are the real losers? Those the organisation purport to represent. All that group end up with are the sociopathic pricks who used to employ you.

      • Unicus 2.1.4

        The New Zealand workplace has always been used by tin pot management tyrants to exercise their half baked theory’s on how the world should work .

        The bully boy /girl attitude of middle management in New Zealand has contributed more to the failure of our economy than any other element in my experience .

        Brainless bullying is seen by management incompetents as a surrogate for constructive and co-operative interaction in the workplace . The effect on workplace production usually means little more than minimal and grudging effort from employees .

        Expressing personal opinions at work of any kind is a sure invitation for management repression in this country , while political opinions of the “wrong” kind almost inevitably lead a progressive thinker to career marginalization or manipulated dismissal .

        The fact is New Zealanders have been conditioned to behave with compliance and timidity in the workplace ever since the employment contracts act removed their meager trade union power-base during Muldoons dictatorship .

        Kiwis are happy to live with the delusion that they are a brave forthright people willing to steadfastly defend their “way of life” – the fact is in the workplace at least we have become as spineless and self obsessed as the worst of our species anywhere .

    • keepLeft 2.2

      The solution is simple. As part of the revolution against capitalism tax business out of business so that everything is run by the people through the mechanisms of the State. That way we can say whatever we like while at the same time protecting the revolution from subversives aiming to undermine it.

  3. One Anonymous Bloke 3

    It was because he was in the habit of speaking of these subjects that his fellow workmen came to the conclusion that there was probably something wrong with his mind.

    Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. h/t to Ad & Bill.

    • Ad 3.1

      These days there are plenty of employment contacts – even in the public service – where you are required to sign “Conflict of Interest” registers, together with limits on the kind of entity you can belong to, whether you or your spouse can take part in campaign activity in any part of your life, and very wide definitions of “repetitional interests” in the employment contract itself.

    • RedLogix 3.2

      I’ve got another bad cold at present so my concentration span isn’t up to reading it all in one hit, but I can see why The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was such a hugely influential work. And while conditions have improved over the one hundred years since 1910 for those in the developed world; there remains many humans still not far removed from these conditions.

      And while the material circumstances may have improved, the political and ethical ones have barely budged since Noonan’s day. Recall the abuse and vilification heaped on “Dr Weakling” who had the temerity to oppose the gross corruption of the Town Council.

      For me it was reading George Orwells Down and Out in Paris and London that was probably the most formative read for me personally – but Noonan’s work must have powerfully influenced millions.


      • Ad 3.2.1

        I think The Matrix better expresses my sentiment here.

        The growth of industries since WW2 requiring massive and highly refined technical disciplines, has led to a professional class who by and large are not the entrepreneur, but are in fact permanent instruments within massive corporate and bureaucratic machines.

        These people I would characterize as having at least one University degree, want the trappings of a middle class life, and want to do good in the world as well.

        if they are younger than I am, they will be less and less tied to party activist loyalty, less likely to vote, but quite likely to join in on an activist adventure they feel passionate about.

        If they are my age or older, their heroes will probably people like Erin Brockovich and Geoffrey Wygand.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Permanent instruments.

          To clarify, you mean people who do odious jobs and can be (they perceive) easily replaced? A manager who is tasked with selling collateralised debt options, for example…?

          • Ad

            Sorry I missed this comment earlier.

            Yes. Bankers are part of those instruments. You would be surprised at the number of partners, principals, and even fund managers who simply can’t stomach this kind of government.

            They write great cheques. They just don’t come out of the closet very often.

            There are of course dangers to extracting political donations from billionaires, as the left here have found out at very high political cost.

  4. b waghorn 4

    Wouldn’t being a true through and through leftie and being career driven be mutually exclusive.

    • Ad 4.1

      I would argue not.
      Why do you think so?

      • weka 4.1.1

        Isn’t the point of the post (or one of them) that if you are a leftie and you stay in the system you get compromised. I have great admiration for people that choose to stay, because the work there is hard and they often give up parts of themselves (look at MPs).

        edit, sorry just realised, is this your post Ad?

        • Ad

          Yes that’s the point. It’s my post – apparently I have to use a longer name for some file name reason.

          It’s hard to name the degrees of pressure that are forced upon you because we live in a supposedly tolerant society.
          Nevertheless they are real and it’s really easy to lose faith.

          • weka

            It’s an important post. I think we are at the point where as a society we’re losing so much integrity and for the most part people aren’t paying attention. Or they see it happening piecemeal but don’t see how damaging the changes are.

            I seem to remember economists in the late 80s early 90s having a hard time because they spoke out against Rogernomics. They faced real threats to their careers and so many just shut up.

            • Draco T Bastard

              I seem to remember economists in the late 80s early 90s having a hard time because they spoke out against Rogernomics. They faced real threats to their careers and so many just shut up.

              Such economists still face real threats to their careers. I suspect that there’d be no way that people who didn’t support the status quo would get a job as an economist at a bank.

          • Tautoko Mangō Mata

            I agree, Ad. It is also difficult to “come out” politically when you live in an area that is very Tory-leaning. Small business owners with progressive views who live and operate in the area are reluctant to be seen campaigning for fear of loss of clients. There seems to be a real nastiness in the type of abuse handed out by some right wingers. I can recall teachers who protested against bulk funding back in the 90s when some schools were trialling the system* being intimidated by officious RW School Board members.

            * (BF schools getting paid more so that the “trial” would give a positive result- like the current charter school trials)

            • Ad

              I am sure National parliamentary staff will look at this post on Monday morning and confirm that their tactics over a decade have worked. That the anxiety now extends to where you live, is sad.

              If small business owners are increasingly reluctant to show their political flag, then there is a similar force of shame, anxiety and denial in operation across wider strata than the professional insider class. That points to a deeper problem. Maybe I’ll try a separate post on that one.

              God, if only you could hear how the elected members of the Orakei Local Board actually speak about other human beings.

            • Tracey

              and in a country where people can throw around epithets such as looney, communist, and so on the describe people who do no more than view the world differently from them. I include Hooton, Wayne Mapp (former Minister and Law Commissioner), Hosking, Henry and so on…

      • b waghorn 4.1.2

        If you’re career is working to further the lefts cause then there would be no need to be silent, so if you’re staying silent to further you’re career then its probably all about the pursuit of money/power like a good little capitalist.

        • Ad

          The result of that kind of willful blindness is that you get fired.
          Which is fine if you’re either born to wealth, or don’t give a shit where you are working.

          I am neither.
          And there are quite a number like me.

          • b waghorn

            How can someone class them self as a activist if they are not willing to risk loss of something be money ,position or freedom.
            I class Sue Bradford as a activist

            • lprent

              Sure they can. A will towards self-martyrdom is being a one direction suicidal tendency, and inherently self-defeating. It may give a glorious immolation for a cause, but it doesn’t do much for it in reality. It is purely self-indulgent. Sheer bloody minded persistence is what gives results in a series of battles.

              From what I have seen of Sue Bradford, she doesn’t show any tendency towards making futile guestures. Certainly her history doesn’t show that either. She always comes back to do the next round. And she raised her kids as well. She never risked what was crucial to being able to both of those things.

              • b waghorn

                “”Someone who’s actively involved in a protest or a political or social cause can be called an activist. Demonstrations, strikes, and sit-ins are all ways that an activist might work toward the change she believes in. The root word of activist is the Latin actus, “a doing, a driving force, or an impulse.” Someone who acts on what she believes is an activist.””
                That’s a definition of activist from a site called vocabulary, so what I’m trying to grasp is this thinking that you can be a silent/anonymous activist.

                • Ad

                  Your own definition does not include risk.
                  So it’s not a necessary condition to “activist”.

                  There are plenty of creative ways.

      • b waghorn 4.1.3

        I m getting sent to spam when I try to reply to you’re question but not for this ?

        [lprent: Let them through now. I don’t know why either. ]

        • Ad

          Sorry I am not remotely technical.

          • Grindlebottom

            Jesus Waghorn I wish you’d learn the difference between your (belonging to you) and you’re (you are). It’s bloody distracting seeing the error constantly repeated.

            • b waghorn

              Sorry I do try ,between auto correct and the fact I’m running some pretty beat up grey matter, shit does happen.

              • BM

                Don’t worry about it bud.

                Non university, work with your hands sort of people are treated rather poorly within the left political scene.

                The irony is not lost on me that these are the sort of people the left is supposed to represent yet treat them like shit when they try to engage and get involved.

                Goes a long in explaining way the left is failing so badly.

                Also explains why so many traditional left voters end up voting right.

                • Grindlebottom

                  Yeah well, I’m a non university sort of person. I’m not claiming any educational superiority. I find his comments worth reading but the “your” thing is jarring. It’s up to Waggers whether he wants to do something about it or tell me stuff off.

                • b waghorn

                  I’m fine with it part ,of why I hang out here is to add a working class touch and if it improves my spelling that’s cool.
                  And as for voting for the right as long as they put put up shit like brash and key and keep rubbish like collins in a job hell will freeze over first.

  5. weka 5

    It might be time for people to give up their personal needs around careers. It can be a political act to stay in the system intentionally and work there (because we need good people in there). But I have to wonder if we are past the time now where personaly desire is a valid reason (even while it’s understandable). I think about this in AGW contexts where people are trapped into Western lives of career/mortgage and the susbsequent behaviours that support teh systems that cause CC, and the beviours that are preventing us from truly changing. At the least if one wants to keep doing that then maybe there is an onus to dedicate to the bigger picture work. Is there any such thing as a personal career anymore given the huge changes about to happen?

    • Ad 5.1

      So just spell out the consequences for both democracy and for political activism specifically if they did “give up their personal needs around careers”.

      • weka 5.1.1

        It frees people up to take actions they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

        • Ad

          “Some retreat to the grey economy, rebuke the world, retire from the field early, sending occasional missives on purity.”

          I did anticipate this kind of point.

          By and large the world will not change course from the colossal waste and war that it is on. The best you will get – if that – is mild improvement before this kind of civilization declines.

          Maybe the kind of insider I am describing is just feathering the bed of the apocalypse. So the pure response is to rebuke the world, live outside of it, and rail against it like a prophet of old.

          But this isn’t the kind of person I am describing here. They are going to stay doing what they are doing. And I would suggest that if they lost their remaining political activist core, quite a lot would be lost.

          • weka

            Not sure we are on the same tack here.

            The radical edge of climate change movements are calling for people to withdraw their participation in the structures that are creating CC (esp the global economy). I think there is a real dilemma for people choosing to stay in the system where their personal needs are compromising their ability to be activist eg they have a mortgage therefore they have to keep the career going therefore they can’t speak out. However, is it really true that they can’t manage the mortgage without career momentum? How much of that is actually about things like personal desire to work well in one’s field or not lose the large amount of effort/sacrifice that went into getting this far? Big fuzzy line there.

            What I’m suggesting is that we all look at what we can give up personally, because pretty soon we’re going to be forced to and what use then mortgages and careers? This doesn’t mean going grey and it doesn’t mean walking away. I’m talking about the people that choose to stay inside the system and what the means in terms of activism.

            • Ad

              Which kinds of career paths were you thinking of?

              I can imagine professional life getting a bit harder depending on the reliance of the industry on fossil fuels for example.

              • weka

                eg for climate change activism, any career that involves flying to conferences a lot.

                Working for a university that refuses to divest from carbon.

                Being a scientist in an organisation that is pursuing pro-CC tech (fracking, diary, coal etc).

                Working in a govt department that is developping a ridiculously low emissions target.

                What happens with the inevitible comflict between career and activism?

                • Ad

                  What happens to the inevitable conflict between career and activism?
                  One of a few paths:

                  – Stuff politics and go for the money, at least until your mid-fifties
                  – Stuff the money and do something lower-paid, lower ambition, and keep your time and effort for as much activism as you want. And forego owning a house for good.
                  – Some variant in the middle.

                  By and large, the further up you go in any industry, the harder it is to retain good conscience. Conscience changes into simply being good at operating a series of instruments that alter programmes, funding flows, and governance structures.

                  There are a very tiny few exceptions of those who get near the top, and the attacks on them are astonishing to watch.

  6. Anne 6

    You’re highly qualified. You can’t trust those around you with your politics. Random restructures hit teams around you. If you’re outed, you’ll likely never work in your chosen field again.

    To one degree or another that is precisely why many people left of centre have no choice but to use pseudonyms. If you are a right wing cheer-leader the opposite is true. It pays to write/comment under your own name. You will be rewarded. If you are on the political left you stand the risk of being subjected to malice, lies and other nasty behaviours. Members of your family can also be ‘at risk’.

    It angers me when righties and their ignorant counterparts in the MSM slam people with pseudonyms. They spout righteous drivel with impunity because they know they are safe. It angers me more when one or two Labour politicians have joined in the chorus of condemnation in the past, because they are talking from the security of their parliamentary status and should know better!

    • Ad 6.1

      “Your nom-de-plume protects your mortgage.”

      This is where the democratic corrosion from Dirty Politics really starts to hit. Those people who trawl through other sites’ databases just to see who is a supporter of whom, whose statements can be attributed to bias that then rules them out of ever been taken seriously by the media (unless you are Hooten and the whole string of righties), essentially forms a low cloud of fear.

      • Tracey 6.1.1

        THIS ^^^^^

        Since moving from self employment to an employee I have noticed how some of my behaviours over time have changed…

    • RedLogix 6.2


      Absolutely. I’ve never worked in a situation where I felt it wise to even talk about politics, much less ‘out’ myself.

      It is absolutely one of the covert control mechanisms embedded in most workplaces, an effective prohibition on ever talking about salaries, politics, workplace bullying and so on. Increasingly the only things that are talked about are sport, the weather and workplace gossip. The intent is to keep worker powerless.

      • Ad 6.2.1

        This is as I suspected.

        Sorry to sound like Morpheus out of The Matrix, but it means those kinds of people really are out there.

        What I am pointing to is their latent power.

        Such insiders have massive institutional knowledge, are paid like professional people, have immense industry networks, and are often in charge of projects or programmes that have real effects in the world.
        – Industry specific knowledge is vital for policy formation
        – Paid professionals have the capacity to be donors (a growing left problem)
        – Networks have specific political power into specific Ministries
        – And programmes and projects can become part of policy direction as well

        Political movements of the left need to nurture this kind of person.

        • weka

          What would be the ways in which that nurturance could happen?

          • Ad

            Not sure. Few answers.
            It’s hard and getting harder.

            In many ways it’s far easier and safer to give political expression through an NGO like Forest and Bird, than to stay within a leftie political party.

            • weka

              I reckon some really clear instructions on how to protect oneself online would help. Tech stuff but written for a lay person.

              • Mrs Brillo

                Good point, Weka. I would use those.

                I maintain a grab-bag of different nicks for different websites, but am aware our computers themselves may be traceable by someone who really, really wants to pinpoint us. Never really got to grips with anonymisers – can someone help?

        • trendy lefty

          Why is belonging to and being active in your union not an option?

          • Ad

            I can expand a little on the sentence: “Choose union activism to rail valiantly against the rising exploitative tide, and forgo your career arc.”

            Union staff are not well paid. It’s really hard to shift to the commercial world if you have been a full time union staff member. Some shift to consultancy work after a good stint. By and large union staff are there because they believe in the union cause and union activism itself: to protect and promote workers. Very few choose becoming a union staff member from the beginning of their career.

            Choosing union work as a career is what I was talking about, not whether you become a union member. Fully agree that union membership is generally positive in the workplace.

            • Lindsey

              Yes, there was a time, and maybe still is, where there was Union work which meant you did not have to hide your politics. I was lucky – I worked in the Public Service in the 1970’s and was active in the PSA. I went to work for a Union in the early 80’s and had the best part of 20 years organising. That paid off the the mortgage (bought cheap) so when the late 90’s happened and I was on the job market with “Union” and “Queer” all over my CV, I had a bit of freeboard. I had a job in 3 months -went back to the Public Service – and stood as #56 (or thereabouts) on Labour’s List in 1990. After a while I decided to retrain -went back to Uni and had 4 years part time to do a Masters in Planning. Now I work for the Council, I am a bit af a token leftie but I will always say the stuff that no-one else dares to. Council employed me with the same stuff on the CV plus 6 years on a Community Board. It was not the same City that I had been an elected person in, and I made it clear that I was not still active on the local front but was active in my electorate. I was the only Queer in the office for a while, but now there are 3 of us. I have managed and although the environment under Muldoon was pretty toxic, with the organised dirty politics of today I would not want to be doing it again.

              • Ad

                You’re exactly the kind of person I was thinking about.

                You’ve been through the mill, fought the good fight.

                And now at Auckland Council you exist in an almost permanent state of restructure.
                – City Transformation to be merged.
                – Housing Office to be merged.
                – Consents under permanent reform.
                – Auckland Development Company making its own big gravitational force.

                And all existing within a monopoly across the entire region, so if you get on the outer with management, either move regions or move careers. That is real if indirect democratic suppression.

                Yet at the same time, planners know they have to stay in there, retaining each little planning policy goal as a win for the whole of the region, as well as for neighborhoods and communities.

                There’s pressure for you. Amazed you are hanging in in there. Good stuff.

                • Lindsey

                  I am a Land use Planner so I write reports about new houses and garages. Also, us “Operational” staff only get the technology changed every 5 minutes, rather than the offices and the job descriptions.

        • Gavin

          Ad, you’re spot on about donors, the Labour Party needs some serious funding initiatives, as there is a strong linear correlation between the amount of cash National spends in the three months prior to an election, and the percentage party vote they get. Our correlation has changed after Crosby-Textor was employed in 2004, now Labour needs to spend more than National for each vote.

          Your main post is also correct, it’s even a bit tough being a business owner and also a Labour activist, as there you have to consider what your customers (and some staff) think. Somehow, the whole Labour brand needs a massive boost.

          • Ad

            What I am opening up is the potential of the service industries to be a potential donor class. They need of course to be approached very carefully. Some require bundlers, trusts, and creative ways of contributing through others. The risks for the left in the professional class are far higher than those supporting National, whether they are in power or not.

            I’m not convinced that Labour will win the next election – by branding or otherwise. Rather, 2017 is for National to lose.

            • Gavin

              National’s polling results are getting shakier, and if the Left will just stick up for a sensible coalition of Labour-Greens (NZFirst) for the next two years, with demonstrated ability to work together for the good of the country, we’ll do fine. It would help a lot if National’s electoral funding drops back considerably, and if Labour’s is boosted. Labour needs lots of drip-feed support from many people (a heavily expanded VFL campaign), and that would be a powerful recommendation for office.

              Most of the voting public are well aware that we are in a strong cycle of ‘three terms in, three terms out’. That should be reinforced too. Or are we happy to wait another five years for power?

              • Ad

                I sure hope you are right. This government has got to be the laziest and luckiest I have ever seen.

                Not much seems to dent them.

                Labour will get a lot more donors going out if they begin to look like a real alternative government, and they can only do that when they show real and consistent cooperation with the Greens and New Zealand First.

                Personally VFL is not for me. I prefer to donate in good sized lumps, precisely as a reward for good behavior, close to the election.

                2008-2020 is not worth imagining. Too hard on the brain.

  7. maui 7

    I’m getting more and more sceptical that protesting can produce change. Even if there were 10 times as many people protesting tpp, wouldn’t it just be passed anyway? Don’t we need to be improving our communities, interconnecting people at that level as best we can while leaving a more irrelevant top down government to do its own thing. They would then fall over by themselves.

    • Ad 7.1

      The people I am describing in this post would be very very cautious about protesting on the street because of the breadth of surveillance powers that the state now has. People now get files for pretty light reasons.

      Your real point is: what is the most effective way to change the world around you?

      Some choose to stay inside their industries trying that standard trope of “reforming from within”.

      Others stay inside and donate where they can.

      Others have massive activist “hobbies” outside of work.

      There’s no one answer. I’m just describing a set of quandaries.

    • weka 7.2

      To my mind, both are critical. Protest does work and NZ has a good history of success on this. Remember sometimes it’s the indirect effect that makes the difference.

      Working locally is incredibly important but it will be less effective if the top level control is left to its own devices. The TPP is a classic example.

    • RedLogix 7.3

      Yes I agree.

      The last protest I took part in were the huge world-wide rallies against GW Bush’s catastrophic blunder to invade Iraq. Tens of millions of people – and it made not a jot of difference.

      And that fact that events have proven us 100% right – could never be acknowledged.

      The last protest that made a difference locally was the one against mining in National Parks – and I’d think the outcome was more due to the results of Farrar’s daily polling than any amount of traffic we held up.

      • Ad 7.3.1

        That is a deathly quandary all by itself.

        Far safer to stick to a specific activist issue. Whether one is effective or not is moot.

        But the big remaining power to change things lies in general elections, which means focusing your energy into political parties….

        …who by and large are unsafe, bullying, risky places full of very very difficult people.

        • maui

          I find elections are becoming more redundant, we do after all have a third of NZ choosing not to participate and vote at all. Assuming that number is increasing too. The whole process is more corrupted nowadays when you think of how money is involved and the media. It might be the traditional way we get change, but I don’t think we should be having total faith in them as a change making process.

          • Ad

            Agreed we should not have total faith in Parliament’s ability to change The System much.

            Also agree on the attractiveness of smaller-scale activisms, because you can make a more forceful difference.

            Here’s the thing though. The only way to change whole national policies for anything is with whole changes of government. Decline in democratic participation’s not a reason to give up on it.

            • Chris

              “The only way to change whole national policies for anything is with whole changes of government. Decline in democratic participation’s not a reason to give up on it.”

              Yes, but change doesn’t happen when the government’s replaced with the next bunch that’s too scared to do anything. That’s what’s been happening here since the Bolger/Shipley/Richardson years. Helen Clark was generally a disgrace.

              • Ad

                The changes that occurred to New Zealand under Helen Clark’s three terms are as large as you will get at any point in New Zealand under MMP.

      • weka 7.3.2

        “and it made not a jot of difference.”

        There’s no way to know that. How many people who took part in those protests went on to more radical activism because of the lack of response from governments? Tens of millions of peple marching is hugely influential for all sorts of reasons even if it doesn’t change the thing that was being protested on the day.

        How much of the result that Farrar got in his polling was a consequence of prior activism? I would see much of political change in NZ happens because protestors make issues visible and it gets less active people thinking and then power holders start taking notice. I think that’s far more common than direct effect.

        • RedLogix

          I can accept there is a real indirect effect to protest weka, and a worthwhile one at that.

          But maybe there are just other, more effective ways to achieve it. I think that is what Ad is exploring here.

          • Ad

            Plus, to be really honest, I want it all.

            I want a big screen tv, I want equity, I want my conscience happy, I want hessian nappies, I want to do good for the world, I want my eggs organic, I want a better world, I want three big dogs, I want both a simple life and a complex life, I want a retirement house in Wanaka, I want a career, I want both selfishness and altruism.

            It doesn’t work. Does it?

            • RedLogix

              It can work Ad.

              The only legitimate purpose for wealth is to invest it in yourself, your family and the community around you. A balance of both selfishness and altruism.

            • RedLogix

              It can work Ad.

              The only legitimate purpose for wealth is to invest it in yourself, your family and the community around you. A balance of both selfishness and altruism.

            • marty mars

              “It doesn’t work. Does it?”

              No imo it doesn’t work – and I appreciate your honesty on that.

            • Bill

              Not only doesn’t it work, but it ought not to work if I’m understanding it correctly. Capitalism with a human face, as it were? Individual ambition and consumerism before all else but with happy consequences? I mean, you <could get what you’ve listed bar the happy conscience, but I take it that was a part of what the post was about.

              A wee bit of envisaging then (not what the post is about, I know)

              But what about if we had access to that big screen TV and all whatever other stuff (whatever it may be) – so, not necessarily individually attained or owned?

              So okay, we now have the community as the economic unit as opposed to the individual. The community – ie, the individuals – determine what they will provide back to themselves through the community. The community engages with the present day market economy where necessary. So now we have equity, organic eggs, hessian nappies, perhaps a far bigger and better (say) tv than what you or I could ever have afforded as individuals…

              You want to be selfish in that situation? Fine. I don’t expect you’d be rewarded in any way for being selfish though, so why bother? And you want to shift from you current community to one in Wanaka at some point? All things being equal, not a problem. (I’m sure there’d be plenty of communities in Wanaka with big screen TVs 😉 )

              • Draco T Bastard

                So okay, we now have the community as the economic unit as opposed to the individual.

                You mean like this?

                The reality is that the community is the economic unit and not the individual. This truth upsets some people.

              • Ad

                Hope you all recognized I was being provocative with my greed list.

                As for communal ownership of stuff, well, Mondragon in Spain is your best living example of a whole community that seeks to do that. New Zealand’s Ohu thing was gone inside two electoral terms. Beeville are still there as of course is Gloriavale, plus little breakout ‘intentional communities’ around the Northland and Nelson hinterland.

                It just hasn’t caught on generally, and won’t.

                • Bill

                  I wasn’t taking the ‘greed list’ too seriously or at face value, if that’s what you mean.

                  Mondragon is no kind of example of what I’m referring to by the way.
                  See, last I heard, every job there existed to provide individuals an opportunity to generate an individual income that can be used to pay off their individual mortgage or whatever and otherwise generally used to indulge in their individualistic consumerism.

                  • Ad

                    Then it’s beginning to sound more like Thomas More’s “Utopia.

                    • Bill

                      Then I lived in Thomas more’s “Utopia”.

                      Oh – except I didn’t. I lived in a really existing place where we didn’t interact with the market as individuals: where the community was the economic actor/unit – where we all had access to the type of thing you mentioned in your initial comment but didn’t necessarily have individual ownership of those things (the houses, the vehicles, the consumer and domestic wares of the time)…

                • don’t you want it all ad?

          • maui

            this is the kind of alternative protest that Im talking about:


            • Ad

              There’s room for a few to undergo that kind of essentially religious conversion. Everyone’s entitled to their own obscure magazine niche.

              But David Holmgren isn’t a surgeon, an engineer, an accountant, a banker, a designer, a lawyer, a politician, or any of the other professional class of people who sustain most of the large engines of the economy. Maybe one or two such individual get to upchuck it all – go gardening, join the Hare Krishnas’, crew the Sea Shepherd – but they aren’t the point of the post.

              The question of the post is: how do you deal with wanting to change the world when you choose to stay on the inside?

              • Bill

                The question of the post is: how do you deal with wanting to change the world when you choose to stay on the inside?

                Okay. To be straight to the point and maybe even just a wee bit harsh – you don’t. What you do is avoid dealing with the situation because the choices are too narrow; those things will never catch on etc

                Then what you do is you bed down in your hypocrisy as comfortably as you can and, maybe, occasionally shed a little ‘woe is unto me’ tear at the unfairness of it all.

                • weka

                  I think there is another option. You choose to stay in and resist. You do so consciously knowing that you will most likely be compromised, but you also know that you can use your skills and politics to slow down things getting worse. If the people of conscience leave the system it just hands it more fully to the sociopaths and the selfish.

                  It’s also possible that good things can be done on limit scales. Would we have MMP, or the RMA, or such without good people in the system?

                  But, yeah, I agree with the convo upthread. You can’t have it all Ad. The system is so bad, hurts so many people and damages so much of the planet, that I don’t think there is any way to be in there with good politics unless you are staying for political reasons (that was kind of my point above about giving up the personal).

                  • Bill

                    This is only a semi-formed notion – more of a sign post (I think)…so if it doesn’t seem to make complete sense that’s okay.

                    But analogously. Could a religious person staying within the teachings of (say) Christianity ever hope to find ‘the truth’ of (say) Buddha?

                    And if Christianity was a ruling complex of systems and institutions – that yes, were subject to all types of reform – then could the privileged Christian (the priest or whatever) ever hope to achieve any change that would result in anything other than an expression of Christianity and ‘its truths’?

                    • weka

                      I guess it would depend on the person. I certainly think it’s possible for a Christian to understand Buddha, so I don’t think being part of the system inherently disables one from awareness or understanding. To what extent people get coopted by the system they are in is a different story. A sense of belonging is pretty fundamental to human needs, and there’s a conflict there where the system you are working in needs changing but can’t change and how you manage that internally.

                      And as you say, privilege complicates things (privilege begets privilege).

                      However I don’t think that fundamental change of a system is the only worthy goal for the individual working within the system. Slowing down the damage the system does while change happens in other ways is worthy. Monkey wrenching likewise.

                    • Grindlebottom

                      The usefulness of the religious analogy is maybe a bit limited. For example, the reforming zeal of the current pope Francis is an urgent reaction to the problem of droves of young people leaving the catholic church because of the priest scandals and out of date dogmatic approach to homosexuality, abortion, birth control etc. They’ve been out of step with contemporary catholics’ concepts of what’s right and wrong in how people should be treated. The church’s teachings on abortion and certainly on birth control have commonly been ignored in many Western countries for decades.

                      The point is, people have just opted out of that system because it’s been impossible to change it from within and it now conflicts with their views and expectations. So, now, suddenly, it’s changing, trying to become more relevant in people’s lives. The pope is speaking out about poverty, globalism, the environment, climate change, the need to accept homosexuality. All good stuff and exactly what Christianity is supposed to be about.

                      But gone are the days when positive changes could be brought about in workplaces and societies by employees doing the same thing and just leaving or walking off the job. People are too isolated and dependent on their incomes for survival. So the only way I see it being possible to achieve major change is through the electoral process.

                      I’m still waiting to see how societies are going to effect change to the current predominant neoliberal and globalist dominance. It’s gotta be coming. Somehow.

              • Rosemary McDonald

                “a surgeon, an engineer, an accountant, a banker, a designer, a lawyer, a politician, or any of the other professional class of people who sustain most of the large engines of the economy.

                The question of the post is: how do you deal with wanting to change the world when you choose to stay on the inside?”

                Firstly, you can at least try to be a decent human being. Being fair and honest in your dealings with everyone. Being empathetic. Taking a genuine interest in the lives of others. Treating people with respect.

                The plebs notice these things….and a little goes a long way.

                Secondly, ensure your professional organisations hold all members to a high standard of accountability. Lawyers, medical professionals, engineers…do I have to list the cock ups made by people in these “highly trained” careers who have committed appalling errors who are seldom censured properly for gross failings? They often have name suppression…so who can we, the plebs, really trust?

                For those working for the Government or NGOs (and really, who can tell the difference these days?)…

                From my own experiences with the Ministry of Health: Disability Support Services, various government funded disability and carer advocacy organisations and disability services contracted providers…
                you only have your comfortable jobs because people with disabilities exist in our communities.

                And you have failed them.

                There may well be ‘lefties’ working in these jobs, though you could have fooled me (and many others).

                Some of you sidled up to me at various meetings and spoke in sotto voices about how you understood, and if it were left up to you etc.

                Actually…a surprising number sidled up…to the point where I asked if they or the organisation they worked for had written to the Minister, made a submission, spoken about this issue at their regular professional get together?

                Because the government was, at best, misrepresenting the situation.

                At worst, lying.

                And you guys knew that.

                And you stood back and stayed silent when the rights of significantly disabled people (you know…really vulnerable citizens) were kicked into touch.

                You sat behind your desks while you or your colleagues drafted one of the most malicious pieces of legislation and subsequent policy documents in recent NZ legislative history.

                Shame on you…and if any closet leftie reading this was involved in the Public Health and Disability Amendment Act(2) and the Funded Family Care Policy….I hope you sleep well, and your precious career arc and income keep you warm in your bed.

                Shame on you.

                • RedLogix

                  And that is right on target Rosemary. That’s the real-life consequence of trying to have a social conscience, while working for an organisation that by design has none.

                  It is shameful.

            • RedLogix

              As it happens – by fairly weird coincidence – we drove right past Holmgren’s place this afternoon.

              We plan on visiting on one of his Open Days this spring, and it might make the subject of a good post. Thanks for the inspiration.

              • maui

                Hah, cool, I’ll happily chip in on such a post. I would be slightly jealous that you’re visiting his place! I’ve learnt a lot about permaculture in the last few weeks (when I see a good idea I want to find out more). Around Wellington more and more community projects based around organic gardening appear to be coming into fruition. Obviously to most people it doesn’t appear relevant to them, but maybe we’re not so far away from a time when we’re going to need a concept like permaculture more than it needs us.

                • weka

                  I agree maui. It’s the permaculture and other sustainability experts that have spent the last 40 years figuring out to grow food without fossil fuels (and more recently, in a changing climate). We are going to be hugely indebted to them.

  8. DH 8

    I’m left half wondering what the message is. The writer seems to be saying if you want to pursue a lofty career you’ll end up needing to compromise your principles.

    I’m not sure that’s true, certainly it’s easier to go with the flow but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make it your own way.

    • Ad 8.1

      Got an example?

      • DH 8.1.1

        Example of what?

        • Ad

          Can you give an example of where it was possible to “pursue a lofty career” and “make it for own way”?

          • Chris

            There are examples but so few opportunities your point is made. I’m thinking about self employed researchers and policy people writing good reports that these days never see the light of day. That work getting ignored may very well take its toll on the worker/writer’s sense of self-worth but it’s still important work and work that’s not necessarily compromised by the terms of the contract (although I imagine it sometimes might be). Another example is being employed by a respectable NGO that does good work that’s respected because it’s a respected NGO and that has good values that aren’t compromised by things like government funding or contracts and that’s not scared to stick it to decision-makers and the government and so is able to do good work because it doesn’t feel it’s compromised by reliance on any sort of connection to government. Again I’d imagine not too many opportunities there, either.

          • DH

            “Can you give an example of where it was possible to “pursue a lofty career” and “make it for own way”?”

            Try starting with Ed Hillary and working your way down.

            • Chris

              Yeah, that’s what Paula “anyone can do it” Bennett says, too. The right wing view of the world, everywhere you look’s a level playing field, and where everyone’s the same so nobody needs to look after their pesky neighbour. Good example.

              • DH

                That’s bollocks mate. The point about Hillary was he could have made oodles of cash for himself out of endorsements & the likes and he chose not to. He didn’t use his stature to enrich himself he used it to help others, and he succeeded in that.

                I daresay Bennett wouldn’t have a clue why people liked Hillary.

                • Chris

                  That’s not my point. Nor is it answering the question. Hillary was someone who did something lofty that resonated with people and and a result he became a kind of a hero. He wasn’t political. This isn’t to denigrate what he did, but he wasn’t your average person so putting him up as someone who ‘pursued a lofty career yet made it their own way’ doesn’t cut it. And I don’t think he would’ve had the opportunity to make oodles of cash from endorsements, either. The world wasn’t like that during his time.

                  • DH

                    What are you rabbitting on about?

                    Ad asked for an example of someone who pursued a lofty career and made his own way so I gave him one. They don’t come much loftier than big Ed. There is no more to it.

                    “And I don’t think he would’ve had the opportunity to make oodles of cash from endorsements, either. The world wasn’t like that during his time.”

                    You have to be kidding.

    • Tracey 8.2

      How many people never compromise their principles. Never drop their ethics.

      To put it another way, how many times a day do you stop and consider your decision-making from an ethical perspective? My guess is most people don’t. That doesnt mean they are not compromising principles, it means they are ignorant of the compromising.

      • DH 8.2.1

        “How many people never compromise their principles. Never drop their ethics.”

        I think the last person who did that ended up nailed to a cross for being so perfect.

        Personally I think the best we mortals can do is continually strive to maintain a reasonable balance between looking out for ourselves and looking out for others. We can pursue a career and still do that IMO, although it can often be a lot harder.

        • Ad

          It’s not enough.

        • Tracey

          Pretty sure he was nailed to the cross because he spoke against the authority of the day rather than for being perfect.

          • Grindlebottom

            He was actually done in for blasphemy. The Sanhedrin convicted him of claiming to be the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible. (According to the gospels, at his trial he never actually said that he was, but when they put it to him that he’d claimed to be he never unequivocally denied it.)

  9. RedLogix 9

    Why Facebook in particular BM?

    • BM 9.1

      Face book represent middle NZ.
      Protest marches seem to predominantly represent lefty extremists.

      Politicians don’t listen to lefty extremists but they do listen to middle NZ.

      • Tracey 9.1.1

        middle new zealand don’t listen to protesters but they do listen to right wing politicians.The former challenge their world view the later provide comfort by reinforcing it.

        Fixed it for youl

        • srylands

          and who are these “right wing politicians” in New Zealand? There are no such people in the New Zealand Parliament.

          [lprent: Argue your religious fanaticism in OpenMike. ]

          • Tracey

            oh good slylands has still got the same record playing


            Yes, yes Slylands, you are right, there are no nazi politicians in NZ so everyone is from the Left

          • Paul

            You don’t, as ever, know what you’re talking about.

            Most politicians are right wingers and some factions of the National Party are extreme right libertarians.
            The Labour Party of 2015 compared to the Labour Party of 1970 is a right wing neoliberal group and the National Party is well right of Muldoon and Holyoake’s Party.
            The only left wing party in parliament are the Greens and Shaw is rapidly driving them to the right.

            Google the Overton window.

            • Chris

              Most of current Labour is right of Muldoon and Holyoake. And Mana was a conservative traditional Labour. Hilarious when you think of how the likes of Hooton get away with calling the Greens radical left.

          • Ad

            Engage with the actual post.
            Step up, or step off.

          • Stuart Munro

            Lizards count as people too! (at least while this lot are in power)

      • Mike the Savage One 9.1.2

        Facebook is one of the biggest parts of the problem. Facebook is a prime data gathering business, selling coded data to advertisers, and they do use it to offer advertising to producers and service providers, all dealing with the basic likes and preferences people may have.

        Network information is gathered, so do Google and others, if you use any Google service, you are likely to have consented to (maybe not even being aware of the meanings in the terms and conditions) them gathering data on other things you open on your smart phone or computer besides of Google, they may harvest even all your contacts and so forth.

        This they pass on (encoded) to businesses using them for advertising, for great profits, and so people get targeted with advertised products and services, not even aware why the particular ads show up on their computer.

        There may be other products and services available, maybe better and cheaper, but as advertising on the internet (and with that elsewhere) is now dictated by who pays the most for most data of use, we get more monopoly and oligopoly formation in the markets we live in.

        Facebook play their part in it, so do many others. If that is the future, the “middle class” using Facebook, setting the agenda for tomorrow, then you are basically telling us that dumbing down and narrowing down availability of information, due to “mainstream trends”, is the way for the future.

        I pity people using Facebook every day, as they are assisting the forces that manipulate them and society, in perfecting mass control by mass manipulation. I especially pity “activist” using Facebook, as government security agencies have means to tap into Facebook traffic, to find out all about who you connect with, which may be useful for police and SIS and the government of the day, to know, where stuff is happening that they may deem a “challenge” to the existing status quo.

        And the US government has agreements with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others, to offer them some data, if that may be of types indicating some “concerns” for security and so forth. We have only limited info about what that entails.

        But BM just loves all this, I guess.

  10. Bill 10

    If you’re highly qualified, then I’m assuming you’re reaping the rewards of privilege that come with applying those qualifications to a career. And your political leanings can be left – either authentically of as a consequence of guilt.

    Regardless, whether you then ‘pull back’ and work for a government or an NGO, you are still going to be a part and parcel of the systemic oppression we labour under. (Btw, for the sake of simplicity, I’m deliberately leaving any cultural roots of oppression aside – ie, sexism, racism etc)

    Running off and ‘living in the woods’ might work on a personal/individual level, but leaves the institutions and structures that underpin that systemic oppression in tact.

    So, my take. Either never bite on the bait that promises privilege, high income etc, or if you already have, get off the hook by cashing it all in and shifting your perspective of ‘wealth’ from being something personal to being something rooted in community.

    If you don’t or can’t do either of the above, then you’re reduced to trying to ‘do the right thing’ (eg – sponsor a child, vote left, buy a lightbulb…) while propping up, in a quite fundamental and essential way, the very things that are acting against our (your) better instincts.

    One other ‘out’ – and perhaps the most workable…

    When an intelligent reform is on the cards, support it. But also always put your shoulder to the wheel that is trying to roll beyond mere reform.

    • Ad 10.1

      Your first option of foregoing privilege, also foregoes any reform of The System.

      There’s a standard middle-age attractiveness to your second proposal – cash up and get out. Anyone with reasonable equity in an Auckland house can think, “then he’ll settle down, in some quite little town, and forget about everything”. You don’t have to be left, right, or politically active at all to do that. You don’t have to to anything at all except leave.

      I would put it to you that those who stay have more options that buy a lightbulb.

      • Bill 10.1.1

        Forgoing privilege doesn’t mean becoming non-active. As you write in the post, it could mean deciding to channel your talents through, for example, the union movement. (That’s not free from the dilemma sketched out in the final para below)

        Cashing up to get out in the way you’ve interpreted it, is basically early retirement, and that’s very different to what I actually said. It would be absolutely necessary to re-examine concepts of wealth, acquisition and where it should rightfully accrue. Like I said – it has to become communal rather than individual if the cashing up is to be anything beyond a self- serving case of ‘early retirement’.

        Of course, ‘doing the right thing’ can be much more than ‘buying a lightbulb. The point is that whatever you do in that case will always, by the nature of the action, be inadequate and embroiled or wrapped around in hypocrisy to boot. (eg – I’ll give 10% of my earnings to ‘good causes’ while earning my crust supporting the economic system that creates the very problem I’m throwing my 10% at)

        • Ad

          That is why your binary setup of “Either never bite on the bait that promises privilege … or … cashing it all in and shifting your perspective of ‘wealth’ from being something personal to being something rooted in community” is too limiting to work.

          The post itself is addressing those who stay “inside”.
          Not those in small NGOs, not those who are union staff, not those who are shareholder class, not the manual laborers. It’s a really specific group.

          • Bill

            NGOs and unions etc are no more to the ‘outside’ than shareholders or manual labourers… or the undefined professional you’re seeking to focus on. They are all very much ‘inside’, in my book. I guess then, that I just can’t see the distinction you’re making.

            And if the road out is seen as ‘too limiting’, then fine – continue to endlessly wrestle with the contradictions that exist between thought and action.

            • Ad

              Fair enough.
              If you see no difference between union activism and working for a corporation or large bureaucracy, you’re not going to understand this post at all.

              • Bill

                Hmm.No, I understand it…where you were trying to go. But since all those things are bound within the same system, and in their various unique or peculiar ways perpetuate that system…

    • RedLogix 10.2

      either authentically of as a consequence of guilt

      Or conscience Bill. This old ‘middle-class guilt’ meme is well past it’s used by date.

      But in one sense you are right, maybe the only route to reform leads through the vale of sackcloth and ashes. But what then is the goal? Surely not a state of permanently virtuous poverty? As you say, that just leaves the systemic oppression intact.

      The problem with poverty is that while it may be ethically pure, it’s also materially powerless. For instance this very website is run mostly off the ‘non-poverty’ condition and ‘privilege’ of one or two people.

      Absolutely the answer lies in the notion of community – but getting beyond the mouthing of that word is something we’ve struggled with.

      • Bill 10.2.1

        I’m aware of a few rather successful middle class types who vote left. Some of them are really not very pleasant individuals while some are involved in really quite dubious earning activities. Are they voting (say) Labour to salve their conscience? That’s my suspicion, but sure, I could be wrong.

        To poverty. Not pursuing privilege does not equate with embracing poverty.

        To reform. It’s never going to be enough. As I wrote above, reform ought to be supported, but it is never an end or a solution. eg – support workers rights…H&S increased wages and conditions etc, – but never lose sight of the fact that the whole environment where work is located is inherently inequitable and must be rolled away and always articulate that to the degree it can be at any point in time and always work towards that or with that in mind.

        Community. Yes, it’s an arse. The whole notion of ‘individual advancement’ that’s become the norm over time sits in direct contradiction to notions of community. As I said, we (individually and collectively) need to re-appraise what wealth means and where it should reside. Far too few people do that. Even fewer act on it.

        • Ad

          The question you could refine is how much change of the world is one prepared to make happen?

          The post naturally focuses on a much narrower standpoint.

          There are many who view reformers as hopelessly compromised. Reform by definite is never going to be enough. It’s a process not an end state.

          But – religious success stories aside – it’s the compromised and the reformers who are most likely to change anything for good.

          • Bill

            Reform isn’t hopelessly compromised. However, when it’s touted as a “this is the end of the road” solution, it’s simply hopeless insofar as it becomes a part of the problem – ie, a roadblock to changing things for the better.

            • Puddleglum

              I tried to find the very first comment I made on The Standard (I think back in 2008) but wasn’t successful.

              It was basically a fulmination against ‘Liberals’ and their ‘reform agenda’ in response to Paul Walker describing himself as not particularly political but probably a ‘Classical Liberal’.

              I responded by asking just which kind of liberal he might be and then went on to lambast, amongst other liberal targets, the 19th Century UK Liberal Party that dragged its heels on just about every progressive cause coming out of the general (working class) population and, by being the ‘official liberals/progressives’, thus managed to delay real progress by, in some cases, decades. (The almost unforgivable conservatism and timidity of William Wilberforce in his ever-so-cautious ‘the time is not right’ refrain regarding abolition was an early example of the priority of career over principle. In fact, he possibly only took it up for political career advantage.)

              As I recall you responded to that comment and said words to the effect that you ‘had to have a wee smile’ when you read it. 🙂

  11. Tautoko Mangō Mata 11

    I still think that protesting in the street has a value. Those who are able to take to the streets are representing others as well as themselves in putting out their views. It gives those who are unable to protest, a confidence in knowing that they are not alone in their views. It has been a pity that there hasn’t been more coordination of advertising of splinter groups on events on the big issues, like TPPA and Climate change/Oil drilling to get out larger numbers. It also helps to educate others. Many more people are now aware of TPPA than in the earlier years.
    The Standard provides a great forum for disseminating and learning about issues. No wonder Slater wanted to find out names and nobble people who contribute to this site.
    Thanks again to LPrent. Even if you live in a largely Tory community, you can still be a participant in the Standard community forum and therefore not feel so isolated.

    • Ad 11.1

      One of the best things about a street protest is that it has a real world effect on the morale of the participants. They see again who are their con-spirited friends. You get good gossip. You get therapy from shouting. You realize again you’re part of something that exists in real life, not just in the media.

      • Lindsey 11.1.1

        One of the best things about Tory governments is the oppotunities it provides for healthy outdoor excercise in excellent company.

  12. RedBaronCV 12

    Or maybe run guerilla warfare campaigns in these entities?
    Who was the bloke that said you swim among them invisible…

    Reach out and support your fellow workers (I’ve seen even some very senior managers back down when confronted with the passive glare of most of the staff – “Who’s going to load the trucks” running through their heads).

    Frame good changes in language that is understood or meets managerial selfish goals – or gives good managers a chance to do something better. “That solar power makes us look good marketing wise”
    Yes I know it’s not the complete answer but lots of small changes can make for much bigger outcomes.

  13. Mike the Savage One 13

    “The left”, as it once was, with “activists” holding street protests and some community meetings, they are almost dead. I have witnessed it over the years. Some are of course committed, stick to the faith, to activism, to outspokenness, and keep on fighting, and running appeals and do more, but they are just on the margins, I fear.

    Most people I see and hear are not that interested in politics at all anymore, they tend to either be pragmatic about what benefits them in their lives, and what not, and what they deem to “make sense”. Any ideological ideas seem to get no traction anymore.

    We can debate about the causes, and I think many of us know them, and may well be right. But the challenge is – how to proceed and how to communicate and act in future.

    The way things are, and are heading, is not at all promising, it is very disturbing to any critical, observant and alert mind. We face the world being controlled by corporations, and business players and organisations of various size and form, and it is mostly fully commercially focused, and uses highly sophisticated communication and other technology. “Privacy” in the traditional sense hardly exists now, with the wide use of smart phones, the internet and what else there is. Data is harvested en masse, supposedly in ways that do not disclose our full identity, just our behaviour and what we like or dislike, who we communicate with, and what we buy or sell.

    This will lead to a society where business using all this technology and information, in cooperation with state administrations, will be able to manipulate and control what is shared, promoted, sold and produced to meet all market demand, so to say, and with the increasingly commercially focused media, that will apply to all information also, including politically relevant information.

    So there is an enormous challenge for a progressive movement to create an alternative counter weight to this, to connect with “the community” of humans, and perhaps re-establish more autonomous, less manipulated societies.

    It cannot be acceptable that people are isolated, because at their work places or on the streets, and in the cafes, they cannot speak their minds anymore, as most are following some vague “mass norm” of thinking and behaviour, based on mass manipulation through a combination of business, commerce and “media”, largely simply creating endless consumerism.

    One alternative to this new society we have may be a new “shock approach”, by creating autonomous alternative cells or groups, who do simply dare to choose to stick up for themselves, to stand out and stand up, and not conform, and even attack the “new norms” that I observe. History is full of examples of how new “trends” or movements started, from such behaviour.

    And it is a new MOVEMENT of sorts, that “the left” may need, based on certain philosophy and sets of sound ideas, that are just attractive and convincing. It is ideas that change the world, ideas and philosophies that can form from them.

    That is more than my two cents worth on this.

    • Ad 13.1

      Give an example of how this shock approach would work.

      So far, “Who Dares, Gets Fired”.

      • Mike the Savage One 13.1.1

        Yes, generally the vast majority of people are meek, tend to bow their head down and so forth. So you suggest it is ok to do that, as that is what the rest of the “herd” does? I think it is very impressive and also “shockingly” honest and refreshing for many people, when they come across a person who talks straight and does not BS around. It will not go down with all, and certainly not the ones who dislike your views, but the people on the left or elsewhere in history, who became respected leaders or key operators, they were the ones that stood up for principles, no matter what.

        Taking clear positions and being principled, and also leading by example, and not buckling to rotten compromises, that “shocks” some people.

        The challenge you are talking about is being a mercenary, dependent on income, and the whole discussion is bizarre. You are trying to find answers, that the past had already delivered. “United we stand, divided we fall”, was once the slogan and principle.

        As people have let themselves be manipulated into lone fighters, and willing careerists, that is why we have this status quo and why this post was written, I guess. Ok, having a family, a mortgage and so binds people to obligations and responsibilities, and as a person who has chosen to rather go without much, I may have that little bit of an advantage to simply ignore much BS around me, and simply stand for what I think and say and do. Of course it ruffles feathers, but then I was not born and bred here, which may be the very little bit of difference.

        Have a nice evening, reading and reflecting on the many answers, some of which are refreshing and interesting, others are sadly just damned depressing. No wonder “the left” is not having many answers, having lost many principles, that were perhaps kept in the past.

        P.S.: And I was at least once fired for speaking my mind, but afterwards, I was rather glad I left the rotten employers, and there are usually alternatives, certainly for the particular kind of persons that this post tries to address.

  14. trendy lefty 14

    Interesting that most of my posts got deleted. No idea why.

    [Can’t see them although a couple were stuck in spam – MS]

    [r0b: lprent moved a whole thread to open mike]

  15. John Shears 15

    What an inspiring post and with a great lack of the usual snipers and smarties. Thank you Ad for the concept and all that have contributed.
    To thine own self be true.

    • weka 15.1

      I also found it a very thought-provoking post, thanks Ad.

    • Ad 15.2

      Cheers team.
      I think we can keep stepping up for the good stuff.

        • Mike the Savage One

          You found a useful resource, that is definitely a model to use, and having got that far, one needs to focus on some core or key issues, that have real potential, to attract interest, sympathy and support in the medium to long term. Labour leaders and MPs and members may bother reading that and a few other books, and then rethink their usual swaying and walking and talking all over the place.

          What all this requires is a firm commitment, faith and a lot of hard work, which I fear fewer and fewer are prepared to bother with. It is easier to use your smart phone or table and push a few icons or buttons. But that does achieve next to nothing, as the use of Facebook and other new forums proves. It has to happen in the real world too, in flesh and blood, face to face, in sweat and tears.

  16. Penny Bright 16

    What works for me is being self-funded, fiercely independent and working on an ‘issue by issue’ basis.

    My funding can’t be cut off if I speak out – because I don’t get any.

    ( My funding is based on flatmate income, based upon owning a freehold home.)

    Working full-time means I can be very effective, and decide each day how best to spend my time – ‘blowing the whistle until my eyeballs bleed’ (as it were 😉

    A full and exciting life!

    Recommend it.

    Penny Bright

    • Ad 16.1

      Lots of different ways to achieve good things for the world other than your approach.

      Plus, if the whole thing is predicated on the income from one flatmate, I’d try not to lose my house.

  17. Brutus Iscariot 17

    How does all this relate to the rather basic and extremely powerful instinct to improve the lot of your spouse and offspring?

    I have yet to see that addressed.

    • Ad 17.1

      That’s a whole different post altogether.

      One of the huge weaknesses in New Zealand leftie discourse is that thing called “the family”. I think the left like it when the state can intervene, show its instruments, wedge public policy in to private lives.

      The left seem to like “the family” better when it’s framed as part of a broader discourse; “whanau” or “it takes a village” or “community”.

      Your question won’t be answered by the post I wrote, but it’s a really good one.
      This post was framing personal ambition with conscience and activism.

      Closer to the election I promise I will have a crack at your question, because to me the “interests of my family” is at the heart of how to get more votes than the left have got for the last three elections.

  18. feijoa 18

    I work, I raise a family, pay a mortgage and all that.
    I do small things, which may not be enough in some peoples eyes. I catch the bus / I make compost / I recycle / I garden / read the standard/ try to inform myself- which takes a bit of effort may I say with such a right wing media/ I do the odd march/ sign petitions/ have some community activities I do ( not enough), and at work I try the occasional small prod- gun ownership being a recent topic, / I always vote/ talk about issues with my children/ plus various other things.
    Hopefully it counts, and hopefully the full on activists know there are others out there doing their small bit.
    I think when there is more of a groundswell to end this crappy system, there will be lots of people ready. It’s how to build that groundswell is the challenge. More people reading the standard!!!

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