nz youth: Burn more flags and shout all you like

The Internet/Mana alliance has been a breath of fresh air into the stale status quo of New Zealand politics. Not for Hone Harawira or Kim Dot Com the poll driven, focus grouped, bland pronunciations of Labour and National, and increasingly the Greens, boldly trying to offend as few of the smug bourgeois “centre” vote as possible. They’re giving the middle finger to the political establishment and the fawning MSM that depends on it for access and soundbites. And it looks like they’re enjoying themselves.

Kim Dot Com may very well be fighting for his “survival”. Is he a good guy? Did he turn a blind eye to copyright infringements? I have no idea but I also have no doubt, given his extradition to the US, he has as much chance of fair treatment in the “land of the free” as Julian Assange or Edward Snowden. Too many powerful, connected enemies and a deeply repressive President and Congress, and capricious judiciary. The United States is a nominal democracy with nominal free speech. You can say what you like but just know everything you say by phone or on the internet will be logged and saved for future reference and possible retribution at a later date. New Zealand’s part in this global surveillance is far from clear but it is apparent that there is a significant group of police, intelligence and military quislings who will do pretty much anything to further their own career and curry favour with the big boys. As I said in a previous post, my only consolation is the bumbling incompetence of so many of them and the Prime Minister who overseas them.

The faux outrage over the “Fuck John Key” chant at the recent Internet Party concert might outrage a few of the smug bourgeois I mentioned at the start but to many, including myself, it is a welcome sign of political engagement, crude as it may be, and reflects what my own teenage children (and their classmates) tell me – John Key is lame. Their parents might like a beer with him, but their kids sure don’t. For all the Internet Party’s frivolity there is an equal amount of detailed policy on their website. Only they, Mana and the Green Party go into great depth to outline their ideas. Labour and NZ First are far more detailed than National. National are still governed by PR triteness. #teamkey plays to this shallow populism, the ultimate evolution of New Zealand into presidential style politics. Hopefully this is its pinnacle. It is hard to imagine #teamcollins or #teamjoyce. A far more clever (very, very well done) video expressing discontent with Key was provided by creative agency Propellor Motion.

Hone Harawira is passionate and sometimes rude. Many middle class kiwis don’t like an uppity Maori who is blunt. Don’t these natives understand assimilation or etiquette? Hone may not speak like MLK, few do these days, but he is in his own way speaking similar truths to power – about racism, poverty and militarism, MLK’s forgotten axis of evil. The pathetic outrage over the burning of an Israeli and US flag recently, free speech protected by law (after all it’s just a bit of screen printed fabric) was courageously and passionately defended by Harawira. John Minto is also representing Mana. He is reviled by many of middle New Zealand for his unrelenting support of causes, including protesting Apartheid and Springbok Tours, Israel and child poverty that many kiwis would rather not think about, disparaged as a “rent-a-protestor”. Why are some of the smug middle class so offended by burning a flag and not by the atrocities that caused the protest? It suggests a perversion of values in this country that is hard to equate with our historical championing of the underdog and of a fair go. Has 30+ years of selfish neo liberal ideology changed us that much? Why are Mana the only party that explicitly aims for full employment?

Do we want New Zealand’s youth to be shallow, unquestioning, selfish consumers or do we want them to be empathetic, informed citizens. Chanting “Fuck John Key” may not be profound debate but if it is a signal of a healthy scepticism towards authority and a willingness to challenge a stagnant status quo, then I’m all for it. Burn and shout away.

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