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The colonised minds of NZ's political left

Pretending the issues here are the same as in Britain or the US is perhaps not the best way to connect with voters.

Rob Hosking
Fri, 19 Jul 2013

In the minds of New Zealand’s political left, some offshore imperialist has planted a flag and claimed the grey matter for their betters in the Northern Hemisphere.

How else can we explain the colonised minds of New Zealand’s political left?

How else to explain the way offshore problems are assumed to be New Zealand’s problems, so the Green and Labour parties, and their various sympathisers in the commentariat and the universities’ liberal arts faculties, can import those offshore solutions?

You would think a political movement for whom the word “colonisation” is a synonym for genocide and tyranny would be less inclined to be so slavish in this regard: unfortunately, you would be wrong.

Take a topical example from this week.

Visiting academic Robert Wade brought in all the rhetoric about the “austerity” and “top one per cent” to these shores and imported them, holus bolus, into the New Zealand context.

Professor Wade later backtracked from his comments, but the important point is not a “sloppy” – to use his own description of his language – sermon from a British academic.

Rather, the important point is the way local “progressives”, as they like to call themselves, lap this stuff up.

The psychology seems to be this: let's get an admirable chap – and, ironically, it usually is a chap – from a decent British or Ivy League US university to come over and tell us awful colonials how badly we are doing.

Colonial cringe
This goes further than the colonial cringe – it's a kind of colonial S&M. Oh please humiliate us, the local anti-colonist progressives plead to their lofty offshore masters. Tell us how bad we are. Beat us, hurt us, and make us feel cheap.

Bring in all that guff about austerity measures, the top 1% of the country holding most of the wealth and making all the decisions and we’ll all just pretend we’ve got the same issues as the US or the UK.

It would not matter – apart from perhaps being a fascinating if rather hilarious study in group psychology – if it were not the fact this group then advocate importing their favourite solutions from their colonial, tenured masters northern hemisphere academia.

Fortuitously, the same week Professor Wade was titillating his local progressive followers with how dire New Zealand is the latest figures on inequality here came out.

And New Zealand is pretty well OK. Inequality isn’t growing – in fact, it has shrunk a bit in recent years – and the top 1% here get 8% of all taxable income – comparable with Sweden, Norway, France and Australia, and much lower than the UK (14%) and the US (17%).

The key bit is New Zealand’s redistribution system makes a huge impact. A single-earner, two-child family earning less than $60,000 – which is about $12,000 above the average wage – pays no net income tax.

So our colonised progressive movement is rather off the beam on this one and it is probably why the left in New Zealand is just not connecting with voters at present.

If you want to get elected you need to demonstrate you understand the concerns of the people you want to elect you, and that you have solutions to deal with those concerns.

Pretending the issues here are the same as the UK or the US, and getting academics in to pontificate about the solutions to deal with those other countries' problems, is perhaps not the best way to go about this.

Nor does it seem particularly progressive.

Rob Hosking
Fri, 19 Jul 2013
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The colonised minds of NZ's political left