Auckland businessman/ village idiot David Ruck founded the Pakeha Party Facebook page as a forum to claim Maori have too many special rights or magic powers or something, inner city Auckland Facebook has fallen into two straight days of harrumphing and guffawing about it, and One News produced a story on it. Why are we talking about this?
My attitude towards racists/ sexists/ homophobes/ other bigots, or shallow minded/ sheepishly ideological people saying exactly what we would expect them to say is meh. Blogs, social media, and the internet in general has given the uninformed a greater forum than ever to broadcast bilge. Facebook liberalism has risen as a reaction to all forms of intolerance, which entails posting an article about some relatively minor slight by some populist and waiting for people to like and/ or snark. It treats any bigotry, no matter how irrelevant, as a major threat to social harmony, that must be snarked or tutted into submission. That 30,000 people clicked ‘Like’ proves there are about 30,000 people in New Zealand who are not too lazy to tentatively approve of a mild, populist, shallow myth fueled by a feeling of powerlessness – that some people are getting something we’re not. This doesn’t extend to putting on black uniforms and marching on Parliament, resulting in the banning of Fair Trade lattes, heritage buildings, and sodomy. Similar things could be said for many left wing causes that stand in simplistic opposition against as opposed to ongoing, deep, rich, coherent narrative of what they’re for. The Pakeha Party and the opposition meet our need to know that people agree with our occasional or all-consuming siege mentality that we’re outnumbered by people who disagree with us, or project our desire for people to know how progressive/ hard done/ offended by we feel. “I’m John Gutsful and I hate racism/ privilege. I need as many people to know that I think this as possible”.
Speaking as gay, half Chinese, inner city suburbanite, I don’t have the energy to get angry every time a Christian motel owner denies a gay couple joint accommodation, at every Winston Peters speech about immigrants, or when a boorish talkback host says or writes something without thinking like….. every talkback show host does daily. Those who break the law can be taken to court, and the rest laughed at. Society will always have village idiots who constantly commit the social or political equivalents of pissing on electric fences, gaining carnal knowledge of sows, and shooting duck hunters in the forest. Not having people like Pauline Hanson, Michael Laws, or Sarah Palin would deny us the light entertainment we deserve or can willfully ignore. Humour, not outrage, is the best way of disarming simplistic ideas and their key backers. This quick clip from the Bugle Podcast on anti-immigration politics in France provides an excellent example of how to take down populists.
Obsessive outrage and finger wagging over small things allows for those in power, both left and right, in politics and business, people and structures, to avoid proper scrutiny. Those who have teams of PR and communications staffers, and speechwriters to craft their message and espouse sweet nothings to make us feel at ease while they often use it to hurt those with less power and improve the power of the most powerful. In Australia, we pay way too much attention to racism on public transport and absent-minded 12 year olds at AFL matches, and not enough to Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd, who actually propose or practice about real human rights violations with asylum seekers but say it nicely.
I appreciate and love my peers for their beliefs. They’re my friends, neighbours, and colleagues: I know you’re cool with who I am as I am of you, that’s why we’re all mates. No need to prove yourselves as tolerant. For all the emphasis we place on intolerance of intolerance, our discourse contains a massive lack of empathy. Speaking for my peer group, I’ve been uncomfortable with a snarky, favourite pastime is poking fun at rednecks and bogans. Those people poorer than us who we claim to care about. For all the internet trolling, most people are generally open to an open conversation and debate in person. I’ve had colleagues in offices and student jobs alike whose views I’ve often felt uncomfortable with, knowing they would be the sort of people who would like the Pakeha Party but you can have an honest debate that doesn’t indulge in name-calling and Facebook or blog trolling. There are some it will never work with, and deserve to be tried if real harm has been caused, but real progressive social change in happens slowly through a battle for hearts and minds, not through self-congratulations and trolling.