(This post was originally writeen and published on OnTheLeftNZ.com.)
I am left first and foremost because I believe in a government that places the needs of people ahead of all other concerns. People are the culture and community that make everything else about the world possible. I am left wing because I am feminist, and right wing politics by nature and ideology uphold the power and structural dynamics that oppress women and marginalised people. Right wing politics and I can’t be friends for this core reason. It’s not me, it’s definitely you.
I am left because I believe in artistic freedom and the right for artists to control their own work. Leaked documents from the ongoing TPPA negotiations look set for US interests to take a stranglehold on our copyright law. One key demand is restricting material that enters the public domain by the extension of copyright to life+75 years. This is a really boring way of saying the US want to add an extra 25 years of ‘no touchies’ to the work of dead New Zealanders (we have life+50 years in NZ at the moment). Copyright was invented to protect the rights of the original creators, but it’s ballooning out to be this ever extending bubble of protection to corporate assets, with American corporations lobbying the hardest.
The environment and climate change are critical concerns for New Zealand. Complete inaction on anything meaningful will make us into villains in the eyes of our children and grandchildren. New Zealand is a small island nation with a small population at the edge of nowhere, but we can and have used this as a reason to act radically and push the boundaries of what can be possible on the global stage. I look at our Government’s stance on climate change and I see a country too apathetic to make the kinds of decisions we need to make. The ones that don’t necessarily earn us friendship points with the US, but the decisions we make because they are the ones 98% of scientific evidence points to as necessary.
I watched with horror last term as the National Government began to dismantle and shuffle and shift policy by policy, making little nips here and there into the safety net that is designed to protect all New Zealanders. An extra fee here, increased cost over there. Reduced funding to this or that, and a privatisation or two because it fits with their ideology. All this has been structured to be almost imperceptible to a sleepy majority of New Zealanders (or, as our prime minister likes to call them ‘real New Zealanders’). A one-off script of antibiotics is an extra $2? GST on my fruit and veg? It doesn’t add up to much.
Unless you aren’t on much to begin with. Then each of these fee changes, levies and increases hit like a blow to the gut. It’s hard to believe in trickle down economics when the cup at the top just keeps getting bigger.
I am angry at how the Government views poverty as a moral failing. You’re only poor because you are too lazy isn’t so much heavily implied as it is actively stated. I am angry that the support structures that help women out of abusive domestic relationships have been directly targeted, and numbers of solo parents off benefits (not numbers into work, just off benefits) is hailed like a big achievement. Are those people back with abusive partners? Are their lives now at risk? There’s no numbers on that.
I am deeply concerned with what will happen to New Zealand in the next three years. I am worried for the health of our nation, for the education of our children, for the lives and realities of our women and marginalised communities. I am angry about our environment, about transport, and about the tactical silencing of journalists and organisations that dare to voice disagreement. I watch as our politics slowly ‘Americanise’. I am baffled that anyone can look at America, with its devastating inequality and think “Yeah, let’s be more like those guys”.
You can’t run a country like you run a business. You can’t crunch people like you crunch financial numbers. You just end up with a whole lot of crunched-up people.