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September 9, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Last One Left

I’m not overly politically minded: the closest I’ve ever really come to mobilisation was collecting $5 from each of my fifth-form German classmates to get a comedic birthing T-shirt printed for our awesome teacher. (The real fruits of her labour were my straight Excellences, but I doubt she’d see it that way.) In a liberating and altogether new experience for both me and the reader, let me try and explain to you (read: justify to myself) how I went from being ignorant and identifying as right-wing to just being ignorant. Feel free to eviscerate it—I don’t need the approval. I’m fine as I am. With average-to-poor cuticles, three-quarters of a Commerce degree, and a GSOH. Onward.

As a privileged kid—if you must know, the only time I ever had to wait my turn was when I got sick at night and had to go down to the After Hours—I was vaguely aware that I had it pretty good. All I had to do was not ask questions, quietly read the latest Alex Rider book in a corner, and hope Mum didn’t ask me to empty the dishwasher. I didn’t think about ‘the left’ or ‘the right’ or ‘the economy’ or ‘workers’ rights’ or ‘social justice’ or the ever-present hegemon that is ‘agribusiness’. Politics first smacked me in the face one day driving down Jervois Quay, when Mum said: “Jim Bolger’s in the car behind us.” He had flags on his car. He waved. It was awesome.

The point is, my childhood was the most self-centred thing since hula hooping. Governments came and went and were criticised regardless, so I figured, “surely one cannot be more wrong than the other. I guess at least they’re giving each other turns. I don’t have time to engage with this, I’m too busy trying to get all the other Year 4s at school to help get my Swearing Club off the bloody fucking ground.”*

By the time I arrived at my uppity private girls’ secondary school (UPGSS), I had learned that my dad used to work in the office of a Labour Minister of Finance. These would have been pretty subversive credentials at said UPGSS had the Minister in question not been Roger “one degree of Bacon” Douglas. I had no trouble making friends, although a few people did ask me why Douglas didn’t go further. At this stage, I had emerged from (1) total self-immersion to (2) awareness that the world was a fairly awful place and people were all just trying to navigate their own tragic courses with minimal damage. But my bottom line for national politics remained the economy. Economics was easier for me to understand than those innumerable social realities to which I’d had little exposure and could not, with my rose-tinted affluence-glasses™ on and biologically immature empathy glands,** really bring myself to consider. We need to grow, guys! Surely it trickles down. Economics is science! Right?

Of course, feel free to take a purely economic focus when you’re considering how the country should be run. Perhaps your job—or, as is more likely, your penchant for speculative investment on Waiheke Island—hangs in the balance. However, as one would expect from the series of clichés that is my life, this ‘foundation’ of mine was eventually cracked by the Aslan figure of university.***

It’s easy to see why universities used to be hotbeds for political mobilisation and subtle government subversion. It’s also easy to see why now they’re sort of just hotbeds for movie-sharing on hostel internet. For me personally, exposure to VicLabour and free copies of that last bastion of sedition The Dominion Post, combined with the expectation that I fuck around for 70 per cent of the time, was always going to end in… movie-sharing on hostel internet, if I’m honest.

Over time, though, I became less and less convinced by the defensibility of the financial bottom line that had theretofore led me toward economic liberalism. At one point, I thought, “Sure, the left sound better out loud, their views are nicer to hear—they’re just not that realistic.” REALISTIC?! THE IDEA ISN’T TO BE REALISTIC!  Not everything needs to be coloured by some bogus filter of mine that asks whether it would decrease the budget deficit. Or whatever’s being advocated down in Thorndon at the moment. Aren’t they trying to provide misguided outcomes for a wide variety of New Zealanders while subtly eroding democratic freedoms? No? Could’ve fooled me. The trouble is, I’m now even less able to commit to any one standpoint. I know it’s not all about the numbers. I know it’s about the people.  I know that. How upsetting, then, that I distrust all rhetoric and enjoy the double-black-diamond banter of garden-variety libertarians. Just leave me be. Relax, I’ll vote Labour.

Being politically uninformed, as I very obviously remain, is not the same thing as being politically dim. The former sees you unable to expand on why you think Hekia’d have a better time if she actually followed the advice the Ministry gave her; the latter sees you writing History essays in a classroom at lunch when you become persona non grata by asking to your leavers’ ball a guy that a more popular girl had been planning on taking. (Maybe all the others were in the common room talking about education policy. I’ll never know.) These mountains are not unconquerable. But I need to climb both of them. It’ll be hard not to relapse into my old ways with an NBR subscription and a pole-vault.

Until then, don’t let me get away with trivialising anything. The next time I see you and ask you whether you’d fuck, marry or kill Cunliffe, Robertson or Jones, say: “STOP SKIRTING THE ISSUES, MANIC SHREW!” Actually, no, that is a bad example. Let me get away with trivialising that.


*My first and only foray into leadership. It turns out power’s only fun where the structure already exists and all you have to do is cling to it.

** I am aware that people do not have glands that secrete empathy. But, as with flying foxes instead of state highways, wouldn’t it be convenient?!

***Or, more accurately, a guy I met at a party once who had hair like Aslan and gave me some gin.

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