Archives for posts with tag: denial

I’ve spent the last few days in reflection, contemplation and conversation. My reaction to the results of the election was not anger or sadness predominantly, but a form of numbness. Watching the election coverage on Saturday, I felt a surreal sense of déjà vu.

I am worried.

But perhaps not about the same things as some.

One of the things that has become increasingly clear to me is how partisan we have become. It’s difficult to see how things could be any other way at the moment. (For those who don’t know, partisanism is “the term is used for [those] who strongly support their party’s policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents”, and if you observe U.S. politics, it’s typically not ideal for a healthy democracy.)

After the release of Dirty Politics, the revelations about mass surveillance revealed by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald … for those of us who were predisposed to believe these things, it was already hard for us to trust the current government, and it just got harder. This is especially galling given that John Key’s position on mass surveillance is simply that: “Trust me, don’t worry what the letter of the law means”.

For those who do trust the Prime Minister, or don’t trust people like Greenwald, Snowden and Hagar, or simply didn’t believe there was any substance to the allegations … Well, I suppose it came down to much simpler questions for them.

But here’s the problem. For many of us on the left (or even the centre), who believe Key is not to be trusted, it’s very difficult to see how others could ignore what we see as pretty substantive evidence of wrongdoing. And it is conversely very easy to write off those who gave National their renewed and strengthened third term as selfish, ignorant or much worse, based on some of the stuff I’ve seen flying around social media.

I urge you all — please do not limit your relationships with people based on their voting preferences, and please do not attack them for their position. (Though if you feel they are resorting to damaging rhetoric, of course I believe you should be clear that you do not see things that way.)

When we all retreat into our ideological corners, it becomes very difficult to discuss issues, and near impossible for us to agree upon anything. And one of the big things I am discovering post-election is that people cast their votes for a number of different reasons. No, not all of them make sense to me. But they are what they are and you won’t change anyone’s mind if the conversation is accusatory or altogether absent.

This election campaign was one of the weirdest ones New Zealand has perhaps ever had. And I can’t really hold it against people if they retreated from the chaos into something that presented itself as stability. And for many people, I think it did come down to that.

For others, it was the same problem as the 2011 election — what they perceived as “negative campaigning” from the ideological left. (That it mostly came from third parties was clearly beside the point for those people.) And I guess I can’t hold it against those people either. There certainly was a lot of “change the government” talk, and some of it came courtesy of persons who simply were not trusted by a broad swath of New Zealanders. (And this one doesn’t fall along ideological lines. Many progressive “lefties” didn’t like Kim Dotcom either. I think that is well evident now, looking at the election results.)

The problem is, although Labour did try to run a clean positive campaign (even going so far as using the word in their motto, as though we might not realise otherwise) it didn’t really look that way to many people given the kind of external stuff that was going on, especially given that Key kept saying it was a left-wing smear, and since all the parties on the left bought into the allegations, I suppose for some that was all the confirmation they needed that he was correct.

For those who do trust Key (and I might not be one of them, but I must acknowledge their point of view), they saw the left campaign as not just accusations against him, but accusations that there was something wrong with New Zealand. And the National campaign said the opposite — New Zealand’s great, we’re headed in the right direction, don’t you worry, National’s got your back. Also, we’re stable as fuck. Don’t you like stability? Yeah you do.

Perhaps the left parties could have looked a lot more stable if they had co-operated with each other more. I was pleased to hear such sentiments from David Cunliffe post-election. I hope Labour have learnt from this election, because they didn’t seem to learn an awful lot from their 2011 defeat. (Obviously I don’t have all the solutions to Labour’s problems. I wish I did.)

But here’s my point. Those of us on the political left might well spend some time in contemplation at our loss. But more than that, contemplation at National’s win.

I urge you — talk to people who voted for National. Keep your cool. Find out why. They have their reasons, and I promise you, they aren’t all selfish or stupid. It’s infantilizing and arrogant to assume that.

Believe it or not, many people who voted National in this election care just as much as you do about New Zealand. They just have different ideas about what’s the best thing for the country. And I know it’s difficult, given that many of us who are socially progressive feel like we see something National voters don’t (or won’t) about the state of inequality, poverty, environmental damage, media manipulation, mass surveillance and the economy, but I wonder if we need to swallow that attitude occasionally and try to hear people out a bit more (though I hope you realise I direct these comments at those of us who have the luxury and privilege to be a little more removed from the hardships many are suffering).

Maybe if you can have the right conversations, you’ll find out something that surprises you. Maybe not, but if we can try to have respectful conversations now, my hope is we can build something more constructive for all of us. Even if that is entirely limited to mutual respect and nothing else, that would be a pretty massive achievement in my mind. After all, no argument ever got resolved without mutual goodwill.

Now, more than ever, we need to find the middle ground.

And yes, that means the political parties on the left need to negotiate their own middle-ground and be more co-operative with each other, but I also think we as citizens need to try to find middle ground with our fellow citizens. We need to try to find the room to understand each other. We need to try to find a way to live with each other.

I know that none of this addresses what many of you perceive as violence towards the poor, or beneficiaries, or the school system or a multitude of other issues, and I’d like to assure you that I do share your concerns.

I just am not sure that we actually help those things by attacking or outright rejecting that which we do not like or understand fully. If we do that, aren’t we the same as those who refuse to read Dirty Politics because it’s a “left-wing smear”, or those people who didn’t think there was any substance in “The Moment of Truth” solely because it was associated with someone they didn’t like?

I am not suggesting that we take the high road. I am suggesting we take the middle path, and perhaps along the way, we might find some wisdom.

None of us are perfect. But one thing is certain — we are all human, and many of us care deeply about the future of this country, no matter who we voted for or what simple or complex reason we had for doing so.

If you follow the news at all lately, you’ve probably heard about Cunliffe’s apology for “being a man”. You might’ve heard that John Key thinks it’s silly. You might’ve seen Judith Collins referring to it in her ironically-wonderful twitter titbits.

You might not’ve heard the context though, and as we all know, context matters. David Cunliffe was addressing a women’s violence conference. He also affixed a qualifier to his statement — he said “I’m sorry for being a man right now” (emphasis mine) and then went on to explain his statement; “because family and sexual violence are perpetrated overwhelmingly by men”.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. This statement is borne out by statistics. We don’t need to discuss whether or not Cunliffe’s statement was “insulting” or not, John Key. It’s factually accurate. And that’s what the media should be focusing on.

But no. Instead of discussing the facts, we are discussing politician’s opinions in a media-manufactured gender war.

Let’s talk about how this apology has been received not just by its detractors, but also its supporters.

By and large, those who live in feminist/women’s rights/rape crisis circles have been supportive and positive. Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Heather Henare said it was “gutsy” (a statement I might not have agreed with had it not become clear just how negatively the media perceived the event).

But here’s the thing guys — the people who support his statements are actually just pleased the Leader of the Opposition considers these issues at all. Because it doesn’t really feel like our incumbent government cares about issues like domestic violence and rape. It’s not hard to see why.

It seems like the detractors of Cunliffe’s speech want to focus on the apology part of his statement more than the explanation bit (“family and sexual violence are perpetrated overwhelmingly by men”), which is the part that describes the world supporters of Cunliffe’s apology actually live in.

The part of Cunliffe’s speech that matters is that he understands himself as part of that world too.

And all this talk about whether or not Cunliffe’s comments were insulting is missing the point. The point we’re all ignoring when we’re forced to engage in this media-created, two-sides-to-the-coin, knee-jerk reaction “debate” about Cunliffe’s words. Here’s the facts, not the opinions: Family and sexual violence are perpetrated overwhelmingly by men.

If Labour ends up gaining votes over this issue, it won’t be because Cunliffe said “he’s sorry to be a man”, it will be, in part, because National are making it so easy to feel sorry if you’re a woman.

But it will mostly be because Cunliffe did something simple that these voters want; something our Prime Minister and our media seemingly cannot: he recognised that we have a problem and saw himself and his country in that context.

Because you said that it was “a distraction”, implying it was unimportant that children had been raped, and that you were looking forward to us getting away from this “distracting” commentary about rape culture and back to more important things.

Because you claimed that people couldn’t pay attention to two things at once: both this rape scandal and other events that were happening in the news.

Because you didn’t even try to understand that for people who couldn’t pay attention to this gang rape and other events in the media, it was because they too were survivors of rape.

Because the story of rape survivors and the all-too-common victim-blaming they receive at the hands of the police in New Zealand being front and centre in the news doesn’t happen often here and when it does, it recalls upsetting life-changing experiences.

Because you didn’t understand that one of the things that often made these experiences all-the-more upsetting was the experience of not being believed, or being denied for political reasons or reasons of nepotism and impartiality.

Because your personal denial was both political and a failure to recognise potential nepotism or impartiality.

Because you had an unnamed “source” who was a friend of the perpetrators of the crime, who said that the “sex was consensual” and you thought that that wasn’t rape denial.

Because a discussion about rape culture is only a distraction if you don’t understand how truly endemic this problem is, and that every woman lives with the spectre in their lives in one form or another.

Because you were blasé when reminded that one in four women are sexually assaulted and failed to recognise the possible repercussions for them in your words.

Because you spread misinformation.

Because you never once gave a trigger warning.

Because your statements were a trigger.

Because you told me to look at the context, when the only context that matters is that sexual assault happens to one in four women, and is minimised, denied and blamed on the victims by our law enforcers, our judicial system, our politicians and our culture.

Because the context is not my ignorance, but yours.

Because you were unable to understand the concept that people say all sorts of things to defend people they love … sometimes even when they know, or suspect that the person they are defending may in fact be guilty.

Because you deliberately chose to say you were “playing devil’s advocate”, not seeming to realise that meant you were siding with rapists or that maybe we shouldn’t play devil’s advocate with sexual assault.

Because you thought that the young men’s statements about women were “teenage bluster”, and you failed to identify a much larger problem with your “boys will be boys” acceptance of their statements.

Because you thought that your statements were totally okay as long as you bracketed your main argument of disbelief and denial with messages saying rape was abhorrent. All while you denied the experiences of thirteen-year-old victims, by saying that it was consensual. Despite having no credible evidence.

Because you said it was consensual sex, even though the victims were children, and they had not consented, nor could they legally consent to sex.

Because you did not listen when female friends tried to tell you that some of your statements were victim-denying or rape apology.

Because you wondered what a “radical” feminist would think, and then ignored the very vocal feminists who were telling you your words were a problem.

Because you only listen to arguments that back up what you think in the first place.

Because in all your talk about helping children, you somehow failed to realise these rape victims are children, and you did not stand up for their needs, which are to be believed and to be helped.

Because you said most people weren’t critical thinkers like you, all the while failing to think at all critically.

Because this is not a media distraction, this is reality intruding.

Because rape culture does have serious long term ramifications for our country.

Because you denied it was rape.

Because you denied.

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