Why Labour are also fuck-ups

So, seeing I’ve been strongly critical of national on women’s rights, let’s do a retrospective of similar areas where Labour fucked up on identity politics, political freedom and non-discrimination. I have the feeling this is going to make me temporarily popular with certain other Greens who share with me a deep distrust of Labour, and of course I’m sure the National Partisans will laugh it up at both what I believe and the fact that I’m absolutely going to town on Labour. Don’t worry, you’re still in the targets, too. 😉

  • Pay Equity (for women): They essentially started the investigation into pay equity in the public service to make the problem go away until next term. Except that was stupid: Labour ran a healthy surplus for most of its terms in government, an ideal time to implement the increase in public sector wages that would be the simplest way to address direct pay equity issues. Not only that, but they knew they had a pretty good chance at being ousted coming up to their third bid for re-election, so if pay equity is as important as they’re implying, they should have put it on their list to fast-track before the election. Overall their reluctance to act on an issue even the most anti-feminist of women would appreciate in some sense has been inexcusable, and it made their criticism on this issue pretty hollow.
  • Seabed and Foreshore: Confiscating these was a disaster. Even if you accept they needed to be nationalised in some form rather than being claimed in settlement, the government should have at least let Maori have their day in court first and compensated Maori with something else in settlements if they did have a good claim. And even if nationalisation of some sort did go ahead, the seabed and foreshore should have been placed into the public domain (where everybody effectively owns it and has usage rights) rather than vested to the crown. (where we all just have to trust no government decides to do something incredibly dumb with it) Overall a fuck-up of massive proportions even if you didn’t want any seabed and foreshore claims going ahead. Not only that, but reversing this thing is part of the reason National doesn’t have to rely on the Greens to pass anything that Act don’t want to- both in the sense of the existence of the Maori Party, and in the sense of their willingness to form a coalition with National.
  • Marriage is still straight-only: And labour defended it as straight-only. I don’t see why we didn’t go whole-hog on this, civil unions lead that way eventually, and giving space to idiots like Gordon Copeland and Brian Tamaki only encourages them. Make them steam it out.
  • The bill of rights is still only paid lip service: The most ridiculous of bills are found consistent with the bill of rights that even a budding civil rights activist could see are not. If we’re going to maintain the idea that the bill of rights should limit the power of Parliament, let’s actually have at it. For one, we should be having judicial overrulings of implied restrictions of straight marriages for transwomen and transmen, and gay marriage. For another, Three Strikes should be disallowed if it passes. Labour made no move to tighten up our constitution here, and they deserve some of the blame for not doing enough every time National and its most extreme coalition partner rub it in their face with legislation with terrible civil liberties connotations.
  • No checks on Parliament’s power: As the academic and social elite of New Zealand, (as opposed to the financial and social elite, who they sit opposite to) Labour seems to think that Parliament knows best, and even the biggest partisan reformists are reluctant to act quickly and decisively on any constitutional reform. The lack of any meaningful review of laws leads to low-quality legislation as there is no disincentive to sloppy drafting, and only select committees save us from elected dictatorships as it is. More oversight of Parliament is necessary, and I don’t just mean opening the books to OIA requests. Unfortunately, the phrase “constutional reform” sets off monarchists even if it’s unrelated to a Republic, and Labour didn’t have the guts.
  • The EFA: While unlike many from the Right and Centre I don’t think law touched free speech with a ten-foot pole, and I supported the general motivations behind it, there were three big problems with this law.
    • Was not radical or tough enough: If Parliament was going to get tough on electoral laws, they should have gone whole-hog. Instead we have anonymous donations below a thousand dollars in a world where donating anything to a political party is an extraordinary act of partisanship for most. Donations through filter trusts may still evade pubic scrutiny of their real sources, and the loopholes in the EFA are generally still big enough to run a train through.
    • Poor drafting and implementation: Before I get to the political part, this law should probably have set every-year all-year caps at a more sensible rate on both party and issue campaigning. Beyond that, Labour left notification laws a muddle, and the procedure for dealing with them a farce, with even the minister responsible for the law being caught out on her opinions of what did or did not breach it very frequently.
    • Parliament should not regulate politics: If Labour had wanted to do this the proper way, rather than leave the Greens to negotiate a Citizen’s Jury into elecoral finance, they should have put all the relevant laws in the hands of a truly independent body with a similar structure and lobbied like any other interest group. That approach would have probably been a publicity boost, and if it left them with less cash in hand, it would be likely that experts would attempt to be equally hard on National’s large donors to equalise the playing field.
  • Gay adoption and provisions for other non-heteronormative families: This merited visiting in at least some manner after civil unions were passed.
  • Their list: While claiming to be a left party and generally supporting freedoms and championing the underprivileged, Labour betrays the strains of elitism that run through its more powerful tiers by retaining strict central control of their party list. One of the big, and legitimate, criticisms of MMP is that list candidates can be chosen entirely by backroom meeting in most parties. Righting it is as simple as adopting a postal ballot for your list and using it to encourage members to join. Labour should have joined the Greens in this long ago.
  • Prisons: Not only is Labour a staunch supporter of incubating more criminals with a policy of systematic over-incarceration and a justice policy based on vengeance rather than restoration of our community, but this is about the most likely aspect of their policy to get dramatically worse under Phil Goff.
  • Cannot really be called centre-left: Centre-left would imply that there are significant aspects of leftism remaining within the caucus and among senior party members. Labour has been a centre party and a staunch supporter of the flawed attempt at free-market capitalism that trade liberals have unleashed on the world since before MMP, and is remaining one after it. Only their focus on reducing unemployment and their staunch social liberals make them a positive force in parliament. (although that’s a pretty big “only”)
  • Environmentally kleptocratic: Despite their big promises of cleaning up New Zealand and moving towards sustainability, Labour put much more effort towards economic development and paid bare lip service to minimising global warming with their softball ETS that was hardly worth supporting.

Now, keep in mind that this is a very complete list in its strongest and most general form. Largely speaking, I think Labour is the third-best Party in Parliament and actually does more good than harm. I think that its policies for the middle class, its Keynesian streak, its financial (if not economic) management of the country, and its tax system are all very good “second bests”. Most of the MPs individually are good people who I have a lot of commonality with politically, they just have enough specifics wrong to drive me half-insane watching them failing so close to getting it right. Presumably even a pretty good government would generate a list at least have as long, and I think this last government has to be admitted as having managed okay on a fair amonut of issues by most of its critics.

But I have deep reservations on the current direction of the Labour Party, its priorities, its conduct, and its trustworthiness, and would not vote for it under any system where I had an ability to really choose another party. Labour has lost its hang of defending civil liberties, privacies, and its social liberals are mired beneath the free trade academics who think they can get a good deal for the country’s working class through imaginary infinite growth. It’s not gonna happen Labour, and you need to stop thinking that anything but a physically static economy can be branded with the word “sustainable”.mong

Imagine, if you will…

I’d like you to imagine for a while a dystopian world in which interbreeding between Maori and Pakeha is forbidden- by social convention and stigma perhaps, maybe expressly by law, maybe not- it’s not entirely important. And then imagine to yourself that it happens anyway, and that many children grow up having to pretend to be exactly the same as their mother, to hide their real skin tones, not to embrace their own culture, language, and genes. They would have no opportunity to find a halfway point between Maori and Pakeha culture, because in such a society, the very idea of deliberately trying to compromise between the two would be representative of that forbidden “sin” which we don’t acknowledge.

Perhaps some of them get stuck with the “wrong” community. They may be raised as a race with whom they cannot identify and do not empathise. So they wait until they’re independent… and then establish themselves a new identity, maintaining the opposite deception.

Now, I’d like you to imagine that now and then, the veil slips. Sometimes people who had parents from different sides are discovered- usually during their most intimate moments with someone they trust and perhaps even love. What’s likely to happen in such a society, where we find someone who has to pretend to be something they’re not in order to be accepted, in order to survive? Well, acceptance is possible, but it will be difficult, especially as it would essentially involve living a lie, or coming out as a counter-cultural advocate for their loved ones. Rejection is likely- most people don’t want to handle shades of grey in societies that deny them. With rejection social stigmatisation and abandonment, then prejudice, are likely to follow.

But there’s an even greater risk for women- panic. The man has been deceived, he has fallen for someone he’s not supposed to, his very identity- whether as Maori or Pakeha- has been undermined. Somehow- the person he was attracted to, perhaps loved, has been replaced with someone she wasn’t before, someone completely different, who he cannot relate to, who disgusts him, who embarasses him and robs him of those parts of his manhood that correspond with his racial identity. In such a case of panic, what’s the worst he can do? Kill her. And in such a society, it will happen- because there is no mental preparation for a world with nuances, no shades of grey, no possibility that who you are depends on what your brain is, not what your body is. They’re not the subtle differences from the norm. They’re not unique things to love. They’re abberant disturbances, freak mutations to be destroyed. And he has just made love to one. How can he redeem himself from such a sin? Perhaps he can’t. But he can destroy all the evidence. He can kill her in panic.

And because society as a whole wants to disappear the people who challenge their orthodox categories, he’s likely to be let off despite the suspicious circumstances if he lands up in court. It’s likely that the flimsiest excuses will convince a prejudicial jury to acquit. It’s likely a killer will not have to face justice, even when there is overwhelming evidence of their crime.

In such a society, these people who are both brown and white would face enormous difficulties. They would be rejected by both groups. And their enthusiastic attempts to approach one norm or the other would sometimes distance them from people who might try to deconstruct the artificial barriers of delineated race.

How is this world different from ours? Well, in our imaginary world, we had a slightly more disturbing version of apartheid that divided us into discrete categories of race. In our actual world, the discrete categories we cling to are of gender and sex, and trying to cross them- or find a middle between them- is at best difficult, as Georgina Beyer is experiencing having been out of work since quitting as an MP. At worst, it’s deadly.

In which I reconstruct sexuality

So, one of the really interesting works on sexuality (and more notably bisexuality) is the Kinsey Scale. While being an excellent example of forward-thinking classification that came about from excellent research into homo- and bisexuality in both men and women. However, it’s old- it was first published in 1948, and it doesn’t really delve deep into the issues surrounding sexuality.

The Klein Grid expands upon the the Kinsey scale and gives a much broader background. It recognises a large number of things which are important to sexuality, including drawing distinctions between (sexual-) orientation and lifestyle, action and ideation, recognising the impact of emotional attraction as well as physical attraction, the realisation of changing conceptions of sexuality and actions reflecting those conceptions causing him to question people seperately about their past, present, and the ideal future they would like. He also raised the idea of socialisation being as relevant to sexuality as gender is.

In some ways the Klein Grid is excellent, perhaps even too comprehensive- there are seven variables, which each belong to one of two sets of seven answers along the Kinsey scale, and each variable needs an answer for not only the past and the present, but also the ideal future. But I also find Klein’s variables inadequate- for instance, asexuality is completely undefinable on the Klein Grid.

What are the key things we can learn from Klein’s conception of sexuality?  Well, for a start, I would probably rework his variables into something new:

  • Reaction: Are you more likely to react sexually to women or men?
  • Ideation: Are you more likely to fantasise about men or women?
  • Action: Are you more likely to form relationships with or have sex with women or men?
  • Socialisation: Are you more likely to socialise with men or women?
  • Gender identification: Do you see yourself as a woman or a man?
  • Approach: Are you more interested in companionship or sex?
  • Sexual drive: How compelled to have sex, or interested in sex, are you in general?

I personally think that changes in the answers to these questions generally reflect self-attitude or self-discovery rather than fluid sexuality, but perhaps that’s an ideological blindspot of my own. The research on the subject does seem to give credence to the idea that sexuality is something that’s “set”, however1– what it’s set by is an interesting question. The Klein Grid is great for biographical purposes, but in terms of trying to classify sexuality, I think it complicates things needlessly.

I personally think sexual drive is also incredibly important to any discussion of continuous sexuality- people with extremely high sexual drives behave very differently to people with low sexual drives, and of course, there are those with little to no interest in sex. Discussion of sexual drive is largely missing from analysis of sexuality, although it’s been a practical concern to people on the front line of counselling or advice since those professions were first formed.

1And that perceived change in sexuality is actually self-discovery.

So, a pregnant man.

Scoring brief press attention in newspaper media over the weekend (yay that they covered it, boo that it was essentially a “look at how odd this is!” story) is the fact that Thomas Beatie is the world’s first pregnant man.

Thomas is a transman, and was born as Tracey. Due to issues with the way men process hormones, it’s likely that this is the only way that a man will ever be pregnant. I have no idea how familiar people reading here will be with transgender issues, so please, take some time to read up, if you need to. The short and simple of it is that transgenderism, broadly speaking, refers to individuals who do not conform to the gender they’ve been assigned by society or their body. Continue reading