Sunday, 18 March 2012

PC or not PC - that is the question

On March 17th, in the Christchurch Press, the resident cartoonist Al Nisbet's cartoon shows a shipping container being waved off shore by a group of Kiwis. The premise is that another use for containers (post-earthquake Christchurch is held together by them) is to use them to deport 'refugees who commit violent crimes'.

The cartoon relates to the front page story about a Somali-born man's knife attack on 2 people.  The man was found sleeping in a school yard. When challenged, he hijacked a car and eventually stabbed the female driver in the shoulder. She escaped and he hijacked a second car driven by a Christchurch City Council employee and stabbed him also.  Such was the Somalian's state of mind he was hit on the neck by a young man wielding a steel bar, pepper sprayed, tasered and then shot twice by the Police before he could be stopped.

Clearly he was either on some sort of craze-inducing drug - which is unlikely given the circumstances - or he was in the grip of a psychosis. He may have been demonstrating great rage but equally he may have been demonstrating great terror.  We simply do not know what his state of mind was. We know he committed the acts but, before he can be safely labelled as a violent criminal, his mental health has to be assessed and, if he is fit to plead, he needs to be charged and convicted in a court of law.

What we DO NOT NEED is to excite the Amygdala Brigade. Its members are all too ready to dispense vigilante justice and don't need encouragement. We saw that in the Lipine Sila case - more of that one in another post.

Right on cue, zombie members of the White Power chapter of the Amygdala Brigade slither out from under their rocks and start ranting on about  'black devils' and '2 legged maggots'.  According to the slightly less stupid talkback, Somalis are the worst of all refugees because they are black AND Muslim.

No doubt I will be labelled - and reviled - as a namby-pamby, bleeding-heart, do-gooding, tree-hugging, feral-feminist, nigger-loving, PC-imposing loony-leftie.

Oh, how the Right loves its hyphenated insults. It mainly reserves its calumnies for its political opponents but it does a good line in insults for the poor and dispossessed as well.  Feral underclass is the label du jour in NZ.  It's Angry Right speak for 'poor brown people'.

Every time some poor brown person commits a crime, the Angry Right starts pontificating about the feckless poor and the social welfare system that keeps them in ciggies, beer and betting money. Invariably they believe that ALL social ills can be laid at the door of the nanny state. Society was law abiding and sensible before there was a social welfare system for the feckless poor to bludge off.

One of the main cheerleaders for the Angry Right is Michael Laws. Unlike those of his political ilk who are so slow they think that ‘feral underclass’ means a wild cat under a schoolroom,  Laws lays claim to an intellect. In fact, his belief that he’s smart is his professional and political bouyancy aid. Deflate it and he’d sink like a stone.

I think he looks a bit bonkers. Put a wig on him, remove his goatee, hang a handbag off his arm and add some pearl earrings and he’d pass for Margaret Thatcher.

He has suggested that the State should pay the ‘underclass’ to be sterilised and he defined the socially inferior as those whose children ‘won’t become doctors and brain surgeons’. Duh.

Clearly this is not about logic or reason. It's all about anger and resentment and fear. I don't for a moment think Michael Laws and his ilk are in the grip of those emotions, but they certainly want to whip them up in others. Nothing like a bit of horizontally directed rage to divert attention away from the REAL issues.

I've no doubt that a lot of the yelping classes agree with Laws. If Yahoo! Xtra were to run one of their infamous polls, the 10,000 people who habitually respond would come down overwhelmingly in favour of neutering the feckless poor - or possibly starving them to death.

A lot of the people who lurk around on the Yahoo! (how very apt) Xtra website, and who are very likely the ones who participate in the polls, are Laws’ natural constituency. So stupid they think Laws is clever; so Right wing they think he’s a moderate, and so racist they are blinded to the implications of these sort of fascistic proposals.

 Or maybe not - maybe they know full well where they lead and can’t wait to get there.

Laws of course is just one in a long and dismal line of Rightwing ideologues who attack the ‘feral underclass’ and use it as a scapegoat to pin all society’s other ills on.

Perish the thought that this 'underclass' may be not just a product of the society but a necessary part of it.  Let’s face it, along with the promise of rewards if you are hard working and / or clever, capitalism needs the threat of slipping into the nether regions of society where you are no longer even a member of a lower class - you are a non-person.

Once down there it is pretty hard to clamber back out but their failure to do so is always laid at their own door - if they had the will, the brains, the talent etc etc, they could succeed. And isn't that a Tui moment?

Read about these people in the media and you’ll see that they don’t have children, they ‘breed’ or ‘spawn’; they don’t have relationships, they have ‘sexual unions’. They are portrayed as being subhuman, and we have plenty of examples in history of where that sort of stereotyping ends up.

Anyone who seeks to put the actions of the very poor and marginalised into context – is written off as a do-gooder, a bleeding heart liberal. What sort of mindset turns the phrase 'do good' into an insult? And isn't 'bleeding heart' something to do with Christian forgiveness?

The Rightwing solution to the existence of brutal people is to be even more brutal. It's a local version of the view that the solution to terrorism is to nuke all countries whose name ends in ‘an’ – except Japan because where would you get your car parts and besides, they did that already and it didn’t work.

Such are the times we live in. Laws of course feels on safe ground since it’s now ok to be politically incorrect – de rigeur for some folk on the Right.  Influential commentators are easing Rightwing rhetoric into the mainstream media where it gains respectability and legitimacy - and (the truly demented fringes aside), the leaders of the extreme Rightwing are toning down their rhetoric to broaden its appeal to the increasingly impoverished and angry white working class.

Kyle Chapman and his little band of merry men are reinventing themselves as guardians of the Kiwi white working class, protecting them from the invading hordes of lawless brown people.  Nick Griffin has coopted indigenous claims by arguing that white people in England are aboriginal and have indigenous rights, and Pat Buchanan in the US, son of Irish immigrants, is appealing to the sons and daughters of other (white working class) immigrants about the threat to them of more recent (brown working class) immigrants.

And of course they all whitter on about the mass media being dominated by the Left. YES - that media which is controlled by corporations and dynasties hardly renowned for their progressiveness. The voices of reason and moderation in the media, when posed against  Rightwing ideologues like Laws do seem to be Left leaning but this is not so much a measure of their political Leftness as a measure of Laws' and co's political Rightness.

Another one who annoys me is Nigel Latta - that psychologist  with the really annoying voice and mannerisms who has become a household name by making TV shows and writing books about being politically incorrect.  The discombobulated middle classes line up to buy into his post-PC common sense approach to parenting.

He is tapping into the belief that all our social ills have been created by the 'social engineering' of Left / Liberal Elites who want to undermine the excellent society that we once had. This of course is another one of those really useful multi-purpose scapegoats - blame the whole sorry mess on the people who want to fix it or at least ameliorate its worst effects.

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