Friday, 12 September 2014

The Men In The Mirror

The affluencia (1) engages in various forms of reinforcement behaviour aimed both at establishing and maintaining their place in various hierarchies, and affirming the political and social correctness of their extravagant lifestyle. 

For the most part, the affluencia represent the triumph of style over substance; appearance over essence; the allusive over the explicit, and the slick and superficial over the thoughtful and insightful.

This is the reason that John Key is so popular with them, and why they are so uncomfortable with someone like David Cunliffe. 

The mirror that Key holds up to them is a highly flattering one. It convinces them they really are the beautiful / clever / talented / meritorious people they think they are. In return, they hold up a mirror that reflects back a flattering image of him.  Anyone who fails to hold up the right sort of mirror risks getting their bum bitten. (2)

In contrast, the mirror that Cunliffe holds up to them is not as harshly revealing as I might want it to be, but is revealing enough that the image it reflects is far from flattering.  The affluensia hate him for making them feel uncomfortable about themselves so, to punish him, they hold up a grossly distorting mirror and get the media to claim that it's a true likeness. 

Key appears to be the archetypal affluencist. He's all mouth and Saville Row trousers. He deals almost exclusively in generalities. When pressed for an explicit answer he'll glibly waffle or make stuff up without missing a beat.  He needs the political discourse to be simultaneously dumbed down and frothed up because he's at a disadvantage when it gets complicated.  The media is usually happy to oblige in keeping it thus.  

A person who thinks deeply about issues is likely to be at a disadvantage when faced with trivial questions. Such a person will either try to turn the silly questions into something meaningful and risks being mocked by those who expect and want frothy, low-effort replies; or, they will try to engage with the questions on the questioners' terms and risk sounding clumsy and unauthentic and being mocked for that. 

The Stuff video of  'not so serious' questions to Cunliffe and Key is a case in point. Key is completely at home answering vacuous questions such as : what three things would you grab in an earthquake; who would you be want to be reincarnated as; what super hero do you identify with?  Cunliffe was not at ease because he lacks Key's capacity for slick and superficial small talk. He should have declined the offer; the commercial adage that all publicity is good publicity does not apply in modern politics.

If he was the host of a TV chat show,  Key's slick, easy manner would be highly appropriate but, in the Prime Minister, it's a reminder of how far we have fallen into US style presidential politicking.  The most vivid image I have of Key after the 2008 election is when he headed in to make his victory speech surrounded by a phalanx of flinty-eyed security men, as if his devotees might mob him or some terrorist try to attack him.  That style presaged the way our politics have steadily moved toward being more and more about the veneer of personality and image and less and less about substantive issues and firm policy.

The media's complicity in all this, via the endless production of the sound bites that have replaced proper political analysis and discourse, may be likened to sugar companies' lacing of food with high-fructose corn syrup. They are so disruptive of the metabolism of the body politic, they are potentially fatal.

There's a debate over how much of a veneer Key's public persona is. Is the slick, easy manner and claim to a slightly right of centre political stance actually a mask for a ruthless, far-Right ideologue hell bent on selling NZ off to transnational corporations? Or is what you see really what you get?

I think the answer lies in the dirt. His dismissal of Nicky Hager as a Leftwing conspiracy theorist, his complete failure to take the issues in any way seriously, and his brass neck attempt to turn his Party's own dirty politicking back onto the Left suggests he's more the ruthless far-Right ideologue than the easy going Centrist. 

As Key is persisting with the centrist schtick, we need to ask ourselves - what do we want in a PM?  Someone like Cunliffe who demonstrates high-effort thinking and who reaches deep into himself for the hard answers?  Or someone like Key whose preparedness and ability to dig deep for the answers to the hard questions is compromised by an apparent lack of intellectual and moral depth? 

For me it's a no-brainer but then it would be because I'm a do-gooding, bleeding-heart, tree-hugging, feral-feminist, hand-wringing, wishy-washy, liberal-lefty - activist. 

1. I made up the term 'affluencia' - or at least I think I did but it's very likely someone else has used it before me. The meaning should be fairly self-evident but, because I like to amuse myself with such things, I fancy it being an acronym for - acquisitive, frivolous, fault-finding, lightweight, uncaring, egocentric, negligent, censorious, ignorant arseholes. 

2. This is a reference that relates to a deleted paragraph about horses mutual grooming - a process which sometimes ends with the dominant horse nipping the subordinate one. I deleted the para and forgot the later reference to bum biting. Hope that clarifies it for anyone who was confused.

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