221: Ideology And Policy, The Non-Ideological and The Morally Flexible

I believe global warming to be one of the most pressing threats to humanity (although I’m more concerned about possible sea-life extinction due to over-fishing, and the environmental degradation caused by intensive farming), I’m concerned about animal conservation, and I see value in natural beauty (although I’m not particularly ‘outdoors-y). But I also don’t have any fundamental opposition to deep-sea oil drilling, I hate the NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) attitude to wind farms and mining, I’m unconcerned with animal welfare, hate Greenpeace, think Sea-Shepherd are terrorists, I don’t like ‘hippies’, and am very pro-GE.

I’m a feminist. I despise the terms ‘masculinist’ and ‘equalist’, I think it’s absolutely undeniable that it’s much harder to be a woman living under the patriarchy, that women are vastly under-represented where it matters and that this should be redressed through quotas, and a society where women’s voices and perspectives are heard, and where women are in positions to implement these perspectives, would be a vastly better one. But I’m also pro-life, I think that gender and sex distinction, far from being fundamentally detrimental, are valuable and should be celebrated. I abhor attempts to rid us of gendered pronouns and language as an Orwellian effort in social engineering (and mistaken in the belief that ontology is a function of linguistics), I’m unconcerned with chivalry, and think that many modern feminists hold an ideology that is radically anti-diversity and anti-woman.

I am pro-gay adoption, for extending spousal privileges to same-sex and trans couples. I think single-mothers, young mothers and working mothers are heroic. I’m for the ‘anti-smacking’ act, I think that slut-shaming is abhorrent, that sex-workers should not face or fear legal penalty, and that we should have comprehensive sexual education. But I oppose gay-marriage, and support traditional family structures as valuable and important. I think that two-parent, with one parent working households are desirable, and should be encouraged. I’m disgusted by pornography, I’m worried about a hyper-sexualised and casually promiscuous culture, the loss of the concept of sexual morality, and I think that teaching five year-olds about contraception and masturbation is inappropriate.

I believe in a radical expansion of democracy. I abhor punitive attitudes to welfare. I think the corrections system should be solely focused on rehabilitation, and the Sensible Sentencing Trust sickens me. I don’t think we should lock people up for using drugs. I think we should abolish the GCSB, that we should fully nationalise, and run as public services; the news-media, banks, power companies, and the mineral extraction industry. I support open-borders. I think the Government needs to legislate to fundamentally change our legal and social structures to create the syncretic, bi-cultural society that the Treaty promises. I viscerally oppose the TPPA, and am very concerned about corporate power. But I think that ‘direct-democracy’, binding referenda are a have. I think people shouldn’t be released from prison until they are rehabilitated (no maximum sentences), that a national DNA database might not be a bad thing, that currently illicit drugs should remain illegal, and should be joined by ‘legal highs’ and tobacco. I think welfare dependency is hugely damaging. I’m opposed to large, central state power. I support the Shane Jones (and sometimes Winston’s when he’s not banging on about separatism) mentality that it’s up to us as Māori, and not the state to fix the problems caused by colonialism. I’m worried about the effect that increased immigration will have on the cause of Tino Rangatiratanga. I support small- business, and am in awe of the economically transformative power of international trade.

That’s quite a mishmash of positions to hold; I’m green, but not, feminist and, as I’m sure many would be tempted to say, chauvinist, a permissive liberal and a prudish conservative, a socialist, a radical, and a civil libertarian, and an authoritarian, a neo-liberal and a reactionary. All this might lead you to call me, what, pragmatic? Centrist? Non-ideological? An issues-by-issues kind of guy? Confused? But at -9.75 and -2.83, there’s no denying I’m left-wing, in-fact, very left-wing. That’s me right out on the left there, past MANA (I used to be -10.00, but I suppose I’ve grown more right-wing as I’ve aged).

Political Compass

I’m also deeply ideological, and have gone to great efforts to philosophically clarify and justify my political ideals. I’m not particularly confused or conflicted about what my foundational tenets are, what they result in, and what sort of society I see as ideal. I also see political labels as meaningful and useful and have no qualms about labelling myself (see my About Me section for those).

There’s been an increasing trend to see ideology as a dirty word. I’ve been guilty of using it as such (I’ve referred to the Tories’ partial privatisation regime as deeply ideological). There’s a sense of it just seeming too out of touch with our hyper-individualised society. Dogma and holding a coherent philosophy don’t seem to fit into a relativistic liberal society where nothing’s actually right or wrong intellectually (although they certainly can still be emotively), and so the biggest sin it seems in terms of holding an idea is being ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘out-of-date’. ‘Absolutist’, and ‘inflexible’ seem to be compulsorily negative, while ‘modern’ is unquestioningly positive. Miller writes that ideology has been “…superseded by the term ‘values’, which is seen to better reflect the changing mores and styles of contemporary society.” [Raymond Miller, How Parties Compete: Ideology And Policy in ‘Party Politics In New Zealand’, Oxford, 2005, p. 152]. Both Key and Cunliffe are quick to deny any significant attachment to ideology, and instead appeal to common-sense. This is borne, as Miller notes in his summation of Downs’ views, out of an appeal to the middle-classes. Peter Dunne did it with his common sense talk, Labour did it in the Clark years, and has stayed there with it’s housing and transport policies, and Key’s Mr. Middle New Zealand.

This non-ideological language though, is just that, language. It is political marketing that makes clever use of divisive identity politics, and dog-whistles to pitch themselves to the middle-classes who have always been put-off by unseemly ideology. In fact this common-sense anti-intellectual strand has always been a part of political movements based on appeals to the middle-class, with fascism being the most prominent example (more on that here). This is obfuscatory language that is intended to hide beliefs, to hide agendas, that we should be pushing parties to be open about. Just read the Hollow Men.

As was the case with fascism, just because the language is aimed at the middle, it doesn’t make those policies moderate. And what makes political moderation desirable in the first place? I don’t want my political leaders to be moderate about justice. I don’t want my political leaders to be moderate about human rights. I don’t want my political leaders to be moderate about the welfare of our society. To take a position is an act of extremism in itself, making self-declared moderation in political leaders the position of the snake-oil salesman. You can be sure once a leader starts bloviating about not being ideological, or common-sense (none other than reason based on ignorance) he is trying to hide something from you. Just because it quacks like a duck, it doesn’t mean it will walk like a duck, and it certainly doesn’t mean it is a duck.


2 thoughts on “221: Ideology And Policy, The Non-Ideological and The Morally Flexible

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