The struggle from a position of privilege

I’ll be straight up here – I have never really taken to David Cunliffe. I’ve tried to give it time and to clear the noise when listening to him speak. In reflecting on the speech he gave at women’s refuge, it’s not that I don’t think what he said was important, rather that I don’t believe that he believed what he was saying.

After watching both the TVNZ and TV3 Leaders debates, I’m even more irritated by him and his too often cringeworthy deliveries.

When I think about Cunliffe, the words fake, disingenuous and melodramatic come to mind. However, this should not be construed to think I prefer John Key – I most certainly do not. I have preferences for neither and am appalled our two candidates in a position likely to lead the country for the next 3 years are wealthy white dudes. I am stunned that the Greens aren’t ploughing further ahead in the polls, although I am optimistic that their time to lead the opposition is coming soon (within the next 2 possibly 3 elections is my unscientific reckon).

My personal views on Cunliffe come down to this:

Cunliffe appears to awkwardly try and channel the spirit of some of the greatest political figures in history. He tries to push forward a vision, ‘a dream’ grounded in experiences he couldn’t possibly understand – the experiences of marginalised and minority communities. He acts like some kind of white Jesus that is going to save us from the scourge of capitalism and is the fountain of hope for all New Zealand. He imitates pounding his fist on a lectern, raises his voice in faux fury, furrow’s his brow at calculated moments in an attempt to appear as an authentic voice of the growing ‘underclass’, the working poor, the marginalised, and the minorities.

But no matter how much Cunliffe wants to convey he has a vision for our country, he can never embody the passion that comes from the struggle of those who have fought oppression because he is oppression. He is a wealthy white dude with the experiences that white privilege afforded to him.

And I don’t say that to be mean. It’s not a dig at wealthy white men either, it’s a statement that wealthy white men cannot recreate an atmosphere, nor lead the kind of political movement that mobilised hundreds of thousands of oppressed people (in different times, and in different places) to fight the powers that controlled them. It is inauthentic and one of the key reasons, in my view, that Labour are doing so poorly in the polls. The idea of ‘Change the Government’ has never resonated with me, because as I’ve previously written it conveys nothing more to me than the transfer of power from one wealthy white dude to another, which doesn’t really sound like much of a change of anything.

The idea of leading a struggle from the position of privilege is probably responsible for the drop in InternetMANA poll results too. A faux energy expires much quicker than a real struggle. I am not talking about the MANA Movement here, I am specifically referring to Dotcom and his Internet Party. Dotocm was able to conjure up a lot of hype on the back of his struggle against extradition to the US and the abuse of State power with respect to the surveillance and raid of his mansion. But when people returned to the reality of their own lives, struggling to put food on the table or in lunchboxes, to pay the rent or mortgage, to fix the car, or to pay for school activities while Dotcom pumped $3million into a political party, paying candidates six figure salaries, holidaying in luxury hotels and arriving to meetings by helicopter, it’s no wonder the energy dissipated as the hype subsided. He’ll get a little boost again over the weekend in the lead up to and in the aftermath of his reveal, but I doubt it will be a significant boost.

In summary, Cunliffe’s appeal to emotion is not too dissimilar to Dotcom’s approach in the sense that both are leading struggles from positions of privilege. It doesn’t feel authentic, and as such the energy is short lived. It’s not that John Key is performing well on any account. It is that Key does not hide that he is a slippery managerialist who values profit over people, the fact is, a significant proportion of New Zealander’s think this about all politicians and advance Key (a level of) credit for not pretending he is anything else.