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September 21, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Politics | [ssba]

On Abandoning the Nation

It is odd writing a political column before an election, having no idea who will have won by the time this is read. But while I cannot know the winner, the loser is obvious. Those struggling most, who are most in need of the collective’s support – they cannot hope to have shouted the loudest when no one thought to give them a voice. Within our ballot box hides many futures, but the ones that matter most are the ones we don’t see.

Refugees persecuted by autocracy. Other migrants just wanting a calmer home to raise their kids. The child whose life quite literally depends on a New Zealand Aid worker providing her with a mosquito net. The millions caught in the crossfires of our wars on terror and the billions facing the uncertain horror of a warming climate. The elections we hold affect more than just us.

Some political parties treat the world better than others, but to say so misses the point. The Greens want to fight climate change and admit more refugees and increase aid spending, and National don’t – but this is coincidence. The Greens have no globalist ideology, just a particular brand of nationalism which happens to be better than anyone else’s. When what’s best for the world conflicts with what they think is best for New Zealand, the Greens choose New Zealand. Consider their ‘Buy Kiwi Made’ policy – they insist that it protects Kiwi jobs, assuming that a Kiwi job matters more than one in China. They would happily take a job in Shenzhen and give it to Dunedin. As they told us last election, the Greens stand for a richer New Zealand.

We’re not pretending much surprise. If you can’t find New Zealand on a map, we’re not going to give you a vote, and without a vote, you will be ignored. It’s depressing, almost enough to tempt us towards the promise of a new collective. With so much suffering caused by nationalistic self-interest, of course we are tempted to abandon the nation, to lend a little more power to the WTO or the UNDP. But to abandon the New Zealand project is to miss the fundamental problem. We write our own rules because we understand ourselves best. New York doesn’t get us, and so we cannot share in its collective.

Ours isn’t the only election which won’t tell me its result. By the time you read this, Scotland will have decided whether it leaves the United Kingdom. We might think such independence would lead to a more fractured world, exacerbating nationalistic self-interest. The opposite is true. A world of small nations would be a pluralistic one, one with fewer rival blocs and less great power, governed instead by compromise and the search for common ground. The national interest will always corrupt the empathy of politics, but there is hope for a world in which nations are forced to build that empathy anew.

Tidbits (Quotes of the Campaign)
“Feral dies in Greymouth, did world a favour.” — Cameron Slater
“The policy is a dog.” — John Key
“I was just trying to help her out.” — David Cunliffe
“We’ve never set out to be spectacular.” — Peter Dunne
“Don’t just talk it. Tick it!” — Jamie Whyte
“Fairer, greener, smarter.” — Russel Norman
“Will you rule out Winston Peters as Prime Minister?” — Mike Hosking
“If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched.” — Edward Snowden
“Don’t kill the whales, but if it’s the oil in the water, ya know, scooch the whales over a little bit.” — Bella Henry
“The trick of political management is not to get this or that press release covered; it is about framing how journalists perceive issues.” — Nicky Hager


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