Politics of belonging


    We still have to sit out the last ten days of a cliffhanger general election that, whatever the result, will have gathered unlikely approval and support for a young, charismatic and remarkably composed young woman.

    Big business leaders are raising their voices for the bottom-line benefits of running a fair and generous society as much as anything else. Homeless people are rallying to vote.

    Hope, passion and clarity are suddenly in demand.

    It’s reflected here, as it so often is. If there was a standout ethos at Waiheke Radio’s Auckland Central candidates meeting at our own Artworks Theatre, it was that, fundamentally, we are all equal, and equally deserving as human beings.

    Enshrined in the right to vote, this fundamental equality plays out as a collective generosity that needs everyone to have opportunity and a right to succeed.

    I suggest that what we are responding to as a collective is the visible presence of leadership in society.

    One of Sir Peter Blake’s crew members turned, at a bad moment on the foredeck somewhere in mid-ocean, to find the unassuming and probably even more exhausted kiwi skipper was beside him in the dark, noticing, helping, acknowledging and re-empowering.

    Blake had the ultimate leadership quality, one that could keep a busy, self-sacrificing young team on its toes and at peak performance for the time it takes to prepare a campaign and sail hell-for-leather round the world.

    Bill English’s Stardust label for the Ardern effect was eagerly taken up by a gaggle of media ‘commentators’.

    It evokes ephemeral wannabe, blowing in the wind. And it’s so easy to build on. On the other hand, name-calling is definitely ego stuff, like wanting power for its own sake, and not very grown up, a throwback to behaviours that are poor form after the age of about four.

    In contrast, leaders climb the tree and point out the goal so everyone still flailing around in the undergrowth can get there and succeed.

    Giving and keeping their word is precious to them. Garnering and focusing the strengths and intelligences of everyone around them takes their team to unimagined new heights.
    They make one realise that trust is an undervalued commodity we’ve learned to do without.

    Whether that’s enough in 21st century politics, we will know by the end of next week but the leadership bit has been good to watch.

    Not least because seeing someone so passionate and clear claim a new ‘nuclear-free moment’ for the younger generation that’s dipping out so badly in the national opportunity stakes is deeply reassuring for a generation that did throw itself in front of foreign submarines.

    We’ve wondered who took the activism and creative anarchy out of tertiary education and civil life ever since, though that mystery is also resolving.

    Author and Guardian commentator George Monbiot’s latest book Out of the Wreckage, proposes that a toxic ideology rules the world – of extreme competition and individualism.

    “It misrepresents human nature, destroying hope and common purpose. Only a positive vision can replace it, a new story that re-engages people in politics and lights a path to a better world.”

    In the book, which is already sold out, Monbiot shows how new findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators.

    He shows how we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a ‘politics of belonging’.

    Both democracy and economic life can be radically reorganised from the bottom up, enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society, he says in the book that reviewers have described as urgent, passionate and “providing the hope and clarity required to change the world”.

    The game is on. Whether we get to play it soon, as we did with nuclear free New Zealand, or arrive panting, environmentally degraded and dishevelled later is in the question. • Liz Waters

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