Trotter on his beliefs

Chris Trotter column last weekend generated so many negative responses, that the SST has even put some of them online.

Much better in my eyes is his column in Friday’s Dom Post on what he believes in. Let’s look at them:

A column entitled From the Left conjures out of its readers imaginations a veritable phantasmagoria of political misconceptions. The most common of these is that, being “From the Left”, I must favour the policies Joseph Stalin and Mao Mao Tse- tung.

Problem is, I rejected their credo of Marxist-Leninist communism long ago.

I am curious as to how long ago, and why?

So, what do I believe?

It’s a fair question, and here, for better or for worse, is my reply:

I believe that human societies arise out of need. The need for food and shelter, the need for intimacy, the need for nurturing, and the need for protection – both from natural dangers, and the aggression of our own species. To secure these needs, human beings must work, individually or collectively, but always with the ultimate goal of keeping strong those innumerable threads that bind our communities in a functioning wholeness.

Can’t say I disagree too much with that.

In New Zealand, two peoples co-exist in differing states of awareness of the essential collectivism and dependency of human communities. The indigenous people possess a clear and poignant vision of humanity’s place in these islands. But the colonising peoples could not rest till the ideas and institutions of their respective homelands had taken root in New Zealand. To the extent they succeeded, the conflicts and contradictions of their native lands were also transplanted here.

Resolving these conflicts and contradictions, and discovering the best means of prospering together, is the historic task of the two peoples fated to share these islands Maori and Pakeha.

I think Trotter stereotypes too much here with the “indigenous people possess a clear and poignant vision of humanity’s place in these islands”, but I will agree we do have a duty to work together to resolve past conflicts.

As a social-democrat I am dedicated to furthering in all aspects of my country’s social, political and economic organisation the essential equality of human beings. Social-democracy defines equality in terms of the universality of human need.

Here I start to differ. I certainly believe in doing what we can to get equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome is an impossible nonsense, which takes no account of human nature and differences. The communist states have tried and failed repeatedly in this goal. Even Cuba is backing away from it.

If Chris means all humans have some minimum human rights, then I agree. But the right to have an Ipod is not one of them.

That being so, we must reject all claims hostile to the reality of our interdependence. Individuals and groups who by superior strength or simple good fortune are endowed with wealth and influence, enjoy their advantages on the sufferance of that vast majority whose daily labours make possible a functioning society. Only so long as, in the judgement of the many, the possession by a fortunate few of social, political and economic privileges serves the community as a whole, will those privileges endure. Any attempt by a minority to transform the privileges granted to them by the majority into a system of permanent advantage cannot be deemed just.

And here is where we totally part company. Trotter expresses a view where individuals have no rights – they are allowed to keep their money or property only if the many agree by doing so, it them.

Trotter sees the majority as able to take anything away from the minority, and that minority having no rights. It is the sort of outlook that we see in Zimbabwe where the minority white farmers have had their farms stolen from them. Trotter says the only issue is whether or not it the majority to do so. Now I do not mean to imply in any way that Chris supporters the horrific excesses of Mugabe – I am sure he is repelled by the dictator’s actions. But his views on the rights of the minority, seem to be similar – they have none except those granted by the majority.

As a social-democrat I look to the state, as the institutional expression of our interdependence, to secure for all citizens a healthy and abundant life.

While I look to families to secure healthy and abudant life for most people – with the state being a fallback option and a resource. I also look to business to generate the wealth that really secures an abundant life.

The provision of gainful employment, education, health, housing and protection against adversity are rights due to all New Zealanders. Political institutions are established to secure these rights, drawing their authority from the freely given consent of all responsible citizens.

The state can not provide jobs to everyone – unless one wants to go back to Muldoon. It can set an economic environment in which the private sector creates jobs. It does have a role in funding and sometimes provision of health, education and housing. But that does not mean free PhDs for everyone and a state house for every family. I beleive in targetting assistance to those who most need it.

Those charged with governing our country, hold in trust the resources – both natural and social – that are the common property of all our people.

Can’t disagree with that.

As a social-democrat I cannot countenance the arbitrary dispersal of the people’s resources, nor the slow fragmentation and dilution of their rights. And, while recognising the fundamental kinship of all human beings, I will not surrender the sovereignty of my nation to the interests of foreigners. New Zealand’s destiny, finally, is the enterprise of New Zealanders alone.

Yet Chris seems to say the minority have no rights, unless the majority grant them. No right to hold property. No right to keep most of what you earn.

And I am less concerned with national sovereignity than Chris is. Of course as a country we have it. But more and more peopel of my generation and younger see themselves as citizens of the World. Look at Europe – how mervellous to have 30+ countries joined together with no borders, and the ability to trade and work in any member country.

Comments (136)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: