Saturday, November 9, 2019

Henry Armstrong: In Defence of “Old White Men”- the New Enemy Within?

In 2018, a Minister of the Crown and New Zealand Member of Parliament, Julie Anne Genter, herself a relatively-recent migrant to New Zealand, addressed a group of ten-year-olds at a Christchurch primary school. She  decried the presence of “old, white men” (or OWMs) on the boards of New Zealand organisations and demanded they “move aside”. 

Why this Minister in the Ardern-led government should not only comment on such an issue to kiddies who probably had no idea at all what a board (of trustees, directors or advisors) actually do, but  make such comments to such an audience? Most youngsters present would undoubtedly have much-loved older uncles or granddads who fitted this description. So, in the young mind, “old white men” were suddenly painted by this Minister as some sort of “enemy” to be removed and replaced by younger, more able and preferably female, board members.

Genter’s statement is ageist, racist and sexist and appalling from a Minister of the Crown and an MP. I am amazed she was not taken to the Human Rights Commission .

And we all thought that this Ardern-led government was averse to stereotyping and minority insults and abuse? Ha Ha!!

In July 2019, a headline in the Dominion Post highlighted that after careful journalistic “research”, it transpires that a majority of currently-elected local body councillors are - yes, you guessed it-“old white  men”.

No comment from either government or the media  that these “old white  men” are actually (a) a group of people who most generously offer their services to their communities by choice, and (b) that our communities elected them by due democratic process because, hopefully these candidates were able to demonstrate that they had the skills, abilities and experience to ably represent their communities at local and regional body level?

Oh, no. Our journalists concentrated not on skills, experience and abilities (aka merit) but decried this democratic outcome as somehow unreflective of and opposed to diversity.

A recent  opinion piece by Martin van Beynen pointed out that we OWMs need to feel guilty most of the time for apparently we OWMs espouse all the negative behaviours which bedevil modern society. Yes, it’s our fault, not anyone else’s.

Obviously being a director of a sizeable New Zealand organisation is one of these negative behaviours.

The OWM demographic (as Ardern has dismissively described us) of “old white men” is indeed a minority in NZ. Continual denigration is actually in breach of the Human Rights Act, I think.

Let us dissect Genter’s claims that these old farts need to move aside and let their antitheses, young, female, ethnic, people take their place on various boards and committees or councils.

Is she referring to those who offer their services to the multitude of charitable organisations which provide services to a whole host of communities which her government does not currently fund? I am not aware of any charges of discrimination in favour of “old white men” in the charities sector. Most appointees to these bodies come with skills in fundraising and other forms of expertise including business acumen so spectacularly lacking in the charities sector. In short they are welcomed, regardless of their age, ethnicity or gender. So Genter is totally wrong if she is referring to the charities sector.

So, she must have been referring to the public sector - the myriad of government and SOE boards of government-owned businesses and agencies which have a substantial financial impact on contemporary New Zealand. Lotteries commission, Commerce Commission, etc, etc?

Nope - these organisations are renowned for employing political has-beens such as Michael Cullen, James Bolger, and so on. No need to ban “old white men” here. They deserve to be rewarded with board and SOE directorships for their past political services.

I Know! It is the private sector which Genter is totally opposed to. Of some 750,000  companies in New Zealand, only around 250 are in public ownership - ie listed on the NZX and whose shares can be traded. Of the vast remainder, these are privately-owned and closely-held companies, usually family groups whose boards are usually family members. Is Genter saying that these family companies should replace their family members with directors who are not “old white men”?

So, it must be those 250-odd publicly listed companies which she is demanding  be not directed by “old white men”? But hold on, many of these companies have international shareholders who represent the interests of their overseas shareholders. Is Genter seriously demanding that these shareholders abandon their representatives, who almost certainly are there on merit, by representatives who are not “old, white (or Asian) men”? And what about the NZX and Institute of Directors in New Zealand policies to increase diversity on public boards?  No comment!

“Old white men” have served New Zealand well over two centuries, including two World Wars and many subsequent  conflicts. As our veterans grow older, will they too be denigrated as OWMs.

The propensity of politicians such as Genter, as well as many media journalists, to assign derogatory labels to groups of New Zealanders on the basis of their age, ethnicity, gender and/or political views  has no place in our society today. Their political causes are poorly served when they have to resort to insults, abuse and name calling to get their warped views some traction.

So, OWMs, rise up and denounce these political and journalistic denigrators for the hypocrites that they are.

Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.


Ray S said...
Reply To This Comment

Good article. But why give an idiot, and a young white immagrant at that,column time. Maybe she didn't get the chairman (chairperson) of the board job she was looking for so opted for politics. Probably saved a listed company a lot of money.

Anonymous said...
Reply To This Comment

Needs a good kick up the back bum with a hobnailed male boot.

Anonymous said...
Reply To This Comment

What else can you expect from this woman who represents the New-Age Communist Movement that now calls itself "The Green Party". All their policies are based on destroying the wealth and social structure of New Zealand - ie, crush the farmers - stop our oil and gas industries. Remember what a Russian President said? "If you want to advance communism, change your colour from RED to GREEN.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...
Reply To This Comment

As Anne Coulter has pointed out, there are more 'career men' than 'career women' so appointments based purely on merit will result in a preponderance of men at senior level. This may change over time, but it takes decades for equal outcomes at age 20 to translate into equal outcomes at age 55 unless the experience requirement is scrapped - which is most unwise!

Empathic said...
Reply To This Comment

Thanks for this useful analysis. Yes, Genter epitomizes the hypocrisy of feminism and current ideas of 'social justice'. She and those of her ilk jump up and down loudly about any statement that stereotypes or denigrates almost any other group but when it comes to men any level of denigration is acceptable. Parliament Grand Hall is now due to host a feminist conference. Our men's group had booked the Hall several years ago but at the last minute the MP hosting us, Kelvin Davis, withdrew his support because the conference might have been going to criticize women. What a coward. In fact, our conference didn't intend to criticize and didn't criticize women but did criticize feminist ideology. You can be sure that this upcoming feminist conference will indulge in lots of denigration of men, yet here they are going ahead using the parliament facilities we all pay for. White knight David Seymour is hosting the feminist conference at parliament and won't care about the hate speech that will abound against men.

Guy said...
Reply To This Comment

Genter appears to have no respect for her own origins. Presumably her father was white since she tends to be pretty much of that hue herself. I'd hazard a guess that he was also male. And I wouldn't be surprised if he was reasonably old. Could she have a daddy problem?