Friday, March 17, 2023

Thomas Cranmer: Challenging Progressivism in New Zealand's Culture Wars

Like it or not, the culture wars have entered New Zealand politics and look set to broaden and intensify.

The culture wars are often viewed as an exclusively American phenomenon, but the reality is that they are becoming increasingly prominent in countries around the world, including New Zealand. Some may believe that they are immune to their influence, but the truth is that these battles have already entered New Zealand politics and are being enthusiastically fought by the Labour government and the political left. Instinctively, right-leaning parties in New Zealand have shied away from culture war issues, preferring instead to focus on their traditional core policies. But whether we like it or not, the game is afoot, and we are all players.

So, what exactly are the culture wars? In essence, they are political conflicts that revolve around social and cultural issues, such as gender, race, sexuality, religion, and identity. The term was coined in the United States during the 1990s to describe the heated debates that were taking place between conservatives and progressives over issues like abortion, affirmative action, and gay rights. However, the scope of culture wars has since expanded to encompass a wide range of issues, from free speech and cancel culture to critical race theory and the role of the media in shaping public opinion.

New Zealand has not been immune to these issues. In recent years, the country has seen heated debates over topics such as transgender rights, hate speech laws, and the role of colonialism in shaping New Zealand’s history. These debates have been driven largely by the Labour government and the political left, who have taken a strong stance on issues of social justice and equity. While some may view these positions as admirable, many see them as a threat to traditional values and free speech.

One of the most contentious issues in New Zealand’s culture wars has been the government's push for hate speech laws. In August 2021, the government released a draft bill that would criminalize hate speech, including speech that incites violence or discrimination on the basis of religion. While many on the left have praised the bill as a necessary measure to protect marginalized communities, others criticized it as a threat to free speech and an overreach of government power. Although the bill has since been dropped by the government, the issue of free speech continues to rage.

Over recent weeks the question of whether Tusiata Avia’s poem about Captain Cook was hate speech or art has been a heated topic of debate around the country which has generated comment from Act Party leader, David Seymour and the Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon who has received in excess of 270 letters of complaint from members of the public about the poem. The National Party has not expressed a view on the furore.

Another issue that has sparked debate is the government’s focus on transgender rights, most recently in relation to Drag Queen Story Time in libraries. The issue looks set to be thrust back into the headlines over the next few weeks given that the British women’s rights activist, Kellie-Jay Keen is scheduled to visit New Zealand at the end of the month. There have already been calls for her visa to be revoked on the basis that she poses “a significant risk and threat to public order and the public interest”.

Internationally, the role of colonisation is being debated more generally in many countries, including the United Kingdom. Indigenous rights now have far greater support in many countries and are in a state of rapid development. In contemporary New Zealand life we see these issues manifest themselves in heated discussions over co-governance, and the role and prominence of the Treaty of Waitangi in society. A current example is the on-going dispute regarding Kaipara Council and whether a traditional Maori karakia should be recited at the start of each meeting of Council.

These debates have, however, left those on the political right feeling excluded and marginalized. The National Party and the Act Party have been vocal in their opposition to the government’s policies, but they have struggled to gain traction in the face of a media and political establishment that is largely aligned with the left. This has led to accusations that the government and its supporters are trying to silence dissent and impose a narrow set of values on the country.

However, it is important to note that culture wars are not inherently bad. They can provide an opportunity for different groups to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate over important issues. They can also bring attention to marginalized communities and push for greater social justice and equity.

The problem arises when culture wars become polarized and divisive, with each side demonizing the other and refusing to engage in productive dialogue. This is where New Zealand currently finds itself. The government and the political left have taken a strong stance on issues of social justice, but they have also been accused of being intolerant of dissent and imposing their views on the rest of the country. Meanwhile, those on the political right have been left feeling excluded and silenced, unable to engage in meaningful dialogue or shape the direction of the country.

So, what can be done to address this situation? Firstly, we need to recognize that culture wars are a reality in New Zealand politics and that they are not going away anytime soon. This means that all parties, regardless of their political affiliation, need to be willing to engage in constructive dialogue and debate over important issues. This also means that we need to be willing to listen to the perspectives and experiences of those who may hold different views from our own.

Secondly, we need to recognize that culture wars are not just about politics. They are about deeply held values and beliefs that shape our identities and our communities. This means that we need to approach these issues with empathy and understanding, rather than simply dismissing those who hold different views as ignorant or intolerant.

Thirdly, we need to resist the temptation to view culture wars as a zero-sum game. Just because one side wins does not mean that the other side loses. Instead, we need to recognize that there are often multiple perspectives and solutions to complex issues, and that compromise and collaboration are often necessary to achieve meaningful progress.

Finally, we need to remember that culture wars are not the only game in town. While they may dominate the headlines and social media feeds, there are many other important issues facing our country, from health, education and economic matters to criminal justice. We need to ensure that we are not so consumed by culture wars that we lose sight of these other important issues.

In conclusion, the culture wars have already entered New Zealand politics, and if international experience is anything to go by, they will only broaden and intensify. New Zealand has a proud history of progressive reforms going back to the suffragette movement but this shouldn’t be a reason not to engage in good faith debate about the concerns surrounding the current culture wars. Indeed these issues are so pervasive - going to family, religion and identity - that it will not be possible to avoid their reach forever. For conservatives, that means taking a first principles approach to the debate and objectively challenging progressive alternatives to the status quo. To paraphrase Trotsky, “you may not be interested in the culture wars, but the culture wars are interested in you”.

Thomas Cranmer, Lawyer with over 25 years experience in some of the world's biggest law firms. This article was published HERE


Anonymous said...

Thomas you are wrong.
What we are dealing with is the deep incursion of Identity Maxism into New Zealand. It pushes its agenda through ‘Critical Social Justice’
Its central push is for Equity, but its definition of equity is equality of outcomes NOT equality of opportunity.
The driving force of Critical Social Justice is that through the imposition of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ the neomarxist concept of equity and be enforced on us all. Its MO is the redistribution of power and property.
The forced restribution of resources is an essential part of this type of equity, and it includes, ultimately, the forced redistrubtion of PRIVATE resouces. The Theory of the movement is that only when you achieve Equity, ( ie the forced redistribution of resouces such that noone owns any more than anyone else) can you achieve ‘Justice’. There is no rational path as to how this ‘just’ society will arise but it is an article of faith on the progressive left that it magically happens only once we have total Equity, and we will live for ever more in an ungoverned Utopian paradise.
THE key to understanding and resisting this dangerously deluded movement is to understand that it brooks NO opposition. It tolerates NO middle ground. Middle ground is only the breathing space to regroup for the conquer.
Any engagement in in Critical Social Justice’ dialogue’ MUST begin with a clear and absolute understanding of the meaning of words. It is central to Critical Social Justice that words have a Critical Social Justice meaning, which is not what we mere mortals think they mean.
For instance, in socialist thought, referring to ‘the people’ means only those who are willing to ‘do the work’ of becoming critical social justice warriors themselves. These ‘people’ are recognisable by their abloute commitment to unquestionly following (CSJ) government edicts. Unbelievable as it seems, those who don’t ‘bend the knee’ are seen within this system as less than people and therefore not deserving of the real ‘people’s’ rights. This is how Jacinda Adern was able to look us in the eye and tell us we are a team of five million and we must be kind to people, but then smirkingly look us in the eye to explain why those who don’t submit voicelessly to her outrageous demands deserve not our kindness, and our indivual human rights, but our punishment and disdain.
We must stop now, today, ANY attempt to mollify this beast. Every morsel we feed it, is fed from a part of our soul. What we give will never be enough. It will only be used as a lever from which to demand more.
Thomas every issue you have raised is just one hydra of this single beast. But you are right. It has definitely crawled up our seabed, onto our foreshore, and into our unprepared and unaware populace.
The ONLY outcome of Equity is that everyone gets little or nothing, and excellence is destroyed. When people (all people) perceive unfairness their motivation drops precipitously.
Equity is Socialism.
Socialism is the death of any dream of a better life for our children in New Zealand.

mudbayripper said...

Agreed, we are amidst a war. Its not between left and right, its between right and wrong, good and evil.
I'm with Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Well said that man.
Free enterprise and property rights are the only way forward.
There are so many other options for people on the table.
Why be a low paid , overworked Doctor in NZ when Australia, UK etc offer far more for the same work ?
Apply that thinking to any profession and there in a Nutshell is NZ’s problem.
Restricting free enterprise and effort and taxing the result is a path to failure.
The Politics of Envy are what’s driving Labour and the Co Governance agenda. They want what you have but aren’t prepared to put in the hard work and learning to achieve it.

Anonymous said...

It's a war in the sense Ukraine is at war because a massive monolith invaded and its engaging in self-defence. Social and cultural issues have been going Left-Wing for the last 20+ years. Mostly this has been incremental, shared progress focused on equal rights and avoiding clear discrimination.

However, in the last 8 years in particular, the cultural Left have gone insane. Biological realities that were shared just 3-4 years ago - such as only women can get pregnant - are routinely attacked and censored as bigotry. Institutions co-optrd into deep ideology.

Thomas Cranmer affects the middle, moderate line but the reality is this is a cultural coup. It is radical revolution, regressivism dressed as progessivism. The vandal Left leading this charge and have no interest in talk and compromise.

NZ has no mainstream heterodoxy against this and only firm, principled counter-attack will allow any pushback. If the Right overreach on this counter-atrack, I have zero problem calling this out but what Thomas is suggesting is that Ukraine politely asking Russia, if, pretty please, could they at least be left a few square KMs of territory and not rape quite so many women.

Anonymous said...

There is no element of culture in the bizarre hysteria of the Maorification of New Zealand and the vicious hatred of early British settlers. The so-called poem by Avisia is exactly the sort of brutal ethic that the Treaty of Waitangi - at the initiative of the shrewder Maori chiefs- were so desperate to stop for their own survival. Apartheid is not culture.

Anonymous said...

JA is very attuned to calling herself and others Comrade. That tells us all we need to know. And it was many years she was leader of NZ before the details of her history as the World Leader of the Socialist Youth Movement was made generally known.
What we need now is a big u-turn facilitated by a new political party to take the reins of power. The appetite for change in the general public is increasing.
Vote for a small party in October.

Anonymous said...

I think the classic example of words no longer meaning what we think they mean is how frankly racist behaviour has now been renamed ‘anti- racist’.
Another equally stark use of language meaning something completely different to what we think it means is the radical and destructive new school curriculum being labelled a “Refresh”.
If you are accused of any of the progressive shaming tropes when you argue a point, reply clearly and firmly; “that is NOT an argument. It is a thought teminating cliche.”
And be aware, that cartoon so beloved of progressives that supposedly illustrates ‘equity’ with the shorter kids having the boxes to stand on to see over the fence to the ball game? - that is NOT equity. THAT is Equality of opportunity - the classic liberal approach to equality.
Equity is that when that shortest kid, standing on his equal opportunity (to see the game) box needs to go to the loo, and the other two still watching are forced to stop watching and go too - THAT is what equity - equality of outcome, means.
NOTHING is more important this election than to vote in parties that have at their heart the sanctity of individual human rights, the non negotiability of private property rights, and who recognise Identity Marxism for the danger that it is.
And THAT is only the beginning of the fight.

Anonymous said...

You write: 'However, it is important to note that culture wars are not inherently bad. They can provide an opportunity for different groups to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate over important issues."

Not so - it is impossible to get any opinion contrary to the Left-wing woke views published in the MSM. 'Letters to the Editor' are boring, because there are so many subjects that the MSM now refuses to accept for discussion.

And famous New Zealanders who have contributed to Breaking Views, don't get their excellent articles published anywhere else.

What is happening in New Zealand? - it does seem that with all names of places and geographical features, together with all Government departments, Universities, schools, hospitals etc being changed to Maori only, is there a programme to change New Zealand into a country speaking only Maori??

Like school children we are being feed a few new words every week, and suddenly the good old English words are getting banned eg student, teacher, children, work, country and even New Zealand. And what will New Zealanders become? Aotearoans?
I don't remember voting for this in any referendum - it seems to have been trust on us secretly.

No wonder no-one wants to come from overseas and work here, and how many of our talented youth are leaving the country?? They keep quiet about that.

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice how the “English” version of the census online nevertheless had the Maori title directly below, but the Maori version had no such translation into english on its page?
It appears to now be forbidden to even be presented with an english language document without Maori language being front and centre. The message being sent is that, in New Zealand, it is only the Maori language that deserves to stand alone.
English now is only allowed a place in the public sphere if it is accompanied by Maori.
This too is part of the drive to induce despondency, hopelessness and a sense of despair in all those who believe that Western culture remains precious and valuable, and to force them to accept that resistance to identity marxism is futile.
I did wonder if we would be perfectly within our rights to read and answer the maori version of the census to the best of our ability? After all, we were given the choice. Would it have been illegal to read the te reo questions, and then answer them in our best attempt at te reo? Is it illegal to use an official language in the cencus if your grasp of that language is less than perfect?

Terry Morrissey said...

"However, it is important to note that culture wars are not inherently bad.They can provide an opportunity for different groups to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate over important issues." How can that happen when the government corrupts the media by buying their support and preventing them from publishing alternate views?
With this governing labour greens cult it is nothing less than the inexorable, insidious introduction of apartheid and communism, with a helping of sexual deviance as a side dish. Pretty words will not alter their ideology or intent.