For whom the bell polls
Iwas 18 when I took part in my first – and last – political protest rally. I joined a placard-waving, 10,000-strong throng of students marching up Auckland’s main street chanting ‘‘What do we want? A free education! When do we want it? Now!’’
Although we made the news that night, our impassioned rhetoric made not a jot of difference to the education policy of the day, nor to my student loan balance.
That same year, as a first-year journalism student, I took a paper called The Principles of Persuasive Communication, in which we learned about Greek philosopher Aristotle’s three musketeers of rhetorical proof: ethos, pathos and logos.
In a nutshell, politicians use ethos to gain our trust and earn credibility because they are engaging, likeable and dynamic, whereas politicians with logos use reasoning, facts and logic to appeal to our heads rather than our hearts.
Meanwhile, those who can demonstrate pathos can effectively sell their vision through empathy, emotion and personal anecdote.
Media commentators can argue ad nauseam about the pitfalls of the politics of personality, but there’s no denying that Jacinda Ardern has oratory ethos and pathos in spades, plus the best hair of any would-be world leader, whereas Bill English has the edge on logos.
Is it any wonder then that this election campaign has morphed into a battle of stability versus spunk, pitting the (rational) safety of the status quo against the (emotional) desire for a sea change?
But what about the issues, cry the pundits? What indeed? This week, in a highly unscientific Facebook poll, I asked my 998 friends, family and online acquaintances a simple question: ‘‘What do you want our next government to deliver for our society?’’
First, a declaration of bias: I’ve always voted, but I’ve never voted for either of the two major parties. And despite my unashamedly conservative credentials – I’m white, tertiary educated, middle-class, married, a parent, self-employed, a homeowner, farm-raised, rural, one of the 1 per cent – my ideological ecdysis from youthful idealist to bourgeois adult is still a work in progress.
A recent case in point: while dissing Donald Trump in a bunfight with my father, he countered with what he thought was a savage recoil. ‘‘Your problem is that you’re just a liberal leftie journalist,’’ said Dad. To which I replied, ‘‘is that supposed to be an insult?’’
Despite my tree-hugging tendencies and gardening guru status, my friends aren’t all Roman-sandalled greenies, though many are.
‘‘What do we want?’’ I asked my social circle, and this is what they said.
We want to stop the economic exploitation of our environment, both physical and social. We want a government that recognises and addresses poverty. We want policies that tackle homelessness and the difficulties faced by wannabe first home-buyers.
We want to give all Kiwis something to believe in about our fine country, what we stand for, who we are. We want warm, dry homes for all families, with healthy food on the table.
We want sustainable solutions for future economic growth. We want medicinal marijuana legalised. We want to stop the silent erosion of healthcare in our hospitals. We want better provision of mental health and drug rehabilitation services.
We want to close the gap between the rich and the poor. We want gender pay equity. We want our teenagers to stop killing themselves. We want more support for small businesses. And we want teachers and nurses and police officers to be able to afford to live in the communities they actively contribute to.
Surely none of these issues should be considered controversial in a just, democratic society? To quote the kid I used to babysit 30 years ago: ‘‘Aotearoa shouldn’t be on the bad side of any world list, let alone growing inequality.’’ So to those of you who are still undecided about who to vote for next weekend, I say: what do you want, and when do you want it? Now?
If you’re happy with your lot, through luck, privilege or bloody hard work, then stick with the status quo.
But if you want more – for your family, environment, the kids sleeping in cars and renters in uninsulated garages, teens without hope and pensioners without health care – then make sure you vote for it next weekend.
To those of you who are still undecided about who to vote for next weekend, I say: what do you want, and when do you want it? Now?
Lynda Hallinan’s impassioned rhetoric made not a jot of difference to the education policy of the day, nor to her student loan balance.