Opin­ion

Sunday Star-Times - - Focus - Damien Grant AP

The most pho­to­genic US politi­cian at the mo­ment is a charis­matic young con­gress­woman named Alexan­dria Oca­sioCortez. She is a pub­lic­ity sen­sa­tion and her charm, and savvy with so­cial me­dia, has pro­pelled her into the top rank of celebrity politi­cians. Also. She can dance.

She isn’t rel­e­vant to us in New Zealand, but she is news­wor­thy and one of the most in­ter­est­ing things she has said was in an in­ter­view with CBS’s An­der­son Cooper.

‘‘Do you call your­self a rad­i­cal?’’ Cooper asked. ‘‘Yeah. You know, if that’s what rad­i­cal means, call me a rad­i­cal,’’ she re­sponded.

Oca­sio-Cortez is wrong. She isn’t rad­i­cal. Her brand of large-gov­ern­ment ac­tivism and en­vi­ron­men­tal alarmism is now main­stream. In New Zealand she’d barely be left-of-cen­tre.

One of the great tragedies we face as a na­tion is a sur­feit of rad­i­cals. Ev­ery­one from Marama David­son to the cof­fee-per­son at The Spinoff con­sid­ers them­selves a rad­i­cal.

Like Oca­sio-Cortez they are mis­taken. These lost souls are the left­overs of a rev­o­lu­tion that was won decades ago; yet they fight on. Like Ja­panese war­riors toil­ing in re­mote jun­gle, they refuse to lay down their arms.

They are a bit of a prob­lem, these war­riors bat­tling against a Pa­tri­ar­chal Mil­i­tary In­dus­trial Colo­nial Racist Rape Cul­ture that, even if it ever ex­isted, died long ago. We now live in a wel­fare state and no-one, not even the lib­er­tar­ian Act Party, dares ques­tion the state fund­ing of health, ed­u­ca­tion and wel­fare.

The prob­lem with rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies is that, af­ter the bat­tles have been won and the bar­ri­cades dis­man­tled and bay­o­net­ing com­pleted, they don’t have many use­ful skills. What do you do with a pa­rade of bright-eyed gen­der stud­ies grad­u­ates who want to change the world but can barely spell much less use an Ex­cel spread­sheet?

Few em­ploy­ers will touch them and they have a dis­tain for hon­est toil. Their par­ents have told them they are spe­cial. And so right they are. For these dar­lings of the Pon­sonby set, these co­hort of com­rades, are spe­cial. They are also un­em­ploy­able. Well. Al­most. The main­stream me­dia has seen its rev­enue gut­ted by Face­book and Google and its abil­ity to re­tain com­pe­tent, ob­jec­tive and lit­er­ate staff has gone with it. In des­per­a­tion, the me­dia has taken these en­ti­tled preen­ing self-ob­sessed flot­sam and given them all by-lines and Twit­ter ac­counts.

It’s been a dis­as­ter. To read the prod­uct of a modern news­room re­quires an an­tenna to fil­ter out the ac­tivism from the jour­nal­ism. Any­one with any tal­ent is pro­moted to man­age­ment, scooped up by the PR in­dus­try or finds them­selves do­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions work for Grant Robert­son.

For those who believe the dead­lines and grub­bi­ness of the me­dia is be­neath them, there is al­ways the soft couch of academia.

Be­tween them these two lost bat­tal­ions of yes­ter­day’s war have been mar­vel­lously suc­cess­ful in shift­ing both pub­lic opin­ion and the po­lit­i­cal agenda. Their ideas dom­i­nate, al­most to the ex­clu­sion of all other voices. They are, even if they do not know it, in power, if not in of­fice.

They de­fine the pa­ram­e­ters of al­low­able dis­course and de­fine what is per­mis­si­ble yet fail to see their own power. Their iden­tity is wrapped up in fight­ing the sys­tem, hav­ing failed to see that, to­day, they are the sys­tem.

Alas, for these con­tem­po­rary rad­i­cals, al­most ev­ery­thing de­manded by the 1960s Left has been achieved. Out of ne­ces­sity they now look for new

Any­one with any tal­ent is pro­moted to man­age­ment, scooped up by the PR in­dus­try or finds them­selves do­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions work for Grant Robert­son.

drag­ons to slay. The wage gap, global warm­ing, child poverty, racism. The list of real or imag­ined so­cial crises that needs to be fought against is end­less.

Given their power, es­pe­cially in the me­dia, and the in­nate con­ser­vatism of com­merce, most busi­ness lead­ers cower in the face of any crit­i­cism and fall over them­selves fawn­ing to the agenda set by these new com­mis­sars. Long gone are the glory days when a busi­ness­man would glee­fully punch a jour­nal­ist square in the face.

Frankly, it is pa­thetic the way our ti­tans of in­dus­try refuse to con­front the man­u­fac­tured hys­te­ria of 25-year-old jour­nal­ism ma­jors. We saw the ap­palling spec­ta­cle this year when the en­tire le­gal fra­ter­nity fell over them­selves in self­crit­i­cism rather than stand up to the shrill bul­lies of the #MeToo bri­gade.

Such acts of de­base­ment are be­com­ing com­mon. The owner of the Pow­er­sta­tion caved in the face of a few an­gry tweets and Massey Uni­ver­sity vicechan­cel­lor Jan Thomas tied her­self in knots in her de­ter­mi­na­tion to pre­vent Don Brash giv­ing a speech on her cam­pus.

Even some­thing as sim­ple as my fire­works dis­play brought me to the at­ten­tion of a glee­ful mob of the self-righ­teously in­dig­nant, so it is small won­der that most busi­ness lead­ers pre­fer to keep their heads down.

This is a mis­take. Busi­ness, in­di­vid­u­als and aca­demics have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to push back against this mono­cul­ture for the al­ter­na­tive is to sur­ren­der much of what we hold to be valu­able.

To­day’s rad­i­cal isn’t the woke fem­i­nist rail­ing about rape-cul­ture or the cam­paign­ing Twit­ter ac­tivist rant­ing into the wind about the lack of state fund­ing for trans­gen­der pre-teens. It is the hand­ful, for that is all we are, who defy the in­creas­ingly op­pres­sive stric­tures be­ing im­posed on us.

The rad­i­cal of to­day does not believe that Tax is Love; they believe that Tax is Theft. They ar­gue that col­lect­ing taxes by force to ed­u­cate the chil­dren of the poor in gov­ern­ment ware­houses is not only in­ef­fec­tive it is im­moral.

The real rad­i­cals are those who do not want to see New Zealand troops bat­tling away in point­less bat­tles over sand nor see tax money pay for Pe­ter Beck to send rock­ets into space, Grant Dal­ton to sail his boats or Pe­ter Jack­son to make his movies.

The most coura­geous busi­ness per­son in 2018 was Denise L’Es­trange-Cor­bet who mag­nif­i­cently de­cried the at­tacks on her busi­ness as ‘‘gut­ter jour­nal­ism’’ and re­fused to apol­o­gise for some la­belling snafu.

Be­ing part of a bay­ing mob – for that is what much of our modern com­men­tary has been re­duced to – isn’t brave and nor is it rad­i­cal.

Stand­ing up to them is.

Damien Grant’s fine that Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez is a dancer, but a rad­i­cal? Nah.

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