Friday, June 29, 2018

The long march of cultural Marxism

(First published in The Dominion Post and on, June 28.)

A significant anniversary passed recently with surprisingly little fanfare.

News stories marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx focused on the fawning tribute paid to him by the Chinese president Xi Jinping.

There was a large dollop of irony here, since the modern Chinese communist party is highly selective in its application of Marxism. It has combined Marxist-style political totalitarianism – brutal suppression of dissent and absolute obeisance to the party – with a largely unfettered capitalist-style economy. 

There are few greater extremes of wealth and poverty than in China, a country that today boasts an estimated 250 billionaires – not exactly what Marx had in mind when he envisaged the glorious working-class revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

As an economic model, Marxism stands totally discredited. The few remaining outposts of communist ideology, such as North Korea and Cuba, are economic basket-cases, as well as notoriously repressive.

And of course Marxism’s record has been irrevocably blighted by two of the most monstrous figures in history, Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao – proud Marxists who carried out mass exterminations without blinking an eye.

In view of all this, it’s grimly ironic that a form of Marxism not only survives, but is rampant across the democratic Western world.

Some call it cultural Marxism, others neo-Marxism. However you choose to label it, it has perversely triumphed where Marx’s economic theories have deservedly been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Neo-Marxism draws partly on Marxist analysis but is equally influenced by a bunch of twisted 20th century French philosophers. It grows out of the assumption that Western civilisation, and all that goes with it, is fundamentally rotten and therefore must be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up.

In the cockeyed illogic of the neo-Marxists, we should feel guilt and shame at having inherited a civilisation that has lifted untold millions of people out of poverty and introduced them to democratic government.

You can see Marx’s influence in neo-Marxism’s hostility to capitalism, its contempt for supposed bourgeois values – the family, for instance – and its emphasis on class and division.

But neo-Marxism takes classical Marxist analysis a whole lot further, examining every issue through the lenses not only of class but also of race, gender, sexual identity and any other potential point of difference that can be leveraged into a grievance.

It marches arm-in-arm with identity politics, seeing society not as a cohesive whole, sharing common interests and aspirations, but as a seething mass of oppressed minorities struggling for liberation – hence the ever-increasing number of aggrieved groups clamouring for special recognition. The result is polarisation and fragmentation.

Neo-Marxism also sets out to create a sense of continuing economic and social crisis, using this as justification for ever more intrusive state intervention and control. And it seeks to undermine our most basic understanding of human nature and society. How we see and interpret the world is dismissed by neo-Marxists as a social and political construct, a product of our conditioning. 

Nothing is fixed, not even the sex we are born with, and nothing has any objective value. Every belief and every value, no matter how soundly based in human experience and observation, is up for attack.

Paradoxically, while the neo-Marxists assail some belief systems as oppressive – Christianity for example – they make excuses for others, such as Islam, although it’s infinitely more controlling. But don’t go looking for ideological consistency in neo-Marxism; you’d be wasting your time.

It all sounds laughable, but it’s taught in deadly earnest in our universities. Marxism may have been a wretched failure as an economic model, but the German radical Rudi Dutschke realised decades ago that its aims could be pursued by other means.

Inspired by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, Dutschke came up with the idea of the “long march through the institutions”. Drawing an analogy with the famous march by Mao’s Red Army through China in the 1930s, Dutschke envisaged subverting society by infiltrating the institutions of higher learning. 

He couldn’t have imagined how successful his stratagem would be. It works by targeting the impressionable young, many of whom have a natural idealistic desire to do the right thing, and few of whom have any knowledge of historic crimes against humanity perpetrated in pursuit of a Marxist utopia.

And how do the neo-Marxists respond when anyone resists their nihilistic theories? Typically, opposition is howled down as hate speech or met with sneering and ridicule. There’s no room in the neo-Marxist world for dissent or freedom of expression. 

The tragedy is that neo-Marxism is triumphing because the institutions of liberal, democratic government are too weak, too naïve, too complacent or too uncertain of the worth of their own values to put up a fight.

Neo-Marxism has now extended its influence far beyond universities, reaching deep into government, schools, the media, the arts and even the churches. The result is a society that is losing confidence in itself, which is precisely the neo-Marxists’ aim – because a society that has lost confidence in itself is easier to intimidate and control. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Labour's tackling its reno project with typical gusto - but will it last?

(First published in the Manawatu Standard, the Nelson Mail and

So far, so predictable. This government is doing pretty much exactly what people expect Labour-led governments to do.

Whoops. I almost said that it’s doing what people elect Labour governments to do, but of course the Labour Party won only 38 per cent of the vote last September. In fact this government’s legitimacy may be permanently tainted by the suspicion that it was formed essentially as a result of Winston Peters’ desire for utu against the National Party.

But let’s put that inconvenient misgiving aside. How’s the Labour-led coalition actually doing, nine months into the job?
The opinion polls suggest the public think it’s doing okay, but no more. Radio New Zealand’s most recent “poll of polls” put Labour on 42 per cent while National’s level of support, at 44 per cent, had barely shifted since the election.

The Greens dropped slightly from their election-night result of 6 per cent. But the big dip was recorded by New Zealand First – down from 7.2 percent at the election to 3.9 per cent. In other words, the man who now occupies the most powerful post in the land, albeit only temporarily, wouldn’t even scrape back into Parliament if an election were held tomorrow.

That makes a travesty of democracy, but let’s put that inconvenient fact aside too.

Those caveats aside, the Labour-led government is performing true to form. It inherited a house that was structurally sound but looking a little tired and neglected. So it’s knocking out a couple of walls, moving the furniture around, buying some new home appliances and giving everything a coat of fresh paint.

We expect National Party governments to be essentially laissez-faire – to leave things much as they are unless there’s an urgent and compelling need for change. You might say that’s the essence of conservatism.

At their worst, National governments grow lazy and complacent. Farmers might well be wondering, for example, whether Nathan Guy as Minister of Primary Industries was asleep at the wheel over Mycoplasma bovis and the less-than-rigorous policing of the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (Nait) which assisted the disease’s spread.

But we expect Labour governments to be radical and to break a few things. We customarily elect them when we think National has become too tired and smug for comfort.

It was a radical Labour government that rebuilt the economy in 1984 – something many National politicians knew had to be done and would love to have taken credit for, but didn’t have the nerve to attempt.

Labour governments shift the political centre-ground and remould the political landscape. Some of their initiatives don’t work and are discarded, but many remain firmly locked in place long after Labour has been dumped from office.  

Labour’s potentially fatal flaw, of course, is that it comes into power fizzing with impatience and ambition but quickly develops speed wobbles. Policy stresses, personal agendas and the pressure of relentless media scrutiny begin to take their toll. Bits start flying off, and soon the electorate finds itself longing for the dullness and stability of a National government.

It doesn’t always have to happen like this. Helen Clark’s government was cautious, gradualist and tightly disciplined, which probably explains why it stayed in power for nine years. It initiated as much reform as it thought it could get away with while keeping one eye on the opinion polls. When it suited Clark politically, as with the Foreshore and Seabed Act, she slammed the brakes on. .

But with this government, Labour seems to have reverted to type. It has plunged into a dizzying programme of reviews and task forces – 122 according to one count. Not even the presence of New Zealand First, which attracted voter support in the expectation that Peters and his MPs would act as a restraint on the Labour-Green agenda, is holding it back.

Labour has created expectations among its supporters that it may not be able to fulfil. At times it looks perilously close to being out of control and you wonder if the wheels are going to fall off.

The government’s greatest asset, of course, is Jacinda Ardern, and now her baby too. Ardern is Labour’s talisman. As Stuff political editor Tracy Watkins wrote last week, she’s the only thing standing between Labour and potential disaster.

Ardern is obviously politically astute as well as possessing bucketloads of personal appeal and almost preternatural unflappability, but she will also need something of Clark’s steely resolve to stay in control of her potentially fractious coalition.

Does she have it? It’s too early to say, but my long-range guess is that this will be a one-term Labour government.

The inherent strains and contradictions of the coalition arrangements will eventually take their toll. But if Labour is tossed out of office in 2020, or even before, it will have left its mark on the political landscape in a way that National governments rarely do.

Friday, June 22, 2018

A couple of thoughts on that baby

Who could not be pleased for Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford that they are now the parents of an apparently healthy baby girl? I can’t think of a more life-changing experience.  

They are entitled to our best wishes. But two things strike me about the national reaction to the event.

The first is that judging by the purring emanating from politicians, media commentators and people on the street, by which I mean all that tiresome, self-congratulatory stuff about New Zealand showing the world how things should be done, you’d think we were all miraculously involved in the baby’s conception.  

Well, hang on. It’s Jacinda Ardern’s and Clarke Gayford’s baby, not ours. There’s something slightly creepy about the way the entire country seems to be claiming credit for the birth.  

The other thing is that many of the people cooing with delight over the event also support women’s right to have an abortion. But can someone please explain how a baby can be a source of such joy in one set of circumstances, yet be treated as something to be discarded as an inconvenience in another? I just don’t get it.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Spare us the sanctimonious hyperbole, Nancy

Leading US Democrat Nancy Pelosi says the Trump administration’s migrant family separation policy, now hastily rescinded, “leaves a dark stain on our nation”.

Well, perhaps it does. But against the broad sweep of history, it pales into insignificance against other stains on the American soul. American history is littered with episodes the nation would doubtless prefer to forget, most of them involving appalling mistreatment of vulnerable minorities.

There were massacres of Native Americans, of which Wounded Knee is the most infamous example. There was the Trail of Tears – the forced relocation of American Indian tribes from their ancestral homelands, which resulted in thousands of deaths from exposure, disease and starvation. There was slavery, and later the institutionalised oppression of the descendants of those slaves. There were mob lynchings of black Americans – too many to count, and often accompanied by acts of unimaginably sadistic cruelty. There was the Ku Klux Klan, whose brutal enforcement of white supremacy was often condoned and even encouraged by politicians. There was organised crime and corruption on a massive scale, its perpetrators secure in the knowledge that the people charged with enforcing the law could easily be bought off. In foreign affairs, the US government has repeatedly propped up repressive totalitarian regimes - another stain. And even on the battlefield there has been at least one act of unfathomable American savagery, the My Lai massacre.

America remains a fundamentally decent society, its people genuinely committed to doing the right thing. That’s apparent from the widespread revulsion at the forced separation of migrant children from their parents. But there’s something distasteful about Pelosi making political capital out of the migrant crisis and indulging in sanctimonious, hand-wringing hyperbole by calling it a dark stain on the nation, when she must know that far, far worse things have been done in and by America – many of them, moreover, perpetrated by Democratic Party governments.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Even Northland didn't want him, but now he's going to be our acting PM

(First published in the Dominion Post and on, June 14.)

So we’re going to have Winston Peters as our acting prime minister for six weeks. Not bad for a politician who was rejected by his own electorate at the last election after failing to complete a single term.

Not bad either for a politician whose party won only 7 per cent of the vote and which, judging by recent polls, would struggle to scrape back into Parliament if an election was held tomorrow. 

This is democracy New Zealand-style, in which the rewards – the baubles of office that Peters once insisted he wasn’t interested in – go not to a politician who commands broad public support, but to a crafty minor player who has learned how to game the system and manipulate the bigger parties.

We should all be ashamed at this travesty. But in the welter of media excitement over Jacinda Ardern’s impending motherhood, we’ve somehow overlooked the embarrassing fact that the most powerful office in the land is being placed in the hands of a politician with no popular mandate.

Perhaps we have short memories, so allow me to help. The Peters party lost three of its seats at the last election, including Peters’ own. Its share of the vote dropped from 8.6 per cent to 7.2 per cent – hardly a resounding endorsement.

We don’t know, and may never know, exactly what happened in the subsequent negotiations to form a coalition government, because the politicians prefer to keep all that stuff secret. Transparency? Pffft.

What we do know is that Peters largely controlled the process because his party’s puny share of the vote gave him the balance of power.

We also know now, although no one knew then, that on the day before the election, Peters had quietly instituted legal action against senior National Party figures over the alleged leaking of details about the overpayment of his national superannuation.

This made it highly improbable, to say the least, that he would agree to a coalition with National. But both major parties continued to negotiate with him in good faith, each believing it was in with an equal chance and each trying to outbid the other for his favour.

With the benefit of hindsight, the negotiations can be seen as a charade with only one likely outcome. Both major parties were played for suckers.

We eventually learned what Peters’ price was. Not only did he emerge as deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister, but four Cabinet seats were allocated to NZ First – twice the number it would have been entitled to if Cabinet appointments were proportionate with the party’s poll result.

Of course all these inconvenient details are swept under the carpet now, because they reflect badly on our flawed electoral system.

Rather than ask awkward questions about the murky circumstances in which the Labour-led coalition was formed, we’re expected to marvel at what a good job Peters is doing as foreign minister.

Well, of course he is. After all, it’s hardly the most taxing gig in the Cabinet. And who wouldn’t relish a job that involves hob-nobbing with world leaders in exotic locales?

It’s perhaps telling that his one serious misstep so far was his misplaced enthusiasm for a trade deal with Russia. I have a sneaking suspicion that Vladimir Putin is the type of leader Peters admires.

We’re also assured that Peters will do a great job as acting prime minister – but again, why wouldn’t he? He’s onto a good thing and he must know it. He probably considers it due reward for a long and tumultuous political career which now, please God, must be nearing its end.

But we should also remember that this is Winston Raymond Peters we’re talking about. And where Peters is involved, the potential for mayhem and debacle is never far away.

We’re encouraged to believe everything is hunky-dory in the coalition and that it will be business as usual – Ardern’s phrase – when Peters steps up. But only this week Peters humiliated Justice Minister Andrew Little by derailing Little’s plan to repeal the Three Strikes law.

He also provocatively re-activated the legal action over the leaking of his superannuation overpayment, in which one of the defendants is his Cabinet colleague David Parker as Attorney-General.

This is classic Peters. The timing could hardly have been accidental. He can’t help himself.

But I’m picking the real test of Peters’ new-found statesmanlike mantle will come when he has to deal with journalists. Almost alone among New Zealand politicians, Peters has never quite accepted that accountability to the public, via the media, goes with the territory.

Will he be able to suppress his natural antagonism toward journalists in his new role? The sheer improbability of it conjures up Dr Johnson's famous image of a dog walking on its hind legs. But it might be fun to watch.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

So it's true then - pop music HAS become boring

(First published in the Nelson Mail, the Manawatu Standard and

I did something last week that I almost never do. I watched an item on Seven Sharp.

This particular item had been previewed during an ad break in the 6 o’clock news and it aroused my interest. It asked the provocative question, has pop music got boring?

So I watched the item, and the answer reporter Tim Wilson gave was: Yes, it has.

Ah, so it’s not just me then.

Here I was wondering whether I was alone in harrumphing over the monotony of 21st century pop.

I had rebuked myself for doing what people have always done when they get to a certain age – namely, shake their heads at the incomprehensible tastes of the young. But here seemed to be at least partial confirmation of my view that pop music has become drearily predictable and insipid.

Wilson interviewed Auckland musician and arranger Godfrey de Grut, who lectures in popular music studies at the University of Auckland. De Grut comes with plenty of music industry cred, having worked with the likes of Che Fu, Brooke Fraser and Boh Runga.

Admittedly de Grut is no teenager, and neither is Wilson. But they’re a lot younger (and cooler) than I am, so I took heart from their assessment that mainstream pop music has become, in de Grut’s words, bland and homogeneous.

De Grut was able to explain in simple terms what it is about these songs that makes them l sound so similar. They use the same song structures and the same sterile technology. Often they’ve been crafted by the same songwriter. To me it all sounds pre-packaged and bloodless – the aural equivalent of junk food.

The Seven Sharp item seemed to confirm the impressions I’d formed on a recent car trip, when I couldn’t find any of the radio stations I usually favour and ended up listening to a pop station.

I started listening because there was nothing else available, but I stayed tuned out of curiosity and fascination at the sheer relentless sameness of the music.

Song after song followed the same pattern: simple, repetitive, almost childlike melodies – they reminded me of nursery rhymes – over an insistent, pulsing electronic beat.

It struck me as being fashionably gender-neutral. The voices were almost asexual, even androgynous, to the extent that it was sometimes hard to tell whether the singer was male or female.

I have no idea who the performers were, but I recognised the songs as being representative of a genre that’s heard everywhere in hotel lobbies, cafes and airport terminals. You can’t escape it, no matter how desperately you might want to.

It’s the same music that I’m forced to listen to when I’m put on hold while waiting to talk to my internet service provider/bank/insurance company/whatever. I assume it’s their way of persuading you to give up and leave them alone.

I even hear it if I wake early and tune into NewstalkZB’s Early Edition to get the first news of the day. For some reason there’s always a pop song playing behind the host when she comes back on air after the 5.30am bulletin.

Listening to this stuff, I find myself wondering whether pop music has exhausted itself and retreated to the same safe space it inhabited before rock and roll.

I’m just old enough to remember the dull, anodyne pop that emanated from radios before Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. It was the era of The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane by the Ames Brothers, Hot Diggity Dog Ziggity by Perry Como and How Much is that Doggie in the Window, by Patti Page. 

Rock and roll arrived in the nick of the time. If it wasn’t for Presley, Haley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, we would have succumbed to the stupefying effects of an obesity-inducing musical diet that consisted wholly of white bread, doughnuts and marshmallow.

With the advent of rock and roll, popular music acquired not only a raw energy but an edgy, almost menacing quality. At the moment I’m reading an excellent book called 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded, in which British writer Jon Savage analyses the culture and politics of that year through the prism of pop music.

By that time the epicentre of the pop world had shifted from America to London. It was the golden era of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks – bands that produced their own distinctive sounds and could never have been mistaken for each other, unlike today’s sound-alikes.

Savage’s book is also a reminder that the sullen, pouty, rebellious stance of bands like the Stones and the Who was seen as a potent threat to the conservative establishment.

It occurs to me that no one could take offence at today’s mainstream pop, other than on aesthetic grounds. Perhaps that’s its problem.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Comments update: they're working on it

In my last post I mentioned that I was no longer receiving email notifications of comments submitted to this blog. I thought I had fixed the problem, but no. Even the dozens of comments that I posted three days ago (after finding them languishing in my "awaiting moderation" folder) have disappeared. I now discover that the same problem has been experienced by other bloggers. Google says it's aware of the problem and is working on a fix.  Sigh.

Monday, June 4, 2018

To all those who wondered what happened to their comments, now you know

A friend alerted me yesterday to the fact that a comment she had tried to post on my blog hadn't appeared. How the blog normally works is that when someone submits a comment it comes to me as an email. I can then click "publish" or "delete" (normally the former, as it goes without saying that my blog typically attracts a superior grade of comment) and it duly appears (or disappears, as the case may be). But my friend's alert prompted me to check my blog settings, and in the course of rummaging around in the bowels of I discovered literally dozens of unpublished comments, some of which had been languishing there since early last year. None of them had come to me as emails, so I was unaware of their existence. On the basis of better late than never, and in a desperate attempt to keep faith with my blog readers, they have now belatedly been published. My sincere (and rather embarrassed) apologies to all those commenters who thought I'd snubbed them. I now know not to assume that I'll receive email notification of comments.

This merely goes to confirm my lack of digital savvy. If running a blog could be compared with driving a car, I'd be displaying an L-plate in my rear window.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

If there was a train across the Pacific, I'd take it

(First published in the Nelson Mail and on, May 30.)

God, how I loathe flying. Everything about it irritates me.

This realisation struck me forcefully as I sat in a crowded Sydney Airport waiting for a connecting flight home after a 14-hour trip from Los Angeles.

I like to think of myself as an amiable-enough sort of bloke most of the time, but when I’m travelling I become a cranky misanthrope. Cooped up in oppressively close proximity with my fellow human beings, I develop a strange aversion to them and become sharply aware of their quirks and foibles.

I find myself muttering under my breath at people who take too long at the check-in counter or try to stuff too much into the overhead baggage locker.

I harrumph over gimmicky, infantile in-flight safety videos that go on for far too long – I’m with Bob Jones here – and I bristle at bossy flight attendants, although most try to be personable and helpful.

I resent being bombarded with clutter – blankets, headphones, pillows, plastic cups – that there’s no room for, and I curse the ever-more rigorous airport security screening procedures.

Most of all I seethe when dopey or inconsiderate passengers hold everyone up. At LAX, hundreds of us sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half because someone had checked in their suitcases but failed to take their seat, which meant their bags had to be found and unloaded. 

I regard the modern airport as a vision of hell, the more so when I’m stuck in one for hours because my flight is held up, as it so often is. Delays are endemic in international travel, and airlines are very good at avoiding responsibility for the consequences. Just watch the ground staff magically disappear when there’s a departure lounge full of disgruntled travellers wondering where the hell their plane is.

Other airport irritants include scruffy backpackers – a 21st century global contagion – who spread themselves across several seats or sprawl across the floor, obstructing others. In my curmudgeonly state of mind I imagine many of them are travelling on round-the-world fares paid for by over-indulgent parents.

In Sydney I observed another phenomenon of modern travel: I was surrounded by zombies, all blankly fixated by their “devices” in what appeared to be a case of mass Facebook hypnosis. I’m not just talking about millennials here: “senior” women too were mesmerised by their phones and tablets. Not for the first time, I wondered what could be so riveting as to demand their total attention.

In the toilets, I had to listen to men noisily hoicking. Why do males apparently feel the need to do this when women don’t? And what is it about airport toilets that triggers this nauseating habit – or do these slobs do the same at home?

To get to the departure lounge, I had to pass through duty-free outlets where I was assailed by hucksters – polite, attractive hucksters, but hucksters nonetheless – trying to sell me perfume and liquor that I can buy cheaper elsewhere.

Fliers once had the option of bypassing duty-free. Now they have no choice. It’s a racket, pure and simple, but there was no shortage of buyers. Somehow the idea has been implanted in travellers’ heads that duty-free shopping is always cheaper than elsewhere. This has enabled airport companies and duty-free operators to enter a very lucrative conspiracy aimed at exploiting the gullible.

The flight from LAX to Sydney had been arduous, as long-haul air travel always is for me. Some people happily pass the time watching movies, but something strange happens to my brain when I board an aircraft. Though I rarely sleep, I lose all interest in watching movies or listening to music, and even reading palls after a time.

On this occasion I forced myself to watch a movie and chose to see Dunkirk for the second time – a dumb choice. All movies are greatly diminished on those tiny screens and tinny earphones, but Dunkirk – which depends heavily on its spectacular cinematography and sound effects – more than most.

The rest of the time I did what I invariably end up doing on long-haul flights: I gritted my teeth and imagined that by sheer force of will, I could somehow make the time pass more quickly. In the process I almost lost the will to live.

My wife and I had paid extra for exit-row seats, which at least meant I could stretch out. I don’t think I could have lasted the flight squeezed into a standard seat, which these days seems designed for people with the bodies of teenage Olympic gymnasts.

At least I’m relatively thin. How large people manage is beyond me, to say nothing of the miserable wretches who have to sit beside them. And how the hell do obese passengers get on in the aircraft dunnies, where there’s barely enough room even for people of normal size?

I recently read that airlines earn nearly one-third of their revenue from the 5 percent of passengers who fly business class, which kind of puts everything in perspective. Corporate travellers and the rich must be kept happy – the rest of us not so much.

What it all boils down to is this: airlines have made flying a whole lot cheaper by packing more and more people in, but there’s a trade-off in terms of comfort and enjoyment. Only a mug could believe that flying is still the pleasurable and exotic experience that it once was.

It has become an ordeal, pure and simple. If I could take a train across the Pacific I’d do it, even if the trip took a week.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Male, pale and stale - a despised minority

(First published in The Dominion Post and on, May 31.)

I am writing this column as a member of a despised minority. I will be 68 next birthday. I’m fair of skin and male of sex.

To put it another way, in the language of “progressive” millennials and people who, with no sense of irony, describe themselves as liberals, I’m male, pale and stale. 

There is no more crushing condemnation in the 21st century political lexicon. To be male, pale and stale is to be racist, sexist, bitter and selfish. Don Brash and Sir Bob Jones are prime examples of this wretched form of humanity. I am too, albeit of a lower order of celebrity.

It goes without saying that I can’t help being old. I can no more control the ageing process than I could dance the prima ballerina’s role in Swan Lake. Neither did I have any say over my ethnicity or sex.

Perhaps if I’d been born six decades later I might have been encouraged to decide for myself what gender I wanted to assume and to alter my sexual identity at will, regardless of physiology. But I’ve been a bloke all my life and it’s a bit hard to re-invent myself at this point in my life cycle.

Having said that, I’ve been happy being a male and never felt any desire to have it any other way. Nor have I felt ashamed about it, which is not to say I’m not regularly appalled by the behaviour of some of my fellow blokes.

Moreover, I don’t hate or fear women and have never felt that I was in competition with them, still less perceived them as a threat. So I’m not sure that I deserve the implied accusation that men like me are by definition misogynistic.

The women who have been closest to me throughout my life have been stroppy and strong-willed. If I preferred women to be submissive, I’ve been either desperately unlucky or spectacularly unwise.

But never mind all that. I’m stuck with being a bloke, just as I’m stuck with my skin colour and my inexorably advancing age. Yet I, and others like me, now find ourselves regularly being pilloried for having the temerity to express an opinion about things. It seems we’re expected to shut up.

Let’s unpick that phrase “male, pale and stale”. The first thing you notice is that it explicitly criticises people on the basis of their skin colour.

Ah, but that’s okay, because we’re white. And as I heard a moronic talkback host assert recently, only minority groups – i.e. non-whites – can be subject to racism.

You can forget all that warm, inclusive talk on the Left about celebrating diversity. The embrace of diversity mysteriously stops short of ageing white blokes. We’re the one demographic cohort against whom it’s permissible – in fact fashionable – to display undisguised and often venomous bigotry.

In any other context, attacking people on the basis of their age, sex and skin colour would be labelled a hate crime, but no one should expect the Human Rights Commission to take up our cause.

Being white and male, we are seen as being in a position of power and therefore unscathed by discrimination and immune to insult. And if we are discriminated against, we’re expected to suck it up because … well, because we deserve it.

Ageing white males are considered fair game because we’re seen as having enjoyed privilege for too long. Now the tables have turned and we’re expected to pay the penalty by keeping our supposedly rancid opinions to ourselves. 

This treats freedom of expression as a zero-sum game where one person’s right to speak can only be achieved by silencing someone else. But that’s not how free speech works.

In any case, if white males dominated newspaper opinion columns in past decades, as has been alleged, then any imbalance has been more than redressed. The media today is awash with comment that uncritically embraces the “progressive” agenda (there’s another word that’s used with no sense of irony) and sneers at anyone who stands in its path.

Am I pleading for sympathy here? Not a bit. We curmudgeonly tuataras can look after ourselves. All I’m doing is highlighting the double standards of social justice warriors who shriek with outrage at any perceived slight against a favoured minority group, but pile in for the attack when it’s an old white bloke who’s on the ground getting kicked.

One last thought. Today’s angry social justice warrior has a funny way of turning into tomorrow’s crusty reactionary.

One day the people who rant about ageing white men will themselves become old, and they can’t discount the hideous possibility that they too will morph into conservative dinosaurs, because by then they might have learned a few things about life, politics and the human condition.