Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Getting away from it all (well, almost)

My wife and I have been on a two-week journey of rediscovery around the South Island/Te Wai Pounamu.

I say rediscovery because none of the places we visited were new to us, though it was a few years since we’d been to some of them and I was curious to see whether they’d changed and if so, whether the changes were for the better.

We took our time, which meant we were able to detour to places of interest that we’d skipped before – for example, the memorial at the scene of the seven fatal shootings perpetrated by Stanley Graham in 1941 at Kowhitirangi, near Hokitika, and the Hokitika Gorge, which is conveniently located at the end of the same road.

Mist hung low over the bush-clad Doughboy Hill where the manhunt for Graham was centred, creating a suitably spooky atmosphere. Graham was dropped by a single shot from a police rifle as he emerged from cover. He died in Hokitika Hospital.

The memorial, erected in 2008, stands in front of the site of Graham’s home, where the mayhem started when the police tried to confiscate his rifles. The house was deliberately burned down soon after the event but the district hall, where the manhunt was based, still stands across the road and the sleepy farming district is little changed from when Graham (who is buried in the Hokitika cemetery under a headstone that simply says “Stanley”) went on his rampage*.

A much longer detour took us to Jackson Bay, which is as far as you can drive on the West Coast. We had lunch at the Cray Pot, a cafĂ© that operates out of a shipping container on the water’s edge. I ordered whitebait and my wife had blue cod and chips, two dishes that travel writers would probably describe as iconic in this part of the world.

The West Coast towns presented a mixed picture. Some that we might have expected to be on their last legs – Reefton and Hokitika, for example – gave the impression of thriving, or at least doing okay. Both make the most of their colourful histories and are lively little places with loads of character.

Greymouth, on the other hand, was a dismal sight.  It looked drab, tired and in desperate need of resuscitation. Whatever elixir Reefton and Hokitika have ingested, Greymouth could do with some of it.

Franz Josef seemed to be holding on, but barely. The revival of international tourism can’t come too soon for towns full of motels displaying vacancy signs.

On the eastern side of the Haast Pass, it was a very different story. The Lakes District, encompassing Wanaka and Queenstown, is an area of rampant, runaway growth. I was staggered by the extent of the Five Mile development near Queenstown, very little of which existed the last time I was there only seven years ago.

Sadly but perhaps inevitably, developers appear to have done their best to eradicate any trace of New Zealandness around Queenstown. If you didn’t occasionally glance up at the Remarkables or Coronet Peak, you could be in almost any congested international resort town.

Te Anau was much more to our liking. There’s been a lot of growth there too, but the town is essentially unchanged. Long may it remain that way.

Our homeward leg took us through Dunedin (looking rundown, but still full of appealing southern character), Timaru (deathly quiet on a Thursday morning) and Christchurch (also eerily quiet in the CBD and still not fully recovered from the earthquakes, but with several funky eating and drinking precincts that were humming on a Friday night).  

What else to report? For one thing, mile after mile after mile of jaw-droppingly scenic roads that were mostly empty (great for drivers, not so good for the tourist trade). Oh, and bikes everywhere. There’s a new demographic cohort that I call oobs: oldies on bikes. Every second vehicle had a bike rack on the back or the roof and I’d hazard a guess that the owners were rediscovering the pleasure of cycling after a break of several decades. Most of the bikes were battery-assisted and their riders were accessoried up the wazoo (whatever that expression might mean).

Of course, one other great benefit of being on the road for a couple of weeks is that you can delude yourself that you’re insulated against all the vexatious things that confront you at home. But even on holiday you can’t completely escape the culture wars.

To take one tiny example, I heard RNZ’s early-morning host Nathan Rarere, whom I normally quite like (a statement that could be the kiss of death to his career), sneering at the use of the word “woke”. According to Rarere, “woke” has taken over where the phrase “political correctness gone mad” left off.  In other words, anyone using the term can safely be derided as just another angry old man shouting at clouds.

I happen to agree that “woke” is a wholly inadequate word for the wide range of noxious and divisive neo-Marxist ideologies that it seeks to capture, but until someone comes up with something better we’re stuck with it.

More to the point, it’s a classic tactic of the new Left, having vigorously (and so far, with media backing, very successfully) pushed ideas and policies that many New Zealanders find fundamentally repugnant, to then ridicule their opponents for adopting terminology – whatever terminology that might be – which attempts to alert people to the reality of what’s happening.

Language is central in the culture wars and if you invalidate the words that enable people to articulate their concerns, you strip them of an essential weapon. By characterising users of terms such as “woke” and “political correctness” as alarmist, out of touch and jumping at their own shadows, the neo-Marxist Left seeks to minimise the implications of its radical agenda. The perception that New Zealand democracy is being systematically dismantled as part of a grand ideological project can then be presented as a figment of fevered right-wing imaginations.

Conservative New Zealanders tend to be reticent at the best of times, and are even more likely to keep their views to themselves if they fear being ridiculed for using the wrong words. Some of these people may even listen to RNZ in the quaint misbelief that it exists for all New Zealanders. Does Nathan Rarere realise this? I’m sure he does.

*Manhunt: The Story of Stanley Graham, by Howard Willis (published in 1979) is an excellent account of the tragedy.











Zoroforever said...

Good to see you're back Jarl and poised over your keyboard ready to execute more great articles.
I must say I always enjoy your ability to observe the world around you and make a well judged comment.
Keep it up.
Rowen Greatbatch

David McLoughlin said...

By characterising users of terms such as “woke” and “political correctness” as out of touch and jumping at their own shadows, the neo-Marxist Left seeks to minimise the implications of its radical agenda.

The term "woke" came out of African-American English in the US last century, possibly pre-dating WWII, and initially was similar to "awake" or "awoken" or "woken," and meant someone was awake to racial prejudice. It gradually entered the wider English language from about 2010 and is IMO a handy word, as like PC, everyone knows what it means.

As for "politically correct," I have always been proudly politically correct. I supported and support equality and respect for women, racial minorities, gays and lesbians and people of all religions and none. I marched against the Springbok tour and took court cases in support of refugees. I have good friends of many nationalities, ethnicities and religions, including friends who are gay men, lesbians and transgender women.

But because I also support freedom of expression and its related freedoms -- something people from the Left like me have long supported -- I am certainly not woke. The woke might be from the Left but if they have one dominant feature, it is their opposition to any views other than what they deem allowed, and their determination by the power of the (Twitter) mob to silence such views.

I will of course always support the freedom of the woke to oppose my freedoms including my freedom of expression, but, mein gott, I will damn well fight until my last breath for those freedoms.

David George said...

The denigration of terminology (as per this Rarer character) is a deliperate ploy, a weapon against the user.

Yoram Hazoay has it sussed. Part of his excellent essay The Challenge of Marxism:

"Anti-Marxist liberals have labored under numerous disadvantages in the recent struggles to maintain control of liberal organizations. One is that they are often not confident they can use the term “Marxist” in good faith to describe those seeking to overthrow them. This is because their tormentors do not follow the precedent of the Communist Party, the Nazis, and various other political movements that branded themselves using a particular party name and issued an explicit manifesto to define it. Instead, they disorient their opponents by referring to their beliefs with a shifting vocabulary of terms, including “the Left,” “Progressivism,” “Social Justice,” “Anti-Racism,” “Anti-Fascism,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Identity Politics,” “Political Correctness,” “Wokeness,” and more. When liberals try to use these terms they often find themselves deplored for not using them correctly, and this itself becomes a weapon in the hands of those who wish to humiliate and ultimately destroy them."


Anonymous said...

I for one dislike the term woke. While it might get the general gist of some of the idiocy we are around, it is lacking as a reply to the idiocy. Far better to unpack the flaws in logic of many ideas that are spouted,i.e. rather than calling supporters of Three Waters woke, outline the fallacies of argument or premises inherent in these propositions. That might make for a more persuasive response thst might, just might, make others understand your viewpoint. Resorting to woke seems an ineffective response and hardly encourages debate.

Anonymous said...

Name-calling the enemy has always been a central component of the left's toolkit. They hate it when it's used against them.

Richard said...

You can discover a lot about a radio host by the feedback they get, or at least the feedback they tell you about.
At the end of his hour, Rarere often relates two or three feedback messages he has received over the hour. It is inevitably supportive of Labour and/or dismissive of National/Act.
Were I Rarere I might wonder why all the feedback I get is from the Left. Do I have a diverse audience ? Why not ?
And why do I use Pam Corkery as my Australian correspondent ?

pdm said...

Interesting Karl. Ngaire and I did the West Coast late April/early May last year. We thought Hokitika was the opposite to how you described it plus could not find a motel with vacancies so went on to Greymouth which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Closest we got to Reefton was Westport or Inangahua on our way to Collingwood.

Stayed at Fox Glacier and ran into possibly the most friendly if somewhat eccentric motellier ever and his Black Labrador. Highly recommended just a couple of doors from what was the Tourist Corporation Hotel which was closed due to Covid.

Trev1 said...

Welcome back and thanks for a very interesting account of things in the South. But there's no rest for the wicked! We live in very perilous times, both externally and domestically where Ardern is vigorously promoting racial separatism and Maori supremacism. Nationalistic evil in the streets of Bucha, Ukraine, also stalks the meeting rooms of the Rotorua and Lakes Council it seems. As Tamati Coffey might say, quoting Bob Dylan, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Simon Cohen said...

You may be interested to know Karl that the Craypot at Jacksons Bay was not in its previous life a shipping container but a piecart in Timaru .

Karl du Fresne said...

Obviously I didn't look closely enough. I was focused on my whitebait.

Tinman said...

It's strange how things stick in one's mind.

I associate Jacksons with the worst cup of coffee I've ever encountered, Hokitika with the best.

Greymouth has always been the depressing spot best driven past on a trip up/down the picturesque West Coast.

I lived there for a short time and can confirm that impression.

Nowdays I stop at Hokitika and Westport and always meet friendly people.

Further South places like Bruce Bay have been completely destroyed by halfwits determined to make enjoying New Zealand's natural beauty without strenuous exercise impossible.

Don Franks said...

Interesting to learn here the origin of "woke. It has since gathered a new layer of meaning and I think is becoming just another lazy term of abuse. I've never liked 'politically correct'. It makes it sound as if there is one eternal truth. What's considered 'politically correct' has varied considerably over centuries and cultures and depends very much on where you're socially placed.

R Singers said...

I'd argue that the "woke" in NZ aren't neo-Marxists. Any shade of Marxist is going to recognize a class struggle, let alone one that is being live streamed by all major media outlets live from our seat of democracy.

The "woke" are exactly what Sir Lloyd Geering warned about in the late '60s. They're secular Calvinists.

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting point about terminology and the left. In 2022 to demand equal treatment regardless of ethnicity is "racist", and to treat people differently based on race is to embrace equality. Equality is racism and racism is equality. If the left can so thoroughly confound the basic terms it makes common sense discussions very hard to have and opens the door to all kinds of madness.

Hiko said...

George Orwell wrote about all this all those years ago and here we are

Trev1 said...

Everyone knows what Woke means these days. It includes indoctrination of children on gender ideology, the promotion of racism as a replacement for democracy, and shutting down free speech. We faced a similar challenge 80 years ago in Europe and the Pacific and we won, narrowly.

David George said...

"the "woke" in NZ aren't neo-Marxistst's"
It's sometimes hard to pin down what they are exactly, R Singers, that article I linked above covers the definition dilemma nicely. He decided, in the end, to stick with "Marxist":

"The best way to escape this trap is to recognize the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism for what it is: an updated version of Marxism. I do not say this to disparage anyone. I say this because it is true. And because recognizing this truth will help us understand what we are facing.

The new Marxists do not use the technical jargon that was devised by 19th-century Communists. They don’t talk about the bourgeoisie, proletariat, class struggle, alienation of labor, commodity fetishism, and the rest, and in fact they have developed their own jargon tailored to present circumstances in America, Britain, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, their politics are based on Marx’s framework for critiquing liberalism (what Marx calls the “ideology of the bourgeoisie”) and overthrowing it. We can describe Marx’s political framework as follows:"
He goes on to describe the Marxist critique, it's attractions and fatal flaws and ends with a chilling warning:

"I know that many liberals are confused, and that they still suppose there are various alternatives before them. But it isn’t true. At this point, most of the alternatives that existed a few years ago are gone. Liberals will have to choose between two alternatives: either they will submit to the Marxists, and help them bring democracy in America to an end. Or they will assemble a pro-democracy alliance with conservatives. There aren’t any other choices."

Tom Hunter said...

By characterising users of terms such as “woke” and “political correctness” as out of touch and jumping at their own shadows, the neo-Marxist Left seeks to minimise the implications of its radical agenda.

Heh. Over on Chris Trotter's Bowalley Road blog there have been numerous attempts by his commentators to pull that stunt, of which the following is a classic that fits Karl's description of the tactic to a tee:

And anything but "woke" a word which if used by anyone but a black teenager makes the user look stupid.

What this response tells us is that a word that the Far Left were immensely proud of quite recently - because it sounded hip, cool and was the perfect attack word for their ideological enemies as being old, square conservatives out of touch with the real world (and yada, yada, yada) - has now turned into something toxic that's hurting the cause because of the shit being pulled under the title.

The result is that it's time to backpedal away from the term, and the more their enemies use it as a rebounding attack word the harder they fight to pretend that it's meaningless or even created by the Right. Sort of like all those US "Progressives" who rapidly re-branded themselves as "Liberal" in the wake of the horrific Presidency of Progressive Woodrow Wilson.

But there are honest Lefties who are not letting them off the hook on this crap, or on CRT. Like US comedian and political/cultural commentator Bill Maher. As a pot-smoking, childless, libertine he's no friend of the Right, but when the latest youthful hero of the US Left, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, pulled the same stunt on old-time Democrat, James Carville, Maher did not hold back:

What?!' Maher said, reacting to Ocasio-Cortez's criticism of Carville.

'This is a term folks like you brought out very recently, had been proudly displaying it every march since.

'Just last year, The Guardian declared "woke" the "word of our era."

'I guess they didn't get the memo from the Mean Girls Club.'

'What a great strategy, never missing an opportunity to remind voters how lame and clueless and hopelessly uncool they are, especially since those are the ones who actually vote.

'But OK, fine. What word would you like us to use for the plainly insane excesses of the left that are not liberalism but something completely different?

'Because you can't have that word "liberal" from us and think it should cover things like canceling Lincoln.

'And teaching third-graders they're oppressors. That's all your new-think.'

Heh. The Mean Girls Club. Perfect description actually.

Hiko said...

David George
Thank you for your clear summing up of the problem before us
Closet Marxism

David George said...

Thank you Hiko but credit where it's due: https://quillette.com/2020/08/16/the-challenge-of-marxism/

Andrew Sullivan:
"Claims to truth are merely claims to power. That’s what people are asked to become “awake” to: that liberalism is a lie. As are its purported values. Free speech is therefore not always a way to figure out the truth; it is just another way in which power is exercised — to harm the marginalized. The idea that a theory can be proven or disproven by the empirical process is itself a white supremacist argument, denying the “lived experience” of members of identity groups that is definitionally true, whatever the “objective” facts say. And our minds and souls and institutions have been so marinated in white supremacist culture for so long, critical theorists argue, that the system can only be dismantled rather than reformed. The West’s idea of individual freedom — the very foundation of the American experiment — is, in their view, a way merely to ensure the permanent slavery of the non-white.........
Critical theory is therefore always the cuckoo in the academic nest. Over time, it throws out its competitors — and not in open free debate. It does so by ending that debate, by insisting that the liberal “reasonable person” standard of debate is, in fact, rigged in favor of the oppressors, that speech is a form of harm, even violent harm, rather than a way to seek the truth. It insists that what matters is the identity of the participants in a debate, not the arguments themselves."

David George said...

The Bowalley Road commentators Tom? Gee there's some cases there - one in particular is a complete psychopath - unreasonable, unstable and vindictive. It's like the cloak of compassion is a cover that excuses the worst. Reminds me of the Tarantula poem from Fredrick Nietzsche:

"The tarantulas, of course, would have it otherwise. “What justice means to us is precisely that the world be filled with the storms of our revenge”—thus they speak to each other. “We shall wreak vengeance and abuse on all whose equals we are not”—thus do the tarantula-hearts vow. “And ‘will to equality’ shall henceforth be the name for virtue; and against all that has power we want to raise our clamor!”

You preachers of equality, the tyrannomania of impotence clamors thus out of you for equality: your most secret ambitions to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue. Aggrieved conceit, repressed envy—perhaps the conceit and envy of your fathers—erupt from you as a flame and as the frenzy of revenge."

Full reading by Jordan Peterson: https://youtu.be/yG99nHY8IK4

Stuart Havill said...

Hope you enjoyed your visit to Kowhitirangi and the scenic Hokitika Gorge. Many a day as a youngster spent playing hide and seek in gorge when it was just the 1 swing bridge, and carparking for 3.

Stuart Havill said...

The BBC made a movie in the 80's called Bad Blood. All shot on scene on a road 1km being where the real events took place. All the locals played extras, including my father who was at primary school across from the Graham house when the police first turned up to take the guns (for the war effort). All turned pear shaped after that.

Anonymous said...

My definition of woke is someone who is recently aware of a perceived or real injustice and is painfully trying to outrage everyone around them with their limited knowledge of it. Or they are bending over backwards to treat this group as extra special. Terry Brosnahan Country-Wide magazine