Jacinda Ardern: This is what leadership looks like, apparently.
The present revival of Jacindamania disregards that she has been running a false narrative about the Christchurch terrorist attack. But she's not the only one. Green MP's Golriz Ghahraman and Marama Davidson have been using the Christchurch attack to promote an anti-racism of the one percent.

RUNNING CONCURRENTLY with the grief surrounding the fatal shootings of fifty people by a white nationalist killer has been the attempt to sanctify Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The very same people who have cautioned that the Christchurch massacre should not be used for political advantage are the very same people busily promoting Saint Jacinda. The revival of Jacindamania, again based on little more than appearance and rhetoric, has cultimated in calls for her to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She could be a contender. After all, Barack Obama won the prize despite the fact he championed the use of drone strikes on Syria, Iraq,  Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. That's seven Muslim-majority countries.

The local media always goes into overdrive when New Zealand gets good coverage in the international media so, unsurprisingly, it has glowingly reported that Ardern has been lauded by the New York Times. But a closer reading reveals this has been mostly because her government has acted swiftly to ban military style semi-automatics and assault rifles. Despite the fact that New Zealand's gun laws have remained largely the same since 1992, its little wonder that the New York Times has cast an envious eye this way now, given that both the Republican and Democratic parties in that newspaper's own country are in the pockets of the powerful gun lobby.

But the potential 'ennobling' of Jacinda Ardern isn't based on the changes in gun legislation but because she has, in the words of one commentator, displayed 'calmness, compassion and empathy' at a time when the country needed it. It seems to me though that she has simply been praised for just doing her job. Out of interest I trawled back through the archives to find two other recent political leaders praised for their leadership through a time of crisis. Both Prime Minister John Key and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker were lauded by the media for providing comfort and certainty during the dark days and weeks that followed the devastating Christchurch quake of 2011.

But in displaying her 'calmness, compassion and empathy', Jacinda Ardern has provided what is a false narrative. In her very first response to the Christchurch terrorist attack she said:

Ghahraman and Davidson: The left wing of neoliberalism. 
"We were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things."

While a largely uncritical local media and her followers  lapped this up, it isn't actually true. It is only true if we are prepared to deny New Zealand's history as a white settler colonial society. It is only true if we are prepared to deny that the local Muslim community has been under surveillance from state agencies for years. It is only true if we deny that the Muslim community has often found itself the target of regular attacks from the local media.

It also means denying, or at least turning a blind eye to, the fact that Jacinda Ardern went into coalition with the nationalistic and xenophobic New Zealand First. In 2005 its leader, Winston Peters, declared that New Zealand had never been a nation of Islamic immigrants and suggested moderate Muslims were operating "hand in glove" with extremists. But what's a little past anti-Muslim rhetoric between coalition partners now? Or so we are told.

The 'this is not us' hashtag has been unhelpful not only because its untrue but also because it seeks to depoliticise what is an inherently political issue with banal calls for 'love' and 'unity' and 'community resilience' and the like. I'm sure that Dave Dobbyn could be writing a song right now called 'This is Not Us' , to be recorded with a bunch of well-known New Zealand artists. It'll be a kind of 'We Are The World' moment for the country and would be about as meaningful as women wearing headscarves in 'solidarity' with the Muslim community.

Its this kind of banality that sees someone like Martyn Bradbury of The Daily Blog posting a picture of Jacinda Ardern in a hijab and insisting that this is compelling evidence of what 'leadership looks like.' As NZ Fightback has observed, this is the same Martyn Bradbury who two years ago wrote that “The impact of the Asian-NZ population tripling in the space of 20 years and overtaking Maori has political, economic and cultural ramifications that haven’t been discussed yet it’s a debate that is already running.”

This is the politics of those who think racism and xenophobia can be fought within our present social and economic arrangements. This is the politics being pushed by the Green MP's Golriz Ghahraman and Marama Davidson who have no real explanation for  the origins of the racism and xenophobia they protest about,  but combine that protest with a whole lot of moral posturing and some attacks on those who don't share their narrow views.
Adolph Reed: Racism and white supremacy are part of capitalism.

They would certainly not agree with someone like Martin Luther King, who argued that racism and capitalism are inextricably linked and that America had to 'move toward a democratic socialism'.

As Adolph Reed, Professor of Politics at the University of Pennsylvania, has observed, arbitrarily fencing racism off from our political and economic structures means that 'racism and white supremacy are represented as capable of making things happen in the world independently, i.e. magically.' In other words, capitalism is not responsible for any of it. He observes:

"Identity politics is not an alternative to class politics; it is a class politics, the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism. It is the expression and active agency of a political order and moral economy in which capitalist market forces are treated as unassailable nature.'

Reed argues, in his essay 'The Limits of Anti-Racism',  that identity politics provides neoliberal ideology with superficially progressive window dressing.

The two Green MP's are using the Christchurch terrorist attack to push an anti racism of the one percent that completely rationalises neoliberalism. While it might provide a convenient ideological cover for establishment politicians like Ghahraman and Davidson, we should not be fooled into believing that what they are saying is 'progressive'. The eagerness of the two Green MP's to identify racism as the problem in order that anti-racism can be the solution, takes an anti capitalist and class politics right off the table. We can't allow that to happen.


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