Speech I gave to the CTU conference yesterday
Speech to the CTU conference, 18th August 2011 with Dr Jon Johansson, Helen Kelly and Sean Plunkett
Dr Jon, comrades, brothers and sisters, Kia Ora.
In a culture of individual uber allas, solidarity is a foreign concept. Hyper consumerism supported by mass marketing of neurosis has conditioned individuals not to think of themselves as citizens but as consumers.
In such a flimsy pyramid scheme of aspirational identity, no one wants to identify as a worker or as working class, or God forbid that most archaic relic of dusty yesteryear, a unionized working class. In a citizen as consumer cultural paradigm, everyone thinks they are a future millionaire, and so unconsciously protect the wealthy from higher taxes as the NZ dream is to be as rich as Sam Morgan and not pay any tax at all. John Keys rag to riches myth is the piece of aspirational cheese slightly out of reach of the rat forever chasing it on the mouse wheel. I say myth because Key's welfare was 1960s gold plated, welfare in 2011 is shit encrusted.
In such a cultural landscape how do Unions strive to be anything more than service providers for those who sign up? The poverty that drove the social agitation that demanded social justice has been replaced with debt that enslaves and pacifies. Without the social justice fights of old, how do Unions become anything more than a glorified fly buys membership program!
Luckily for the Union movement, events will provide the catalyst. Global capitalism is collapsing upon itself as rabid free market forces fueled by corporate greed and venal business ethics create a unique crises of capitalism in the same way the 1929 stock market collapse was a unique crises of capitalism. It wasn't until the mid to late 1930's that the full social ramifications of the 1929 collapse was felt by the man and woman in the street. Our collapse occurred in 2008 suggesting we are barely through this market correction, those green shoots of recovery are really the dried snot of recession. What Adam Smiths invisible hand givith during the boom, it muggeth during the recession, and NZers will be forced to reconsider themselves as citizens when they stop being able to afford being consumers.
As the rich list shows the most wealthy increased their wealth by another 7billion dollars, The sense of wounded injustice for those who are waged, struggling to cope with the rising standard of living creates the environment ripe for not only recreational rioting, but union membership as well. How many public servants or wage workers were on the phone to their wall st stockbroker in 2008 buying lite crude in Euros and speculating on the Goldman Sachs derivatives market?
In the Words of Scribe, not many if any.
Why those who work for a living are asked to do with less in conditions because of a global economic recession they had no hand in making is a quite anger yet to be tapped by any group.
In such a cultural landscape, how do the Unions fight the perception battle via the media? The first thing the Unions have to accept is that the mainstream media are horrifically compromised in their adoration and love affair with John Key, it's our first official cult of no personality.
John Armstrong from the Herald may as well announce he is the National Party's campaign manager so slobbering was his recent column on the National Party book burning ceremony that passes as a conference. The mainstream media are so biased towards Key, he could eat a kitten live on Close Up, and the NZ Herald editorial would blame the kitten for being delicious.
The long slow embraces with our Optimist Prime that pass for interviews in this media environment mean the Union movement and their concerns for social equality will get as much fair and balanced reporting as Fox News currently gives.
The manufactured crises at The Hobbit was our most recent joke masquerading as news. You would need to go back to the Waterfront strike to see the same type of hysterical union bashing in the mainstream media. The Union movement has to remind itself that after nearly a decade of benign Government and media that the media and political landscape have changed in a very, very, very negative manner, social media networks are a way to communicate directly with your members, but when it comes to the mainstream, you have simply got to become more aggressive and tap that slow anger building for the wider political goals you want to achieve.
Adopting more Milton Friedman, low tax, deregulation, free market dogma domestically to counter a global economic recession cause by that very same Milton Friedman, low tax, deregulation dogma is the very definition of insanity, the Union movement have never had so such ammunition handed to them on a plate.
The question is whether you will use it.