“Now is the time for everyone who thinks of themselves as progressive – I’m looking at you @CitizenBomber – to stop these constant attacks on “wokeness” and focus on the real enemy of progress”
…. So read the tweet by NZME columnist Simon Wilson, who clearly views a moratorium on any criticism of the ‘woke’ as being key to a 3rd term for our Labour-led government.
Originally presented as a challenge to Left-wing critic of the woke, Martin ‘Bomber’ Bradbury on his ‘The Working Group’ podcast, it shows us where Wilson’s loyalties lie, which are clearly not with the working poor. If they were he’d be telling the apostles of this anti-enlightenment movement, popular chiefly among rich whites – a movement closer to the far-Right in its dismissal of universalism, militant identitarianism, and fervent support of censorship – to STFU, surely?
Now, I pick on Simon Wilson quite a bit, and unfortunately, this trend continues in this piece. I don’t consider Wilson a terrible person, nor do I want his e-scooter to malfunction as he’s rocketing down College Hill. I am without doubt he’s a sweet man, and clearly conviction driven, who sincerely wants the very best for this country. My beef is he’s simply not on the Left. So, the following critique isn’t a question of his character, but is rather a pretext to a loftier question:
Can one be too privileged to be on the Left?
Because Simon’s tweet goes a fair way to making the case that you indeed can be.
While an individual raised working poor like me wants the organised Left to retreat from ‘wokism’, so they can inspire and recapture the underclass, Wilson wants class-based Leftists, such as Bomber and presumably I, to retreat from criticism of wealthy, poncey brats who simply don’t need Leftism. If they did, they wouldn’t have gone all in on a movement promoted expressly (post the organised Left’s embrace of neo-liberal economics) to undermine class struggle, and to restock the Left’s base with university graduates and wankers from the managerial class.
Wilson has long espoused alt-Left talking points, many of which are feverishly anti-poor. He’s written newspaper columns celebrating price-hikes for inner-city car parks, without even a nod as to how crushing they would be for working parents, many of whom are forced to duck out of employment to manage their children at school’s end. These people simply can’t make use of public transport, Simon, even if this public transport was to run consistently.
He’s had a good chuckle with fellow bourgeois commentator (of which we have no shortage) Moana Maniapoto about the plight of poor white men, oblivious to the deeply conservative subtext of ‘white privilege’ (another gift bestowed upon us by the woke). According to this charmer of a doctrine, if you are white and poor there really is no excuse, because you’re white, and so shouldn’t expect sympathy. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and just stop being bloody poor and unhappy, will you?! Like so many wokisms, this is reheated conservativism. That’s the generous interpretation. Heartless snobbery is probably better. And should we be surprised? The supporters of this upper-class twittery are natural conservatives and would run their day-to-day affairs and businesses in a way that would probably make Don Brash blush. Their open contempt for the poor is crystal in the central drive of this political project: to concentrate cultural, and all other power within their class. It is also a movement strong on etiquette and will violently expel those who don’t comply with their form of ‘manners’. It has more in common with the mores of Victorian-era aristocracy than anything vaguely Left wing.
And yet, the deal we are being othered by Wilson is to shut up and let this group continue to mangle our political movement beyond recognition because if we don’t, we won’t get a government that ignores the working poor anyhow.
Where do I sign up?
Here’s a thought: instead of asking those committed to class struggle to shut up, why not ask the woke to clam it? Who has the more pressing issues, Simon?
All this begs the question: Can one be too comfortable to be on the Left? After crossing a wealth threshold, will you only start doing damage to the poor if you stick around?
George Orwell spoke of the chasm between the champagne socialist and the coal miner in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ and, middle class himself, wrestled with this split. But at least there was an attempt to understand the poor by Orwell – his cosplaying of the destitute recorded in ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, and his foregoing of material comfort to join the fight against fascism in Spain. But we see none of this self-reflection or acknowledgment from so many alleged Left-wing commentators today. The gulf between their lifestyles and a family that has been crammed into a hotel room for the last 5 years is just unable to be bridged.
They will tell us that their form of ‘progress’ means new voices taking the microphone and that this is what makes their political enemies hostile to how they roll. But I see the exact same people in control, who have always been in control – monied individuals who view control of others as a right. I mean, where is the newly anointed working-class commentator? Where is the working-class contributor or column in NZME? The so-called change, this progress, is performative. To quote from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s ‘The Leopard’, a saga about the family of a regional Prince coming to terms with the unification of Italy, “Things must change in order that they stay the same”. Woke politics doesn’t threaten the assets of the wealth class, nor does it trouble corporations. If it did, it wouldn’t be embraced by this class. Simple. Class struggle does, which is why we’re constantly told to put a sock in it.
Actually, Simon, it’s well past time that the obnoxious, rich kids currently boring us all the death were told to pipe down, and the working poor were finally given a chance to speak up. Because a Leftism that silences the poor, while rolling the red carpet out for privileged brats isn’t worth saving. We’d be better off letting this abomination die, so we can start to build the movement again, from the grassroots up.