Saturday, April 13

For the self-loathing Left, charity definitely does not begin at home

George Galloway’s stunning victory in Rochdale, Britain, has provoked a sharp response from leftists whose primary analytical focus remains socio-economic. Galloway turned the by-election into a referendum on the two main British political parties’ stance on the war in Gaza. Successfully exploiting the fact that 30 percent of the Rochdale electorate (located on the periphery of Greater Manchester) is Muslim, Galloway secured 40 percent of the votes cast. 

A minority of leftist commentators lamented the fact that the immediate needs of the working-class people of Rochdale had been superseded by the needs of the Palestinians. Galloway’s win has, however, been hailed as a triumph by the sort of leftist who no longer sees white workers as a progressive force. For those who do, Rochdale isn’t worth celebrating.

Too harsh? Not at all. Galloway’s victory will make not one whit of difference to the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza. He will be despised by virtually the whole of the British Establishment, including the overwhelming majority of his parliamentary colleagues. Aside from making speeches in front of evermore bloodthirsty assemblages of Israel’s enemies, Galloway will have little to offer the people of his constituency, or the broader labour movement. There are precious few red flags to be found amongst the thousands of Palestinian flags being brandished by anti-Israel demonstrators. And those that do appear are not announcing an English revolution.

Not that New Zealand has any need of a George Galloway to defend the Palestinian cause in its Parliament – not with the Green Party of Aotearoa so willing to do the job. New Zealand’s Labour Party, in sharp contrast to its British counterpart, is only marginally less supportive of Palestine than the Greens. Meanwhile, Te Pāti Māori has been quick to link the Palestinians’ fight against “racism” and “colonialism” with their own. 

That a majority of New Zealanders stand with Israel in its war against Hamas, daunts not one of this country’s “left-wing” parties. On this issue, as on so many others dear to the hearts of “progressive” Kiwis, there is no room for dissidence; no possibility of debate.

How did the New Zealand Left come to abandon the politics of class, in favour of expressing unquestioning solidarity with emphatically non-progressive religious/political movements in far-off lands – and why? The following comparison may help to clarify at least some of the issues in play.

The Destiny Church is a fundamentalist Christian organisation pursuing a radical right-wing  political agenda. It finds most of its followers among the indigenous poor, to whom it offers practical, as well as spiritual, assistance. Its religious doctrine is theologically conservative, militantly patriarchal and virulently homophobic. Brian Tamaki, the Destiny Church’s charismatic leader, is constantly striving to win political power. His objective is to acquire the means to enforce what he believes to be the will of God upon a nation of unrepentant atheists, apostates and sinners.

Destiny’s pursuit of political power has been singularly unsuccessful. His party’s share of the Party Vote in successive elections has hovered around 1 percent. Tamaki’s uncompromising religious fanaticism does not sit well with New Zealand’s largely secular electorate. Certainly, no one describing themselves as a leftist would ever consider voting for Tamaki’s religious/political enterprises.

Why, then, are so many leftists coming out on the streets in support of a Palestinian religious/political regime drawn from a movement bearing a more than passing resemblance to Brian Tamaki’s? Hamas is theologically conservative in its interpretation and application of the Muslim faith. It, too, is militantly patriarchal and virulently homophobic in its socio-cultural attitudes. It has also pursued political power relentlessly to restore spiritual order and punish the unfaithful. The fundamental difference between these two movements is that Destiny remains politically powerless, while Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

All those “progressives” spluttering and guffawing at this comparison, should consider this follow-up question. If New Zealand was occupied by what its people considered an alien nation, a nation which New Zealand’s secular resistance movement, in spite of plentiful military and financial support, had consistently failed to defeat, how confident could they be that the passionate certainties of a body like the Destiny Church would continue to be rejected by a majority of voters?

Not confident at all, is the honest answer. Except Western “progressives” would never submit to the rule of such a government. Their innate sense of superiority, and their lofty disdain for the credulous and the ignorant, would prevent them from supporting such a movement – unless, of course, it was a movement located in a country far enough away for them not to have to worry too much about the manner in which its people are governed.

The truth is that it’s not the people, nor the nature of their government, nor even the fact that they are suffering, that engages the Western progressive, it’s the identity of the nation, or nations, inflicting the suffering. If the nation inflicting pain and suffering on the Palestinians was an Arab nation, a Muslim nation, would hundreds-of-thousands of Westerners be marching in protest? After all, while tens-of-thousands of Gazans are dying at the hands of the IDF, similar numbers of Sudanese are being shot and starved by their fellow Sudanese. Who is chanting and waving flags for them?

Not many, if any. Because it isn’t death and suffering that Western progressives are concerned about, it’s who to blame. If it isn’t being inflicted by human beings like themselves, upon human beings emphatically unlike themselves, then, really, they’re not that interested. 

Where is the international movement against the oppression of women in Afghanistan to equal the international movement that grew up to fight the oppression of Blacks in South Africa? There is no such movement. Why, because those responsible for oppressing Afghan women are defiantly misogynistic, murderously homophobic, fanatical Islamists. If only they were Americans or Europeans! Then it would be a very different story!

Can it really be that simple? Is it simply a matter of the Western Left’s overwhelming self-loathing? Having failed to change their own societies – doubtless because “their” workers were too fat and happy to bother, or, more likely, too culturally conservative to see revolution as anything other than a mortal danger to all but the most unpleasant kinds of human being – did the Western Left simply decide to stop cheering for the genocidal cowboys, and start rooting for the indigenous Americans?

Or, in George Galloway’s case – the Palestinians.