|David Seymour and Jamie Whyte. H/T Wikipedia.|
Yesterday I published the speech that I gave to the ACT Party Waikato Conference on Saturday. It concerned a fundamental principle of Western civilisation.
I said that all citizens should be equal before the law.
I realise that in some countries, such as Afghanistan, that might be a controversial idea…
But in New Zealand today, you might expect the principle of equality before the law to be uncontroversial. You might expect that a declaration of commitment to it would be greeted with quiet equanimity, perhaps even a yawn.
Not so. My declaration has triggered vitriolic hostility.
And so it should. The argument is absurd. In Whyte’s world substantive inequality is not the residue of settler colonialism, but a failure – on the part of Māori, of course - to commit to equality before the law. This is where equality before the law is not a substantive standard, but a formal one. Theoretical purity is more important that actual circumstance.
@MorganGodfery for a phd in philosophy there's almost an intellectual cowardice in his unwavering, dogmatic adherence to select principles
— book hatin goodall (@AdamGoodallYes) July 29, 2014
Redneckery’s appeal is in its simplicity. One believes that the history of racism is something that happened – not something that is happening. If the redneck accepts that then there’s no need to acknowledge – let alone examine – how conditions yesterday shape circumstances today. Instead a neat line is drawn between the past and the present. Thus Whyte is prepared to admit some injustice – the sort that fits his dogmatic view of “property rights” – yet he rejects any form of continuing injustice. Utopia is so close! If only the maoris embraced equality before the law!
Every ideology is built on stilts. The idea that, if all you unseeing others committed to living The Ideology, then utopia will arrive. It’s a particularly nasty form of white male syndrome – the need to universalise everything. Everything.
You’ll know I’m quite serious when I say white male syndrome. Only last week Colin Craig – a self-described conservative – was pitching to the same audience. That is, the redneck and his supposed desire for equality in liberal democracy. Whyte is appealing to the same audience. But the argument is not, in fact, an argument – it’s a strategy. White men are practising identity politics.
Not explicitly so. They dress it in the myth of the level playing field. I wrote about this last week. People of privilege push the idea that “all people are created equal and any deviation from that principle constitutes the real injustice”. The idea goes something like this: “injustice is not the fact that you are poor, dumb and incarcerated, but that you need and receive targeted rights because of it”. Formal inequality – that is, anything that isn’t one size fits all – is the real injustice. Substantive inequality? Nope - no injustice there, apparently.
This is white male syndrome. It’s a rearguard action designed to protect actual privilege – the one of the white kind. If disadvantage is a matter of personal responsibility – the fault of the poor sod stuck in her feckless and self-defeating ways - then no response is required from the privileged. This is what Whyte is arguing for. Not so much a winner takes all approach – the game is rigged, after all - but the pre-determined winner keeps all. In New Zealand, the game was played 174 years ago. The winners took all and Jamie Whyte – who’s on the winning team – will make damn sure they keep it all.