American TV evangelist Rick Warren, when asked whether he was a left-winger or a right-winger, famously answered, "I am for the whole bird".
Rick's sheer disingenuousness notwithstanding - he gives Hitler a run for his money in the fascism stakes - it was a great one-liner. So much so, that I have often found myself quoting it when self-describing my own political leanings to others.
Denial is a powerful thing and despite my readers constantly calling me a leftie, I haven't been ready to accept it as true. Indeed, I have always prided myself on my outright refusal to be categorised, much preferring the nobler stance of "I'm an intellectual, darling".
Well, no longer. Events of late have forced me to grow up, get off the fence and admit that I am not for the whole bird. I have a firm preference for its port side.
The vileness spewing out of conservative commentators of late is all the inspiration I needed.
These scribes use Waitangi Day as their cover to freely espouse hate speech while making gross generalisations about Maori, lawful protest, and anything too complex for their overwrought minds to grasp. They fuel the same feelings in their followers and newspaper sales briefly soar. It's called race baiting.
Paul Holmes is one high-profile columnist (among many other lesser lights) who knowingly does this country a huge disservice in his recent column about Waitangi Day. It was brimming with invective, mean- spiritedness and white-hot racism.
While I'll defend to the death the right to freedom of speech, since when does that freedom extend to hate speech delivered up by a paid journalist? Who can possibly justify it? Well, the editors of the New Zealand Herald, of course.
His employers, defending the indefensible, called his column "strongly-worded" - as newspapers tend to do in these circumstances. They're not going to admit that he was allowed to cross the line or that they not-so- secretly enjoy the controversy.
Any responsible editor would have told him to go back to the drawing board and submit something approaching human decency.
We columnists exist to write opinion pieces and should generally be left alone to get on with the job. However, we are not paid to write with bare-faced odium about other races or cultures, and doing so should be completely off limits in any decent society - or newspaper.
I fear it is the latest lazy media tactic for the further enhancement of differences within New Zealand today. It is never acceptable to lump people of whatever sexual persuasion, colour or gender in to a reduced clump of sameness.
The whole thing reminds me of a tradesman who turned up at my house the other day to do a job. We got chatting and in no time he started to spew forth his meanderings on what he saw as the ridiculous PC-ness of society these days. His uninvited opinion was that it was sad people could not make an innocent joke or enjoy a laugh at each other's expense without getting offended. Not like in the good old days.
Gays, Maori and women were all fair game in his world and what had happened to their collective sense of humour? Looking him carefully up and down I calmly suggested that old white men who are scared stiff of losing their elite power position often felt like that. His expression darkened. He did not like to be categorised like that, he said. Do you mean made to look one- dimensional, I proffered. Yes, he said. We both slowly started laughing.
Ah-ha moments like that don't occur very often, and rarely in such an ultimately good-natured way. However, they must start happening more and the media has a moral responsibility to facilitate that.
So, on the strength of Holmes' racist tirade, I've now decided to be more realistic about the fact that I am, despite any previous prevarication on my part, a leftie. I do thank him, and the New Zealand Herald, for giving me such certitude.
As a leftie, there are certain concepts I hold dear. Egalitarianism, and its time- honoured way of seeing the world, is one. For example, I hold firmly to the view that for society to ultimately prosper then everyone must get an equal shot at it. Any idea that oppressing certain groups can lead to good outcomes is backward and plain wrong.
Many Kiwis loudly and proudly bray that Paul Holmes (and that other PH-factor, Paul Henry) are just "telling it like it is" and "saying what we're all thinking".
Yet it's partly because of these two Pauls and their like-minded adherents, cognitively restricted to seeing the world only in black and white, that we all have one hell of a big looming social crisis bearing down on us.
- © Fairfax NZ News