Columnist dubbed the Thinking Man’s Redneck bows out after 17 years

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NOTICE: Get out your handkerchiefs. This is my last column for the foreseeable future.

After 17 years as a self-proclaimed public intellectual, stand-up comedian, cultural warrior, voice of the silent majority and redneck of the thinking man, I’ve had enough of the weekly chore I did on top of my journalistic job. frontline. .

While you dry your tears, I want to thank all of my editors and readers, especially those who have sent me encouraging, endorsing and informative emails over the years.

I started out as a light columnist rather than a ruthless opinion writer. I did not consider myself particularly opinionated and enjoyed fantasy, analysis and satire rather than continually nail my colors to the mast.

Writing opinions, for me anyway, elicited a lot of sometimes uncomfortable introspection. This forces the writer to take a close look at what he really believes and why he believes it. A tricky question is always how the opinion will make the author appear. A good opinion writer doesn’t really care.

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It would be good to think that the opinions in this forum and others are the result of expertise, careful consideration of all the facts, relevant experience and an understanding of all the facts and from different perspectives.

I suspect, however, that most opinions are more the result of sentiment than reflection. This doesn’t mean that there is always a good opinion, but rather that temperament and emotion play a much bigger role in opinion than we would like to think. It is said that this character is your destiny. You could also say that the character is your opinion. Facts used to support a view are often chosen to support a position, once the position has formed.

Not all voices are worth hearing.  Some opinions are due to sheer stupidity.

JASON DORDAY / Stuff

Not all voices are worth hearing. Some opinions are due to sheer stupidity.

As an opinion writer, it’s easier to identify what you oppose rather than what you support. I don’t like being told I’m to blame. I don’t like fanatics and young people who don’t know anything telling me what to do. I don’t like revival or virtue signaling or canceling people for a trivial perceived violation of current sensibilities. I don’t like to be told that I am privileged or that I have it too well because I am pale and masculine. I don’t like to adapt my views to a new zeitgeist. I don’t like the idea that anything done to improve people’s lives before the last orthodoxy has been a disastrous failure and that a new system will bring utopia.

Rapid change, especially the kind of change New Zealand is currently experiencing, implies that we should feel guilty, ignorant, overwhelmed and prejudiced if we are to take a more skeptical and opposite line.

And yet, I realize that society is changing and that a new generation is taking over will always seem naive and dogmatic to elders like me.

My instincts are what most would call conservative. I oppose radical change and total condemnation of the past or the status quo. And yet another side of me loves the idea of ​​big, simple solutions and quick changes.

I have often wondered what makes people on the right or on the left – conservative or progressive. With the left and progressives in power and in the ascendant in New Zealand, the right seems less and less confident, and outmoded.

As I could have said before, I think people on the right have a more negative view of their fellow human beings and therefore feel that they are trying to interfere with human nature or the natural order is doomed to fail. . Leftists seem to have a more positive view of the species, believing that with the right environment and the right rules, people’s intrinsic goodness will come to the fore.

This suggests that it is no one’s fault or that the iniquity inherent in life can be overruled by the right policy settings. People on the right are more inclined to be judgmental. A single mom complaining that she couldn’t feed her eight children with this benefit won’t get much sympathy from the right-wing like me, even though I would feed her children if they lived next door. The left will say this is a terrible indictment of our unequal system.

The right is generally closer to the views of the silent majority. A populist like Winston Peters understood this well, even if his narcissism disqualified him from any approval on my part.

Writing opinions requires an element of certainty, authority, expertise and conviction. I am more and more aware of my shortcomings, an affliction that doesn’t seem to affect many other opinion writers.

I keep thinking of the axiom, often dubiously attributed to German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, that truth is first ridiculed, then fiercely opposed, then adopted. British journalist and politician CP Scott’s advice that this commentary is free and facts sacred bites deeper these days, as does the quote from American author and journalist Nathan Rutstein that prejudice is a commitment emotional towards ignorance.

I remain very favorable to the freedom of expression with the usual runners. I think the media is too dominated by polite conversation with strict self-imposed limits on what can be said or tolerated. What we need are thunderous voices from the silent majority. Declaring certain views beyond pale does not mean that they disappear. They become infected in the dark and become more powerful. No one has a monopoly on truth and morality.

So goodbye for now. It has been a privilege.



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