Josie Pagani: Rights and wrongs

by Josie Pagani / 01 September, 2012
The political left needs to argue a principled case for welfare reform.
Political commentator and communications consultant, Josie Pagani


Someone on the internet says I’m a “post-modernist twit”. How would you text that insult? “U po mo”? I’ve also become an “ism”; Pagani-ism. I’d rather be a “nomics”. Do I have to destroy an economy to be known for Pagani-nomics? Those insults appeared on left-wing blogs after I defended Labour leader David Shearer when he said, and I paraphrase: “Someone who shouldn’t be on the dole shouldn’t be on the dole.” The political left needs to argue a principled case for welfare reform. People have a right to be looked after when they can’t provide for themselves, yet today if you are on a benefit, you live in poverty. You get stuck.

I’ve lived in a family where joining a gang was a way to make something of yourself. But by equating any reform with beneficiary bashing, the left has allowed the expression “welfare reform” to be owned by people who neither believe in welfare nor want to see it last another century. Postmodern Pagani-nomics stresses respect for responsibilities as well as rights.

  • American newspapers are trying not to use the word “Pussy” when they write about Russian all-girl band Pussy Riot. The LA Times called them “a feminist punk group with a profane name”. The band’s global celebrity began when they staged a “punk prayer” in a church, asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin. No word on whether the LA Times can use the word “virgin”. Putin is revealingly less secure about punk criticism. His Russia is a thuggish place. UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt told Parliament, “I am deeply concerned by the sentencing of Pussy Riot.” Probably no Tory foreign minister went into politics to say, “If you’re pro-Pussy, you’re against Putin.” The band looks like a punk Wiggles and sounds like the school band. Here, we’d be clapping and telling them “Kiwi kids can do anything”. Just not very well.

  • Speaking of avoiding the pitfalls of melody and rhythm, Björk is supporting Pussy Riot. So, too, is Madonna, who is never far from musical offences against the Virgin, and Paul McCartney, who was born around the same time as the Virgin. Another set of fading celebrities has been trying to turn Julian Assange into a freedom-fighting “international albino of mystery”, as the Economist called him. He is an alleged rapist. John Pilger, Ken Loach, Tariq Ali, Jemima Khan and Naomi Wolf shame themselves by failing to demand he face his accusers. Listening to them, you would think it’s implausible that someone fighting Uncle Sam could rape. This is a man who leaked the names of dissidents fighting brutal governments – people who are now being tortured and murdered because he exposed them. But even greater shame on the UK for its threat to violate international law by revoking diplomatic status from the Ecuadorian Embassy. The rule of law is what makes us civilised. If the UK Government ignores international law to seize Assange, everyone protected by law is endangered.

  • The lynch mob in Whanganui also want to apply the law to suit themselves. Stuart Wilson is a despicable person. But set aside the law for him and it can be set aside for anyone, because that’s how the rule of law works. If you set it aside, you don’t have it any more. Then we’re all po-mos.


Josie Pagani is a political commentator and communications consultant.

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