I read Reading the Maps first. Maps wants to know Have our intellectuals gone to the blogs? He takes his cue from kiwipolitico post Who are the next generation of NZ left thinkers? Both posts are worth reading. The kiwipolitico post, which I read last, has a long conversation in the comments which is more illuminating than the post itself.
This from Reading the Maps:
Pablo and a number of the commenters at Kiwipolitico seem to believe that young left-wing intellectuals are a little thin on the ground in New Zealand, but I'm not sure if this is quite the case. I don't think there is any shortage of clever young people with left-wing opinions in New Zealand: the problem, as far as I can tell, is that it is hard for these young people to relate their scholarly research and their theorising to the world of quotidian politics.
That word 'quotidian' is wonderful. It has an almost onomatopeic quality, seeming to echo the doldrums of daily bickering. Maps goes on to detail the gap between action and theory with reference to thinkers he has known personally in New Zealand universities and some names from my own time at university came to mind as similar examples as I read.
Then I read the second new post from my sidebar. This one is from Maia of The Hand Mirror, writing on the forthcoming 2011 Pro-choice gathering in Wellington in March. As I read, I was mindful of the accusations ('observations' if I'm feeling generous in my interpretation) of some male lefty writers that single issue activism had essentially buggered up the class activism movement. In my view, paid labour is not central to agency for any woman; control over ones own body is central. No matter how repulsive abortion might ever be to me personally, I have no right to stop another woman from controlling the direction of a pregnancy. Neither has the state nor any other organisation. This is where I sidetrack yet again. If you read the comments section you will see this:
I agree with the basic principle about choice and whose choice it is (although I don't think the taxpayer should have to fund something they may vehemently oppose.)How on earth can anyone say this as if it is logical? Can the rugby world cup funding NOW! And marketing departments in universities and television advertisements and cholesterol lowering drugs and cigarettes and vaccination propaganda and and and and. I am vehemently opposed to a lot of things. Our legal system is surely our charter for how to best both meet and insist upon the rights and responsibilities of us all, collectively and individually. I am aware that those who would make abortion illegal in this country believe that they are also doing this, albeit through privileging the journey of a foetus over that of a woman. Privileging the journey of a foetus over that of a woman oppresses the woman in her lack of choice. That's not okay to me.
The Action for Abortion Rights group have taken the theory of women's empowerment and right to control over our own bodies and is applying it practically. The Hand Mirror was absent from both Kiwipolitico and Reading the Maps' initial posts and it is a glaring omission. In the comments to the Reading the Maps post, a fellow called Jack Ross makes the following observation:
I agree that the blog makes a good intermediary between the Academy and the Street -- in theory, at least, it can steer between the Alexandrian over-refinements (and entrenched power-structures) of the former and the simplistic bellowings (and over-dependence on a muzzled news media) of the latter.
"Subjective and trivial" are the presumptive labels attributed to most blogs, though - breaking through that perception is, I think, the real problem. If a blog simply works as an extension of the street or the academy it helps it gain an audience, but doesn't achieve any of this cultivation of the middle ground you're talking about.
Body politics are often described as subjective and trivial and yet the ideas around fat acceptance and the controlling narratives of fat shaming were possibly the most interesting ideas I took on board in 2010. How any of us define 'political' and 'intellectual' are in themselves powerful tools. Are those definitions up for discussion, or are we to content ourselves with bickering about versions of pure leftism (as if) and the naughtiness of the proletariat who are watching tele and eating chips instead of remodelling society into a collective utopia?