Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Power and ponytails

From the ongoing unfolding issue about the Prime Minister's ponytail pulling, specifically in the case of Amanda Bailey, there's one little bit I want to write about a bit more, and it comes back to this quote from The Nation interview with Patrick Gower.  (Quote taken from the transcript here).
Gower: Yeah and when you when you accept that you got it wrong, do you accept that you misused your power?Key: No because I didn’t intend to do that, it was the opposite, I intended to try and be in a much more informal sort of setting so that I put people at ease and we could have a bit of a laugh and a bit of fun so it’s really the opposite.
So Key is saying that the repeated ponytail pulling was the opposite of an abuse of power.
What would the opposite of an abuse of power be?
To me, it would be empowering, it would be giving up your power to someone else.  
If I were being generous, I'd interpret this as Key thinking that by engaging in verbal "banter" and "horse play" and "mucking around" with staff in a cafe he was effectively making it clear he is on the same level as them, an equal; that the staff should feel they can josh him in the same way he joshes them.  Key has given the impression he was wearing his Prankster Casual John Cap at the cafe, and had firmly removed his Prime Ministerial Top Hat.
That seems to me incredibly naive, at absolute best, for the following reasons:
  1. The presence of security guards, there with Key because he is the Prime Minister
  2. Both the Prankster Casual John Cap and the Prime Ministerial Top Hat are invisible; only John knows when he has changed hats.  
  3. There's a strong argument that the Prime Ministerial Top Hat can never really be removed entirely, certainly while he's in New Zealand and amongst the people he is primes inter pares (first among equals, which is where the name Prime Minister came from)
  4. Key has been Prime Minister for over six years now, he is by no means an inexperienced newbie in the role who has made a rookie mistake of forgetting about his day job
  5. Even if you accept that the Prime Minister was not being Prime Minister at the time, and that this was somehow able to be clearly understood by the people around him, there is still the significant power imbalance between customer and staff in a hospitality/service environment.
I've written the above points just focusing on the verbal interactions.  Because when you add in the touching, which was unwanted, repeated, and didn't stop even when he was challenged on it by a number of people around him, it really becomes impossible to defend these actions as somehow empowering, somehow the opposite of an abuse of power.

To be Prime Minister of a country and so unaware of the cloak of power and privilege you wear even when you are sleeping seems disingenuous at best.  Key possibly needs to make a choice here - is he being stupid by putting this line forward, or is he lying?

Finally, when he did apologise directly to Bailey, eventually, what did he give her to express his sincerity?

A symbol of his own power; two bottles of wine named and labelled for him, bearing his name and possibly his image.

The arrogance of the third term?  Or the ongoing deliberate and convenient ignoring of his own power which means he could, by his definition, basically never abuse his position.  

1 comment:

Kata said...

Amanda Bailey for President!