Jami-Lee Ross conflict reveals a troubling system of power

By Danielle Moreau*

Opinion - We were so naive. At the beginning of last week, Jami-Lee
Ross's conflict with Simon Bridges seemed initially sordid but simple:
there were alleged irregularities in party funding, and Ross staged a
reality show-worthy expert reveal of his plans to scuttle Simon Bridges'

Social media lit up with swapped gifs of people eating popcorn and
coolly walking away from flaming explosions. Ross called Bridges 'so
inadequate' and 'more and more unlikeable' and Winston Peters addressed
the press by playing a clip of the song 'Burning Bridges' on his phone.
Pettiness was the order of the day. It was a refreshing distraction from
high-stakes news stories like catastrophic climate change.

Sadly, things started to get uncomfortable very fast. First, there was
the exchange from a secretly recorded Ross-Bridges phone conversation
about the relative worth of MPs from different ethnic backgrounds to the
National Party, as if they were interchangeable tokens. Then
allegations of Ross's abusive behaviour to women, which had been
swirling around the rumour mill, were substantiated by a long-researched
Newsroom piece about four women he had mistreated, with others to

It appears that some people in the National Party knew about the
allegations against Ross for months or even years, and attempted to
'support' the women by, inexplicably, making him chief whip. A
'gentleman's [sic] agreement' was facilitated by National Party
president Peter Goodfellow to make sure one woman never spoke publicly.

Finally, the distressing news broke that Ross had reportedly been
admitted to a mental health facility, and the whole saga's
transformation from schadenfreude-worthy political pettiness to a grim,
multi-faceted expression of about a dozen things wrong with our
political power structures was complete.

In retrospect, there was no way this could merely be a clean, trivial
fight between two politicians, because that's not how this all works and
it never has been. This whole dirty business is symptomatic of
structural issues we as a society have ignored for a long time.

Powerful people - men, mostly, although a few women are allowed into the
clubhouse if they make sure to follow the rules - exploit others to
gain that power and protect each other from consequences. And then, once
the club has expelled a member, the protection that person relied upon
is well and truly over: no matter their situation, they can be thrown to
the wolves of ill-informed punditry and exploitative clickbait.

Even if Ross is banished, those people are still working to protect
their own. Many in the National Party knew about Ross' abuse, but didn't
do anything about it, because mistreating women is generally something
to be ignored or suppressed unless your institution is going to end up
looking bad.

For the powerful people who subscribe to this version of toxic
masculinity, collateral damage to the less powerful, like those women,
isn't important to them. While politicians and all the other
behind-the-scenes operatives do their worst, we as a society become
entranced by their Machiavellian maneuvers and analyse the 'winners' and
the 'losers' in this 'horse race'. We forget or ignore that they hurt
people, and this isn't a race.

This saga began, just over a week ago, with the possibility of financial
corruption in political party funding, and turned into several other
things along the way. But of these aspects of the scandal are
inextricably linked - we shouldn't just follow the money, but also
cherchez la femme.

Because the people who have bought into this system use money and women
(and probably a lot of other vulnerable people and things) almost
interchangeably in their quest for power. Dominance and control take
precedence over ethics and empathy, and our political landscape is
poorer for it.


Geezgo for free. Use Geezgo's end-to-end encrypted Chat with your
Closenets (friends, relatives, colleague etc) in personalized ways.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post