Me, myself, and you

Richard Baker
Insights Newsletter
6 October, 2017

A solipsist is a person who believes that only they exist. For a solipsist, the external world only exists through their perception of it. When two solipsists meet, there is always silence. They wonder which one of them is a figment of the other’s imagination. Solipsists are self-centred. The external world exists only to serve their purposes.

A remarkable example of New Zealand political solipsism occurred last week. Winston Peters and the news media contemplated each other at a press conference in the Beehive theatrette.

In solipsistic terms, Winston sought to have the external world align with his perceptions. Winston’s world is a vast guano continent. Primeval bacteria inhabit it. These bacteria include journalists, Australians, and the Dominion Post. Older variants have been bankers, lawyers, and Parliament's Speaker. Winston's quest is to lead his people through this desert to the promised land while avoiding the bacteria, and the drivel in which that bacteria thrives. This drivel, according to Winston, comes in five sub-species being speculative, tripe, malicious, malignant and vicious. Only he can see the rarer and higher life forms of truth and journalistic integrity.

Accordingly, he excoriated the assembled media for asking hackneyed questions, gave nothing away in answer to meaningful questions on policies and priorities, shifted any blame for delays elsewhere and to make sure that the Australians felt included, he threw in a verbal face slap.

For its part, the news media relies on Winston for what it perceives to be good copy. It likes nothing better than to go where he does not want to go. It then feigns outrage or derision at his colourful and punchy ripostes to its otiose queries. The media followed this script. It asked questions about the moral authority of the largest vote catcher, delays in decisions, party preferences and some questionable policies of New Zealand First. Winston threw them back ritually in disgust.

The only problem with aligning reality to self-belief is that sometimes the external world has a mind and reality all its own. In the end, Winston Peters and the media are side-bar stories to the main event. The next three years will prove that running New Zealand is more than a figment of anyone’s imagination.

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