The Humiliation of Chris Carter
I watched Chris Carter being chased down the corridors of parliament last night on tv. It was on Close Up and the segment was called GET CARTER. Inwardly I felt extremely uncomfortable. Carter was obviously in a state of panic. He was harrassed and chased into rooms, ambushed and chased again. It was like seeing a stag brought down by hounds thirsty for the kill.
I noted the journalists all looked young. They had that bright ambition of the very young. Carter, by contrast, suddenly looked older. His skin seemed to have developed deeper pimple marks, as if his rocky adolescence had swum to the surface and he had instantly returned to being an unstable, moody young homosexual. But ironically he also looked suddenly a lot older. His shoulders had a perceptible stoop. Normally good looking, even preternaturally young, he had hurtled into old age, carrying the sack of his humiliation. He could not escape.
The following morning, the totally mediocre politician, Tau Henare, with as many scruples as he has hairs on his head, clambered aboard Carter’s corpse and began hacking bits up. Carter should resign as an MP. He - Henare - the slippery switchblade of politics - was a suitable candidate to replace the disgraced Carter.
What had Carter done? Ostensibly it was over a tiny bill of approximately $265. But in a larger sense it is about ‘entitlement’. But in a larger sense again, it is public anger about the current financial mess and the inability of our financial system, ie capitalism, to deliver villains over for punishment. Someone like 'developer' Mark Hotchin can rook people out of their savings - builders can create houses which ruin peoples’ lives literally - the entire world financial system can be played by billionaires who emerge unscathed: but nobody is to blame. So this miniature debacle - MPs and their expenses - has to serve as the auto de fe for a public rooked of its real villains.
Carter as a homosexual is an excellent candidate. Shane Jones, Maori, was for a while fingered but, astute politician that he is, he knew he only had to ‘man up’ to a ritualistic public humiliation, lay low for a year and then he can emerge again, renewed by his newly gained ‘wisdom’.
Carter, normally a rather slippery and politically astute man, somehow lost the plot. He no longer had the protection of big sister Helen in the playground that is parliament. He was naked. He also failed to ‘man up’.
Was this part of his homosexual nature? Or was it something which took him back to the playground - those bully kids crowded round the door. Something slipped and for a moment he fled back to being the lowliest kid in school.
He had also been arrogant. He didn’t understand that he needed to do that meaningless gesture ‘opologise’.
Just yesterday in the student part of the Herald a schoolkid did a long parody of the meaninglessness of ‘saying sorry’. We’re the sorry generation alright. So long as you say sorry for (colonisation, Bloody Sunday, killing someone while drunk driving, sleeping a with prostitute etc etc) you are absolved. It’s that easy. It’s a kind of cosmetic truth suitable for the thin nature of our televisual times.
It’s about gesture, not about truth.
Watching Carter being chased through parliament made me deeply uncomfortable. One of my formative experiences as a human took place in primary school. I was in primer four (seven years old?). There was a girl who was chosen as a victim. The whole primer school banded up on her. She was remorcessly hunted down. It was horrible to see. It was pack mentality at work. She was utterly terrfied and humiliated and probably scarred for life.
I was an observer, not a chaser. (Did I sense that it was only luck that delivered her rather than me to the mob? I don’t know.)
She was taken out of the school. I don't know why she was 'chosen' as victim material. In a largely Protestant working class school, she was Catholic. She was also a little backward.
People talk about ‘the wisdom of the crowd’. I don’t believe it for a second. And I have to be honest and say, when at literary dos and I face a large audience I always have to suppress a very real sense of rising horror: I have to look at individuals very closely and identify normal, friendly faces to shuck off this feeling of fear and distrust.
I seem to recall that was the exact term used at school to rouse the mob. 'Get....so and so.'
We're only animals walking upright.