Worth a look: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand

What does the future of New Zealand politics look like?

The Interregnum: Rethinking New ZealandIn 2016, more than three decades on from the huge changes wrought by the fourth Labour government, a group of eleven younger writers have put pen to paper on some of the major issues facing this country.

In The Interregnum, these authors offer a small dose of hope to counter the bad news of increasing inequality, environmental crisis and the silencing of critical voices.

Capably pieced together by editor Morgan Godfery, The Interregnum is part of the impressive BWB Texts range published by Bridget Williams Books. The series, comprised of short introductions to major political issues are an accessible entry point for anyone interested in contemporary New Zealand non-fiction.

Godfery begins with an overview, using the recent Auckland protest against the TPPA to assess the current state of political activity, and the change that he optimistically sees coming not just in New Zealand, but around the world.

From Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn to Spain’s Podemos, from the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA to indigenous movements in Latin America, Godfery claims the left is starting to wake up and that we are currently in an “interregnum”, a time where discontent has built but not yet resulted in significant political change.

Unionist and environmentalist Edward Miller takes a long look at New Zealand’s contribution to climate change, and the budding non-violent resistance movement against fossil fuel pollution in his essay Climate Change and Just Transition.

Miller signals the importance of the fight against rising carbon emissions, stating that “unless we muster the requisite political will to fight them we stand to lose everything.” High stakes indeed!

Lamia Imam’s moving essay, Contributing to Public Life from Afar, is an elegant exploration of notions of belonging and home. Imam, who was born in New Zealand, has lived between here, Bangladesh and the USA over the course of her life, describes New Zealand’s culture as simultaneously accessible and exclusive.

Imam examines the contradiction between feeling at home in New Zealand, while at the same time being made aware that she is considered an outsider, an other, by the dominant Pākehā culture. The problematic separation of “identity” from “politics” is challenged, with Imam showing that they are in fact intertwined, and without a close look at identity, we cannot hope to create a truly inclusive society.

Unfortunately, for a book that looks at the future of New Zealand, the one quarter of New Zealanders without a tertiary education are completely unrepresented amongst The Interregnum’s author list.

This missing voice is noticeable – Chloe King’s Welfare and Precarious Work is a brutal examination of the reality of choice in employment for young people, but it is the only piece that discusses what daily life is like for a significant percentage of young people today, and not coincidentally it is probably the least optimistic of all the essays.

The lacking voices do not detract significantly from the value of the book, however. The Interregnum is a worthy read, a powerful collection of writing that gives me hope for the future of political debate and action in our country.

The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand

Morgan Godfery (ed.), Bridget Williams Books, 2016 $14.99 (or $4.99 for ebook)

Available from: http://bwb.co.nz/books/interregnum