Honest politics: poverty an’ a’ that

26 Sep

After a week when Scotland failed to regain it’s Independence, and the politics of deception triumphed in the NZ general elections, there is a pressing need to develop a stronger and more honest politics: one that will work for all the people, especially those struggling with least. It’s not just something that’s needed in NZ.  The politics of deception is aided by powerful transnational corporations, and national government in powerful countries, and it just did not arise over night.


300 years on, and Scotland still is not independent.  And many people in the world are still struggling in “honest poverty”. Many of words of Scotland’s most acclaimed poet-song writer, Robert Burns, still have resonance today: not just those in Scotland, but the world o’er.

Nicky Hager’s books The Hollow Men: A study in the politics of deception, and Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment, have exposed the politics of deception and dishonesty practiced in the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful sections of society.


Robert Burn’s poem-song, “Is There for Honest poverty”, also known as “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”, paints a word picture of “honest poverty”: with those who have very little, we see them as they are. The rich and powerful have the means, and the will, to dress themselves up in all kinds of finery.  This disguises their true nature.

Burns’ vision is for an egalitarian society, where a man living in honest poverty is an equal to anyone with power, status and aristocratic titles.  This version is sung by Ian Benzie: The video makes excellent use of images that put the song in the context of time and place.

The Song ends, with an expression of universal solidarity:

A prince can mak’ a belted knight,
A marquis, duke an’ a’ that,
But an honest man’s aboon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that.
The pith o’ sense an ‘ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin’ yet for a’ that,
That man to man, the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

Of course Burns lived in way more patriarchal times.

In NZ in recent times, there’s been more diversity in the people creating meaningful songs.

This song by Blam Blam’s most well known song is very relevant at a time when the politics of deception and dishonesty are dominant – perhaps even more so than in the early 80s.  Since then the politics of deception and manipulation have become more sophisticated and have penetrated to all areas of our media saturated, infotainment society.

This video of the song by Moana and the Tribe, is of and for the people and the environment. The song originated from within a community.  It focuses on the need to campaign for a sustainable society. It’s firmly located in NZ. “The Whole World’s Watching”

As Moana and the Tribe comment below the video:

Kia ora everyone! This song was inspired by a group of friends who were picking up their children from sports day, grabbing home made signs and heading off to protest against seabed mining. Ordinary people not liking what they were seeing and wanting to make a difference.
A strong flax roots movement, from within communities, with people connected by a desire to honestly work for each other, and society, could go some way to counter the powerful politics of dishonesty, deception and manipulation that is damaging all our futures.

One response to “Honest politics: poverty an’ a’ that

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