The Way of the Battler
by J.R. Kuwanski
Since the inception of the Labour government’s 1999 campaign, the notion of the ‘kiwi battler’ has been ever present in New Zealand society. In its original use the term referred to ‘every-day-hard-working-New-Zealanders’. This description, in its literal sense, is ofcourse a meaningless truism – as there is no credible New Zealand political party that would appeal to ‘fortnightly lazy foreigners’. But the people that the party was referring to were working and lower-middle class New Zealanders. However, following the creation of the term, as is common in language, the reference metamorphosed. ‘Battler’ began to refer to a group of kiwis that were less than mediocre by nature; a group of people that were not honest with themselves or others about their limitations but instead chose to simply ignore hard decisions and opt for a path of least resistance, mindlessly flowing with trends or fads and in essence existing as the meat-and-potatoes of life.
While the battlers themselves obviously existed before this time, as a demographic they have come into more prominence of late. This is due to the increasing complexity of the modern age, in which our range of choices are exponentially expanding as each day passes. It is the battlers’ failure to cope with this expansive list of choices that defines them.
A key component of the battler spirit is a strong but confused distaste for reflection, especially of the introspective kind. In fact any form of critical thought is avoided. It is this debilitating allergy to extended thought and consideration that leads the battler to make poor decisions, time and time again, without recourse or learning. The battlers remain stuck in their modes of thoughtlessness and behaviour in a state of mindless abyss and contentment, similar to that experienced by a plant or algae.
The battlers’ completely unfounded sense of confidence at some point crashes into reality, something the battlers struggle to get to grips with. This collision comes usually in the form of unserviceable debt, bankruptcy or social rejection – usually all three.
While non-battlers identify their wants, desires and ambitions and then prioritize their resources to achieve them, the battler does not engage in ordered activity but instead continues on whatever ever path they are on currently or changes completely on a whim – ultimately achieving little or nothing, or something at disproportionate cost, or entirely by accident. In this regard the battler is the pin-ball of humanity, bouncing from one infatuation to the next, most likely at a cost they can’t afford, and eventually ending up in the corner down a hole.
Another cherished cultural phenomena of the battler is confusingly both ‘getting a bargain’ on things that require a higher priority and quality (like health or education), and excessive spending on tedious objects, like i-phones. This in turn further restricts the battlers’ lifestyle as they suffer from illness and low wages and end up spending more time and resources than they saved. But ofcourse no change is made and the battler holds steadfast to the mindless course of tiresome consumerism.
It is this ability to consistently make life more difficult for themselves that distinguishes the battler. A focus on the short-term, an ambivalence to the long-term and all marred with egotism, arrogance and solid dollop of plain laziness are the defining features of this cohort. Fortunately, for the battlers being discussed here, they were born in New Zealand and the consequences of their incompetence are partly shielded by the welfare state and a moderate climate.
It is not a conscious purposeful decision that leads the battlers to live their hectic lives but ambiguous ineptitude and dishonesty. For if one was to purposely choose not to live within their means, not learn more about themselves or others, not address injustice or inequity, not attempt to improve themselves, their own lives or others but simply go through the motions – they would not be a battler. They would be bizarre and self-destructive but not a battler.
But this is not to say that the battlers are without blame or responsibility. While their lifestyle is not a conscious choice, it is a conscious choice not to address it. They do have the ability to change, and in fact this is a critical component of the battler definition. If the battler didn’t have the ability to act beyond their backward state they would simply be mildly retarded, disabled. But no, the battlers’ failure is perpetuated by, like most atrocities, fear and laziness. The battler never accepts that resources are finite, that one has to take responsibility and make sacrifices. They are masters of excuse, complacency and procrastination.
Common past-times include dependent destructive relationships, facebook and the New Zealand Herald. Another favourite is hollow and inconsistent criticisms of politicians. Frequent discussion includes a generalized dismissal of politics itself as simply a self-serving society filled with ‘what-will-they-do-next’s and ‘its-all-b.s.-anyway’s. No legitimate argument is ever formed and certainly no action is ever taken.
The original group that was made reference to by the Clarke led administration was not mutually exclusive the contemporary battler. But they are certainly not synonymous. Many members of the working and lower middle class are some of the strongest practitioner’s of self-responsibility, self-improvement, learning, honesty, humility and self-awareness – and therefore the very antithesis of a battler. The battlers’ social class is merely a symptom of the battler mentality and way of life.
Battlers are certainly not exclusively blue and light blue collar members though. To the contrary, with the children of baby boomers now well into adulthood, several trust fund off-spring roam the suburbs of Auckland and south west London. These battling lads and lasses often come from private schools, socialize in circles of polo shirt wearers and are perpetually funded from Daddy’s wealth which came as the result of property speculation, tax embezzlement and Rogernomics. The silver spoon battler is often free from the repercussions of their incompetence and, more to the point, their completely baseless over-confidence. This further spurs the vicious cycle of self-denial and their own vulgar and moronic selves.
While the majority of battlers are not vicious criminals, although many criminals are battlers, they still do cause substantial harm to themselves and others. It is this fact that changes the battler from a quirky phenomenon to a cause for great concern. Along with casual tax-avoidance and public service exploitation, it has always been the case that inaction or seemingly minor everyday decisions are in fact the very foundations of tyranny and injustice. For it is the complacency of the masses that allows those perpetrators of great cruelty to continue their reign and atrocities. The most obvious of examples is political apathy. Or, and perhaps more poignantly, the tendency of battlers to vote against their own interests and for the interests of an equally imbecile class – the New Zealand wealthy.
So it can be seen that what on the surface seems to be a harmless quaint group of New Zealanders are in fact a silent cancer of New Zealand society. Their classless desperation to be ‘modern’ and wealthy led them to commit scarring-of-the-earth development in Orewa, the creation of the North Shore and vulgar attempts at European inspired alfresco dining in Mission Bay. Their complacency and self-delusion led to the empowerment of the National party. And their ignorance and refusal to sacrifice, perpetuates the gravest of human rights violations in sweatshops, and dictatorships. In light of this, perhaps the political party of ‘every-day-hard-working-New-Zealanders’ has come full circle and what now need to be created is a party that stands particularly in opposition to the kiwi battler. Rich or poor, North or South Island, these heathens need to be addressed.