Address correspondence to geoff . fischer @ veri . co . nz (remove spaces)
22 May 2015
Sinclair's Onion: the misunderstanding of identity
A few months ago I was travelling by bus from Wellington to Rotorua, and when the bus made a refreshment stop at Taihape I dropped into the local public library. There I purchased a paperback copy of "Great New Zealand Argument: Ideas about ourselves", an anthology of New Zealand essays edited by Russell Brown from the Withdrawn titles bin. Judging from its condition, I may have been the first reader of the Taihape Public Library copy of "Great New Zealand Argument". That is no reflection on the intellectual merit of Brown's anthology, or its relevance to the condition of New Zealand in the twenty-first century. Rather it is a sad confirmation of the plaint which is a common thread running through many of the essays, which is that most New Zealanders would rather not think deeply and critically about themselves as a nation. I suggest that the explanation for that reluctance is that New Zealand does not yet exist as a nation. To the question posed by W B Sutch half a century ago - "Colony or Nation?" - the political classes have answered, implicitly but none the less emphatically, "Colony", and, if anything, New Zealand has regressed politically from the days of the mid-twentieth century when such questions could be raised seriously and when a distinctive pakeha culture appeared to be emerging out of the works of artists as disparate as Frank Sargeson, Barry Crump, Colin McCahon, Janet Frame, Douglas Lilburn, Peter Cape and Phil Garland. Pakeha culture has been overtaken by globalisation, and the pakeha search for identity has effectively been abandoned. Maori culture remains, more or less intact, as the only deeply entrenched and authentic expression of our national identity. It could also be argued that all that was best in pakeha culture came from the Maori, and perhaps on that basis we do not need to mourn the intellectual, political and economic eclipse of pakeha New Zealand.
The most crucially seminal essay in the "Great New Zealand Argument" is Bill Pearson's "Fretful Sleepers" but the one I wish to discuss here is Keith Sinclair's 1963 work "The Historian as Prophet: Equality, Inequality and Civilization" because it comes from the watershed years when Sutch's question really seemed to present us with a choice. Sinclair was one of those who wanted to answer "Nation!" but ironically the ideas that he presented in this essay foreshadowed the dramatically new direction taken by Sinclair's New Zealand Labour Party under the leadership of Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble some twenty-years later, which for the next two or three generations put paid to the hopes Sinclair had for an intellectually, politically and economically great New Zealand.
A professor of history at Auckland University, Sinclair was respected as a New Zealand nationalist and admired for his staunch opposition to the Vietnam war through the turbulent years of the nineteen-sixties, along with another Auckland University history lecturer, Dr Michael Bassett. Bassett and Sinclair, though quite different in character, were both members of the New Zealand Labour Party, and both stood for parliament on the NZLP ticket, Bassett successfully while Sinclair fell just short of taking the Mt Eden seat for Labour. For Sinclair, the failure to win Eden marked the end of his political career, but probably helped to preserve his reputation as a "left-wing nationalist" for posterity. Bassett went on to become a cabinet minister in the right-wing Lange Labour government, and later a spokesperson for the extreme right-wing ACT party.
It has become something of a general theme on this blog that the dominant right-wing liberalism of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries had its genesis in the left-wing liberalism of the nineteen-sixties. That is more clear in the New Zealand situation than elsewhere in the "developed world" because here it was the left-wing Labour Party which led the assault upon egalitarianism and the welfare state, whereas in the United States it was the right-wing republican Party under Ronald Reagan, and in the United Kingdom the right-wing conservative party of Margaret Thatcher which undertook that role. However in each case it was the left liberals who "softened up" their respective society by challenging the foundations of the old conservative order, in particular by advancing the ideas of personal freedom over social responsibility. Initially the left intended ideas of unfettered personal freedom to apply to sex, drugs and various forms of artistic expression, but inevitably and relatively swiftly it was seen that those same ideas could also be applied in the economic realm, at which point social liberalism and economic liberalism converged to form what became the fully fledged liberal ideology, rather than a mere set of sometimes conflicting personal and social inclinations.
So back to "The Historian as Prophet". Sinclair sets the scene "I am in the position of the detective in the first chapter of a whodunit. He is confident that a murder will be committed, but he doesn't know who will be the victim. Consequently everything is a clue to the crime. Everything and nothing". Actually Sinclair would better have written "I am in the position of the reader...". It would have made more sense put it that way, but perhaps even here he could not escape his underlying assumption that it is the professional, the intellectual, the members of elite groups who count for most in the great scheme of things. Never mind. Sinclair makes his point well enough. The "victim" was to be the infant nation which Sinclair hoped to see through to maturity, and the act of infanticide (sadly characteristic of an alienated people who have no sense of belonging) was to be perpetrated, wittingly or not, by people not too unlike Sinclair himself.
He starts with the sage observation that, writing we must remember in 1963, "we exaggerate the difference between communism and capitalist democracy". Events have proved him right. The communism of the middle years of the twentieth century rapidly devolved into capitalism, while democratic capitalist societies, such as New Zealand, with equal rapidity acquired many of the attributes of the communism which we had been taught to fear and loath - children in day care, ordinary people effectively denied the right to own their own homes or farms, systems of mass surveillance, denial of religion and a crass all-pervasive mass media propaganda machine. He decries "the way in which... truth, honour and our language.. are degraded every day by advertising". That judgement can now be extended to cover public relations people, the news media, politicians and even academics. It is worth noting however that Sinclair was assuming that a "future historian" would see things the way that he did, which is to imply that a future society would be largely freed from the evils that he perceived in twentieth century New Zealand. That implicit confidence in the intellectual and moral progress of New Zealand civilization was misplaced. If anything, society taken as a whole has significantly regressed in the years since 1963. The one point in which Sinclair has been at least partially vindicated by history is his abhorrence of the trade in tobacco. The restrictions placed on tobacco however almost seem anomalous when ranked alongside the general attitude to the social use of drugs, including alcohol, in New Zealand. If we were to go looking for a mid-twentieth century prophet of New Zealand in the twenty-first century Aldous Huxley would come closer to the mark than Keith Sinclair.
He acknowledges that "we can't ... decide what the future will be". All the talk of "nation building" from a later generation of Labour leaders is smoke and mirrors, hubris and arrogance, utterly devoid of substance. Waxing philosophical, he then writes "The Greeks thought that the future was the past.. Their word opiso .. means either "behind" or "in the future"..". A good point, yet it is curious that Sinclair chose to go to the Greek, rather than to the Maori ("i mua") to make that point. In fact, evidence suggests that had be been writing his essay a decade later, when the focus of his interests had shifted more towards the role of Maori in New Zealand society, he may well have made reference to the Maori rather than the Greek.
Sinclair then comes to one of the key planks of his thesis - the question of greatness. He acknowledges that "The founders of our state.. when they spoke of greatness they often spoke cant". That judgement would apply just as well to their political heirs.
So where does the "greatness of New Zealand lie"? Sinclair cites "two grand natal ideas", the "ideal of racial harmony" and "Edward Gibbon Wakefield's high civilization in the colonies". The "ideal of racial harmony" remains the indispensable condition of our national integrity, but Wakefield's class-based vision of "high civilization in the colonies" is the snake in the New Zealand garden. Sinclair succumbed to the Wakefield's vision, not entirely in its original form, but retaining all the essential elements of a society presided over by a privileged intellectual, social and economic elite.
He proposes a choice between "greatness" and "happiness" and for his part comes down on the side of "greatness" and "splendour". That is understandable. The historian naturally inclines to greatness. He basks in the reflected glory of the stories he tells. What is the point of writing history if there are no great deeds to record, no great men or women to place on pedestals and no grand themes to follow?
The ordinary person, however, seeks happiness rather than greatness, and thus politicians and patricians lure the lower classes with the promise of happiness through manifestoes, constitutions or other entertainments. Sinclair was not an abject failure as a politician - he came desperately close to wresting the Eden electorate from National - but might have been more successful if his vision had been guided by the politician's concern for the happiness of the multitude rather than the historian's or the poet's quest for splendour.
The object of a nation, as of a person, should be neither greatness nor happiness, but goodness, out of which arises the possibility of both greatness and happiness, even if with sacrifice and sorrow in train. But Sinclair does not overtly consider "the good". He is rigorously secular, verging on the profligate, substituting "civilization" for religion and "the university" for the church as the institution best fitted to protect and advance good in the world. He writes "My hopes for the future would dwell on the splendour ..ideas, literature, art, knowledge, truth...I would dream of a civilization based on ..equality in educational, social and economic opportunity; in legal and political rights. civilization is the supreme end of life, the finest product of the human being...man's speech in the face of final things; his answer to death.. the first faltering steps are being taken .. in the universities.. (the growth in student numbers) will produce a large intellectual elite.. we might begin by paying high salaries to MPs and top civil servants".
It is clear enough that Sinclair's ideas reflect upon his personal position as poet, writer and university professor (and perhaps also his upon his matrimonial situation). But in a broader context they represent the elitist doctrines propagated by the Auckland University cabal which included Michael Bassett, Richard Prebble, Roger Douglas and Sinclair himself. "Equality in educational, social and economic opportunity; in legal and political rights" and "social mobility" presuppose inequality in educational, social and economic outcomes. To what end? For Sinclair "the splendour of ideas, art, knowledge, truth..". For Bassett, Prebble and Douglas, rather more prosaically, "wealth and prosperity".
Were these valid ideas? Did Sinclair have it right in 1963, and did Prebble and Douglas have it right two decades later? Has the wider spread of income which Sinclair advocated created the "splendid civilization" to which he aspired? We have gained neither Sinclair's "splendid civilization" nor Douglas and Prebble's "universal prosperity". Instead we have been submerged in a banal and alien mass culture while our children live in poverty. The highly paid "top civil servants" of today are no more intellectually or morally impressive than those who constructed the modern apparatus of state in the middle of last century. The universities have become degree factories, largely abandoning the role of "critic and conscience of society". "Ideas, art, knowledge and truth" have fallen into neglect..
Sinclair was wrong. We do not have to choose between "quality" and "equality". Diversity of talents can coexist with equality of condition. To reach his promised land of splendour, Sinclair would have had to set out in the opposite direction to that which he took along with Bassett, Douglas and Prebble. Rather than focussing attention on diversity of talent and ability he needed to find the true source of national identity: the beliefs which make us "the same" as each other rather than the attributes which mark us out by degrees.
In the late nineteen eighties Sinclair wrote a book subtitled "New Zealand's Search for National Identity" which was based on the profound misconception that "national identity" was somehow synonymous with the outstanding characteristics of outstanding New Zealanders. He himself confessed in his autobiography "Half way round the harbour" that the search for identity is like peeling an onion - one strips off layer after layer seeking the heart only to find it hollow. "A Destiny Apart" is a catalogue of national characteristics, supposed or real. Each chapter a layer of Sinclair's onion, and at the end, a hollow emptiness.
Identity is not found in what we are, a supposed national type or set of characteristics, but in how we relate to each other. We possess a national identity to the extent that we recognise mutual dependence and obligation. Put more emotively, to the extent that we love one another. In loving one another, we make ourselves equal, because equality and trust are the product and condition of all familial love. Our children that we love we treat equally, regardless of their talents, characters, or ability, and from that condition of loving equality they and we derive our sense of identity as a family. It is the same with regard to nations.
In the middle of the twentieth century, after a century of ethnic wars, class conflicts and ruinous overseas military campaigns New Zealand was struggling towards identity through the reconciliation of Maori and Pakeha, rural and urban communities, 'blue' and 'white' collar workers. Then, from where we might have least expected, the Princes Street branch of the Labour Party, came a challenge which started by undermining our trust in each other, in unionists, workers, farmers, business people, public servants and politicians. Make no mistake, after the shame of the Vietnam war and the Springbok tour, and decades of feather bedding for farmers, manufacturers and public servants New Zealanders had good reason to look critically upon each other, and to search for ways to restore the trust that had been eroded over the years by the general decline in social and political morality. Instead of seeking to rectify the causes of that decline, the Princes Street Branch set out to foster general distrust with the implicit intention of extending social and economic inequality far beyond the bounds of the mid-century society.
Human beings share their largesse equally among those they love, and only among those they love. Those nations which are most equal and have the strongest sense of national identity - for example the Nordic countries or Japan - tend to be of one ethnic group, to speak their own unique language, and to have a long shared history all of which makes it easy for them to feel a familial love for their own compatriots. On the other hand ethnic and linguistic diversity, such as exists in New Zealand, will impede the development of national identity. Native born New Zealanders, taken as a whole, do not love their new immigrant populations. The German living in a mansion in Kaukapakapa, or the Jordanian milking cows on a Canterbury dairy farm for the minimum wage are valued only for the wealth which New Zealanders can extract from their labours. Otherwise, by and large, they are resented. But is it any different for the native born? New Zealanders have learned to see each other as mere instruments to be employed in the acquisition of wealth. That is a generalisation, which like all generalisations must be qualified, but it is true in general in terms of the prevailing ethos of New Zealand society. The foreign attachments of certain large ethnic groups present another, even greater, obstacle to the development of national identity. New Zealanders of British descent still insist that the head of state must be of their own ethnicity, drawn from the ranks of the British royal family, and many Chinese immigrants confess that their first loyalty is to China rather than New Zealand. Divided ethnic loyalties will not disappear of their own. They can only be expunged by an act of will which transcends ethnic loyalties and material ambitions: a genuine commitment to the well-being of all tangata and whenua.
The obstacles and impediments to national identity are not insurmountable. Over time they may be worn away by the trampling of many feet, provided there is a will to pass that way. But however well intentioned he may have been, Sinclair's legacy has done little to help the move towards, or resist the move away from, a national identity. Elitism, inequality and class divisions are as inimical to national identity as to "the splendour of ideas, art, knowledge, truth..", and their effective abolition is the essential pre-condition of a New Zealand identity.
Crisis? What crisis?
One redeeming characteristic of political extremists, whether from the left or right, is that they do not usually obfuscate. But Don Brash is an exception. Like many on the right, he is arguing that there is no housing crisis in Auckland, and that the only problem is high house prices due to a lack of supply. He prefers to ignore the demand factor which draws unwelcome attention to the role of people of wealth, such as himself, and he prefers to focus on the supply factor, because that suggests that the problem lies elsewhere, with local councils, environmentalists, and people working in the building trades. Yet serious economists assert, quite correctly, that price in a market economy is a function of both supply and demand, not one or the other alone, and, perhaps more contentiously, that by definition there is no "problem" when supply and demand combine to set a price in the market.
This economic logic is what underpins John Key's belief that there is no housing crisis in Auckland, and in a sense he is right. It is just that some people, actually a whole lot of people, possibly the great majority, cannot afford to buy a family home, while others, a much smaller group, can afford to buy two or three or twenty or thirty. To John Key, who happens to belong to the latter group, that is not a crisis. Some people can afford to buy a new Mercedes-Benz, while others can't. Does that constitute a Mercedes-Benz crisis? No, it is just the way things are.
Which brings us to the underlying problem in Auckland, which is not "supply" or "demand" or even the combination of the two, but gross inequality of wealth (admittedly in concert with unequal access to low interest loans, and a taxation system which favours residential property investors over home buyers). If everyone in the market for a house possessed an equal share of the national wealth, there would be no housing "problem" or "crisis", and prices would settle at a level affordable for all.
If all those wishing to enter the market, whether residents or foreigners, did so on the basis of equality of wealth, after-tax income and access to capital, then house prices would settle at a point acceptable to all. Alternatively, there are steps which could be taken to provide more or less equal access to housing without requiring effective equality of wealth or income. A rationing rule of "one dwelling per person" would quickly bring house prices down to realistic levels. When that was recklessly proposed by a guest on state radio, the host, Jim Mora, denounced the idea as communist. In fact, the vision of an egalitarian society based on privately owned family homes and farms has no connection to Marxian communism. It is the essence of free-market capitalism as everyone understood the concept at the height of the cold war. Yet it is as unlikely to see light of day under the present political system as much more radical solutions such as the redistribution or socialisation of wealth
Both foreign capital and foreign labour do influence the property market in New Zealand. Wealthy foreign investors bid up the price of urban residential property, while non-resident workers paid the minimum wage in the dairy and horticultural industries help to sustain the profits of those industries and thus to drive up the price of rural land. But it has nothing to do with whether they are Chinese, German or South African, Fijian, Jordanian or Indonesian and everything to do with the fact that they are either much wealthier, or else significantly poorer, than the average New Zealand worker. "Globalisation", the policy of successive National and Labour governments, does not only allow the importation of the full range of globally produced consumer goods. It also allows, indeed requires, the importation of the full range of global social and economic inequality. That suits the purposes of the colonial state, which from the days of the New Zealand Company has explicitly or implicitly as the case may be, sought to establish a class society in Aotearoa, but it does not serve the end of a stable, equitable and happy nation.
With the inequalities that exist most Aucklanders will never own their
own homes, and if that is a problem they have a limited number of options.
One is to get seriously rich - winning Lotto seems to be the most
popular option, and some might suggest the best practical prospect for
acquiring the kind of wealth necessary to buy a house in Auckland.
Another is regime change. If faced with twenty thousand Aucklanders
committed to the overthrow of the colonial state John Key would have no
difficulty in seeing a "crisis" in front of his eyes. However he
knows that New Zealanders are a pragmatically docile lot who only resist
injustice when other avenues of escape - such as emigration - are closed
to them. So I am forced to concur with Key, that there is no
crisis at present, but would add that if a real crisis should arrive at
some time in the future, the political solution will not be lagging far
28 April 2015
Nicky Hager's work "Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment" is one of those books which will be largely ignored by those who should read it (National and ACT party voters), and widely read by those for whom it will contain few surprises (supporters of all other parties, most particularly Labour and New Zealand First ).
"Dirty Politics" is a compelling brief of evidence against a network of individuals, all associated in some way with the New Zealand National Party, who have used tawdry and duplicitous methods to unduly influence the outcome of the political process in New Zealand. Evidence is what is usually lacking in "conspiracy theories", but in this case sufficient evidence is presented to transform the "theory" of collusion and subterfuge into proven fact. In that respect Hager and his sources have done the nation a service.
Hager exposes the workings of attack politics with clarity and detail, in terms of its constituent elements. The system works on four levels: which I categorise as "funders", "handlers", "attackers", and "collaborators" on the one hand and "targets" on the other.
The "funders" are mainly business corporations which include British American tobacco, Coca Cola, Fonterra, Dominion Breweries, Ports of Auckland and Crest Commercial Cleaning, but also the National Party as a whole, and factional or private interests within the National Party, in particular the parliamentarian Mark Mitchell.
The "handlers", in rough order of proximity to the action, have been Carrick Graham (Corporate Relations Manager), Simon Lusk (political organiser), Jason Ede (political aide), Judith Collins (Cabinet Minister), John Key (Prime Minister) and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.
The "attackers" include Rachel Glucina (New Zealand Herald), David Farrar (Kiwiblog), Cameron Slater (Whale Oil), Kathy Odgers and Aaron Bhatnagar.
The "collaborators" comprise state and private radio, television, print media (particularly the New Zealand Herald) and, perhaps surprisingly, many left-wing blogs. The role of the collaborators is crucial. The main stream media, who are both politically and financially motivated, amplify the effect of the attackers "hits" by an order of magnitude. They take content from the attack websites, which may be viewed by, say, 30,000 people, and publish that content to audiences of mass audiences of 300,000 or more.
Left-wing websites collaborate by providing links to attack sites like Whale Oil and Kiwiblog because they share the same basic liberal premises as the right-wing attack sites. That is not as improbable as it may first appear, because the contemporary left is defined not by Marxism, socialism, social democracy, or any of the principles which ostensibly drove and guided it throught the first half of the twentieth century, but by liberalism. The objective is a liberal society, and the "enemy" is no longer capitalism, but social conservatism. Hager, himself a left-winger and therefore a liberal, frequently uses a person's position on the Marriage Amendment Bill (same-sex marriage) as a litmus test of his or her political virtue. Slater and Farrar would pass Hager's test with flying colours. They are liberal to a fault. Thus they are loved as much by the liberal left of New Zealand politics as by the right, and feared and despised as much by the conservative right as by the left. It is not so simple as the left versus right dichotomy implied in Hager's book.
The main targets of these attacks have been the New Zealand Labour Party (and its former leaders Phil Goff and David Cunnliffe), the New Zealand First Party and its leader Winston Peters, Len Brown (Mayor of Auckland), Kim Dotcom (founder of the Internet Party), Independent Liquor Limited, the Maritime Union of New Zealand, Brent Robinson, Rodney Hide, Doug Sellman and an assortment of other health lobbyists and the Building Services Contractors Association. Most, but obviously not all, targets have been on the left-wing of politics. Right-wingers such as Brent Robinson and Rodney Hide, and politically undefined groups such as Independent Liquor and the Building Services Contractors Association have been targetted by the attackers for mercenary, pragmatic or opportunistic reasons without the consent or direction of high level handlers such as Simon Lusk, Cabinet Minister Judith Collins, or Prime Minister John Key.
This exposes a fatal flaw in the National Party's system of attack politics. The attack dogs are savage and effective, but undisciplined. Left to their own devices, as by and large they have been, they will take food from almost any hand, and bite any hand at the instigation of those who provided their last meal. The natural outcome is the "Chaos and Mayhem" which the attackers used as their group moniker. By the time that Hager's book reached the bookshelves in 2014, the situation must have become intolerable to the wider ranks of the National Party and the business community. In the interests of long-term stability the exercise of power needs to be controlled, distributed and predictable. But Chaos and Mayhem put power without responsibility into the hands of a few individuals - handlers such as Carrick Graham, Simon Lusk, Judith Collins and John Key - and and allowed the arbitary and unpredictable exercise of that power.
Ultimately bloggers like Slater are not strictly accountable to anyone but themselves, and that is why they are so useful to handlers like Graham, Lusk and Collins, who can use them to promote personal and factional interests. But their lack of accountability is a recipe for eventual disaster, not just for the targets, but for the funders, handlers, collaborators and the attack dogs themselves. No one in the National Party hierarchy or the business community could know for sure who would be the next target and who, if anyone, would be immune to attack. If Nicky Hager had not brought Chaos and Mayhem to book, sooner or later either the National Party itself or the business community, would have been obliged to do so.
For all that, Hager has done the New Zealand public a service. Unfortunately, however, he falls short on analysis and explanation. That failing may be ascribed to the pressure to get the information in the book to the public before the 2014 parliamentary general election.
The subtitle "How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment" implies that attack politics is a cause (the cause?) of the toxic state of New Zealand politics, yet Hager brings no evidence or logic to show that it is a fundamental cause, rather than one of many phenomena reflecting a more widespread and profound decline in public morality. Many, arguably most, of the badly bitten targets - for example Goff, Cunliffe, Brown, Hide, the Maritime Union and Independent Liquor - have exposed themselves to attack by their own amoral, mercenary or duplicitous acts. Chaos and Mayhem would never have gained traction if the left of politics was wholy or even largely comprised of people of upright character and self-less motives.
Hager also touches on the religious associations or motivations of the actors in his drama. Slater, he notes, is a Seventh Day Adventist. Does Slater's behaviour tell us anything about the ethics of the Seventh Day Adventist Church? It may, but Hager leaves the question hanging in the air. The SDA church has a history. Most notoriously, its members were complicit in the Rwandan genocide. The church draws on old testament teaching that "winners" are ipse facto blessed by God, and "losers" are, by the same token, condemned. Thus the church, and its members, are sometimes capable of the most amoral conduct when that is seen, rightly or wrongly, to serve their long term interests. Slater is an excellent example of the doctrine in action. But it should not therefore be assumed, as Hager seems to invite us to do, that all religious believers, or even all Christians, are prone to the kind of monstrosity displayed by Slater in his Whale Oil blog.
Hager's approach to the interplay of religion and politics, liberalism and conservatism, left and right, is too simplistic, wherever he touches on these vital questions. While deploring the exposure of the private sex lives of liberal politicians he implies that "hypocrisy justifies publication, for ... an outspoken morals campaigner..". This assumes that hypocrisy is one personal moral failing which justifies intrusion into private lives that would otherwise be inexcusable. True, Jesus of Nazareth did suggest that hypocrisy was among the greatest of sins, but liberal doctrines are meant to be based on reason rather than scripture. Hager cannot have it both ways. The exception which he wants to allow goes beyond the issue of hypocrisy. Are a secret smoker who campaigns against the tobacco trade, or a pro-marriage campaigner who as a 17 year old girl had a child out of wedlock, to be considered "fair game" while the philandering liberal politician is to have his private life kept strictly private? Is a momentary fall from grace or singular moral lapse sufficient to discredit any moral position? You either keep the debate to policy and principles, or if you include personalities, you must put everyone on notice - not just the "outspoken morals campaigner". Hager has not thought this one through and the reason, I suggest is the left's deep ntagonism to anyone who espouses traditional sexual morality. Such people are considered beyond the pale, and therefore undeserving of the basic respect and protections which the left would allow to any other of the seven billion human beings on this earth. It is a contradiction, but more than that, it goes to the heart of the left's liberal malaise. By chipping away at the moral foundations of society, the political left has harmed all classes, and most particularly the working classes. It has also, perhaps more pertinently, brought its own ranks into moral and political jeopardy. "Dirty politics" is the natural consequence for a society and a political movement which has abandoned its moral compass. Sleazy politicians, duplicitous unionists and muck-raking foul-mouthed sociopathic bloggers are the product of a deep and wide social influences which originate in the liberal mainstream of New Zealand society. They are not the original unaided creation of the far right, as Hager's book might suggest.
But other of Hager's assertions carry conviction.
For example "anonymous speech .. brings out the worst in people" invites the conclusion that anonymous comment should be unacceptable in any public political debate. If that rule were to be followed, Chaos and Mayhem could never have progressed as far as they have in New Zealand politics.
Hager's suggestion that "the real divide is between news organisations that hold governments to account .. and those who are friendly to the powerful..." could perhaps be more succinctly expressed as "news organisations should report fairly and without fear of or favour to any individual or institution". Those who show bias towards the weak and powerless only open themselves to dispassionate criticism, while those who have a bias in favour of the rich and powerful are contemptible cowards, of whom New Zealand has more than its fair share in state and private broadcasting, print media, and internet websites. Never-the-less, it is not only governments and wealthy corporations that should be held to account. Wrong-doing, whether by a cabinet minister or a state welfare beneficiary, a liquor company or a trade union, is still wrong-doing and the left needs to learn that over-looking wrong-doing in its own ranks now will cause it further troubles in the future.
In the afterword, Hager makes a number of suggestions, some of which have merit.
His recommendation that "Leaders budgets need to be given the same transparency as MPs' spending. Ministerial Services and Parliamentary Services need to be brought under financial scrutiny and strengthened freedom of information laws" seems to me to be unexceptionable.
But his implicit suggestion that the state should fund party election campaigns is simply a recipe for the perpetuation of a privileged political cast at the expense of the general population, as is his suggestion of public funding for "independent research and policy institutes" aka "think tanks". This is the cause that has been taken up by former Green Party Member of Parliament Sue Bradford. Bradford has studiously avoided any serious debate over the merits of her proposal, leading to the suspicion that it is motivated by the self-interest of left-wing academics cum political activists like herself. This is an issue which the left wishes to promote rather than debate. Enough said.
Hager's next proposal that "all academics, scientists, medical staff and others on public salaries should be actively encouraged to participate in pressing social and political issues" is again unexceptionable, but why restrict the encouragement to those on "public salaries"?
The same call has come from the left-wing Fabian Society website, where it was argued "The .. thing that need (sic) to be fixed is the deligitimising (sic) of politics for people such as academics, scientists, all those who know about what is going on. If we don't have the maximum freedom of speech for such people then we are leaving politics to the Cameron Slater's (sic) of this world. Countries need intelligent motivated people and the great reservoir of those people is in the public service. What we have at the moment is that we don't have a public servant who doesn't think that they are doing something wrong if they get themselves involved in what is going on as a citizen"
To which I responded on this site:
"Ironically, the Fabian Society declined to publish any comment criticial of the idea that giving "maximum freedom of speech" to academics and scientists would restore the fortunes of the left. Evidently the Fabians believe that the rest of the population, who presumably have no idea "what is going on" in New Zealand, do not need or deserve the same "maximum freedom of speech" as academics and state servants.
The idea that the "great reservoir" of "intelligent motivated people" who "know about what is going on" is in the "public service" is the left-wing equivalent of the rightist myth that the most industrious members of society are to be found among the ranks of the wealthy. The reality is that millions of ordinary New Zealanders work harder than the privileged rich and think more critically than the Fabian academics".
(The full text of my comments on the "great reservoir" of "intelligent motivated people" may be found here )
Lastly Hager argues that "attacking other people's personal lives .. is not fair play". Criticism of private lives is only unfair if it is done in an unfair way, though even when "fair" it may unconstructive and self-defeating. My own advice and inclination would be not to do it. But while Hager allows an exception for "moral campaigners" I would avoid such selective morality, and suggest that the licentious liberal should not enjoy any protection which is denied to the "moral campaigner".
One reason why the fortunes of the left have declined so dramatically
is that the liberal left has won an emphatic victory over the forces of
social conservatism, to the point where it no longer has a convincing raison
d'etre. In the current political context, all political parties,
and all main stream media, are eitherly moderately or vehemently liberal.
As the left-wing liberal Brian Edwards flirts with the right-wing liberal
Michelle Boag, finding their common interests in film, fashion, food and
wine more compelling than the faint relicts of political difference which
merely adds spice to their relationship, so the left-wing parties can bring
no conviction to their competition with the forces of the right.
Politics, both within and between parties, has degenerated into a squalid
struggle for power, in which the right-wing parties fight harder and dirtier
than the left. Hager has exposed the problem of dirty
politics, but he has yet to propose viable solutions.
7 April 2015
The perils of modernity
The deliberate destruction of Germanwings Airbus A320 on a flight from Barcelona to Germany by its co-pilot Andreas Lubitz signals that the indiscriminate mass murder (usually described as "terrorism") is not a phenomenon restricted to any particular religious or political persuasion.
Throughout their history human beings have engaged in various forms of mass murder for a wide range of motives. So what, if anything, has changed? The simple answer is that mass murder has become more congruent with the general structure of a society based on mass production and informed by mass media. In a previous age the production of light, heat and sound required skill, time and effort, and even with a degree of skill could be a dirty, difficult business. Mass murder committed by a single individual was all but impossible. Today light, heat, sound and death can all be delivered quickly and cleanly by an unskilled person who knows how to flick a switch.
Improved ways of killing have been accompanied by removal of the moral inhibitions against killing. The traditional inhibitions have been eroded on the one hand by the rise of atheistic ideologies such as fascism and bolshevism, and on the other by the rise of nihilism out of the liberal fixation on the pursuit of individual happiness and the gratification of the individual will.
At the same time the division of society into the classes of "celebrity" and "nonentity" has created a new motive for dramatically amoral acts of murder and mayhem. Many young people confess that they want "to be famous", and dream of being lifted out of the mass of nonentities into the company of the celebrities who they see portrayed on television, film, radio, magazines and newspapers. The great majority of these young people eventually find real fulfilment in normal personal relationships, and quietly abandon the quest for subliminal fulfilment through celebrity status. However when normal relationships fail, the desire for fame may be reasserted with tragic consequences.
When the new capabilities, disinhibitions and motivations of liberal industrial society coalesced in the person of Andreas Lubitz one hundred and fifty travellers died on a mountainside in the French Alps. Society reacts with horror to instances of terrorism and mass murder even if, as in the case of Andreas Lubitz, it does not know how to classify the incident. But the news editors and the politicians, the ideologists of the liberal regime, seem incapable of exploring the real reasons why these events take place.
The frightening conclusion, which most seek to avoid, is that while
such incidents may be out of the ordinary, they are not abnormal.
Like the concentration camps of an earlier era they are the logical outcome
of a widely accepted mindset, a historical context, and a particular state
of technical development, and so long as society adheres to the belief
that fame and happiness are legitimate goals in the life of the individual,
such incidents will recur.
11 February 2015
"Freedom of the Press"
Journalists and newspaper editiors have been horse-whipped, lynched or murdered by outraged members of the public or criminal gangs for as long as the profession has existed. Latterly the media has portrayed such events, previously categorised as crimes against public order, as attacks upon the "freedom of the press". Thus the liberal zeitgeist blurs distinctions random acts of individuals and systematic programmes of state. The weakpoint of liberalism is its failure to discriminate between distinctly different types or entities such as male and female, words and actions, the state and the individual and even right and wrong. The resulting outcome is a confused public discourse and misguided public policy.
The important difference between state restrictions upon "freedom of the press" and public attacks on journalists is a reflection of the difference between the state, as an organised body functioning according to well-defined rules, holding a preponderance of power and claiming absolute authority, and the public as an assortment of individuals or groups who are subject to the power and authority of the state and who, generally speaking, recognise the legitimacy of the state.
When individuals or groups vent their anger at the press through acts of random violence, there is little or no effect upon what is published or broadcast by the mass media. Journalists carry on with their work, reasonably confident that the state will deter, prevent, or punish such crimes and therefore that attacks upon journalists and news organisations will remain isolated events.
On the other hand state restrictions upon freedom of the press have a palpable effect. The power of the state is constant and pervasive and the media accepts state restrictions without question, as seen in the Sydney coffee house siege, the New Zealand military's attempts to intimidate journalist Jon Stephenson, or the "D-notice" system operating in New Zealand, under which the state instructs the news organisations to suppress publication of items considered inimical to the interests of the state. When Australian journalist Peter Gresham was imprisoned by the Egyptian state, backed by the United States and Australian governments, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australian media, and their counterparts in New Zealand, maintained an undignified silence, reminiscent of the official silence which surrounded the execution of five Australian and New Zealand journalists by the Indonesian military in East Timor in 1975.
For the families of murdered journalists, it may make little difference whether their attackers were acting independently or under the direction of the state, but for society as a whole the consequences are of a different order, and the concept of "freedom of the press" should not be confused with the intention or consequences of individual acts of violence.
A free press is no more than a means to an end, and it only has value
when it gives rise to and sustains the working of a decent, truthful and
honest press. Society only tolerates indecent publications, such
as Charlie Hebdo because a free press is recognised as a necessary condition
for a virtuous press. But western civilisation can no longer
lay claim to decent, truthful and honest news media, and thus the argument
for a free press may seem less compelling. The news media in
its self-assumed role of "the fourth estate" acts as an agency of state,
and thus has become an instrument of deception, misinformation and provocation.
Until that changes, the news media will be part of the problem, rather
than part of the solution to the crisis of western civilization.
9 January 2015
It's colonialism, stupid.
The most intelligently dispassionate New Zealand media comment on the Charlie Hebdo attack came from Derek Fox, who pointed out that the attack had been provoked by Hebdo's lampooning of the prophet Muhammed. Hebdo is a pornographic publication with a political slant - not the sort of magazine that you would give to your fourteen year old daughter for a Christmas present, and one has to wonder whether those who take up the cry "Je suis Charlie" (or, in New Zealand, "I am Charlie") really have much idea of what they are saying about themselves. That is forgivable ignorance. But there is also inexcusable arrogance at work when imperial peoples, invariably European and usually secularist, think they can properly and safely ridicule the things which their subject peoples hold most sacred. Fox knows otherwise. If a European New Zealander walks into a bar in South Auckland and begins to ridicule things Maori or Polynesian, he will mostly be ignored, but sooner or later someone, in gross disregard of the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and security of the person, will throw a punch. That is the unfortunate reality of life.
At a broader and deeper level, these events are the reaction to centuries
of western imperial rule in the the Muslim world. Colonialism is
a two way trade. European armies and administrators are sent
to rule conquer and rule the colonial territories and colonial peoples
migrate to the European centres of empire to serve as cheap domestic labour.
But as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott pointed out, this foreign
labour force has no love for its hosts. "They hate us and they
hate our freedom" Abbott declared. He is right. They do hate
the freedom of people like Abbott and French President Francois Hollande
to do pretty well whatever they like at home or abroad. The
socialist Hollande has directed a resurgence of French military activity
in North Africa, the middle East and Central Asia, and, in the most colossal
act of hypocrisy, banned observant Muslim women in France from going out
in public. When insult is added to injury incidents will happen.
For the imperial authorities like Abbott and Hollande, it just part of
the cost of doing business. For the victims it comes as a rude,
brutal and unanticipated shock. Sadly, there will be more such
shocks, because the imperial nations show no signs of engaging in the sort
of self-examination necessary to break the cycle of wanton death and destruction.
6 January 2015
New Year Honours
Republicans are generally uncomfortable with the New Zealand honours system because it is a royal honours system, explicitly associated with the monarchy. They would resolve that problem by changing the name from "Royal Honours" to "National Honours" (for the benefit of right-wing republicans), "New Zealand Honours" (for those on the left), "Kiwi Honours" (for the shameless proponents of pseudo-nationalism) or "State honours" (for those New Zealanders who still believe that honesty is preferable to dissimulation).
A mere change of name would require no fundamental re-thinking of the whole logic of a system of state honours which has been explored previously on this site. The system itself is designed to confound the best and the worst of New Zealand society: authors, musicians, public-spirited citizens, and sporting heros with military commanders, spy chiefs, prominent politicians and wealthy capitalists, so that the most malign among the citizenry, and the state itself, may share in the aura of those who have genuinely contributed to the well-being of society.
The apparent "democratisation" of the honours system, previously the preserve of liquor industry magnates, right-wing politicians and their ilk, and which now bestows low-level honours upon community workers and social critics, has simply made it a more insidious and effective tool for undermining the ethos of egalitarianism in this country.
There is another reason why the honours system should be dispatched with altogether, and that relates to the way in which it is, and must be, administered. The honours are decided in secret by a committee which acts as it sees fit. There are no rules to go by and no objective measures are employed. The honours system is an expression of the autocratic power which dominates and controls the lives of New Zealanders, to the good or ill of individuals, but always to the detriment of society as a whole.
I first came up against the reality of the honours system as an adult student at the Canterbury University School of Forestry, when when I was the only student in my graduating year to be awarded first class honours as a Bachelor of Forestry Science, two other students being awarded second class honours. However the prize for "best student" (the Schlich Memorial Prize), awarded by a committee of government and industry leaders, went to one of the second class honours graduates. When I enquired into the apparent anomaly, I was told that the prize winner had been selected because he was an "outstanding rugby player who had contributed to the success of the School of Forestry rugby team". Many years later a member of the university staff revealed to me that the real reason why I was passed over was that my political opinions were unacceptable to the government and industry members of the prize committee. (Ironically, the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau did recognise me as the "best student" of my year on the basis of straight academic results.)
That case is one example of how New Zealand bureaucrats, spy agencies,
politicians and business interests work together in formal committees or
informal association to make, or break, the careers of millions of New
Zealanders, with the sole object of perpetuating their own corrupt hold
on power. Even while many thoroughly decent people may be caught
up in it, and even though it may appear to be relatively innocuous, the
honours system is part of a vile system of patronage and persecution which
should not be tolerated. The winner of the Schlich Memorial Prize
in my year was an able and decent young man. His personal and professional
qualities may indeed have been far superior to my own. That however
is not the point. The point is that social rewards, opportunities,
punishments and restrictions should be based on objective rules and administered
in a transparent manner. That does not happen in New Zealand, and
the royal honours system is just a case in point.
17 December 2014
"The bombing will continue until morality improves.."
I was one of those who believed that massive and sustained western aerial bombardment of Muslim populations from the Gaza strip to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan would provoke soul-searching among Muslims, culminating in higher standards of public morality in the Muslim world. The recent events Peshawar now lead me to doubt that confidence in the ability of humanity, and Muslims in particular, to return good for evil. More bombing from the air may provoke further outrages on the ground.
There are two drivers for the massacre of innocents.
One is the passions and hatreds which are unleashed by the deaths of loved ones, compatriots or co-religionists.
The other, which particularly applies to the Muslim world, is the interruption to social discourse, and the destruction of restraining social institutions by blunt western military force. Under the impact of the bombing, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have become anarchic societies, leaving different groups and factions free to follow their own convictions and advance their own interests. That anarchy has a positive aspect compared with the brutally authoritarian rule of previous military or quasi-military regimes. But I remain unshaken in my conviction that massive aerial bombing by the western powers is no way to deal with the clash of cultures. Neither do I believe that it is an appropriate way of responding to particular violations of the rules of civilised societies.
I suspect that most New Zealanders and Australians would share that
belief. Unfortunately, their governments do not, and it is governments
which control the military assets of the state. The bombing
will continue until God knows when...
After the bluster, a whimper...
Andrew Little started his tenure as leader of the New Zealand Labour Party with a bang, impressing many with the vigour and clarity with which he attacked the mendacity of Prime Minister John Key, and denounced the process in which the so-called "counter terrorist" legislation was being rushed through Parliament without public consultation.
But by week's end, Little's crusade ended in a whimper as he cut a deal with Key to accept the "appalling" parliamentary process and to support the legislation allowing Key, the master of "dirty politics", to conduct un-warranted video surveillance of New Zealand citizens through the Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications Security Bureau.
State surveillance is little more than an insult to the general public, who will become accustomed to the fact that government spooks may be listening to their conversations, reading their mail, and watching who they associate with in private houses and public meetings. The real impact is on the state itself. In every other state which has set up mass surveillance systems the main use of the data gathered has been political blackmail, and the target has been those who work within the system. Secret knowledge is secret power, and the spychief is potentially either the most powerful or second most powerful person in the state. J Edgar Hoover, Laventri Beria, Heinrich Himmler all had credible justifications for the systems of surveillance which they administered, and enjoyed a measure of genuine public support. None of that changes the fact that mass surveillance is the mark of dirty regimes, and that there is a direct association between the rise of state surveillance and the widening gap between people and state.
So why would Little hand those powers of mass surveillance to a man like John Key? Does Key "have the dirt" on Little? Sooner or later both Key and Little will depart the scene, but the damage to what is left of the integrity of the state will be permanent.
Little also will have disappointed many with his statement that legalisation of marijuana is "not a priority" for the New Zealand Labour Party. Effectively he is sitting on the fence, an awkward and uncomfortable position for any politician to occupy over the long term. The statement is designed to signal that Little is sympathetic to the call for legalisation, but fearful of the political consequences of giving open support. The convergence of National, Labour, and the Labour spin-off parties, ACT and United Future, towards a liberal consensus on both economic and social issues has not been to the electoral advantage of Labour which has been bleeding socially conservative working class voters since 1987. On the other hand, Labour's rump ultra-liberal middle-class members could not contemplate a return to any form of social conservatism. So Little must fence-sit on this issue, until such time as some other party - either ACT or National - takes the initiative to legalise marijuana.
20 November 2014
Who is sovereign?
Disputes over sovereignty are the most profound debates which can occur in any society, even if they do not always generate as much heat as the more mundane issues of taxation and governance. The Waitangi Tribunal has re-opened the question of who, or what, is sovereign in Aotearoa by ruling that Maori chiefs did not cede sovereignty to Queen Victoria at Waitangi in February 1840. The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has now stepped in to insist that "without question the Crown is sovereign". Mr Key is incorrect, even in his own terms. Queen Victoria's descendant, Queen Elizabeth, is sovereign in the realm of New Zealand, and it is to her that Mr Key swears allegiance. "The crown" on the other hand is an abstract entity comprising sundry parts, Mr Key himself, in his capacity as Prime Minister, being one. Can Mr Key plausibly claim that he personally exercises sovereign authority through his leading position in the political apparatus of the Crown? Would he dare to make such a claim explicit? He would not, because to do so would provide substance to the claims that he is politically "arrogant". But neither is he eager to tell the plain unvarnished truth that for the regime, Queen Elizabeth, Queen of New Zealand, is sovereign. His evasion is understandable. He would have difficulty justifying giving sovereign authority over these islands to a foreign-born and overseas-resident hereditary monarch, particularly when there are other more appealing candidates. For nationalists and democrats "the people" are sovereign, for advocates of tino rangatiratanga, Maori, and for nga morehu, Ihoa o nga mano. There may be no question in the minds of individuals, be they supporters of the regime, democrats, nationalists, believers or Maori, but there remains a profound difference of opinion between individuals, and a political question which must be addressed and resolved by one means or another.
12 November 2014
The Obama administration has decided, or claims, that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria threatens the security of the United States. Consequently, though not necessarily logically, the Key government declares that ISIS is also a threat to New Zealand interests. The Labour Party "opposition" has fallen into line and so has the mass media. Only the Green Party is being difficult, and the New Zealand Herald's political correspondent John Armstrong has had to take them to task in his best early-childhood-educator style: "listen up, Greens - it's a lesson you must learn ..the public expects political parties to .. reach some consensus in the national interest". Armstrong does not inform us quite how he knows what the public expects (all the evidence is that the public is not at all convinced by the case for New Zealand to take on ISIS), or why the government's policy is "in the national interest" except for the supposed "threat to life and limb posed by ISIS". We are left with the presumption that John Armstrong himself is the ultimate judge of both "public opinion" and "the national interest".
It may be that ISIS has taken many lives and limbs in Syria and northern Iraq, but I am not aware of any New Zealanders who have suffered under its rule. If New Zealand was to go to war with any regime which inflicted death and suffering on its own people why not Mexico, where 43 student protesters were abducted by police last month and then handed over to a drug cartel for execution? Or Egypt where scores have been executed, hundreds massacred in the streets and thousands imprisoned following the military coup? The answer is that New Zealand does not go to war in order to right abuses or to protect the "life and limb" of either New Zealand or foreign citizens. In most such cases, New Zealand will not lift a finger or utter a word to help the victims of atrocity. Armstrong himself reveals the real reason for the ISIS deployment is that it is "the minimum John Key could get away with without traditional allies such as Australia looking askance". The Green Party must fall in behind the Labour Party, because the Labour Party has fallen in behind the National Party, which has fallen in behind Australia, which has fallen in behind Barack Obama. Never mind if Obama has got it wrong. He probably has got it wrong, as did his predecessor, George W Bush. But at least Obama is doing his own thinking. New Zealand politicians are not thinking through the issue at all, with the exception of the Greens, who are being castigated for their impertinence.
So let's look at ISIS. The problem with ISIS is not the number they have killed, or even who they have killed and how (the public beheading of just a few westerners is clearly of greater consequence than the millions of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani who have had their heads blown off by bombers from the civilized democratic western nations). The problem posed by ISIS is that it has imposed a political order which is opposed to western style democracy and which has proved both popular and successful. The caliphate has brought orderly, efficient and honest government to the regions under its control. It has been welcomed by millions in Iraq and Syria, and by many within Muslim communities around the world, particularly Muslim youth.
That is a threat of sorts, but it is not a "threat to life and limb". It is an ideological threat which in the normal course would meet with an ideological response. But western regimes have no ideological weapon in their arsenal which is capable of resisting the ISIS campaign, and so they have chosen instead to use the high explosive weapons which they possess in abundance.
The highly publicised killing of two soldiers in Canada by disaffected Canadians, and the unsubstantiated allegation of a plot to behead random Australian citizens are an expression of the social tensions and political interests at work within the countries which make up the western military alliance. There are millions of frustrated young men in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand a few of whom see Islam as a principled, egalitarian answer to their personal problems and the general crisis of western society. They derive from Islam a feeling of self-worth, brotherhood and most critically a sense of personal legitimacy, and the converse illegitimacy of the regime under which they live. A rather larger number of those who sit at the heart of neo-liberal capitalist regimes in turn find that this tiny minority within a minority of "home-grown Islamic extremists" can be used to inspire panic among the mass of the population thus ostensibly providing justification for wars and enhanced levels of social surveillance and control. But the problems of western capitalism will not disappear if, or when, ISIS is removed from the map of the world, and the disaffected masses of the western nations will go on to adopt other more substantial standards of legitimacy under which to challenge the status quo.
Prime Minister Key has said that New Zealanders who go to areas controlled by the Islamic State will be radicalised by ISIS "propaganda" and that the way to deal with this threat of radicalisation is to destroy the source of the propaganda, by killing those who have given allegiance to the Islamic State. He also proposes to prevent New Zealanders from traveling to areas under ISIS control, on the assumption that they will come back converted to the ISIS view of the world. Ironically, the New Zealand government chose to begin revoking passports on political grounds in the same month that the world was celebrating the fall of the Berlin wall, which prevented East Germans from freely travelling to the West. Twenty five years later the New Zealand government has yet to learn that no regime can save itself by restricting freedom of opinion and the freedom to travel.
Mr Key is either deluded or disingenuous. New Zealanders are capable of making up their own minds about what they see and experience when traveling overseas, and intelligent enough to realise that what works in Iraq, or what has arisen out of the historical and material conditions in Syria might have no direct relevance to what is possible in this country. But whether he is deluded or being deceitful, his stand will do no great harm, and may even do good. New Zealanders should not be taking sides in a war in the Arabian peninsula when they have a battle to fight against the colonial regime here at home.
ISIS may survive through the onslaught of western bombs, but at some
point it must either fade away or evolve into a different kind of order.
Black flags and balaclavas are not the attributes of a movement which
truly believes in its own historical and religious legitimacy, and ISIS,
or whatever follows after ISIS, will at the very least have to find a way
of co-existing with its Shia neighbours. Meanwhile, New Zealanders
should focus their own efforts upon ridding themselves of another
regime which has become a national and international disgrace. The
29 New Zealanders who died at Pike River, and the 10 who died in the forest
industry last year are evidence of a regime which cares little for the
lives of its own people, while claiming, quite falsely, to be outraged
at the fate of the Yasidi and the Kurds.
24 October 2014
It's called integrity Mr Key - "an undivided state" - but you might not understand...
To have integrity means to be undivided, not broken into parts.
An individual of integrity will be recognisably the same person in any
situation. He will give the same account of events regardless of whom he
is addressing or in what circumstances. When John Key in his capacity
as Prime Minister refuses to answer questions about his communications
in his capacity as Leader of the National Party he is not just being precious
about which hat he happens to be wearing at the time. Mr Key should not
be allowed as many faces as he has hats. He should not present different
faces to Cameron Slater, the National Party caucus and the New Zealand
public. By so doing he demonstrates that he lacks integrity
in the literal sense of the word.
Integrity in an informant means that we are not left wondering whether what we hear from him is influenced by his other interests or relationships. His family connections, employment, political affiliations and private property interests should make no difference in what he tells us. As a matter of course we expect the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from those in whom we place our trust.
Mr Key has now abandoned all pretence of integrity. We all now know what many have long suspected, namely that John Key will only tell the public of New Zealand those things which he believes will serve him well, and will conceal whatever he believes may jeopardize his personal or political interests. Even his "darling wife" might justifiably wonder whether he is speaking to her as a husband, Prime Minister of New Zealand, leader of the National Party or any other of the many alter egos which he assumes in the course of a day.
17 October 2014
Liberty, equality or fraternity?
The liberal critics of twenty-first century capitalism - in New Zealand people like Max Rashbrooke, Sir Edmund Thomas and the Bruce Jesson Foundation - have focussed their attention on the social and economic "inequality" arising out of the "neo-liberal" economic order. (The egalitarian, social liberals attach the prefix "neo-" to distinguish the right-wing economic liberals from themselves, but when it comes down to it they are all liberal, albeit of different shades, and the "neo" tag merely serves to obscure what they have in common).
The egalitarian argument received a boost from the international publication of Wilkinson and Pickett's "The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better" in 2009. Without going into the detail of the debate which has been generated around "The Spirit Level" by those who criticise its methodology, there is a persuasive argument that more economically equal societies are happier and more productive. However, even assuming that to be the case, it does not follow that egalitarianism can provide a workable solution to the ills of a grossly unequal society such as New Zealand. Inequality is an artifact of the social order, not its basic premise. One cannot effectively treat a social disease by publicly fulminating over the symptoms.
The idea that equality (or for that matter "freedom") is the answer (and by implication at least, the only answer) to the problems of our age reveals the pitiable state of political discourse in New Zealand. On the one hand we have the right arguing that "freedom" and "choice" are a sufficient basis for a sound and stable social order, and on the other the left arguing that "equality" is the only necessary and sufficient condition. Neither side comes close to replicating the depth or subtlety of the debates over the issue of "liberty" and "equality" which took place in, for example, France in the period from 1789 onwards.
In fact, left and right have divided pretty much on the same grounds as left and right divided in revolutionary France, where the right stood for "Liberté, sûreté, propriété" ("Liberty, security, property") and the left for "Liberté, egalité, fraternité" ("Liberty, equality, fraternity"). The world has not changed that much in the past two centuries, but our ability to appreciate and articulate political distinctions has changed - for the worse.
In becoming "liberal" the left has accentuated the importance of liberty and equality at the expense of the third part of the revolutionary motto, fraternity. It is worth noting that while the rightists preferred ""Liberty, security, property" over "Liberty, equality and fraternity" the early socialists (Fourier, Saint-Simon, Cabet) joined with Christian religion in maintaining the pre-eminence of fraternity over liberty and equality.
The Wikipedia entry on the tripartite motto of the bourgeois revolution notes "Leroux .. ordered the motto as Liberty, Fraternity, Equality, an order also supported by Christian socialists, such as Buchez....the nationalist Charles Maurras in his Dictionnaire politique et critique, ..claimed Liberty to be an empty dream, Equality an insanity, and only kept Fraternity".
I am not suggesting that we follow Maurras, although I do believe that we should listen to what he, Fourier, Saint-Simon and others have to say. Devotion to a single principle of social organisation is always fraught with danger. The liberal obsession with the liberty of the individual, whether economic (from the right) or social (from the left) or a more thoroughly consistent combination of the two, such as expressed in the ACT party, underlies the current crisis of civilization, just as surely as the Marxist fixation on solidarity (as a travesty of fraternity) brought the Soviet regimes of the twentieth century to their ultimate destruction.
Instead, we should focus on better understanding the meanings of, and relationships between "liberty", "equality" and "fraternity". How far, and through what mechanisms should the rights bestowed by "liberty" and obligations incurred through "fraternity" be balanced? Many on the right do not even regard this as a valid question which is why their system is headed for a catastrophe. Many on the left do not understand how crucial the question is their ability to lead or promote positive social change, and that is one explanation for the current political impotence of the left.
I dealt with the concept of choice
in some depth in a previous post. For a critical analysis of
the egalitarian argument click here .
14 October 2014
Wayne Brittenden presents Counterpoint on Radio New Zealand on Sunday mornings. He is one of a rare breed in New Zealand broadcasting - articulate, erudite, perceptive and courageous. He is also, as far as I can make out, a secular liberal, and like so many secular liberals his rare insight fails him when it comes to questions of religion. His talk last Sunday, on the subject of John Calvin and Calvinism, is a case in point. Rather than canvas the whole matter of Brittenden's talk - which was a harsh and to my mind unbalanced assessment of Calvin's character and contribution to religion - I will discuss one particular aspect, which was central to Calvin's theology, namely the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Counter counterpoint - click here to read more
12 October 2014
South Africa 1899-1902
France, Belgium, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Samoa 1914-18
North Africa, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Russia, Germany, Austria, Pacific, Japan 1939-45
Timor l'este 1999-2003
And New Zealanders should be barred from engaging in foreign conflicts?! Is that not "just what we do"? Is it not what supposedly "defined us as a nation"? The hypocrisy of a New Zealand "ban on foreign fighters" will not be lost on the six billion others who share planet earth with us.
If we are to have a ban on foreign fighters, let it be according to a rule of law, such as a constitutional provision which bars all New Zealanders from fighting in foreign lands or on behalf of a foreign power. New Zealand's involvements in foreign wars have been devastating for New Zealand as a nation and for the nations in which they fought. To take just one example from my own experience, Vietnam was devastated by its American war, while back home in New Zealand generations were divided, there were battles on the streets of Auckland and Wellington, the left took up arms against the right, and the New Zealand troops came home broken, embittered and despised by many of their compatriots. The Iraq involvement ended in catastrophe, and the Afghanistan campaign has been a tragic fiasco, with New Zealand lives thrown away to no effect.
Sweden, which has not fought a foreign war in the past two centuries, is a much happier, more prosperous and united nation than New Zealand, which has jumped headfirst into almost every war going since 1899.
Yet John Key will not bar New Zealanders from serving in the military forces of the State of Israel, the United States of America, the Commonwealth of Australia or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is unlikely that he would bar them from fighting in, for example, a Tibetan revolt against the Peoples Republic of China, a domestic uprising against the Islamic Republic of Iran, or an attempt to overthrow the communist regime in Cuba.
Giving the Prime Minister power to decide which wars New Zealanders may engage in, and on which side, will make every overseas conflict a potentially divisive domestic political issue. Within New Zealand it will set Muslims against Christians and secularists, and left against right. It will also complicate New Zealand's international relations. Whenever a war breaks out anywhere in the world, the parties to the conflict will insist that the New Zealand government allow or proscribe, as the case may be, participation of New Zealand citizens on one side or the other, and will be seriously offended if New Zealand does not accede to their demands.
A blanket ban on engagement in foreign conflicts (my personal preference) or open-slather are the only sensible options for the regime which John Key serves. Arbitrary powers are a two edged sword, or a tiger held by the tail. Choose your own metaphor. By giving himself authority to decide the rights and wrongs of every foreign conflict, Prime Minister Key will be making a rod for his own back.
(Brian Rudman, New Zealand Herald 15-10-14, cogently argues essentially
the same case)
11 October 2014
Electoral post-mortems and political pathology
In the aftermath of the 2014 parliamentary election the New Zealand Fabian Society has suggested "The .. thing that need (sic) to be fixed is the deligitimising (sic) of politics for people such as academics, scientists, all those who know about what is going on. If we don't have the maximum freedom of speech for such people then we are leaving politics to the Cameron Slater's (sic) of this world. Countries need intelligent motivated people and the great reservoir of those people is in the public service. What we have at the moment is that we don't have a public servant who doesn't think that they are doing something wrong if they get themselves involved in what is going on as a citizen".
Ironically, the Fabian Society declined to publish any comment criticial of the idea that giving "maximum freedom of speech" to academics and scientists would restore the fortunes of the left. Evidently the Fabians believe that the rest of the population, who presumably have no idea "what is going on" in New Zealand, do not need or deserve the same "maximum freedom of speech" as academics and state servants.
The idea that the "great reservoir" of "intelligent motivated people" who "know about what is going on" is in the "public service" is the left-wing equivalent of the rightist myth that the most industrious members of society are to be found among the ranks of the wealthy. The reality is that millions of ordinary New Zealanders work harder than the privileged rich and think more critically than the Fabian academics.
If state servants avoid involvement in anti-establishment politics it is not because they think they would be "doing something wrong" in a moral or legal sense, but rather because they fear the consequences for their own careers. No new law or guideline for state servants will change that reality. Those who have the courage to take a stand, will do so now, regardless of the personal consequences. Those who choose to remain silent, will remain silent regardless of whatever legal rights, privileges or protections they may be offered.
Thirty-five years ago I was dismissed from a relatively menial positon in the New Zealand Forest Service when I refused to sign a document which would have bound me to silence in cases where I believed that the safety or well-being of the population as a whole was being put at risk. Thousands of my colleagues at the time - including "academics, scientists" and all other degrees in the "public service" - did sign, and went on to enjoy lucrative state service careers. The state bought their silence for the price of their annual salary. These academics and scientists de-legitimised themselves as moral beings on the day that they signed on to the Official Secrets Act. It was something they did to themselves, not something that was done to them without their consent by an oppressive state.
I suspect that left-wing post-mortems on the election result, of which there will be many, will follow that of the Fabians and that there will be no serious study of the underlying pathology of the left.
I can offer a couple of suggestions of the pathology which underlies the slow remorseless decline of the left..
The first is that, as the ACT party has been saying, and successive governments have demonstrated over the past three decades or more, the New Zealand state is no friend of the people. The colonial state has slowly rotted from its heart outwards, and the canker now affects every twig and branch. With each passing year if provides less protection from the elements and its fruits are fewer and poorer. We are deluded if we think that the state, state housing, state education, state health, state assets or state welfare can provide salvation. We are deluded if we believe that the New Zealand Parliament can avert, resolve or even seriously mitigate the imminent crisis of imperial civilization. Yet, in defiance of logic and evidence, the left remains committed to the idea that the state is the solution to all our problems.
The second suggestion is that, in contradiction of the liberal fundamentalism which is the common creed of all left-wing and most right-wing parties, morality does count. Social liberalism (to which the left is explicitly committed) and economic liberalism (to which the right is equally committed) are conjoint twins which even the most deft philosophical scalpel cannot separate within the public consciousness unless to cause the demise of both.
The right has progressed from economic liberalism to social liberalism, and the left from social liberalism to economic liberalism. These two strands now come together in a loveless embrace on the unholy ground of corrupt and exploitative twenty-first century capitalism.
From a practical point of view, neither the left nor the right can stand and endure once they have abandoned traditional moral principles. They will be riven by factionalism, betrayed by opportunism and plagued by egoism. Because it has privileged access to the halls of wealth and the corridors of power the right may survive better than the left, but it is only a matter of time before both drown in their own political cess-pit.
A move to the right? A note on the metamorphosis of the left
There is a common misconception that the parties of the left, ranging from the British Labour Party to the Chinese Communist Party, once in power inexplicably and without warning made a dramatic "shift to the right". Overnight, this theory suggests, the crimson butterfly of socialism metamorphosed into the ugly grub of robber baron capitalism. Perhaps so, but every metamorphosis has its ontogenesis, and this global phenomenon was both predictable and explicable. It was not a "shift to the right" in defiance of the left's fundamental articles of faith. It was not the gross betrayal of popular fiction. One, two or a few individuals may commit acts of treason. When almost every social democratic and communist party in the world undergoes the same dramatic transformation, and when, to take the example closest to home, almost every member of the New Zealand Labour Party caucus endorses the New Zealand Government Treasury programme for privatisation of wealth, one cannot plausibly call it an act of treachery.
The privatisation of wealth was a natural progression in which the left
was not acting out of character, but, on the contrary was revealing its
true, authentic and most fundamental character. The left, in
both its social democratic and its Marxist incarnations, has appealed to
the most base instincts of the working class and others among the poor.
Trade unionism, as actually practised, became sectional selfishness, which
inevitably devolved into individual selfishness. As far back
as 1975 a Labour government established an accident compensation scheme
which recognised, formalised and blessed social inequality, valuing
the lives of individuals by their relative levels of income.
A later Labour government set up a "New Zealand Superannuation" scheme,
Kiwi Saver which operating on the same fundamental principle that it is
the task of the state to recognise and institutionalise, rather than to
mitigate or eliminate, inequality. Both schemes are naturally operated
as capitalist enterprises, because the logic of selfishness, which is the
fundamental ideological premise of the left, is also the logic of capitalism.
23 September 2014
Not a bad outcome
The general election delivered New Zealand a morally discredited National Party Prime Minister and spared it a Labour Party Prime Minister who would have quickly disappointed the nation just as surely as he has disappointed his own Labour Party colleagues. The result on the night has also put paid to the misguided parliamentary ambitions of the far left, which can now get down to working among and for the deprived and alienated mass of their people - if they have a mind to.
I do not share the conviction of the pundits that the failure of the left can be solely or even largely attributed to its curious liason with Kim Dotcom. Dotcom himself has been quoted as saying "I take full responsibility for this loss tonight because the brand Kim Dotcom was poison for what we were trying to achieve, and I did not see that before and it only became apparent to me in the last couple of weeks." and most commentators have taken him at his word. There are few things more convincing than a heartfelt mea culpa. But even an allegation supported by a confession should still be subject to scrutiny. John Key is happy to lay blame for the humiliation of the left at the palatial door of his personal bete noire and Dotcom, who has an ego to match his physique, naturally sees himself as the principal actor in the electoral farce. But other factors, and other possibilities, need to be considered. The more visceral revelation of the Australian "random decapitation plot" might have had a bearing on the outcome of an election in which mass surveillance by the state and its purported justification, international terrorism, was a significant issue. Elections are won by appeals to fear and greed, and much fear was generated among the New Zealand public by the Australian story of an Islamist plot to carry out random killings on city streets. In such a climate, many voters, including the liberals and left-wingers, swing towards more authoritarian right-wing policies. That is just one possible factor which should be considered in any objective analysis of the election. It is simplistic to say that it was all the doing of Kim Dotcom and the odds are that even without the Dotcom factor in the electoral equation, the left would have been defeated.
New Zealanders over the age of 60 will have noted the uncannny resemblance between the Kim Dotcom campaign and the political theatrics of the young Tim Shadbolt. Dotcom is an opportunist, an egoist and a showman. His saving grace is that unlike the politicians to whome we have grown accustomed, he is candid, genuine and doesn't take himself too seriously. Those characteristics have him treading a fine line between ingenuousness and immaturity. The "f* John Key" episode was reminiscent of radical student politics and politicians - amusing to some but off-putting to many more. John Key was on the mark when he dubbed the Dotcom campaign a "sound and light show". As a piece of theatre it was sometimes amusing, occasionally distasteful, and often seriously informative. Many were happy to watch the show without any intention of casting a vote for the Internet-Mana party. Those of us who were not impressed by his wealth still owe him a debt for lifting the lid on the ugly goings on within the New Zealand political system. Without Kim Dotcom, John Banks would never have been brought to justice. (Credit must also go to retired accountant Graham McCready who initiated the prosecution of John Banks for corrupt practice, after the New Zealand Police, which had become entangled in the cover-up, refused to bring a case against Banks). The sad fact is that it took an outsider to expose the web of political corruption.
I doubt whether Dotcom's wealth or his German origins (objections raised by Sue Bradford) seriously counted against him. If New Zealanders were generally suspicious of wealth as such, they would not vote for John Key, and if they were were strongly nationalist they would not support a political system which consigns New Zealand to the pocket of foreign powers such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Which brings us to the last and best outcome of the general election: the one million who boycotted a corrupt and degenerate electoral system by choosing not to vote. The challenge now will be to develop positive alternative modes of social and political organisation.
23 September 2014
Rumour put to rest.
There is an unsigned building in Lady Ruby Drive, East Tamaki which resembles a pocket-size NSA Data Center. I believe that this is the building referred to in the item published on this website on 21 September. It has about 5000 square metres of floor, and is owned by Arawata Assets Ltd, which is a wholy owned subsidiary of the ANZ Bank.
The state television organisation TVNZ website reports (http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/there-no-nsa-spy-bases-in-nz-gcsb-boss-6081819)"
" He (Edward Snowden) told those at the event that there are NSA facilities in New Zealand, with one in Auckland, and another in the north of the country.
Mr Key told media today that the director of the GCSB has told him to his knowledge there are no NSA bases on New Zealand soil.
The National Party leader said he does not believe there are NSA operatives in New Zealand, and challenged those making the claims to show physical evidence of "these mythical spy bases".
Former GCSB boss Bruce Ferguson told TV ONE's Breakfast programme that Mr Snowden was "hyping it all up" and that the message he portrayed was in his view "misleading and wrong".
He said there was "no credibility whatsoever" in the claim that there were NSA facilities in Northland and Auckland, and says when he heard this last night "any remaining credibility that I had in these people just went right out the window".
"Certainly if it happened in my time I was totally absolutely unaware of Americans or anyone else for that matter setting up spy bases in Auckland or in the North. That's a bunch of rubbish."
In short, an overwhelming volume of official denial that there is any NSA spy base in Auckland.
21 September 2014
There is an uncorroborated rumour that: the United States National Security
Agency established a center of operations in East Tamaki, with the approval
of Helen Clark's Labour government. Winston Peters who evidently
has knowledge of the facility, was Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Clark
government at the time the base was established. Construction commenced
about 2008. The deal between the Clark government and the United
States NSA would have done no harm to Clark's ambitions to take the top
job in the United Nations Development Program after her administration
was rejected by the New Zealand electorate in the 2008 general election.
All rather speculative, but state secrecy inevitably gives rise to public speculation.
19 September 2014
Dirty politics, mass surveillance and why they might not make a difference.
A young man canvassing for the National Party told me today that his
party would win the election because New Zealanders are only interested
in what goes into their "hip pocket". Cynicism? Undoubtedly,
and a regrettable quality to find in the young, who we have always rather
generously tended to credit with "youthful idealism". Yet,
for all that he may be right. Not with respect to all New
Zealanders, because a significant number among them still hold to a set
of principles of one kind or another, but perhaps he was speaking for more
than himself. He may even speak for a majority of New Zealanders.
If John Key's popularity is undented by revelations that he is dishonest
and has deceived the public, then we may have to conclude that many New
Zealanders actually admire such duplicity, which probably means that they
themselves are willing practitioners of the art of deception. If
that is the situation, there is no simple and easy way out of the impasse.
No political speech, no editorial and no election campaign could be sufficient
to expunge moral turpitude from the national psyche. Those
who want more principled politics, and that would seem to be primarily
people from the left, such as Nicky Hagar, will have to find other ways
to that end. Simply exposing the moral iniquities of their
antagonists will not do the trick. In order to effectively
discredit people like John Key, it would be necessary to raise the moral
standards of the nation as a whole, and the dilemma of the left is that
it is ill-placed to take on that challenge. The left is fundamentally
liberal, secular and materialist. It promotes the doctrines of pragmatism
and moral relativism. However sincerely the left may abhor
National Party duplicity, it cannot mount a concerted and effective offensive
on John Key's administration because the fact is that Prime Minister John
Key is not very different to his political antagonists on the left.
He is just one more liberal, secular, pragmatic materialist.
The same argument applies to way in which the left, through Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and others have exposed Key as a compliant tool of the United States government. There is really no denying that this is the case. When Sir Bruce Ferguson, former head of the GCSB, declared vehemently and repeatedly that Edward Snowden was "a traitor to his country", one would have thought "Surely this is an American speaking? Who but a US citizen would declare with such fury that this man, who has not been charged with treason, is in fact a traitor to his country, and who but a US citizen would be so visibly affronted by Snowden's actions?" The answer of course is "Sir Bruce Ferguson and, with him, the entire New Zealand military and security-intelligence apparatus". The reason is that Ferguson, and those like him, have no concept of loyalty to New Zealand. For the past two centuries New Zealand's rulers have been possessed by a colonial mentality which compels them to serve the interests of the imperial powers - first Britain, and now the United States. The left has perhaps a glimmer of understanding that our people may have interests separate from those of the United States or Britain, but lacks the courage to do anything about it. If David Cunnliffe were to become Prime Minister for the next three years he would serve the interests of the United States with almost as much devotion as does John Key. If Hone Harawira is returned as the Member for Tai Tokerau he will swear allegiance to the British Queen along with 119 politicians including those from National, Labour, New Zealand First, the Green Party and any others who are lucky enough to win themselves a seat in the chamber.
A friend recently arrived from Iran put to me the question that would have been in the mind of many who do not quite understand this country: "Why do you need an ex-patriate German millionaire under threat of extradition, an American journalist residing in Brazil, a fugitive former American spy seeking sanctuary in Russia, and an Australian holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to lift the lid on New Zealand politics? Why aren't there New Zealanders who can do this?"
The assumption on which the question is based is not entirely fair. There are thousands of New Zealanders who want to know the truth and to tell the truth. 1600 of them packed that Auckland Town Hall on Monday night, and another 800 were left standing outside when the "house full" sign went up. But in the normal course of things those people are given no opportunity to have their voices heard outside of their own acquaintance. The regime is quite effective at downplaying the sense of public unease, and silencing those who might be in a position to speak up and speak the truth. The state broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, with its propensity for telling somewhat less than half the truth, told its listeners that "about 1000" people attended the Dotcom "sound and light show", thus accentuating the false impression that New Zealanders don't really care about what is being done in their name.
The pundits may be right. Dirty politics and mass surveillance may not make much impression on the outcome of tomorrow's parliamentary election. However, a corrupt regime, even one supported by a large and compliant or complicit segment of the population, will not endure forever. It may get away with these things for the moment, but that "success" will only make its eventual destruction all the more certain.
Aside from the regime's dirty politics, mass surveillance of its citizens and secret deals with foreign powers the only other news from the election campaign was the surprise appearance of an old acquaintance, Tame Iti, as a parliamentary candidate for the Maori Party. Tame's decision to stand for the Maori Party, and the Maori Party's decision to take him on board, makes sense for both parties. Tame gives the Maori party authenticity, while the Maori Party lends him respectability. For Tame, who has beaten a track from left-wing radical activism to quasi-respectability as a Maori businessmen or cultural envoy and back again, the new aspiration for a seat in parliament, coming just months after a term of imprisonment on firearms charges, is pretty much in character. For the Maori Party, it might make a significant difference. Tomorrow will tell.
10 September 2014
Jamie Whyte gets it right
The ACT Party leader Jamie Whyte has pointed out that "our land" is not being sold to foreigners against our will. He is quite right. Lochinver Station, the example Whyte gives, is not mine. The Stevenson family possess, occupy and hold legal title to Lochinver Station. I do not own it and I do not occupy it. The same applies to every other square inch of privately owned land in New Zealand, with the exception of the two thousand square meters of land at Te Ngae to which I hold legal title, which I occupy, and the possession of which I have successfully defended over two decades.
However, Whyte, who like most ideologues takes pride in consistency, is anything but consistent in this matter. In the next breath he talks about the New Zealand state spending "our money" or "taxpayers money". The state does not spend my money, anymore than the local Farmlands store does. Once my money has passed over into the hands of another it is no longer mine, The state spend its money as it sees fit. Whether some of that money came through me in the first place is beside the point. I do not control it, therefore it is not "mine", just as Lochinver Station is not "mine". State assets are not "our" assets. The state (officially "The Realm of New Zealand) is legally the property of the House of Windsor, and de facto under the control of the financial oligarchy,.
It is idle to talk about "our" land, "our" industries and "our" public assets unless we are willing to take practical steps to make that land, those industries and those assets collectively "ours". From a practical and a legal viewpoint, I agree with Dr Whyte, but I do not share his assumption that there is a moral basis to the present distribution of wealth within New Zealand society. I believe that every individual has the right to as much land as is necessary and sufficient to sustain themselves and their immediate family to a modest standard. Everyone has the right to own a home, but not to own two, three or more. No one - whether they be "New Zealander", American, Australian, British, Chinese, Israeli or German - should be allowed more or denied less. If someone, regardless of nationality, elects to be kaitiaki to a larger holding, well and good, but they should not have the right, transferable or otherwise, to exclusive possession or the fruits of the land.
The real issue confronting us is the gross inequality of New Zealand
society, which allows people like the Stevenson family to possess far greater
wealth than is required to provide the necessaries of life while other
New Zealanders live in a state of deprivation, frustration and occasional
desperation. "Foreign ownership" is at best a side issue, and at
worst a distraction from the real problems of our society.
6 September 2014
New Zealanders should follow their monarch's example - to a point.
New Zealanders should follow the lead of their Head of State, Queen
Elizabeth, by remaining aloof from the tawdry world of electoral politics,
and refraining from casting a vote in the coming parliamentary elections.
In all other respects, however, they should abjure her example. They should not turn a blind eye to the iniquities being perpetrated in their name. They should not turn a deaf ear to the cries of distress from the poor, exploited and oppressed of the world. They should not remain impassive and silent in the face of greed and stupidity. In short, they should do nothing to bolster or encourage this unconscionable regime, and everything within their power to bring it to an end.
5 September 2014
A "race-based" system? Divisions over race issues on the right of politics.
From 1940 through to 1990 the New Zealand right was united under the umbrella of the pragmatic "middle of the road" New Zealand National Party. The party had its liberals and social conservatives, traditionalists and innovators but by and large it stuck to the middle ground, accepting gradual social reform in matters such as social welfare, capital punishment, marriage law and race relations while pursuing a policy in which state provision of economic infrastructure and social services combined with a market economy and a nascent economic nationalism co-existed with deference to the global economic and military power of Britain and the United States. Significantly, National Party leaders were still speaking of and for "the British race" into the nineteen-sixties and seventies, and it was openly acknowledged, with some degree of pride, that New Zealand was a race-based society, for the best and most benign of reasons.
That changed in the latter decades of the twentieth century as the economic and social consensus in the National Party came under strain from a changing global economy, alterations in the geo-political balance of power, and the economic reforms of the fourth Labour government, which had for a time outflanked National on its right. Things have never been the same since. The National Party remains the dominant political force, but there are now five "minor" parties on the right (actually two minor parties and three micro-parties) which bear witness to the sharpening of the contradictions previously blunted and softened by decades of mid-twentieth century pragmatism.
From the perspective of the National Party, the function of the minor parties (the Maori Party and New Zealand First) is to provide coalition partners in the event that National does not have the numbers in parliament to govern alone. Relations with these parties have the potential to be fractious. The function of the micro parties ("the cup of tea" parties, ACT, United Future and Conservative, which have a cosy relationship with the National Party) is to articulate conflicting positions which had previously been subsumed within the broad church of the National Party. Social liberalism is articulated by the ACT Party, social conservatism by the Conservative Party and immigrant multi-culturalism by the United Future Party. Perhaps more importantly the micro-parties also function as social and electoral indicators. A surge in support for the Conservative Party would suggest that National would have to tread more carefully on moral issues (marriage law, abortion, traditional family values, alcohol, gambling, illicit drugs and so on) while increasing support for ACT would signal scope for a policy shift in favour of greater social and economic freedoms, and a stronger United Future Party would suggest that more attention should be given to the aspirations of immigrant ethnic minorities.
Of the two minor parties on the right, the New Zealand First Party, represents the traditionalist reaction to each of these divergent micro-party trends. It is economically and socially conservative. It represents those of British and Maori descent who view the Treaty of Waitangi as the coalescence of two peoples into one. New Zealand First is in fact the present day incarnation of the orthodox National Party of the mid-twentieth century. The last member of the right-wing coalition is the Maori Party, which stands in the tradition of prominent, though relatively isolated, Maori leaders aligned to the National Party, such as Sir James Henare and Sir Graham Latimer.
The fact that ACT, United Future and the Maori Party were originally splinters from the Labour Party does not alter the fact that their true political home is on the right. If anything, they sit much more comfortably with National than does New Zealand First, which is the only one among the five splinter groups to have emerged out of the National Party itself.
Even as five parties the right remains a surprisingly cohesive whole. Pragmatism still predominates over ideology, and all six parties can accommodate to a broad right-wing political programme. One issue on which they are unanimous is foreign policy. All six support the close political and military association with Britain and the United States and the constitutional ties between New Zealand and the United Kingdom through the institution of the British monarchy.
Foreign policy takes high political priority in New Zealand for two reasons. First, because it is closely linked to trade (a former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon actually observed "New Zealand's foreign policy is trade") and second because New Zealand "national identity" is founded on its external connections.
The things that unite Maori and Pakeha (at least those Maori and Pakeha who support the current regime) are the Treaty of Waitangi and hence the sovereignty of the British Crown, and the military tradition historically manifest in such actions as the Anzac Gallipoli campaign and the campaigns of the Maori Battalion in North Africa.
The internal counterparts to the external events and associations which underpin New Zealand "national identity" are the struggle between British colonists and Maori tribes for sovereign authority, and the ensuing nineteenth century wars. Thus New Zealand's internal history, and the actual forces at work within the country today, tend to undermine the notion of "national identity" on which the regime is based and for that reason "New Zealand national identity" is always referenced to external events and relationships and virtually never to New Zealand's own history or current situation.
The paradox of a "national identity" that can only be sustained by reference to wars in foreign theatres fought on behalf of foreign powers, and acts of subservience to foreign political institutions is but one manifestation of the fundamental racial contradiction afflicting New Zealand politics.
Another is the internal squabble on the right over "race-based" policies. United Future, which has deliberately and quite opportunistically gone out to gain the support of ethnic minority immigrant groups, castigates New Zealand First as "racist". New Zealand First for its part declares that it will not join in coalition with a "race-based" party such as the Maori Party. The ACT and Conservative parties both campaign against what they call a "race-based" political system (specifically the existence of the Maori electoral seats in the House or Representatives), yet neither seeks to ask whether the constitutional provision which incontestably and for all time vests the office of Head of State in the British House of Windsor might not also be "race-based".
The simple reality is that the political system has been race-based
since the day the colony of New Zealand was founded. Until
fifty years ago politicians from both ends of the political spectrum took
pride in the fact that New Zealand was a race-based society. Nothing
has changed since, except for a growing sense of unease in the political
subconsciousness. The arguments between the minor and micro
right-wing parties over racial issues, show that race remains a fundamental
issue in New Zealand society and the chief source of political division
on the right.
25 July 2014
"Dance of the Peacocks"
While browsing the local opportunity shop recently I happened upon a copy of "Dance of the Peacocks: New Zealanders in exile in the time of Hitler and Mao Tse-Tung" by James McNeish. For those who don't know, the book tells the story of five New Zealand Rhodes Scholars from the 1930s - James Bertram, Ian Milner, John Mulgan, Geoffrey Cox and Dan Davin - whose names are reasonably well known to an older generation of New Zealanders. In his book McNeish explores what these five had in common, which was quite a lot. For a start, they were all intellectuals, hardly surprising given their status as Rhodes Scholars. More pertinently, all had leftist political sympathies, and took a prominent role, as "scholars and soldiers" to adopt Davin's phrase, in the anti-fascist struggle which erupted in the Spanish Civil War and reached a climax in the Second World War.
Through their writings (Mulgan's "Man Alone" and "Report on Experience", Bertram's "Crisis in China","Return to China" and works of New Zealand literary criticism, Cox's "The Defence of Madrid", "The Red Army Moves"and "The Road to Trieste") these five had a significant influence among educated and leftist New Zealanders during the post-war years.
Yet despite their intellectual brilliance, courage and determination, for the most part the "Peacocks" left no great legacy in this country. Paddy Costello, the "Sixth Man" to McNeish's five peacocks, who was a brilliant linguist, speaking eight or nine languages including French, Italian, Greek, Russian and Persian, but apparently no Maori, seemed to hardly know New Zealand. It is reported that his first visit to Wellington took place about the time that plans were in train to have him railroaded out of the New Zealand diplomatic service. Costello's and Davin's children, as talented and socially committed as their parents, were raised as Europeans, and have remained so. Milner lived and worked as a university professor in communist Czechoslovakia for the post-war years and was childless. Only Bertram, also childless, returned to live in New Zealand, where he lived out his years as a professor at Victoria University.
None of the six could be described as an "exile" in the normal sense of the word. Although Milner and Costello were sacked from the state service because of their communist sympathies, all were more or less free to return to New Zealand if they had chosen. The way McNeish puts it there simply wasn't a place for them in New Zealand. They did not fit. New Zealand could not satisfy their aspirations, which says as much about the nature of their aspirations as it does about New Zealand.
It is a curiously significant fact that four of McNeish's six were shaped by two staunchly imperialist schools. Mulgan and Costello attended Auckland Grammar School and Milner and Bertram Waitaki Boys' High School. Cox was educated at Southland Boys High School, and Davin at a Catholic secondary school, also in Southland, where the imperial influence would have been less in evidence. Whether coincidence or not, Davin and Cox, who were not force-fed on imperialist doctrines, rose to prominence in Britain and had successful careers. Cox was knighted for his services to British journalism, and Davin received the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for his work at the Oxford University Press. Milner and Costello, on the other hand, who had been indoctrinated in the glories of empire, spent their lives working in foreign universities (Prague and Manchester respectively), shunned by the New Zealand government. Bertram, another Waitaki old-boy, finally succeeded in gaining an academic post in New Zealand despite intense political antagonism, and, arguably, in the face of his own mis-givings.
In any other colonial society - say on the Indian subcontinent, or in East Africa - six such intellectuals with Marxist leanings would have most likely been absorbed into, or become the leaders of, movements for national independence. Instead, they became exiles. The political intolerance, and outright persecution, to which Bertram, Costello, Milner and Mulgan were subject was a peculiarly colonial phenomenon. Because those New Zealanders in positions of authority have no real sense of New Zealand as a nation unto itself, there is no way in which they can perceive those of different political persuasions as still being "one of our kind". Their touchstone is the doctrine of empire, and any challenge to that doctrine puts the challenger beyond the pale of acceptable society. In that respect the English themselves, who possess a history and a culture that precedes and exists independently of the imperial system, can be more tolerant and accommodating of political differences than the colonial authorities in New Zealand.
But the endemic alienation of New Zealand intellectuals in the twentieth century had just as much due to the with their world view as with the political intolerance of the governing classes. Young New Zealanders of the time were cast into a particular mould. Their thoughts, ambitions and aspirations were all directed towards Britain, British culture, and, through British culture, a wider European civilization. The Rhodes Scholarship itself is the epitome of colonialism. Its purpose is to point young men and women from the colonies towards England, the centre of the empire.
McNeish asks the question "Why did so few Rhodes Scholars return to New Zealand?" and fails to come up with a satisfactory answer.
The explanation, it seems to me, is quite simple.
The Rhodes Scholarship system was founded on the premise that the best education for a colonial was to be had at Oxford University. For those who accepted the premise, and valued the life of the intellect, it must follow that to return to New Zealand would be to return to the second rate. None of the "peacocks" could easily contemplate such a fate, and Bertram was the only one of the six who did in fact return - some would say to a life of academic mediocrity. The colonial education system which made such redoubtable scholars of these brilliant young men also destroyed their capacity to relate positively to their own country and their own people. When they reacted against the ideology of empire propagated at Waitaki Boys High and Auckland Grammar, it was only to adopt a rival imperialist doctrines of Soviet Marxism. New Zealand colonialism, as an adjunct of British imperialism, inspired a passion for the grand project, an all-embracing ideology and a global culture which, by the nineteen-thirties, British imperialism was no longer capable of satisfying. Hence the pull of Marxism, followed, in the case of Cox, Davin and Costello, by a retreat into the rather more mundane reality of the post-war British intelligentsia.
Milner remained in Prague, to the end of his life, as a now somewhat disillusioned servant of the Czech state. Cox and Davin were taken into the bosom of the British establishment, which is not to say that they rejected, or were rejected by, their folks back home. For Bertram, returning to New Zealand was in part vindication, and in part a form of surrender. Bertram, Milner and Costello remained more or less beyond the pale, while respected, admired and even loved by those New Zealanders who took a more independent stance to the world at large.
Mulgan, who could not face the prospect of surrender, whether by staying
in Britain or returning to New Zealand, was dead. Yet from among
McNeish's "peacocks" it is his legacy, drawn from a brief life and resting
on two short works, which history may record as having the greatest impact
of all within our own country and upon our own people.
26 June 2014
"Intimate Partner Violence"
As with so much social and political discourse these days, there is a new phrase and an acronym for domestic violence - "Intimate Partner Violence, IPV" - with precious little in the way of reasoned analysis and debate. There are also moves to institute an extra-judicial system for the management of "IPV" which goes by the name of ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment).
Because ODARA is a proprietary system which is in the public domain, and hence is not subject to public scrutiny, it should not be allowed to be turned into come a quasi-judicial instrument of state intervention in domestic relationships. Both the rule of law and the law of reason require transparency in the administration of justice. Public policy and administration should not be allowed to follow essentially secret systems or procedures. I believe that is all that needs to be said about the New Zealand Police advocacy for the ODARA system.
The "risk factors" for "Intimate Partner Violence" as currently recognised by the New Zealand Police are at least a matter of public record. They are:
1 Recent change in relationship status
2 Offender wanting to renew the relationship
3 Officer identifies / partner discloses psychological violence
4 Chronic violence in the relationship
5 Violence - increasing severity/frequency
6 Victim believes offender could kill or injure her
7 Offender has strangled the victim
8 Offender has threatened/attempted suicide
9 Offender has threatened to kill the victim or others
10 Offender has a history of violence against others
11 Offender has stalked the victim
12 Offender has exhibited sexual jealousy
13 Offender is recently unemployed / under financial pressure
14 Offender has history of drug / alcohol use
15 Offender has diagnosed mental illness
16 Offender has diagnosed personality disorder
It is useful to categorise these factors as follows:
Situational factors are directly causal. There is only one factor in this category, i.e.:
"Recent change in relationship status"
Circumstantial factors are not the direct causes of violence, but may pre-dispose to the use of violence.
There are four factors in this category:
"Offender is recently unemployed / under financial pressure"
"Offender has history of drug / alcohol use"
"Offender has diagnosed mental illness"
"Offender has diagnosed personality disorder"
Realistically, society can only reduce these circumstantial risk factors by programmes not directly related to "intimate partner violence", such as provision of full employment, economic equality, financial prudence, temperance, programmes to reduce or eliminate alchohol and other drug use, and ready access to quality mental health services.
State of mind.
State of mind factors are real undisputed indicators of the desires, thoughts and emotions of the offender. The offender does not accept the situational change in his life ("Recent change in relationship status") and his response may be to contemplate violence towards himself or others.
There are three factors in this category:
"Offender wanting to renew the relationship"
"Offender has threatened/attempted suicide"
"Offender has threatened to kill the victim or others"
Intervention can work at persuading the offender that he should give up his desire to maintain the relationship, accept that the change is irrevocable, or find more constructive ways to attempt to resume the relationship. However all such interventions, with the exception of the last, are problematic, and the last can be extremely difficult to effect. Aldous Huxley's "brave new world" of casual sex remains a curious fiction. People in general do not give up their intimate relationships lightly. They continue to respond emotionally to specific situations and circumstances in ways that are predetermined by their fundamental nature, which includes elements of "possessiveness" and "sexual jealousy". While it is possible to change the way people think and behave, psychological or political propaganda tends to have limited effect and only over a short period of time. Persuading an offender that he should either not want to retain his relationship, or should not want it so badly as to contemplate extreme measures such as murder or suicide will not necessarily be easy.
Implied state of mind
Implied state of mind factors are those which point to the offender's state of mind without being overtly acknowledged by him, and they may be subject to differing interpretations.
There are two factors in this category:
"Offender has exhibited sexual jealousy"
"Offender has stalked the victim"
In the real world, sexual relationships are characterised by trust and fidelity on the one hand or jealousy on the other.
Sexual jealousy (of which stalking may be one expression and private investigations another more socially acceptable one) is a normal human trait, which, and is usually only manifest within a pre-existing intimate relationship. It is an aspect of human nature which may be moderated, but not eliminated.
Inferred state of mind
Inferred state of mind is not acknowledged by the offender, and lacks an evidential basis.
There are two factors in this category:
"Victim believes offender could kill or injure her"
"Officer identifies / partner discloses psychological violence"
Inferred state of mind more problematic than implied state of mind. "Beliefs" which may be genuine and well-founded, but are not necessarily either. They may be feigned or unfounded. Therefore from a legal and human point of view, beliefs need to be treated with considerable caution.
Perhaps more importantly, The category of "psychological violence" is yet another instance of re-writing the dictionary to merge distinctly different behaviours into a single broad and indiscriminate category. This is to run counter to the process by which over the millennia human beings have come to more accurately describe, analyse and manage their world by making ever finer distinctions between things.
The distinctions between persuasion, intimidation, coercion and violence are important. Without them we have no proper means of distinguishing between a mother guiding the behaviour of her child, the evangelist who turns up on the doorstep on a Saturday morning, the policeman shows his uniform in a public bar and the thug who carries out an unprovoked assault. There must be a distinction between violence as the use of physical force (proscribed) and various forms of psychological control or persuasion (tolerated to varying degrees according to circumstances) if society is to function with any degree of freedom, harmony and personal engagement. It is that simple. There is nothing to be gained from redefining "psychological abuse" ( "a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder") as "psychological violence".
The phrase "frozen violence", attributed to G F Hegel, may be a dramatic and even apt description of the nature of state power, but it does not confer the right to charge any particular state with employing "violence" against its citizens. Judgement must be based on evidence with more substance than a fiigure of speech.
In any rational analysis, the category of "violence" itself must be subject to the further distinctions between "unprovoked assault", "aggression" or "assault" and "resistance" or "defence".. "Violence" is not a crime in New Zealand or any other jurisdiction. The use of violence is conditionally permitted as a defence against assault in domestic law, and as a defence against aggression in international law while assault and aggression respectively are deemed to be unlawful. The distinction is usually blurred for political reasons - for example one party to a dispute, most often the aggressor, may demand that the other party "renounce the use of violence", which is to say "renounce the right of self-defence". In a society or a world where the "rule of law" applies, "assault" is deemed a crime and "violence" is not. A civilized order will not encourage violence even in self-defence, but it will tolerate violent resistance to assault where no other form of protection or defence is available to the victim..
The police case, and the public discussion of the problem of domestic assault, should follow the definitions and distinctions which have existed in common law from the beginnings of western civilisation. They should not be based on the fashionable yet fallacious premise that persuasion, coercion, intimidation, self-defence and assault as though all are merely differing forms of "violence".
The drive to abolish distinctions is a phenomenon deeply rooted in the liberal psyche. We saw it in Mike Moore's famous statement to the effect that "a chicken is just a bag of wheat in another form". We saw it in the marriage debate, where liberals insisted that there is no distinction to be made between the procreative act of sexual intercourse and a host of other sexual practices associated with homosexuality and out of which the law has deemed that there is no distinction to be made between marriage between a man and woman and a homosexual relationship. The global liberal project has constructed a new Tower of Babel in which "one tongue" and "few words" are deemed sufficient to serve the purposes of a universal ideology. The effect is to inhibit thought and stymie debate, and the outcome will be confusion, factionalism and ultimate collapse.
Historical factors are "on the record" past offences.
There are four factors in this category:
"Offender has a history of violence against others"
"Chronic violence in the relationship"
"Violence - increasing severity/frequency"
"Offender has strangled the victim"
Historical factors are critical risk indicators, but are only relevant when no current offence has been committed. If an offence has been currently committed, then that offence becomes the matter at issue, and the cause of response. If no offence has been currently committed, then the vital question must be whether the prospective offenders current state of mind is congruent with his past record of offences, and that cannot be taken for granted in every case. A history of offences provides some reason to suspect that further offences may follow and good grounds to determine how the offender should be treated in the event that he does commit a further offence, but it does not provide grounds on which to respond as though a new offence has been committed.
Now we come to the crux of the matter. If the aim is to reduce intimate partner violence, then systems designed to identify potential offenders do not provide a humanly or legally satisfactory response. The most direct means to reduce family violence would be through working on the causes - the situational and circumstantial factors. Specifically, since "Recent change in relationship status" is the only cited situational cause of intimate partner violence, it makes sense to encourage permanence, implying a reduced emphasis upon freedom, in intimate relationships.
It is curious that the nature of the intimate relationship - for example defacto or legal marriage - does not figure among the risk factors. Neither does ethnicity, which is known to be statistically associated with the frequency of domestic violence, or the religious persuasion of the offender and victim.. One suspects that these factors have been omitted from the list for political rather than statistical reasons. Secular liberals might be embarrassed to discover that a legal or church union, or adherence to a particular religious belief, has a bearing, one way or the other, on the incidence of domestic violence. Reasoning in the abstract, as liberals are prone to do, one can easily come to the conclusion that a committed long term family relationship is a committed long term family relationship regardless of whether that relationship has been sanctioned by church or state. Yet if the statistics point to the contrary conclusion society should take note. Religious persuasion is a more awkward subject, due to privacy concerns surrounding religious belief, the principle of separation of church and state and secular suspicion of religious movements. Yet again the question needs to be addressed. Can adherence to specific religious beliefs reduce or increase the risk of domestic violence?
Reduction in intimate partner violence will not come without cost, and
the cost in this case is that commitment should be put before freedom.
Western secularism has forgotten, to its cost, that the original purpose
of civil laws is not to impose arbitrary prejudices but to restrict those
human behaviours which in the natural course incite passionate anger in
others, with consequent disruption to the social order. Other freedoms
- the freedom to make, sell and consume alcoholic liquor, and various financial
freedoms may also need to be sacrificed to the cause of family and social
harmony. Freedoms also come at a cost, and for New Zealand
one of the costs of unrestricted sexual freedom has been intimate partner
violence. The liberal establishment believes that the cost
can be got around through the use of psychological interventions, extra-judicial
systems and vigorous repression of the more extreme manifestations of what
are quite normal human passions. I wish them well.
2 June 2014
Elliot Rodger and the matter of self-worth
Elliot Rodger was the 22 year old son of an affluent and liberal family Hollywood family. He killed seven people, himself included, in Santa Barbara, California out of apparent frustration at his failure to form intimate relationship with anyone of the opposite sex. Liberals will argue that these deaths were the result of unrestricted access to firearms. The gun lobby will counter that "guns don't kill people, people kill people".
Both conservatives and liberals are right within their own terms of reference, yet both fail to see the whole picture. The gun lobby helps to provide an efficient means for killing people, but it is liberalism which provides the conditions in which men are psychologically motivated to kill randomly and indiscriminately. Some dismiss the killings as the act of a deranged man which cannot be subjected to rational analysis. Others attribute the massacre to "misogyny". Both claims can be refuted. Rodger's "manifesto" was not irrational in the strict sense of the word, and his misogyny arose out of thwarted desire for rather than the intrinsic dislike of women which is true misogyny.
Most, if not all, mass killings are conducted by those who are thwarted in the pursuit of the happiness which they believe to be the right of every American, and every member of a secular liberal society.
Rodger was apparently denied the sexual favours of young women, to which he believed he had some entitlement. Such a conviction could only arise in a mind of liberal persuasion, and, practically speaking, in a society which held to liberal values. Rodger saw that the young women around him were free to distribute their sexual favours as they saw fit. In his eyes, the measure of their sexual freedom became the measure of their contempt for he alone who did not benefit from the exercise of their prerogative.
He could not have thought that way in a society where young women are not permitted to offer sexual intimacy except in marriage. In that situation he would have seen women as restrained by law and custom, rather than exercising a personal prerogative in wilful contempt of his value and needs as a human being. He would not have thought that way in a society where the pursuit of personal happiness was subordinate to the obligation to do good and follow the principles of religion, and he would not have acted as he did in a society where personal worth was measured by the capacity to restrain desire as much, if not more than, the capacity to gratify it.
Rodger was obsessed firstly with his own sense of self-worth, and secondly with the sexual gratification which he believed was a necesssary entitlement in consequence of his worth as an individual. In these respects he reflects the dubious assumptions of a liberal society, namely that self-esteem has significant value, personal happiness is the proper end of existence, and there is an implicit connection between individual worth and the attainment of personal happiness.
The Santa Barbara massacre was one young man's tragically misguided attempt to assert his self-worth in a society in which personal gratification has become the only measure of value.
In liberal society there is a widespread mistaken belief that restrictive moral laws, regulations and customs are there to obstruct the road to personal happiness and for no good purpose, when in fact, laws are in place not so much to prevent the prohibited acts themselves, as the social consequences of such acts. Every year in New Zealand a number of people, mainly women, will be killed for committing adultery, while in Iran, where adultery is a capital offence, such killings (and corresponding judicial executions) are rare. When social sanctions are removed, personal passions will surface to fill the void, and conversely when social sanctions are imposed, personal passion is placed in check. The liberal project has failed to come to terms with, or even to recognise that fundamental reality of human social existence.
Moral laws reflect the innate the human understandings of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness, and their one purpose is to preclude individuals from privately negating the consequences of perceived unfairness in ways which are inimical to the social order..
Liberals will quite rightly argue that no sense of personal grievance
can justify murder, but they should not deny the reality that whenever
a personal prerogative eclipses ancient law or custom, grievances will
inevitably follow, often with tragic consequences.
12 May 2014
A fallen angel
In Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religious belief the character of Lucifer ("angel of light", "morning star", "star of the day" , "shining one" or "shining star") is associated with the "powers-that-be" or political authorities in the world symbolized by the city of Babylon. In the story, God cast Lucifer out of heaven because Lucifer, the angel of light, refused to submit himself to the archetypal human being, Adam.
There is a counter-intuitive subtlety to the story of Lucifer. We might wonder why an angel should submit to a mere human being, even to Adam as the type of all humanity. We might also see good and evil as intrinsically opposed to each other, and wonder how it is that an archangel, the personification of good, could almost instantly be turned into the personification of evil.
This ancient story actually addresses the very modern problem of the proper place of ideology in the life of humanity. From the moment when ideology, or for that matter theology, is allowed to prevail over simple humanity - when Lucifer refuses to submit to Adam - ideology starts to serve the cause of evil. Jesus of Nazareth expressed the same idea in saying "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath". He was not saying that the sabbath was of no use. After all the sabbath was "made for man". He was making a rather more subtle point, that ideology, even a "good" ideology, must not prevail over our simple human duty to feed the hungry or lighten the burden of the oppressed.
We may conveniently forget that for two decades prior to the Second World War there was great sympathy for fascism throughout Europe, the United States and the British colonies, including New Zealand. Fascism was seen as the way to scientific and technological enlightenment, social order, material progress and healthy living. To a degree, it was all those things. But fascism fell from grace when the fascists came to believe that their ideology and the "light" that it brought to the world, should take precedence over the claims of common humanity.
Over centuries, rather than decades, European liberalism has made a
similar progression from the heady freedom of the eighteenth century "Enlightenment"
to the atrocities of Hiroshima, the Vietnam war, Mazar i Sharif, Fallujah,
Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. During this time its ideology and
rhetoric has changed little. Like Lucifer, it still presents a
radiant face to the world, but it has abandoned its association with God
and no longer serves the cause of Man.
9 May 2014
Drugs and the liberal ideology
The liberal ideology rests on a combination of dogma (such as belief in the efficacy of an idealised free market) and pragma (such as the argument that people are naturally selfish and therefore idealistic social imperatives have no serious prospects). Among the political classes and within the mass media both the dogma and the pragma of liberalism reign virtually unchallenged. Parliamentary political parties of both the left and the right embrace the "free market" theory of capitalism, the "free love" theory of sexual relationship, and with certain pragmatic reservations, the "freedom to choose" approach to use of psychoactive substances. Restrictions on the ability of the individual to enter into any kind of transaction - buying or selling labour, sex, drugs or political influence - are abhorred. The "pursuit of happiness" is the sole social imperative. This historic liberal consensus underlay Parliament's decision to establish a legal regime for the sale of synthetic cannabinoid drugs, by a vote of 119 for to 1 against.
However, while liberalism is now the sole ideology of the political classes in New Zealand, from the far right to the extreme left, neither the people nor the experts who have direct knowledge of social and economic reality, are able to be convinced by liberal dogma. It was the opposition of an unimpressed public which forced Parliament to make a U-turn and effectively prohibit the sale of synthetic cannabinoids. Public opinion, informed by direct experience of the evils that liberal dogma has inflicted upon society, was supported by those who have expert knowledge of the physiological effects of the drugs. Dr Leo Schep of the National Poisons Centre came out in favour of prohibition saying "Prohibition works. It works very well". To the political establishment, Schep's comment is the ultimate heresy. Yet he happens to be right. Prohibition does work. It does not work perfectly, but in the right context it works "very well".
Grant Hall, of legal high industry lobby "Star Trust", claimed in response that all forms of cannabis, including synthetics are "low-risk". He cited alleged "propaganda against consumers of low-risk psychoactives" and insisted ''this discrimination needs to stop''. Hall takes a classic liberal position. He invokes the spectre of "discrimination" and implies that hostile propaganda is directed against the "consumers" of the drugs rather than the behaviour which we call "drug abuse". Hall perfectly expresses, and is himself the perfect expression of, liberal dogma and pragma. He is a man for sale, paid to enter the public debate on behalf of vested interests. As was the case with the arguments in favour of homosexual marriage (and before that "economic de-regulation") he strives to create the impression that the debate concerns the rights of individuals ("the consumers") and has nothing to do with fundamental principles relating to the general good.
At the same time the advocates of legal highs resort to blackmail, both emotional ("if prohibition is imposed users will suffer horrific withdrawal symptoms") and social ("prohibition will lead to an explosion of crime as organised gangs take over supply and users steal or rob to support their addiction"). This is reminiscent of the emotional blackmail used support of changes to the Marriage Act, which boiled down to the claim that in the absence of state sponsored sodomy young men and women would kill themselves in great numbers. Such claims are unfounded, dishonest and disgraceful. The evidence, and impartial expert opinion, in the present case suggests that the nett social effect of prohibition will be positive. It is time we had another Leo Schep to tell the political classes "We must discriminate between the good, the bad and the ugly and we must exercise judgement if we are to survive. Dogmatic assertions that all substances and all behaviours should be subject to the same rules will not cut the mustard".
The state broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, which emphatically endorses
liberal ideology to the exclusion of any other point of view, scored an
own goal by broadcasting the response of a supposedly typical "legal high"
consumer in which he articulated his lifestyle (staying home and getting
high with his mates as often as possible) his priorities (buying cannabinoids
takes precedence over access to health services) and threatened response
to prohibition (involvement in the illegal trade, and engagement in other
criminal activities such as theft, burglary and robbery in order to sustain
the illegal habit). In fact this person is probably not typical
of "legal high" users, and sustaining his particular approach to life does
not merit any special social or legal provision. That judgement does
not amount to "discrimination" against the "consumer". It is
to be hoped that particular "consumer" will find a better more socially
constructive purpose in life if his supply of drugs is removed.
The argument that he "cannot help himself" would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
He must either help himself or suffer the consequences himself.
Society also has an interest in helping, but helping him to become a responsible
member of the community - not helping him to pursue his own "personal choices"
8 May 2014
Deceptions of the drug trade
"Prohibition doesn't work". This claim has been repeated so often that people have come to believe it is true. Yet all the evidence shows that prohibition does work. When manufacture, trade or use of any commodity is prohibited the supply and consumption of that commodity declines. Demand also declines, because the social disapprobration implicit in legal prohibition discourages casual or experimental use of drugs.
"Organised crime takes over the manufacture and distribution of any prohibited commodity". This is a truism. If trade in a particular commodity is prohibited by law, then people who engage in that trade are by definition criminals. However the reality is that organised crime is attracted to the commercialisation of any kind of human vice, regardless of whether it is legal or illegal. Both globally and locally criminal gangs are involved in the business of legal prostitution and gambling. Unpleasant people become involved in unpleasant activities, and the people who have been involved in the legal trade in synthetic cannabis to this point have been at best amoral, and at worst thoroughly nasty types. New Zealanders are being asked to pander to organised crime by legalising every form of human vice, and no society can afford to do that.
"We need to control demand. Supply side control doesn't work". This claim is disingenuous. The liberals who argue against control of supply are the same people who try to justify "moderate" drug use on the grounds of personal gratification and social utility. They don't want control of supply because they want to satisfy the demand. They themselves do nothing to counter the demand for drugs.
"Regulation is better than prohibition". Regulation puts the stamp of social approval on drug use, and creates the false impression that regulated drugs are "safe" drugs. It gives a wide range of people and institutions (including merchants, regulators, politicians and the treasury) a financial stake in the drug industry, and thereby a motive to maintain and expand the trade in drugs. It provides a basis for the self-justifying tautological liberal catch-cry "It (prostitution/ gambling/ liquor/ tobacco/ synthetic cannabis) is a legal industry and therefore should not face any form of discrimination or hostile bias".
"Users will suffer severe withdrawal symptoms when drugs are prohibited" That is true, but it is not a valid argument against prohibition. Once social evils have been tolerated and allowed to take root in society, the process of returning to a more normal state of existence will involve considerable individual suffering and significant social costs, but the suffering and the costs of allowing the evil to continue unabated will be much much greater. In 2008 liberal financial and economic policies lead to a crisis in which financial institutions collapsed and thousands of New Zealanders lost their lifetime savings. Would it have been practical to keep the credit flowing and maintain investors on a perpetual high? It would not have been. Those who were the essentially innocent, albeit misguided, victims of the financial institutions felt the pain, learned from the experience and moved on. They had a social safety net to save them from absolute destitution. The same must apply to the users of synthetic cannabinoids. The health system is there to help users, but it is the users themselves who must work through the pain of withdrawal and move on to a more independent and sustainable lifestyle.
6 May 2014
Sue and Hone meet Kim
The marriage of convenience between Hone Harawira's Mana Party and the radical pakeha left, in the likes of Sue Bradford and John Minto now looks likely to be replaced with another marriage of convenience, between Hone's Mana Party and Kim Dotcom's Internet Party.
Sue Bradford's response to the prospect of a Mana/Dotcom alliance is revealing. She bags Dotcom for being a "multi-millionaire, neo-liberal German with a trail of convictions".
Yet Bradford also has a "trail of convictions". I spent a night in the cells, along with Sue, then a 16 year old girl and thirty other activists in 1969 after we had successfully occupied the United States consulate in Auckland in protest against the US-led invasion of Vietnam, and that was the first of many convictions which Sue acquired in the course of a lifetime of political activism.
Dotcom is liberal. Sue is also a liberal.
Dotcom is a multi-millionaire. Sue is comfortably off, and even
affluent by comparison to those dispossessed and downtrodden whose cause
Apart from his being "German" the differences between Bradford and Dotcom come down to degrees, and Sue's failure to come up with any absolute point of difference between herself and Dotcom is evidence of the shallowness of leftwing politics.
By the logic of the New Zealand political system, the alliance with Kim Dotcom makes sense for Mana. Dotcom appeals to something in the NZ psyche. He is an iconoclast, rebel and stirrer; someone who gives it to the government, the police and the bureaucracy. Being a foreigner and being wealthy only add to his appeal. He is in many ways rather like Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, another cheerful iconoclast who the New Zealand public have taken to their hearts. (As it happens, Tim was another one of the thirty who sat in the US Consulate back in March of 1969).
The contrast between Sue's and Tim's career is instructive.
Tim succeeded because he had an attainable goal. As a charismatic individual and self-confessed egoist he wanted to be at the head of something - as he put it "I want to be Mayor and I don't care where". As far as I am aware he never belonged to any political organisation except the one that he founded as his vehicle for entry into student politics at Auckland University - Ausapocpah. He generally avoided any kind of seriousness or ideological commitment, and that was a key to his political success. People like him because he is good humoured, and they know that when you get Tim, Tim is is all that you get. He has no ideological baggage and no hidden agenda. He is pragmatic and sensible without being grey or boring. Such principles as he has are not allowed to get in the way of his commitment to keeping the citizens of Invercargill happy, and their council well ordered. When he doesn't make people laugh, he at least makes them smile.
Sue's approach to life and politics has been very different. She takes her beliefs very seriously, and she has been through a succession of political parties and organisations - from the Progressive Youth Movement, through the Communist, New Labour, the Green and Mana parties, each of which she hoped would be the vehicle for realising her dreams of a just society. To my surprise, she succeeded in making the transition from working class activist to Green Party parliamentarian, even though it obliged her also to adopt a pragmatic approach and even some compromises of principle. In the end though, she was not a good enough fit and she left the party after she was personally betrayed by one of her Party colleagues from the early days whom she had trusted implicitly.
There have been high points in Sue's political career. Entering parliament would be considered one. The passage of the "anti-smacking" legislation would be another. But on the whole she has enjoyed some minor successes while never coming close to realising her utopian deam of "social justice for all" in New Zealand. She has not found an enduring political home, because in the final analysis her political aspirations are incompatible with the pragmatism required to realise the more selfish goals of those with whom she allied herself. Sue's attempts to implement her ideals through the Communist, New Labour, Green and Mana parties failed. She needs to generalise that sufficiency of experience, and understand that her transcendental ideals cannot be achieved through any kind of political party.
Dotcom, on the other hand, may very well succeed in his simple ambition
to stay in his Helensville mansion and out of a United States penitentiary.
It does not worry the voting public that he is opportunistic. He
entertains and amuses them while poking a stick at the political establishment.
He is a good fit for Mana and Hone Harawira who, despite his reputation
for wild radicalism, is a political pragmatist quite willing to do business
with Mr Dotcom and his Internet Party.
29 April 2014
The New Zealand Labour Party, which once held itself up to be the party of the working class, now proposes to force every working New Zealander to become a capitalist through compulsory membership of one or other of the "KiwiSaver" private superannuation funds. If theNZLP wins the next election, will it allow exemption from the "KiwiSaver" regime for those who object to appropriating surplus value in the form of rent, interest or profits? That is the least that Labour should offer. By rights, the party should keep its nose out of workers' business, and its hands out of workers' pockets, which means no compulsory "KiwiSaver" under any circumstances.
New Zealand has been awash with drugs since the British found that as a means to subjugate our people rum and tobacco were more effective than muskets. The corrollary is also true - abstaining from drugs, including alcohol and tobacco is a first step to liberation. The regime benefits from taxes on the trade in alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea and synthetic cannabinoids and also recognises that a stoned people will be a quiescent people. Those are two reasons why the New Zealand parliament voted, with only one dissenting voice, to create a legal framework for the sale of synthetic cannabinoids aka "legal highs".
This issue has also brought into focus the divide which between the overwhelmingly liberal political establishment and the more conservative social and moral values of much of the population. Over the past four decades, parliamentarians have come to accept the social and economic doctrines of liberalism without question or qualification. Most genuinely believe that a free market in synthetic cannabinoids will be a lesser evil than prohibition.
The liberals argue that where there is a demand for drugs (or any other commodity) there will always be a supply, and therefore attempts to control supply ("prohibition") are doomed to fail. That is nonsense. An effective drug policy must work by controlling both the demand for and supply of drugs. Prohibition of supply does work because it directly reduces the volume of drugs traded and increases the market price. It also indirectly reduces demand by signifying social disapproval of drug use.
By promoting or condoning "legal" drug use for whatever reasons, the regime is actually creating the conditions for its own destruction. Sectors of the New Zealand economy are already grinding to a halt as drug use becomes ubiquitous, and a range of public services, including health, education and social welfare are being burdened with enormous and totally unnecessary costs. Colonial society may need its opiates, but cannot survive their social and economic impact.
It is obvious to even the most myopic observer that economic liberalism is associated with unfettered access to drugs in the marketplace. It is less apparent that the guiding principles of social liberalism, the individual pursuit of happiness and self-empowerment, also serve to validate personal drug use. There is no disputing that elimination of demand should take precedence over control of supply. Unfortunately liberalism, the prevailing ideology of imperial regimes in the their final phase of decline and collapse, encourages both the demand for and supply of drugs, and thus drugs cannot be effectively controlled so long as liberalism remains the dominant ideology of the state and society.
25 April 2014
Flattery from the throne
The political genius of the British has been to realise the dream of every despot in history: a Head of State who is immune to criticism, not because he is loved or feared but because he maintains no political or moral principles and accepts no responsibility for the actions of the state which he represents. But it does not end there. The sovereign's freedom from accountability has become the model for state and society. In imitation of the monarch, a political and moral eunuch who exists only to play courtier to the politicians, his subjects have been robbed of, or willingly sacrificed, their morals, dignity, intelligence and spirit - in a word their humanity, all in the cause of a tawdry colonial regime which is leading them into the abyss.
Flattery and bribery are the stock-in-trade of the politicians. They bribe us with the money picked from our own pockets, and they flatter us with the fancy that we are an enterprising, innovative, good and great people. The Duke of Cambridge is in no position to offer bribes but he does a good line in flattery and the sad reality is that those who cast a benign eye upon this pair of vacuous British aristocrats lack either the wisdom to recognise flattery or the moral fibre to resist it. When a subject flatters his king only two souls are put in peril; when a monarch flatters his subjects a whole nation may succumb to vain delusions.
19 April 2014
The evil of banality
The mass media, headed by the womens magazines, did its best to rark up enthusiasm for the recently ended "Royal visit" of the heir to the throne of New Zealand, William Duke of Cambridge. For all that , the "European king movement" is a bizarre phenomenon whose appeal is mainly restricted to ethnic Britons, in particular the most recent immigrants. So what harm could there be in it? Those putting the question should recall the words of Hannah Arendt. Political banality conceals a multitude of evils. The evil of Duke William consists not so much in what he says or does - after all he says exactly what the politicians tell him to say, which is exactly what they believe the public wishes to hear - but in what he does not say or do. He says nothing about the state's use of torture or complicity in the assassination of its own citizens by the security forces of foreign powers. He is silent over the plight of the poor. He turns a blnd eye to all the social evils of our times. He is a moral eunuch, the perfect symbol of the moral anomy of a colonial society, but no fit person to head a civilised state. A democratic republic might throw up a George Bush or Francois Holland as easily as a Pandit Nehru or a Nelson Mandela, but it could do no worse than this fey shallow young member of the British aristocracy who, if John Key and David Cunnliffe were to have their way, would become King of New Zealand. It is a given that Bush and Holland can and will be criticised for their political iniquities. In the final analysis they can and will be held to account. Duke William and his grandmother, on the other hand, claim sovereign immunity from moral reproach. They may receive it from the regime's mass media, but they not from this blog.
7 April 2014
William the Young Pretender
The "Royal visit" of the English Duke of Cambridge, heir to the throne of New Zealand, has been hailed by the mass media as a victory for supporters of the British monarchy and a setback for republicans. Whether or not that is the case is largely immaterial. What matters is understanding the real nature and symbolism of the British monarchy in New Zealand, a reality which most republicans would rather not, and monarchists dare not, directly confront.
The "official" republican line is that New Zealand is defacto an independent nation which retains anomalous and anachronistic links to the British monarchy. A simple matter therefore to set matters to rights by cutting those links and electing or appointing a New Zealander as New Zealand Head of State.
The reality is more complex and at the same time more logical than the "anomaly" theory. Fundamentally, the balance of political forces in New Zealand remains as it has been since the late nineteenth century. The developing economic conditions which favoured the rise of nationalist sentiment were sent into reverse by the Lange-Douglas Labour government of the nineteen-eighties. Pakeha culture, as expressed in the writings of Frank Sargeson, Janet Frame, Maurice Gee and Barry Crump or the songs of Peter Cape had virtually disappeared by the end of the twentieth century. The New Zealand economy became more dependent on foreign markets, foreign inputs and foreign capital, while the internal political forces became more closely aligned with the global alliance of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Concurrently, there has been a marked increase in disparities of wealth and income within the country, and in consequence the colonial ruling class no longer sees any advantage in pushing the logic of nationalism. Their wealth and their security depends on the one hand on the good graces of foreign powers, and on the other on keeping their own population docile and subservient to foreign interests.
Those who occupy the corridors of power in New Zealand no longer have reason to pursue a nationalist agenda, which presents a problem for the "official" republicans of the RMANZ who have placed their hopes for a republic in the hands of politicians who are sworn to uphold the monarchy. That hope was not entirely unreasonable, because no one seriously believed that all those who swore allegiance to the British crown were genuine monarchists. The problem, however, was that while a minority were committed monarchists, the remainder were mere opportunists, and the political ground has now shifted to the point where for the ruling elite opportunism predicates the continuation of the monarchy and the colonial regime in general. When push comes to shove parliamentarians will not resile from the monarchy because the alternatives, republicanism and nationalism, risk further challenges to the class and race based colonial society instituted by the New Zealand Company in the mid-nineteenth century and essentially preserved in varying form ever since.
The principal institutions of state and capital are increasingly owned and managed by people from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and, to a lesser extent, the United States, the Netherlands and other foreign states. There is a logic in appointing expatriates to the senior positions in both the public and private sectors, and, as has become apparent over the years, it has little to do with merit. Foreign managers, and foreign rulers, are generally favoured by regimes which fear and distrust their own people. The new foreign heads of government departments and major firms are the Janissaries of the colonial regime. Their benefit to the colonial regime is that they have no inherent loyalty to the people of New Zealand. They need not worry about the impact of commodity charges on the ability of their iwi to keep their mokopuna fed, clothed and warm. They do not agonize over whether their lending policies will make it impossible for the men and women they went through school with to raise their own families in their own homes. They will not be deterred by the prospect of dismissing from employment the older generation of workers who built up their industries and taught them all they know. At best they will make a show of concern, but deep down they will not be constrained by sentiment or national loyalty.
Thus the British monarchy remains the vehicle of choice for propping up colonial rule in New Zealand. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will pretend that they know our islands and love our people and that each is in some mystical yet meaningful way "one of us". They will encourage the illusion that we as a people are beloved by foreign powers, and by those from among our own people who are aligned with those foreign powers. They will serve the interests of the colonial regime without thought or compunction. They will aptly symbolize its foreigness, its shallowness, and its fraudulence. Like the three wise monkeys, or rather two crass scions of the British aristocracy, they will see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. The parliamentarians will do their best to reinforce this pretence, and will match it with their own pretence of loyalty to the "royal couple". It will be a sad and meaningless charade played out by a doomed regime.
Karl Marx remarked that history repeats itself, "the first as tragedy, then as farce" in which farce it is "possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero's part". His observation relates to the events in France in 1851 when Louis Napoleon launched a coup against the French republic to restore imperial rule, but it aptly describes what is occurring in Aotearoa, not a sudden fascist coup as is the style of the French, but in the typical manner of New Zealand colonialism, a slow creeping retreat from national dignity and independence.
When the British first arrived in these islands in numbers, Maori were divided as to how to respond. Some foresaw the loss of their mana with their lands, while others, particularly among the chiefs, determined to profit by selling hapu and iwi land to the foreigners. So land was alienated, without right or mandate, in exchange for axes, blankets, muskets, printing presses, glass beads, rum, tobacco and Christian theology. Eventually the dispossessed rallied behind a Maori king, Tawhiao, and other tribal leaders, and so began the movement against land sales which developed into the wars of resistance to British rule.
This history is being played out again, with the British immigrants themselves selling their lands in exchange for a gamut of late model cars, designer jeans, air conditioning units, mobile telephones, dvd players, pleasure boats, synthetic cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and overseas holidays - none of it as useful as an axe or a blanket, while the accompanying secular materialist ideology preached by a phalanx of modern missioners offers none of the saving grace or practical advantage of the Christian religion.
At the same time, a wave of more prosperous Asian settlers has alarmed
the European population, causing them to vainly petition their government
for an end to "asset sales". Enter the "grotesque mediocrity", the
Duke of Cambridge, along with Prime Minister John Key, leader of the opposition
David Cunnliffe, the absurd European parody upon our past heros, Tawhiao,
Wiremu Tamehana, Rewi Maniapoto, Hone Heke, Wiremu Kingi and Te Kooti Rikirangi.
The "European King movement" manifest in this "royal visit" is most surely
and sadly a case of our own tragic history repeating itself as farce.
Bob McCroskie resigns as a state licensed marriage celebrant
Bob McCroskie, the leader of the "Family First" movement, has resigned
as a state-licensed marriage celebrant, but will continue to conduct marriages
without state endorsement. McCroskie's move is a signal that
while liberalism now controls the commanding heights of the mass media,
the political system and the state a broad spectrum of the public will
continue a stubborn resistance. As the New Zealand Herald reported
on 1 March " there are ...hundreds fewer celebrants linked to churches
and religious organisations – since a law creating marriage equality came
into force in August last year. The law change has prompted the resignation
of ... Family First national director Bob McCoskrie, who has been a vocal
opponent of same-sex marriage. But it has also attracted new celebrants
keen to preside over same-sex weddings." The simple arithmetic might
suggest a null nett effect, but as I wrote here in 2012 "Religious believers
may be more inclined to separate themselves from a state which assumes
a quasi-religious function yet in doing so contradicts the most fundamental
positions of genuine religious traditions...When brought into conflict
with the social order, religion becomes a revolutionary rather than a stabilizing
force". In the course of their headlong "pursuit of happiness"
liberals will not be willing to die in a ditch for the sake of their beliefs.
Their opponents are. In the end, that commitment will make the difference.
27 February 2014
New Zealand today: The alchemists take charge
Radio New Zealand "Nine to Noon" show this morning featured an interview with New Zealand Customs Minister Maurice Williamson in which he suggested that "3D printing" could be used to produce anything from hand guns to human organs and - wait for it - "gold". Gold from plastic, the alchemists dream, taken into the twenty-first century by digital technology.
A harmless delusion? More than that. Evidence that the monarchist regime is both prey to and purveyor of scientific, economic and social delusions which are inexorably drawing the nation to a catastrophe. That is not hyperbole. A nation whose rulers are as profoundly ignorant and deluded as Maurice Williamson (the same Maurice Williamson who became an internet celebrity through his speech supporting homosexual "marriage") simply will not survive.
But are we underestimating the Honorable Mr Williamson and the New Zealand parliament? If that august institution can turn the sacrament of marriage into a celebration of state-sponsored sodomy, could it not turn plastic into gold? Is it only a matter of time before Maurice Williamson presents to parliament the Materials Definition (Equality of Substances) Bill which decrees that plastic and gold are one and the same?
14 February 2014
An Auckland story
My parents started their married life in a garage-size bach which my father pre-fabricated where he had lived in Wellington, and then shipped by New Zealand Railways to a quarter-acre section of land at Mairangi Bay. This was 1947, ten years before the Auckland Harbour Bridge was built, and a time when Mairangi Bay was a remote rural backwater without water reticulation, sewage, or sealed roads.. My father, who possessed a range of technical skills (photographer, radio serviceman, mechanic, carpenter, plumber and electrician) had it in mind that Auckland was the only place to be in New Zealand for an enterprising person with a technical bent. The family settled in Mairangi Bay because they could afford to buy a section there, and Dad began work as an x-ray serviceman with Phillips Electrical Industries in the city, which entailed a long daily commute including a ferry trip from Devonport to the city. An Auckland story - click here to read more...
12 February 2014
Len Brown toughs it out.
Auckland City aspires or pretends to be a "world class city", and there is one respect in which it seems to be part of a global phenonomen. In Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine and Thailand popular movements have sprung with the object of forcing supposedly incompetent, corrupt or divisive elected officials out of office. In Auckland, a group of councillors, a vocal section of the public, social conservative pressure groups, and the nation's largest newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, have demanded that the recently re-elected Mayor Len Brown should resign as a consequence of his extra-marital affair with the political "groupie" Bevan Chuang. Len Brown toughs it out - click here to read more
10 February 2014
The Syrian conflict and the threat to rule of law in New Zealand.
Under the "rule of law" the institutions of state are subject to the
law and have minimal discretion in the exercise of their powers.
Under the "rule of power" the law is perceived as a mere instrument
of state power, and the state assigns itself wide discretionary powers.
In giving itself the right to withdraw the passports of New Zealand citizens
on suspicion, and without recourse to legal process, thus restricting the
freedom of movement of New Zealand citizens, the New Zealand Prime Minister
John Key has signalled that the regime is moving from the "rule of law"
to the "rule of power", where fundamental rights, such as freedom of movement
may be granted or withdrawn at the discretion of institutions of
state - in the present case, the security-intelligence service.
. The Syrian conflict and the threat to rule of law in New Zealand - click here to read more.
30 January 2014
Love, Sex and Marriage: Revisiting the amendment to the Marriage Act
Sex is at the heart of marriage. If a marriage is not consummated
- that is, if there is no sexual intercourse between husband and wife -
the marriage may be annulled, which is to say that it is deemed to have
never been a proper marriage. The implication is that when the church
says that marriage is "ordained by God" it is saying that sexual intercourse
between husband and wife is also "ordained by God". Therefore sexual
intercourse is sanctified in marriage. Love,
Sex and Marriage - click here to read more
Dear Phil... a letter to the administrator
of the "redline" collective website Click
here to read .
31 August Revised 11 September
Early superannuation and "the right to choose"
When "fiscally neutral" measures are proposed or supported by Treasury they necessarily have an ideological or political purpose. The purpose in the case of the proposal to allow uptake of superannuation at a reduced rate from the age of 60 years is to take a step away from the principal of universality and a step in the direction of "choice".
Ideologically, the proposal falls into the same category as Kiwi Saver (personal superannuation) and ACC (Accident Compensations Scheme) where the benefits paid are attributable to the choices that people have made in their lives - the choice whether to save or not to save, whether to have a high discretionary income or not and so on. (Don't be surprised to find that income is a matter of personal choice. The liberal doctrine of innate equality implies that regardless of ethnicity, gender or social class every individual is capable of achieving equivalent outcomes in their lives. Therefore provided that social institutions such as the education system function as intended, personal incomes are the consequence of personal choices made earlier in life).Superannuation and the right to choose - click here to read more ...
An ugly discourse
The panel on Radio New Zealand "afternoons with Jim Mora" is an opportunity for various celebreties to proffer opinions on subjects about which (as they will sometimes frankly concede) they are wholly ignorant. All that matters is the supposed weight which their contrived status lends to their opinions. The facts are generally not material.
The format of the show generally requires one celebrity from the political left to be balanced by the presence of another from the right. It is revealing however that as time goes by there is less and less disagreement between the various celebrity guests of the right and left, and on most issues they arrive at a happy consensus. Two regulars, the Labour Party's Dr Brian Edwards and the National Party's Michelle Boag, both married to different spouses, have actually been conducting what must count as one of the most public flirtations ever over the airwaves of Radio New Zealand National. That, and the fact that most of the time on the show is taken up with social trivia and egregious displays of personal, social and intellectual vanity, provides an instructive commentary on the state of New Zealand politics.
A serious issue did come before the panel on Friday August 30, shortly after Dr Edwards had finished providing the audience with the details of his sunglasses, the shirt he was wearing, his suit, his wardrobe budget, his home in Herne Bay and his fondness for a latte.
This was the small matter of a New Zealand journalist, Wayne Hay, who had been arrested and imprisoned by the military dictatorship in Egypt. What did the panel make of this event? It was obvious they had very little idea what they should say, particularly after it was revealed that the military dictatorship had charged the journalist with being "in sympathy" with the deposed democratically elected civilian government. Boag and Edwards neatly avoided this embarrassing problem by ignoring Hay's plight altogether and asking each other why journalists chose to go into positions of danger. Did they do it for the adrenalin rush? Was it like an addiction?
The discussion then segued to the subject of the Mumbai rapes with Boag asking why young Indian women would want to work until the late evening, and then travel home on public transport where they would be so at risk, and Edwards suggesting that it might have a lot to do with the perverse thrill of putting themselves in such risky situations. Of course it didn't. People like Boag and Edwards have the sense not to say such things. But they will happily imply that New Zealand journalists arrested by military dictators who are friends to the western powers have perversely brought the problem upon themselves. We are now seeing a re-run of the disgraceful way in which the Australian and New Zealand authorities attempted to cover up the murder of Australian and New Zealand journalists by the Indonesian military during the invasion of East Timor.
Just a few days earlier the Radio New Zealand Middle Eastern correspondent was telling her listeners about the "Islamist dictatorship of Mohammed Morsi" - a strange way of describing a democratically elected and exceedingly moderate Islamist government - and suggesting that the military dictatorship was at least no worse than the democratic government it had overthrown. The inconvenient truth that 2000 innocent civilians had been massacred in the aftermath of the coup, as many more imprisoned, television stations and newspapers closed down, and foreign journalists arrested, received no mention.
The New Zealand state will not say or do anything to protect even its own people from the savage brutality of the western imperial system. It speaks in favour of a military response to parallel atrocities in Syria, but only because it thinks (probably wrongly) that one side of the conflict there will support western "interests" in the region. In that sense it doesn't matter who perpetrated the atrocity, so long as it provides a pretext for intervening against those who are judged most inimical to western interests. It has nothing to do with humanitarian concerns. The New Zealand government has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not give a hoot about the welfare of its own people, let alone the people of Syria, Egypt, or any other nation in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand can be relied upon to keep the people of
New Zealand fully informed about Dr Brian Edward's shirts and sunnies and
Michelle Boag's social outings. It will, so far as possible,
continue to ignore the plight of Wayne Hay. It will beat the drums
for war against the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad while glossing over
the crimes of the Egyptian regime of General al-Sisi. Like the colonial
regime which it serves, it will carry on being stupid, dishonest and amoral
until the day when we enjoy something like our own "Arab spring".
29 August 2013
The secularisation of calling: how Barack Obama morphed into George Bush.
When Barack Obama succeeded George Bush to the Presidency of the United States western liberals celebrated the event as the dawning of a new age of politics. Those who had suffered the wrath of the United States - in particular the peoples of the Middle East - were more sceptical. Few of the latter expected to see a fundamental change in the way that the United States exercised its power in the world, and to them it came as no surprise that Obama dramatically increased the number of assassinations being carried out by global drone strikes, maintained the Gauntanamo Bay prison camp, introduced massive systems of state surveillance of the citizenry, and began to brutally punish so-called "whistle blowers" who told the American public exactly what the President and Commander-in-Chief was doing in their name.
Some years ago I compared the corrupting influence of politics to what happens when you set a virgin to work in a brothel. It is naive to imagine that the fresh innocence of the newcomer can prevail over the cynical corruption of the old hands. This is the dilemma of democracy. The job itself defines the way in which it will be conducted and there is no moral way to be Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America, Prime Minister of New Zealand, or madam of a high-class brothel.
However, there is one critical subjective factor which I had overlooked,
namely the way in which secularism profoundly changes the relationship
of the individual to the world at large. In the days when the word
"vocation" literally implied a call from God, one's job in life, whether
in the church, the state, or the civil society, was at the behest of God
and required to be in accordance with his express will. Today the
purpose of a vocation is defined by the self-interest of the individual
and the demands of the organisation or profession within which the
individual works. The toxic confluence of self-interest and
organisational-interest defines the modern secular vocation, whether in
business, politics, professional sport, much of what passes for religion
and virtually every other sphere of human life. Until there is a
return to religious values there will be no escape from the democratic
dilemma. A black President will be as ruthless as a white one.
A female journalist will be as dishonest as her male counterparts.
A gay Prime Minister will be as devious as a straight one.
Nothing will change for the better until the people of the western nations
revert to the life of faith.
David Shearer's dirty little secrets and John Key's own goal
I was not alone in being unimpressed by David Shearer's prospects after he acceded to the leadership of the New Zealand Labour Party, but I was one of the few who pointed out that his work with the United Nations actually brought into question his personal integrity and his suitability for the role of leader. Most commentators assumed that Shearer had, in the now notorious formula of Labour Party propagandists, devoted his time overseas to saving lives, while John Key was busy amassing personal wealth. The subsequent revelation that Shearer had large sums of undeclared cash stashed away in a secret US bank account took the legs off that particular claim. Far from being the humanitarian hero of Labour Party propaganda, Shearer has been exposed as just one more devious New Zealand politician.
Shearer's final undoing was his pretence in Parliament that he had never discussed the GCSB bill with its author, National Party Prime Minister John Key. Shearer had told Key that the meeting was to be treated as "off the record". He therefore felt entitled to tell the New Zealand public that no such meeting had ever taken place. Key, however, could not resist the temptation to betray the confidence by revealing the truth of the meeting to the House of Representatives, and thus Shearer's fate was sealed.
Few will have sympathy for Shearer. While secretly colluding with the National Party government, he was deceiving the New Zealand public. His modus operandi was that ot the typical UN bureaucrat. Engage in confidential negotiations with the local power-brokers and don't get hung up on matters of principle or morality. That was particularly stupid of David Shearer, because John Key is no Afghan warlord who could be relied on to maintain the confidence of a UN bureaucrat. He is a democratic politician who had a direct interest in undermining the credibility of his confidante.
John Key's revelation raises another troubling issue. He has shown that he is willing to breach the shabby "off the record" convention when it suits his political purposes. Or even when it doesn't. Key's political interests would have been better served by allowing David Shearer to remain leader of the opposition through to the next general election, but the political animal in the Prime Minister could not resist the temptation to discomfort an adversary.
An earlier National Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, breached confidence
by using a police report on former Labour Party Minister Colin Moyle for
political advantage, and also used supposedly secret SIS data to discredit
his political opponents. Abuse of confidence is a constant temptation
to politicians in positions of power, and John Key for one has demonstrated
that he is unable to resist that tempation. John Key and others
at the highest levels of government will feel driven to use information
on personal indiscretions or peccadillos gleaned through the enhanced powers
of the GCSB to either discredit or blackmail their political opponents.
New Zealand politicians, all of whom are human and fallible, will become
the handpuppets of the spymasters once the GCSB has its all-encompassing
system of surveillance in place.
9 July 2013 (updated 2013-07-28)
Afghanistan still in the news
The NZDF's own figures, recently released by journalist David
Fisher, show that in 2012 nineteen New Zealand troops, out of 150
deployed in Afghanistan, were sent home on "psychological" grounds in a
failed bid to restore discipline within the occupation force. However
the complete collapse of morale in the New Zealand forces in the latter
months of 2012 cannot be forever concealed under the guise of "psychological
Meanwhile, the army's attempt to discredit journalist Jon Stephenson has ended up in the New Zealand courts ... Afghanistan still in the news - click here to read more...
Secularists who do not believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God tend to seek refuge in an omniscient and omnipotent state. This was the case in Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany, and it is presently the case in Barack Obama's America, and John Key's New Zealand. These people believe surveillance and control is necessary for the protection of the state, and the state in turn is necessary to defend the well-being of the people.
Having no belief in a beneficent and all-knowing God, the secularists believe that they must know everything that has happened or may yet happen in the world, and they consider it necessary to have absolute control over their own circumstances, to whatever ends. Having no belief in the hereafter, they are obsessed with the importance of preserving their lives and their fortunes in this world, even at the price of moral improbity. In attempting the impossible, they find themselves obliged to resort to deceit, and then to force.
They are wrong, they are misguided, and they are doomed to fail.
Those who truly believe in God can accept their own limitations, and their own mortality. They have no need to seek refuge in a putatively all-knowing, all-powerful state, because they have a truly all-knowing, all-powerful God. The only imperative for the believers is to honour God while living in the world with honesty, courage and compassion for others, and in the end, they will be vindicated.
There are reasons why, and a process by which, the all-powerful all-knowing state must fail. At the most fundamental level there is a contradiction between omniscience and omnipotence. If we know everything that is, was, and will be, then by definition we are powerless to alter that reality in any way. If, on the other hand, we could change anything in the world, then we could have no knowledge of what will be from the very next instant of time, because there would be no law of nature by which the creation is bound, and all would be subject to our own unpredictable and ever-changing will. So omnipotence signifies the repeal of all natural laws, in the absence of which the patterns of the past would cease to have meaning, and would appear as mere coincidence .
There is a tenet of science, particularly applicable at the atomic level, which says that every observation changes the thing that is observed, and hence that nothing can be known absolutely. The same is true of the market. If the market knows that a commodity will rise in price, then it acts to counter the rise, even to the extent of producing a glut which will cause the price to fall. We act on the basis of knowledge, and we gain knowledge from our actions, but in acting we change that which we purported to know. At the same time the desire to know inhibits our ability to act, because by entering into any particular set of material circumstances we change those circumstances, and we can never be absolutely certain of how different they may have been if we had not ourselves entered into the situation.
So among mortal beings the aspiration for omnipotence conflicts with the aspiration for omniscience. We can be neither all-knowing nor all-powerful and we certainly cannot be both.
The surveillance state will change the material circumstances of our lives. Vast resources are being poured into the project. Hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands or surveillance staff will be employed. Other sectors of society - health, education, productive enterprise - will be deprived of funding and capable personnel as the surveillance system grows ever-larger. Those who would otherwise have been supporters of the state will begin look at it with suspicion and resentment. In other words, surveillance will itself give rise to the very disaffection which it was intended to detect and suppress.
The power given by the webmaster's knowledge of the indiscretions and peccadillos of political and religious leaders will inevitably be used for political ends, whether disclosed publicly or used privately to bring pressure to bear. The effect upon the integrity of the political system will be insidious and corrosive.
Meanwhile, the lower ranks of the secret watchers who in the end are still human beings, will experience the same frustration as anyone who has knowledge which must be concealed in order to protect its source. Secrets inevitably end in leaks, and in the end, which may not be very long in coming, the surveillance society will suffer the same fate as any other overloaded leaking vessel.
7 July 2013
Spying legislation: Where does it come from and where will it end?
Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were notorious for spying upon
their own citizens. Both were militantly secular states.
Not believing in God, they sought to place the state in His
place at the head of the social order. In order to fulfil its
self-assigned role the state was obliged to be omniscient, being cogniscant
of every action, every word and every thought of every member of society.
Only when possessed of such absolute knowledge, it was believed, could
the state combat threats to the security of the nation and the welfare
of the people.
Those who believe in God have no need for a state which can protect them against any conceivable trouble or threat, and thus no need for a state which knows everything about its citizens. Taking refuge in their Creator, they have no undue fear of worldly afflictions.
The secular road, on the other hand leads first to social paranoia, and then to tyranny. The person who sits at the centre of the web of surveillance, whether it is the Head of State, the Fuhrer, the party boss, or the head of the KGB, NKVD, Gestapo, FBI, GCSB or the SIS becomes the power behind the scenes. Like the former Head of the American FBI, J Edgar Hoover, he is able to blackmail members of the government or the legislature over indiscretions or peccadillos which are hidden from public knowledge, but which become known to the intelligence services through electronic eavesdropping. In this way the highest ranks of politics are the first to be corrupted, and then the system of fear and corruption extends down through the social layers as far as the lowliest citizen.
However, the harder the state tries to take the place of God, the more certain it is to fail. It is not for the state to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and the absolute protector of its citizens. Those are the attributes of God alone. The state which tries to play God eventually collapses under its own weight. The organisations of surveillance and control become unsustainably large. So many are engaged in the business of spying and reporting on their fellow citizens that nothing gets done. The productive society becomes hesitant, starved of resources and ultimately sclerotic
It is no coincidence that the New Zealand state is moving to establish comprehensive electronic surveillance of its citizens just weeks after having made itself the final arbiter of the marriage sacrament. Having no God to revere, the state seeks to make itself a God to be feared. It will end badly for the state, and for all those New Zealanders who subscribe to the false doctrine of secularism
5 July 2013
Morsi, Mora and McCormick
Gary McCormick and Jim Mora, who feature regularly on state broadcasters Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand National, are intelligent, good-humoured, compassionate, generally well-informed commentators on New Zealand and international events. McCormick is an entertainer who toured the country with the late former Prime Minister David Lange, delighting left-wing audiences from Auckland to Otorohanga. Jim Mora fronted the do-gooder television programme "Mucking In", acquiring in the process a public reputation for warmth and compassion.
A couple of months back McCormick and Mora were telling Radio New Zealand audiences that same-sex marriage was an essential human right, and would be a great thing for the country. Neither seemed to think it might be desirable, let alone necessary, to have a contrary viewpoint represented on their programme. Yesterday on "Afternoons with Jim Mora" they dealt with a couple of themes which are only apparently unrelated.
One was the allegation made on the basis of an academic study, that the BBC had a "liberal bias". Neither McCormick nor Mora saw any problem there. To them the term "liberal bias" was oxymoronic. In their view, if there is such a thing as a liberal bias, then it is entirely appropriate for the BBC, and by implication Radio New Zealand, to have it.
Social conservatives, who have been effectively shut out of public discourse in New Zealand, would not see it that way, and neither should any "intelligent, compassionate and well-informed" person. The grave potential for harm presented by the liberal bias of the mass media was made more evident when Mora and McCormick moved on to the next issue: the military coup in Egypt against the one-year-old democratically elected government of Muhammed Morsi. Western media and governments have refused to condemn the coup. McCormick went further, suggesting that those who he called "our American friends" should never have allowed an Islamist government to be formed in Egypt in the first place, and that the coup was long overdue.
President Morsi and his government are now under military arrest and facing the threat of summary execution. The Muslim Brotherhood's offices have been sacked and burned, scores of unarmed party workers shot and radio and television stations and newspapers which support the legitimate government have been closed down. Mora and McCormick, the bold upholders of state-sanctioned sodomy, declare that all this is "not before time". The liberal establishment in New Zealand, represented in the persons of Mora and McCormick, have decreed that the poor, the humble and the pious of Egyptian society should be sacrificed to the demands of a brutally corrupt military regime, and the greedy ambitions of a privileged elite. However, this is not just about Egypt. Western governments and the western media instigated, condone and support the military coup because they share its arrogance, its selfish ambition, and its contempt for the poor and afflicted of the world. Their attitudes should, quite literally, put the fear of death into New Zealanders. When push comes to shove, the "intelligent, good-humoured, compassionate, generally well-informed" liberals who claim the right to kill unborn children will not hesitate to kill anyone who they perceive as a threat to their hold on wealth and power.
Behind the benign persona of a Jim Mora, Gary McCormick, John Key or
Barack Obama lurks the murderous reality of global secularism, which, when
it has exhausted all its powers of wit and dissimilaton resorts to brute
force. The lesson in these events, and the global response, is that
people everywhere must be armed to defend themselves against the military
forces of the secular state.
3 July 2013
Tell me again: who won the cold war?
When I was growing up in New Zealand in the nineteen-fifties we were told a lot about the evils of communism. In the Soviet states women were forced to work in industry. They were not able to stay home to raise their children, who were reared by childcare workers in institutions. Working families were obliged to live in soul-less apartment blocks. Family meals were taken in communal dining rooms. Family farms had been taken over by impersonal corporations. There were no family homes on quarter-acre sections, except for the ruling apparatchiks, who had their lifestyle blocks in the country and their holiday baches on the Black Sea. The newspapers were filled with fatuous propaganda. There was no opposition press or broadcaster to speak of. School children were indoctrinated in the crass secular values of the Soviet system. The few dissidents who protested or told the truth about what was happening were forced to flee the country, or remained holed up in Western embassies for decades. Alleged counter-revolutionaries were secretly removed to prison camps in remote places where there was no rule of law and no right to open trial. Armies were sent to suppress uprisings in the client states of eastern Europe. The communist aim was to incorporate the entire human race into a global system based on the arcane economic theories of a nineteenth century philosopher who had no real understanding of human nature. Religion was derided, and the institutions of religion were morally compromised. The political system was controlled by the 2% or so of the population who belonged to the Marxist political parties. The careers of dissidents mysteriously foundered. The people lived lives of quiet desperation, often hungry, and always deprived. The entire population, including the politicians themselves, were subjected to a system of surveillance that looked into every aspect of their private lives, their political opinions, and their social views, on the pretext of the threat posed by "counter-revolutionaries".
That grim picture is probably as true of New Zealand today as it was of the Soviet Union in the nineteen-fifties, and it begs the question of who really won the cold war. All that we were taught to loath and fear about communism has become part of our life thanks to the very political parties and institutions which were most eloquent in telling us of our right to own a home or a farm, bring up a family, work for whom we pleased, be paid a decent wage, have the same opportunities as the most privileged in society, enjoy a variety of honest critical opinion in the news media, protect the family, respect the institutions of religion, and live under the rule of law.
The legislation currently before parliament which will give the state the absolute right to spy upon all its citizens is a move towards the final separation of the government from the people. Taken in itself, it would be a worthless exercise, involving great cost and employing huge numbers of state officials to track and record the random thoughts of millions of New Zealanders, all to no apparent purpose. However, there is and will be a purpose. The New Zealand surveillance system works in concert with the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel. In the United States the system is employed to target individuals for assassination. Originally only non-US citizens were targetted. Now US citizens abroad may also be assassinated on the orders of President Barack Obama. Israel and the United Kingdom also use the surveillance system to support their own targetted killing programs. New Zealand will be part of this system, and assuming that the New Zealand government continues to follow the logic of the United States and the United Kingdom, sooner or later the system will be used to carry out extra-judicial killing of New Zealand citizens at home or abroad. In the interim, it will be used to instill fear in politicians, journalists, state servants, and the New Zealand public at large and to make the public compliant with the imperatives of the state. But it will fail to achieve its ultimate purpose. As hundreds, and then thousands of employees are drafted into the state security apparatus, there will be more low paid staff, more whose commitment to the preservation of state power falls short of being absolute, more leaks, more Julian Lasanges, more Bradley Mannings, and more Edward Snowdens. Eventually the system will become too large, too unwieldy and too expensive, and it will collapse under its own weight, just as the Soviet Union collapsed from within. When that happens John Key, or whoever succeeds him at the head of the New Zealand state will be left looking as silly as Enver Hoxha in Albania or Nicolai Ceaucescu in Romania. Just a stupid little man in a colonial outpost who imagined he could found a durable regime on a system of universal surveillance.
1 June 2013
Maurice Williamson: In contempt of the truth
In his celebrated speech to
Parliament at the third reading of the Marriage Act amendment bill, Minister
outside of Cabinet Maurice Williamson stated "I also had a leader tell
me I would burn in the fires of hell for eternity ..". It is
now revealed that the "leader" in question was Williamson's party leader,
the Prime Minister John Key, and that the comment was made in the course
of a joking exchange between the two when Williamson apprised Key of his
intention to speak in favour of the Amendment. By a narrow
definition Williamson's statement to parliament was therefore "true", but
by substituting the indefinite article "a" for the possessive pronoun "my"
Williamson knowingly deceived four million New Zealanders into thinking
that he was referring to a leader from among the religious opponents to
From the outset the New Zealand news media duopoly of APN and Fairfax media knew the true story, but for reasons of their own chose not to tell the public. Instead, to provide themselves with a defence against the day when the truth finally emerged, they tagged Williamson's address to parliament as a "humorous speech" which is media code for "Don't take any of this too seriously".
However millions of New Zealanders do believe what their politicians say in Parliament and take what they read in the newspapers at face value. They are largely ignorant of the codes which journalists use to indicate to each other that a story is of doubtful veracity, or simply untrue. Millions of ordinary New Zealanders have been deceived by a politician who is in contempt of the truth and betrayed by the journalists who gratuitously handed him a "Get out of jail free" card.
25 May 2013
Canary in the mine
Stephen Rainbow, the prominent New Zealand local government politician and apologist for homosexuality has suggested that homosexuals are the "canary in the mine" of creative culture, by which he means that when homosexuality can be openly practised the arts will flourish, and vice versa. He may be correct in some degree. There appears to be a correlation between homosexuality and the performing and creative arts: a number of great artists, among them Michelangelo, Tchaikowsky and Oscar Wilde, were reputed homosexuals. However their works were created within the bounds of a social order which did not endorse homosexual acts, and it is not necessarily the case that the culture is enriched by the glorification of homosexuality. Now that homosexuality has become socially acceptable, one would be hard put to argue that Anglo-Saxon culture has reached a new zenith. It has rap in place of John Keats, talk-back radio in place of the Edmund Burke and Tom Payne, soap opera in place of William Shakespeare, and hiphop in place of Edward Elgar or Vaughan Willliams. Whether that represents cultural progress or cultural decline is for the individual to judge.
The point that I would take from Rainbow is that homosexuality is not something that can be considered in isolation from all other social phenomena. The same applies to prostitution. There is for example, a clear connection between prostitution and drug abuse. Drug addicts become prostitutes in order to finance their drug habits, and prostitutes take up the use of drugs in order to give a semblance of purpose to lives which have been rendered spiritually empty by the practice of prostitution. In New Zealand the campaign to legalise prostitution was led by homosexuals who then went on to lobby for and win state sanctification of homosexuality through the amendment to the Marriage Act.
There is therefore an empirical connection between homosexuality and prostitution. There is also an ideological connection. Essentially the same arguments which were advanced to support neo-liberal economic reform have been used to advocate homosexual law reform and prostitution law reform. There is a wider liberal agenda, to which virtually all political parties subscribe, though to greater or lesser degree, and the social conservative critics of that agenda have been powerless to resist it, because, largely for reasons of material self-interest, they have been unwilling to challenge its fundamental ideological premises.
The overt social, legal and economic ramifications of homosexuality and the neo-liberal ideology in general are of interest and concern, but there are other less obvious and more insidious implications, particularly the prevalence of equivocation and dissimulation within liberal society. Equivocation is maintaining that things of a quite different character are equivalent. For example the claim that sodomy and sexual intercourse (between a man and a woman) amount to the same thing underlies the amendment to the Marriage Act, and is widely accepted within New Zealand society, yet it is at odds with simple truth. The argument that a worker and a capitalist are essentially "the same" within the economic order is also contrary to the actual reality. Equivocation thus becomes a form of deception.
The other side to equivocation is dissimulation - making things appear different to their true character - and dissimulation lies at the heart of the homosexual psyche. The male homosexual may present himself as either a woman or a man. In both persona he is deceiving himself and those about him. Physically he is not, and cannot be, a woman. Mentally, and spiritually he has the potential to be a man but as a homsexual he is not truly a man, because he does not relate to other men or to women in the normal way of a man. In his life the homosexual acts the man, or acts the woman, while not properly being either. The homosexual is thus an intuitive thespian, capable of assuming many different identities and portraying himself as something different to his true character.
As homosexuality has advanced to the front ranks of the political establishment,
equivocation and dissimulation have become so prevalent that they are the
new norm of politics in this country. Homosexuality has not
been the cause - certainly not the sole cause - of the decline in political
standards, but it has been associated with, and has had the effect of accelerating
and aggravating the collapse of political integrity in New Zealand.
It has reached the point where the churches and their congregations now
have to choose between liberalism and Christianity. So does
the socially conservative middle class which supports the centre-right
political parties. My expectation is that the majority of Christians
and social conservatives on the political right will capitulate to the
liberal tide, because while it is counter to their spiritual beliefs, it
remains consistent with their perceived material interests.
"Perceived" is the operative word, because in the longer term - which
may be measured in years rather than decades - the social conservatives
in the National Party and the churches will find that the historic accommodation
with liberalism brings their world crashing down about them.
Bringing in the reinforcements
Aaron Gilmore's replacement on the National Party list is broadcaster
Claudette Hauiti, a lesbian in a civil union who "has publicly admitted
that she ticks all the boxes on National's representation scale".
If Hauiti is correct in saying that she ticks "all the boxes" it would
appear that the National Party lacks a "box" for normal husbands and wives
doing normal jobs and bringing up children in the normal way. More
importantly, it means that there is no box labelled "humility".
That comes as no surprise after the nation has been exposed to the arrogant
and unseemly behaviour of Aaron Gilmore. As the
homosexual faction extends its influence within the National Party, we
can expect "gay pride" will be manifest as homosexual vanity and arrogance
of the kind expressed by Ms Hauiti, and the doctrine promoted by Stephen
Rainbow - that homosexuals are not just the equals of heterosexuals, but
are actually superior - will gain more traction.
Mopping up the opposition.
The parliamentarians who voted for the Marriage Amendment Bill were anxious to assure the public that it will have great beneficial consequences for homosexuals, and few or no adverse consequences for society at large. Those assurances may be taken with a grain of salt. The reality is that the law change will bring no lasting or profound benefits for the homosexual community, but it will seriously disrupt and undermine the existing socio-political system in this country. The immediate consequence will be a sense of liberal hubris and homosexual triumphalism giving rise to renewed attacks on social conservatives, and religious traditionalists.
The first shot in this new offensive has been fired by the Charities Commission, which has removed the charitable status of the FamilyFirst organisation on account of its opposition to the incorporation of homosexuality into the institution of marriage. The Commission argued that FamilyFirst was a political organisation which used "propaganda" and "indoctrination" to advance its cause. Propaganda is "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view" to indoctrinate is to "teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically". The Charities Commission thus implies that FamilyFirst has been biassed and misleading, and has encouraged uncritical thinking, yet the Commission has offered no evidence of bias, misleading information, or uncritical thinking to support this allegation. As it happens, the Charities Commission will never be able to proffer evidence to support the claim of bias, misleading information, and lack of critical thinking, because in doing so it would be forced to reveal its own bias in favour of homosexuality and homosexual organisations which it continues to support and endorse as charitable organisations. The Commission's claim of bias simply reduces to the simple fact that on the questions of homosexuality and marriage the Commission has a contrary view to FamilyFirst.
The Commission does, despite itself, go some way to revealing the real reason why it has deregistered FamilyFirst. It says that the views promoted by FamilyFirst are "controversial.. in contemporary New Zealand society". By "controversial views" the Commission means "minority views". It is telling that the Commission waited until after the parliamentary vote on homosexual marriage before announcing the decision to deregister FamilyFirst. There were two reasons for the three month delay in publishing the decision. First was that the Commission wanted to avoid creating a backlash of sympathy for FamilyFirst which could have had an effect on the political process before the parliamentary "deliberations" were concluded. Second, the Commission wanted to see how the numbers stacked up in parliament so that it could be sure that it was clearly on the "winning side" before taking a public stand against FamilyFirst.
The way that the issue of homosexual marriage has been approached by New Zealand politicians, government departments, mass media, and quangos like the Charities Commission will concern those who truly believe in freedom of speech and opinion. Those who wield power in society have come to a consensus on homosexual "marriage", and have determined to suppress and punish contrary points of view. Early in this debate, I described this phenomenon as the spectre of liberal bigotry which will become more firmly entrenched within the political establishment as it advances into the brave new era of "gay marriage". FamilyFirst will not be the last to feel the wrath of the liberal establishment.
For FamilyFirst however, punitive measures such as deregistration will
not be a bad thing. The organisation has been constrained by both
its charitable inclinations and its charitable status. It has chosen
not to criticise homosexuals or politicians. It has instead
limited itself to advancing positive arguments in favour of traditional
marriage. That has been an ineffective way of combatting the designs
of militant homosexuals, morally ambivalent religious leaders, and corrupt
politicians. Now that FamilyFirst has been cast adrift by the
state, it has the opportunity to realign itself with those in the community
who feel deep anger at the arrogance and selfishness of homosexual
politicians. Anger, of course, is not the way forward, but
understanding the nature of that anger, and dealing with its cause, is
a necessary step in the criticism of state-sponsored homosexuality.
FamilyFirst is now completely free to speak truth to power, and we can
only trust that it will continue to do so.
"Softening up" for the next offensive
The Dominion Post 23 May 2013 carried the story that "An 18-year-old girl faces felony charges that she had sexual contact with her 14-year-old girlfriend leading gay rights advocates to say she is being unfairly singled out for a common high school romance because she is gay..". The article, which is clearly sympathetic to the accused Kaitlyn Hunt, reports that "A 'Free Kate' Facebook page has generated more than 30,000 followers and an on-line petition.. has more than 100,000 signatures".
When homosexual marriage was first mooted in this country, some opponents
were suggesting that group marriage would be the next social innovation
promoted by homosexuals. It is now apparent that will not be the case, and that instead media pressure will build around allowing homosexuals sexual access to boys and girls under the age of 14 years. Much will be made of the arbitrary nature of the age of consent, and as in the homosexual marriage debate words such as "love" and "romance" will be used to deceive the New Zealand public into granting the desire of homosexuals for unfettered sexual contact with persons of all ages.
Over the past thirty years homosexual law reform in New Zealand has advanced by a classic Fabian strategy of successive supposedly "modest" and reasonable demands. First toleration, then decriminalisation, followed by sympathetic advocacy, civil union, and homosexual marriage, with the homosexuals insisting at each stage in the process that no further demands would be made. The Dominion Post article is the start of the "softening up" process which will precede a new demand for legalisation of homosexual acts between men and boys. At this point the Dominion Post is only suggesting the legitimation of sexual acts between adult and juvenile females who are separated in age by just a few years, but once this chink in the law has been opened, it will necessarily be widened to include male homosexuals, and the permitted age distinctions will be progressively increased. How many years before a slightly inebriated (or severely intoxicated as the case may be) Maurice Williamson is heard declaiming in parliament "If a man loves a boy, and a boy loves a man, what harm can there be in that?"?.
The New Zealand public has been deceived into thinking that simple humanity requires them to allow the gratification of all homosexual desires. They will learn, to their cost, that the gratification of those desires has no limit short of the total destruction of the social order.
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