Friday, 29 November 2013

Holy Folly

David and Goliath Struggle: Critics of Greenpeace have condemned its latest protest against deep sea oil drilling as folly. But, in a world made miserable by the “wisdom” of our neoliberal masters, “folly” may be exactly what people are looking for.
 
BE CAREFUL what you wish for, Prime Minister. If the New Zealand electorate has shifted as far to the left as the polls show the British and American electorates shifting, a Labour Party committed to re-nationalising the partially-privatised energy SOEs and Air New Zealand may not be as unpopular as you think. By the same token, Mr Cunliffe: “Profligate Communist!” may not be the insult you assume it to be.
 
Across the world, but especially in the developed world, there is a growing sense of enough being enough. Enough inequality. Enough unemployment. Enough insecurity. Enough retrenchment. Enough austerity. Enough of swallowing the lie that all of these things are as immutable as the seasons. Unalterable. Just the way it is.
 
“Enough of that!” People are saying. “What was made by Man can be changed by Man.”
 
Enough is enough.
 
It’s been slow to arrive in New Zealand. Nearly three decades of bipartisan agreement on the essentials of neoliberal economic policy have seen to that. A whole generation has grown up believing that this is as good as it gets. That the Reserve Bank Act, the Public Finance Act, the State Sector Act and the Employment Contracts/Relations Act – like the stone tablets Moses brought down from Mt Sinai – are laws written by God.
 
But the problem with raising up a massive, all-embracing, hegemonic structure is that, eventually, it has to deliver. People will tolerate a slow start – especially if the system being replaced held sway for a long time and embedded its values deep in the national psyche. At some point, however, the new system has got to work. And by “work” the average person means “work for everyone – not just a privileged few”.
 
Thirty years has been more than enough time for the neoliberal system to have proved its worth. That it has delivered the world we live in today argues pretty decisively against it being much more than a mechanism for making the rich richer and the rest of us wretched.
 
The newspapers and the electronic media may tell us that things are not as bad as they seem, and that, really, our government’s “common-sense” policies are working splendidly; but their spin is counter-spun by our lived experience. The content of our day-to-day lives is constantly constructing a powerful “counter-hegemony”. We “just know” that things are not getting better.
 
And, knowing this, we are constantly bemused, amazed and (more recently) aggrieved that the political parties purporting to offer a challenge to the status-quo do not seem to be aware of it. Or, even if they are aware of it, remain steadfastly unwilling to embrace the sort of policies that might do something about it.
 
Mr Cunliffe’s unwillingness to be labelled a “Profligate Communist” reveals the power that neoliberalism still wields over New Zealand’s political class. Every editor, every political journalist and commentator in the country would declare his unequivocal pledge to renationalise the energy SOEs utter folly – and the Leader of the Labour Party has balked at the prospect.
 
But, in a world made miserable by the “wisdom” of our neoliberal masters, “folly” may be exactly what people are looking for in a Labour leader. The “holy folly” that inspired the Saints: that prompted Martin Luther to nail his manifesto of protest to the cathedral door; that kept Rosa Parks in her seat, immovable, on a Montgomery bus.
 
We New Zealanders have a soft spot for that sort of holy foolishness. It’s why we cheered when Norman Kirk dispatched a frigate to Mururoa. It’s why we applauded when hundreds of little boats sailed out to blockade the nuclear warships of the US Navy. It’s why, deep down, and in spite of all the sneers and jeers, we are willing Greenpeace’s little flotilla to stay the distance and succeed.
 
When we see the size of the drilling vessel: the way it dwarfs the little craft that have sailed into Anadarko’s forbidden zone to bear witness against the reckless gamble that is deep sea oil; something in us reaches out to them – law or no law.
 
“This will not stand”, whispers the voice of holy folly. And then, loud enough to disturb his whole Government, that same voice makes a second promise: one our Prime Minister was certain he would never hear – and now recoils from:
 
“They will not stand alone.”
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 29 November 2013.

22 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'm not optimistic. There's been a huge feat of social engineering inflicted on New Zealand Society, and the press as always, apart from Radio New Zealand, is aiding and abetting the process. One thing though, I notice my son is left-wing. Haven't really discussed politics with him until recently. So there might be some hope amongst the young.

Anonymous said...

I'm up for Don Franks' view on Pope Francis' criticisms of the 'free market".

You readin this, Don? Head over to Gordon Campbell for a read.

Richard Christie said...

what are you moaning about?

Neoliberalism has given you Lotto Powerball, Big Wednesday, Seven Sharp, reality TV, casinos, 24 hour bars and a Warehouse in every suburb.

so relax, turn on the TV, ...look! there is a cooking show on! if don't like that then there is a diy renovation show brought to you by Bunnings.

Relax, no need to worry beyond planning how to spend your upcoming Lotto win.

Johnny is looking after you, relax.

The Flying Tortoise said...

Man has fucked the world and I think unfortunately it's too late to unfuck it. Wouldn't it be wonderful though...

Anonymous said...

We are globally heading into "uncharted territory", and all that has been maintained as economic and political systems that had a purpose, will in the coming years and decades be thrown into total turmoil.

Just watch what is going on: There is drilling, fracking and digging going on in places, where man never dug and drilled for fossil energy before (Arctic, deep sea and so forth), there are major powers at loggerheads and sending their navies to patrol disputed waters above oil and gas fields underneath (e.g. between China and Japan), there is a USA that has not solved it's financial and debt crisis, as the whole major issue has been postponed into early next year, Europe is far from recovered, and even the BRIC countries are heading into economic slow down and danger territory, there is endless stability. Ukraine is being blackmailed by Russia and told to stay clear of the EU, there is continued tension between India and Pakistan, between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Egypt is close to civil unrest again, possibly heading into a situation that Iraq was in for years. That latter country is also falling into ethnic and religious divisions and chaos again, and Syria's crisis is far from resolved.

Australia has fallen out with Indonesia, and many other places all over the world are having not just similar, but also environmental, population pressure and resource problems, that spell for major disasters.

So yes, little New Zealand will likely get a new government under David Cunliffe's leadership, but it will have uncharted waters to sail in.

Certainly the neoliberal economic age is at an end, and global trade has resulted only in exploitation having been shifted off-shore, in new social divisions in old and not so old countries, it has brought some benefits, but others job losses and a 2nd class existence in their own country.

I see the world in a similar geopolitical situation as the world before WW1, and with the greater tensions and pressures that exist, high competition for resources, incl. water, there will be NO safe place anywhere, and wars are to be expected, major ones.

A silly John Trader or Dealer will not see the country through that, and more and more are seeing this.

Pray for the future, I fear many will learn to pray, as there will be few answers and solutions. New Zealand is one of the few places where the worst may be avoided.

Anonymous said...

What is 'holly' folly? (title)

Davo Stevens said...

A Free Market Economy rises and falls like the tide. It doesn't grow to the moon. Every time it implodes more and more people are left behind. It also exploits resources and when those are depleted it moves on. Oil is running out in the easier places and now we must go to the extremes to get it.

Everything that has happened recently has been done by design. Drive cities and even countries into bankruptcy then get the services at fire-salvage prices or lend them money at extortional interest rates. Either way the top are sucking the life-blood out of communities and countries. Shifting money upwards is the name of the game.

Kat said...

Yes! But! John Key was voted in.....wasn't he?

So...you don't like the status quo, then VOTE him gone!

Simple really....called democracy.

BevanJS said...

"Wretched", really? You're wretched?

We've got it pretty damn good in this part of the world and I think if individuals started living as they want their gummint to act we'd be even better -especially on "green" topics.

Davo Stevens said...

@Kat; "Yes! But! John Key was voted in.....wasn't he?"

Yes but gubbies are voted out never voted in. It's been very rare for a political party to last more than three terms here and peeps were tired of Helen's gang.

A very apt saying is: "Govt.'s should be afraid of the people not the people afraid of the Govt." People are too afraid to stand up to John and face him down.

Hopefully, people are getting wiser about who actually controls our "Loyal Govt." (Hint; ain't us!).

jh said...

Because neo liberalism fails in some way doesn't mean the other candidate wins; the left don't have a solution either.
The left assume rich + redistribute. A 3rd way is green but I see the green Green just got bumped off the Green Party list.

Davo Stevens said...

Oh My jh, have you been asleep for the last 30 or so years? THERE IS NO LEFT mate! We have a Right and a rightish. The Greens have moved into the Centre and are mostly around there with the odd little move leftish then quickly move back again.

As a retired person who was making a really good 6 figure salary in my working life I was paying less tax than some-one on the minimum wage!! When you have a top income there are completely legal loopholes you can drive a bus through, try doing that when your income is about the average.

Unfair? yes, but legal. And if you own a business there are even more loopholes available. I have no problem with those being closed and people paying their fair share.

thor42 said...

People are shifting to the Left?

The why are the people leaving the MSM en-masse?

The MSM that is completely controlled by the left-wing (as are the schools and universities)?

The answer is obvious.
People know nonsense when they see it, and the nonsense peddled in the MSM is left-wing nonsense.

Oh, and why is it, if "capitalism" is so bad, that New Zealand has one of the strongest economies in the world at the moment? This is in spite of the GFC and the Canterbury earthquakes.

Most people grow out of the "socialism has the answers" phase in their early 20s. You really are a "late bloomer" Chris... :)

You should know by now that socialism and left-wing "redistribution" policies solve *nothing*.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Thor 42. Why is America - one of the most capitalist countries in the world - down the crapper? Your statement is like saying 'Jeez it's cold today, where's all that global warming then?'. Doesn't make any sense. The best economies over all in the 20th and to some extent 21st centuries have eschewed extremes. West Germany, Japan, Scandinavia. Crony capitalism is bankrupt :-).

Davo Stevens said...

@Thor; You must be spending too much time in the mountains of Norway to really notice what is happening here in the real world.

The MSM is NOT "Left" as you put it. It is controlled by 4 big corporations throughout the western world. None of them "Left".

The entire foundation of neoclassical economic theory is built on a large number of highly improbable assumptions. Whilst theories allow one variable to change, to study the effects of changing it – the model collaspes if you remove all the assumptions. A free market contains the following elements:
* Perfect competition (doesn’t exist)
* No profit (rather incompatible with the idea of capitalism)
* No power inbalances between parties
* Perfect information
* People acting in a completely rational manner, so that decisions are not made by emotion, prejudice or other social reasons.

Several businesses focus on the market imperfections they face, but fail to identify the market failures linked to the business world (such as monopolies,information inbalances, power inbalances,cartels,lobbying of government, use of insider connections etc). A true free market economy has never and will never exist.

What we now have is a malady that plagues most western economies namely; we get one or more of three things,
A Monopoly
A Duopoly
A Cartel.

Examples here are, Monopoly - Fletcher Industries.
Duopoly - our supermarkets,
Cartel - our power retailers and the oil companies.

In the 1980's there were 1200 independent Banks now there are only 6. Just six banks that control all the finance of the western world.

In 1980 there were 7 companies that ran the supermarkets, now just 2.

You be the judge whether that has benefited the people or not.

Michael Herman said...

@ The Flying Tortoise (29 November 2013 21:51)

At pretty much any time in history it is easy for caring people to feel overwhelmed by all that's wrong with the world, particularly as the mighty are an eternal force motivated by self-cherishing attitudes at best and truly harmful behaviours at worst.

Your post brought to mind a Howard Zinn quote that helps lift my spirit when it's been battered down by the constant flow of suffering; I hope you'll also find comfort and inspiration in it.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.

“If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” - Howard Zinn

Nic the NZer said...

Turns out what Key & Co would probably describe as 'profligate communism' is actually sensible economic advice. NB, Dr Randall Wray was a student of Hyman Minsky, he is hardly a marginal economist (though outside the main stream).

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/12/mmt-101-reply-critics-part-1.html

In my opinion (and based on my understanding of economics) the National party surplus policy is
both destructive of the NZ economy, and against the best interests of the NZ electorate. This policy is a material folly of the present government, while the accusations of profligate spending are both hollow, and economically illiterate.

jh said...

I find it a bit rich that Jeanette Fitzsimons is out there gallantly protesting oil drilling. Her party cheer lead as The Clark government decided NZ needed a bigger population (Antiimmigration feeling has no place in the Green party says Mr locke). Do the Greens not understand the relationship between oil, population, industrial societies, (not to mention) quality of life. The Greens, Labour and National are now part of a tight scrum that ensures NZ's population will keep increasing.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There is hope! As we speak Walmart is holding a food drive - for its own workers who can't afford Xmas dinners - or even food. Oh, the charity :-).

jh said...

Thor 42. Why is America - one of the most capitalist countries in the world - down the crapper? 
.........
Because nations fortunes change and because the notion of a long-term sustainable strategy is alien. We have the left to blame fot that as much as the right. These countries develop and it is assumed this is an (ever upwards path). The left see these countries as infinite honey pots of wealth where people from the over populated can wallow; The UN head of migration (ex Shell and Goldman Sachs) declated on Chinese TV station "America is economy".

thor42 said...

@Davo Stevens - The MSM is NOT "Left" as you put it. It is controlled by 4 big corporations throughout the western world. None of them "Left"."

Really? Right-wing MSM?

Then why is it that this "right-wing MSM" doesn't have the "Egyptians cutting off gasoline to Gaza" on its front pages all over the world?
http://www.timesofisrael.com/gazans-lash-out-at-egypt-for-energy-crisis/

Oh, I know why the MSM isn't shouting about that.
It is *Egypt* that is doing it.
Egypt - not Israel.

If it has been Israel, you would never hear the end of it, because the MSM is LEFT-wing.

QED. Point proven.
The MSM is left-wing from the top down to the lowliest sub-editor.

Nic the NZer said...

@thor42, You seem to have missed the stories in the MSM where the democratic elected (though their election should hardly be taken as a ringing endorsement) government of Egypt was overthrown by a military coup. We might ask why was this not highlighted for you by the massive LEFT-wing conspiracy MSM, but since its quite well known its more likely that you elected to remain uninformed, not that this was covered up.

Anyway the MSM appears to think that a military regime cutting off economic support to a left wing cause is not very interesting. This is hardly a surprise.