Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Carefully Constructed Lies: Moving In The Direction Of Neoliberalism

George Orwell Had Their Measure: In his dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he presented characters who are actually very thankful for the ability to behave as though the lies their political leaders tell them are true. After all, people convinced they’re being lied to might start demanding the truth – and that could lead to all kinds of trouble.
HOW ANGRY “CENTRISTS” GET when they’re referred to in anything less than the most congratulatory terms. As if their appalling ignorance of, and disdain for, politics is something to be proud of. And yet, proud they are – very proud – of their refusal to shoulder even the most basic responsibilities of citizenship. Day after day, these people are fed statements by their political leaders which cannot, in any way, be reconciled with the facts – but which, their obvious falsity notwithstanding, they accept as true.
George Orwell had their measure. In his dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he presented characters who are actually very thankful for the ability to behave as though the lies their political leaders tell them are true. After all, people convinced they’re being lied to might start demanding the truth – and that could lead to all kinds of trouble. Orwell even invented a name for this condition: doublethink.
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.
In short: “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
The all-pervasive ideological system which required the citizens of “Airstrip One” [Great Britain] to practice doublethink was “Ingsoc” [English Socialism]. Though no centrist would accept for a moment that New Zealand society is in any way comparable to Orwell’s dystopia, it is not at all difficult to see in the all-pervasive influence of neoliberalism a polity more than a little analogous to Big Brother’s totalitarian regime.
It is one of the most frightening features of totalitarian systems that their effectiveness relies less upon naked force than it does upon the ordinary person’s realisation that, in practical terms, going with the flow of the new system makes much more sense than attempting to stand against it. In Nazi Germany, this was called “moving in the direction of the Fuhrer”. Adolf Hitler’s beliefs being well known and understood, it was unnecessary for his ministers to issue precise instructions concerning the implementation of his new government’s policies. Bureaucrats and other authority figures simply acted as they believed the Fuhrer would wish them to act.
Is it not possible to see in the appalling treatment meted out to beneficiaries of all kinds by MSD and WINZ bureaucrats more than a little of this “moving in the direction of the Fuhrer” phenomenon? No detailed memos will have been sent out to MSD employees – indeed, it would’ve been most unwise to put such sentiments down in writing – but everyone in that bureaucracy knows exactly what is expected of them. Government ministers, editorial writers and talkback hosts have made it very clear what the appropriate demeanour towards their beneficiary “clients” should be. They all know how their bosses would wish them to act.
If any centrists are still reading this, their blood pressure will no doubt be rising rapidly. “I’m not like that! This isn’t Nazi Germany! You’re out of you mind!” The great problem, of course, for these outraged folk, is that between 1933 and 1938 Nazi Germany wasn’t like Nazi Germany. For most German citizens, and in the eyes of the rest of the world, Hitler was a hero, and his regime’s achievements – full-employment especially – the envy of all those nations still mired in economic depression.
No, we don’t have concentration camps filled with John Key’s opponents. But that is not, of itself, proof that our democracy survives unscathed. It might just as easily point to the extraordinary success of what is, indisputably, the most successful totalitarian ideology in human history. Neoliberalism is a brilliantly conceived edifice of lies which, in order to have a successful career, it is in the intelligent citizen’s interest to affirm as an unanswerable collection of self-evident truths.
If you can do this without demonstrating the slightest traces of amusement, stress or guilt, then there’s a better than even chance that you call yourself a centrist.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Monday, 24 August 2015.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Not sure what you mean by a centrist, but I'm sure people can be in the centre politically without giving in to neoliberal ideology. But then, my centre is probably a lot to the left of what people regard as the centre these days.
Having said that you are correct, I've often said that the neoliberal experiment is it is called is the biggest and most successful feat of social engineering ever undertaken in this country. It was done by excluding rather than ignoring every argument to the contrary.So that people became hypnotised into thinking it was the truth. Or brainwashed if you prefer that :-). If you control 99.9 percent of all news outlets, you don't need thugs in the night. This has begun to change with the Internet, but unfortunately there is so much stuff out there that it's difficult to sort the shit from clay as the song goes.

pat said...

Before we embark on a journey with no common destination can we have your definition of the benighted centre?..where does it begin and end in your political spectrum?...as it would appear this is yet another variation of "if you are not with us you are against us"

Brendan McNeill said...

Chris, reading your post I thought you might appreciate a book I'm reading at present:

"The Tyranny of Liberalism" subtitled: "Understanding and overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance and Equality by Demand." By James Kalb.


I mention it because those of us on the other side of the political spectrum also harbour the similar concerns to those that you have expressed, except that the tyranny we fear is not neoliberalism but progressive intolerance that is also comfortable with doublespeak and forms of oppression as the subtitle suggests.

In our own best interests of course.

FiFi50 said...

Is it not possible to see in the appalling treatment meted out to beneficiaries of all kinds by MSD and WINZ bureaucrats more than a little of this “moving in the direction of the Fuhrer” phenomenon?

I have found that Winz have some rogue people who think they are the government and run things their way. I only wish some brave journalist would do a thorough investigation of how they really operate. Most of them do behave like Nazis.

Either Bennett was well by the nasty yanks or she is a natural...

Bennett to vacate post for scholarship to US

Anonymous said...

This is not an official definition but a "centrist" if you look at National party behaviour is a period of consolidation of their fuckups formulating double speak and unleashing it in the form of a party manifesto covered up with a large dose of Dirty Politics pointing at anyone but themselves as being responsible for the ineptitude of themselves being able to govern the country in a democratic fashion
In short modern day Fascism where one person becomes the only focus of leadership instead of democracy which is many individuals arriving at a consensus decision on action
A centrist position euphemism for gettin the public to like your decision before it has been democratically reached put out with a large dose of Crosby Textor spin in the National party

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I probably leave myself open to a little ridicule here, but I couldn't finish that damn book. Guy seems to think that we should be run by the religulous. Has no brief for feminism either. Here's a suggestion for you though Brendan.

Islam For Dummies Paperback – 2003 - Malcolm Clark

pat said...

Chris , as you appear unwilling or unable to define the "centrist" of your opprobium I will have to assume it is those who you describe "As if their appalling ignorance of, and disdain for, politics is something to be proud of."
If this describes any real group I would suggest it would be small and certainly not representative of those who would class themselves as moderates, or your term centrists.It would appear you are extolling everyone to pick sides for some form of a fight to the death.Extremism.
The first half of the last century demonstrated the result of such folly. Our parents, grandparents maybe great grandparents who lived and died in this period of madness emerged to create the moderate, more egalitarian progressive society as a direct result of what they witnessed.
There is no denying that the neoliberal philosophy advanced these past decades is extremism as demonstrated by the resulting disparity of wealth, the disparity in health, justice,education...the list is long and makes for sad reading.
As our forebears learnt the hard way, you dont fight extremism with more extremism....the antidote to extremism is moderation....or centrism if you must.

Grant said...

This one's a cracker Chris. You're running hot today.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I remember when I applied for the pension, the nice man told me "remember you are not a beneficiary you are superannuitant." I wondered why. Now I know. It's all in the treatment.I had a link to treatment in Britain of I think, Sue Townsend which I posted some time ago. But now I've changed to Windows 10 I can't find the damned thing. I'll keep looking, because it seems to be reasonably typical of here.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Typical – founded after I closed out.

jh said...

Day after day, these people are fed statements by their political leaders which cannot, in any way, be reconciled with the facts – but which, their obvious falsity notwithstanding, they accept as true.
Where does Josie Pagani sit?

But I also believe that the free movement of working people across borders is a progressive principle. Closing borders and making lists of people of certain ethnicity to blame them for society's ills has never come to any good - ever.


The gist of Michael Reddell's argument (They had asked me to go on the programme, but I don’t do work-like things on Sundays) is that immigration policy is a (officially) a tool to increase the productivity (incomes) of New Zealanders but this isin't happening. He has a detailed factual analysis (unlike Josie's glib rebuttals).

Nick J said...

After reading about the "extreme centre" (and laying in bed with flu) I found this little gem from Tariq Ali on the significance of the latest British election and the "extreme centre".


Bushbaptist said...

Aye GS. I recall how I was told that it was an "Entitlement"! I had a choice but; I could go onto Super or stay on the War Pension (whatever it's called these days). I decided to stay on the War Pension. Glad I did because I get other processes that Supers don't (free Dr's visits, free prescriptions, free dental care and so on). Heck! When I even shuffle off they will pay to put me into the hole!

Back to the subject; I am a happy "Centrist", I will not ever be relegated to one side or the other. It is the people like us that put Govts. out of power (Govts. are voted out -- never voted in). I want to keep it that way.


Anonymous said...

judging from the last fortnight's posts, Chris' definition of a centrist is someone capable of winning an electoral majority through fair means.

praise is reserved for those who never compromise, never explain, and never hold office - or are Putin.

greywarbler said...

@Guerilla Surgeon
I think we can safely say that Sue Townsend wasn't a centrist or of the right. The right would definitely regarded her as sinister.

I noticed here how moralistic the right became about the DPB and somehow connect that with Jenny Shipley's time. But I think Labour was up there too.

Social welfare and supporting people needing help until they can support themselves is not the mantra today. Once beneficiaries could gradually work their way to a full-time job with time off in the weekends to be with the children. But the government has thrown away many jobs along with the tariffs that protected our businesses being undercut by long factory runs overseas.

Week-ends, set rosters, the dignity of work, respect for others - where?
Social welfare, like the corrections department, they are doublespeak names that are euphemisms.

Charles E said...

Pat has made a sound point on this one Chris. Perhaps give us one good and significant example of the lies you think these centrists have swallowed. I suspect these people think: Haven't all pollies always told porkies and have we not always known that? That is not suckers for a totalitarian world. Just people who think political junkies are useless extremists, and sometimes they are right.
If I'm wrong then: Totalitarian would also describe the world view of the opponents of what they have named neoliberalism. They see it as an octopus, a conspiracy by a cabal of grey white men perhaps. Only the hooked noses is lacking from their description but I bet they are thinking that way. Their view is total too.
Your piece may be a thought experiment but perhaps it discloses your dark totalitarian tendency.
Meanwhile there are certainly real doublethink states out there like Russia, China and of course N Korea. All products of socialism, just as Orwell foretold.
It's truly Orwellian of you to try to apply his theory to liberal democracy which neoliberalism, if it exists as a coherent entity at all is merely the current expression of. Is it that brilliant? I don't think so. It's just what some would call an excess of freedom which clearly some people cannot abide.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Considering the Koch Bros. are spending $1 billion trying to elect a right-wing president – an extreme right-wing president – in the US, I think the conspiracy theorists might have something here. :-) I can't see how anyone other than the rich have an excess of freedom in the US. You obviously don't know a great deal about what it's like there Charles. Particularly if you are black. I mean - the lack of freedom starts at the border, where you just about have to have an anal probe to get into the damn country. Patriot act anyone? Still can't see how the Russians can be a product of socialism, when they've been capitalist for a long time now. In fact they are the supreme example of right-wing crony capitalism, kept in place by the secret police and private armies. They might just as well be one of those mid-20th century right-wing South American military juntas, which are prime examples of capitalism gone mad. Absolutely nothing socialist about them.

Bushbaptist said...

@ Charles; Politics are circular not some flat line. The further right one goes the more left one becomes and the further left one goes the more right one becomes. Where they meet you get Fascism. Right side is Capital Fascism and the left side is Social Fascism.

Stalin, Mao etc. were Social Fascists and the US is bordering on Capital Fascists today. So are we.

Charles E said...

Yes I agree with you roughly speaking Bushbaptist.
However the average person in the US is not likely to be arrested and held on utterly false charges indefinitely, or get a knock on the door and disappear soon after which I think is the real acid test for a totalitarian or fascist state.
However if you are a young black guy the cops may shoot you way too readily or you may get a ridiculous sentence for a bag of dope so that is somewhat parallel. But that is not exactly the state although it is state neglect of justice so damnable too.

Charles E said...

GS Russia was communist or socialist, take your pick, for most of last century so it remains a product of that huge and destructive error & era. And it will for a long time yet. Revolutions tend to reverberate and play out for centuries unfortunately as some famous or notorious communist once said.
Even France & the USA would probably be better democracies now if they didn't have one on their records I reckon.

As for the US now, I have been there many times. It has many good features, similar or better than here, but some very bad ones too, few of which we suffer from, which both sides of politics here can take some credit for.

Bushbaptist said...

I must disagree Charles. Except to say that the US is heading in the direction I suggested but not quite there yet,

As for people disappearing why not explain that the families who Pinochet disappeared? Pinochet was not "Communist" or even "Socialist", far from it. Nor was the Shah of Iran. Or even Madd Sadd. Totlitarian yes, Socialist no. The above were in fact Capital Fascists as was Mussolini, the originator of modern Fascism.

As I have pointed out many times, Stalin's Russia was never Communist. One has to only look closely at how it was structured to see that. With Communism, the workers own the factories and farms. In Stalin's Russia the Govt. owned the factories and farms and the workers worked for them. And anyone who disagreed was shipped off to Siberia. Ordinary Russians paid no taxes and got the services they needed (Health and Education mostly) free.

Mao's China was similar and all the countries that some call "Communist" are not that at all. They are totalitarian Fascists.

Charles E said...

Well Bb you can't have it both ways. You guys always will say, when they go bad that so and so state was subverted by right wing bastards so never really communist or socialist .....otherwise it would have been a marvellous success and utopia, as if that is some kind of proof of your ideology.
So the if the US is not really the happy capitalist perfection or free fair democracy or whatever it should be, then that's because forces within have subverted, distracted, perverted and diverted it .... blah blah etc
It's bullshit. No system is perfect but one clearly has flourished and the other has fizzeled at every opportunity. People still flock to one and flee the other. That at the very least must indicate the one we should consider might just be on the workable track of human progress. A work in progress yes, but at least it works at all.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Charles you constantly avoid talking about the evil done by rightist regimes, as Bush Baptist has pointed out. You assume, without evidence as usual that revolutions have bad results. You also assume possibly correctly but possibly not that they "play out for centuries." You also assume, that if something is called a revolution it is one :-). The American Revolution for instance was simply a rebellion. The government produced by that rebellion was very closely modelled on the English government of the time. President with wide powers, bicameral parliament et cetera et cetera.
And I can see little evidence of communism in the present Russian regime. It is authoritarian, but Russia has been authoritarian since it became Russia. It's paranoid, but Russia has been paranoid for a long time, some would say with good reason. However nice to see you admitting that your workers paradise the US is not necessarily perfect – thank you.

Bushbaptist said...

Again that is a distortion Charles. No-one will ever know whether Communism is or was a success because it has never been tried. I am not saying that it's the best way either. But to claim that Russia for example, was "Communist" and failed because of it is erroneous. It failed because it was Totalitarian. Democracy tends to succeed in general.

I have suggested that we should print money during a financial downturn and that only the elected officials should have that power to do it not private banks who were the very ones who caused the financial crash we have just experienced. When I do suggest that, the mostly Rightwingers scream that it causes inflation (Zimbabwe for example) but if it is controlled properly it doesn't. The created money must be destroyed at the end of it's term or it will.

How do people think that the extensive Railways we had throughout the country was paid for? How were those originally some 75,000 State houses built? What about the big hospitals we have? Where did they come from? The highways through the mountains? All were down with printed money and as the returns came in the money was written off. So the end result is a cluster of assets that cost us nothing and generated considerable work and developed skills.

There is a lot of Marginal land here that is not suited for farming but is well suited to forests so why aren't those private companies out there doing the planting? Could it be because there is no short/medium term profit in doing so? So it behoves the Govt. to do it.

The gubbies could then employ young un-employed people to plant the trees (native and exotic). It would have beneficial advantages by generating good work ethic in the people and it would also get them out of the cities where they are bored and getting into trouble. They would also benefit from a healthy lifestyle. Another advantage is that our economy would grow because those young ones would have money to spend. Not to mention the added value of another asset belonging to us.

To do these things the Govt. must take control of the money printing process and not leave it to private banks who charge interest on money that is created out of nothing.

The problem we have is subsequent Govts. here are too short-sighted to see the advantages.

Charles E said...

GS it's called having an opinion, a view, a position. It is based on everything one has ever read, heard, seen or thought.
But if you want some evidence or facts to back up my view that revolutions are often disastrous, particularly from the left, how about millions of dead people, murdered or starved to death? To me (my mere opinion) those vast number of deaths during and following revolution completely and totally for all time destroy any merit the French, Russian & Chinese revolutions and several more may have had. You can forget telling me about any right wing revolutions or over-throws or uprisings etc. They pale into insignificance compared to the 100m+ the revolutions people of your world view supported at the time.
We conservatives have always opposed revolutions and the evidence for why is hugely on our side.

Bushbaptist said...

I agree Charles, revolutions are generally very messy and bloody but they are only the last resort after all other negotiations have failed.

When there is an entrenched Dictator a revolution is often the only way to depose them. The Russian Revolution happened because the Tsar was so detached from his subjects and was impervious to their suffering. He was also the last European absolute Monarch. The French Revolution was caused by a despotic King whose family was sitting in a huge store of wheat when people were starving in the streets. It started with a baker's strike and rolled on.

In modern times Pinochet, the Shah Palavi, et al killed tens of thousands during their reigns.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You don't regard the Nazi era as a revolution then Charles? Contemporaries certainly regarded it as such. World War II and God knows how many people dead. I'm not sure you can really regard the French Revolution as left-wing in the modern sense anyway. But I guess it was left-wing compared to the French king :-).The French Revolution killed about 40,000 people directly. Most of the casualties came however from the monarchist rebellions, reactions and invasions. And of course Napoleon, who was anything but left-wing.

Anyway, revolutions don't happen in a vacuum, as Bush Baptist has pointed out. Conditions have to be really, really awful for there to be a revolution. They're pretty much literally has to be no other method of changing society, because people actually prefer to change society peacefully. Because as you say, revolutions cause disruption. Too many generalisations Charles and not nearly enough historical knowledge.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Further to that Charles, you have a habit of ignoring evidence to the contrary of your opinions, you have a habit of associating me with extremism, and you have a habit of simplifying complex situations until they fit your worldview. Good luck with that.