Monday 15 August 2016

Fire On The Hilltops.

The Fires Of Populist Rage: Pointing to Brexit and Trump, the opponents of globalisation prophesy the imminent demise of free trade and the collapse of the entire neoliberal experiment. The status quo, they assure us, is being driven straight to hell in a driverless car. But if the consequences of globalisation have awakened the West’s inner Viking, it must also be observed that the populist backlash is coming just a little late.
ALL ACROSS THE WEST beacon fires are burning: springing from hilltop to hilltop; nation to nation. Tongues of flame warn of dangerous strangers from afar, calling the blade to the whetstone and striking sparks among the tinder.
Or, so the alarmists would have us believe. They point to Brexit, to Trump, and prophesy the imminent demise of globalisation, free trade, and the entire neoliberal experiment. The latter has incurred their particular wrath. Neoliberalism is accused of setting free the collective Ego: of creating societies in which the gratification of individual desire is deemed the highest good; a moral universe in which solipsistic narcissism effortlessly defeats empathic solidarity. The status quo, they assure us, is about to be driven to hell in a driverless car.
But if globalisation and massive inward flows of migrants have awakened the West’s inner Viking, it must also be observed that all of his frantic fire-starting and horn-blowing is coming just a little late.
The English, for example, turned out in their millions to put the boot into Johnny Foreigner. On 23 June, boot-boys (as was) still swathed in their red-cross flags, exchanged knowing winks with red-faced gentlemen farmers from the shires – and their good lady wives – in a cross-class alliance of xenophobic bigotry that no longer even tried to hide its ugly face.
How they celebrated when the British electorate voted in favour of leaving the EU. “We have taken our country back!”, they cried. But what did they mean? That they had magically transported England back to the days of empire, when the might of the white-skinned races always saw them right? That would certainly explain why, in the hours after Brexit, well-integrated immigrant families became targets for every racist with a spray-can from the Scottish borders to Land’s End.
Then again, “taking the country back” might have represented nothing more than a refined way of describing England’s one-fingered gesture to all those Brussels Bureaucrats who had dared to tell the nation of Henry V, Sir Francis Drake and Winston Churchill what it could and could not do. Brexit, at its most basic, was a simple and powerful reaffirmation of the English people’s determination to be the masters of their own fate.
Except that the people of the United Kingdom have precious little sovereignty left to reclaim. Since the 1980s, the history of Britain has been one long garage-sale of everything that makes up an independent nation. The English people no longer possess their own banks, major manufacturing industries, water reticulators, electricity generators, railways, airlines, newspapers, or indeed anything much of genuine economic significance in the whole of the British Isles.
Even those quintessential expressions of Englishness, the great city football teams, were long ago hocked-off to the highest bidder. American tycoons, Russian oligarchs, it matters little: not when the players themselves are about as English as a Nigerian sunset or a Brazilian rain forest. Unbelievably, the English invented a beautiful game, turned it into phenomenal money-spinner and … sold it.
And yet the English people look at their country, watch their football, and see nothing but “England”. Globalisation may have begun on their football fields, but they refuse to acknowledge the transformation they’ve wrought. Nor do they appreciate that free trade counts for little if the factories in which “English” goods are made; the ships that carry them; and the outlets from which they are ultimately sold; all belong to Johnny Foreigner. The days when “trade followed the flag” are long gone.
What is true of England is also true of the whole of the Western World. Twenty-first century capitalism acknowledges no borders and views patriotism with disdain. When Donald Trump advances “Americanism” against “Globalism” he is merely demonstrating his profound ignorance of the world he arrogantly believes himself capable of controlling. When Winston Peters condemns rising levels of immigration to New Zealand, he should also, at the same time, condemn his country’s failure to adequately educate and upskill its workforce.
We live on a single planet that long ago became a single market for money, goods – and labour. Those who would make this a better world must start from where we are, not where we were. The breath of the angry masses may fan the flames of nationalism high into the night sky, but they illuminate nothing. We lit them too late.
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, 12 August 2016.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

"he should also, at the same time, condemn his country’s failure to adequately educate and upskill its workforce."

You are not wrong. Successive governments have decided that education is not a public good or whatever the expression is. They've decided it benefits only the individual, and not the country as a whole. That has driven education policy now for years. And of course it's completely wrong headed. But I think what hisses me off the most is that they are constantly telling us that an educated population is a good thing. I suppose that in the Conservative world that's not necessarily a contradiction in terms.

jh said...

a cross-class alliance of xenophobic bigotry that no longer even tried to hide its ugly face
If only people would walk through the socialists sheep dip and come out without the programming they relieved during the Pleistocene.

jh said...

What exactly is wrong with a cohesive national family, (assuming it doesn't grow too large and expand into neighboring territories - as the Muslims and Chinese are currently doing)?

Polly said...

A good piece of writing , factual and unfortunately true.
We can still stop immigration and train our own, whoever is our own?.
I have decided to vote for an old and perhaps corrupt old man, but he may save us.
Risky ,but what else?
I shall vote for Winston Peters.

jh said...

You say it is too late to react to globalisation Chris. Who could argue with the London School of Economics, the Economist or The BBC? Economists are the ultimate PR people - who can question them but another economist? And he who pays the piper calls the tune. Also there is/was othering of the lower classes (other side of the bell curve) where tolerance for immigration distinguished one from another (and ignored the ecology at different levels of society). The lower class rely on the upper class to articulate their concerns (not piss all over them), thanks to a Marxist domination of humanities and social social sciences that never happened. Of course now humanities and social sciences are taking a haircut perhaps seen as doing more harm than good?

Neil Miller said...

Speaking of was 54 degrees centigrade in Kuwait last Thursday, and there have been other freakish temperatures in the Eastern hemisphere during their hot season, between 50 and 60 degrees. Xenophobia or not there are 400 - 500 million people in a region which is becoming uninhabitable, coming our way soon.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
I'm sure I've heard Winston very recently make exactly that condemnation.
The Brexit referendum provided an extremely rare opportunity for the people of the UK to protest all that squandered heritage
that you list. They have not been able to respond to the lighted fires early or late short of mounting violent revolution ;and have had to watch in growing dismay as the political organisation that once defended their heritage spurred on the programme of their disenfranchisement. Just like here.
At least in the UK it looks like they now have some hope of a change of philosophy in that political organisation soon. Unlike here.
Cheers David J S

greywarbler said...

Selling off the national assets, and the football that Britain follows and which is a uniting influence in Britain and Europe, indicates the smallness of intellect, of national pride, of vision, that is Britain today. Instead of keeping the British gems of industry intact and ensuring they and the country thrive, the lazy governments of the Western Vichy have collaborated against all their people. including here in New Zealand.

We should be fired by an inspiring hero like this interesting heroic Brit Major Wintle, eccentric to his toes and in both World Wars. In WWW2 the Vichy had him as prisoner of war. He complained of their sloppy ways, then fasted till he was treated as befitted an officer. He insisted on a better standard, condemned their lack of patriotism for France, and was influential after his escape for over 200 of the local garrison deciding they would match his pride in his country, and all joined the Resistance. He was eccentric, only because he stood proud of those anywhere, who chose the easier, lesser path.

The Vichy accepted rule by a group who would strip the southern French of their rights and their rule in their own land. The neo libs have successfully undermined their own countries and set themselves up as auction house directors selling national assets and infrastructure.

Listening to the lies of the National accolyte here about why NZ has only snippets of television available for us to view our national and publicly funded Olympic athletes, was like hearing an Alice in Wonderland performance. National's concept of New Zealand as a country is of a pliant, credulous bunch of fools ripe for picking.

If Winston and the Greens can persevere in setting a standard that people with guts and gumption find inspiring I think they will flock to it, and if they can get Labour to shake itself thoroughly like a wet dog. to rid its fleas. then we can muster a defence force against these termites.

jh said...

a cross-class alliance of xenophobic bigotry that no longer even tried to hide its ugly face
Are you serious Chris?

Even Mombiot says: "A worldview which insists that both people and place are fungible is inherently hostile to the need for belonging. For years we have been told that we do not belong, that we should shift out without complaint while others are shifted in to take our place."

at which point he swerves left (before being branded racist) saying: "When the peculiarities of community and place are swept away by the tides of capital, all that’s left is a globalised shopping culture, in which we engage with glazed passivity. Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chainstores."
and Peter hitchens says: "I have learned since what a spiteful, self-righteous, snobbish and arrogant person I was (and most of my revolutionary comrades were, too).

I have seen places that I knew and felt at home in, changed completely in a few short years.

I have imagined what it might be like to have grown old while stranded in shabby, narrow streets where my neighbours spoke a different language and I gradually found myself becoming a lonely, shaky voiced stranger in a world I once knew, but which no longer knew me.

I have felt deeply, hopelessly sorry that I did and said nothing in defence of those whose lives were turned upside down, without their ever being asked, and who were warned very clearly that, if they complained, they would be despised outcasts.

And I have spent a great deal of time in the parts of Britain where the revolutionary unintelligentsia don't go. "

Nick J said...

Chris your description of the English who voted Brexit is foul scorn. You need to speak to the English whose neighborhoods have been overrun with successive waves of Islamic then Polish or Romanian workers taking their jobs, using the declining services. You wonder they react so? Put yourself in their shoes before you brand them. I hear it direct from a son who is currently living in a low end suburb of Liverpool. If you too want reports from the front line I can arrange it.

Nick J said...

Oh dear Chris. We lit the beacons too late! What a piteous lament. A tale full of woe.

I for one have railed too long against the new internationalism that you describe, like yourself to no great effect. But as Luther said, "If I knew the world would end tomorrow I would plant this sappling today."

We face far worse than the international capitalist order. Climate energy resource population war. Plague famine. Need I go on. And when you stand and damn those who respond to the symptoms as xenophobes, racists and so on you offer no salve. Is not local parochialism an alternative to international capital? Who knows but hell can it be any worse? Have you ever debated it?

The future needs far more vision than your championing of Hillary and your consequent tacit acceptance of the status quo offers. Those Parisian ladies who marched to Versailles knew something was terribly wrong. They responded. Would you damn them?

Patricia said...

Lovely rhetoric Chris but all it amounts to is a wringing of hands.. I give you that things are very very much on the way to World Government of a neo liberal flavour but I don't think it is too late to protect ourselves. The label of xenophobia is intended as pejorative but I don't think it is wrong to have an immigration programme and to monitor it as to numbers. In my view that is sensible for the existing population and the immigrants. Look what the Pakeha did to the Maori - that will be our lot of we let foreigners come in to our country willy nilly. I believe controled immigration would enhance our country. Just like it was done in the past. I, like Polly, am thinking I will vote for Winston.

jh said...

The latest North and South's cover story is Re Thinking Immigration: Why New Zealands Population Explosion is not Making You Better Off. In it Mathew Hooten says he is coming around to that view. It features a long interview with Michael Reddell.

Tonight's TV One with Nigel Latta seems to be running the other way taking the racism angle.

"Perhaps one of the new series' most enlightening episodes is the one centred on immigration which reveals why New Zealand needs people from overseas to work and live here and how immigrants feel about their adopted homeland and the locals.

"The problem is that Kiwis are pretty good face to face but on talkback radio we can be racist and xenophobic so what we do is if things are going wrong we go 'Who doesn't look like me? Oh they don't. I'll blame them.' So we look at the housing thing and blame immigrants. Not all immigrants -“ just the immigrants that don't look like us."

Polly said...

Patricia, a good post, what other political party is saying "NO" to immigration?.
Can't stand Winston's bullshit but I despair at the rest of NZ's political offerings regarding immigration.
There are many other political problems in our society but solving the immigration of unwanted people to our country would go a long way to resolve these problems.

Winston understands that fact above all of the rest of them.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Winston understands that fact above all of the rest of them."

Er... Well, Winston uses that 'fact' to his advantage. Whether he understands all the implications, or whether he gives a shit one way or the other personally is another thing altogether.

jh said...

Nigel Latta jumped the shark. What sort of outcome would you expect when you limit your inquiry to 1) The head of immigration NZ 2) Paul Spoonley 3) Tony Alexander 4) an immigration agent 5) Ganesh Nana 6)(I don't count Julie Fry).
Lianne Delziel said that a place was no good if it was (as Christchurch had been). Latta let that pass. Has he not heard of Robert Putnam?

Pure (dishonest) progressive propaganda.

Charles E said...

Getting off track a bit here talking about immigration and sinophobes like Winston.
I'd vote Labour before giving that crook my vote. No. I'll go further: I'd vote Green, who I regard as poison.

Getting back to Chris' fine essay, I agree that we cannot go back, only forwards from here. Like all real progress it evolves from what we have and are now. I'm glad Chris that you think revolution is not the answer. It is almost always a disaster, the latest example being the Arab Spring. Leaping usually lands you in the fire or flooded river rather than walking around it or over a bridge to higher ground.
So where to from here? Much of globalisation has been human progress I believe because so many more people now have at least some of the precious freedoms we enjoy, which we will not give up, so why would we oppose others having them? The trick is to do it without destroying national or local cultures. But those cultures cannot remain unchanged islands in a more united, 'one world' I believe. So is the ideal one world with local characteristics?
I think it is and I think many Brexit supporters simply want one Europe with local self government, they elect. Whereas they saw the EU as unelected government. That will have to change as it's not just the English who will not put up with that. We certainly would not.

jh said...

Complaint to TVNZ - Nigel Latta - The New New Zealand

The people interviewed in program did not reflect expert opinion.
I would draw your attention to Q & A where Don Brash stood in for Michael Reddell opposed by Paul Spoonley and Shamubeel Eaqub.
I would also add the Savings Working Group and Kerry Mc Donald (as pointed out to John Key by Corrin Dann).
Interviewing any of these people would have contradicted the views of Nigel Bickle who states:

"“Because it is good for NZ. As a small country of 4.5 million we won't get wealthy trading with ourselves. You know, immigration is really there because it contributes to NZ's development from an economic perspective, from a social perspective and in terms of us being connected internationally."

Paul Spoonley when asked why we needed an inflow of 1% per year stated:
“Aging. I always say “whose going to wipe your chin”
This is a view at odds with the Australian Productivity Commission

"It is also a fallacy that higher immigration counteracts population ageing. Beyond an annual immigration level of around 100 000 people, the demographic benefits have been shown to diminish greatly, with migrants impacting much more on the size of the population than on its age structure. The main reason is that migrants age too! We would need to bring in increasingly more of them to ‘backfill’ the age structure over time. Indeed, the Commission calculated that to preserve the current age profile of the population, the immigration-to-population ratio would need to rise to three per cent (triple its peak of 2008-9). This would make Australia a population ‘super-power’ of 100+ million people by mid-century!"

Latta says "9/10 want a multicultural society" and then says "but this is when it can become emotional when you feel you no longer belong in a place that was once your home."

This is based on Ward and Masgoret (2008) who found "strong endorsement of multiculturalism with 89 percent of respondents agreeing that a society made up of people from different races, religions, and cultures is a good thing" This is not a question that addresses percentages and is misleading (I believe).

Why do we become anti immigrant. How does that sentiment start to arise?
Two reasons I think. Because we don't understand people because they look different and sound different and so we are suspicious. That's a basic human characteristic actually. To get over that contact is important. The second thing is associated with economic downturn. Will I keep my job will I pay my mortgage and I don't want competition and so you look around for people who are culturally and linguistically different and immigrants fill that category beautifully.

Lianne Dalziel says: Christchurch is less cosmopolitan. We are starting to get more. Diversity is good for a city or it gets stuck.

There is one big issue that is brushed aside here and that is the nature of human nature and the positive (as well as negative) role of ethnocentrism (this is the Hard Stuff after all). The "racist idiot" with the walking stick who tells the Chinese New Zealander to go back home is looking for reassurance in a basic family structure as found in those who bear his genes; he doesn't share the gung-ho view of the liberal elite in whose accounting there is plenty for everybody if we spread it around or that people and place are fungible. Ethnocentrism is moderated by oxytocin and Robert Putnam's massive study showed that diversity is the inverse of social cohesion. Nevertheless an ethnicless “multicultural society” is public policy. The Hard Stuff has succumbed to the Politically Correct Stuff.

jh said...

I think the last bit is true but needs more explanation and qualification.
Many people have seen their world flooded with foreigners for no improvement in their own lives, in fact, their sense of self esteem is partly based on their perception as being a member of a unique group with a common ancestry and culture and a place of their own.
In western countries we have had change for the sake of change pushed on society by intellectuals who have declared war on human society. It is only lately that the great edifice called The Media has started printing stories such as Bernard Hickey's: Too many visas, not enough pay where the sophistry hidden in the statistics spouted by the politicians (and journalists) is being challenged.

Jens Meder said...

If the English sold their football team to foreigners for a good price and consumed what they got, then after having had a "good time" they are poorer than before the sale, as is inevitable when more capital is consumed than created.
However, if they invested the proceeds in something more productive and profitable than a football team, then did not that sale actually raise the prosperity of England ?

Might not serious ethnocentric bickering and economic worries among us earthlings be greatly reduced when personal, national and social prosperity and security for all becomes visibly achievable along the "Third Way" not to the Right nor Left, but upwards for all through a systematic policy with participation by all -

towards at least a minimally meaningful level of personal (retirement) wealth ownership by all citizens (of a nation) eventually?

jh said...

I read once about a classic peaceful state being one that was self sufficient in resources with an appropriate population. I read that maybe 20 years ago (at least). I think the example was Sweden? Whatever people say I think people feel the effects of population (whether the negatives make GDP or not). Today we see nations peoples expand and go to western countries to better their prospects, while the populace are told this will definitely be "good for the economy". I think it will take a while for the penny to drop. The supposed one world culture will only exist in the minds of elites, people will still be ethnically biased (thanks to evolution).

I'm not sure if this true or not as I don't speak Arabic, but if so it shows a different attitude to the nature of the world from the affluent US and troubled Middle East?