Friday, 28 April 2017

What Happens When The Generators Of Social Solidarity Fall Silent?

Crumbling System: With the steady decline of organised religion, organised labour and organised sport, New Zealand's most crucial generators of social cohesion have largely ceased to function. As a result, New Zealanders no longer tend to define themselves by the things that draw them together, but by the things that drive them apart.

THE INTERNAL MIGRATION of Maori from the countryside to the cities changed New Zealand society forever. For decades, this country’s race relations regime had operated on the cynical proposition that so long as Maori could be kept “out of sight”, they could also be kept “out of mind”. Such complacency could not, however, survive the constantly rising demand for labour that grew out of the extended post-war economic boom. The needs of the construction and manufacturing sectors were such that tens-of-thousands of mostly young Maori were lured away from their rural communities and into New Zealand’s rapidly growing urban centres.

The late Dr Ranginui Walker wrote often of the massive cultural dislocation which this rapid shift from rural to urban occasioned. That it did not produce (at least, not immediately) the dramatic social pathologies evident in other countries experiencing similar internal migrations (Italy, for example) has been attributed to the strength of three intersecting institutions: the churches; the trade unions; and the sports clubs; all of which swiftly sank deep and binding roots into the new city-based Maori communities.

The powerfully integrative effect of these three mass institutions (augmented by specifically Maori organisations like the Maori Women’s Welfare League and the Maori Wardens) made New Zealand’s experience of massive and rapid internal migration comparatively painless. It also contributed hugely to that most enduring of Pakeha myths: “New Zealand has the best race relations in the world.”

With the benefit of hindsight, however, it has become clear how important the churches, unions, and sports clubs were to the lives of ALL New Zealanders – Pakeha as well as Maori. Since the 1970s, their relentless decline has not only reduced dramatically the opportunities for the two cultures to come together in pursuit of common interests, but also, in the space where common beliefs and aspirations once flourished, a vacuum has been created into which a host of very different, and often divisive, ideas has migrated.

It was the churches that went first – and with them the common Christian narrative that had allowed New Zealanders to view their social and economic problems through a single ethical lens. In Pakeha culture, the morally amorphous secularism which rushed in to fill the vacuum offered multiple opportunities for non-religious belief systems to take root and flourish. Some of these, like “New Age” spirituality, were harmless. Others, like Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism”, and the New Left’s “Identity Politics”, would prove dangerously corrosive of social cohesion.

In Maori communities, the vacuum created by the Christian churches’ declining persuasiveness was quickly filled by a revival of traditional indigenous beliefs and practices. Overarching and mobilising this “Maori Renaissance” was the much broader and politically-charged narrative of tino rangatiratanga – Maori Sovereignty.

The triumph of neoliberalism in the 1980s and 90s only speeded-up the disintegration of New Zealand society. The collapse of trade union strength which followed the passage of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991 led directly to the elimination of penalty pay-rates. With them went the institution that had made so many of New Zealand’s sports clubs viable – the common Kiwi Weekend. For Kiwi sportsmen and women, the imperative very quickly became: commercialise or die.

With the traditional generators of social solidarity no longer humming, cast adrift New Zealanders retreated to that most fundamental identity marker: ethnicity. Maori had got there first and had a ten year start, at least, in developing the rhetoric of difference. But, as the extraordinary response to Don Brash’s in/famous “Orewa Speech” made clear, Pakeha racial chauvinism is not all that difficult to conjure-up. Both here and in America, more and more disenchanted whites are tuning-in to the unrelenting tinnitus of the tribe.

In the latest edition of The Atlantic , journalist Peter Beinart writes: “Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organised religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasising morality and religion and emphasising race and nation.”

What does it say about the cultural malaise in which Western civilisation currently appears to be gripped, that the ideological radicals of the Left have, since the late-1970s, and with growing fervour, also been emphasising those aspects of human existence over which the individual exercises the least personal control: race, gender, sexuality?

Bereft of the mass institutions that once drew them together, New Zealanders are increasingly defining themselves by the things that drive them apart.


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, 28 April 2017.

29 comments:

Bob Scott said...

Ages ago I read an article about Wellington club rugby. In it the writer wrote that in the 1970s, of the 16 first division clubs, 14 had secretaries who worked for the public service where it would seem to have been assumed that time should be allowed for the typing up of rugby club minutes and correspondence. That, like the unexceptional salaries paid to management, went by the board in subsequent decades.

Nick J said...

Thats a real lament Chris. My God I see that everyday in our relations with what was once a cogent society. The terms baby and bathwater come to mind.

The loss of religion, well maybe in a unified ethical sense, yes. But we have false Gods, Progress being the major modern deity, followed by his disciples The Market, Efficiency, Individualism, Consumerism, Materialism, Competition and Enumeration (aka cash) . Randism and Identity Politics are the decidedly nasty devils that beset us when we reflect too hard.

Many years prior when religion was universal the Catholic church enshrined the virtues and their polar opposites, cardinal sins. Everybody had a frame of reference to the good versus the bad behaviours. Maybe this was a recognition that without a moral framework a society could not, as you imply have any cogency, that left to the individual any amount of self centred corruption is possible.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

“Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organised religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasising morality and religion and emphasising race and nation.”
Interesting. I wander when he talks about conservative withdrawal from organised religion he knows what size the base was when it began. Because there have always been people in the US who describe themselves as evangelicals but don't go to church. And I wonder if the tolerance for gay marriage and marijuana legalisation as a result of the fact that most of the people who are withdrawing our young, as these tend to be more tolerant of that sort of thing no matter what their politics are.
I tell you what though, it is pretty difficult to get elected in the US particularly in the south and midwest, without being an obvious Christian. As far as I know there is not one declared atheist in the Senate or House. And I'm pretty sure that at present there isn't one in any of the state legislatures either.
The reasons why these people voted for Trump are somewhat contentious, but I'm pretty sure that race had something to do with it. That however is reasonably difficult to determine, as most people are simply too ashamed to admit it. They are however not particularly adverse to admitting that they expected Trump to tighten up or get rid of the abortion laws, and appoint conservative Supreme Court judges.
And I have to say, while right wing non-churchgoers seem quite deluded, left-wing ones looked to be relatively realistic. The American dream doesn't exist anymore except as a myth. :)
Not particularly surprised at women withdrawing though. There was a twitter hashtag a while ago – something to do with what evangelical women had to put up with. Comments such as "Oh you're so intelligent, you'll make a great minister's wife." None of the women I know would last 5 minutes in a space that condones that. What I can't figure out is why they don't find some for want of a better word – wishy-washy – form of worship. You get the same sense of community perhaps, without the sexism. I think I might come back to this, it's fascinating.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I've been thinking about this when I prepared the dinner, it's intriguing. I'll just throw this out though. I think psychologists have shown that conservative people are more afraid – more likely to react to the strange with fear – than what Americans call liberals. So maybe when they leave the church they lose that prop which protects them against some of their fear. They also seem to be suffering from what someone I just read called I think – generalised anger – and of course the more fearful they get the angrier they get. Just a thought.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Further to that, because it is so interesting – I was on Patheos nonreligious the other day (used to be Patheos Atheist, but they decided to be more inclusive. It's political correctness gone mad I tell you!) – Anyway I noticed that on the evangelical site there was a blog where someone was urging people to vote for Trump rather than Clinton. And he claimed to be an admirer of Socrates, so I thought we might possibly engage in some dialogue, so I asked him why. I laid out my 10 points of why I thought Trump was not qualify to be president, including his serial adultery, and the stiffing of his contractors – both of which I thought should be deal breakers to be honest – not to mention the fact that he couldn't name's favourite book of the Bible when asked. And I said why are you prepared to vote for him rather than Hillary and, someone who makes it obvious that she is a Christian, albeit a Methodist :) by holding prayer meetings and so on. And I was very polite about it, explaining that I wasn't American and found it quite interesting. Comment went "pending" and then disappeared. So put in another comment again very polite asking why he'd deleted my comment, because if he didn't want comments it was easy enough to turn them off, or was there something he found offensive in what I said. Again it went pending and disappeared. I'm afraid I got a little pissed off at that stage, and my last comment was something like "So not a fan of Socratic dialogue then?" But I think he was ashamed. I think he was ashamed to be voting for Trump, but judging from what he wrote felt he had to because of the abortion issue and the Supreme Court issue. Swallowing a dead rat in other words. Ah fundagelicals....there must be several PhD theses in there somewhere.

Jens Meder said...

Yes, if there is no overwhelming dedication to a common cause, is it not only natural to join and withdraw into potential socially divisive interest groups ?

But with faith in science and hope for a more secure, safe, and prosperously sustainable future with the potential of possibly becoming the universal, all-inclusive religion eventually - with everyone having a stake based on tangible self-interest in it -

would we not all be united in spirit and action by participating in the constructive effort leading to the Ownership Society concept, with at least a minimally meaningful level of wealth ownership by all civilized citizens eventuallty ?

peter petterson said...

Interesting article Chris. Neoliberalism must go, and NZ must find a way to employ its young people. They must also receive a living wage. Any thoughts in this area? Vastly reduce immigration for five years, just accepting those that are needed. Labour needs to embark on a house building program - this will create employment in that area. Grow state forests on vacant Maori land - employment opportunities for young Maori in preparation and later in harvesting.

Slugger said...

The decline of 'traditional' churches for urban Maori also gave rise to modern-day con-artists like Brian Tamaki et al

BlisteringAttack said...

Neo-liberalism was always an odd fit for New Zealand.

I'm still staggered that no NZ MP's or others who made the major decisions through the 70's, 80's & 90's just couldn't arrive at the conclusion that neo-libralism just doesn't suit the character & mentality of NZ & NZers.

For Jim Bolger to say a few decades after the fact that neo-libralism was wrong for NZ paints him as an unprincipled uneducated pointless fool.

Blinky said...

The joke around Wellington in the mid to late 80's was that if you didn't say the word 'neo liberal' at a Treasury interview you didn't get the job - even if it was for a night cleaners role.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nothing much doing this afternoon. Might as well post this.:)

http://churchleaders.com/news/302572-hashtag-thingsonlychristianwomenhear-blowing-twitter-pointing-misogyny-church.html

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Growing up in rural Thames/Coromandel, always sharing school and father's workplace, I believed we had the best race relations in the world and I'm not so sure it was a myth.
Maori as a race undoubtably were relieved of their land by fair means and foul, but in pre european maori society the control of land and lives was in the hands of a few and British ideas of democracy,law and economic opportunity for everyone did include maori, and in the mode our economy was run at that time the benefits to individual commoner maori ,the majority, was real.
There were jobs and businesses to take up that made most distinctly better off than they had been before, and they fitted in to the workplace environment very comfortably. Their natural easygoing relaxed nature has pervaded and moulded the typical Kiwi character in turn.
It is Rogernomics that has changed the game, so that the work is no longer available or is much less well paid so they have lost what they moved into during the British colonisation era and have no traditional lands or lifestyle to return to. Some resentment is understandable. Not helped by watching wave after wave of new arrivals moving in to what work is available.
We could have the best race relations in the world again if we just ran the economy sensibly.
D J S

jh said...

but also, in the space where common beliefs and aspirations once flourished, a vacuum has been created into which a host of very different, and often divisive, ideas has migrated.
….....
Social constructionism informs public policy that the state can replace the church etc. Journalists have become the high priests of social constructionism. As can be seen in Mediawatch's take on the Peters v's the Herald (30.04.17). Peters made an allegation of ethnic nepotism. Mediawatch ends with "all that we can conclude is that people come and people go for a variety of reasons"

Johnathon Haidt maintains that religion is what bonds humans together and that is not necessarily formal religion but the sacrilisation of ideas.

jh said...

“Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organised religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasising morality and religion and emphasising race and nation.”
........
Which fits Haidts moral foundations theory where race and nation are "Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal.
Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion."

God said...

The forthcoming article, entitled "Theology Matters," confirms a truth universally acknowledged, or reasonably intuited anyway. The Christ-optional, Gospel-as-metaphor, liberal-progressive mainline Protestantism borne of our secular age keeps so loose a lock on wandering souls that they wander away—choosing boozy brunch, perhaps, over pew-sitting.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/new-study-ties-church-attendance-to-conservative-theology/article/2005468

jh said...

"What Happens When The Generators Of Social Solidarity Fall Silent?"

Remember the context is that countries develop their low growing fruit then their higher growing fruit and then........?

As Michael Reddell has been suggesting:
Across the OECD, there is some evidence that rapid population growth in post-war advanced countries was associated with an apparent cost to per capita growth rates.
http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2014/14-10

jh said...

If Muslim's are radicalised why not Maori? I have been dealing with two groups and one lot are stroppy the other lot are surly. What part have post colonial studies "unsettling the settler", whiteness studies, Maori studies etc played? Why isn't this hate speech?

Wikipedia
Postcolonialism is aimed at destabilizing these theories (intellectual and linguistic, social and economic) by means of which colonialists "perceive", "understand", and "know" the world
Michael King on Pakeha Indigeneity
https://edlinked.soe.waikato.ac.nz/research/project/item.php?id=118

pat said...

"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions."...somebody once wrote.

Replace organised (false) hope/promise with a poor substitute (consumerism) and is anyone really surprised?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ooooh. Stroppy and surly Maori – how dare they. Perhaps they are aware of your alt. right tendencies? That might do it. And how dare they become radicalised. After all they have nothing to complain about. Except a century or 2 of being told to be patient by politicians, and of hearing that they are privileged from people like you.

Nick J said...

This is what happens to the young when even the false Gods fail them. This appears to be a dire indictment on Euro democracy, and I doubt we in NZ would be much removed.
https://qz.com/971374/europes-youth-dont-care-to-vote-but-theyre-ready-to-join-a-mass-revolt/

I am rather intrigued by this seeming rejection of the status quo by younger voters. If they are post religion and post the status quo what are their driving moral imperatives?

jh said...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ooooh. Stroppy and surly Maori – how dare they.
...........
The question is though, what role does radicalizing play (being a devils advocate) and how much of that is influenced by ideologies from academics who have sought to legitimize the place of Pakeha?
We are seeing these ideologies fester in Western Universities.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYFM2jIIj6Y

jh said...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ooooh. Stroppy and surly Maori – how dare they. Perhaps they are aware of your alt. right tendencies?
........
I agree with Ranganui Walker: "Close the immigration door completely... I object to people from all those countries coming here... If that trend continues, we will ruin New Zealand. We will make it just like any other part of the world" - see: Ranginui Walker hits out at the volume of immigrants coming into NZ."
...
Spoonley says Walker was influenced "by radical authors such as Freire, Illich and Gramsci."
https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/leading-maori-writer-academic-ranginui-walker-dies.html

"Perhaps the Sailerist idea most closely echoed by the Trump movement is “citizenism,” which he describes as the philosophy that a nation should give overwhelming preference to the interests of its current citizens over foreigners, in the same way as a corporation prioritizes the interests of its current shareholders over everyone else. Effectuating this philosophy — putting “Americans First,” as he put it in 2006—would, according to Sailer, require a draconian reduction in immigration levels.

Most liberals would take issue with citizenism as reactionary, and perhaps see it as a closeted form of the white nationalism openly championed by many bloggers on the alt-right. Yet Sailer describes citizenism as the best possible bulwark against ethnonationalist impulses. In Sailer’s view, people are naturally inclined to pursue “ethnic nepotism” — that is, to help those like themselves at the expense of those who are not. The goal of citizenism, therefore, is to redirect these energies by providing a more expansive definition of “us” than the race or tribe."
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/steve-sailer-invented-identity-politics-for-the-alt-right.html

Ethnic stratification in housing -Auckland. An ethnic Chinese owns 1000 houses in Chc

"Only in this century has the world's population attained an average annual rate of growth in excess of one per cent. In mid-century it has climbed to about 1.6 per cent per annum. But in Polynesia growth rates exceed three per cent per annum; in some territories they have exceeded four per cent per annum. Projections have been made of future rates of population growth in the next two quinquennia for all the territories under review. 1 Excepting only French Polynesia, all groups have predicted future growth rates which exceed the recorded rates of growth in the last quinquennium. They range from 3.20 per cent to 3.60 per cent per annum (but in the case of the Indian sector of the population of Fiji they reach 4.25 and 4.20 per cent per annum) for the five-year periods 1962-66 and 1967-71 respectively. These last figures approach the theoretical physiological maximum.
"
THE FUTURE OF POLYNESIA
By KENNETH B. CUMBERLAND

White farmers being killed in South Africa
http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/world-economy/bury-them-alive-white-south-africans-fear-for-their-future-as-horrific-farm-attacks-escalate/news-story/3a63389a1b0066b6b0b77522c06d6476

The left see race and identity as socially constructed, like a costume that can be taken off and discarded, therefore, they can control behviour. EP sees it as a mix.

jh said...

That quote about Steve Sailer:
Perhaps the Sailerist idea most closely echoed by the Trump movement is “citizenism,” which he describes as the philosophy that a nation should give overwhelming preference to the interests of its current citizens over foreigners, in the same way as a corporation prioritizes the interests of its current shareholders over everyone else. Effectuating this philosophy — putting “Americans First,” as he put it in 2006—would, according to Sailer, require a draconian reduction in immigration levels.
Most liberals would take issue with citizenism as reactionary, and perhaps see it as a closeted form of the white nationalism openly championed by many bloggers on the alt-right. Yet Sailer describes citizenism as the best possible bulwark against ethnonationalist impulses. In Sailer’s view, people are naturally inclined to pursue “ethnic nepotism” — that is, to help those like themselves at the expense of those who are not. The goal of citizenism, therefore, is to redirect these energies by providing a more expansive definition of “us” than the race or tribe.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/steve-sailer-invented-identity-politics-for-the-alt-right.html

demonstrates what a threat the “far-right” alt-right” are to the establishment. After all weren't we (as members of the nation) like share holders of a corporation . When was the subtle shift to members of a wider world where outsiders are citizens in waiting?

The second thing is that it challenges the dominant wisdom on race relations. Ethnocentrism is deemed to be socially constructed, however evidence of the effect of oxytocin suggest it is more that that.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Chris I thought you were going to censor JH's anti-immigrant rants? Or are they just going to be turned into anti-foreign rants.
Gotta love that alt right though.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/02/alt-right-hates-women-non-white-trump-christian-right-abortion

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Chris

The cultural malaise of which you speak is now common throughout all western societies, most prominent in Europe perhaps with America being the last to be significantly affected.

We have three religious world views competing for dominance in the public square:

1) Christianity 2:0 Billion followers globally.

Status: in serious decline in the West.

History: Provided the foundational cornerstone for Western civilisation and is the enabler of the liberties we now (still) enjoy.

2) Secular Liberalism: Unknown number of adherents.

Status: Currently socially and politically dominant, but lacks the transcendent narrative to inspire loyalty and provide universal social cohesion - Exhausted and in decline.

3) Islam

Status: A minor but growing player. (in the West)

Status: Youthful, resurgent, has an eschatology of global dominance, a narrative of transcendence that promotes the joys of the next life over the sorrows of this life.

Anyone care to pick a winner?



Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah, Brendan. I see you have managed to overcome your reluctance to comment on Islam due to your not being theologically qualified then? Or have you actually studied it in the meantime?
Well, perhaps then I could comment on Christianity and its eschatology of global domination? You mean Christians don't want to convert everybody? You mean they haven't converted people in the past at the point of a sword? You could talk to some Spanish Jews about that, if you could find any.

Brendan McNeill said...

@Dear GS

First, I have never suggested I lacked the qualifications to comment on Islam. Over recent years, I think we have all become more theologically literate as far as Islam is concerned.

Second, the point you appear to have overlooked, is that when Muslims convert at the point of a sword they do so in accordance with Mohammad's example and with the approval of their Scriptures.

In the comparatively few times in recorded history Christians have behaved this way, they have done it in violation of Jesus example and in contradiction to their Scriptures.

But look if you want to conflate Islam with Christianity, all power to you.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"First, I have never suggested I lacked the qualifications to comment on Islam."

Of course not Brendan, and that's the problem. You criticise all and sundry for not being theologically qualified to comment on Christianity, yet you comment on Islam with I would suggest, the approximate same qualifications. Possibly even less, because many people who comment on Christianity are at least cultural Christians.
I would also suggest that forced conversions are not exactly common in Muslim countries either. But if you have any evidence that it is common please feel free to provide it.
As far as Christians are concerned, you are neglecting a very important part of your heritage. And done in the full knowledge of priests who presumably found scriptures to allow it. Probably from the old Testament, but even so. It was amuses me that Christians claim that the new Testament supersedes the old, yet they quite happy to use the old Testament to do things like condemn gay people. Classic example is the picture of a guy who has a quote from Leviticus tattooed on his arm explaining that homosexuality is wrong, yet doesn't realise that Leviticus also forbids tattooing. I'm not necessarily conflating you with them, but you really need to take some responsibility for them. Rather than blithely blacking Muslims.
In fact I suspect that most of the Western world is more concerned with the billions of fundagelical Christians who seem to be intent on imposing their beliefs on their laws and sharia law being imposed. But if you wish to ignore all this then all power to YOU.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Oh... Forgot.

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/car.muslims.forced.to.convert.to.christianity/60693.htm