Friday, 5 October 2018

Revolutionary Principles, Reactionary Values.

The Revolutionary Trinity: The three constitutive principles upon which the French Republic was founded: Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. If ever a nation is entitled to boast about its core values: about the ideas deemed fundamental to its very existence; then that nation is France.

YOU WILL SEE them chiseled into the lintels of public buildings all over Paris. The three constitutive principles upon which the French Republic was founded: Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. If ever a nation is entitled to boast about its core values: about the ideas deemed fundamental to its very existence; then that nation is France.

Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (which preceded the French Revolution by 13 years) and his ringing affirmation that: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” undoubtedly proved inspirational. But, essentially, Jefferson was presenting an argument. Those three words: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity; pronounced in an absolute monarchy; were unequivocally revolutionary.

Which is why, nearly 230 years after the storming of the Bastille, there remains a part of France which angrily denounces the revolutionary trinity of 1789. Thousands still living in France today, remember the very different trinity pronounced by Marshall Petain in June 1940. Not Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, but Work, Family, Fatherland.

Petain’s Vichy regime was but the culmination of the reactionary tendencies which had harried and fought the legacy of the Revolution ever since the restoration of the Bourbon Dynasty in 1815. Urged on by the Catholic Church; complicated by the personal ambitions of the Bonaparte family; poisoned by a virulent antisemitism; reactionary France, the France that sent Captain Dreyfus to Devil’s Island on trumped-up charges; the France that made peace with the Nazis; the France that even today swells the vote of the Front Nationale; has never gone away.

In the light of this centuries old quarrel about the meaning and purpose of La Belle France, Europe’s most enlightened nation state, what were the delegates to the NZ First Party’s annual conference thinking by voting for a remit legally requiring immigrants to New Zealand to swear allegiance to their adoptive country’s “core values”?

Almost certainly, they were not thinking of embroidering their nation’s banner with the French trinity of revolutionary principles.

Not that there haven’t been times in New Zealand’s own history when Liberty, Equality and Fraternity constituted the terse programme of home-grown revolutionaries. The “Red Feds” – those militant trade unionists whose exploits enlivened the years immediately prior to World War I – were not above letting-rip with a lusty rendition of La Marseillaise as they marched to do battle with “Massey’s Cossacks”. (Armed farmers on horseback, enlisted by Prime Minister Bill Massey to crush the “Red Feds”.)

Therein lies the problem, of course. From the moment New Zealand became a British colony in 1840, the tension between those who came here to build a better life in a better country than class-riven Britain; and those who came here for the sole purpose of making money to enhance their reputation and status; has been palpable.

NZ First’s conundrum has always been to decide which of these two conflicting impulses it should endorse. Like their leader, they are torn between the allure of socio-economic elevation, and the stirring egalitarian verses of Dick Seddon’s and Mickey Savage’s Hallelujah Song.

Even those two men, the tutelary patriarchs of socialist New Zealand, might struggle to agree on the precise nature of New Zealand’s core values. Seddon favoured a white nation, untainted by either the brown or the yellow peril. Savage, by contrast, had imbibed the magic of Wiremu Ratana and knew that whatever New Zealand might eventually become, it would always be Maori first.

From the recorded comments of the remit’s promoters, it seems pretty clear that NZ First tends more toward Seddon than Savage. The core values they are seeking to defend are those of the “Better Britons” which the New Zealanders of the late-nineteenth century believed themselves to be.

Far from the universal principles of the French Revolution and the undying political legacy of the European Enlightenment; the core values which NZ First hopes to enshrine in law are grounded in exclusion. Their purpose is to impress upon Muslim immigrants the entirely unacceptable character of their religious and ethnic traditions, and to make it clear that the price of New Zealand citizenship is the attenuation, or outright abandonment, of those traditions.

The trinity worshipped by NZ First is not the unabashed revolutionary’s Liberty, Equality, Fraternity; but the half-arsed reactionary’s threefold tribute to the Kiwi Way. Authority. Orthodoxy. Conformity.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 5 October 2018.

14 comments:

Kiwiwit said...

While I agree with your assessment of NZ First's core values, I think your dismissal of Thomas Jefferson's words as merely 'presenting an argument' and not 'unequivocally revolutionary' is bizarre. Have you not read the full text that includes the words, 'That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.' Nothing unequivocal or non-revolutionary about that.

Jens Meder said...

While reckless liberty, equality and fraternity without equality in responsibilities does not prevent people sinking into property-less poverty, and "values" are matters of taste and preference that cannot be quantified and measured (?) - is true equality on the material level more democratically, humanely, economically and morally effectively achieved through personal property-less Communism or the Property Owning Society concept of at least a minimally meaningful level of personal (retirement) wealth ownership by all citizens ?

Is equality preferable through all of us "haves" or "have-nots" ?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I would have loved to have applied a "New Zealand values" test to all those white South Africans we've imported over the last 20 or so years. Particularly the Afrikaners. I wonder how many of them could have answered honestly and yet still passed.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

My worry is – just had a thought – that they would have fitted in fine with many New Zealanders' values.

greywarbler said...

@Kiwiwit
At first glance your comment seems to consider the revolutionary break from an overarching control from the 'mother country' and establishing a new self-governing country all that was important.

But the way that people did things, ordered themselves, thought about themselves compared to others in the new country, that was a necessary part of a true revolution. The other is just a divorce from an unsatisfactory marriage. To continue with the same drives and practices in the new country would just consist of repeating mistakes that had been rejected by fleeing from them. And by setting new arbitrary rules that purported to be better, that would lead the way to other problems perhaps as bad as the original, and surely leave a number of unintended consequences that would require statesmen with broad wisdom who would require a mix of idealism and pragmatism to find solutions.

How does that statement of mine size up the situation of the USA's experience? And seeing its revolution and that of France were connected in the thinking of their time, is it relevant when both social movements are studied?

sam bdb said...

Jefferson discovers the Internet for the first time: "Enters a few letters and numbers on a thin board and scandalizing pictures of women appear?"

Jack Scrivano said...

Many years ago, I used to think that many of the new ideas of incomers could only add to the host culture. But then I had the opportunity to work in several different parts of the world and to experience first-hand the conflict caused by incomers who wouldn’t or couldn’t ‘fit in’. To me, the first part of asking newcomers to buy into New Zealand values makes a lot of sense. The second part, defining those values, now that’s a whole different challenge.

peter petterson said...

Interesting post.

Geoff Fischer said...

With its "Respecting New Zealand values" bill, New Zealand First has embarked upon a ridiculous enterprise which, as Chris suggests, exposes the evil at the heart of the colonial regime, most particularly its intolerance of political dissent.
For very good reasons, the regime as a whole has determined that requiring immigrants to make an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, is sufficient.
New Zealand First begs to differ. Simply requiring new citizens to subscribe to monarchism, imperialism and colonialism does not cut the mustard for Winston and his party. They are driven to require immigrants to embrace the rugby, racing and beer (or in Winston's case whisky) culture which they somehow believe epitomises what it is to be a New Zealander.
Tawhiao was a prohibitionist of course. So have been hundreds of thousands of Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders, from the time of the wars of invasion down to the present day. Evidently, not one of these most respected among our people had respect for "New Zealand values".
Neither for that matter do I.
I rigorously and emphatically reject those "values". Hereditary monarchy. Social and economic inequality. Imperialism. Colonialism. Liquor, drugs and debauchery. State secrecy. Political duplicity.
What Winston fails to recognise, and the other political parties know all too well, is that all these iniquitous "values" are implicit in the oath of allegiance to the monarch which is the current test of fitness for New Zealand citizenship.
The politicians know that, truth be told, the vast majority of those immigrants who pledge "solemn allegiance" to Queen Elizabeth would not lift a finger to save her from the guillotine.
The regime wants one thing, and one thing only. It wants citizens who, if they hold to any political principles at all, are willing to compromise those principles at the demand of the state.
Winston thinks that he needs a more expansive catechism, a veritable manifesto, which will oblige all new immigrants to forsake their own political and religious principles, but he need not waste his energies. He already has it in the form of the oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Shane McDowall said...

Can anyone name a benefit to native New Zealanders that Roger Douglas's open door immigration policy has brought?

I will name one : Improved variety of restaurants.

I defy everyone who reads this blog to name one other.

Most of the effects of the transformative migration have been bad. Our hospitals used to have a busy time only in winter - now it is winter all year around. New Zealand born and trained teachers are becoming rarer. Over the last two years over 250,000 more motor vehicles have appeared on our roads. I do not believe these vehicles are being purchased by possums.

The truth about the good economic effects of migration is that there are none.

The truth is there are more and more people being supported by the same number of cows.

The NZF call over "New Zealand values" was a kite that was not going to fly. No more, no less.

But at some stage our government is going to have to do something about the quantity and the quality of the people moving here.

My immigration policy is very straight forward : Does New Zealand need you? - Welcome in. Do you need New Zealand? Then, unless you are a quota refugee, the answer is a loud no.

Patricia said...

I am never sure about this problem. One way is good for a country and the other for the individual. I can understand why a group of people want to live with their own in another country after all in the old days most NZers in London congregated in Earls Court. But does a country want to have areas which ultimately become specifically for those from another country? Initially it is thought to be exotic but in a time of high mobility is it really a good idea? Surely there has to be a better way. New Zealand does have its own culture. We are different from the Australian, the English, the Americans and the Canadians even though we all speak the same language. A culture does alter over time as can be seen even here where New Zealand is trying to incoprate the Maori culture into its culture as the Maori had to do when the English culture was forced upon them. To have a mishmash does not really work unless their is a community of values. Look at America and Australia. Absolute messes.

greywarbler said...

The problem with assessing the value of immigration is that it can't be thought about out of context and what should have brought new vigour with a set quota, has been an invasion that has not served the country well. It has also not been a good experience for many of those who come to live and work here. The immigrants or foreign investors who want to turn their cash into solid assets like land and buildings have brought massive inflation, and predatory speculation in real estate and price inflation for housing to the citizens' disadvantage.

We have had wonderful immigrants come here after World War Two to get away from the austerity of Europe and recover from the shock of death and destruction. Most immigrants bring vitality and benefit to the country. The problem is that the RW National and former Labour Parties have used immigrants as touch paper to fire the country up; we got fireworks but at a large cost to our basic domestic economy.

Numbers - Compare how we manage refugees - a limited number, vetted, and with support groups as required usually by volunteers, and housing etc.
Planned, not always well done and effective, but mainly so.

Country of origin - Do they speak English? How can we be inclusive if large numbers come in speaking fractured English, and we have never bothered about foreign languages much, except French has always seemed classy, and was the diplomatic language.

Jobs - Expecting them to find their own, yet a stolid bunch of NZs can't handle a slight foreign inflection, and it takes time to be understandable when they learn English, and some Maori now as well.

Hospitals, medical bills, education.
All under stress from high immigration instead of having a fixed quota that add to the country's resources in a gradual way

Money - Virtually selling passports in exchange for banking some cash which helps to boost our exchange rate, and give us the appearance of a real
economy. Selling off chunks of land to the wealthy - we don't believe in aristocracy, some want to ditch royalty, but we do believe in meritocracy based on skill in acquiring moolah, some meritocracy but plutocracy rules ok!

On the subject of money - the pursuit of it blunts the sensitivity and humaneness of those both high and low. The wealthy high class concentrate on their own self-indulgent projects, and the low class, according to the Urban Dictionary talk about it like this:
Give me your fucking lunch moolah you stretch govalis bitch! ... Shit nigguh, i motha fuckin moola'd yo ass fo rea... moolah bitch!! ... Other meaning of money.

Nick J said...

So Chris, let's spin the contention that Their purpose is to impress upon Muslim immigrants the entirely unacceptable character of their religious and ethnic traditions, and to make it clear that the price of New Zealand citizenship is the attenuation, or outright abandonment, of those traditions.......yes I agree that's a horrible requirement. But what if the Islamic immigrants are clear that the words of their Prophet take precedence?
How now shall we proceed? It's a conundrum I admit, but it is at the core of argument: a fear that we may be facing a clash that cannot be resolved and that is potentially culturally lethal.

hilary531 said...

Does anybody actually take this NZF nuttiness for anything other? Nothing I've heard or read since leads me to believe that's it's anything other than a silly distraction from the core issue of immigration, when both NZF & Labour pledged to cut it. Pragmatism now requires a more nuanced response and immigration is booming. Quelle surprise.