Friday, 15 January 2021

Will New Zealand’s Body-Politic Be Snatched By Trumpism?

“They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next! You’re next!”

WHO CAN FORGET the penultimate scene of the 1956 movie classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers? The wild-eyed doctor, stumbling down the highway, trying desperately to warn his fellow citizens: “They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next! You’re next!”

Ostensibly science-fiction, the movie shuddered with political unease. Something had taken over the American body-politic. People had begun to question whether their neighbours were still their neighbours: people to eat, drink, talk and argue with; recognisably loyal Americans. Had something really turned them into something else? Something alien?

The crisis currently gripping the United States is far from over. Within 72 hours, it is possible that catastrophic violence will have broken out in all 50 state capitols – as well as in Washington DC. The fanatical followers of President Donald J. Trump have called a million of their far-right comrades onto the streets – with their guns. If even half that number show up, armed to the teeth, the US authorities will face the greatest challenge to the constitutional integrity of the republic since 1861.

Hyperbole? Not really. There are growing fears at the highest levels of the federal government that a so-far-undetermined percentage of law enforcement officers and military personnel may have secretly repudiated their oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

They are concerned that Americans may encounter at the state level the same curious reluctance on the part of law enforcement to confront and challenge what was clearly an insurrectionary mob hellbent on preventing the Congress from certifying President-Elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College majority.

A number of congressmen and women have reported to the American documentary film-maker, Michael Moore, that when they parked their cars outside the Capitol Building on the morning of Wednesday, 6 January, they were struck by how much it felt like a Saturday. Where were the Capitol Police? Why was the place so quiet? Asking around, Moore learned that out of the more than 2,000 Capitol Police personnel available, barely a fifth had been rostered-on for duty that fateful Wednesday.

This was in spite of the fact that the hostile intentions of the tens-of-thousands of angry Americans summoned to Washington by President Trump had been flagged for days. To the congress-persons and their jittery staff-members, the situation must have seemed eerily reminiscent of the scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone arrives at the hospital in which is father lies gravely wounded, only to find the place more-or-less deserted, his Police guard withdrawn, and the imminence of a second “hit” palpable.

The hit came in Washington, claiming five lives, and avoiding perhaps hundreds more only by virtue of the bravery and quick-wittedness of such loyal Capitol Police officers as were willing to do their duty. That, and a fair measure of dumb luck saw the insurrection – the coup d’état – thwarted.

Whether America’s luck will hold until 12:01pm on Wednesday, 20 January 2021, when Joe Biden assumes the powers of the USA’s Commander-in-Chief, remains to be seen. With Donald Trump still in possession of the awesome weaponry of the presidency right up until mid-day on the twentieth, the survival of American democracy must be considered an open question.

It’s easy, so far from these daunting events, to feel smug. New Zealanders, we are confident, could never disgrace themselves so completely as Trump’s lumpen stormtroopers. Such confidence is, however, misplaced. New Zealand’s political system may differ considerably from that of the United States, but culturally we are blood brothers. The same racial neuroses, born of the same historical transgressions, afflict both peoples.

Americans and New Zealanders, and in this context those terms refer to the descendants of the European immigrants who subjugated the indigenous populations of both countries and built upon their confiscated territories what they anticipated proudly would become a shining (white) city on a hill, have much in common. Both peoples were raised in the deadly coils of Nineteenth Century capitalism and the blood-soaked imperial networks that kept it fed. Slavery and its successor institutions may have made the culture of the United States more vicious, but the racism that exonerated both peoples’ colonial excesses is embedded no less deeply.

As the Twenty-First Century gathers momentum, and the moral compromises of the Twentieth begin to fray, New Zealanders must accept that the makings of “Trumpism” are here already.

We are next.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 15 January 2021.


Odysseus said...

Trumpism? What we see in the US is a clash of cultures between the Metro Elites with their Big Tech allies and the dwellers of the vast hinterland who for a generation or more have seen their jobs shipped overseas and have lost their communities, their hope, and they believe, their country. Hence: "America First". Their yearnings are not unlike those inspired by the Lost Eden that preceded neoliberalism which you yourself sometimes express in these columns. They are not "Far Right" nor do they correspond to any other pejorative label the "Far Left" may try to impose on them. They are unlikely however ever to accept Biden/Harris as "legitimate" representatives of their interests.

greywarbler said...

I went to a meeting of apparently normal citizens in my home town, an informal group of people concerned about our political direction. When someone started on what apparently is a big concern of theirs, vaccinations and self-indulgently waffled on about how wrong it is to have vaccinations and being against them being compulsory, I left. Later one looked me in the eyes and sincerely said that lockdowns were useless, they didn't work and studies had shown this. I pointed out that he and I could talk face to face, without masks, so that must mean they were helpful, but he was unshakeable.

And they are enraged that $50 million or such has been spent by our government. It seems they consider it is all false and a money making scheme. When fears and suspicion go into overdrive, the paranoia meter mounts to red! The toxic thoughts overwhelm the brain. And heaven knows there are lots of toxic happenings but somehow these just provide a backdrop of unease for the paranoid person; there doesn't seem concern for vulnerable people outside of their own circle.

greywarbler said...

The people I referred to in my earlier comment are likely to be similar to the ones referred to in this Radionz report, looking at the accompanying image.

One Law for All said...

Could the invasion of the White House be the result of the Democrats ignoring, even seemingly encouraging the BLM riots, with the burning of businesses, assaults and killings, which the Demes justified and called protests. Of course the invasion of the White House was wrong. Think of it more as a backlash against the inaction of the Democrats response to the BLM riots. Actions always spawn reactions

Nick J said...

Not sure I totally agree with your analysis of our society Chris. You miss out the development of the modern economy that has conditioned all Americans and Kiwis. We are as one in our consumption, material expectations and desires. And we are still as tribal as ever, across class and race.

From a Kiwi viewpoint I live in a small town with defined tribal suburbs. We have a wealthier side, a middle income side, and a working class, mainly Maori area. Unspoken separations. Trouble occurs when aspirations arent met, when people sense that they are going backwards, sliding between tribes. That is where populism breaks out.

Jacinda needs to fear non delivery and economic turmoil. If our demograhic and economic distributions followed that of Rust Belt USA we would be in trouble. We already have in Auckland and Wellington the equivalent of the classes that rule New York and Washington who have absolutely no idea of how the rest of NZ lives.

greywarbler said...

I like this reprinted by Scoop from The Conversation:
Government funds are not 'taxpayer money' — media and politicians should stop confusing the two

If the proponents of current protests by seeming anti-government people, like Billy Te Kahika would read and retain the meaning of the above article we would all be better off.

Trev1 said...

Donald Trump is the Tiberius Gracchus of America. A populist reformer hated by the patricians who prosecuted him for overstepping the law. They had him assassinated. You are on the wrong side Chris.

The Barron said...

I closed my last comment on the previous thread with Hannah Arendt, On Violence (1969),but this thread seems calling for more -

"Politically speaking, it is insufficient to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites: where one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in powers disappearance. This implies that it is not correct to think of the opposite of violence as nonviolence: to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power: it is utterly incapable of creating it."

Nick J said...

Odysseus, that description of the US is exactly what the more partisan anti Trumpers have ignored. We watched for four years as the institution of the presidency was attacked by an unholy alliance who screamed illegitimacy at the president. Now that this group hold power they will have the devils own job of persuading half of Americans of their legitimacy.

Now Trump has gone I am waiting for fellow Leftists to see that they have been played like fools by a coalition that cares not for them. Trump wasnt Hitler, a fascist, nor any more a liar than the rest. He was an egomaniacal buffoon, at times a complete nutter. The real question is have the working class Americans gained anything through Trumps downfall? I'd say no. Has the Left in the West advanced their cause? Again I would say no. You cannot make Faustian bargains with big tech, the media barons and corporate money and expect a result. The Left has failed its core constituency in two consecutive US elections. The rank and file working class goes unrepresented.

kiwidave said...

Chris, if you're genuinely concerned that a racist mob is a real threat it seems like a particularly bad idea to openly provoke them. Perhaps that's the intention; provoke an overreaction and consequent behaviour and you've the moral right, obligation even, to suppress it. By whatever means necessary.
The taunting vilification of ordinary, reasonable Kiwis, their culture, their history and their race is deeply felt as just such a provocation by many.

We have this new NZ history school program being rolled out this year, there's a huge risk that it will be an indoctrination into a vile "white man bad" beat up. What sort of thing would that be to lay at the feet of our children, how would you feel as a parent that your kids are tarred with some sort of original sin on the basis of their skin colour. Equally bad for the Maori kids to be convinced that they are the pathetic, oppressed victims of history by the forebears of their classmates. What a way to destroy individual agency before it even develops. There's nothing good in that.

I'm not sure what "Trumpism" is, it's not defined. The attempts to support American businesses and workers through tariffs against Chinese dumping? The moves against the globalist neo liberal capture of trade and politics? The pledge to end the endless wars? The successful Middle East peace negotiations? The initiative to end worldwide the criminalisation of homosexuality? The repeal of Joe Biden's appalling Crimes Bill (1990s under Clinton) which saw the incarceration (and consequent criminilisation) of large numbers of African Americans on minor charges? The attempts to protect the border from illegal migrants and criminals? The efforts to end the indoctrination of the appalling, insane and divisive critical theory?

We had Joe Biden come out last week and announce that minority owned businesses would be priortised in government assistance. This is the man that is supposed to be unifying America? Is he completely clueless or deliberately provoking resentment.

kiwidave said...

Greywarbler, I read that essay on Taxpayer funds/Government funds. Don't you think they were being deceptive in claiming a real distinction between the two.
Government spending/debt is underwritten by we the people, the citizens and taxpayers, a liability placed on the present and future taxpayers. How could it be otherwise? Why would someone try and obfuscate that simple realty?