ACCORDING TO BARBARA WALTER author of How Civil Wars Start: And How To Stop Them, the most common reaction to the outbreak of serious civil strife is surprise.
One minute the ordinary citizen is pausing amidst the familiar rush of daily chores to try and make sense of an alarming headline, and the next minute there’s the sound of machine-gun fire in the streets. Because most people simply cannot imagine the collapse of the political system they have believed and trusted in all their lives, they almost never see it coming, and are profoundly surprised when it arrives.
Professor Walter’s research warns that the nations most at risk of politically inspired violence are not those where democratic institutions and, much more importantly, democratic values, are strong. Nor yet those states where the grip of authoritarianism remains unflinching. The danger comes when tyrannical regimes begin to loosen their grip, or, when democracies start to question the merits of freedom. It is in these “anocracies” (systems of power in transition) that the likelihood of civil strife is at its highest.
Having pursued her research in a host of nations afflicted by murderous civil strife, Professor Walter has learned something else: that the very worst civil wars are those driven by the politics of ethnic and religious identity. The other fatal driver of division is what she calls “downgrading”:
“People may tolerate years of poverty, unemployment and discrimination. They may accept shoddy schools, poor hospitals and neglected infrastructure. But there is one thing they will not tolerate: losing status in a place they believe is theirs. In the 21st century, the most dangerous factions are once-dominant groups facing decline.”
Her use of the word “faction” in the above quotation is significant. Part of the relentless progression towards civil war is the rise of factions within the population. The seriousness of this semantic shift: from the more familiar use of the word to describe antagonistic groups operating within a single organisation (usually a political party) to embrace whole sections of society; cannot be overstated.
The most dangerous manifestation of this growth of organised social-antagonisms is the rise of a “super-faction”. This is characterised by a critical mass of the population being enrolled in a single movement – usually guided by a single leader. The growth of a super-faction is a portent of imminent socio-political disaster.
By now, readers should be anxiously joining the dots between Professor Walter’s research into civil wars and the developing political situation within New Zealand. Certainly, the necessary ingredients for serious strife are all here: the drift towards anocracy; the stoking of ethnic antagonisms; and the perceived downgrading of once-dominant groups. The question now, is whether or not New Zealand has (or is fast acquiring) factions.
Some New Zealanders might argue that the last five years have witnessed the emergence of what might colloquially be described as the “Woke Faction”. Encompassing liberal-left politicians, the Judiciary, upper-echelons of the public service, most of academia, and powerful elements within “progressive” businesses and the news media, the Woke Faction is united primarily by its intention to make New Zealand – Aotearoa – confirm more strictly to te Tiriti o Waitangi. It intends to achieve this goal by actualising the idea of a “partnership” between Māori and Pakeha, and embedding the practice of co-governance in all state institutions.
In terms of institutional power and the influence it wields, the Woke Faction is fast approaching the status of a super-faction. While the conduct of free and fair elections remains a part of New Zealand political life, however, the potential for creating a super-faction immeasurably larger than the Woke Faction remains considerable. It would be composed of that part of the population (overwhelmingly Pakeha) who firmly believe that they are already in, or very soon will be, the process of downgrading.
Should the ultimate harbinger of national doom, that figure nominated by Professor Walter as the “Ethnic Entrepreneur”, appear upon the scene, the rents in the social fabric of New Zealand may become too wide to be stitched back together.
New Zealanders are far from unfamiliar with Ethnic Entrepreneurs: Winston Peters and Don Brash both fit Professor Walter’s description. Neither of them, however, created a super-faction powerful enough, or sufficiently driven, to unlock the Gates of Hell.
We should not be surprised, however, if/when someone arrives with the key.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 15 July 2022.
TBH I read this not thinking about NZ, but about the (far more pressing and concerning in a global & geopolitical context) evolving situation in the United States, from which the politics of identity spread here.
It's quite interesting/concerning to see our institutions increasingly in thrall to, if not outright protagonists for, the "woke faction". The surprising thing, to me anyway, is how trusting and unaware the general population have been to what is really going on. Obviously a complicit legacy media doesn't help awareness but now people, and those they know, are being directly disadvantaged that is changing.
The current lot are willfully unaware of the reaction they are provoking with things like racial separatism and the cynical dismissal and demonisation of genuine dissent. Best case scenario they get comprehensively booted out at the election. Even better we get some serious, active, and disruptive dissent (the entire health sector walking out?) and an early election. Something akin to the Dutch farmers and the Sri Lankan people's actions recently?
"It would be composed of that part of the population (overwhelmingly Pakeha) who firmly believe that they are already in, or very soon will be, the process of downgrading."
And much of it would be firmly fascist/authoritarian in nature. Those that believe that if Maori gain something they lose something. Those that are used to being considered at the top of the heap ethnically and economically. And as you say, those that fear being downgraded.
These are precisely the sorts of people that supported Fascism in the 1930s. So say goodbye to gay marriage for a start. Maybe even divorce. And compulsory military service – because it would "make men of them." And what's left of trade unions will be down the gurgler as well. Still, we might have the compensation of "strength through joy".
The extreme right, which has its racist adherents on this site, is beginning to scare the crap out of me. My one consolation is that they would have to work very hard to overcome New Zealanders general apathy. But even so, if they so much as gain a foothold in the New Zealand political system they will do untold damage to everyone, except perhaps their own.
Guerilla the things that are being downgraded are the health system. The education system too. It is the woke who are the facists.
I have just watched an interview with Guy Williams and Leo Molloy the mayoral candidate. Don't be surprized if he romps in.
I say there is a third group, we stood arm in arm holding the line, neither woke, nor Maori elite, but everyday kiwi, more are waking
Perhaps the government and their elite allies really do know what they're doing. It's easy to see the attraction, to them, of their deflection, division and demonisation. Just as we saw with the anti mandate protestors, concerns over separatism and the demolition of democracy are being portrayed as racist/fascist etc. The thoughts of contemptable deplorables.
The Sri Lankan uprising and the Dutch farmer's rebellion are more relevant to us than they appear at first glance.
Brendan O'Neill: "Some in the West are relishing the images of revolt coming out of Sri Lanka. Tweeters and leftists are marvelling at the footage and photos showing angry Sri Lankans storming the presidential palace and having a dip in its ornate pool. The imagery is indeed striking, and heartening: it’s always good to see people pushing back against their inept, corrupt rulers.
And yet these Western observers might soon be in for a surprise, for this revolt is not only an indictment of the Sri Lankan elites and their legion errors of judgement. It is also an indictment of the conceits of the global elites more broadly. It calls into question the prejudices and policies of global establishments in thrall to climate-change alarmism and Covid authoritarianism. In Sri Lanka we are witnessing a rebellion not only against corrupt government officials, but also against the dangerously out-of-touch worldview of the international technocracy.
It is unquestionable that Sri Lanka’s suffering has been inflamed and exacerbated by its determination to become a Net Zero nation. A nation of fertiliser-free farming. A ‘good’ environmentally responsible nation that will please the green elites in global institutions. Sri Lanka’s severe green policies have had a devastating impact on food production and on its key export industries, worsening its crisis of inflation.
In April last year, the Sri Lankan government banned the import of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Its aim was to encourage organic farming. This was a borderline psychotic policy – 90 per cent of Sri Lanka’s farmers use fertilisers, and they predicted, rightly, that their crop yield would diminish in the absence of these modern substances. The production of rice, tea and rubber was seriously undermined by the ideological rush to organic."
"From the Canadian truckers who revolted against livelihood-destroying Covid rules to the Dutch farmers rising up against their government’s mad eco-policies, from Italian taxi drivers protesting against the rise in fuel prices to the mass protests in Albania against food and fuel price rises following the lockdown and the war in Ukraine, popular protests are breaking out across the world. The government of Sri Lanka may have been the first to fall, but it seems unlikely it will be the last.
The uprisings are inchoate. Some are leaderless. The demands are not always clear. But it’s obvious what people are generally angry about – the irrational decision-making practices of a new class of political rulers who prefer quick-fix clampdowns and displays of virtue over the tough task of working out how to materially and spiritually improve people’s lives. Those who think populism is over now that Trump and even Boris Johnson have gone are in for a shock. Wake up. Look out your windows. Check your swimming pools."
It's alarming because there doesn't seem to be much middle ground anymore, you've got zealots of both sides, and a bunch of moderate conflicted Kiwis in the middle trying to make sense of it all, agreeing with some of both points of view. I think a lot of what the government is trying to do is probably positive, but the way they are doing it is dare I say it almost authoritarian. I have reservations about co-governance, centralisation etc etc, but it seems that in this country we are not allowed to ask why and have a non hate filled debate anymore, scary times indeed with everyone feeling that it is they who are right and damn everyone else who questions them.
There always seem to be more public dissent, protest, strikes etc when the reds are in govt. when the blues are in govt no one dare asks for better wages, condito a etc…and yet the blues are not exactly known for being focused on social issues other than via the economy.
The extreme right are scary in any country and in any language because they think they are ‘right’ in the way they see things and they are not open to dialogue. They are also misogynistic and racist. The thing is to not be bullied by them into seeing the world as they do. Hopefully NZ has enough different cultures and peoples living here that extreme right ideology doesn’t spread or stick.
Alternatively, the Woke Faction could create its own demise given that Maori culture lacks any institution that fits the modern world, and that tribal factions could regress to pre-civilisational praxis. The veneer of Maori knowledge, spirituality and language applied to modern institutions seems likely to pall given its ‘new-age’ superficiality, and that it will achieve nothing that progresses society materially except for those in the oligarchy. Indeed, the costs so far heavily outweigh any identifiable gains. Meanwhile, Maoris’ demonstrable arrogant assertiveness could easily migrate to aggressive assertion as the Woke Faction’s debasement of civilisational values depreciates NZ’s economic and societal performance.
I see the racists are back albeit with a veneer of intellectualism. "Pre-civilisational praxis"? Really? Still, I guess it makes a change from the usual blunter knuckle dragging attack on Maori society. And yet Maori are also new-age. We already have a system that achieves nothing to progress society materially except for those in the oligarchy. It's called neoliberalism. It promised us a high skill high wage society and its delivered a mediocre wage society that relies on cheap labour from immigrants to avoid paying higher wages to ordinary New Zealanders. Meanwhile those at the top rake it in. For us there are no "identifiable gains". And those "civilisational values" we can all do without, indeed it hardly seems like civilisation at all.
Could someone give me a steer to the information about the NZ accountant who took a Court case against the government? I think in late 20th century. Date, name, I can't even remember what it was about but it was someone objecting I think to some neoliberal move. But I was too busy running round chasing my tail with problems to think about it then. Now I would like to read up about it.
Anonymous 22.32 I keep thinking of the word balance, but when at sea I understand you have to get some sort of instinctual balance going - a sort of auto-correct. It seems that we need that on land in this welter of ideas, inhibitions, prohibitions, freedoms, advances, expanding science and technical vocabulary and devices, speedy and mind-blowing ideas, and snap judgments! I've bought a card with the British flag and the WW2 maxim 'Keep Calm and Carry On' to settle me for the present.
What I notice about the flaps and squawks of Energizer parrots is their one-word vocabulary of ‘racist’, not just showing the minuscule limits to their depth of thinking, but to act as a pre-programmed ‘thought-terminating cliché’ on their more acquiescent addressees. I agree absolutely with Guerilla Surgeon’s assessment of neo-liberalism’s financial spoliation of NZ’s assets, and I think rural Maoris were the greatest victims of it. However, he misreads my comment about “identifiable gains” which related to Maorification of NZ, not Labour’s far-Right economic reforms and its continuance in support of the Professional Managerial Class from which it obtains the clerisy. Much worse is his failure to understand what constitutes civilisational values, not just those that Britain brought to NZ in the 19th century, but the process of continuous refinement that hitherto NZ ascribed to. The outstanding success of NZ in global indexes of such values is manifest, and its retreat from them is beginning to show.
It's called sea legs greywarbler, and the problem is once you eventually get back to land you find you've lost your land legs. :)
What I notice about the Quivering and flailing of those maiden aunts who ascribe civilisation to themselves and no one else – those who think you can't be racist if you are "telling the truth" is that they are just as cliché ridden as anyone else. Well Kit, in trying to make me look stupid you seem to have tied yourself up in knots. I understood very well what you were referring to – the idea that Maori is being "pushed down our throats", when it simply a superficial exercise akin to affixing maquillage to a shoat – nothing you really need to get into a flapdoodle or bloviate about. I guarantee it won't affect you in your backwoods coppice one jot.
But still, the values that Britain bought to NZ in the 19th century – racial hierarchies, the inferiority of women, the willingness to exploit "inferior" people, and the continuous refinement of them in New Zealand up to and including the exclusion of Maori from "civilised" society until quite recently are not values that I would ascribe to. If you are going to be judging a civilisation let's judge it in the round. It's not Maori who are insisting that 10-year-old rape victims be forced to bear the resulting child. Sometimes kit, as I have mentioned before bigotry is just racism.
Guerilla Surgeon - I use the term ‘ideological stupefaction’, not ‘stupid’, since quite intelligent and qualified people can stop thinking when ideology provides the answers. E.g., neoliberalism’s ‘there is no alternative’, or environmentalists blaming mankind for Pacific sea level rise rather than tectonic plate movement, or that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ despite totally contrary evidence, or feminists’ rejection of biological determinism, or the Left’s anachronistic moralising and its hobgoblin of foolish consistency with blank slatism and denial of instincts.
The Fanonesque idea of colonisation blends well with the Rousseauian idea of the Noble Savage living in harmony with nature. The reality was far more Hobbesian. The British values you condemn apply far worse to pre-European Maori – hierarchy, female inferiority and exploitation. British values brought an end to slavery, predominantly female infanticide, cannibalism, and constant warfare. This was a violent conservative tribal Mesolithic hunter-gatherer society without writing, metalwork, technology such as the wheel or lever, or pottery. In a word, uncivilised. Britain brought peace and civic control administered by the state, equality, habeas corpus, rule of law, written language, the scientific method, access to the world’s most advanced technology, world-leading human rights, agriculture, respect for human life and increased life-span. Continuous refinement, emphatically NOT a characteristic of primitive cultures, brought improvements to suffrage and democracy, education, workers’ rights and safety, healthcare, welfare, standard of living, choice, and so much more.
Some lipstick! Some pig!
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