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.

David George 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.

David George 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?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Bugger me, this topic is bringing the conspiracy theorists and general nutcases out of the woodwork isn't it. Still I guess it's brought me out of hibernation so can't grumble.
Okay One Law for All, tell me how the Democrats allegedly ignored the BLM "riots", when hundreds of people were arrested – although most were charged with minor misdemeanour shit in order to stifle protest. Still some were faced with serious charges of arson and the like. Few of them as far as I know actual BLM members but there you go. Some at least were shown to be white supremacists trying to start a race war in fact.

And tell me how the Democrats failed to condemn it when they said this.

On May 31, the fifth night of demonstrations, former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee, wrote in a statement that protesting police brutality is “right and necessary” and the “American response."

“But burning down communities and needless destruction is not,” Biden wrote. “Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.”

On June 3, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the majority whip of the House of Representatives, told The Washington Post that the movement for racial justice suffers when it is “hijacked” by violence.
"We have to make sure we do not allow ourselves to play the other person’s game,” Clyburn said. “Peaceful protest is our game. Violence is their game. Purposeful protest is our game. This looting and rioting, that's their game. We cannot allow ourselves to play their game."

Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there is "no justification for criminal behavior," according to The New York Times.
"There cannot be any excuse for it, period. This was not legitimate First Amendment protected speech," she said. "To those who engaged in this criminal behavior, let's be clear: We are coming for you."

Either you are wilfully ignorant or you are believing someone who is lying to you. Either way, it's easy enough to check these things, and you haven't done it obviously.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

And an attempt to whitewash Trump supporters by Odysseus. Funny, in the 2016 election, Trump essentially had nothing for white workers but emotional speeches. At which he is admittedly very good. If you read Clinton's actual policies, she was making genuine attempts to help American workers.
In fact, people who said that the economic situation was important to them overwhelmingly favoured Clinton. Even in the marginal states which she lost. Clinton had detailed plans to help the coal and steel industries, to help single mothers, to help older workers retrain for new jobs, to help younger workers into their first jobs.
She won these people by double digits in fact. So if the election was fought on economics alone, Clinton would have won handily. As it is she won the popular vote.
The common thread that has been found in supporters of Trump is racism. They resent people they don't consider worthy getting "free stuff". They're quite happy with the nanny state as long as it simply supports them. They don't mind Medicare and Medicaid, because it overwhelmingly favours white people. They don't like Obamacare, because most of the 20 million extra people that were covered were black or brown – and poor. They don't want a pluralist society, even though it's too late – they've got one. But they're happy if the people at the bottom of the heap are kept there.

The Barron said...

A number of the contributors to this blog seem to accept a view that has been perpetrated by Fox and other reactionary media that there is a linier progression from Black Lives Matter to the insurrection at Capital Hill. I contend that the two movements and actions are opposites.
BLM was a reaction to violence, not simply the contemporary violence to George Floyd and others, but generational and historical violence by those that have been the most empowered in the United States, against those that have been most disempowered. BLM was a challenge to the origin of violence towards communities. As such, it shifted power. This is seen by the societal, political and even commercial accommodation of grievances raised and an awareness that change had to come.
Capital Hill saw the death throws of an old order. Those that had been historically and generationally empowered saw Trump as the last chance to hold back a nation changing demographically and politically. They had lost power and replaced it with violence. This is seen by the societal, political and commercial withdrawal of patronage to them and their instigators. In this, Trump has merely been Canute, raging against the tide.

John Hurley said...

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.
Whites are an ethnic group like any other. It could have been Chinese or Arabs who were the colonizers.

The assumption that pluralistic societies are better begs the question: "better for whom".
We kept the Chinese out because we are not Chinese and they keep everyone out to this day but that goes unnoticed.

If you want examples of Chinese ethnocentrism listen to an English speaking Chinese tour guide tell the story of the Otago goldminers (to English speaking Malaysians). They always leave out a crucial part of the story: a new goldfield on the Westcoast. However it gives their clients a warm glow.

If we do not benefit economically (or perceive we don't) why should we welcome them? It's all been a big fat elite wet dream where some people have made $zillions out of real estate and others glory "on the world stage".

The slogan "give nothing to racism" really addresses human societies, ethnic groups and human nature. It is highly prejudicial.

oneblokesview said...

It seem to me that all teh civil unrest in teh USA could be solved by Biden announcing an equivalent to a Royal commission to review the 2020 election with recommendations for future elections to be open and transparent.

ie listen to the people and the millions who are pissed of at the way the voting inconsistencies have been smothered by the establishment. that includes all the smarmy excuses, well the courts threw them.

greywarbler said...

kiwidave - I think we all have a misunderstanding about govt and them spending taxpayer funds. We aren't taught basic economics at school and our parents are too busy working within the system to think about it; parents have never had the tradition of sitting down and talking about things with their kids in NZ, they have difficulty telling us about sex which everybody thinks they know about but don't and economics is in the same level of dysfunctional understanding.

But I digress. We pay our taxes which funds government and the services it does and doesn't provide (an absence of services which should be provided is very noticeable and must be referred to). Our individual money goes into a pot and gets allocated according to the latest economic fashion. This ensures that someone will be left out and so always there will be lively discussion about missing out and where it should have been spent. That is a political and economic 'law' which probably has a name - like Godwin's law given to mention of a certain blot on our human landscape.

The devious find ways of avoiding paying tax, usually the wealthier amongst us, who consider themselves more deserving of having and using the money themselves than the government, which provides the platform for their spectacular feats of derring-do which profit them greatly, they hope. The rest of us fund the system which in theory enables us to earn money from our labours, and our tax becomes the seed money to keep the system going. The latest economic and political fashion is to regard us not as citizens but as persons living in the country consuming the goods and services that business deigns to provide while the government looks on benignly, funding this or that as necessity or their advantage decrees. So look on tax paid as a sort of insurance payment that covers the likely calls on the insurance company after the payment of salaries and increments to those running the company.

Tax and money is actually not a simple reality but a complex system of promises backed by legal dicta deciding what is money, with a percentage of earnings going as taxation to the government. It is not simple. Neither is it a reality - it is a managed performance of universal barter with values set every day internationally, reported in the financial reports daily in the media. Now the next thing is, do you and the wider hopeful-citizens understand the different money strata - M1, M2 and M3 and M4? Why it is important to keep cheques and cash available for we ordinary people to use at will when we have it, without having to use a plastic card which feeds us into an overall controlling financial system? Some definitions of the different types of money:

M1 and M2 are known as narrow money. M3 and M4 are known as broad money. ... M1 is most liquid and easiest for transactions whereas M4 is least liquid of all. M3 is the most commonly used measure of money supply. It is also known as aggregate monetary resources.

The Khan Academy might enlighten on money.

Chris Trotter said...

To: One Bloke's View.

I'm not sure a commission of inquiry would do any good OBV.

If you are unwilling to accept the bona fides of the vote-counters, the secretaries of state, the Governors, the state certifiers, the state courts, the federal courts, the Supreme Court, and, ultimately, the US Congress itself, then I suspect that the findings of any commission - unless it amply confirms the beliefs you already hold about the 2020 election - will be found equally unacceptable.

When democracy is held to be in operation only when it delivers the results you are hoping for, then electoral contests can only be resolved by the disenfranchisement of all those who were hoping for something else - and whatever you call that, you are certainly NOT entitled to call it democracy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well said Chris. I interact with these people almost every day on some of my favourite blogs, where they come to "own" the Libs. They are almost beyond crazy. The only "fair" result they would accept from an enquiry would be that Trump won the election. At the moment, at least one of them is saying that the troops present in Washington at the moment are there to enforce a mass vaccination against the will of the people. Honestly, you couldn't make this shit up. And when it doesn't happen – well I'm going to be interested in what they say, but I've seen it before and it will be something like "Who me?" Every time you think we've reached peak crazy they get worse.

greywarbler said...

John Hurley
I have mixed blood in my veins. I will not state just what in case of prejudice against me. Can you stop raving on about keeping NZ pure or whatever your message is please.

We are now in a 'global' economy with other nations wanting to strip our resources from us. But the blame for the results then seems to target the ordinary peoples of the 'offending' countries. We are all pawns in this game; NZ is not a leader in the world except perhaps in going backwards, except in, for a while, managing to keep Covid at bay.

If we can control immigration at all financial levels, and then let it creep up over years to match the available services and resources, I will be all for that. But the greed of the wealthy in NZ has led us to our present unbalanced economy. It appears that the people with power usually the wealthy, like an unbalanced economy with growing numbers of a poor underclass who have been planned for in a scheme to bring down wages to match poor countries overseas. This means that those in power are unbalanced and mercenary. Please J.Hurley, don't similarly find excuses to slice and dice us.

Nick J said...

Barron, I think your view both interesting and deeply flawed. That there is continuing violence and prejudice to black communities is not in doubt. That they respond with poltically backed protest, often violent is on the record. Luther King, Malcolm X, NAACP, Black Panthers, Detroit Riots, LA riots, now BLM with half of American down towns in breakdown.

Since the 60s pretty much every administration has had a policy and plan to advance black America. Total fail, question being why? Cant be that the voters of America, mainly white objected, if they did those policies would never have been adopted. Cant have been prejudiced either from same logic. So why? Maybe those who rule America, not the voters didn't care enough?

Lets look at your shift of power idea. The (ex)workers of the flyover states voted for Obama who failed them, then for Trump who was another fraud. They have been disempowered for a long time. What shifts of power you have seen are the reimposition of the iron grip of the elite Democrats and Republicans against their own rank and file. You have seen the media barons and Silicon Valley seize their share of the one percent pie by becoming unelected censors of free speech from anybody challenging their power. The money won, ordinary people both black and white just took a hiding.