Monday 10 May 2021

Playing By A New Set Of Rules

Meet The New Rules, Not Like The Old Rules: The old book was written on the assumption that political principles are important, and that, accordingly, political consistency from political parties must also be important. At its core, the old rule book accepted that the game it was regulating was the game called “Democracy”. That’s why it enjoined politicians to put the convictions and interests of their core supporters at the heart of their policy decisions.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED to the old Political Rule Book? This government appears to have found a new edition: one which the rest of New Zealand has yet to see, let alone read. Actions which the old Political Rule Book once rejected as electorally disastrous are being implemented with a jarring and inexplicable confidence. What’s going on?

Let’s begin with the Labour Government’s decision to impose a three-year wage freeze on three-quarters of the Public Service. Under the old Political Rule Book, such an action would have been deemed extremely unwise. That rule book would have explained the sheer folly of effectively decreasing the purchasing power of some of the Labour Party’s most loyal supporters. This is hardly surprising: “Look after your electoral base.”; has always been the first and most important rule of electoral politics.

The old Political Rule Book would have further explained that to unfairly treat people regarded as heroes by a broad cross-section of the electorate is also a very bad idea. New Zealanders are three months into the second year of the Covid-19 global pandemic. That they have come this far without enduring the horrors witnessed in countries overseas is attributed in no small measure to the public servants who have positioned themselves courageously between their fellow citizens and the virus. Telling doctors, nurses, police officers, customs officials, military personnel, health ministry staff and teachers that they won’t be getting a pay-rise for three years, is likely to strike most Kiwis as not only grossly unfair, but as evidence of the most perverse ingratitude.

There was, of course, an entire section of the old Political Rule Book devoted to New Zealanders deep commitment to the idea of “Fairness”. It reiterated the scholarly argument that most New Zealanders feel about fairness the way most Americans feel about freedom. Threaten an American’s freedom and watch out! Fail to meet the ordinary New Zealander’s expectation of fair treatment and, again, watch out! Given the Government’s behaviour, it would appear that this whole section is missing from the new Political Rule Book.

Exactly what the new Political Rule Book does say is the puzzle so many Kiwis are struggling to solve. Once again, judging by the Government’s behaviour, it would appear to discount the old rule book’s warning that extraordinary events, giving rise to extraordinary outcomes, are most unlikely to be repeated. The 2020 General Election, for example, produced a result which the old Political Rule Book declared to be impossible – i.e. a single political party winning an absolute parliamentary majority. That was not supposed to happen under MMP, where coalition governments are the norm.

Not only must we suppose that the new Political Rule Book has radically reassessed the likelihood of a single party winning a majority of parliamentary seats, but that it also argues in favour of extraordinary outcomes being repeatable. More specifically: that the great red wave of electoral gratitude that washed over New Zealand in response to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic can, indeed, be replicated. That all those tens-of-thousands of National voters who defected to Labour in 2020 can be persuaded to vote for Labour again in 2023.

The new Political Rule Book also seems to have had second thoughts about the political rule-of-thumb advising Labour against allowing itself to be outflanked on its left.

Without an absolute majority of parliamentary seats, Labour would be forced to rely upon the Green Party for the numbers needed to govern. Now, the old Political Rule Book warned Labour in the strongest terms not to have a bar of this. (A warning which the Helen Clark-led Labour governments of 1999-2005 were careful to heed.) The rationale being that such overt dependence on the support of a much more radical party would aggravate voter concerns about “the tail wagging the dog”.

To be fair, that same old rule book also cautioned the Greens against allying themselves too closely with a more conservative political entity. Such an alliance was likely to create potentially fatal tensions within the party’s own ranks. (This was, indeed, the common fate of NZ First and the Alliance, both of whom were torn apart by internal conflicts over the party’s fraught relationship with its larger partner.)

Assuming that our guesses about the content of the new Political Rule Book are correct, we must assume that the Labour Government is proceeding on the basis that it is no longer imperative to look after its electoral base; that perceptions of behaving unfairly no longer matter; that even if holding onto all the sunshine socialists of 2020 turns out to be impossible, governing alongside the Greens comes with no electoral downside.

We would probably be further justified in assuming that the new Political Rule Book takes into account the recent spate of right-wing populist victories across the West. In this new political environment, policies aimed at inflaming right-wing prejudices should not be summarily dismissed – not even by ostensibly left-wing parties. Not when they could produce an expansion of the party’s electoral base. Labour need not fear the defection of their traditional supporters because, seriously, apart from the Greens, and maybe the Maori Party (both of whom are committed to coalescing with Labour) who else are its supporters going to vote for?

Certainly a new rule of this kind would explain why Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins were willing to announce a policy calculated to win the enthusiastic backing of public-servant-hating conservative voters. Their new rule book may even have recommended throwing such a sop to Cerberus in advance of the Minister of Labour, Michael Wood, announcing the imminent introduction of Fair Pay Agreements – a policy aimed directly at the party’s trade union supporters.

Cynical in the extreme? Well, yes, obviously. But that may be the key difference between the old Political Rule Book and the new.

The old book was written on the assumption that political principles are important, and that, accordingly, political consistency from political parties must also be important. At its core, the old rule book accepted that the game it was regulating was the game called “Democracy”. That’s why it enjoined politicians to put the convictions and interests of their core supporters at the heart of their policy decisions.

The events of the past week – so at odds with the old rules of the game – would suggest that not only have the rules changed radically, but so, too, has the name of the game itself. What our politicians now appear to be playing is a game called “Holding On To Power At All Costs”. It is predicated on voters having a smaller set of principles, and a larger collection of prejudices. A greater propensity to complain, but a reduced willingness to do anything more than post their displeasure on social media. Most important of all, it assumes that voters are rapidly losing the ability to act consistently from first principles; and that they no longer expect their politicians and political parties to even try.

This essay was originally posted on the website of Monday, 10 May 2021.


Wayne Mapp said...

Has Grant Robertson taken fright at the prospect of continuing deficits? Even when the economy is growing and has almost full employment? Maybe he has.

The idea of freezing Public Service play for one year for those between $60,000 and $100,000 and three years for those above probably has its origins in the GFC, when the National government did the same. Of course the difference was that it was a National government that did that in 2009.

One thing that it is clear is for most Public Servants it is not actually a freeze. Most people will progress up the annual scales within their particular qualification band, which is typically a 3 to 5 % increase in pay. Of course for those at the top of the scale it is an actual freeze, unless they get a promotion or a retention allowance.

However, this is much easier for a National government to explain than it is for a Labour government, particularly when so many public servants have been at the front line of the Covid battle. Nevertheless public servants should take note that many in the private sector have actually lost their jobs, or have had big cuts in income. Anyone in the tourism and hospitality sectors, which covers several hundred thousand people. Their new employment may be much less well remunerated.

Desperado said...

I believe this is the most politically naive government we have had, any success is due to causes ouside of themsleves. Luckily for them, they a governing the most naive populace we have ever had!

Tom Hunter said...

I'm glad that former National Cabinet Minister Wayne Mapp posted on this since Robertson's move would appear to be Labour becoming even more like National than it already was, which spells bad news for National in 2023 and possibly beyond.

Their new rule book may even have recommended throwing such a sop to Cerberus in advance of the Minister of Labour, Michael Wood, announcing the imminent introduction of Fair Pay Agreements

Possible, but it could equally be that, as Wayne says, Grant Robertson has taken a look at the deficits and debt and finally got the wind up about blowing more money on stuff, especially as he considers how much of the spending to date has produced nothing of consequence or, in the case of poverty and healthcare, seen things go backwards.

It is not a matter of being "Cereberus" or hating public servants to feel uneasy about debt building up while Leftists blythly dismiss concerns about future rises in interest rates. How long did anybody think we could keep going with near-zero QE? We've effectively been at it for more than ten years now, to the pont where, in the USA, even the slightest discusson of raising rates further causes the DJ to jump around like a live wire. That in itself should be a cause for concern, the stockmarkets in the US, and probably around the world, have become so dependent on the drug of created credit.

It's taken this long, but in the USA we're finally seeing the flashing red lights around inflation, for the first time in 40 years. That too, has been dismissed over the last ten years but it will also result in increased interest rates sooner or later.

Here in NZ the real concern is not around house prices that might fall, as desirable as that would be for young folk, but that a rise in interest rates could make a lot of mortgages unaffordable. That could, indeed should, lead to falling house prices as people sell to escape their debt, but I can't imagine any NZ government being willing to deal with the resulting fallout, both political and economic. "Rescue packages" will be in the wind - to help The People.

Maybe that's what Grant is saving up for?

Phil said...

The old political rule book provided for a consistent structure to governance. It has become impossible to keep tabs on what this Government are up to with the many ebbs and flows of major announcements and secretive agendas.

David George said...

I doubt there is a rule book, it all looks pretty incoherent to me but that's not so much what I find worrying.

We have, or did have, a sacred foundational principle: the principle of equality before the law and before God. Sometimes even foundational principles have to be questioned and, in extremis, rejected for the greater good. Remarkably I've seen no wrestling with this fundamental dilemma from the proponents of separatism in Labour. No sign of recognition or acknowledgement of the precedent set or the potential consequences of a what is being done. Once we choose to ignore this what other bedrock principles are to be so casually ignored?

"On that same day, observing one working on the Sabbath Jesus said to him: "O Man, if indeed thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blest; but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed, and a transgressor of the Law."

Jordan Peterson explains: "If you understand the rules - their necessity, their sacredness, the chaos they keep at bay, how they unite the communities that follow them and the price paid for their establishment and the danger of breaking them - but you are willing to fully shoulder the responsibility of making an exception, because you see it serving a higher good (and if you are a person of sufficient moral character to manage that distinction), then you have served the spirit, rather than the mere law and that is an elevated moral act. But, if you refuse to realise the importance of the rule you are appropriately and inevitably damned."
Labour choose to knowest not.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

One British MP apparently said something like – "There is a canyon between the government and the people." Couldn't agree more. At least between Labour and the sort of people it used to support. Interesting article in the Guardian today about this canyon.

There doesn't seem to be a grassroots effort from what passes as the left anymore – in Britain – in the US – in NZ. No wonder so many people don't vote, they don't see politics as remotely relevant to them. The number of young people I've talked to who claimed that "They're all the same" or "they never do anything for us". Some of this is mistaken, but there is a kernel of truth in there for working-class kids. If Labour left me, it hardly even impinges on them. The only kids I've ever come across who are keen on Labour were middle-class kids funnily enough. Going through their rose-coloured spectacle phase. And if Labour, or for that matter any other party doesn't grab hold of these kids now, the odds are they'll never vote. I imagine like most conservative parties National would be reasonably okay with this, but it's not particularly good for democracy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Of course for those at the top of the scale it is an actual freeze, unless they get a promotion or a retention allowance."

Good. Perhaps it'll put to bed this stupid idea that you need to compete with the private sector for good people. Perhaps now we can get some people actually believe in serving the people.

John Hurley said...

Any comment on the attack on the Youtube algorithm Chris. That's another layer to the free speech debate. On the one hand Taxpayers On Air produce "Long White Cloud" and we are hammered = positive liberty (them) but they want to also control what we watch in a situation that suggests "it's tinder dry - no camp fires". "A Still Tongue Makes For a Happy Life" Jacinda's NZ 2021?

Anonymous said...

All this kicked off in 2011 when Dame Sian Elias launched Generation Zero at the University of Victoria Law School.

It was a very weird launch. I was allowed to come but it was emphasised very strongly that the meeting was being held under Chatham House rules. And I recall someone saying something like Dame Sian Elias needed to be a little careful in her involvement.

Since then, these foreign-funded groups have proliferated massively and have been working in cahoots, on waves of foreign money, to prepare the country for the changes that are beginning to be seen and felt. They have captured media, civil society, academia, the tech sector and government departments. The large amounts of money at these groups' disposal, and the extent to which their activities have been coordinated, has largely gone uncommented on.

We need reporters and historians to work hard to determine who set these changes in motion, who funded it all, and whom it has benefited. I know a lot of those organisations seem Maori-led or have Maori names, but this is a coordinated movement from outside the country. These groups collaborate in a variety of ways, eg:

We seem to have a new political process developing whereby:

1. QUANGOS with some association to the UN and the sort of people who fund the UN (Rockefellers, etc) are elected to advisory roles or to committees in political appointments;
2. Those QUANGOs and individuals then appear on broadcast media and the press and on social media to push ideas of benefit to their funders, often advocating for total system change;
3. Legislation is drafted with deference to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals;
4. Those QUANGOS and individuals then make recommendations at select committee sometimes on policy they had some input in;
5. The public is ignorant but when some aspect of it comes out that might offend the majority of the public's sensibilities, people from those QUANGOS and other interested individuals pronounce harsh judgement to dissenters in the press and on social media.

In any case there seems less input by the public and more and more deference to international commitments concerning indigenous people, world poverty, and so forth. To UN metrics.

The government's decision-making process should reflect the public's interests and be in their interest and they must participate, no ifs, no buts.

But because of the media's dismal performance the public has been ignorant of this trend, and only catches flashes of how alien these plans have become from the interests of ordinary working people.

John Hurley said...

The point about the algorithm is transparency. Who/what content are we (without our knowledge) not being presented with/censored. You can't watch Jordan Peterson but here is Jacinda Ardern and fluffy ducks.
That was the system on Trademe Message Board. You point people to high status individuals and their role in postcolonial theory and you were mysteriously given a ban for breaking the rules (creating controversy on the Politics thread). It happens when they are blindsided (as Paddy Gower was blindsided by Stephan Molyneau).

Barry said...

The Labour Govt of the early 1980's imposed all sorts of major changes. Tomorrows Schools. Fired thousands of apprentices from NZ Rail. Welcomed Globalisation. Etc.
A thesechanges - on balance - have been either bad ordisasterous for NZ.
The current Govt are doing exactly the same. Major changes in all areas. Agreed many are still just announcments but they have gone into details in some of them.
I predict the same results - sooner or later they will prove to be somewhere between bad through awful and on to disasterous.
I predict optimists will be permanently disappointed while pessimists will have a happy life as they dont expect politicians to carry through on much of what they promise.

Nick J said...

Wayne is right to see the contrast between private and public sector wages. The contrast between those with and without job security is topsy turvy as private sector jobs have neither security nor higher reward. Traditionally public sector jobs paid less because they were secure. Now they have it both ways yet complain about a wage freeze.

Maybe this might send a subtle message to the overheated housing market... is there more to Robertsons method? Maybe Jacinda has understood that the former Nat voters who voted for her have private sector jobs and perceive that they aren't doing as well as the public servants.

oneblokesview said...

You say

""That they have come this far without enduring the horrors witnessed in countries overseas is attributed in no small measure to the public servants who have positioned themselves courageously between their fellow citizens and the virus.""

Very flowery but actually incorrect. Nobody positioned themselves between fellow citizens and the virus, let alone courageously.

To regurgitate what one of the USA's leading epidemiologists said about NZs response to the Virus.
They made some great choices.

They chose to be a remote island in the South pacific.
They chose to have a low population density
They chose to have the Virus arrive in late summertime
They chose to limit the borders.

Daniel said...

@Anonymous at 10 May 2021 at 14:26

Interesting. I didn't know that Dame Sian Elias was involved with Generation Zero.

I became quite interested in another little-known but apparently powerful group recently: the Digital Council.

Check this out:

There seems to be a strong crossover in terms of the people and orgs involved in the Climate Action Network and the Digital Council:

What's the link? The UN? Where does the Lina Network come into it?

The most important point is that these groups were at no point elected by the people and they've hardly been open.

What or who else is being kept under the bed away from our prying eyes under a mattress stuffed with dark money?

Democracy is a sign-off if we are lucky, these days. A frustrating part of massive investment plans that they will do their best to be rid of, I bet; probably by claiming the old democratic and rule of law system is no longer fit for purpose.

Jasper said...

Its called 'Populism' and 'Indentity' politics ... still.
Policy means nothing, that's why they're making it up on the hoof all of the time and the policy they come up with needs a very, very long incubation period. 30 years plus! Or about 13 election cycles!
They need a straw-man for they failure to implement and deliver so they need someone to blame and they've chosen the civil servants and the PSA union!

AB said...

Let's hope this is a sign that Labour is beginning to understand the need to shovel government-created money in at the bottom end of the socioeconomic hierarchy and then tax it out as it trickles up to the top - which it inevitably does. Doing this will produce far better social and economic outcomes than letting wealth divergence between the top and bottom accelerate. Maybe it's also a sign that Labour realises that being beholden to the comfortable/affluent centrists in its ranks is stopping it from fulfilling its historic purpose.

But I don't think either of these is true. More likely they are still trying to eat National's lunch and are therefore worried about the optics of deficits - even though they will understand enough of MMT to know hat deficits under these circumstances don't really matter.

AB said...

@oneblokesview. I'd be surprised if any 'leading epidemiologist' was this dumb.

They chose to be a remote island in the South pacific
No place is remote in the age of international jet travel. 12 hours from Los Angeles, 10 from Tokyo, 13 from Beijing, 10 from Singapore and 3 from Sydney. With a virus that incubates for 2 days. 4 million tourists a year, 1 million kiwis living overseas who come and go constantly. That ain't 'remote'.

They chose to have a low population density
NZ's population density is 5 times higher than Australia's. So it must be a real doddle for the Aussies then eh? Nobody is so stupid as to actually say that because they are aware of cities like Sydney & Melbourne. In our case, close to 50% of our population is in 3 cities, and while Auckland isn't New York, we do have serious overcrowding issues because of two decades of turning housing into a plaything of the banks and investor classes and the resulting asset inflation making houses unaffordable.

They chose to have the Virus arrive in late summertime
Seasonal variation does not seem to be such a factor with Covid-19 - nor in this climate is there such a huge difference between time spent inside or outside between summer and winter. Additionally - late March, April and May isn't late summer.

People can tell whatever lies they like about NZ's Covid response in order to justify the failures in their own countries. There has been a lot of that. but the facts remain. The single most important thing was Ardern's courage to tell business to be quiet and do as it was told - and thereby save its undeserving arse from far worse economic outcomes.

greywarbler said...

oneblokesview I look forward to seeing you lift your horizon from ground level sometime soon. Can you be a bit more uplifting and meaningful?

Wayne Mapp said...


I suppose to some extent it is an issue of political philosophy as to where each of us are on the political spectrum, and thus our views as the role of government.

For the last 20 years, the NZ government share of the economy is between 30% and 35%. Usually at the low end with National and at the high end with Labour, although from 2017 to beginning of the pandemic, Labour/NZF stayed pretty close to the 30% inherited from National.

The 30 to 35% range is the norm for Anglo economies. Western Europe is higher, usually around 40%. In NZ, each $1 billion is around $3 billion. The pandemic has clearly distorted the government's books, but the upcoming budget should show where Labour thinks they should be on the spectrum. I am picking government expenditure at 33% to 35%, so a significant increase from pre-pandemic times. Let's say an extra $10 billion of recurrent government spending. Probably $2 billion for increased welfare benefits, $3 billion for health and $2 billion for education. The rest is spread around various departments and ministries. There will at least $1 billion for increased debt servicing, which is well above the pre-pandemic trend line.

To go to 40% of GDP (above 35%) would imply another $15 billion recurrent expenditure. Obviously you can do a lot with that. But it also has to found. It can't be by borrowing, given that it is recurrent. It has to be found from taxes. It would be 15% more tax in total (income tax, company tax, GST, corporate tax, and I guess CGT).

That level of tax increase would definitely shrink private investment and therefore growth. Most Western European countries have lower long term growth rates than the Anglo countries. Their level of taxes and levels of government expenditure are one of the main reasons.

David George said...

GS: "No wonder so many people don't vote, they don't see politics as remotely relevant to them"
The thing is GS, they're mostly correct on that:

"The truth — and it’s an unpleasant one to face — is that nobody has a satisfying answer. But people prefer to have a clear answer, even if it’s an incorrect one. Take a look at the whole race problem in America. The stupidity of Kendi-style race theory — that disproportionate material outcomes can only be explained by racism — satisfies those who are looking for a clear, emotionally satisfying answer. But it has nothing to do with the real world. Take away all the non-black people, and all the rich people, and nothing changes — what then? If capitalism, structural economic injustice, and the bourgeoisie were the cause of poverty, then the Marxist countries of the 20th century would have been wealthy and successful. They were, in fact, hellholes.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe that we really do have to have more pro-family reform of our economic system, and an abandonment of globalism, to return social stability. Though I do believe that capitalism is, broadly speaking, the best system, because it does the best at adapting itself to human nature, I am not a pure free marketer at all. The market was made for man, not man for the market.

But I also don’t believe for one second that politics and economics are sufficient to solve a crisis that is at root moral and spiritual. There will never be enough money to satisfy the longing in the human heart for God, for love, for family, for a sense of belonging, and of meaning. You cannot have a society in which people feel free to live however they like, and expect that society to thrive. Nobody wants to hear that, though, much less live by it. This is one reason why I expect our decline and disintegration to continue — and when things keep falling apart, the search for scapegoats to ramp up in earnest.

I get why the Benedict Option is an unsatisfying solution. It’s not an ultimate solution at all; it’s just a strategy for holding us all together through the long night upon us. But what else is there? I’m serious: what else is there? Politics of either Left or Right can only ever be a partial solution to our problems.
Rod Dreher

greywarbler said...

Wayne Mapp - That level of tax increase would definitely shrink private investment and therefore growth. Most Western European countries have lower long term growth rates than the Anglo countries. Their level of taxes and levels of government expenditure are one of the main reasons.

You fail to think forward with policies that will be appropriate for our present time. What you quote is what has been done in the past that has brought us to our parlous state. We need to stop thinking and reaching for growth; their lies madness. Old man, can you not use your intelligence and knowledge and think out some sort of a future that the people of New Zealand can manage to grasp to guide us in our difficulties? At present we have reignited nuclear problems, bellicose nations on a hiding to nowhere except Space! And growth increasing the climate change we are already experiencing, with some making frantic efforts to save some aspect of the world that makes it something to marvel at. It seems that is all we are good for, watching coloured pictures on a screen, or going to stare at it for the satisfaction of being Kilroy, a nosey person Who Was There. Too close to Huxley's Brave New World in all its sterility, for comfort. (Incidentally he undertook a number of interviews to be found on Youtube.)

Your intelligence could lift you above the present humbug if you mixed it with some imagination, and you and any other experienced old men who did so, could rise above your prosaic pronouncements and give us some valuable advice before you trot off from the mortal coil.

Jasper at 12.07 I feel my thinking aligning with yours perhaps. This morning it came to me that political direction and decisions can go in two ways. One is the heroic, the 'Aren't we good seeing what needs to be done and stepping up manfully to do it'.

The other is the one that looks with narrowed, wary eyes at the idea/s put forward, and could be classified as considered and pragmatic, the 'What expected and unexpected consequences will this have? What problem will it solve, and what then create? Can we quickly patch up the created problem, or is it likely, with the information we know and what we can forecast, to grow into a chronic one bad for the country and bad for our mana?' It takes more words to outline the considered approach, and a 'deal' of time, but it would be time well spent; cost-effective in every way.

I think that Labour falls into the heroic mode and will go on doing so because of institutional addiction to this approach, which explains why they keep bumbling onto what appear to be righteous paths leading to the bright light on some hill in their minds. Then as you say They need a straw-man for they [their] failure to implement and deliver... The citizens sigh and say 'Will they never learn'. The above says they won't.

Anonymous said...

A silent coup.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

David, there's a meme out there which I cannot post on this archaic website but it goes something like:
Has no army.
Jailed its corrupt bankers.
Economy is booming.
Violent crime is rare.
One of the lowest crime rates in the world.
Atheist majority population.

There is no moral crisis, although they have been complaints about them since Roman times. There is not necessarily a longing in people's hearts for a god, and a sense of belonging you can have without gods. The most religious countries in the world seem to be the most crime ridden. The least religious seem to be much happier and better off, even if their growth rate isn't as tremendous as neoliberals would like. No one is ever suggesting that people should "feel free to live however they like." Rules are necessary for a just and peaceful society, but I prefer our rules to be based on secular laws rather than religious precepts.
I did a quick check of your man Dreher – he sounds like a minor monster.

David George said...

Thank you Guerilla, I'm not convinced however.

Spengler predicted that the failure of the Enlightenment would lead to a new search for that beyond-human truth. All of the theoretical edifices constructed by modern Western intellectuals to replace their old sacred order - liberalism, leftism in its myriad forms, conservatism, nationalism - had failed. Beginning in the 21st century, the grandchildren of the revolutionaries and the rationalists, adrift in a failing materialist culture, would enter what he called a ‘second religiousness’:

The age of theory is drawing to its end. The great systems of Liberalism and Socialism all arose between about 1750 and 1850. That of Marx is already half a century old, and it has had no successor. Inwardly it means, with its materialist view of history, that Nationalism has reached its extreme logical conclusion: it is therefore an end-term … In its place is developing even now the seed of a new resigned piety, sprung from tortured conscience and spiritual hunger, whose task will be to found a new hither-side that looks for secrets instead of steel-bright concepts.

When a sacred order collapses, despair can ensue, even amongst those who would not want its return, or who are not even aware what is missing. Day by day, more people are realising that our new sovereign, the Machine, is a false god, and we have no idea how to dethrone him. But the cycle of rise and fall is an inevitable part of the human historical pattern; and a necessary one. 'The passage from one cycle to another', wrote Guénon, 'can take place only in darkness.'

We are in that passage now; we live in a darkness between worlds. Macintyre concluded that the West was waiting for 'a new - and doubtless very different - St Benedict.' That was forty years ago, and we are still waiting, but it’s not a bad way to see the challenge we face. Modernity is not at all short on ideas, arguments, insults, ideologies, strategems, conflicts, world-saving machines or clever TED talks. But it is very short on saints; and how we need their love, wisdom, discipline and stillness amidst the roaring of the Machine. Maybe we had better start looking at how to embody a little of it ourselves.
The Dream of the Rood
Who sits on the empty throne? Paul Kingsnorth.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" In its place is developing even now the seed of a new resigned piety, sprung from tortured conscience and spiritual hunger, whose task will be to found a new hither-side that looks for secrets instead of steel-bright concepts."

Can't help feeling that this is nonsense. If it's true, why are so many people deserting formal religions? They despise what passes for piety. I must say though you do tend to read widely, from minor right-wing monsters to utopian idealists.

greywarbler said...

Very poetic David George - what GS quoted. I think many people are looking at the piety of historical religion and found it wanting. Today many churches seem more concerned about respectability; religion is just a word above it in the dictionary. So much talk and fine words by solemn conclaves of religious scholars, and not enough do. There is Calvinism with some adopting the idea that mere belief in Christ is all that's needed to be called Christian, without good works and good honourable behaviour required. If those last attitudes prevailed in our politics, we would have a nation we could be proud of. Try Agape and Storge and the change for the better would be exponential.

Going back to the Greek ideas about love, defined in eight different ways would be more informative about understanding what Christ and other religious leaders were promulgating to shape human behaviour and souls.