The neo-liberal, desperation and determination

To Brian Easton on Pundit

Hi Brian,

Good to look at policy and results on the subject of inequality.   But also the larger cultural / historical context can enlighten and alter the discussion about it.

Globally, the neo-liberal imperative pushing back egalitarianism began to take a hold in the eighties after two decades of revelation about existential threats to civilisation, primarily under the heading of ecosphere desctruction (climate change) and nuclear weapons, which exposed the centruries long (or millenially long) exploitation approach to be unsustainable.

Some anthropologists (e.g. Jared Diamond) have suggested that societies past have reached such an existential crisis, sometimes choosing to change to survive while others have decided they’d rather hold on to their world view.  The neo-liberals I would suggest recognize that the challenge to their world view is planetary and has a feeling of finality about it this time.  Money being what it is to our exploitation culture, there is a thrust to accumulate greater and greater wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer entities (corporations, individuals) as a way of bringing the cutural history of their world view to a some sort of glorious conclusion, approaching a sort of economic sigularity if you will.


Remember Alfred E Newman?

In response to Daily Kos article on Trump calling Pete Buttigieg, “Alfred E Newman.”

Ironically, Alfred E Newman, comic character from Mad Magazine, ran for president in 1980 (put forward during the campaign by Mad Mag, anyway, though perhaps didn’t make it officially onto any ballots).  And he won!  Well in effect he won.  Newman was the “What, me worry?” character which was perfect for his time as it was after the 60’s and 70’s when so many fundamental challenges emerged that people started turning off to those realities.  Ronald Reagan was the ‘what, me worry’ candidate and he won (two terms!)  The USA for one has never recovered from that.  Donald Trump is the political/cultural grandson of Reagan so has been the perfect candidate in the Post Truth Era.  “What, me worry” has morphed into the more  dangerous “Post Truth Era” as the truth and seriousness of those challenges has become widely, almost universally, understood, inducing widespread denial in order to cope.

Response to post from A.C. Stark, UK, on the need for fundamental change

Another great post, A.C.   Read the rest of this entry »

Post from A.C. Stark, UK

First, Rebel Against Yourself.

In Owen Jones’ recent interview video with Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam criticises the political ‘left’ as having been perpetually dishonest about what economic action is required to mitigate the climate breakdown and what cultural changes this will necessitate. He contends that the ‘left’ have become so embroiled, so entrenched in the (conceptually politically right-wing) neoliberal ideal they are unable to conceive of human life “in anything other than cost-benefit, materialistic terms”. Their proposed resolutions have therefore assumed that market forces are enough to tackle climate change: business as usual WILL work, it just needs tweaking! They were wrong, whilst Roger is correct: The ‘left’ – the supposed political guardians of justice and equality – have fundamentally failed to realise that at the very heart of any suitable action to mitigating the climate breakdown requires a redefinition and restructuring of our society and economy. Just like all life on this planet, justice and equality depend upon this for their survival.

It can feel as though we need to go through our very own personal extinction in order to prevent a global one.

So, the political ‘left’ need to become Left again. For many of us, this has long been clear to see. Thankfully, it appears that they’re (just) starting to see the light. But we, and they, need to be clear about what the necessary changes in our society will require of us culturally and personally. Roger was unequivocal about this. It requires us to accept, moreover embrace, lower standards of living. For freeing ourselves from our capitalist indoctrination involves repudiating everything tied up in capitalism’s tautological relationship with growth. So we must retract from our supposed inter-generational contract with every consecutive generation to give them a better standard of living than the previous (I say ‘supposed’ because I’ve never seen nor signed this thing). It’s a faulty contract, the objectives of which cannot be sustained by virtue of its very design. We pursue its fulfilment in vain, and at what price? At best, the end of civil society, justice and equality; at worst, the end of human existence altogether.

Therefore, we need to redefine ourselves, every one of us; we need to change our expectations of what life entails. Reducing our standard of living involves changing a whole host of our own personal life-defining ideas. We need to be willing to fully extend the service life of everything we own, instead of repeatedly repurchasing unnecessary replacements. We need to re-skill ourselves so as not to be reliant on corporate manufacturers. We need to be canny, creative and imaginative. And we can be! We must reuse, recycle, repair and adapt our clothes again and again and again, until they are literally unusable as objects of clothing; and then up-cycle them into rags and quilts. We must re-green and re-wild our concreted areas, reconnect with the wilderness, walk upon, re-learn, appreciate and cultivate our privately owned microcosmic lands. We must localise ourselves (without vulgarising ourselves into xenophobes), so that we can walk, push or cycle ourselves to work, the grocer, to our friends and families. Concede that animal husbandry is one of the greatest causes of environmental degradation, and thus accept that meat ought to be reserved for special occasions, or better yet not be consumed at all. Accept that we needn’t pollute our drains with noxious chemicals when we wash ourselves and our possessions; realise that we needn’t shower every single day in order to be sanitary.

And this needn’t amount to austerity as we currently understand it – as a degrading, unrelenting existence at the margins of civilisation, wherein nothing possesses beauty or meaning. Kings and queens of empires old had austere lives compared to many of us. Ingenuity in practical utility can be appreciated in aesthetic terms. Yes, the story, the history and destiny, and the scars of our possessions can cause us to marvel over them, giving them aesthetic merit. Further still, in the process of changing ourselves, our conceptions of objective perfection will entirely evaporate, but the ‘civil’ part our civilisation will not. THAT is what we are doing this for. There is meaning in all this. So, don’t mistake reduced ‘living standards’ for reduced ‘quality of life.’ They are very different things. Happiness and contentment are in this imagined society, and can wholly be found in the process of transitioning to it.

I’ve said it before: the changes required will not be easy. We will all experience some strife in the process of challenging and changing ourselves. I’ve experienced it myself, and last week I met many people at the Extinction Rebellion protests in London that had, are or were beginning to experience their own internal mental rebellions: I am not you anymore, I am someone else; I wish there was another way but there isn’t, so leave me be! This internal, somewhat subconscious self-rejection is relentlessly tiring because redefining ourselves, re-finding ourselves is a tortuous task. There is no physicality to this kind of lost-ness; we are truly alone in an ethereally grievous mental-state. Those who’ve experienced it may now know very little about who they are, but they have realised that our self-image is inextricably bound up in our culture, and that culture has been hogtied by a now rotting politico-economic system. For us, denouncing this system is like pronouncing in the 19th century that “God is dead”. It can feel as though we are left in possession of nothing, yet still have everything to lose. It can feel as though we need to go through our very own personal extinction in order to prevent a global one.

Yet there is something that keeps us going. There is hope. There is solidarity and love. More importantly, there is a new social contract to draw up, and quickly. Its objectives may just about be attainable, if we really try; if we continue to rebel. This contract won’t catalyse injustice, inequality and global extinction. No, neither will this contract aspire to give our future generations a better standard of living. Instead, it will aspire to give them life. No luxuries. Just food to eat and air to breathe. In essence, that’s all Extinction Rebellion are asking for: that we allow our children to live.

Viva la Rebellion.

A.C. Stark

‘No Name’ of killer is dangerously close to the non-person attitude of the killer towards the people in the mosques.

The Editor,  The Dominion Post

Wellington,  21 March, 2019

Hello The Dom Post,

Dom Post blogger Nureddin Abdurahman (Victoria Masters student and taxi driver, 21 March) says he has long felt categorized in Wellington as the ‘exclusion combo’ of black, refugee (Ethiopia, 2008), and Muslim. Yet he says his Islamic faith being an inclusive faith leads him to see that the Christchurch mosque killer is still a ‘brother in humanity’. Read the rest of this entry »

Danielle McLaughlin misses on the Brazil election and ‘corruption’

The Editor, The Sunday Star Times,  Auckland,  08 January, 2019


Attn: Danielle McLaughlin

Dear Editor:

Danielle McLaughlin’s look at ‘populism’ (30 December) repeats a careless misinterpretation of the Brazilian election. The Workers Party was not accused of corruption in the sense of money corruption.  There was no evidence, or even any clear accusation, of individuals of the Workers Party benefiting financially.   By contrast the opposition (victorious) party had several prominent members in court defending such money corruption charges.  So you have it precisely backwards.  Very careless of you.  Might you look to clarify this in your column?

The kind of ‘corruption’ which the opposition was referring to is similar to references by Donald Trump who you so frequently discredit. So there is an inconsistency there in your characterization of ‘corruption’.   The kind of ‘corruption’ which Trump and Bolsonaro are referring to is the use of public money for public projects; they have similar ideas of what public money should be used for, with less tax on the rich.  This has traditionally been viewed as a political contest.  But to the desperate right wing, which knows their ideology is dead in a world searching for sustainability, it has become a pseudo-religious contest of existential threat, hence they grasp the term ‘corruption’ for themselves.


Richard Keller


Objection to my QV valuation

29 Nov, 2018

QV,  Private Bag 39818,  Wellington Mail Centre,  Lower Hutt 5045

Hello QV,

This is a letter of objection to my property Rating Valuation received November, 2018. Read the rest of this entry »