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The Great Giveaway

Written By: - Date published: 11:23 am, January 31st, 2010 - 78 comments
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From where I’m sitting the Left will never be back in power, not because they will never win elections, but because the power game is over. The nation state as we know it is being slowly dismembered before our eyes, the leviathan of globalisation has one flank firmly grasped, while rapidly discohering communities of self-interest are ferociously nibbling at its underbelly, each mindlessly determined to have its own ounce or two of flesh.

The power started leaking badly about when Hiroshima and Ngagasaki cracked open the seams, and later when Thatcher, Reagan and Douglas used Friedman’s ravings to slap an intellectual veneer of psuedo-science over their old dream that greed really was good, and that the elites should own almost everything again… the innards of cohesive community rotted and oozed. It’s only ironically proper that a hollowed out society should have appointed hollow men to steer the hulk.

In most countries the political process is paralysed, a Mexican standoff between varied power factions none of whom no longer know what is even in their own best interests, much less the good of the people they contemptuously pretend to represent. As for ‘us the people’, we delude ourselves, we no longer want to know of  news that might prompt a sincere re-evaluation of our own personal privileges and comforts. We mostly prefer to believe ourselves just ‘not yet rich’.

We delude ourselves to be happy, yet the dosing rate for anti-depressants rises, we cannot have ‘fun’ without first ‘smashing’ our conscience into incoherence, being fed empty rushes of addictive fleeting thrills that trap abusers and victims alike into cycles of guilt, shame, social and mental breakdown.

We delude ourselves to be succesful, while the consequences of our collective stupidities accumulate. Whether it is CO2 induced climate change, peak oil/water, biodiversity collapse, uncontrolled WMD proliferation and use, a prolonged global economic Depression, or some miserable combination of them all… matters little.  Voltaire made it simple, “Man argues… Nature acts”. The truth is that victory and fame Monday to Thursday are nothing but hollow ironies if you and your children are all dead Friday.

How did we get to be so distracted, depressed and helpless?  Where exactly did we misplace our true capacity to act intelligently with foresight, to be creative, fulfilled and content? How did we get to believe that money, possesions and power would take the place of these things? Why do we measure a man’s worth by how what he has, by how much power he wields over those around him? Because of this belief we have for thousands of years been locked in a vicious game of ‘beggar thy neighbour’, now massively amplified by oil and technology, and ultimately played to the point where the outstanding, the primal reality of this world, is that the top 1% of people control more wealth than the bottom 90%.

And this gross extreme of wealth and poverty, not just the cause of  cruel, heartless suffering for so many, makes us all unhappy. As much as we want to pretend our small personal lives are good, there is an oft-muted voice in us that sulks under the pretence regardless. It knows we have been robbed of our birthright to be decent, wise, loving and happy, but for fear of loosing the meagre fragments of these things left to us… the voice remains silent. Worse still it locks us into failure; the planet simply cannot ever sustain the entire human race being ‘succesful’ on the same consumption terms as we define them for the top 1%.

What if instead we measured a man’s worth, not by how much he had, but by how much he gave away?

What if the lasting aphrodisiac was not power over others, but service to others? What if we valued talent and wealth not for what it could do for us, but for how it was used for those around us? What if it what we really wanted was… to give it away?

78 comments on “The Great Giveaway”

  1. How did we get to be so distracted, depressed and helpless? Where exactly did we misplace our true power to act intelligently with foresight, to be creative, fulfilled and content? How did we get to believe that money, possesions and power would take the place of these things? Why do we measure a man’s worth by how what he has, by how much power he wields over those around him?

    We toed the company line, thinking the company to act in our own best interests if we acted in its. We invested our intelligence, foresight and creativity while deferring responsibility to the state in exchange of a belief we could one day be the boss or at the very least share in the bosses profits.

    instead the company sold the masses/workers into state sponsored slavery and bought off the gov’ts while we were too distracted by localised tribal politics to see who the real enemy was and what they were doing.

    as for the left, gone are the days when socialism could through belief in action mount an alternative challenge to capitalism because the enemy is not the state and is not localised within your nations boundaries.

    where as revolutions in the past were conducted against the state in various places and governed by differing systems, now we virtually have one system governing the planet but we are still led to believe we don’t. still led to believe the enemy is an ideal and that on either side of this ideal there exists a right and left that is fundamentally in opposition. in as much as standard warfare tactics cannot counter assymetric insurgent tactics so can we not counter thru protest and demonstration the assymetric tactics of the corporate elites hiding behind the ideal.

    the key is to see past the mask, identify a physical cornerstone of the enemy and mount an assymetric attack on the system at its weakest point and in such a way as they cannot control its outcome should a critical mass be attained.

    for me that is the immutable and ubiquitous banks who act with callous impunity. crash them, make the accumulation of money worthless and the elites lose their power. in one stroke the playing field gets levelled, not just locally but globally. obama should have let the banks fail. when something gets ‘too big to fail’ it’s probably time to let it fail and rebuild.

    I believe the more you try to hold on to something, the more it will be taken away from you and if it is within your power to give freely and with abundance yet ask for nothing in return, then do so. it enriches your being moreso than being rich.

    in traditional polynesian society, the chief was chosen by how he would best serve the people not by how he could make the people best serve him and those who sponsor him. i think key, obama and most ‘leaders’ could do well by becoming more polynized 🙂

    • Bored 1.1

      I dont think we need to launch asymetric attacks at all. When the oil goes, the climate gets too hot and the population cannot be supported all that once was will not be anymore. Central collapse by degrees, its what we do for ourselves at the edges that really matters.

    • SHG 1.2

      Last time I checked, Polynesian chiefs were chosen according to how closely they were related to the last chief.

      • pollywog 1.2.1

        you might want to check the traditions then SHG but yes, blood will always have a major say though not neccessarily blood of the first born.

  2. Bored 2

    Red, that little diatribe nearly depressed me, but hey I have for a number of years been given the same treatment as one of those guys who walks around with a sign saying “repent, your doom is nigh”! All for just saying perhaps this oil thing, or climate thing wont last…..nobody loves a party pooping Jeremiah.

    More to the point bugger all people are prepared to believe what is true if it does not fit within their comfort zone (bloody hell Lenin realsied that, make it hell and they will rebel..). I gave up with dire prognostications except to take issue with one eyed idiots, my solace may be to watch and see the discomfort levels rise and see how they react.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      It was oddly enough written in two parts. It was started on back in late November, but I couldn’t finish it constructively. You are right, the party pooping Jerry is not a welcome guest… but unless I could constuct a valid alternative reality, then terminal depression would be the only sane response.

      What if the reality we have been living for all of our known history was a mistake? What if the popular notion ‘the end is nigh’ (sometime probably in 2012)… was a metaphor for the ending of it?

  3. Lew 3

    RL, I think this line of reasoning falls apart without your highly contentious interpretations of “the left”, “power” and “us”. I these derive from a somewhat rose-tinted view of the olden days which doesn’t really hold.

    For one thing, the seams didn’t start leaking at Hiroshima and Nagasaki: those particular seams started leaking with the Schlieffen Plan, and The Bomb was a crude but desperate attempt to seal them up again. It failed. But then, the alternative was worse.

    And this is what it comes down to: what are the alternatives? You lament the corporate-political power nexus embodied by liberal democracy and capitalism, and its atomisation of society into units whose democratic power is more or less controllable. I agree that it’s pretty bad, but I’d take it over the likely alternatives — nationalistic or communist totalitarianism, for instance — any day of the week. And so should you, because unlike those systems, this one gives you a chance — however slight — to change it.

    I suggest, if your major contribution to leftist political action is reading its eulogy, that you cede the podium to those of us who still think the game is worth winning.

    L

    • RedLogix 3.1

      I these derive from a somewhat rose-tinted view of the olden days which doesn’t really hold.

      I’d agree Lew, the old days were different, not better. The strident old game has been with us a long time, but interwoven with it was always another theme written for instruments of a mellow timbre.

      A cursory glance at all the major historic religions reveals one thread of the theme, (Acts 30:35 [Paul] In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”).

      An examination of many pre-Industrial societies, or even simply the love, devotion and sheer sacrifice many women have given to those around them all through history… all play quite a different melody to “Greed is Good” anthem of the capitalist circus.

  4. Hilary 4

    Get a copy of Raj Patel’s new book ‘The value of nothing: How to reshape market society and redefine democracy’. It is a stinging critique of capitalism, greed, the Chicago school etc, but is also positive and empowering, and talks about things like altruism – so it might cheer you up. He’s a former World Bank and WTO man so knows his economics. http://www.rajpatel.com

    • pollywog 4.1

      http://0books.blogspot.com/

      ‘cold world’ on militant dysphoria’ and ‘capitalist realism’. 2 books available by prominent left culture critical bloggers/continental theorists but still offering no “real ” alternatives…

      the catchcry being “it is easier to envision the end of the world than it is to envision the end of capitalism.”

      no matter what system of governance we have, the banks will still hold the balance of power.

      http://dissensus.com/showthread.php?10019-Lets-revolt-!!!

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        “it is easier to envision the end of the world than it is to envision the end of capitalism.’

        LOL… oh so true.

        @Lew. Of course we will still have to play ‘the power game’ for the immediate future. But it’s a bit like working your way along a clagged-in Tararua ridgeline; while your attention is mostly on the worrisome drop-off and your next handful of steps… every now and then you have get out the map and GPS to check you haven’t veered off onto some dead-end spur.

        • Robert Winter 4.1.1.1

          GPS? Eeeeh, luxury. In my day, we just fell off, broke both legs, climbed back up and fell off again.

          • RedLogix 4.1.1.1.1

            To be honest it was foisted on me by my daughter in a rare act of filial devotion, and while initially sceptical, I confess to becoming very fond of it very fast.

            (I have to add that said daughter expressed more concern about the safe return of her ‘baby’ than aged parent.)

        • Lew 4.1.1.2

          RL, the trouble with this metaphor is that, as I read the OP, you’re not so much concerned about keeping to the true ridgeline as you are pissed off and disappointed that you’re in the Tararuas and not on Pandora.

          Perhaps, if that’s not what you mean, you could elaborate on what you see as the way forward. Then, at least, I can mock something concrete : )

          L

          • RedLogix 4.1.1.2.1

            Well of course Pandora is wonderfully mockable; as are all stories. But stories are nontheless the repositories of our myths, fables, hopes and mysteries. Are you sure you want me to abstain, just in case you feel the urge to take the piss?

            Any society based wholly on a culture of giving, on theeros alone, would likely burn itself out. Our logical minds can think of any number of rational objections. But looking about us it seems evident to me at least, that an economy reduced wholly to markets is equally flawed.

            • Lew 4.1.1.2.1.1

              The point I’m trying to make, RL, is that I see little but nostalgic fantasia in what you’re arguing. A prime example is ‘looking about us’ and finding ‘nothing but markets’ when, as any genuine market fundamentalist will tell you, there are almost no purely free markets anywhere, and markets such as they are don’t control anywhere near as much as they should. Maybe there are more markets than you’d like, but that wasn’t the premise, and that’s the problem: the premises are illusory.

              There’s no sense that, for all its flaws, the actual world and its systems and realities are the only ones we have, and we need to work within them, rather than hoping for a world which doesn’t exist and never has, in spite of rose-tinted history, religious doggerel and naïve allusions to primitive times when all was peaceful and just.

              Myths and stories are important, but only if you understand that they’re myths and stories.

              L

              • RedLogix

                Maybe there are more markets than you’d like, but that wasn’t the premise

                Well that was the premise, that we know the price of everything, the value of nothing. The ‘purity of free markets’ argument never entered my mind; so where you conjoured that prize strawman from eludes me.

                There’s no sense that, for all its flaws, the actual world and its systems and realities are the only ones we have,

                Who made that rule? The world we have is the one we made. Therefore we can remake it according to what we value, what we believe in. Of course we must live in this world as it is now. Tommorrow I get up and go to work as usual. But without a vision, a sense of what is possible, there isn’t any hope of change.

                rather than hoping for a world which doesn’t exist and never has, in spite of rose-tinted history,

                In several places above I’ve said exactly the opposite and that has to be the feeblest argument I’ve seen from you in ages, but it’s late on a Sunday evening and whose keeping score?

                religious doggerel and naïve allusions to primitive times when all was peaceful and just

                It’s Sunday Lew; its’ the day I do doggerel for your sniggering amusement.

                Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but somewhere I missed what is is you believe in. What do you want Lew? Do you believe we can do better, that human nature is a mutable, improveable thing, that the system we have is not the only possible version of reality?

                Or are you really only interested in gaming the existing one?

              • Lew

                RL,

                The ‘purity of free markets’ argument never entered my mind; so where you conjoured that prize strawman from eludes me.

                I conjured it from the bit where you said “But looking about us it seems evident to me at least, that an economy reduced wholly to markets is equally flawed.” Well, yes. But that’s not what we have; not anything like it. So it’s continued-strawman, if you like.

                Who made that rule? The world we have is the one we made. Therefore we can remake it according to what we value, what we believe in.

                We can, but we haven’t remade it yet. And I’m highly dubious about any suggestion which involves discarding or abandoning centuries of gradual progress for a utopian fantasy, although …

                In several places above I’ve said exactly the opposite

                … I’ll accept this at face value. If you could elaborate on how your idea of realigning systems of value to better encompass generosity, charity, altruism, etc would work in real-live actuality, I would be most obliged.

                It’s Sunday Lew; its’ the day I do doggerel for your sniggering amusement.

                Perhaps you have misapprehended slightly incredulous scorn for sniggering amusement. I’m not amused, nor am I sniggering. I’m just slightly incredulous and a little scornful.

                Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but somewhere I missed what is is you believe in. What do you want Lew?

                This is a bigger question than can be answered in a blog comment, but in sketchy political terms, I believe in civil society; the ability of individuals and groups within civil society to pursue their own agendas; and the role of the state in facilitating and safeguarding that via broadly liberal democratic institutions. What we have is far from perfect, but it’s pretty good; it works. For me, liberal democracy (the political dimension) is the non-negotiable part of the system, and whatever economic system comes from this is largely a matter of debatable preference (though it they are not disconnected). So if you want to strike out into the great unknown, I exhort you to do so, and take as many with you as will follow — but where I get off the bus is when you start doing so at the cost or detriment of the system which permits this sort of fancy, such as the socialists who advocated a “more just” economic system at the cost of political justice. This was my original objection: that if you’ve lost faith in the liberal democratic project, you should leave it to those of us who haven’t. But you’ve disclaimed that loss of faith and I accept your disclaimer. I admit I’m very sensitive to and critical of utopian delusions, and perhaps I’m also just dense: I just don’t see how this is any more than dreamland. You want an economic system based on generosity. I want a pony.

                If this focus on actual, achievable political goals and above all, the maintenance of a system which permits the same is “gaming the existing system” to you, then I suppose I’m guilty as charged.

                L

    • Hilary 4.2

      Sorry wrong website. Of course .org not a .com. Spam word moral – apt.

      http://rajpatel.org/2009/10/27/the-value-of-nothing/

  5. that you cede the podium to those of us who still think the game is still worth winning.

    whats the strategy for winning and whats the prize ?

    re: peak oil…another distraction to keep the masses firmly under corporate control. if needs be we could convert to alternative energy easier than the powers that be would have us believe. it’s just they’re banking way too much profit for them to do so at the mo.

    • Lew 5.1

      whats the strategy for winning and whats the prize ?

      Winning; the present-progressive. It’s happening now. It might come as a shock to you, if you haven’t studied world history very much, that for the first time liberal, democratic, multicultural, tolerant, secular, environmental humanism is the political and cultural orthodoxy of the world in which we live.

      Unfortunately (you might say), capitalism in one form or another comes as part of this deal. This isn’t a down-side for me; it’s an opportunity to use human nature to humanity’s advantage, for a change. Yes; things are bad in many ways, but in many other ways things have never been better. The worst of all possible courses of action is to abandon what progress we have made.

      L

      • BLiP 5.1.1

        Progress may have been all right once, but it went on too long.

        Ogden Nash

      • pollywog 5.1.2

        the only progress worth keeping is the technology. such a pity we, as yet, havent evolved enough to use it wisely.

        so forgive me if i choose not to put my trust in human nature. it’s just not worthy.

        • Lew 5.1.2.1

          Why on earth would you think I’m suggesting the only progress worth keeping is technology?

          The most important progress worth keeping is cultural.

          L

          • pollywog 5.1.2.1.1

            nah…i’m suggesting technology is the only thing worth keeping and perservering with as our saviour.

            forget cultural evolution. i cant see we’ve made any progress if we still act like cavemen. if anything, we’ve culturally de evolved as our values have eroded.

            • Lew 5.1.2.1.1.1

              But we don’t still act like cave men. We don’t even act like medieval folk; or colonial imperialists, or cold war paranoiacs, or pre-AGW naifs. There have been monumental changes in culture, and they are almost all for the better. Not to say that it’s all bad, but my goodness, you can’t possibly be suggesting we go back to recognising slavery, white landowners only voting, international aggression in the name of religion, and medicine based on belief in the vital humours as the orthodox bases of society.

              Aside from which, you don’t get technological change without keeping cultural change, since technology derives from culture (or rather, is a manifestation of culture).

              L

              • SPC

                Technology change arises out of national direction of resources (“socialism”) and or ownership of copyright (private property). Is this the cultural order you mean?

                Or are you inferring that technology change does not require anything of the culture which created it – how did nuclear weaponry influence our culture for example or the earlier increased destructiveness of urban civilian areas by conventional weapons (Geneva Convention etc) or our ability to exploit carbon and hence pollute the environment.

              • pollywog

                you can’t possibly be suggesting we go back to recognising slavery, white landowners only voting, international aggression in the name of religion, and medicine based on belief in the vital humours as the orthodox bases of society.

                but we as humans still do all those things. that they exist in the world means they still exist for all of us. we havent eradicated any of it and when we get right down to it, WE as a majority still think and act like cavemen albeit with bombs and laptops.

                cultural worth is defined by its values. we value death over life, war over peace and money over love.

              • Lew

                PW, so as long as one person does something, we might as well all do it, because we’ve (collectively) failed just as badly?

                What a perverse worldview.

                SPC,

                I’m saying that technology is culture — that we created nuclear weapons, MRI, the ballpoint pen, the the iPad, the hanging-chad voting machine, the internal combustion engine, the php blog CMS we’re now using describes to a very large extent our culture, who we are and what we value.

                This wasn’t an ideological or political statement, just pointing out that if you ditch “cultural evolution” then you ditch “technological evolution” right along with it, and neither of those is at all desirable.

                L

              • pollywog

                as long as one person does something, we might as well all do it, because we’ve (collectively) failed just as badly?

                not at all, but lets not pretend the world is a rosier place than it actually is and that we’ve succeeded in evolving beyond our carnal nature.

                simple fact is, cultural evolution hasnt kept pace with technology.

                the world is a perverse place and perverse as my worldview might be, i’m betting i’m the future and that more will/do think like me than you 🙂

              • Lew

                PW,

                lets not pretend the world is a rosier place than it actually is and that we’ve succeeded in evolving beyond our carnal nature.

                Begs the question of human nature, but that’s by the by. I’m not saying we’ve “evolved beyond” nature; I’m saying that culture has provided a degree of social, political and material comfort and stability in much of the world that things are better than they were before. That’s not a very bold statement, if you think about it.

                simple fact is, cultural evolution hasnt kept pace with technology.

                Since technology is part of culture, this is logically impossible. Or if you’d like to argue technology isn’t cultural, then be my guest (though you’re up against some fairly big philosophical/anthropological guns).

                L

            • pollywog 5.1.2.1.1.2

              The trouble with philosophical/anthropological big guns is it’s culture specific and biased. They no more apply to some cultures than continental philosophy applies to southern hemispherians or that IQ tests are reflective of intelligence.

              big guns dont mean shit in the jungle unless you can kill your prey with it.

              theres countless examples of technology destroying native culture but as long as your culture is enhanced then fuck the rest eh ?

              lets just talk about how evolved kiwi culture is with it’s buzzy bees and summer barbies at the bach and pretend like the rest of the world doesnt matter.

              • Lew

                PW,

                Maybe we could employ a modern (say, 20th century) definition of culture — one which isn’t all about baches and bizzy bees and barbecues, or piupiu and poi and powhiri for that matter; and one which doesn’t talk so glibly about “native cultures” getting “destroyed” by technology. Then perhaps we could start talking about “culture” in some way other than linear evolution, movement from a worse state to a better state, or from a better state to a worse state. Evolution, as you’ll know, isn’t about “better” or “worse”. Cultural and technological change is too. Cuts both ways.

                There are just as many examples of technology giving “native culture” (whatever the hell that is, outside of the eighteenth century) what it needed to reinvent and perpetuate itself. The “native culture” of Aotearoa is one such example: steel tools and new crops brought by the early sealers and whalers facilitated phenomenal population and prosperity growth, to the point where NZ was supplying significant quantities of wheat to the colony in Australia. The same steel tools (and gunpowder weapons) also resulted in the Musket Wars, wiping out a lot of this new population and prosperity. Cuts both ways. But to pretend this constituted “destruction” of indigenous culture is idiotic: the Māori largely did it to (and for) themselves.

                But, hell, if you want to persist with your utopian primitivist ideas, don’t let me stand in your way. But, having some experience of actually living that sort of lifestyle, I’ll just let you know it’s a bit more complicated than you seem to think. But like I said: good luck. I really mean it.

                L

  6. Bill 6

    The space we inhabit is the one created at the juncture between our culture and the market.

    And it’s a pretty screwed up space.

    The old left wanted ( and it’s remnants still want!) to control that space through capturing the state and having the state supplant the market and construct a ‘station’ on the way to some other destination.

    And that created a pretty screwed up space when they were successful. (The ‘station’ became a terminus as it were.)

    Anyway, the question is: “Why do people want to control or modify the space we inhabit if the space is rank?”

    Surely an intelligent response would involve simply vacating the space…which presents us with a simple question of what vehicle we might employ to facilitate our escape.

    Obviously the many aspects of the political, cultural and economic vehicles that led us to where we are today can’t be a part of any journey to anywhere better than, or substantially different to, what we have right now.

    Which is where imagination, intelligent analysis and bloody good fun comes in…or not.

    • pollywog 6.1

      i’ve gone bush with a view to one day living off the grid.

      not a viable option for most but fuck it. it’s all about planning to survive the worst

      • Bill 6.1.1

        heh – going bush wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

        I was angling more at identifying the negative cultural, political and economic factors or dynamics that tend to determine, assert or reassert our present state of affairs.

        Hierarchy is an obvious component to many of our modes of organisation and reinforced through many of our institutions that has negative implications…. the power differentials; the inherent aggression and tendency to stagnation and inertia; the way that hierarchical structures are used to gain and maintain graduated elitist structures that assume an imperative that somehow rightfully subsumes and subordinates broader community or cultural needs.

        By rooting out expressions of hierarchical ( and other negative) components present in our organisational structures and habits and developing efficient and desirable alternative means to obtain the positive ends we desire we wind up being else where by default

        Or cop out, go bush and…..enjoy?

      • Lew 6.1.2

        You’ve “gone bush” but you still have the internet. I think that’s all that needs to be said.

        Well, a bit more, maybe. “Preparing for the worst”, etc, gives you a Montana Militia air you might be less than happy with. But all that having been said, I do agree with the sentiment: I grew up in the bush as a kid, in what sociologists call an “intentional community”, and still have intentions to buy a block of land and get somewhat back to basics. Good luck with that.

        L

      • RedLogix 6.1.3

        Aww Lew… plenty of rural places where someone ‘off the grid’ can still get a cellular connection. ‘Going bush’ doesn’t have to mean buried up the end of deep valley.

    • Lew 6.2

      Surely an intelligent response would involve simply vacating the space

      To where? Perhaps you’re a seasteader. That would surprise me, though.

      Or perhaps you mean metaphorical, ideological space. If so, the question is: how to do so without leaving a vacuum to be filled by those who would oppress you?

      L

      • Bill 6.2.1

        how to do so without leaving a vacuum to be filled by those who would oppress you?

        You don’t.
        Do you miss the point Lew?
        They, the would be oppressors, can fill the vacuum. We don’t do things the way they would wish us to do any more. They are welcome to the vacuum ( we’re not there).

        They are anachronistic nothings with no leverage at that point.

        Think of shamans and their power…. and our how our vacating the belief system they dominated left them powerless.

        The next depth or step of departure is to refuse to participate in the dynamics of hierarchy which gave them and present day shamans their power base.

        • Lew 6.2.1.1

          Ok. So your hearts and minds vacate. What about your bodies?

          L

          • Bill 6.2.1.1.1

            “That’s the heart of my question about bodies, above: what wopuld happen if everyone (or even 1/10th of everyone) started along this road? I’ll tell you what: before the crash land prices would go through the roof, the back-blocks of paradise would become crowded beyond belief, and there wouldn’t be enough horse shit to fertilise all the organic self-sufficient gardens. And who would win? Yeah: the capitalists, who have all the money and can outbid you for the land. And supplies you’ll inevitably need. And can afford to employ armies to defend their interests and business models.”

            Your making some assumptions here Lew. You seem to have some predetermined notion of a ‘road map’ as it were. If your road leads to hell, then you have to lay out exactly why that would be the case. Then you have the ability to alter the path the road would take ( heh – hate language sometimes) so that the outcomes would be different…pit falls and pot holes avoided and all that.

            Question I have is this. Just because people refuse to engage with hierarchical structures of organisation preferring instead to commit time, energy and imagination developing more equitable and democratic ways to organise life; why would that necessitate a mass physical migration?

            And if 1/10th becomes 2/10ths becomes 3/10ths, at what point do you reckon it dawns on some wannabe alpha hierarchical ape that the platform or structure he needs to employ to organise his army of oppression cannot be constructed due to lack of willing participants?

            Or put another way. What %age of a population engaged with developing, practising and refining truly democratic alternatives to the various oppressions we see expressed through the politics of race,class and gender politics would be required for that to become the new orthodoxy?

            • Lew 6.2.1.1.1.1

              Bill, it was a somewhat offhand example. But the bigger question is: at what point does the new society degenerate as the old society (supposedly) has?

              L

              • Bill

                Why would it degenerate at all?

                That can surely only happen in an environment of inertia…of no change or where change is largely discouraged. Like what we have now…where values and various examples of correctedness are set and crystallised.

                Degeneration is the falling apart of old certainties that held (or hold) everything in it’s ‘proper’ place.

                But a process of constant revolution (or social evolution if you prefer the term) cannot degenerate because it is always fluid and never set. There is no ‘proper’ place for people or thoughts, beliefs or whatever….just movement and change.

              • Lew

                Why did the society we have now degenerate? (and if you say “capitalism” I’ll point and laugh).

                I take a different view of what constitutes degeneration. To me, anarchism is a form of degeneracy, and this, I think, is probably a fundamental point of disagreement between us.

                The thing about small societies is that they’re more prone to individual pathologies than large ones; that is, large societies (especially democracies) tend to have many many checks and balanced to prevent pathological individuals holding power (or more specifically, to ensure that those holding substantial power have a well-known and understood set of pathologies which can be mitigated against). Small societies, for this reason, tend to be much more prone to degeneracy.

                L

              • Bill

                This society is tied to numerous set values and conceptions. As such society revolves around these and is unable to progress or evolve. And orbits eventually de-generate.

                To take a different example, the Russian Revolution degenerated at the point of state capture by the Bolsheviks. The Party became the point around which everything else had to revolve.

                I’d suggest that with just a little historical knowledge, a point where revolution stops and degeneration or stagnation sets in alongside a process of consolidation of power by the new elites could be identified for all ‘succesful’ revolutions to date. Because not one has turned away from this central notion of building organisation within hierarchies.

                What about anarchy is degenerate? Highly participatory and fluid methods of organisation are magnitudes of order beyond what we have now. Surely.

                As for small societies and large societies and your concept of democracy…

                I didn’t make any call on large or small societies. I can think of terrible examples of both large and small societies and I can think of not one society either large or small that has had a centre(s) or a pinnacle(s) of power(s) that has persisted. And I can not think of a single one that has not had to use various forms of oppression and coercion to maintain it’s power structures and its elite privileges. And I cannot see how any reasonable definition of democracy can fit with what are always oppressive structures of power….vaguely democratic practices as we have do nothing to disempower elites or empower us unwashed masses. Just look to the US at present as an example of that if you are tempted to think otherwise.

        • pollywog 6.2.1.2

          You cant lose if you don’t play. i chose/choose not to play the capitalist way.

          my idea of going bush is, fully self sufficient in food/water, heating, power and transport in some forgotten back block paradise replete with wireless broadband and fuck the cellphone. as it stands i have no reception now and love it. funnily enough my last job was building cell phone sites for 2 degrees and before that telecom.

          i’m already in the back block paradise of what could (when the shit really hits the fan) become a closed off self sufficient community.

          so when, not if, the financial system collapses, when money isnt worth the plastic it’s printed on, and the economic shamans lose their power, dont come crying to me 🙂

          • Lew 6.2.1.2.1

            Good luck, as I said above. I hope you have plenty of guns and ammo, because if it all turns out the way you think, you’ll need to test the “can’t lost if you don’t play” maxim, and it would be wise to have a fallback position. If you think it’ll come to that. I don’t, really, but hey – your guess is as good as mine.

            One other thing: this is all well and good for you, and perhaps your immediate family. But you needed capitalism to buy that land, right? And establish your self-sufficient community on it. And how is this scalable to a larger movement? That’s the heart of my question about bodies, above: what wopuld happen if everyone (or even 1/10th of everyone) started along this road? I’ll tell you what: before the crash land prices would go through the roof, the back-blocks of paradise would become crowded beyond belief, and there wouldn’t be enough horse shit to fertilise all the organic self-sufficient gardens. And who would win? Yeah: the capitalists, who have all the money and can outbid you for the land. And supplies you’ll inevitably need. And can afford to employ armies to defend their interests and business models.

            This is why political action — not inaction — is the only solution. The ball is already rolling. Try to stop it by obdurate will, and it’ll crush you.

            L

            • pollywog 6.2.1.2.1.1

              nah…no guns, no ammo but the neighbouring cockies would have, i suppose, and thats who i’m talking of becoming a closed community with, if needs be.

              and the land was inherited but if 1/10 of everybody started down this road it’d be like old time polynesia, which in my view is infinitely preferable to how polynesians live under capitalism now

              but just what sort of political action do you see as being the solution ? it’s like only the names change but the game remains the same. and what if everyone decided not to play ?

  7. Olwyn 7

    What you have said was well worth saying Redlogix, because such thoughts put forward an alternative standard, which, even if it gains just a little traction, might at least serve to modify people’s thinking about these matters. In fact there are probably not many periods of history when greed and desperation have been let to reign with so few modifying factors. Values like don’t be sexist, racist, etc, do not prevent people from being crushed by the powerful, they just remove certain justifications for crushing them. Values like eating properly and going to the gym are put forward as virtues, but they are all about the self and not the other. Christianity did not stop colonisation or the nineteenth century hounding of the poor in Britain, but it did give people such as Dickens an indirect platform from which to call them to account, since they were still nominal Christians then. At the moment, to hear someone speak of human goodness as if it might even be a candidate for mattering is like a breath of fresh air entering a humid, airless room.

  8. Lindsey 8

    Don’t forget the modern version of the opiate of the people. Not the old “pie in the sky when you die” variety with its encouragement of passive acceptance of the status quo, albeit with a few mutterings about camels and eyes of needles. The new christofascism encourages active participation in the class war on the side of the boss class. “Jesus wants you to be rich” they say and tell people that the reason they are not rich is because they are not “right with Jesus’. Getting “right with Jesus” generally involves active participation in a right wing agenda including voting for and working for selected right wing political movements.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      Indeed ‘prosperity doctrine’ is an appealing but false teaching, mostly used by the fundamentalist churches to market their product.

      But equally it is unfair to characterise the modern Christian world quite so narrowly.

    • BLiP 8.2

      If we were to consider the example of Christ, one would see that He threw the money changers from the temple – what did dopey ole New Zealand do? We elected a money changer Prime Minister.

  9. Jeremiah indeed. I haven’t done this in years but here goes:

    “Men (sic) make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an Alp on the brains of the living….” 18th Brumaire.

    Be angry, be thoroughly angry, but, please, this is our mess; we have to fix it. Miserable navel-gazing won’t help

    • RedLogix 9.1

      this is our mess; we have to fix it.

      Oh yes, as I indicated above this post did start out as ‘miserable navel-gazing’, but to stretch the metaphor a little, I’m mostly interested in getting off this bluffed out spur we are on. Given that carrying down into this increasingly dire looking murk that we are heading into is so unpromising, it’s not wholly unreasonably to check the [insert generationally appropriate navigational tool here] for where we went wrong.

      At some point in our past we blindly made the turn from gift-based economies to barter and market based ones. The question I’m posing is, “was that the right choice?”.

      It’s not such a pollyannaish question. Perhaps the most astounding developments of the modern era has been the lasting success of the ‘open software’ movement… an economy fundamentally based on the idea of ‘giving away’ your product. Absolutely nuts in terms of conventional market thinking, yet it works!

  10. ropata 10

    Morpheus “The truth is that you are a slave’

    Tyler Durden “Our great war is a spiritual war’

    In his essay “The Pleasures of Eating”, Wendell Berry argues that eating is an agrarian act and that something valuable is lost when we subscribe to the industrialized, consumerist view of sustenance. Although his essay is about food, his words could be applied to another method of fulfilling a physical need — sex. In fact, he draws a similar parallel in “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine’:

    It is odd that simply because of its ‘sexual freedom’ our time should be considered extraordinarily physical. In fact, our ‘sexual revolution’ is mostly an industrial phenomenon, in which the body is used as a idea of pleasure or a pleasure machine with the aim of ‘freeing’ natural pleasure from natural consequence.

    Like any other industrial enterprise, industrial sexuality seeks to conquer nature by exploiting it and ignoring the consequences, by denying any connection between nature and spirit or body and soul, and by evading social responsibility. The spiritual, physical, and economic costs of this ‘freedom’ are immense, and are characteristically belittled or ignored. The diseases of sexual irresponsibility are regarded as a technological problem and an affront to liberty.

    CAPTCHA: want

    • RedLogix 10.1

      Nice… it’s a wet Sunday here and perfect for this. Thanks.

      Something else I would like to read:

      The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property – Lewis Hyde.

      Reviewed here -JoAnn Schwartz

      Above all, Hyde is interested in examining the effect our current immersion in the market economy and the myth of the free market has both on our view of gifts and on our ability to give and receive them. The market economy is deliberately impersonal, but the whole purpose of the ‘gift economy’ is to establish and strengthen the relationships between us, to connect us one to the other. “It is this element of relationship which leads [Hyde] to speak of gift exchange as ‘erotic’ commerce, opposing eros (the principle of attraction, union, involvement which binds together) to logos (reason and logic in general, the principle of differentiation in particular). A market economy is an emanation of logos.”

      In a market economy, one can hoard one’s goods without losing wealth. Indeed, wealth is increased by hoarding— although we generally call it ‘saving’. In contrast, in a gift economy, wealth is decreased by hoarding, for it is the circulation of the gift(s) within the community that leads to increase— increase in connections, increase in relationship strength. Through this book, Hyde helps us focus on the importance of gifts, their flow and movement and the impact that the modern market place has had on the circulation of gifts.

  11. Good column RL

    The classic example that is happening before our eyes, Auckland Super City, where overworked and underrepresentative Councillors are already having their power ceded to faceless boards of directors who will make all the significant decisions.

    Even worse, Hide will select the first directors. Auckland local democracy is stuffed …

    • RedLogix 11.1

      At one level the amalgamation of Water Care Services into single unitary entity makes a lot of good engineering and operational sense that I fully support.

      The downside is that the motives behind this move are murky. Given the known agenda of ACT and Hide that Roads and piped water will be supplied on a fully commercial basis., the underlying suspicion must remain that Auckland’s water system is being packaged up for sale.

      And while we might argue the strictly economic merits of this, (and Keen refutes the neoliberal argument here) there is a deeper sense in which water supply being nothing more that another tradeable market commodity is essentially repugnant.

      There remains within us perhaps, a lingering sense that water is a fundamental gift.

      • Armchair Critic 11.1.1

        Don’t doubt it, Auckland’s water system is being re-arranged and the democratic element removed to facilitate the sale and privatisation process.

      • mickysavage 11.1.2

        I am sure there are sound engineering and organisational reasons for a unitary organisation. I have always preferred the chaos of multiple entities and owners because the confusion should prevent privatisation. We now have an alignment of the planets where organisationally and politically water could be privatised in the next 12 to 18 months.

        Time to man the barricades?

        • Armchair Critic 11.1.2.1

          “Time to man the barricades?”
          Yes.
          Though in theory there should be a whole lot of small water retailers to promote competition and efficiency and an open market and that sort of thing.
          I wouldn’t mind seeing the government do with electricity what they are planning to do with water in Auckland.

          • RedLogix 11.1.2.1.1

            The link to one of Keen’s paper above discounts that ‘in theory’. It’s a tad mathematical unless you have some background with differential equations, but the conclusion is eloquent enough:

            Contrary to the beliefs of the vast majority of economists, equating marginal revenue and marginal cost is
            not profit-maximizing behavior, the number of firms in an industry has no discernible impact on the quantity
            produced, price exceeds marginal cost in ‘‘competitive” industries, the ‘‘deadweight loss of welfare” exists
            regardless of how many firms there are in the industry, and instrumentally rational profit-maximizers do not
            play CournotNash games. Moving from Hollywood to The Bard, it appears that the dominant neoclassical
            theory of the firm is ‘‘Much Ado About Nothing”.

            • Armchair Critic 11.1.2.1.1.1

              “The link to one of Keen’s paper above discounts that ‘in theory'”
              Yes, I know. I should have made it abundantly clear that I don’t agree with the theory about promoting competition, efficiency etc. for water supply. Just pointing out the inconsistency in NACT’s approach.

  12. prism 12

    It seems that the right wing shift that is occurring generally around the world is hard to counter-act. The left wing however can be dogmatic and airily idealistic and even to them not all people are equal.
    It is noticeable how many countries are increasing their surveillance powers and their armaments. Belligerence from the USA, now supplying Taiwan with arms and so tweaking China their main financial support, Israel backed by the USA in action if not word in punitive attacks on the Palestinian ghetto, Fiji looking like Zimbabwe having learned the art of military control while overseas in the UN forces, Britain on terror alert understandably nervous about the ‘spiritual’ killers and the right to move freely without stop and search is going in a pseudo war climate.
    These countries with huge defence budgets can manufacture reasons for attacks easily as we saw in Iraq. I was reading again how the First World War started, and the story of Douamont Fort outside Verdun in France where they fought for a year lost 700,000 men just to hold their territory. We are populating too fast, so will provide good numbers for the armed forces as jobs and land can’t be found for all.
    I heard today on Nat Radio about fiji water. Most interesting – ever wondered where wealthy arms dealers invest their money, ie Khoshaggi spelling? also rich, right wing Bush’s – they get into selling water. Our politicians will probably sell ours from under our noses if we let them as the Fijians did. Apparently fw pay no tax in Fiji, and elsewhere they have offices in the Cayman Islands, the Bermudas, Luxembourg, those sort of places known as tax havens.

  13. Bored 13

    Good post Red, you appear to have atleast got them thinking…..perhaps they might want to ponder another thing for the ultimate party poop…..try compounding a 7% growth rate (thats what oil demand increased by per annum for most of the century…..do the maths and see how long it lasts if we are past peak…given we have used 50% already….LOL

  14. BLiP 14

    Great post.

    So long as our politics can be gamed by the elite, so long as we are kept frightened while our material needs are met, we will continue living inside this counter factual world of illusion. As the resources run dry, and when we become hungry and angry, then we will hunt them down and eat the rich.

    Until then – would you like fries with that?

  15. Outofbed 15

    Until then maybe
    Do you want lies with that?

  16. George D 16

    In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved and seemingly happy?

    I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.

    There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.

    Howard Zinn’s short essay The Optimism of Uncertainty on this matter is worth reading. I think he’s right – we tend to think that the rules of the game remain the same – they can change in a whirlwind.

    An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something

    And that too….

  17. ropata 17

    Psalm 73 is the antidote to “prosperity” preaching charlatans, the Religious Right and their corporate compadres:

    For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
    They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
    Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
    From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
    They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
    Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.
    They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?’
    This is what the wicked are like— always carefree, they increase in wealth.
    Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
    When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
    till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
    Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
    How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
    As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
    When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
    I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
    Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
    You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
    Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
    My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

    • RedLogix 17.1

      A very apposite quote.

      From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
      They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
      Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

      So Goldman Sach’s directors collectively pocketing bonus’s greater than the GDP of a small country were around in the time of the Psalmist too?

      • Bored 17.1.1

        Nothing new about human nature, a mere two and a half thousand more years of greed since this was penned….maybe a digital archiologist will find our posts and say much the same about the giant intergallactic megabanks somewhere in the future…more likely at the current rate there wont be any digital people.

  18. Thank you RL,

    It is posts and comments like this that make me love our species and keep me going.
    Party poop all you like just so long as it comes out like this. 😉

  19. ak 19

    Wonderful post and discussion (arrived at late as usual). Yes, optimism is the very essence of the Left – that elusive light at the end of the tunnel that has inspired all the struggles, long marches and cross-burdened climbs to the current Labour-lite/gay-black-femme-emancipation milestone of progression.

    Easy to forget how far we’ve come from the satanic mills and beyond – and the pace has quickened exponentially: the ideological impediments of the iron curtain and neolib experiments are fading fast – and most promising of all, thanks to technology the above discussion and sentiments will be gathering unstoppable momentum in myriad, far-flung peoples and places honed sharp and fierce by centuries of repression and injustice.

    Reminds me of an old TV saw: “anything can happen in the next half hour”. Relaxed to appalled at a single poll, angst to anger at the speed of a twitter.

    Nice post Red, but cheer up for heaven’s sake: the thought of a blogging Bluelogix really is depressing!

  20. Come on kiwi wastelanders what about some practicalities and intellectual grunt?
    http://newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=2818

  21. SPC 21

    “What if instead we measured a man’s worth, not by how much he had, but by how much he gave away?”

    Nice words – prepared to support a Capital Gains Tax on rental property investments? It’s only tax on unearned income.

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    The response by state house tenants and social agencies to the Government’s rushed plan to shift families out of Auckland tells us what we already knew – this is no answer to the chronic housing shortage, Opposition Leader Andrew Little ...
    1 week ago
  • Peace hīkoi to Parihaka
    On Friday a Green crew walked with the peace hīkoi from Ōkato to Parihaka. Some of us were from Parliament and some were party members from Taranaki and further afield. It was a cloudy but gentle day and at one ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    1 week ago
  • Children’s Commissioner right to worry about CYF transition
    The Government must listen to the Children’s Commissioner’s concerns that young people under CYF care could be ‘negatively impacted’ as the new agency’s reforms become reality, says Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern. “Dr Russell Wills has used the second annual ...
    1 week ago
  • Bill English exaggerates PPL costs to justify veto
    The Finance Minister has used trumped-up costings to justify a financial veto against parents having 26 weeks paid parental leave, says Labour MP Sue Moroney. “Bill English’s assertion on RNZ yesterday that the measure would cost an extra $280 million ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government must refund overcharged motorists
    Labour is calling on the Government to refund motor registration fees to three-quarters of a million Kiwi motorists whose vehicles were wrongly classified under National’s shambolic ACC motor vehicle risk rating system, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says.“Minister Kaye’s ridiculous ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 90-day work trials an unfair failure which must change
    A new Treasury report shows the Government’s 90-day trials haven’t helped businesses and are inherently unfair, Labour’s Workplace Relations spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway says. “The Motu report found that 90-day trial periods had no impact on overall employment and did not ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Massey East houses a start but Nick Smith should think bigger
    The Massey East 196-home development is a start but the Government must think bigger if it is to end the housing crisis, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “It is great the Government is finally realising it needs to build ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More changes needed to ensure fewer cases like Teina Pora’s
    Teina Pora spent 21 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, shafted by a Police investigation that prioritised an investigator’s hunch over the pursuit of credible evidence. Yesterday’s announcement that the government is to pay him $2.5m in ...
    GreensBy David Clendon
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Labour sends condolences to UK
    The New Zealand Labour Party is sickened and saddened by the murder of British Labour MP Jo Cox, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Ms Cox was killed in cold blood while simply doing her job as a constituent MP. She ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Shameful refugee quota increase still leaves NZ at the bottom of the list
    Minister for Immigration Michael Woodhouse announced this week that the government will put off increasing the refugee quota by 1000 places until 2018.  It’s a shameful decision that undermines the Government’s claim that it takes its international humanitarian obligations seriously, ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    2 weeks ago
  • Paula Bennett as a victim hard to swallow
    The National Party spin machine has gone into overdrive to try and present Paula Bennett as the victim in the Te Puea Marae smear saga, says Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “Bill English in Parliament today tried valiantly to paint ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Voters to have the final veto on paid parental leave
    New Zealanders will have the final right of veto on a Government that has ignored democracy and is out of touch with the pressures and demands on families, says Labour MP Sue Moroney. “Today’s decision by National to veto 26 ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Collins should put Kiwis’ money where her mouth is
    Labour’s Police spokesman Stuart Nash is calling on anyone who has received a speeding ticket for going up to 5km/h over the 100km/hr open road speed limit to write to him and he will take it up on their behalf ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Where is the leadership on equal pay for work of equal value?
    The gender pay gap in the public service is worse than in the private sector. I’ve always found this particularly galling because I expect our Government to provide an example to the private sector on things like human rights, rather ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Kiwis’ real disposable income goes nowhere for the year
    New Zealanders’ hard work for the last year resulted in no increase in real disposable income, showing Kiwis aren’t getting ahead under National, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Today’s GDP figures reveal that real gross national disposable income per ...
    2 weeks ago

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