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The irony of the confluence

Written By: - Date published: 1:03 pm, July 20th, 2010 - 7 comments
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There is a great review of Briar March and Lyn’s documentary “There Once Was An Island: Te Henua E Noho” at Reading the Maps called “A preliminary report on the end of the world”

I won’t repeat the review part here, but it is well worth reading and so are the comments.

However ‘maps’ has pointed out in his post, the great bit of political and social irony of having a documentary about resources, culture and climate change at the Skycity theatre this weekend.

Despite our best intentions, Skyler and I arrived at Sky City too late to join in the rowdy trade union demonstration outside the National Party conference’s Sunday morning breakfast. I noticed a couple of cops still hanging about the building’s southern entrance as we slipped inside – one of them was nodding sagely as the other made a series of vigorous motions with his arms, as if he were illustrating one of the more vicious moves he had used earlier in the morning on a protester.

The John Key fan club had retreated into a closed session, though one or two puffy-faced Young Nats hung about the bottom of the stairs, their delegate ID badges prominently displayed on their expensive Tory-blue suits. (Were they hoping that some stray journalist might mistake them for backbench MPs, and take their photos?) Next door to the vast room where the National faithful had assembled, overweight shabby men banged away at pokie machines which hummed and buzzed and flashed obediently, and slim, suited men barked orders at dealers, whose arms moved backwards and forwards robotically over sea-green tables, dropping cards and scooping up chips.

As we reached the third floor of Sky City, leaving the buzzing machines and barking blackjackers behind and walking into a performance by Polynesian dancers and drummers, I was struck by the incongruity of the location that Auckland Film Festival organisers had selected for the New Zealand premiere of There Once Was An Island: Te Henua E Noho, Briar March’s film about the people of the remote and imperilled Polynesian atoll of Takuu.

It would be hard to pick a better symbol of the decadence of twenty-first century capitalism than Sky City last Sunday, where National Party staffers on a quarter of a million a year salaries sat in well-stuffed chairs and discussed new ways of disciplining beneficiaries and the poorest workers, while nearby the psychic victims of previous attacks on the working class poured their benefits and low wage jobs into machines that robbed them with noisy efficiency. Was Film Festival supremo Bill Gosden perhaps trying to underscore the moral as well as physical distance between our decadent city and the pristine subsistence society of tropical Takuu, when he booked Briar March’s film into the theatre on Sky City’s third floor?

An excellent description of how I was feeling on Sunday. I was at the protest about the bloated advocates of slave labour in conference. Some of whom have been commenting quite explicitly here over the weekend about how they’d like people to be enslaved by their employers. Their advocate, John Key, was speaking at the conference. This resulted in police cars being strewn all over the area as a result of some kind of panic reaction to the largely peaceful protest, blocking buses and cars.

Then onto helping organize for the showing. This including trying to find edible food for Briar and Lyn which forced me into the bowels of Skycity with the desperate and their slot machines (first time I’ve been in the casino).

Finally watching a documentary about a people with few material possessions, who were having their way of life destroyed by the idiotic greed of the types of self-centered short-term unthinking people present at the National party conference.

The confluence of the various social and political themes was surreal. I felt like I was inside of one of the Gibson or Sterling cyberpunk near future novels. But this wasn’t science-fiction. This is current reality – delivered to you by the types of people at the Nat’s conference.

Anyway, back to helping to promote the documentary again (because I can and it is worth seeing) …

Wednesday July 21, 11.15am, Skycity Theatre

Sunday 25 Jul, 3:45pm Rialto Cinemas Dunedin

Tuesday 27 Jul, 6:15pm Paramount

Saturday July 31, 6.00pm Regent on Worcester
Monday August 2, 12.00pm Regent on Worcester

7 comments on “The irony of the confluence ”

  1. BLiP 1

    It would be hard to pick a better symbol of the decadence of twenty-first century capitalism than Sky City

    Biggest monument to losers ever built, towering over the heart of the mercantile Pompeii of Aotearoa like a phallic symbol in honour of its venal, vapid and vainglorious inhabitants. Fucking hate the thing.


    Bloody Wednesday!! At bloody 11.15am !! Don’t youse know there’s still some of with jobs out here – and I can’t seem to find a torrents download anywhere : )

    But, seriously, big congrats to Lyn and Briar. Hope it goes well and we see a wider release sometime soon. Should be compulsory viewing in every secondary school in the country.

  2. lprent 2

    Ah you missed out on the Sunday session. It is the film festival after all. At least you don’t have to do what briar and lyn have to do. Follow it around the other centers as well 🙂

  3. Thanks for the plug. There have been quite a few discussions on Reading the Maps about the lessons that pre- and semi-capitalist Polynesian societies might hold for the twenty-first century left, and about the late, still little-known work of Marx, which moves away from the technological determinism and Eurocentrism which still dominates much of the left and looks at ways socialism might be able to grow out of non-Western pre- and semi-capitalist societies (here’s one recent example of such a discussion: http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2010/05/first-white-marxists-reach-tuhoe_11.html).

    A society like Takuu, which is poor in material terms yet has an extraordinarily rich symbolic culture, and which appears static to outsiders yet is riven with internal debate and factions, challenges us to think in more subtle ways about notions of historical progress and of wealth. That’s not to say, of course, that we should all have to go without flush toilets and barbeques! I think that we have to resist the sort of sentimental vision of tribal peoples as ‘noble savages’, who live in perfect harmony with nature and never want to see their societies change in any way, because that vision comes not from the reality of societies like Takuu but from the self-loathing of certain Westerners.

    It was quite interesting to see how both the earnest young critic of ‘consumerism’ I mentioned in my post and the Oxfam rep who sat on the panel that discussed the movie both seemed to think that the way to save the world was to force working class people in the West to spend less, ie to get poorer. This insistence on austerity is, of course, quite in line with neo-liberal orthodoxy, as enunciated in the last few weeks by David Cameron and the Greek political class. I tend to think that, in the West and also in semi-capitalist Pacific nations, under-consumption is a bigger problem than over-consumption. And I was probably in danger of being a little high and mighty in my condemnation of Sky City. Although I do find the building profoundly depressing, it is worth noting that over the past decade and a half it has been the scene of an epic and quite heroic series of struggles by trade unionists, who succeeded in building a strong branch of the SFWU despite all sorts of intimindation. If the workers could run the casino it would be a more edifying sight.

    • loota 3.1

      Scott, you lost me in a couple of places.

      “The insistence on austerity” promoted by the neo-liberal orthodoxy is by no means aimed at the working (consumer) class. It is aimed at governments in an attempt to get them to cut back public service spending and social benefits. Quite the opposite to what you suggest, the neo-liberal orthodoxy would like the consumer class to spend and spend and spend.

      And since when was “under consumption” a big problem in the west? A big problem for whom? Corporate marketeers looking to beat each years’ financial records the next year, ad infinitum might be the ones who run into a problem.

      • Scott (Maps) 3.1.1

        But the effect of attacks on the public sector and the social wage is to depress consumer spending – and the right is prepared to tolerate this, in the name of a quixotic Hoover-style desire to balance the books (whatever happened to Keynes and the lessons of the Great Depression?) and restart the business cycle, and because it likes any excuse to have a crack at the public sector. Underconsumption is a big problem this winter for a lot of Kiwis who can’t consume enough power to warm their houses properly, can’t consume enough at the supermarket to give their kids everything they need, and so on. To present consumption as a bad thing, and a desire to consume as the motor that sustains capitalism, as too many bourgeois Grey Lynn environmentalists do, is to misunderstand the system and to unwittingly line up with the right.

        In parts of the Pacific where a hybrid economy composed of capitalist and pre-capitalist modes of production exists, ‘raids’ on the environment are often used as a way of supplementing wages which fall below starvation levels. People who have moved away from their land and become workers, but aren’t able to consume at the supermarket because their pay is so pitiful, head for the bush, poach birds and animals, grab a bit of timber to flog off, and so on. In other cases they might grab some land to which they have an entitlement back in the village, bang in some cash crop like mangos or squash, throw a lot of fertiliser into the mix, and make a quick harvest and a quick buck supplying an export market, without thinking about the rellies who have to try to use the same land next year for subsistence purposes (I know this was happening in Tonga). The failure of capitalism to provide a decent income so that Third World workers can consume in the capitalist economy leads to a lot of environmental problems.

        I’m all for increased consumption, in the Third World and the West. I don’t see how one can support organisations like trade unions, which aim to increase the buying power of workers, without being in support of increased consumption.

  4. Gosman 4

    “This resulted in police cars being strewn all over the area as a result of some kind of panic reaction to the largely peaceful protest”

    Do you not see a liitle problem with that statement?

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