- Date published:
11:40 am, September 19th, 2010 - 23 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, Parliament - Tags: CERRA, christchurch earthquake, david garrett, gerry brownlee enabling act, shock doctrine
Naomi Kline’s Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism was written in the wake of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. It looks at how (capitalist) elites use moments of crisis to make power grabs while the normal checks are offline and/or the political opposition and media are swept up in a ‘unity’ mantra that prevents them acting to protect democracy.
“Believers in the shock doctrine are convinced that only a great rupture – a flood, a war, a terrorist attack – can generate the kind of vast, clean canvasses they crave. It is in these malleable moments, when we are psychologically unmoored and physically uprooted, that these artists of the real plunge in their hands and begin their work of remaking the world.”
We’ve seen this around the world time and again from Julius Caesar taking the Dictatorship for ten years after the civil war, to the Reichstag fire and the Enabling Act, to 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, to the imposition of fascist laws by the First National Government during the 1951 lockout. And, now the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction Act (CERRA, or Gerry Brownlee Enabling Act).
There’s another element to the shock doctrine that we’re seeing in New Zealand. Not only has National taken the chance to seize dictatorial power over the country, it also used the media’s focus on the earthquake to slip through things like the Foreshore and Seabed legislation’s first reading, which would normally have drawn far more coverage – particularly the conflicting promises made to iwi and pakeha rednecks.
ACT’s latest round of knives in the back is simply a welcome bonus for National in this context. The media’s attention has been further diverted to the point that most people are fully unaware of Ministers’ new powers. There is not a single article or opinion piece in any of the weekend papers that mention CERRA because they’re all about Garrett.
There has been no mainstream analysis of the Orders in Council that have already issued, including one that allows trucks to drive overloaded anywhere in the country and another removing Canterbury councils’ duty to ask to community before leasing assets or violating their Plans. The councils are not even required to consider the economic and social ramifications of their actions anymore.
The shock doctrine takes advantage of the human weakness to get swept up in panics, the ‘we need to do something, this is something, we must do this’ fallacy, and the cringing weakness of leftwing oppositions.
How can it be opposed? Only be standing fast and not being caught up in panic and fallacy. The Goffice say that if they hadn’t voted for the legislation they would have been pilloried for not caring about Canterbury. Not so. All they had to do was demand limitations on CERRA so that it wouldn’t be an enabling act – ie. make the power to amend legislation by Order in Council limited to certain Acts (not including CERRA itself), make all Orders in Council provisional subject to approval by Parliamentary resolution within, say, a month, and make it expire unless extended in six months.
If the opposition made a commitment to helping Canterbury but refused to back legislation without even these basic limits on executive power and National had grabbed them with a slim majority, rather than support of the whole House, then there would have been outrage at National, not at Labour. But the fear of blowback made the Goffice cower and vote for dictatorship, just as the shock doctrine predicts.
With the failure of opposition leadership, what can we do? We can arm ourselves and others with information. Tell everyone you know about CERRA and the unfettered powers it gives ministers’. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been outraged. Ultimately, the only check on power is a viligant, informed population who refuses dictatorship.
(hat-tip to Chris Trotter who told us to be wary of shock doctrine tactics in an article first published last Tuesday, just before the CERRA was introduced and passed)