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This is not the revolution

Written By: - Date published: 6:50 am, March 21st, 2020 - 61 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, health, health and safety, jacinda ardern, uncategorized, workers' rights - Tags:

My impression at the time of the September 11th 2001 attacks was that the surface of the world had been forced to open up in a long weighty fissure, but was ready to close shut really hard. The revolutionary drive from that was the more complete takeover of U.S. public policy and public agency by the military and military intelligence.

But further back in time, the collapse of the Soviet empire from 1989-1991 felt like developed society had successfully absorbed a long political sickness into itself to let itself gradually recover. The revolutionary drive there was to neuter the entire modernist political drive of the left across Europe – apparently permanently.

But even further back in time than that, for those who can remember the early 1980s, and New Zealand’s great cresting wave of feminism, Maori land rights, the peace movement, anti-racist movements, and ecology, it felt like we had successfully reinterpreted all that United States and British forms of liberation and turned it into something specific to us. The revolutionary legacy of that has been the most important legislative and political shifts in our society since the Depression.

Each apparent rip in the fabric of the world generates its own space, with its own time limit, volume, malleability, and texture to name and operate within.

Bernie Sanders has been using the phrase “political revolution” when to the United States’ own historical mind that means bloody and protracted war. It is now a phrase and a man cruelly out of step with political fate.

In this particular moment of March 2020, the space of revolution we are left with is so small as to be more of the scale of a personal piety than a societal change. That state has acted with utmost speed to sustain the whole of society, and on such a scale that the rebuild of Christchurch from the 2010-2016 earthquakes is just a pallid practise run.

There are no marches this time. No manifestos: just official public policy statements and official public debt. No need for thought when the state has thought it all through for us, and installed and executed it in a deepening series of managed authoritarian moves.

This makes right now one of the most conservative historical moments I can think of. I’m not complaining; reforming political forces have long since run out of steam, so the natural instinct is to preserve that which the left has gained for society as long as possible. And I sure ain’t complaining about the Prime Minister’s leadership.

We are by collective will an collective force now synchronized for national preservation for the remainder of the year at least. The scale of the national effort in infrastructure, and the full collapse of tourism as our largest industry, means that this moment forcefully defines our destiny for several decades.

In some other parallel revolutionary moment we would have the spare time to turn off the television and devices, turn across the fence to our neighbours and engage as if the entire industrial world had just rapidly de-accelerated, learn new hobbies and plant seeds like they meant something. We had the actual human width to learn life again. We could walk the streets as free people with free time.

That was the kind of moment the French engaged with during the general strike of 1968. Even without retrieving the bundle of yellowed newspapers from the top shelf of the University of Auckland archives, it is easy to re-imagine the night of May 10th 1968 in Paris.

As the riots calmed and May turned to June, workers and students won some changes. The elections swept de Gaulle and his supporters back into power. For two astonishing weeks in May, an entire nation had been caught up in a frenzy of self-examination. There were no newspapers or schools or even much work or the rubbish collected, or indeed much at all of daily repetitive life. Committees were formed to restructure secondary schooling, the university, the film industry, the theatre, the news media.

The objectives were self-management by workers, a decentralization of economic and political power, and participatory democracy at the grass roots. The effect was like a spanner stopped the machine of the world and the French could see things again, afresh.

The great fear was that contemporary state-managed capitalism was capable of absorbing any and all critical ideas or movements and bending them to its own advantage. “Be realistic: demand the impossible!”, was the slogan that sought to shock the establishment beyond its absorptive capacity. This was what the French Frankfurt Marxist herbert Marcuse wrote in his 1972 book “Counterrevolution and Revolt”. He was seeking to define a moment of the left that conserved reformation even as the gates of the world shut hard again. Absorb it did.

This is certainly not one of those moments.

Maybe this current moment will – as it did during the oil crisis – push a few survivalists into the peripheral countryside.

It’s more likely that there is no space in 2020 for any kind of revolution at all. Not even a moments’ personal growth.

This is not the revolution.

61 comments on “This is not the revolution”

  1. RedLogix 1

    It's well understood that disease and the 'behavioural immune system' are strong linked.

    The BIS has implications for social interactions and intergroup attitudes. As long as humans have lived in groups, they have shared diseases. Other people, especially outgroup members who may harbor novel pathogens, are potential sources of infectious disease. As such, Schaller and Duncan (2007) have argued that the BIS should encourage individuals to prefer ingroup members over outgroup members. Indeed, researchers have demonstrated that the BIS as indexed by PVD is correlated with negative attitudes toward outgroups including individuals who are disabled, obese, or foreign

    • Ad 1.1

      We are about as deep into the amygdyla as we've been for a while.

      The number of people we can cover with both love and protection is shrinking by the hour.

      And yet the degree of assent we are required to surrender to higher and higher powers – by the day – shows no sign of battlement yet. The state is now a pure saviour, particularly when it has expanded like ours has across so many fields and so fast.

      Hanna Arendt had a useful note on this distance here:

  2. Sabine 2

    yeah, nah.

    i never met a cautious conservative. Not once. They are the ones that want no regulations, no limits, drill baby drill, etc etc etc, nothing cautious nothing conservative about that.

    so yeah, nah, nah,.

    • Ad 2.1

      Awesome contribution there. Shows a real depth of understanding.

      • Sabine 2.1.1

        well, the problem is that 'conservatives' the world over have defined 'conservatism'.

        and those that describe themselves as 'conservatives' are not. You might not like my contribution, but you also dont refute it. So go figure.

        If at all, it is time to go full socialism, because the reign by the conservative rich tax avoiders is to some extend what got us here …..Tax avoidance, defunding of the health care systsem, underfunding of pharmac and so on and so forth. This is modern consercatrism. I am sorry if that upsets you. But that is what it is.

        We need socialism. Not conservatism.

        • Ad 2.1.1.1

          We're not doing socialism in the Attlee form, nor state socialism in the Bismarckian form, nor the Norwegian or Dutch forms.

          We are being conservative because we are conserving institutions that are sustaining us. This government is re-strenthening every single social arm of the state, but that' a long long way from socialism.

          I don't think we yet have a political name for what is going on.

          • weka 2.1.1.1.1

            Agreed about the naming.

            Lot of lefties will react to the word conservative because of big C (right wing) political conservatism. But we have a strong culture of Conservation in NZ (i.e valuing and protecting), and there's always a conservative/radical spectrum no matter the party politics. In that context conservative can be useful.

            Haven't had time to read your post properly yet, but appreciate the deep thinking.

            • KJT 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Correct. True conservatives want to keep what works.

              • weka

                that's a really good way of putting it.

                • KJT

                  If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Is an excellent maxim in my book.

                  The corrollery to this is, if it is broken, fix it.

              • Incognito

                There’s a conservative lurking in all of us but my cynical take on my own inner conservative is this:

                If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it because it might work better or differently.

                If it is broken, fix it, keep it, and don’t change it, under no circumstances.

                If it is still working, keep it working, for ever.

                If it ain’t working no longer, put it in a prominent place (e.g. a museum or your fond and nostalgic memory) to remind ourselves how well it worked and how wonderful things were in the past.

                Visit museums and memory lanes on a regular basis and reminisce (dwell) about the good old times.

                Send Christmas cards every year to every Devil you know.

              • Robert Guyton

                "What works"?

                For them?

                For the status quo?

                Environmentally destructive industrial agriculture "works" for those who profit from it – that is, the old-guard land-owners – the "conservatives" – what ever cements-in dominance and control, profit and privilege, "works" for the "true conservatives".

          • KJT 2.1.1.1.2

            If that, is not, "socialism, then what is?

          • bill 2.1.1.1.3

            I don't think we yet have a political name for what is going on.

            Liberalism – desperately flailing.

        • bill 2.1.1.2

          Here's Saagar Enjeti, a conservative, on the regressive nature of the Republican Party's relief package.

          For what it's worth, when left and right are positioned in a social democratic framework, the terms can make sense. In a liberal framework – ie, a framework that denies class and that elevates individual notions of identity, there are only degrees of liberalism.

    • CrimzonGhost 2.2

      Right On!

  3. SPC 3

    It should be, for government to take on all the debt to bail out capitalism from a pandemic after the GFC (which undermined the will to deal with GW because of the economic cost), would result in hardship across a generation (that only Greece and to a lesser extent Italy have endured till now).

    Social credit, money issued by government to government, without debt.

    If the 1% of capitalism do not like it? So what.

    • Ad 3.1

      If the answer is: The Government, the question is not revolution.

      • arkie 3.1.1

        Would you prefer the corporate term of art: Paradigm Shift?

        • Ad 3.1.1.1

          I would prefer this not to happen to my country at all.

          We don't yet have a concept for what is happening to government now. We're reaching back to prior to WW2 and still the precedents are too awkward.

          • Drowsy M. Kram 3.1.1.1.1

            Interesting observation that pre-WW2 precedents are too awkward.

            Presumably that is because we have changed our numbers, our behaviours and/or our environments. Viruses (and microbes) are well-placed to exploit the opportunities offered by (excessively) high-density human populations – they appear to be comparatively simple, but can 'learn' too in their own way.

            So we can expect more (overlapping) challenges of this type – best to be mindful of limits as we plan for 'recovery'. ‘Dig for victory‘, and all that…
            https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/garden/103311926/dig-for-victory-new-zealands-world-war-ii-gardens

            https://garryrogers.com/tag/limits-to-growth/
            https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/moving-away-progrowth/
            The current economic system being utilized and internalized relies on perpetual growth. It has long operated counter to the reality that we are confined to a finite planet with finite resources. Yet, this system continues to be practiced and promoted globally. As the environmental and social repercussions of disbelief in limits become increasingly clear, so does our need for a new economic system —one that is not wedded to growth. Neither growth in the number of consumers nor growth in the amount consumed.” – Erika Gavenus

            • RedLogix 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Odd how all the 'infinite growth is impossible' zealots who kept insisting that the global industrial economy had to be reset, are now a lot less sanguine about it when faced with the reality.

              Even in just a partial fashion.

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                That's an informative response RL; are you an infinite growth advocate? Your insights into the minds of ‘zealots’ are impressive.

                'Disbelief in limits' is unnatural, but it is such a seductive, not to mention convenient, belief system for tribal 'infinite growth advocates' (some might use the term "zealots", but not I). Billions upon growing billions, lusting after a bigger piece of the finite 'pie' – I wish them all well.

              • KJT

                Dishonest debating tactic no 6. Putting words in other people's mouths, that are an inaccurate account of what they really said.

                Saying we need an alternative to an economy that relies on infinite growth, is simple fact. Infinite growth is simply impossible on a finite planet. This may be a lesson on how we can do that in a way that doesn't leave too many behind.

                Or we can listen to the Economic scare mongering from those who are too comfortable to make necessary changes, the real, zealots, and hope the poor will continue to bear the whole burdon of paying for it, and carry on towards environmental disaster. Which will, cause an economic collapse, which will, make coronavirus look like a mild rehearsal.

                • RedLogix

                  Putting words in other people's mouths, that are an inaccurate account of what they really said.

                  I said "'infinite growth is impossible".

                  And then you go and say " Infinite growth is simply impossible on a finite planet" which is pretty much the same thing, except I shortened my version to drop off the 'finite planet' bit.

                  I'm pretty sure that's not putting words into your mouth. And I've lost count the number of times people here have clearly implied this meant that the whole system had to crash. Well you really should be careful what you wish for is all I can say.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    You recently provided mixed messages on whether you support (re)nationalisation.

                    RL and (Re)nationalisation: For, Against, or 'It depends'? https://thestandard.org.nz/no-right-turn-ghost-homes-should-be-used-to-house-the-homeless/#comment-1691328

                    Now you’ve done the same regarding the possibility/impossibility of infinite growth.

                    Many of your messages about the growth of human endeavours suggest that (with a favourable tailwind) humankind is well short of most real limits. Those messages are consistent with your use of the term "'infinite growth is impossible' zealots", i.e. people who are fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of the idea that infinite growth is impossible.

                    Yet now you seems to be suggesting that, like these "zealots", you also believe that infinite growth is impossible. Is it possible that there’s a little bit of the zealot in you?

                    except I shortened my version to drop off the ‘finite planet’ bit

                    No, what you actually did was replace ‘finite planet’ with “zealots“, no?

                    RL and "infinite growth": Possible, Impossible, or 'It depends'?

          • bill 3.1.1.1.2

            The concept of "failing" is a very old and well known concept Ad. And that's what's happening to liberal/technocratic government right now. Such a shame their failure's going to be presaged by a body count, aye?

      • KJT 3.1.2

        The answer is democratically driven change.

        Unfortunately that requires something we are not allowed to have, democracy!

  4. bill 4

    We are by collective will an collective force now synchronized for national preservation for the remainder of the year at least.

    Sure. Except the poorer and more vulnerable are being casually thrown under the wheels of the mythical "collective" bus by the mis-managers atop this "national preservation" you speak of.

    • Ad 4.1

      We'll only see that accurately in about 6 months.

      But you are right that the state is being asked to do more than it can cope with, and is camouflaging it with exceptional leader-messaging.

      Mind you I'm not sure what form of state would have done better than the New Zealand state is doing right now.

      • bill 4.1.1

        Well, no Ad. Not in six months.

        I can tell you as of right now, as a poor person, I do not have the means to set myself up for isolation.

        And (I'm just guessing here, aye?) the thousands of homeless in NZ are not exactly in a position to cope or respond.

        Mind you I'm not sure what form of state would have done better than the New Zealand state is doing right now.

        California requisitioned hotels and motels to home the states homeless. Is there anything similar being proposed in NZ? And in, I think it was Vietnam, food was prepared on a community scale to help people cope with the outbreak. Anything like that happening here?

        Patrick Cockburn, writing on the British context in The Independent, hit a few nails on the head. A relevant excerpt –

        Nick Eden Green, a Lib Dem councillor for this part of Canterbury, says that the restraint [in relation to panic buying]is not due to people being unworried by shortages but because many “do not have the money for a bulk buy and, even if they did, they do not own cars in which to take away mass purchases”.

        Government, by and large, is comprised of the same dull people who, at the community board level, I'd refer to as "committee junkies". MPs, by and large, are just those same types – who greased and connived their way to the parliamentary level of the same shit.

        edit. Sorry. Forgot the link. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-boris-johnson-nhs-food-banks-jobs-austerity-a9414606.html

        • Stunned Mullet 4.1.1.1

          "Government, by and large, is comprised of the same dull people who, at the community board level, I'd refer to as "committee junkies". MPs, by and large, are just those same types – who greased and connived their way to the parliamentary level of the same shit."

          Heh bleak but pretty accurate….

          • KJT 4.1.1.1.1

            Well. True. Most but not all.

            Pleasantly surprised by Robertson, lately seizing the opportunity for some "disaster socialism". A refreshing change from Christchurch, where the previous Government enabled the opposite

        • Rosemary McDonald 4.1.1.2

          "…requisitioning hotels…."

          Ain't this government doing this already?

          They will possibly extend it though…allowing those struggling foreign tourist focused accommodation providers an opportunity to make a regular income.

          More silver linings for some.

          How's the cruise ship situation down there bill?

          • bill 4.1.1.2.1

            How's the cruise ship situation down there bill?

            The prototype home made torpedo will be ready for testing any day now! 😉

    • KJT 4.2

      I see the Government is, in fact trying to look after the most vulnerable.

      You only have to read Hoskings Facebook page. Content warning, take a large dose of more pleasant company, or a large dose of your favourite drug, afterwards, to see the type of evil arseholes the Government is up against when they try to look after people.

      • bill 4.2.1

        I see the Government is, in fact trying to look after the most vulnerable.

        Oh. I didn't realise that corporations were vulnerable. I stand corrected and ready to make the necessary sacrifice required for the greater good.

        They passing out medals? I quite like the idea of earning a medal.

        • Sabine 4.2.1.1

          Bill, corporations that pay their boards and executives million dollar salaries are the most vulnerable.

          After all the suits from parliament need a new job after they have been voted out or 'resigned'. And what better job to get then one of these board jobs of companies that have been bailed out by former government employers.

          See, corporations are very very vulnerable. Us however we come dime a dozen and thus are expendable.

        • KJT 4.2.1.2

          Raising benefits and covering lower paid workers wages, if they are not working due to coronavirus. Did you miss that bit.
          .

  5. AB 5

    "This makes right now one of the most conservative historical moments I can think of. I’m not complaining; reforming political forces have long since run out of steam"

    Labels get slippery. Left 'reformers' want to conserve things – say like a relationship between human beings that is unmediated by markets. Sanders might have quite legitimately chosen a smarter rhetoric and described himself as something like a return to the sensible centre, to the real values of America, exemplified by say FDR (or even Eisenhower) Similarly – conservatives want to reform things – Boris said he wanted to use Brexit to remake Britain. To understand what people are really about – we need to see what they want to conserve and what they want to reform – and what set of underlying values might drive that.

    Right now the only thing is to save lives and it will take the overarching power of the state to make any dent in that. But the process of getting through it will rent and tear bodies and minds – and we will come back again to the same questions of what to keep and what to change.

    • KJT 5.1

      Yes. Conservative is often a misnomer, especially when it is applied to those who wanted to "fix what wasn't broke", and broke it even more.

      However they can be relied on to change, in ways that make sure they keep the money and power.

      Which is why I prefer to use the description"right wing" or Neo-liberal rather than conservative.

      I'm a Sailor. Changing things that have been proven to work, goes against my natural inclination. The sea doesn't care about opinions. It only cares about getting it right, for real.

      • Robert Guyton 5.1.1

        Unless there's a sea-change smiley

        • weka 5.1.1.1

          One might say that climax forests are conservative and regenerating ones are radical

          (if I can get away with ecosplaining to a forester 😮 )

          • Robert Guyton 5.1.1.1.1

            "A plant community that is dominated by trees representing the last stage of natural succession for that specific locality and environmentally should be considered a climax forest. To be a climax forest, trees growing within a particular geographic region should remain essentially unchanged in terms of species composition for as long as the site "remains undisturbed"."

            Last stage?? Remains undisturbed"??

            Yes, perhaps you are right, weka,,,

            We are in a period of great change…

            • weka 5.1.1.1.1.1

              I see value in stability and movement both. Maybe part of the challenge at the moment is to foster healthy radicality alongside maintaining stability where possible. Lots of people will be looking for security right now.

              Nature can regrow a whole forest destroyed by fire (usually) but it takes more time than humans have capacity for. We're going to do better at the regeneration that comes from a big flood or landslide. A period of great change but not so great that everything gets swept away.

  6. mat simpson 6

    Whenever people demand real change from their politicians, we're told that "politics is the art of the possible". The implication is that change isn't possible, so we'd better just get used to the sucky status quo.

    But now that there's a pandemic, a lot of things we were previously told weren't possible suddenly are. Raising benefits. Massively increased government spending. Renationalisations. Overseas, we're seeing mortgage and rent freezes, and UBI-style fixed payments to keep people's heads above water.

    The implication is that these things, and others, were always possible, with political will. And that what was stopping them was the reluctance of politicians to do the work and upset the cosy status quo they benefited from. When this crisis is over, we should remember that.

    Idiot Savant

    http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2020/03/politics-possible-and-pandemic.html

    [link added, and quotation – weka]

    [I changed the user name to the original one used here and released from pre-moderation – Incognito]

    • weka 6.1

      Hi mat, welcome to TS. When you cut and paste, can you please use the quote tags or make it clear it is a quotation, and always provide a link, thanks.

      • mat simpson 6.1.1

        Will do thanks Weka.

        • weka 6.1.1.1

          Further note, you need to pick one user name and stick to it. You're a long term commenter here and changing names once will probably pass but please don't do it again. If you want to change back from the name you are using today, please let us know.

  7. Descendant Of Smith 7

    The benefit increases while useful are far from sufficient. Even a temporary measure to lift then to the NZS rate would be more useful.

    One thing has struck me for years is how we have many people not working and others working long hours. The 60's / 70's technology picture was that we would all have more leisure time. Now is a great opportunity to re-visit that notion – a 30 hour week would start to suck up the newly unemployed and the existing unemployed. Time and a half after 30 hours would help speed up the transition.

    Give us our Sundays back as well to spend time with families – it no use saying now people are the most important thing then as soon as the crisis is over going back to the economy is most important. Given the pre-existing health issues that make this virus worse as well give us our Saturday afternoons back as well for sport.

    The public service needs to think about devolving more jobs out to regions as well. The wealth that has drifted to main centres as department after department has centralised and centralised again reduces wealth and resilience in the regions. Stephen Joyce's centralised contracting model for government services exacerbates that with local businesses no longer get local government departments work.

    I'm waiting for Tuhoe to drop a few trees over the roads to stop anyone coming in as things worsen. It might well be a useful ploy for small places with only one or two roads in. Makings of a great potential imagined novel – New Zealand rebuilt post-virus in Tuhoe's image.

    Would be nice to see some funding going directly to iwi – many of whom are putting their own plans in place, checking on kaumatua and kuia and feeding them at their own cost – they aren't asking for money – unlike businessmen – but it would be nice to see some largesse go their way.

    Some thought about future-proofing us a bit more with manufacturing and building capacity would be useful.

    Not sure why rents haven't been frozen either or why food such as meat hasn't become cheaper as freezing works fill up their chillers or their are bans on bulldozing surplus crops into the ground cause McCains and Watties etc don't need them. A lot could be done to make food cheaper – we produce it for goodness sake. If it was really about getting people to eat healthy wouldn't we be making sure healthy food was cheap and affordable.

    Why are commercial landlords not reducing their rents – I haven't yet heard of one doing this. Most here are owned by out of towners with big pockets and no souls.

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