Saturday, 28 January 2017

Elections 2017: This here middle voter aint big enough for both of us

Its been five days and the smoke is now clearing after the shootout at Ratana Pa on Monday.

And in the tradition of any good western (and plenty of Samurai films as well) the aftermath has seen a trail of bodies, blood and left open the possibility of further violence (or sequels).

The trigger for all this bad juju came when Gareth Morgan unexpectedly opened fire on Winston Peters which then saw further parties taking the opportunity to add to the body count as Labour sought to bury the hatchet, in the back of the Mana party (by dismissing it as irrelevant as Maori/Mana struggle to get past their differences) and convince Maori voters that they are worth voting for as he struggled to get past the previous dismissal of  Labour by the Maori King last year.

The only party truly unscathed (only to get ambushed by the Peter Theil/NZ Citizenship for creepy billionaires scandal) was Bill English who appears to have made a tactical decision to walk away from the more fractious Waitangi Day celebrations but make an obvious play for keeping the Maori vote onside by going to Ratana.

So lets break it down past the functional but bland coverage we got in the media.

If it was not clear before that The Opportunities Party and New Zealand First were never going to be compatible (except to the brainless dingbats at TVNZ who have only just figured that out when they declared "One thing is for certain, there'll be no opportunity for an alliance between Gareth Morgan and Winston Peters" in their coverage of the event) due to their both coveting the middle ground voter it is now.

Because there is never going to be enough true middle ground votes to go around and if Morgan and TOP were to get even a few percent in the polls, let alone more than 5%, it would gut Peters power as king maker and either transfer it to Morgan and leave the door open to a Labour/Greens/Opportunities government or simply neutralize the NZ First vote pool so that it would not be enough to keep National in power.

The mechanics of this are simple but a little hard to discern when having to pick through poll data to get at it but the fact is that National is unlikely to be on 46% when it goes to the polls nor Labour on 28% as the usual dynamic in the lead up to elections is the gap between the government and the main challenger closes and that often breaks down to the higher declining and the lower rising (specially with a third term government).

So what we have always known would happen was that come the final score tally it would fall on some middle ground party (normally NZ First) to add its weight to one or another party and ensure that a government was formed.

But as I have discussed before NZ First is never going to go with Labour if The Greens* are in the mix which in effect means NZ First backing National as the default option because it would make no sense for a middle ground, king making, party to sit on the fence and withhold its vote block as that would achieve nothing and leave it unable to gain the concessions for its voters it would normally covet as the price of supporting one side or another.

And this was the expected scenario until Gareth Morgan and TOP came on the scene (see my Thank You Gareth Morgan, Thank You! post from late last year for more) and aimed to upset Winston's apple cart.

And if you thought his attack on the MP from Northland was crude and personal  you would be right but that could only have been a calculated move on Morgans part as it would be impossible to think that he has not grasped the simple fact that there is not enough middle ground votes for two middle ground parties AND remain effective as the king maker.

So what you saw at Ratana was Morgan deliberately attacking Peters, as he has nothing to loose and as well as deliberately positioning himself as an alternative to any middle ground (or potential middle ground) voters out there.

Morgan is not going to get votes by being nice and simply making policy statements, he has to get in the game and go to the mat with his one true opponent, Winston Peters, to make any headway in the political space and this is why his attack on Peters at Ratana is just the first shot in what will be an increasingly bloody war of words right up until polling day.

Simply put, Morgan can only get voters from the limited pool of middle ground voters and possibly from the inner fringes of Labour and National, but to do that he needs to get past the gate keeper to that sexy voter base first, Winston Peters.

And don't expect Winston to play nice either, his savaging of Morgan two days after on Morning Report, was classic Winston, great on edible soundbites and headline making quotes as well as enough personal attacks to more than equal anything he got at Ratana but sounding rather hollow at the end of the day as everyone knows Peters has a pretty mouth but cannot be trusted to remain reliable in support.

Both Peters and Morgan understand that there is only room for one in this narrow political space and its only going to take a few percentage points to drag NZ first back under 5% (currently NZ First sit at 8%) or for Morgan to crack 5% (because I have personally seen enough groundswell of support for TOP to convince me that they will naturally get 2-3% in the polls by natural attraction) so every little bit counts and there is no room for personal niceties, it will be bad blood, slander and insults from here until the polls close.

Which means for Winston and NZ First this will be the first time, in a long time, that they will actually have a fight on their hands.

Normally come elections, Labour and National have avoided antagonizing Peters too much because they know that if they get enough votes they will have to woo him to their side to make a government but Morgan does not have that worry, its the exact opposite, he is seeking to usurp the kingmaker and its a struggle to the death, only one can prevail.

In sheer fight metrics Peters has the skills and experience but Morgan has one advantage that Peters does not and cannot get, something I term the First Time Syndrome.

Just as Peters drew in a large numbers of voters in 1996 by campaigning as a true independent opposition party to National rather than Labour so too can Morgan and TOP, this one time only, tap into a potentially big pool of disaffected voters who sit on the middle fringes of Both Labour and National (and possibly in NZ First as well) and who are looking for someone not sullied by the dark stains of politics to give their vote to.

The First Time Syndrome only works once because that's how it politics works but its there for Morgan to take advantage of this time around and its magic is potent.

If Morgan can make a convincing enough argument he could easily draw in over 5% and bring in enough seats in the house to decide the next government and in doing so also sound the death knell of NZ First.

Oh Winston might survive by holding onto his seat in Northland but it would sink the party as Winston is NZ First and everyone knows it. None of the talking heads that sit and nod when Winston pontificates in parliament is worth a hill of beans and if Winston were to fail to get in or the party vote went below 5% they are looking for new jobs come the day after the election.

So it will get mean and personal and don't for a second think that National and Labour wont be trying to swing things for their favored party in this rather tight space because National knows that NZ First is the natural keystone to their electoral success if they sink low enough in the polls that Labour and The Greens could beat them by combining.

In such a situation NZ First would sweep in and add enough to National to again get ahead of Labour/Greens and form a fourth term National government.

On the flip side, while Morgan has made no clear statement of supporting Labour its clear that much of what is driving him is based on the current state NZ is in and National has enabled these problems so it seems likely that to bring about change the natural position is to back Labour and the Greens and not National.

So Morgan is playing for all the marbles and Peters cant do his old song and dance and avoid the kind of blows that usually are traded between National and Labour.

Thus while Labour and National will keep most of their ammunition and plans on hold until campaigning starts in earnest Gareth Morgan has set the process in motion by attacking Peters at Ratana and Winston cant back away from this one.

This will get ugly.

*-I had this reinforced to me by a colleague in Wellington who is a member of the National Party (dines with John Key on occasion) and gleefully pointed out, in significant details, the dynamics of the hate between NZ First and the Greens which extends form sheer political dysfunction down to a raft of personal animosities and blood feuds (I will be discrete here and not name names but it seems that if left alone and unsupervised in a locked room for any period of time there would be blood seeping under the doors and into the halls in short order as both sides sought to literally kill each other)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Its going to be a long four years: The extent of dissent

This is going to come off as an viscous critique on certain individuals but its also an exploration of my own behaviors views and attitudes, so if you take offense my apologies but we had it coming.

Well the inauguration is over its official now, Trump is President with a capital P.

So now what?

Well if you are one of those frustrated liberals (like some of my friends) you will be spamming peoples inboxes with faux outrage over every little things Trump will and will not do.

Immediately in the wake of the inauguration and the spectacle of Trumps newly minted press secretary bald faced lying about the actual number that turned out my inbox began to fill with what I have termed "click-link" emails which are basically an email where someone sends nothing but a link to article or post and some sort of one line comment in the title which boils down to "Can you believe this? I am so mad!".

Now this was bad enough in the lead up to the election, as every time Trump got past another hurdle in his supposedly impossible rise to the oval office my inbox would suddenly swell grotesquely with emails of this kind as my friends either were unable to too lazy to express their own outrage and so had to resort to others to do it for them.

Worse it was only and ever Trump, no matter what. No anger about the environment, the housing hernia or anything political in their own country, nothing but a narrow focus on Trump and the election in the US.

These are people who have been boiling with impotent rage since late November last year and now cant take it no more and for that matter neither can I.

So I ended up, ignoring one of the cardinal rules of the internet (don't feed the trolls) and bit back, lambasting them for being unable to actually say anything useful about the situation themselves and doing nothing but sending out link and link after link to mostly highly partisan news media articles about Trump but never doing the same about other political issues, or any other issue, in the US or even their own country.

They did not take it well but then few people do when when their hypocritical behavior is pointed out.

I got called a Trump supporter (which I am not), a political nihilist (which I am not) and attacked with the new buzz phrase "false equivalency" because I am not down with their narrative that Trump is just pure evil waiting to happen and that saintly Obama can do (and did) no wrong.

So I fired back and it went all down hill from there.

I wont bore you with the details but if you have ever had an argument with someone whose position is so partisan or one sided that anything you say which deviates from their narrative is heresy to their ears then you know what came next.

So was it worth antagonizing my friends over their very blinkered political views? Was it worth wading into a debate that I knew that I was never going to win with people that I socialize with. Was it worth it to finally snap after tolerating months of one sided partisan gibberish?

You bet your sweet Fanny Adams it was!

It was worth it because there is no excuse for such behavior.

Remember the Truthers and the Birthers of Obama's eight years in office, remember how they could just not let go, how they could not accept something and were prepared to go to any length to make a point, no matter how absurd it became?

Well it was conservatives back then and it looks like its the liberals turn now and the sheer bloody minded frenzy of the partisan position coupled with the inability to actually articulate a real argument, knee jerk rage on a narrow range of issues (despite the world being full of things much closer to home to actually get riled about) coupled with the predetermined decision that Trump will be nothing but bad news all over smacks of people being manipulated (ignorantly or otherwise) for an agenda that is not even really their own.

And its become very clear that the next four years will be full of this, lots of pissing and moaning about this one thing but very little about anything else. This will be the cause celeb, the flag to rally around and enforce a restrictive and one sided "truth" on people which is as biased as anything that will come out of the White House.

The fact that US politics can so infect minds so far removed from it is less a sign of such a narratives potency but its desperation, specially when its articulated (badly) by people whose extent of political involvement and action is nothing more than spamming media links via email.

This is the circling of the wagons of the mostly discredited liberal agenda of the late 20th century (think Tony Blair and Andrew Little) in a desperate maneuver to try and regain the currency and vitality of the debate but just like they were unable to see the sheer momentum of the backlash against their invalidated position neither can they see that the tide has turned and they are now the ones on the outside.

This is not to say that there is no potency in a liberal stance or a genuine reason to take issue with Trump if he turns out to be a rotten president but when well educated, liberal minded, highly paid people can not raise a verbal ruckus about anything else but the election of a US president and studious ignore all the issues burning bright in their own country, and will never do anything about them, I have to call bovine droppings on that and them.

Such behavior does nothing to solve the situation and is the hollow posturing of faux rebellion (the kind where aged pop stars decide that blowing up the white house is an acceptable things to say) and will never amount to anything*.

These are people who are safe in the comfort of their delusions and absolutely refuse to be shaken out of their self satisfied stance.

And in the end its not really about Trump or any president, its about members of a smug elite (be it right or left) freaked and upset that their "reality" has been breached and something unpleasant is leaking in.

Call it the "truth" or "alternate facts" but the warm, fuzzy and highly sanitized reality that they have been living in is no longer fit for habitation and their only response is to limply echo the words of others while wallowing in fake rage.

Well if that's their agenda for the next four years and the extent of their dissent (if you really think it can be called  that) then its going to be a long four years, not because of anything Trump does (I lost my political innocence a long time ago under National in the 90s and Dubya in the 00s) but because I will be fighting it every step of the way.

And it reminds me of that supposed** quote by Winston Churchill that "if your not a liberal in your 20s you have no heart, if your not a conservative in your 40s you have no brain".

If the extent of your dissent is limited to vague and insubstantial posturing within a narrow purview then its going to be a tough four (and maybe eight) years.

You have been warned.

And this applies to faux conservatives as well as liberals, in fact it applies to anyone who keeps cant really get it up to go out and actually do something about the problems in the world but will sit comfortably in their homes and nag their friends via spam.

Go out and join a political party or a community group, get involved, don't just attend a protest and go home, sign up for the long haul, get an opinion of your own and defend it for all it (and you) are worth, discuss the issues (maybe start a blog) and keep on doing it till you get the change you want.

Realize also that there are times when its not enough just to voice dissent sometimes you have to act it out as well and that is not ever an easy thing.

But most of all ask yourself what is the extent of your dissent and if it is enough?

*-I could go off into some bourgeois critique here but Marx said it much better than me so go read him or Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges to get a far better articulation on the overall position than I could ever give.
**-Supposed because I have heard people saying that he actually never said it but if not its still a good quote. If anyone knows if its genuine or not let me know.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Elections 2017: Ready, steady ….. Ugh!

This is the first post in a series of posts about our upcoming elections but it wont be the last.

Not much has been happening on the NZ political front lately, as noted with a series of rather insipid articles about which MPs can play guitar, which like knitting, which drives a fast car etc, which just shows that the political editor at Stuff got creative in coming up with some make-work articles for reporters over the summer so they would be kept busy.

But bet your bottom dollar that sometime around midnight New Year’s Eve more than one MP (or even our new/old PM) might have been hearing the bell tolling somewhere as it ushered in 2017, which as we all know, is a NZ election year.

And as we also know elections are like the Olympics or World Cup of politics and any political scientist worth their salt should be getting excited at the prospect of seeing the competitors in action.

Sadly while I am excited it's more at the prospect of treating the proceedings as some sort of deranged lab experiment rather than a genuine political event because while John Key's leaving has theoretically opened up the game the reality is very different.

In theory the removal of John Key leaves National vulnerable to losing the coming election due to the fact that John Key was their star performer who had pretty much carried the rest of the deadwood team for eight years.

This means that with the star player gone the deadwood has to start pulling their own weight and after so long sitting on the bench doing nothing while Teflon John skipped around passing the ball to himself, slipping through tackles left right and center and sometimes just seeming to defy political gravity by floating above the scrum, what are the odds of a team of out of shape political lard asses winning the finals with other fitter, more professional teams on the field?

The odds in such circumstances are very low.

So that’s the theory but that’s not the reality.

Yes National without superstar Key is bloated and out of shape, wheezing and sweating profusely as they struggle to follow the ball while newly promoted Captain Bill English desperately scans the playbook for some sort of Hail Mary play that can save the team BUT such circumstances can also apply to the main opposition party: Labour.

Yes, after a two years in the job Andrew Little still seems to be playing the long game, the very long game in fact where the plan seems to be do nothing for a really long time and see what happens (the answer is very Little (pun intended).

So you have one team horribly out of shape and lead by someone who knows his chances are going down but game to try vrs another team of possibly fitter and faster players but lead by a captain who simply cannot rouse any enthusiasm from his player or the spectators*.

In such circumstances who do you think will win?

But now add in other teams like the Greens and New Zealand First, smaller faster and far more predatory, willing to exploit any opening and simply possessing more savvy and cunning (NZ First under Winston Peters) or more energy and vigor (The Greens) than the older competitors.

On top of this add in other teams; which look valid on paper but are completely absent in practice (dead in the water polling miscreant ACT) or newly reformed challengers (Mana/Maori) who while theoretically add further spoiler potential to the game but in reality add very little and if given the ball probably wouldn’t know which way to run anyway.

Finally there is potential new team, The Opportunity Party (TOP) who is as yet untested and as such might have star potential or simply end up another wannabe over hyped signing in 12 months’ time.

So lets get our stat freak on for a moment and see what the numbers and out comes will really be like:

National: current polling 46% - In theory without the Key factor National should decline over time but will they decline or fall is the real question.

If English can keep a lid on things until polling day National will retain most of its 46% and probably end up polling in the high 30s. This is the decline.

If English can’t keep his rabble in check or they get pressed too hard by a swift opposition play the chances are they will fold and go down in a screaming heap. This is the fall. In this situation expect polling to reach as far down as the low 20s as the team fumbles the ball at the crucial moment.

Labour: Current polling 28% - In theory Labour now has a fighting chance but the reality is that, based on current polling, they don’t have to just combine with the Greens to beat whatever percentage National is at but they have to beat whatever percentage National and NZ First are at.

This means its 56% (National/NZ First) vs 41.8% (Labour/Greens) and a 15% polling difference, in politics that's a veritable gulf.

So somehow Little and Labour has to make up that 15% deficit and that can only be done if National starts to decline in its polling, which will happen, but there is no guarantee that any of those juicy sweet poll numbers will go Labour's (or the Greens) way unless the actually do something to make it so.

Where they are likely to go, if National starts shedding voters, like flakes of skin after really bad sunburn, is to NZ First or possibly TOP, the natural choices for disaffected National voters who, without John Key to dazzle them, now sees what monstrosities are actually now in charge of the country**.

Thus, as per last year, the bitter reality remains that Winston retains his King-maker status and other parties like Act, Mana/Maori and TOP will only provide any real weight if the numbers come down to some razor thin margin where a seat or two actually matters and if that happens all bets are off everywhere.

So the key to any Labour plan to take National out of the game is only going to work if:

a)      Labour gets its act together and starts playing like the really want to win; and
b)      All those votes bleeding out of National go anywhere other than NZ First; and
c)      Any decline in the polls for National is significant enough (ie that magic 15%) to reduce the National/NZ First total to less than can be beaten by the Greens/Labour

But you know what?

I can’t see Andrew Little being the man to lead Labour to victory, it’s been two years and while he has been in the shadow of Key most of that time there has been no indication of potential for greatness which any genuine candidate would have shown, shadow of Key or not.

So the question is simply: can we get rid of Andrew Little now so it’s not another three years of slow national suicide under National and the B-team.

Who replaces him I don’t know, nor do I care but anyone but Little.

The only thing that will save Andrew Little now is if Winston goes against all he has said and indicated and refuses to support National and/or backs Labour.

And that’s why the title of this post is what it is because once you get excited about the coming election and start crunching the numbers it’s clear that Labours outcomes in this election hinge on a series of improbable events, which might go their way if freak factors come into play (are you listening Gareth Morgan?) but in reality its a long probability and with that the horrid realization that it will be National for a fourth term and then all the enthusiasm for the proceedings bleeds out like stale air hissing out of a punctured (and bald) tire.

Little doesn’t need to come on like some political Jesus (although some David Lange/Norm Kirk type antics would not go amiss) but what he is currently doing is a guaranteed fail so he needs to take the game to National and hard (I cant belive that this is the third post on this subject and still he just sits there. Andrew, aren't you reading these things?)

My very first post for KiwiPolitico was titled Kiss Her you fool: Andrew Little, Labour and the TPPA and my assessment of him then remains sound today. He is not the man for the job and the sooner his is rolled the better.

This election is Little's to loose and it looks like he is doing a damn fine job of it.

Ugh!

*-Seems I  am not the only one thinking this. 
**-As I noted in my old post from KP about how ridden with genuine political monsters the party is.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Would you like some Grey Poupon* with that?

And I just can't see no humor
About your way of life
And I think I can do more for you

With this here fork and knife

Eat the Rich - Aerosmith


Reading about the obscenity of wealth of the 10 richest men vrs the bottom 50% of the planet I could not help but singing the lyrics from this catchy Aerosmith song from 1993s Get a Grip.

But what was going through my head afterwards was the old political adage of Reform from above or revolt form below and I can already see the seeds of revolt starting to sprout and no indication of reform from the halls above.

I am also struck by the though that we worry about drug and alcohol addiction but almost no-one is talking about wealth addiction** (although a few are).

So perhaps its time to decide if we are happy with there being no limit on how much money a person can accumulate, a maximum wage just as much as we have a minimum wage.

And if that makes me a communist so be it because if it cant be fixed by them above it will be fixed by those below and there are a lot more of those below than them above.

The idea of us venerating wealth as seed of our society and the end all be all of virtue has lead to this: a class of people who see no wrong in accumulating as much wealth as they can no matter how it affects the rest of the world and I cant see how there would not be a correlation between those things.

And don't listen to any of those old arguments about how wealth for some begets wealth for all, its all lies designed to keep you hoping otherwise we would have seen it by now.

Instead go and read Power and Greed by Pilippe Gigantes and see what kind of moral and social codes we should be following and how to deal with Grand Aquisitors like our lucky 10***.

No its not an endorsement for a rabid bout of cannibalism (but I do occasionally wonder what the ultra wealthy might taste like if barbecued over a bonfire of their own money and luxury possessions and then served with a side of an over priced luxury mustard).

And that's what will happen if things don't change and its not enough that a Billionaire decides to give their money away (as some have done), they should not be allowed to accumulate that much in the first place.

Just keep on repeating those words again and again as you ponder what's next - Reform from above or revolt from below. 

You know what to do.


*-This crap.
**-The Salon article has a point about it not being a legitimate excuse for the behavior of Wall Street but its still not that hard to imagine how these people think as they pile their cash up like Scrooge McDuck.
***-I know what you are thinking if you do read this but doesn't it ever strike you as strange as one of the fundamentals of all major religions is some form of prohibition on behaving like a greedy asshole?

Monday, 16 January 2017

Plumbing the Depths Part II: What colour is your reality tunnel? Post Truth and Pax Americana

This is the part two to a post I wrote when I was still with KP, it can be found here. Also I get that there are certain metaphysical issues that I raise and then completely ignore in this post but let’s get real here for a moment (psych!). I will return to these issues at a later date.

One of the buzz words of 2016 was post truth. Which is defined by the online Oxford Dictionary as Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

In short, rational argument is trumped (or should I say Trumped) by the power of personality or one’s personal position.

But whose facts are we talking about and are we really talking about objective truth or the accepted truth, the official line so to speak.

The reality is (and I fully get the irony of making that statement in this context) is that much of what we have accepted as fact or truth (when we are talking about things outside of our immediate reality like our lives) come to us through a select number of channels from a select number of sources and reflects a select number of points of view or positions and in essence forms the basis of what we see and how we see it in the wider world.

I like to refer to this as our reality tunnel*.

A good example of this is how the average workplace conversation will revolve around a limited number of topics or issues and is often prefaced by phrases such as “did you see on the news last night…” or “have you heard/read” (which refers to some topic, meme, video or picture which is trending at the time) which is then followed by an almost predictable conversation where an issue is discussed and dissected and then the respective parties state their positions in relation to it before the conversation ends.

Such a topic may surface again depending on the level of interest but more often than not it will sink into the blather and be replaced by a new item of News from the following night for us to discuss the following day.

Now the point here is not specifically the topics themselves that are being discussed but how they are selected, prepared and packaged before delivery to your mind and the vehicles for delivering these carefully chosen media products.

What I am getting at here is that what we accept as truth or fact are often more “truth” or “fact” and that it is selected to create and reinforce certain points of view by providing little snack-like media nuggets for consumption rather than present an organised and coherent (dare I say objective) reality for examination or debate.

At its most positive this process could be considered the setting of political or social talking points but more cynically is called manufactured debate, “wagging the dog” or spin.

In New Zealand this is clearly illustrated in the Dirty Politics saga where the National Governments media manipulation strategy and list of dodgy behaviors was exposed for all to see as a deliberate attempt to steer negative debate away from National and go on the attack towards those who were steering it towards them.

At this point you could be forgiven for thinking that I had just read Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky (note: I read it in the early 90s as an undergrad) and was going to do nothing but parrot those ideas and themes back at you for the rest of this post but you would be wrong

In this light the heavily manufactured and manipulated media through which we shape our thoughts and opinions, and ultimately our reality or “truth” is not benign or neutral, it is biased and designed to shape our thoughts and reality to suit those who shape it.

Some might consider this propaganda, or media manipulation or even the thought police but whether malicious or not (and that’s a discussion for another day) our reality and our views are not just our own but the product of our society and wider world and we can only escape it by taking two courses of action when faced with this fact: retreat into fantasy or have as much control as possible over your own reality.

The first course of action is easy and predictable in our modern day and age, we all do it from time to time but for many the retreat into fantasy through movies, games or other forms of escapism (such as religion, economics or political belief) becomes more and more a means to avoid the day to day mundanity of life and work or to simply prevent any thoughts or ideas which we disagree with from entering our heads and causing us pain.

The second course of action is difficult and is never ending, it’s a much more arduous path and one which can as easily lead into dogma as much as other forms of escapism, or outright failure as one dismantles and examines the foundations of one’s own thoughts and beliefs of one’s reality tunnel but fails to reassemble a replacement and crosses over into paranoia, nihilism and madness.

I am not going to go much further into the mechanics of such things right now (because that is a whole metaphysical can of worms) but for those interested in building their own reality tunnel a good place to start might be here or here. But if you want to go a bit further and a bit deeper then try this (specially as they use bits of one of my favorite John Carpenter films) or this.

What I am talking about today is that the Mass Consensual Hallucination (or MCH for short) which makes up a large part of what our reality tunnels and is breaking down as we enter the post truth age.

And what pray tell is this MCH of which I speak? Why Pax Americana dear reader, good ol Pax Americana.

So what’s the connection between Pax Americana and Post Truth?

The answer to that is simple as most of what makes up our MCH or reality tunnel is created, molded and shaped to suit the US outlook or view in much the same way as the saying that history is always written by the victors; so is the way we view our world (in this case our world being the final remains of the post WW2 world where the US and the USSR won the war and imposed the following peace).

During the Cold War the world was spilt into two great reality tunnels, competing with each other in the service of two great powers (defined as capitalism and communism) and for nearly 50 years they battled it out (mostly cold but sometimes hot) for the hearts and minds of the Earth’s inhabitants.

And with the defeat of Communism and the end of the Cold War we have had to live under the triumphalist victory arch of Capitalism and the crowing of the US for nearly 30 years (and its singular reality of rabid consumerism) for the veil to be lifted and the wiring under the board to be exposed as a gigantic pyramid scheme where the those at the very apex get rich and live long while the rest stay poor and die early.

And now all of those thoughts and ideas which were previously dismissed as conspiracy theory have become, in almost every case, accepted and established fact when people like Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden push the truth out into the light (often at great personal cost) but also where a healthy mistrust of authority (and whatever doublespeak they are blathering) is a requirement to remaining sane.

In this light Post Truth is not simply the fact free ravings of Donald Trump or any other politician who will twist and turn to avoid answering a straight question, or when faced with their lying simply manipulate their (or others) words to say black is white and two plus two equals five it’s also the loss of confidence in the establishment by the general populace and the erosion of the US narrative which has dominated our media for the last 75 years whether you live in the US or in one of its satellites (and NZ while a far flung satellite remains in their orbit).

But Post Truth in this light is not a bad thing it’s a good thing.

Yes it is being exploited by those who would promote the big lie but it’s also an opportunity to be part of reshaping the new future narrative (the one that will replace Pax Americana), to add your own bricks to the reality tunnel wall and add new energy to speaking truth to power by taking part in the debate.

Because the basis of that power (its narrative or reality) is breaking down as its physical empire begins to collapse.

In this context, as the US weakens so too does its means to control and shape the debate and the effect is a clear and noticeable rise in the failure of establishment and establishment politicians to stifle debate or dissent from the people.

Look no further than things like opposition to the TPPA, Brexit and the rise of Trump to see evidence of a lot more people who won’t simply sit down and do what they are told.

What these people have in common is that for a period of time (and we don’t know how long) the grip of our so called masters on reality is weak. No one believes what they say any more (it’s not just a grumbling few on the fringes now but whole generations and masses of the populace), it does not matter what they say or who they have saying it their message has been soiled and their brand ruined.

A perfect example of this is how most western media behaved in dealing with Trump (by denigrating him again and again when he continued to rise) and by simply becoming so partisan that they perjured themselves in light of their so called journalisticobjectivity and simply became shills for the Man.

It does not matter that Trump merely represents an internal revolt between the established elites ruling us and another powerful group seeking to depose them and take over, as both are simply on the same side in the end and have the same agenda (just like Labour and National in NZ always believe that they will be the government or the government in waiting).

But let’s look at a few more concrete examples to fill out our case.

Most Western media continue to harp on about Russia “hacking” or influencing the US election which even if it is true ignores the fact that the US has been “hacking”** or influencing the elections of other countries for 75 years including installing genocidal murderers, right-wing dictators or using outright murder or assignation to remove political figures they did not like so they achieved the political outcome they want.

A famous actress denounces the President Elect in her acceptance speech at an awards show while seemingly failing to ignore the irony that she is a well-paid and pampered member of the establishment who is upset that her establishment candidate did not win the election.

It’s as if the dialectic of Team America came to life, as such things seem to do in the world today, in defiance of its own absurdity.

So the noble or big lie of our generation is dying and along with it will many of the smaller lies that we have been living under.

To be sure we will eventually end up with a new big lie but for a period we have the opportunity to make that lie our own rather than theirs. It’s a revolution of the mind rather than the body because as the rule goes the first rule of any revolution is to get rid of any competing revolutionaries*** and if we don’t shape our own thoughts they will.

So for a possibly limited time the chains on our minds are weakened, and while this is also an opportunity for those currently in power to make demagogic appeals to the masses this is definitely the time to choose what lies you will believe and what truth you will ignore; a time for looking afresh with jaded eyes and seeing the bars of the cage (the carefully created reality we move through) and who are our jailers (the media) while remembering who they truly serve (whatever ruling establishment you happen to be living under).

Post Truth could be seen as a scary time when anyone can say anything but I prefer to see it as a wonderful time where anyone can say anything because the truth as we know it is more often the “truth” as we know it and its only if we start to dismantle our cage will we have the materials to build a new one.

Now if your beginning to see a paradoxical, Zen like or even BS tone creeping into this post then you would be right because we have to live in a reality tunnel, that cannot be escaped but what we can do is either have no choice in what reality tunnel we live in (because it’s the easy option) or take the time to build our own (from whatever we have at hand) and the death of empire (a weakening of the hegemonic power) is one of the few opportunities where we can do this rather than have one foisted on us.

So yes its paradoxical that one must build a cage of sorts for ones perceptions in order to exist but if one must build such a cage better to be a reality of ones choosing than being herded into a prefabricated one size fits all reality like sheep in a pen.

The role of the media in this process will be examined in detail in other posts but it’s become clear that the continual role of media as willing handmaiden (some might say whore) to power rather than even try and act as an arbiter of truth (the old joke about not being all the news that fit to print but printed to fit) has eroded not only trust in itself but the very people they were speaking for and the result is a situation where the usual anchor for reality and truth (the media) has failed and the ship (the established powers that be) is now adrift in the sea of information.

But Pax Americana has not failed just because the media lost its moral compass it’s also because all empires decline and fail and a fall into fantasy and decadence are the classic hallmarks of a ruling elite gone to seed and the whole edifice breaking up amid the myriad of contradictions that come with keeping such unwieldy structures upright.

And I get the argument made by some people that if not Pax Americana then Pax what? Pax Sinica? The point here is not to let another greedy hegemony move in and take over the reality tunnel but to live in one of your own making or choosing a world that requires more than one singular reality tunnel (a plurality of tunnels).

And now with the current singular structure breaking up the foundations of the “truth” are up for grabs, the narrative is open to seized and held by anyone who wishes and with the official organs of the “truth” in disgrace for behaving more like a pedophile staking their victim rather than a trusted source of information the playing field is as level as it ever will be.

Yes those with more money can buy more advertising time but that is countered by the fact that it’s no longer the medium but the message (with due respect to Marshall McLuhan) and history is full of examples of words and deeds shining out across time to inspire others which were made in defiance of the official line.

It’s not just who can shout the loudest, although that helps, but who can inspire and lead and who will take to the barricades (so to speak) in this time of revolution because this is the time to revolt and the world is now simmering with anger at those who would hold the majority back for the benefit of their own greedy ends.

So here we stand at the dawn of the post truth, this day won’t last for long and in time a new reality or realities will arise (in fact the powers that be have already started trying but remain hamstrung by the fact that they and their delivery systems remain suspect and criminal at best and un-trusted and despised at worst).

In this day any person can seize the means to make a statement, an act or gesture which may be part of the blueprints of the new reality that arises. The only thing which they need to do to fulfill this is to remain true to what they believe and be willing to say or do it.

And this might start to sound like an incitement to violence BUT it is not. What it is an incitement to ACTION, the action is to take on the DIY ethos so espoused on home improvement shows (ever wondered why they are so pushed in a time when affordability of a house is so sky-high?) and put it to use in constructing or renovating your very own reality tunnel and contributing to a greater one in which you will live.

Carpe Diem!


*-I am liberally borrowing from the idea of a reality tunnel as coined by Timothy Leary but I have taken on some of the ideas as espoused by Robert Anton Wilson in his book Prometheus Rising
**-I really can’t stress enough for having a look at this source and seeing how many times the US has intervened in the politics of another country to get the outcome it wanted.
***-Unless you’re a follower of Mao Tse Tung then it’s the supremacy of Mao’s thought but that is just the same argument in another form.
****-The high-water marks of US culture are its expressive mediums like Jazz, blues, comic books and cartoons, Rock and Roll, Hot rod cars, kitsch culture, science fiction, horror and pop music but also in activities like skateboarding, surfing, bowling and roller-derby and other things from the period of the 1920s to 1970s where US culture expressed itself fully and without gross repetition. And I admit my own enjoyment of these (and many others) but that does not detract from the fact that US culture has provided some extraordinary outlets for expressing in the industrial age.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

I hope I didn’t just give away the ending: a real agenda for 2017

Well 2016 is over and to some peoples mind it was an Annus Horribillis of record proportion.

Why? Because Trump got elected and a lot of pop stars and actors died!

Now if this is your definition of disaster and misfortune then you are:

a)      Far more of a pop culture receptacle than I am; and
b)      Lacking a sense of perspective

Yep, dead cultural icons (mostly Baby Boomers) and the US election turning out to be as much of a shambles as any other country are causes for doom and gloom and I seriously considered deleting several friends on Facebook because I was getting nothing but posts whining about such things from them.

So if you got sucked into the endless stream of impotent media ejaculation (a somewhat disgusting image but one I think is accurate) in 2016 and ended up fixated on pointless trivia while slightly more important issues slipped past your scrutiny let’s try to avoid that 2017 by highlighting some of the things you should really be thinking about.

So here is what I think New Zealand should (and most probably will be) focusing on in 2017.

The Environment

If the slew of articles in local media in the last quarter of 2016 was anything to go by environmental concerns will be something on Kiwi minds this year.

From polluted rivers, industrial dairying, water issues, the degradation and exposure of our 100% pure NZ image as being more of an advertising slogan than an actual reality, to maximum tourist capacity, melting glaciers and just a general sense that things can’t go on the way they are; the environment has been getting increasing attention and many of the effects are hitting very close to home for more than a few people.

All of these issues are of concern in and of themselves but the reality is they all fall under the overarching banner of the environment.

In Canterbury where I am the fact that some rivers can’t be swum in to the Ashburton council doing dodgy deals over water along with the fact that some rivers are dry while you can drive past endless streams (pun not intended) of damp, green and endlessly irrigated dairy paddocks has all the makings of a grassroots issue that will go big this year, especially as the warm weather drives people out to the river (traditionally a kiwi place to cool off during the summer) only to find that they enter the water at their own risk.

That’s just one facet of an issue which Kiwis are always claiming they are passionate about but don’t always put their money where their mouths are.

This year will see Kiwis either put up or shut up as Big dairy does its best to keep the issue off our radar and the tourism industry keeps on shouting “more room, more room!” while tourist capacity is at its limit and the benefits of people visiting our country start to pale to the sheer numbers coming and parts of NZ start to look like any other overrun tourist rat trap in the world today.

And that’s not even taking into account the larger issue of climate change and how it may be related to some of the issues already mentioned.

I could go on but suffice it to say that there is a nexus of issues which could trigger this debate full time but the odds are that more than one will end up being the catalyst for public push-back at the national level.

Australia

Normally we only get irked at the Ozzies because they are our nemesis at sports and because they won’t shut up about Kiwis being “sheep shaggers” but 2017 is going to be the year that we finally start to look across the Tasman Sea and question a bit more about our “special relationship” with our ANZAC neighbors.

The biggest issue at the moment is how Kiwis in Australia are being treated by being denied a pathway to citizenship through the normal visa category despite many having lived in Australia nearly their entire lives which leaves them vulnerable to deportation and other benefits available to those living long term in OZ.

What makes this situation even more galling is that NZ does give all these benefits to Australians living in NZ under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement so it basically Australia not reciprocating on a situation where they get all the benefits of living in NZ but Kiwis in OZ do not.

Add to this the deportation of Kiwis back to NZ (be they criminals or otherwise) no matter how long they have lived in Australia and the detention of Kiwis in what I can only term politely as “detention camps” along with anyone else having “immigration issues” in Australia.

And then there is the fact that New Zealand has always been Canada to Australia’s United States (as anyone who has lived or worked with Canadians or Americans will know).

We both remain democratic states but politically we are often moving in different directions.

Australia’s wholehearted support for military measures in the Middle East and its military relationship with the US are mostly at odds with New Zealand’s and while the geo-political situation for Australia does remain different (being “slightly” closer to Asia as well as having some incidents of domestic terrorism) what is really driving the split appears to be coming from the sheer volatility of government with its revolving door of Prime Ministers and parties and the polarization of politics along partisan lines just like the US it so often seems to want to emulate.

So expect things to remain tense between us and them across the water as Oz has served as a safety valve to NZ for a long time with many Kiwis hopping across the ditch to find better, jobs, better pay and better lives there and if that valve is closed or even reduced expect all those issues to remain (or come back) in NZ and that means more discontent at home and less “exporting” our problems to Oz.

If that happens then that could directly have an impact on elections here and if anything will make it an issue, pissed off Kiwis ragging on the Wallabies to their local MP will.

So like the environment expect this issue to heat up (pun intended this time) in the next 12 months.

Auf Wedersehen Godzone?

Where to start with NZ?

It’s clear that New Zealand of the twentieth century is changing as we move into the 21st, that the social democracy that was built up in the first three quarters of the previous century is rapidly being eroded by changes enacted in the last quarter.

Child poverty, the housing hernia, immigration issues, infrastructure limitations, the earthquakes and the rise of two separate classes of people (a small wealthy elite and the mass of those desperately holding on to declining middle class status or sliding into crippling poverty) in a country once considered to be classless.

Add to this the entrenchment of career politicians in Wellington and the parasite politics that such vermin bring and it’s not hard to see that Kiwis will soon be faced with a decision on which direction we, as a nation, wish to go.

Do we seek to retain our social democratic, classless society with such things as a social security net and fair and just laws or allow our society to be broken up and Balkanised into small enclaves of wealth and privilege while the majority are pushed into an increasingly lawless wasteland of user pays, privatized and profit orientated values amid a country in which we become second class citizen serfs?

The choices we make, may have already been made for us but if we do retain any options it may be to go quietly or put up a fight and the old joke about NZ having 60 million sheep but three million think they are human might not seem so funny in a few years’ time as Smiths Dream finally comes about via a complacent populace.

I could say a lot more here but this is as good as place as any to end this post (also as I will get into this more in the future).

So stop worrying about which pampered actor or musician is going to kick the bucket this year or what President Trump is currently raving about and turn your attention to your own backyard, your own peoples, your own cultures and your own well being first.

If you can’t do that at least have some style in whose death you bemoan. Crying out over the passing of grade Z celebrities or musicians shows a shallowness which betrays a point of view which is at the absolute screen face of media as a puppet dancing to the tune called by someone else.

Happy 2017.