The cancellation of any consideration of a capital gains tax struck at a deep level. It was one of those moments of seeing behind the mask, as a loud chord of hypocrisy was sounded. After the Christchurch shooting , a time of encompassing, of unity, of compassion celebrated internationally, the cold sinews of family capitalism clenched and booted the football of collectivism out of the ground and the coalition government ran off into the dressing rooms, not even willing to draft a bill and take it to the select committee stages.
I stayed with a relative at Easter and she told me of the unpleasant family feuding that accompanied a second late marriage when inheritances were felt threatened. And this is what the capital gains tax was threatening, that passing on of private equity to descendants, that generational accumulation of capital disguised as ‘hard work’, ‘taking risk’, ‘a lifetime of endeavour’, but its result is a society of inequality that will not be able to make the hard decisions required for planet sustainability. For there is the catch 22 of speculative investment requiring growth, inflation of property values, ever increasing technological innovation, and an increasingly difficult race to catch up, to get a foot on the ladder and the accompanying meanness, also the accompanying waste, producing a banal, universalised ‘aristocracy’ of befuddled consumers,
A capital gains tax would have been a small stake in the ground signalling a questioning of this systemic greed portrayed as ‘survival’. Instead, the hypocrisy will work its way through the social fabric providing a host for the virus of alienation that produces ultimately the Christchurch aberration. Closed circle. Dead eyes. Grief.
It was a relief then to see Woman at War, the Icelandic movie that cleverly unpicks the clichés, that creates a gap in the circumference of the closed circle of neo-liberalism, that shoots an arrow not only over the power lines leading to an aluminium smelter, but into the heart of 21st century capitalism. It is a movie that could only come from a very small country which found itself somehow central in the Global Financial Crisis and eventually told the big boys to go to hell. That produced sufficient ethical capital to enable an artist to tell the truth.
Unfortunately we’re not going on a similar journey. Instead, will grace the cover of Time magazine.