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Paul Maunder's blog

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Fascism

Living in fascist times

We have to entertain the possibility that the Trump regime is now a fascist government. The separation of migrant children from their families and the caging of the children by an NGO, the withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Committee, the demonising of migrants, the prison labour camps, the escalation of military spending and continuing popular support for the American First agenda, entwined with National Rifle Association and evangelical roots, justifies this judgement.

Trump himself grows in confidence, his tweets a modern parody of Hitler’s rants. His ability to attack other leaders, something Hitler did, leaving them nonplussed by such abnormal behaviour, backs up the judgement. His bedfellow is Netanyahu and an Israeli regime that is indifferent to international critique and law. Europe becomes confused. Hungary, Poland and Italy have populist governments, there are strong neo fascist parties in France and Germany and even in some of the Nordic countries, all motivated by the refugee (Muslim) ‘infestation’. Russia is squeezed and sullen and the Chinese perhaps over extended economically (a bubble waiting to burst). Meanwhile South American destablisises. The military skirmishing initially takes place in Africa, that’s par for the course, creating more ‘infestation’.

The movement is contradictory, as usual about tapping into resources, but couched in the language of withdrawal, even though withdrawal is absurd in a globalised world; the parts for a car or a toaster coming from a variety of countries and continents. The US impulse seems to be a desire to return to a simpler imperial regime. China is guilty of becoming innovative, ‘stealing’ intellectual copyright and starting to do its own thing, rather than providing cheap labour for first world manufacturers.

And like Hitler, who got the trains running on time, Trump’s economic programme seems to be working, with unemployment below 4%. Even here, the NZ Taxpayers’ Union is preaching Trump economics. So the bread is there and the circuses expand at an ever greater rate with world cups in everything. The steely-eyed, motivated individual fulfilling his or her dream becomes central. As Yeats prophesised: ‘The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.’

Will a Spanish Civil War arise to test the waters? The state is too well armed for amateurs to be effective (although the Zapatista did manage an effective minimalist armed rebellion). The intensification of surveillance parallels sea level rise. There is no coherent Left, only emanations of something so far to the left as to appear ridiculous, small pinpoints of light taking the form of spontaneous anarchist communes. The reaction of the state to these pinpoints of light is harsh enough for us to see that this is what the state abhors, anyone that ignores the state as  arbiter. And there can be a gulp at the thought of there being no state, to hand it over to the gangs and the mafia is unthinkable.

It’s terribly difficult, yet we must think. Perhaps my generation are too old to think, to advise? Quite likely. Yet Trump is an old man. Perhaps this is still our problem.  What do we in New Zealand do? Ignore it all and go about our business – too small and polite to be noticed – or make a stand and be punished?

Heroes and thieves

A nasty cartoon-poster appeared in a local shop window attacking Metiria Turei: ‘When the left needed a hero they got a thief’ read the slogan and I suddenly realized this whole episode has revealed the sub- fascist side of things that can appear as an underbelly of NZ political culture, with beneficiaries a hated marginal minority supposedly ripping off the system and needing to be punished – not too distant from Aryans jeering at Jews forced to scrub footpaths.

beggar

photo: radio nz

The persecutor-victim-rescuer dynamic has been at the heart of this story: Metiria set herself up as spokesperson and example of the beneficiary victim, thus inviting persecution. She got that alright and then needed rescuing by the left. But meanwhile, family members felt they’d been, in turn, made victim and therefore needed to persecute in order to rescue themselves. The newly energized Labour Party also felt persecuted by the whole episode and needed to rescue themselves. On it goes. The Greens should of course be familiar with the dynamic: after all, the planet is victim and needs rescuing – that’s core business.

It’s actually a terrible pattern, for it keeps on spiraling down – ending up in ethnic cleansing and death camps.

In human interactions the solution is simple: adult negotiates with adult and in this instance the adult position is clear: Every civilized society has a benefit system to ensure subsistence to those who cannot gain satisfactory paid work: the unemployed, the disabled, the solo parent, and the aged. If there is no system or if the amount is insufficient, these people are stressed, leading to dysfunctional family situations, hunger, violence, crime, kids unable to learn, prostitution etc. The facts are there. The only question is, having known for thirty years or more that the present regime provides insufficient benefit levels, why, as a society, we haven’t taken steps to alleviate the stress? When research shows clearly that we should do something, we don’t do it. Why do we persecute these people?

Metiria tried to dramatise this situation and failed, perhaps not failed, but it wasn’t a good outcome, as a sort pf martyrdom followed. Is there an adult on the other end of this negotiation? Unfortunately, no. And that’s the real problem. The persecutor remains adamant. It will probably take the Universal Basic Income to disappear this persecutor, to put in place an equable regime of subsistence, rather than rags to riches stories, crime stories, celebrity stories, the usual lies that people are fed.

When it comes to the planet as victim, the dynamic is complex, for the planet doesn’t care, even if it became a barren rock flying through space. Caring requires consciousness, so this is actually a people to people issue. Are we prepared to make the sacrifices, the adjustments required to stop further warming or are we going to create millions of victims, who will then persecute us by becoming refugees, boat people, terrorists, beggars? And who we then, in turn, persecute.

We know this, yet we do nothing much, for behind these dilemmas is an economic and political system based on the persecutor-victim-rescuer dynamic and the ‘there is no alternative’ mantra. When we need heroes we get thieves.

Back to the drawing board.

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