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Cuba

I feel a growing outrage as the Trump regime increases its persecution of Cuba. Outrage at the absurd resurrection of old language – ‘communist’, ‘dictators’, ‘spreading revolution to neighbouring countries’, portraying the American continent as ‘their territory’ and one which they must control economically and politically. Outrage at what it produced in the past and what it will produce now: the training of torturers, the arming of contra gangs who became mass murderers, the bombing of presidential palaces – all in the name of ‘freedom’.

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So they will persecute the Cuban citizenry, starve them, torture them slowly, for that is who sanctions hit, the ordinary folk who are supposed to then rise up and welcome Hitler and his gang (sorry, a slip of the tongue) as they march in as saviours. It is the worst sort of theatre of the absurd, for sado masochism is always absurd.

I’ve been to Cuba. Cubans don’t shoot one another with monotonous regularity, they seemed to have very little domestic violence, they don’t have anorexics or teenagers exposing their genitals on social media, – in fact the kids were wonderful, they still plough their fields with oxen and don’t do factory farming, they supply doctors to disaster zones, there was no overt military or police presence, they dance very well and sing beautifully in complex rhythms; education and health care is free and they rate high on well being indices. They’re freeing the economy from state control and encouraging co-operatives, there were no beggars or homeless, they have a civil society, have elections and they have respected elders who forged a revolution and kicked out the mafia, the gangsters and the American corporations. They live at a humble level economically and there can be a lack of consumer items because of the sanctions, but it is a country that copes and is resilient. When I was there I decided the world could live at the Cuban level economically and things would be fine.

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Hence the outrage when these mendacious and ugly bullies start kicking the other kid on the playground because they are bored with their own stupidity, their paranoia and the toxicity of their banal and greedy lives.

Could the NZ government have the gumption to kick out the US ambassador? Or at least, Winston, call him in and give him a dressing down?

Meanwhile the US government will inspect one’s social media output before granting a visa. I suspect, if I were ever wanting to go there, this missive will count me out.

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?

Trump and Class

We were discussing Trump at the Working Men’s Club and one of the blokes said, ‘At least he’s a politician who’s doing what he promised.’ Trump is therefore virtuous? By this reasoning, Hitler promising to get rid of the Jews became virtuous by doing so. Of course, behind this reasoning is a long line of broken promises from politicians and more generally, a feeling of class betrayal.

Class is a complex concept but the dictionary definition is simple: rank or order of society. The term arose during the industrial revolution when the new working class arrived- people without property who had only their labour to sell as a means to earn a living. They were seen as existing in conflict with the middle classes who owned the means of production, most commonly, the factory. In between existed a lower middle class of shopkeepers and professionals whose interests generally aligned with the middle class.

Unlike the previous caste ordering of society, where rank was given by birth, a working class person could rise, usually via education or through entrepreneurial energy – the colonies gave more scope for this upward movement. As well, the middle class or lower middle class person could fall through misfortune or bad management. Politics became the task of managing these tensions.

Now, because of technological changes, globalisation and the current emphasis on investment and finance, the model has altered. Michael Albert, a Chomskey-ite, emphasises the current rise in numbers and importance of a co-ordinating class: lawyers, teachers, managers, public servants, CEOs, bank officers, counsellors, doctors, IT specialists, building inspectors, politicians…the list goes on. They are the gatekeepers of the system and the people who ‘the multitude’ or ‘the precariat’ of workers, students, migrants, refugees, beneficiaries, unemployed come into contact with and often, into conflict with.

Above the co-ordinating class exist the more remote elite, the 1% (more realistically the 10%) who are wealthy and as we know, own an obscene portion of the world’s wealth. They may come from one of the wealthy dynasties, they may have risen through the entertainment industry or by hitting the jackpot in the digital sphere (invented facebook or Trade Me or own Microsoft or Apple), they could be an oil sheik or an African dictator, or a Russian mafioso or an ex Prime Minister or a CEO of an investment house earning a ridiculous annual salary plus share bonus.

Celebrities channel this elite to the multitude, giving them stories, scandals and dreams, so that instead of being seen as the class enemy, they become role models of aspiration or charity or fantasy, a live lotto ticket with generous boobs and perfect teeth. The resentment and anger is reserved for the co-ordinating class trying to cope with National Standards or DHB funding shortfalls or the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.

This co-ordinating class have also been keen on diversity, equal rights etc, the stuff of political correctness and this can cause resentment amongst what is left of the traditional working class as they are forced to face GLBT, treaty and environmental complexities plus Muslim fundamentalists occasionally blowing themselves up in public places. Along comes a narcissistic member of the elite giving the co-ordinating class the fingers and this inchoate resentment of a mass of people unaware of their real order and its contradictions, seize on the winged fantasies which fascism always flies on.

Two questions remain: Are the co-ordinating class resolute and tough enough to take on this combination of a confused sector of the multitude and the elite, and win?

In doing so, can they create a solidarity with the multitude?

Dangers

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A large sign suddenly appeared on the swimming bath fence. It feels like a message from aliens. What does it mean? Who is it for? The average user of the pool? What does one take from it?

Every farm gate now sports a sign: Multiple hazard area. What should one do about it? Every child going to school, every jogger, truck driver, builder, milk vendor, junk mail deliverer, wears a high viz jerkin, as if we have become visually impaired.

Local MP, Damien O’Connor gave up his electorate office in Albert Mall because the building had too low an earthquake rating.  It was a good location in the centre of town opposite the library, an open glass frontage good for poster display, a space easy to pop into and have a chat. The new office on the outskirts of the CBD has a high counter with a latched entrance to stop loonies barging their way in and assaulting the secretary. Of course a woman working alone in a more isolate location is vulnerable and since the Ashburton rampage public servants are perceived as an at risk group of workers.  But the office is no longer a social and political hub.

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Since 9/11 a greater level of alienation is apparent. We are generally on high alert. The supposed dangers, like a virus, have entered the body of society, latching onto healthy cells. How far do we go along with this? Do we have any choice?  And the dangers compound: trucks and cars become terrorist weapons.  At the same time, statistically, it is nonsense. Far more people are killed by falling out of bed or mowing the lawns, than by terrorist attacks.

Taking advantage of this climate of fear and anxiety President Trump is definitely a danger to the health and safety of a multitude of people and those resisting him are faced with some real  safety choices: to go underground or wear a high viz jacket and trust the system? The latter choice is problematic as the media, previously a safeguard, seemingly becomes irrelevant.  Neither tactic will produce safety, but choosing resistance is the only healthy choice.

And what would the underground be organizing? What is the modern sabotage? The General Strike was once able to bring down governments, but nowadays it feels a remote possibility. Instead, some are trying to define the concept of the Social Strike: students, mothers, shoppers, sports players, entertainers, television watchers, radio listeners, volunteers, going on strike and picketing; joined by those workers who are willing… it is an interesting idea and could well prove very powerful.

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