Notes Antic Disposition

Gross Domestic Pathologies

It seems the legacy of John Key’s government will be merely the last run of the baby-boomer corporate executives, grabbing all they can, before the next left wing government comes in and screws around with everything, trying to fix the mess, but probably just making even more mess themselves.

New Zealand should be able to do much better than this mediocrity.

With their drive to open up mining in national parks, it seems like that New Zealand government is entering a new mode of embracing Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum “There's no such thing as society.”

Russell Norman—who is about the closest thing the New Zealand Parliament has to someone of my own demographic—had this to say:

Prosperity is what we seek. Last week I paddled the Taumarere and Kawakawa rivers as part of my dirty rivers rafting tour. As I made my way across those rivers, still degraded in spite of efforts of hapu and others to clean them up, I had pause to think – is this prosperity?

Is a river that is so full of silt and excrement that even mullet barely survive, is this prosperity?

Is it prosperity when the seagrass beds are smothered to extinction by silt, seagrass beds that are the nurseries of the snapper? Sure intensive dairying increases GDP and it’s been growing at 4% a year for a decade but what about those who can no longer catch a feed off the rocks because the snapper fishery is depleted by the killing of the seagrass?

Their loss is not counted in those GDP numbers showing great growth. If anything the fact that people now have to go to the supermarket to buy a snapper adds to GDP by adding to economic turnover – in fact the absurd truth is that people catching a fish for free are contributing nothing to GDP, they are a kind of economic traitor by refusing to participate in the mantra of GDP growth by refusing to purchase their kaimoana.

It is also an absurd truth that the people who are most able to catch the free fish on clear beaches and coastline, are the particularly wealthy who have hedged their bets in coastal property, and are being aided and abetted by the refusal of this government to administer a Capital Gains Tax.

His speech also touched on the core intellectual reason why in my youth, I dropped out of Law School in Wellington — the abject failure of the New Zealand Legal and Education systems to properly recognize the Treaty as a bilingual document and take into account its multiplicity of meanings:

The Te Reo version of Te Tiriti did not cede sovereignty to the Crown, why would they give away their land and sovereignty to the new comers? Actual sovereignty was achieved by the colonial government through the New Zealand wars from 1843 to 1872 and after. This historical truth is not well known in mainstream circles but it is very well known in Maori circles and until we acknowledge this truth we will not heal the wounds of colonisation. Until we recognise the truth that the sovereignty of this parliament was won through force of arms then we will continue to feel the pain of the land wars.

There is a clear and harsh generational divide in New Zealand, between the people who recognize it as a polarized and divisive society and culture, and those who prefer to think that there isn’t a society at all, just individuals and families.

It’s also an absurd truth about New Zealand, that neo-liberals and those conservatives who believe that they are moderate or centrist, have a tendency to deviate to a far more extreme right than they realize. Famously so.