Hegemony rules but resistance is fertile



The Prime Minister is a puppet. Not just our current Prime Minister, but given the forces of multinational globalisation, the role of any head of state, is less as independent actor, and more as a puppet of international trends and imperatives.
The fate of New Zealand’s economy, potential military roles, security, and indeed its narratives are more determined by the rise and fall of international tides, than from domestic action. We all know economically that if ‘America sneezes, the world catches a cold’. The strength of the New Zealand dollar is relative to international trade and demand. The threat of capital flight out of New Zealand constricts domestic regulation, tax and policy settings. The value of our export commodities is determined by production elsewhere. Cultural and consumer preferences come ready made from larger neo-colonial producers. In the age of Western neo-liberal consensus, our economic and foreign policy settings come in a package from paternalistic overlords. The hegemony is complete because of the ‘There Is No Alternative’ dogma that has come with the ‘end of ideology’, with the west ‘winning’ the cold-war contest of ideas between capitalism and communism.

The victory of free market capitalism is so complete that our political spectrum is fundamentally more oriented to the ‘right’ than to the left. –Not that you’d think so from the rhetoric about Labour & Green policy in the lead up to the election (“loony left”, “radical”). Our voting choices are constrained by what’s considered electorally feasible – a mediocre middle way at best. State intervention in ameliorating the impacts of modern capitalism is seen as outdated and inappropriate, yet it’s hardly radical socialism.

We’re complicit in this as consumers as well as citizens. Our consumption patterns determine the shape of the world we live in – rainforests are destroyed and orang-utans made extinct because we eat palm oil. The seas are being depleted because we love to hunt and eat fish. Pigs are raised in cruel conditions because we love bacon. There’s a market for junk and other stuff because we all buy into it.

But is there an alternative? Is there hope for an economic model that meets our wants and needs that doesn’t result in environmental destruction, inequality, dehumanisation and loss of sovereignty? Is it still possible for political non-alignment and sovereign independence in a world increasingly dominated by a narrative that ‘you’re either with us (in the war against whatever the latest bogeyman is, or for American supremacy), or against us’?

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Philosophers and economists continue to search for a compelling and cohesive alternative ideology that will deliver all the gratification for consumers that capitalism does, but without the costs. But there’s nothing much on the horizon that looks like it will challenge the current world order. Even China has hitched its fortunes to the capitalist mode of production and exchange.

The opportunities for independent foreign and economic policy are limited given our historical links to Britain and the United States and our immersion in global trade. Ultimately, we’ll only be free from the TPPA if international agreements fail, not because of the unlikely event that our Government rejects it. The International Court of Justice and World Trade organisation will increasingly be the jurisdictions deciding domestic policy.

We were unable to change the government, and even if we could have, this issue would still remain. All Western governments are shackled to the prevailing conventions and expectations of a market economy. Independent state action is even more difficult than during the Cold War, when the non-aligned movement and small states were able to take principled positions and to ‘punch above their weight’.

Many of us seek independence in our private lives, carrying out small acts of resistance – growing our own veges, turning off the tv, dropping out of the formal economy, using the black market or gift economy for trade while knowing we’re still rats in a cage. Despite the odds, resistance is fertile. We must continue to seek opportunities for freedom in our own lives. It may be the only real freedom we have left.


  1. There is a big questioning of the idea of US ‘hegemony’.
    Mainly because its only as good as the claim of ruling class legitimacy behind it.
    Everywhere you look today this legitimacy is under attack.
    From the Arab Spring to the ‘no vai ter copa’ to Gaza to Ferguson the fragile claim that humanity must now be defended by the ‘war on terror’ is opposed.
    The global capitalist system is in meltdown hand in glove with climate collapse.
    The resistance is not individual but collective.
    It is the class war.

  2. FYI

    Purge our NZ/Aotearoa of the Banks . It’s that simple .

    ” What’s financialism, and how is it destroying your life? ”

    ” As businesses start retaining and investing larger cash-reserves, they’re turning into banks. Banks, meanwhile, need to find another line of work: they become asset traders. Meanwhile, your wages have been stagnant for decades, which means that in order to survive, you must become a debtor.
    An interview with Costas Lapavitsas from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies sets out a good explanation of “financialization” and how it’s colonized every corner of our world. ”


  3. John Key has always been a willing mercenary. So I view him not so much as being a “puppet”, but as a happy, opportunistic mercenary, who is happy to sell principles for mere material advantages. His whole business career is based on that, being a willing mercenary for the merchant banks and some enterprises he worked for. He actually believes that this is “smart”, practical and “makes sense”, as he knows little else.

    The much quoted story of his state home childhood is a bit “over idealising” him and his mother. His mother actually worked most the time, was frugal but ambitious, and John Key was raised to also believe in hard work and opportunity, to achieve something better, for himself and his direct family. In short, he and his family have always been truly bourgeois, and they only had to go through hard times, due to personal fate caused by historic events. It so happened that his mother was entitled to a state house, which was helpful, but that fact did not seem to create any true, marked sense of collective, social spirit in Key, as his early career as currency trader soon showed. He was very career and success driven, from early on.

    He has entered politics as a convinced neo-liberal kind of capitalist entrepreneur and opportunist, and because he considers that to be the best way to solve humanity’s challenges and problems, he got active within National, and did all to become PM, to head a government, which would bring in the kind of policies we have been and will be getting.

    Only because some policies Labour brought in, like working for families and Kiwisaver are difficult to reverse, has he somewhat reluctantly accepted them and left these in place. But looking at how the Nats have already changed Kiwisaver, and will allow savers to use even more of Kiwisaver savings to “invest” in their first home, it shows that this policy is gradually being hollowed out.

    This three year term will show that Key and his Nats will now try to change this country more profoundly forever, by further undermining the remnants of social services and the state managed sector, by outsourcing, privatising and creating “alternative” agencies, that will all be more “market driven” measures.

    Key is keeping his home in Hawaii, so he will always have his “refuge” when things go wrong, and once he will feel his job is done, he will leave these shores for his retirement, probably to never return and revisit the shambles he and his party will have left behind.

    The choice for New Zealand is though not great, as the alternatives to being friendly with the US leaves the country at risk of becoming too dependent on China or other powers, who are also not “saintly” and without self-interest. As Australia is much closer to the US anyway, we will always have that “big” neighbour able influence us, which means indirect dependence on the US.

  4. Look to South America for inspiration:
    Democracy, Socialism And Counter-Revolution In Latin America

    Nowhere are people moving forward as they are in South and Central America. That is significant for us because democracy is contagious and when global movements become strong enough, it can spread even to the most unlikely of places – the United States, say. In addition, successful resistance to empire brings us closer to the day when we can finally shed the baggage of domination and exploitation and begin to relate to people around the world in something approximating peace and harmony. For these and other reasons we should take support the many positive developments to our south.

    There are excellent resources on Latin America in English including http://nacla.org, http://venezuelanalysis.com and http://upsidedownworld.org/main, as well as activist solidarity groups like http://www.cispes.org, http://nisgua.org, http://www.hondurassolidarity.org, http://www.nicanet.org, and http://colombiasupport.net.

    • Latin America, yes and no, there is only so much progress in some places there. And do not forget, they have their large, truly capitalist corporations as well, it was Petrobras, who tried to drill for oil offshore in New Zealand waters not long ago.

      As for a different, more sustainable and fairer world, yes that is what most of us here dream of and aspire to, but the billions of human beings, rich and poor, all want to live and need to eat, use water and resources, and even if we share, it will still ruin the planet under present resource use conditions.

      A very radical change is needed, and it requires all people and states to work together, and to comply with international agreements, that must be enforced. Otherwise greed of some will push them to press their interests ahead of others, no matter what.

      It may indeed require also a substantial, radical change in human thinking and behaviour, in forming a totally new human culture, with more respect for each other, and a rejection of selfishness, by putting the good of the collective ahead of all else.

      Now there is a challenge, and try to get the voters we presently have to vote for that.

  5. Consumers can influence the market directly through activism, by informing people of facts which could change their purchasing choices (for example promoting free range eggs instead of eggs from battery hens).

  6. Yeah ….while I find myself agreeing with some of the realities of the neo liberal disease being all pervasive….there are several points to made regarding this :

    First off …go talk about neo liberalism to many of the subsistance farmer hunter gatherer communities still in existence….youd get a patronising smile and a muffled giggle in response…:)

    But more seriously…the only reason neo liberalism CAN exist is because we let it. HOW?…..ignorance. It exists because people are ignorant, dont care and are quite happy for their collectivism to be ‘atomised’.

    ATOMISED?…yes!…ATOMISED !! ….neo liberalism cant exist with a strong collective base . It NEEDS to break down collective thinking, It NEEDS to divide people and groups.

    And because also people are typically too lazy to absorb /research/ self educate about politics and the rudiments of economic theory (theyd rather be at the beach drinking beers)….classically they take the path of least resistance. So they swallow whatever garbage spewed out from a neo liberal based media and government. And vote accordingly.

    Just half an hour ago I was speaking to someone who fits that bill perfectly. Born after the age of Rogernomics, stating when the issues of unions were brought up , ”I just feel we are lucky to have a job”….it was beyond despair at such an ignorant reply.

    Pathetic. And casting oneself automatically as the impotent , sitting duck whipping boy…WHY?….all because of a lazy and indolent spirit too short sighted to engage the thought processes.

    It is incredible the cowardice, ignorance and irresponsibility of these …the New Zealand worker , both blue and white collar ….who refuse through indolence to even TRY to understand New Zealands VERY RECENT PAST HISTORY !!

    And so they reap their just reward for their ommisssion in job insecurity , loss of freedoms, risk , manipulations , ….in short being a paid and bought compliant and docile work slave.

    They have earned their misery and paid the price for their lazy ignorance and loss of freedoms rightly and justly by showing their contempt for hard won freedoms and benefits that were paid for by earlier generations.

    These people cannot tolerate being challenged…to apply themselves to alternatives…in fact…not alternatives..but the CORRECT manner in as much as Keynesian theory and collective social democracy IS the answer to this neo liberal rot.

    It is erronous to assume neo liberalism has indeed ‘taken over’….it certainly hasnt in many South American countries…in fact , – they have purposely rejected neo liberalism because of its social destructiveness. And its all- too -close ties with American influence. They dont want that.

    But , the difference is…those countries are more populated and historically, the extremes of wealth and poverty existed enough for there to be a critical mass of people who looked for other means to establish better equity/ egalitarianism.

    Then there are the Scandinavian nations…once again…a more politically diligent population…and why?…because Europe has always had continual internal wars, takeovers and border disputes. They are more politically aware because of this.

    We had not wars, or extreme poverty – we had the fall out from the Great Depression…but so did others …but what made us unique was the innovative social democratic methods under Michael Joseph Savage …using the Keynesian model of economics. And we were EXTREMELY successful.

    But we failed to develop diverse industries other than primary…we lost the British markets when they joined the EEC….by the time of Rogernomics…we were captured by the lies about government ‘waste’ and ‘debt’, the moral righteous of a small , ‘hands off’ government….(euphemism for do nothing and pass laws /divide collectives to enable your rich mates to bleed and rape the counrty dry)

    And so now…a generation later…we have large numbers of people who dont know any better…

    The answer is reeducation , New Zealands recent history , economics…our independant foreign policies…these things need to be taught at a young age to encourage people to be able to decide which system they prefer…

    An open fair and equitable society?…or …simply put …ever increasing enslavement.

    • Oh …and one other thing that made alot of people question the validity of social democracy and Keynesiainism…..

      You remember the catch cry of the neo liberal right back in the 1980’s and 1990’s?….the one about a ‘SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT ‘??…

      Talk about the supreme guilt trip being put on people….quite an insidious weapon to be honest…..

      WELLLLLLLLL….It just so happens that those very self same neo liberal pirates who consider themselves the ‘BORN TO RULE ‘ crowd thought they had a sense of ‘ ENTITLEMENT ‘in corporatising , privatising and gutting our state owned assets…putting in a skeleton staff and making them work for longer hours for drastically less flat hourly rates , encouraging the dismantling of the unions and award rates through bills such as the Employment Contracts Act….

      The reality is these are the biggest corporate welfare bludgers this country have ever known , – with overinflated senses of ‘ ENTITLEMENT’ in helping themselves to and plundering this countrys wealth…with the greatest con of all- the ‘ TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT ‘ garbage.

      And now their trying it on with the TTPA and TISA….the biggest piratical hiest ever to befall this dumbed – down , naive and sadly misinformed (albeit self inflicted , largely ) little nation in the South Pacific.

      Once upon a time……we sent frigates to Muroa atoll….and prevented the USA from bringing nuclear powered warships here.

      THAT is how much we have thrown away. Our very Spirits.

      • Too many suffer from something akin to “soaked”, wet brains, brains soaked in a mixture of pavlova and beer, I suppose?! The message is “consume”, “consume” and “consume”, and use your credit card if cash is not handy, and to replenish it, go, shut up and work, work and work yet more, until the next weekend with spending and consuming arrives. A trap, a hamster wheel rat race, a path with no end and beginning, an existence that is empty, void and useless. How dreadful, but that is the trap so many have let themselves fall in, and they do not take the time and effort to stop and reconsider.

    • Thanks for all your replies folks, I’m heartened that at least some of us still have the capacity to see all this for what it is and shake the bars of the cage. Even if we can’t completely escape at least we can still spread the word and take action that empowers us and exerts some control (over what we buy or don’t buy, for example)

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