30 years of neoliberalism in NZ has created important pillar myths that need to constantly be reinforced and worshiped unquestionably. We are not allowed to challenge these scared cows, we must not ever disagree with them and we must always accept them. Attempting to unpick these myths threatens the structural integrity of the pillars neoliberalism has established and will see your opinion marginalised or sidelined for pundits who preach the free market gospel.
10: Rugby! Rugby! Rugby!
It is vitally important that the public are kept distracted by corporate rugby at all times. It keeps us locked into an anti-intellectualism that promotes public sphere debate to be focused on sport rather than societal and political issues. Distractions for the masses is an old game, but this focus ignores the fact that NZ is an incredibly creative country ripe for challenging and questioning the very limitations a Rugby first culture generates. Look at the World Economic Forum where we are ranked as the 3rd most creative country in the world…
These are the world’s most creative countries
How is creativity connected to global economic development? A new study by the Martin Prosperity Institute, titled the Global Creativity Index 2015, presents a new model of economic development. It calls this the “3Ts” – talent, technology and tolerance – and ranks 139 nations on each of these pillars, as well as their overall measure. The three dimensions are described as follows:
1. Technology – Research and development investment, and patents per capita
2. Talent – Share of adults with higher education and workforce in the creative class
3. Tolerance – Treatment of immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians
…by ignoring our creative talent for a Rugby über allies culture we shut down the ability to question ourselves which is why Key is so wedded to the All Blacks.
9: Clean & Green
It is vital for neoliberalism that the myth of NZ being clean and green is never questioned. The pollution our powerful farming lobby get away with because of their close connections to the National Party can occur because we lie to ourselves about the level of real pollution we create. This need to hide our pollution was the main driver by Key as Tourism Minister to dump our 100% Pure marketing logo as it opened us up to claims of greenwashing by European markets. The achilles heel of free market capitalism is its need to destroy the environment with its endless growth model so the myth that we are not polluting our environment has to be a powerful one. You can see the power of that ignorance when you consider that NZ has one of the highest percentage of climate deniers in the developed world.
8: Poverty denial
It’s important for neoliberalism that we pretend to still be an egalitarian nation. That pretence means that the system can never be challenged. Despite housing affordability now being the worst ever on record, and inequality soaring…
Nearly one in three New Zealand children ‘living in poverty’
“Child poverty – it’s not choice.” That’s the message that outgoing Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills wants to spread through social media in a challenge to Government policy.
His latest annual Child Poverty Monitor, out today, says children living in households earning below 60 per cent of the median household income after housing costs, have almost doubled from 15 per cent of all children in 1984 to 29 per cent last year. Children hospitalised with poverty-related illnesses more than doubled in the 1990s and have increased further in the recent recession.
“Everything points to things being far tougher than they were 30 years ago. That’s not right in a country like ours and it’s not fair,” said Dr Wills, whose five-year term as Children’s Commissioner ends in June. “Today I’m asking New Zealanders to show they share our concern by spreading the message #itsnotchoice.
If they visit our website they can take part in a selfie campaign and show that we’re all behind the need for things to change for our kids.”
Political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards said the message was “a beautiful contrast” with Prime Minister John Key’s claim in 2011 that “anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice”.
…we must always pretend that we are an equal country. Poverty denial means we never have to confront the uncomfortable truths of privilege. The 305 000 children living in poverty are constantly decried as ‘relative’ poverty so that their plight is never taken seriously.
7: A benign Government
The growing nature of the Police state in NZ has to always be hidden behind the veneer of the Government being benign. The search and surveillance powers given to state departments and Police, 24 hour warrantless surveillance powers of the SIS, the mass surveillance powers of the GCSB – all of these powers have occurred with bugger all judicial oversight. The alarming increase in budgets and unchecked power for our intelligence apparatus has been allowed because NZers think Key is benign, if a Labour Government had attempted to bring these vast erosions of civil liberties into power, every mainstream media outlet would be calling for open revolution, such is the strength of the double standards of the NZ voter. Privatising the state security services is an abomination that is barely discussed.
6: NZ settled ‘peacefully’
NZ needs to pretend that our history is the whitewashed version espoused by Key…
New Zealand ‘settled peacefully’ – PM
New Zealand was “settled peacefully” by the British, the prime minister says, despite thousands dying in the land wars after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
…Over half our prison population are Maori. Maori perform poorer in education. Maori face deeper poverty and inequality. Maori lost 95% of their land in a century and were almost wiped out as a race.
We have a Police force who admitted last year that they have an ‘unconscious bias’ towards Maori and a mainstream media who didn’t even mention this astounding announcement. You have a GCSB and SIS who were just outed as racist scum yet gain more and more and more unchecked power.
Just think about that for a moment – if the US or Australian Police admitted they are biased against minorities it would have led media there – it happens in NZ and no one mentions it.
Think land confiscations are history footnotes? You have had one of the largest land confiscations in NZs history when Labour stole the foreshore and seabed and you have a new land confiscation looming as the Maori Party work with National to lower the threshold for collective Maori land decisions.
You don’t hear those stats much when we talk about Waitangi Day – you hear white people moaning that they can’t really enjoy Waitangi Day because Maori keep whinging about all the lies, broken promises and land confiscations that have made the Treaty look like a joke.
We are casual about everything in NZ and this is especially true of our racism. We have a dark garden variety bigotry towards everyone not white in NZ, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Maori all suffer from it daily.
In a depoliticised wasteland that is our mainstream media where a racist like Paul Henry and a rich bigot like Mike Hosking control most of the airwaves, this real debate about our racism sits unchallenged in the corner like that drunk South Island relative you only see at Christmas, ready to pounce at any moment with their ill educated brain farts.
Under National, empirical evidence has been replaced with ideological nonsense. Private prisons, charter school, weakening worker rights and privatising state housing has no evidence of working, but National do it anyway. Look at how the booze industry has managed to just fund its own ridiculous research to try and mould social policy. Look at how Treasury was ignored that a sugar tax would work…
Treasury’s advice on soft drink tax revealed
Treasury told Government ministers a tax on soft drinks was one of the “most promising” options to cut high obesity levels, newly released documents show.
…ideology over facts and the move to privatise state services is an essential myth of neoliberalism…
The private sector is more efficient than the public sector
The abiding myth of mainstream economics is that governments should minimize their role in the economy – or, put another way, get out of the way of the accumulative drive of the rich. It’s an ideological position that suits governing elites and has led, among other things, to a fire sale of public assets and the increasing privatization of what were once public goods and services. The magic of the market and the vigour of private enterprise will make the cream of cost-effectiveness and efficiency rise to the top. At least, that’s how it’s spun.
Increasingly also, sell-offs are seen as a way for governments to ‘cut debt and plug budget deficits’, regardless of common-sense doubts that this may not be for the best as, usually, you can’t sell the same thing twice. Thus The Wall Street Journal applauded Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa’s record privatizations in 2013, by gushing: ‘Their privatization sprees have injected needed cash into government coffers and freed the governments to focus on their core missions while injecting life into both markets.’
4: Rape Culture
We ignore the devastating impact of women treated as second class citizens and abused by rape culture. Tens of thousands of victims of sexual assault and rape have gone without any justice and the response is total silence. If we were serious about combating rape we would have proper sexual education programs in all schools that included consent lessons and would run mass media social advertising campaigns telling men that this is not acceptable, but when the focus is on the individual, we ignore hegemonic structures of power in society.
3: An independent South Pacific nation
Before the election Key said he would’t send troops into Iraq, after winning the election he promptly u-turned and agreed to send troops. Key said it was the price of being in the ‘club’, it was a line he would live to regret because what we saw in 2015 was Key’s total acquiescence to American Empire. Consider
- We were outed spying on allies and trade partners for America via the 5 Eyes mass surveillance system.
- Kim Dotcom’s downfall was orchestrated by NZ for America to establish US jurisdiction into cyberspace.
- The TPPA was forced through and NZ helped so that America could counter Chinese influence in the Pacific.
- To deflect attention on why the GCSB were spying for Tim Groser to get a WTO job, the agency and Key created ‘Jihadi brides’ as a cover story.
- The GCSB were outed hiring spin drs and publicity experts to shape NZ opinion on mass surveillance.
Key’s desire to sign up to the TPPA highlights just how much we have lost our own voice as an independent nation.
2: The poor are to blame for being poor
One of the most important myths of neoliberalism is that the poor choose to be poor. Key claims child poverty and inequality is all about the poor taking drugs and that they ‘breed for money’. Blaming the poor for being poor absolves us of any obligation to do anything and it allows us to ignore our skyrocketing suicide rates.
Look at the mentality of the National Government who at one stage in 2010 tried to not allow funeral costs for the families of suicide victims because, as Nick Smith put it, ‘suicide is not an accident’. That cruelty mirrored Nick Smith trying to deny rape victims any counselling by defining rape as an ‘acute event’ rather than a mental illness.
Our under funded social infrastructure, our ‘me first’ consumerism, our 30 years of neoliberal mythology, our disconnection from one another, our untreated pain, our lack of hope from grinding poverty in a first world country, our toxic masculinity, our unspoken rape culture, our inability to express emotion beyond anger – all of this demands questions we don’t want to hear as a society and the shame of suicide continues to hide and smother any healing.
297 people died on NZ roads in 2014, 564 people took their own lives in that time.
We spend millions on road safety based on the premise that the road toll is a public health issue yet we don’t put any of that effort or political will into a suicide rate that dwarfs our road toll. Why? Because politicians don’t want the answer as to why so many of our fellow citizens decide to end their life in this supposed ‘gods own’.
1: We are a little battler country
Our greatest myth is that NZ is a tiny country, battling above its weight against huge countries. That is the reason we can’t do anything meaningful about climate change, that is the reason we don’t really have an ‘real’ poverty and it’s why we simply follow rather than lead any longer.
The truth is this lie is a necessary one used to lower our expectations. Here is the truth…
…we play this ‘we are a tiny country’ schtick to avoid having to actually make any changes.
30 years of neoliberalism has empowered a few at the cost of the many yet we have a middle so desperate to be one of those that have ‘succeeded’ that we have lost focus on the values that make us New Zealanders.