Dr Liz Gordon: The great replacement

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Replacement theory has recently been in the news as a theory of race replacement held by white supremacists.  It is assumed that people of colour want to inhabit and take over the places currently populated by white people, in a sort of reverse colonisation.  Or, as I like to put it, having driven people out of their own homelands through the colonisation of everything, wealthy countries are now using every tool at their disposal not to allow people of colour to move into the colonisers’ own lands.

Meanwhile, here in London (where I am about to attend a conference), a different form of replacement is highly visible.  This is the replacement of shops, meaning places where one buys goods by walking in and carrying out a swap of goods for money, with services, and especially (in order of visibility) restaurants and eating places of various sorts, vape shops (often selling a range of other small technologies as well) and massage/ wellbeing/ fitness/ betting service places.

Take Leather Lane, for instance, an ancient street a three-minute walk from my sister’s flat. It used to be, not so long ago, a traditional London market with stall after stall of clothes, bags, DVDs, toiletries, cleaning materials, fruit and vege stalls and so on. It was quite fun with bits of cockney banter and the occasional pop-up store selling fake this or that (“What do you mean, love, is it real Chanel.  It’s perfume in a nice bottle with the right words on the packet. ‘Ow much more real than that do you need?”)

Now, there is only a handful of such places left.  The whole street is a delectable paradise of well-priced lunch places, with, it seems, just about every country in Europe, Asia and Africa represented. One quick walk down to Holborn and back and I was starving, the smells were so good!

And up the road is another old street called Essex Market. This had begun it’s culinary journey a few years back, with stalls popping up, a lovely artisan bakery called Gails, cafes and some quite high-end restaurants.

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All around the UK, retail is in crisis.  In London the big stores are maintained by summer tourism, but the ordinary chain stores are facing increasing financial difficulties.  The main beneficiary is, of course, Amazon and companies who sell through it. Amazon has got far too big and epitomises modern capitalism, with low wages at the bottom, growing replacement by automation, and at the top immense wealth.  Customers get access to the right good at cheap prices, yes, but there is a very high cost to be paid in terms of where the profits go.

The obvious question that arises in walking around London is – where are all the mouths to be fed by all the new food outlets?  And the answer is that the mouth/ outlet balance is looking wonky. Many of the food places that exist, of the Leather Lane variety, do so only because of low set-up and running costs (in essence, tents) and subsistence models of retail.  In Essex Market, one either succeeds or goes out of business, due to increasing rents.

But all of the retail shenanigans pale into insignificance against the looming political crisis.  This involves the likelihood of the UK crashing out of Brexit on 31 October followed by a forced general election a few days later.  Oh! the constitutional crisis! Abuse of powers! I cannot tell you how much people from here and a range of other countries (I was even accosted by a Singaporean on the subject) yearn for the straightforward, honest, compassionate and pragmatic leadership of our Jacinda. The serial sexual and political philanderers Trump and BoJo are just frightening.  For if you break all the rules until there are no rules left, what is left?

Thomas Hobbes said in the 17th century that if the rule of law breaks down, then the life that it left is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.  Instead of being a fate we have escaped by democracy, this famous phrase, in the UK at least, is increasingly sounding like political prediction.  Still, there are plenty of cheap choices for dinner, if austerity has left you with a few coins in your pocket.

On a personal note:  thanks for your calls, emails and comments on trying to advocate for Lorraine Smith last week. I am so glad we did not stay quiet on this – the outcome could have been much worse.

 

 

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Can someone please tell me how is NZ all that different to the UK? We passed the CP-TPP into law (they have thus far dodged the TTIP). To my mind the most blatantly neo liberal trade deal I can think of. One Trump and US voters sensibly walked away from having seen what NAFTA has done to their country. Now of course the RCEP negotiations are underway too.

    As far as I can see we have the same issues the UK face of poverty, homelessness (I hardly ever saw a homeless person in NZ as a kid), underemployment, underfunded healthcare and rising inequality. Not to mention climate change which urgently needs to be fully recognized and properly tackled.

    If there is an answer to this how does it lie with this government or any I can think of in the last 30+ years? In my humble opinion as an average Kiwi guy nothing will change until parties are willing to unshackle us and themselves from the kind of grinding capitalism that led us down this path and embrace Socialism that has always worked so well for this once lovely little nation.

  2. What a rosy-tinted view of NZ and “our Jacinda” by Liz Gordon. Is “our Jacinda” really going to do anything about the hyper-capitalist/neoliberal system here in Godzone [sic]? It must be some kind of jet-lag reaction in NZers when they get to the UK to look back and view the scene in NZ as some kind of earthly paradise, governed by smiling, compassionate and benign politicians. Mmmmm…

  3. Yes. We are like a small dog on a leash happily trotting along behind our masters. A little tug here or there when we get distracted by our own thoughts but otherwise the same track.
    All our problems really boil down to the banks and the way that money is created by priviedged private elites. When a bank lends money it creates an entry in your deposit account. Nobodies deposit is decreased by the same amount. This is new money created as debt. In the old days goldsmiths used to store private gold because they had the best safes. In exchange they issued a note. They found over time that they only needed to retain about 20% of the gold to meet calls on the physical stuff and could lend out the rest at interest. The effect of this over time was to vacuum all the hard currency out of the town (i . e bankrupt it) to meet the interest payments. This is the same as today. Banks create money as debt but only the principal. The effect of the interest payments is to remove liquidity from the system. Wealth gets concentrated wherever it is that banks stick their profits and we are all left scrambling around for the scraps that are left to pay our share of the interest. Competition is not normal behaviour. It is forced upon us by the banks and when the music stops there is an avalanche of bankrupcy simply because so much of the money has gone missing as interest payments. Its like taking out half the chairs in musical chairs but of course this is no game. Even trade treaties pale into insignificance if we dont fix this problem. Surely it should be the government that creates our money. Why are there private individuals that have a monopoly on this privilege? If the government created its own money we would not need tax because there would be no need to meet interest payments. In the end, our taxes are just more profit for the banks. As money gets tighter as now we can see that liquidity is drying up. Too much debt an huge interest payments. No chance of inflation unless inflicted by sanctions. No chance of wages rising much. Our reserve bank governor trying to encourage the govt to spend more. Publicly created money spent into existence is the only chance of averting the coming crisis. But you will find that when push comes to shove those with power will support fascism before socialism. That is, better Trump or Boris than Sanders or Corbyn. They will also find other people to blame the usual target being a vulnerable groupike migrants. Better fascist attacks on these groups than we see the real truth. You see, Obama had a chance to squash the bankers and thsy fully expected it. Little did they know that the sheep was a wolf like them. Hillary did what was expected of her by castrating Sanders even though it seriously helped Trump.

  4. “Replacement theory has recently been in the news as a theory of race replacement held by white supremacists. It is assumed that people of colour want to inhabit and take over the places currently populated by white people, in a sort of reverse colonisation. Or, as I like to put it, having driven people out of their own homelands through the colonisation of everything, wealthy countries are now using every tool at their disposal not to allow people of colour to move into the colonisers’ own lands.”

    ‘Replacement theory’ is not quite true as the extremists on the ‘white right’ side of the spectrum would want to have it.

    But it is not quite untrue as a concept either, as in fact there has been a replacement of certain types of workers and small scale business operators taking place in many countries, by allowing in many new immigrants to work in the so called ‘developed’ economies, mainly in ‘the west’.

    Perhaps it can better be described as ‘population dilution’ or ‘population diversification’, where new people and populations are added to existing ones, so to create wanted competition in a capitalist society, being for jobs at often the lower end of the scale (low skilled, low paid and so forth).

    As a consequence the ‘native’ population adjusts by trying everything to improve their education and skills base and move ‘up’ on the employment ladder, or by voting in governments, or supporting existing systems, that help enable the enforcement of rules and standards, that protect certain ‘professional’ jobs and certain types of businesses from being ‘undermined’ by new competitors, that would make it harder for existing operators to charge what they may be used to charge for goods and services.

    This is what has happened here, and it has consequently diversified society. This is what happened long ago in London, UK, and in many cities and countries on this planet.

    It appears to be more prevalent in typical capitalist societies, mostly in ‘the west’, and is less so prevalent in countries like China, Russia, even Japan, Korea and the likes.

    So we have a middle class that tends to be more white than brown, we have an underclass and perhaps lower end of the middle class that is more ‘coloured’ or dark skinned, and who often also has a variety of different cultural backgrounds.

    That is what so called ‘white supremacists’ or ‘white nationalists’, and some ‘nationalists’ also in other countries exploit, thus claiming the ‘replacement theory’ is a kind of systematic, planned action by the elite that is taking place.

    It may not be so much ‘planned’ and systematic, but immigration has been handled rather liberally here, and also in some other western countries (less so than here though). Immigration has been stymied as a topic for debate, as any person raising concerns is by many instantly suspected as being ‘racist’, or by raising arguments for ulterior reasons.

    The National Party was quick to adopt the new multi culturalist ideas and more liberal immigration that the left and some liberals to the right appeared to celebrate, as it realised it would very well serve the interests of stakeholders the National Party likes to care for.

    Having a ‘more competitive job market’ served the interests of business, so they suddenly had no issues with immigration from many different sources anymore.

    And that also assists the divide and rule system that the elite so loves, you can create not only competition, also social frictions, by having a more diversified population, thus tying people up in little debates and arguments about ‘social’, ‘ethical’ and ‘cultural’ aspects, and thus keeping them on looking at the greater picture, hence the elite can sit back and enjoy the bickering amongst people, and continue to pull the strings as it pleases.

    So, for some to then try and present all this as great new social achievements, by celebrating multiculturalism, and ignoring what may have been the motivating factor of the capitalist elite behind it, appears to be a bit naive, I must say.

    Also has this increased the human population in countries like New Zealand overall. We are nearing a level of human population here that is unsustainable, it may be so already, and it is fair to ask, was all this so good after all? Add climate change and its consequences, the picture gets bleak.

    So we have more people, more division, more wealth disparity, and a government that does not appear to be changing much at all, rather only re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, talking about a ‘caring society’, or ‘kinder society’, about ‘sustainable development’, but offering NO real solutions that I can see.

    There is in my view little hope for solutions and improvements, rather a massive collapse at some stage, when the economy can deliver no more, as it was expected to deliver, and the environment deteriorates, and people will fight over the crumbs left in ruins.

    • Correction:
      “And that also assists the divide and rule system that the elite so loves, you can create not only competition, also social frictions, by having a more diversified population, thus tying people up in little debates and arguments about ‘social’, ‘ethical’ and ‘cultural’ aspects, and thus keeping them distracted FROM (not ‘on’) looking at the greater picture, hence the elite can sit back and enjoy the bickering amongst people, and continue to pull the strings as it pleases.”

  5. Jacinda is celebrated by some other leaders and liberal thinkers and feminists in faraway places, who have never been to New Zealand and never had a closer look at how things really are here. They also do not follow our day to day politics, so only get a very superficial, distorted, idealised view of our PM.

    If they would learn how little is done here to address climate change, sustainability issues and to protect the environment, they would lose all faith in Jacinda and her government.

    She is a glossy mag picture person, with many blank pages behind it, or with double speak text on some pages, neither here nor there, offering little substance and integrity.

    • What do you think she was supposed to achieve in less than 2 years? As opposed to the the previous 9 years of the Nats?

      • When the government and its leader Jacinda make bold announcements at the beginning of their term, that they will be a government of ‘transformational change’ and reform, then one would expect at least some clear signals as to where the journey is going. We do not even get that.

        It has turned out to be a situation where Labour is stuck with NZ First and with the Greens in a support position, and where it increasingly becomes difficult to reconcile the positions of those two smaller parties. Hence too little action, too few and too small steps, and no significant change.

        And for the rest Labour is somewhat disingenuous itself, when it comes to economic, labour and social security policy.

  6. Point well taken. And let’s get one thing clear, we are most definitely experiencing an infestation in the form of reverse-colonization.

    • Putting aside that calling people an “infestation” is the language of mosque shooters, your implied argument is factually wrong. The vast majority of first generation immigrants to Aotearoa come from the UK and other “developed” countries like Austalia, South Africa, and the US.

      Also, the number of people migrating to Aotearoa isn’t significantly higher than the number of kiwis moving overseas. Aotearoa is a tiny place by world standards, with a lower population than the small Chinese city I currently live in. It’s hardly surprising that people are coming and going from the country in search of different opportunities, as they have for the last couple of centuries. Any more than people moving in and out of small cities like Nelson is surprising or alarming. It’s just normal human activity.

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