GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – What we know, what say and what we do.


If we are honest with ourselves a bit of an embarrassing gap sometimes opens up between what we know, what we say and what we actually do.

It happens in all of us and I’m certainly no exception.

As someone who is perpetually curious about people and what it means to be human I have to admit to b eing genuinely interested in the way folk eal with the issue of what they know, in ther heart, to be the good and right thing and what they actually do about it.

Broadly ,I guess, I am interested in Ethics – how we decide about what’s right and what’s wrong and I enjoy talking about such things with people from different cultures and faiths whenever the chance presents itself. For me,as I say, it’s part of the ongoing adventure of discovering what makes us human.

So, please, what you are about to read is not intended to sound as judgmental as it may at first appear

In the last two days on the occasions I have seen Todd Muller on the TV News, he has mentioned his strong Catholic faith. So I will be genuinely interested in watching is how his faith works its way out in his economic policy.


Because as I read the National Party’s current economic policy it is staunchly neoliberal and therein lies a potential problem for the new Opposition Leader .

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Because the head of his Church – Pope Francis – is firmly on record as saying you really can’t be a Christian if you adhere to the neoliberal doctrine .

In his Apostolic Exhortation – his first major writing upon taking upon office in 2013 – the then new Pope issued a rigorous and comprehensive denunciation of Neoliberalism.

Here , in part , is what he wrote:

“53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

Pope Francis then went on to specifically target Supply-side or “trickle-down” economics as being wicked noting the dehumanizing of society due to the invasive and rapacious nature of modern capitalism.

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

In the Pope’s view then Neo-liberal Catholics have the choice of being conservatives or Catholics, but not both.

For the record the gap between what they know and what they do is something I raised at the time of Labour’s first budget of “well- being”.

You can’t have the politics of well-being if you practice the economics of selfishness.

The Covid 19 response budget has seen some movement in closing that ethical gap but, in my view, Labour too have a long way to go.

PS And also for the record.. if it is of any consequence I am not a Christian in any traditional sense although I do try to live by the Judeo-Christian ethic I was taught as a child . I also take as a guiding principle the so -called ‘golden rule’ you will find at the heart most faiths of the world – to treat others as I would wish to be treated.

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. There is truth in the fact that most who profess to be of a given faith aren’t particularly “devout” in their application of it.
    Particularly the Pope living in opulence and surrounded by the obscene wealth accumulated from the peasantry over millennia.
    But let’s not be selective in our rheumy gaze- what of the Muslim faith “they are us” according to the prime minister- women’s heads covered in public, sharia law all good?
    Should we post the utterings of the ayatollah and hold NZs Muslims to that?

  2. Not being an avid follower of papal bull’s i missed this. We can only hope that the new leader of the opposition is a true christian, and not like so many (not all) who merely adhere to the portions which happen to suit there agenda.

  3. When Muller mentions his faith, he is speaking directly to the electorate. Though he is yet to arrive, Luxon has already been framed as a man of faith. National clearly see this as a differentiator with Labour.

    I guess it is just code for “traditional family values”. Homosexuality will be tolerated, if not accepted. But policy on transgender rights, gender fluidity, gay adoption, sex work and recreation drug use will not be considered. Vote for Labour and Greens however…

    It also speaks to religious new arrivals and recent citizens (e.g. Philippines, South Africa). Even those arrivals of a different faith can identify those shared values as being better than a person of no faith.

    I did note that Muller also softened his stance by saying that while he is a Catholic, he did not tick all the boxes. In other words, don’t be scared, I’m not a rigid fundamentalist.

  4. I too am interested in ethics. Very interested. I am very interested in what makes us human.

    I am very interested in the capacity of modern humans to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time, often totally mutually exclusive concepts, and yet suffer no cognitive dissonance.

    ‘In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, or participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and experiences psychological stress because of that. According to this theory, when two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people do all in their power to change them until they become consistent.[1] The discomfort is triggered by the person’s belief clashing with new information perceived, wherein they try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.’

    The capacity of politicians to hold mutually exclusive concepts in their own minds and actually promote one of those mutually exclusive concepts [in complete contradiction of the other] appears to be highly developed, especially in the national Party.

    ‘I believe NZ must move towards a green, sustainable future and will be part of the movement that will make that happen.’
    ‘The current state of the nation’s finances mean that it is essential we open up conservation areas to managed forestry and mining.’
    ‘To not open up coal mines in conservation areas is economic madness.’

    Let’s face it, it’s almost always about money, profits for corporation, or jobs that keep people on the treadmill and keep them trapped in the money-go-round system (which is falling apart, even as I write}.

    In my experience I have found Christians in general to be very selective in their interpretation of the Bible and quite (or totally) hypocritical in its application. They describe the Bible as the divine word of god, to be taken literally, and then go on overlook the parts that don’t suit, such as the instruction that ‘you should gather your neighbours and stone to death any child who is disobedient’, or ‘you should stone to death any woman who wears clothing of two different fabrics at the same time’ or that ‘you should feel free to abuse your slaves but not attempt to abuse another man’s slaves’.

    Many Christians got round that difficulty be declaring that the coming of Christ and his teachings overturned the Old Testamanet (yet at the same time they tried to hang on to aspects of the Old Testament that suited them -such as the stories of Adam and Eve and the Noah’s Ark; that despite all the scientific evidence neither could be anything other than fairy stories or retelling of local events, or even incorporated from other cultures or religions).

    In my experience, the Catholic Church stood for mind control and abuse of the masses whilst transferring their wealth into the hands of those who wore fancy hats and fancy clothes and, at various times endorsed slavery, theft, genocide, torture, religious wars, sexual discrimination, and persecution of scientists or others who stood up to the bullying.

    In more recent times the Catholic Church has moved away from the really nasty practices of the fairly recent past -such as taking babies away from young mothers and placing both in institutions where they were sexually and physically abused.

    As I understand it, the Catholic Church still promotes the giving of money by extremely poor people -such as peasant farmers or the impoverished urban dwellers in South America- to those who have luxurious lifestyles in the church hierarchy. And it still promotes the population explosion that is leading environmental collapse via admonishing those who wish to practice birth control…perhaps on the basis that over time such policies would lead to a greater proportion of Catholics in the population (well, until the shocking scandals relating to abuse of children by priests and the covering up of those activities by church authorities led to a mass exodus from the Catholic Church).

    For me, two aspects summed up what I saw in the New Zealand context:

    1. The idea that, say as a business person, you could take advantage of people and abuse animals, and could exploit the system to your own advantage for six days out of seven, and then on the seventh day ask for (and get) forgiveness that allowed you another six days of freedom to take advantage of people, abuse animals, and exploit the system to your own advantage.

    2. The notion that the Earth was created by god for the benefit of humans, and that humans had the right to take and use anything they wanted from the natural environment and despoil it at will.

    Whilst the first idea sounds like the ideal solution to avoiding having any kind of ethics in relationships with other people or other intelligent inhabitants of this planet, the second idea provides a perfect cover for general looting and polluting.

    On the second matter, it all comes down to the interpretation of ‘have dominion over’: I have discussed this aspect with dozens of Christians and have found no satisfying resolution to the matter; many Christians have implied that with ‘dominion over’ comes an implied requirement to be a good custodian, though that is not specifically spelled out in the Bible.

    Whilst there are a few people who declare themselves to be Christian and actually practice much of what Christ promoted, the vast majority live lives focused on acquisition of wealth and exploitation of the Earth to the point of causing The Sixth Great Extinction Event. The worst of the churches actually promoted bizarre practices like “Bless your house”, “Bless your business”, “Bless your Pet”, “Bless your overseas holiday” etc.

    All I know for certain is that Christians have been grossly misled (as were practically all children when I was a child) and that many people who call themselves Christian attempt to mislead those around them.

    The cynical side of me tells me that any politician who declares himself/herself to be a Christian is more interested in collecting votes from other faux Christians in the community than in actually practicing anything that Christ actually suggested.

    Many (if not the majority of) so-called Christians actually are worshippers of Mammon.

    ‘The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke both quote Jesus using the word in a phrase often rendered in English as “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

    In the Middle Ages it was often personified and sometimes included in the seven princes of Hell. Mammon in Hebrew (ממון) means “money”. The word was adopted to modern Hebrew to mean wealth.’

    In street language: Mammon Rulz!

    • AFKTT.
      An interesting set of observations covering the dilemma of those who rely on utterings and mythical writings of an organisation that seeks control over people by using fear, superstition and herd conformity. The dilemma is not just confined to the Roman church but also many splinter groups and new departures by self appointed “prophets” with the usual trappings of building up a flock and trimming their purses to somehow buy into some eternal life state.

      Rome had a problem with revolt of its subjects from many communities including Jews. When Rome wrote various “gospels” combining elements of several belief systems held by the somewhat fearful and largely ignorant mixed populations under their rule, they promoted a doctrine binding the people to an invisible higher power that Rome dictated was omnipotent and powerful but could grant a freedom of everlasting life.
      The peasantry had to buy into an insurance scheme they would never collect from meanwhile making Rome more powerful with growing riches pouring in without having to lift a spear.
      Rome and the Vatican is still the centre of enormous wealth stolen over centuries from every land the churches have ventured into.
      Religion is a wealth collecting business as for most cults and some are more successful that others.

      The open question is existence of anything supernatural.

      Human doubt about things not understood is easily tapped into by groups already bound by unquestioning fear of hell or worse, social stigma. Stoning to death metaphorically.

      Simple questions about the universe and world around us can be answered reliably without fear or superstition ruling our families lives. No longer are the old mysteries attributed to various gods tenable and to wrap the old myths and fears into one responsible deity, streamlines the irrational into something comprehendable with a father figure providing security and protection. It is an appeal to primitive childlike emotional needs.

      Once drawn into a sect or cult it usually takes outside help to be set free.

      “Religions are based on the belief in a transcendent; supreme power usually characterized along parental lines: God is all-powerful and all-knowing, meting out rewards and punishments according to how well a person has carried out the commandments “He has issued.”
      The doctrines vary, but even in nonmonotheistic Eastern traditions; Heaven and Hell in some form are designated as the consequences of good and bad behavior.”

      Collective religious belief draws upon the emotions of love, fear, and gregariousness all of which can be drawn together and become a vehicle for attachment to a parent substitute authoritarian belief figure.

      Religions or cults have strong similarities.

      1. Authoritarian power of a central leader ( or group ) who has reputedly enhance communication with an unseen supernatural being, and hierarchy in the group based on obeience.

      2. The rejection of dissent and questioning to varying degrees with threats of punishment and in some cases banishment from the community.

      3. Devaluing the Outsider and encouraging or demanding a high level of activity contained within the faithful group.

      4. Giving high status to the imposed duty of evangelism to increase the size of the flock.

      5. Expected payment towards the stated group goals without accountability of expenditure to those paying.

      Often the duty to have offspring is encouraged regardless of the circumstances of the parents, and marriage outside of the group is only condoned if the partner joins the group or takes an oath that the children will be raised within the cult or church beliefs.

      It can be hard for an individual to escape the dictates and dogma once they become committed to the group.
      Free will is abandoned and replaced by blind faith of an invisible, all pervasive mind reading power, that defies rational explanation.

      A politician who is controlled by cult or religious “faith” is blind to reality.

      “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”
      “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” (Albert Einstein)

    • As the Jewish nation misunderstood the purpose of Christs first appearance most of those who call themself Christian today are following false ideas as well. While the readers here mostly consider religion a form of insanity (most of them would probably use stronger language to describe it) there is every reason to believe that events on Earth are following a prophetic time line which describes the destruction of our current way of life & a mass call to forced worship (anything forced is obviously false) as people seek to escape the destruction. Seeing is believing for most people so fear will drive them to accept what today would be rejected.

  5. Sadly the Natz will follow ScoMo and try to destroy the world with the public paying for it, or at least unleash more and more hell fire on OZ.

    Leaked Covid-19 commission report calls for Australian taxpayers to underwrite gas industry expansion
    Exclusive: The report does not consider alternatives to gas, or mention climate change and the financial risk of investing in fossil fuel as emissions are cut

    Australia’s ‘failing’ environmental laws will fuel further public health crises, Nobel laureate warns

    Our Natz will follow ScoMO’s environmental policy, and then put in the Chinese Communist parties interests to benefit from NZ’s natural assets while the Natz clip the ticket in bribes.

  6. Labours vote buying costs: $11.7b in 12 weeks.
    315,000 beneficiaries recieve $4.8b over 12 months. Cinders hates the poor!

    • Labour and Greens do not pay attention to real hardship. Poverty or more likely, faux poverty and faux discrimination needs to have an active media and lobby group.

      The poor used to be supported by unions, but now some of them seem to be more a vocal arm of the migrants pay $50k for NZ immigration and then work for cash/unpaid labour, plus more migrant welfare, NZ arm.

      Funny enough, workers rights and conditions have suffered with the unions change of focus. Now some unions have given up on pretending there are jobs and just want to go straight to agreeing hundreds of thousands of migrant benefits that they are not entitled to, as part of union membership. I’m not sure where the social housing is coming from either, but who cares about the details, they have a paid voice to represent.

      Likewise poverty groups and charities are now overrun by the woke and social bonds types that are espousing policy to expand poverty in NZ, which nicely co insides with the commercialisation of charities and their expansion of social housing with private operators benefiting…

      Good luck to the genuine vulnerable poor in NZ because there is tsunami of fake needs stories for those who have massive lobby groups, well paid lawyers and communications specialists at their disposal.

      Personally my heart goes out to the real vulnerable who are invisible in the well paid neoliberal voices that plague NZ media stories and poverty funding and grants hoovered up by the lobbyists.


    “Laudato si” is one of the most important encyclical letters ever produced by the Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis.

    Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century. (Wikipedia)

    “Laudato si” departs from the tradition of ‘humans as rulers of nature’ and recognizes “together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own”.

    “Laudato si” has a high relevance for (catholic) spiritual communities across SE Asia and the Pacific.

    Francis faces strong resistance from within the US clergy:

    Original document:

    Movie Wim Wenders:

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