GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – The Danger of Fundamentalism


Everyday life in the 21st Century is far more complex than it was 100 years ago.
1920 politics in our country, for example, was a choice between 2 parties ( Reform and Liberal) and you had one vote in a first past the post system . Now we have several parties, we have two votes and we have so many possible combinations to select from that we often don’t know on election night who will lead us for the next three years.

In 1920 New Zealand was closed on Sunday and most people went to Church. Today many shops are open on Sunday, most people don’t go to Church and many religions are now practiced in New Zealand not just Christianity.

Today we are faced with what I have come to think of as the ‘tyranny of choice’ that has arisen in parallel to the rise of the self over society. Indeed the 20th Century has been described as the Century of the Self because at the beginning of it the needs and wants of the individual were subservient to those of society.

As we progressed through the last century however the balance between the self and society changed to the point where the idea that individuals should be able to put their own interests first became an economic and political movement which became embodied in the cult of neoliberalism under leaders such as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (“There is no such thing as Society” ) and President Ronald Reagan ( “Government is not a solution to our problem government is the problem and you should get to say what to do with your own money”)

And so we have witnessed the rise of consumerism and the exploitation of the planet’s resources so that individuals can have multiple choices of stuff with which to fill their homes.

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Increasing choice ,then, brings increasing problems and one of the solutions some people adopt is to reduce the noise of too much choice by wearing a set of moral, religious or political blinkers.

Simply believe in this or that (political and religious evangelists tell us) and life will become much easier and everything will be fine. Everything is a hoax – except the things you hear and see at this church, this political meeting, on this TV or social media channel.

And so we are seeing the rise of political and religious fundamentalism which carries its own dangers – whether it is believing in a political leader like a Trump who tells lie after dangerous lie , or the rise of evangelical churches where the faithful gather to pray to an invisible God who will keep them safe from the many perils of life while an invisible virus preys on them and spreads a terrible disease.

Yes life has become increasingly complex.

But no, fundamentalism be it political or religious is not the answer to the problem… it is quickly becoming the problem.


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. Yes Bryan.

    We live in a fundamentalist society, in which:

    1. GDP is ‘worshipped’ even though GDP is a faux measure of commercial activity and GDP equates with destruction of the future via burgeoning atmospheric CO2, acidification of the oceans, pollution of the land, air and waters and landfills swamped with stuff no one wants (in many cases so swamped with stuff no one wants it has to be trucked to distant locations -thereby increasing the pollution burden.

    2 A phony monetary system in which ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand one pound [of gold]’ has long gone and digitalised money is now created out of thin air by central banks to facilitate and lubricate the destruction of the planet.

    3. Mindless compliance, by governments and individuals, with the short-term demands of banks and corporations for growth of consumption, even though consumption is the problem.

    4. Acceptance of utter bullshit generated by advertising companies in the promotion of goods and services no one actually needs and many of which actually cause harm to the purchaser.

    5. TINA, in all its manifestations, whereby it is a given that the absurd systems we endure and which are destroying the future cannot be officially challenged (there are no mechanisms) and anyone who thinks outside the box of mind-control by corporations and governments is a nutter.

    Sure, the religious fundamentalist do pose a danger to themselves and could pose a danger to society if they harbour and proliferate infectious diseases, but no persons or groups pose a greater threat to society than politicians and bureaucrats who are so fundamentalist in their thinking -and we are talking about ALL OF THEM- they continue to force dysfunctional systems and phony notions on all the rest of us, and utterly refuse to accept that THEY are the root of so many of our ills.

    I see that in the UK the defence of dysfunctional systems (which are now largely broken anyway) by politicians has reached a new low insofar as the Extinction Rebellion -which is the only movement that has been even remotely successful in challenging the pernicious and toxic nature of government for and on behalf of corporations, banks and opportunists- is to be labelled an organised crime group bordering on a ‘terrorist organisation’.

    The real criminals, of course, are the politicians who refuse to act on climate (or anything else of significance), and won’t even lift a finger to save their OWN futures, let alone the futures of their children.

    It certainly is bizarre and getting more bizarre by the week.

    Even as California and Oregon go up in flames (as did much of Australia recently) ‘no one’, other than commenters on obscure blogs, is allowed to say that the system is causing ALL the carnage we are now witnessing (whether is be the global Covid-19 pandemic or refugee camps Greece going up in flames) and persisting with the fundamentally dysfunctional systems we endure will make everything that matters worse faster.

    The good news is that the meltdown of the Arctic in ‘only’ the second worst ever (the worst being 2012, the year huge storms broke up and redistributed the ice), and we probably have another year or so before the positive feedbacks kick in enough to make every year an ice-free year in September….and then September-October…and then August-September-October.

    The other good news is that demand destruction has resulted in low oil prices which are slowly killing off the oil industry.


  2. “Indeed the 20th Century has been described as the Century of the Self because at the beginning of it the needs and wants of the individual were subservient to those of society.”
    I’m not so sure that this is a true reflection of change in the relationship of individuality and society over this time.
    In the early 1920’s it was possible for two lads age 16 and 19 to leave England with 5 pounds between them and cross to the bottom of the world and become the owners of several farms between them producing thousands of tons of wool meat and milk.
    That was serious individual opportunity open to any individual prepared to do the hard yards. Not now.
    “In 1920 New Zealand was closed on Sunday and most people went to Church.”
    “As we progressed through the last century however the balance between the self and society changed to the point where the idea that individuals should be able to put their own interests first”
    I am wondering if the trend for “Jesus was a sailor when he walked apon the water…
    and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
    and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
    to sink beneath our wisdom like a stone”
    Has more to do with individuals feeling self important through their rejection of the idea of being a servant of god than a servant of society. The neoliberal Thatcher/ Reagan thing has been imposed on most of society by trickery and treachery of their elected representatives rather than their choice.
    D J S

    • The reason those lads were able to cross the world with five pounds between them and make a success of farming is because THAT IS EXACTKY WHAT THE EMPRE WANTED.

      The empire wanted native trees cleared to provide room for more pasture, and it wanted more wool to feed the wool mills of Yorkshire, and it wanted more meat, butter and cheese etc. to feed the masses who worked in the factories of Britain, thereby increasing the profits of corporations and banks.

      What the empire does not want is independent thinkers who make all the connexions. Nor does it want a well-educated populace that understands how it is being misled. It wants dumbed-down non-thinkers who do not question authority and who vote for sycophantic servants of the empire every election cycle, thereby manufacturing consent for more abuse of the populace by the empire.

      • “The reason those lads were able to cross the world with five pounds between them and make a success of farming is because THAT IS EXACTKY WHAT THE EMPRE WANTED.

        The empire wanted native trees cleared to provide room for more pasture, and it wanted more wool to feed the wool mills of Yorkshire, and it wanted more meat, butter and cheese etc. to feed the masses who worked in the factories of Britain, thereby increasing the profits of corporations and banks.”
        No doubt about that and neither was it any secret. However those kids by 15 had a bloody good education. And were certalnly independent thinkers.All this has deteriorated since then, but it’s possible that this is really because the world is now full of people and all used up rather than that people are less socially engaged.
        D J S

    • David as far as I have found to date the first common use of the term “Century of Self” is the title fom the BBC series.

      Its a soft resume of organised mind manipulation

      If you are not familiar with it I think it is worth the time viewing all episodes.

      There were various immigration schemes to clear bush, build rail and roads, often ties together with a small block of land, usually insufficient to make a living off while working to pay for it.

      • There were soldiers settlements after the second world war. 40 acres,sufficient to grow a subsistence of food, a cow, some chooks and some veges. but uneconomic commercially. most were abandoned during the depression or before.But to the soldiers returning from WW1 they were a grant from the government. My father and uncle were in a group that were farming cadets mostly allocated to work on such holdings. The returning soldiers mostly didn’t know anything about farming but my old man got lucky and was placed with a guy who had managed farming estates in the UK and knew heaps. To pa at 16 it was a wonderful adventure holiday.
        On the ship coming over they made friends with two other brothers and between the four they agreed to save every penny and buy a farm between them after two years. In two years Pa had saved 100 pounds, has brother 40 pounds, and one of the other brothers had acquired a motorbike. With this they bought a 70 acre dairy farm.
        The depression soon sent the Stones off to the peninsular to cut kanuka firewood for
        the dairy factories on the plains and around the peninsular , collected by scow off the beach. They saved 2000 pounds during two years of the depression . I suspect they toiled rather hard. But that was good money at that time.
        D J S

        • What rubbish! The depression was BEFORE the second world war for one thing and the blocks of land offered to farmers were a damn sight bigger than 40 acres. The one I purchased in the early ’70’s from a worn out digger was 10 times that size at 400 acres.
          It is true that many of the blocks were in ‘difficult’ areas – mine is on an island in the hauraki gulf so using it for traditional farming ie throwing a mob of corriedale on a block where you’d cleared the ridges, was always going to be a loser but using yer brain to take advantage of what the land has going for it could be a good income.

          A number of big blocks down the Whanganui River also granted after ww1 were impossible to turn a quid on unless you were smart; because once again transport costs made being just another cockie a damn hard way to turn a quid.

          40 acres and a mule sounds more like the US post civil war than Aotearoa.
          Here, for most of the 20th century it was extremely difficult to get planning permission for a 40 acre block as rural properties that size were considered uneconomic.

          Post WW2 which you allege was the 40 acre nonsense was easy in comparison to the ww1 diggers’ grant.
          By that time the government was locking up ever Maori fella they could, then using them as slaves to clear the land which was then granted to ww2 returned servicemen who had the hard yakka (bush clearing & fencing) done for them. That continued up until the late 70’s.

          Agrarian socialism for Pakeha is what it was.

          • WW2 was a typo,sorry.
            Settlement blocks on the Hauraki plains were 40 acres. Theymight have been different on different country. Your digger by the 70’s would have probably accumulated all his neighbour’s blocks.How many titles were there on your holding?
            D J S

        • Another example was the Vogel scheme bringing Scandanavian men to NZ with a lure of 40 acres of bush which they had to pay towards as well as clear it with progress being checked while the men and some with families had to earn money else where to break in the land. Mauriceville area was typical where in spite of the hard work eventually the settlers could not succeed on the small blocks and often steep country.
          A tragic episode for a generation who worked together helping each other to make do and raise families. Still today descendants from around the world and NZ visit the old sites, churches, cemeteries and a school now becoming derelict. Through long hours the Danish group got a Coop Dairy factory making money through taking in milk from a much wider area. A lime works now uses those buildings but the settlers families have gone.

      • Thanks for the link John. I just watched.
        I was working briefly with a typical “inner directive ” today. He was interested in my opinion on safely bringing down a very large gum which he will sell for firewood. He says he earns twice as much building in Pauanui as he can doing firewood but he finds the unpredictable work more fun so he does it in the weekend. He also supplies people with the wood they need and disposes of a dangerous tree for the land owner. So he is certainly doing what he wants to do, not what someone else tells him to. And he is doing it with ancient gear that no one interested in image would be seen dead operating. He is most certainly not selfish or greedy. The programme seems to be equating self motivation and individualism and enterprise with selfishness. I think nothing could be further from the truth as in today’s example .
        D J S

  3. A problem is that we have no way of surviving standing in the way of the fundamentalism of ‘progress’. I was taught in martial arts classes years ago that if you think you’re going to get your arse kicked then ‘fly away’. Master Chan applied many different elements of several teachings of self defence then gathered them together within one single teaching. Thai kick boxing, Kung Foo, traditional boxing, Ju Jitsu and Karate all had one thing in common and that was that if you knew you were about be defeated then fly away. Run like fuck then regroup, heal, become stronger, get to know the enemy etc…. then, if necessary, reengage.
    The maelstrom of today’s Internet life and living has hit us all hard. We’ve been blindsided by utterly bias MSM, conned by politicians and manipulated and exploited by commerce. We can see and hear far more than we can reasonably expect to be able to comprehend and there are terrors and fears that are truly impossible to process to give us peace and rest.
    No matter where we go now we can engage in far more information than we can comprehend much less process and so the only thing we can reasonably do is to ‘fly away’.
    The first thing to be is to be debt free. And do what ever it takes to become so. Move cities/towns to where you can live without a mortgage, learn to grow organic food and become a maker/fixer and if the new thing you’re thinking of buying can’t be repaired by yourself? Don’t buy it.
    As unstoppable ‘progress’ looms and as the thing/s gets faster and faster while building ever greater momentum the end too, is approaching and mono skilled city people are going to get hit the hardest. When city people have to compete for the last items on supermarket shelves shit then gets real.
    I watched a terrifying and fabulous film recently called ” Mr Jones” A true story about a Welsh journalist who after interviewing Hitler went to Russia to interview Stalin back in 1933.
    I’d strongly recommend watching this film just before our general election where no one seems to know exactly what the fuck it is that’s going on.
    Available on DVD from the library.
    Mr Jones. Wikipedia.
    And this is deeply freaky.
    The Guardian.
    Art and design
    Garden of evil: Trevor Paglen’s sinister digital paradise puts you in the picture

  4. @CB. Thanks for links.
    Article in the Guardian today about the cultural vandalism occuring in N.Z. under cover of the ‘flu crisis. The perpetrators may be compared to Isis terrorists who destroyed ancient sites and artifacts in Syria or the Christian thugs and vandals who destroyed the libraries, temples and statues of the classical world. The centuries which followed have been called ‘The Dark Ages.’

    • This has to be a criminal activity which normally would be called ‘theft’. Precious first editions are literally worth squillions of dollars. Second hand books of any quality (bar Mills & Boons) sell at a premium, even relatively recent publications are unavailable in the library system. Penguin re-publishes some classic bestsellers although many classics being re-printed have become corrupted through cross translation in cut price printing deals (thanks a lot, Amazon). Any of the world’s squillionares could put their hand on the cash for these book-trophies.

    • oh yeah there’ll be plenty of room for Margaret Attwood type conditioner and that bureaucratic beige bilge which passes for culture

  5. There has been a paradigm shift in the way in which people connect to God.

    No longer is it seen as necessary to check in with a minister about what is right or wrong, but rather that is a personal decision as it should be. Allocation of gifting is treated in similar fashion.

    It is common to incorporate different practices such as meditation, yoga, journaling, breathwork, NLP into spirituality.

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