The Makers Of Gilead.

42
1849

WITH THE UNITED STATES seemingly on the brink of becoming “Gilead”, the obvious question is: Could it happen here? The glib answer is: “Of course not! New Zealand is not America.” But that simply will not do. People said the same when Ronald Reagan’s New Right “revolution” swept across the United States. And yet, within a single decade, virtually all the institutions New Zealanders believed to be deeply entrenched features of their society and politics had been swept away – replaced by new ones stamped “Made in the USA”.

A better question, therefore, might be: “What made it happen there?” How was the nation that finally afforded African-Americans the rights promised to them in the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution recaptured by the unabashed promoters of White Supremacy? How was the Equal Rights Amendment defeated? How could the same country that gave the world Jack Kennedy and Barack Obama, produce Richard Nixon and Donald Trump?

Part of the explanation lies in a single word: “Sputnik”. The Soviet Union’s launching into space of the world’s first satellite profoundly shocked the American Government. The generals realised immediately that the rockets that could boost Sputnik into space could also boost nuclear warheads. The rapid advance of Soviet science had made the USA acutely vulnerable. Not only that, it had made America look intellectually weak: a country prey to the absurd fallacies of fundamentalist Christianity, and deeply suspicious of “cleverness” in all its forms.

Thanks to Sputnik, the national security of the United States now required a profound change in America’s cultural style. Science had to be advanced to the forefront of American life – and quickly. Congress would have to fund it, and the anti-intellectual elements, most especially the fundamentalist Christian churches, would have to keep their mouths firmly shut – on pain of been labelled “Un-American”. Overnight, scientists and engineers became the go-to-guys for all matters relating to America’s future.

The problem for red-in-tooth-and-claw American capitalism was that something happens to societies where Science becomes the final arbiter of national policy. Before the forces of conservatism know it, traditional values and prejudices are being asked to justify themselves with tangible evidence. What cannot be rationally defended begins to fall by the cultural and political waysides. Religious faith begins to look antiquated and, in its worst expressions, socially harmful. The educational curriculum soon comes to reflect the new scientific orthodoxy. Bigotry finds itself, to use today’s terminology, de-platformed.

But bigotry is crucial to the health of capitalism. Bigotry obscures the social and economic truths that would otherwise free people from the beliefs that keep them stupid and angry. Bigotry allows ethnic, sexual, and religious communities to be pitted against one another, making working-class unity and solidarity impossible. Bigotry encourages people to mistrust science and fear intellectuals – on the not altogether incorrect grounds that science and socialism are joined at the hip. As the progressives of our own time say: “Science has a left-wing bias.”

Where science reigns, so, too, does social-democracy. Having seen what bigotry produced, the nations of Western Europe – Scandinavia in particular – opted enthusiastically for social and economic policies that sought to provide the greatest amount of “good” things – universal healthcare, free education, affordable and secure accommodation, a rational electoral system – to the greatest number. President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programmes of the middle-1960s, building upon President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programmes of the 1930s, strongly suggested that, with science in the saddle, the USA was headed, irreversibly, in the same direction.

America’s most ruthless and aggressive capitalists were having none of it. To head-off the possibility of a science-driven, social-democratic United States (in which the power of capitalism would inevitably begin to wane) they adopted a dual strategy of resistance.

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First of all, they made it possible for capitalism to advance its own “science” against the “left-wing” (i.e. genuine) science that was inflicting so much damage upon their cause. By endowing university departments and setting up their own think-tanks and research journals, the capitalist string-pullers were soon equipped to take the fight to the scientific enemy.

American capitalism’s second line of attack was to do everything possible to encourage irrationality and anti-scientific prejudice – most particularly among working-class Americans. By funding and encouraging the revival of fundamentalist Christianity it was able to unleash the so-called “culture wars”. Religious faith was pitted against scientific knowledge. Creationism confronted Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in school boards across the United States. Before long scientists began to be regarded as the evil agents of Satan.

Kicking-off in the 1970s, American capitalism’s fightback against science had, by the second decade of the Twenty-First Century, forced uncorrupted scientists onto the defensive. From the deadly effects of tobacco and sugar, to the looming catastrophe of Global Warming, the capitalists’ “scientists” had denied and delayed effective remedial action to devastating effect. On the irrational front, things were going equally well. By the year 2020 more than half of all Americans preferred the Bible’s creation story to Darwin’s.

Indeed, so successful was American capitalism’s crusade against science that when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, roughly half of the American population declined to follow the scientific advice of the Centre for Disease Control. The Coronavirus has now killed more Americans than all the wars they have fought in their far-from-peaceful history.

What does this depressing historical narrative have to tell New Zealanders. The most obvious lesson is, surely, that we are no less the victims of the bogus “science” of American capitalism’s propaganda machine than the people of the USA themselves. In the decade between the fall of the Third Labour Government and the election of the Fourth, the neoliberal ideology was injected slowly – and largely invisibly – into the bloodstream of the New Zealand establishment.

What proved more difficult to replicate here was the resurrection of irrationalism, bigotry and religious extremism that had proved so crucial to the rescue of American capitalism. New Zealand Christianity, at least as a mass phenomenon, crashed in the early 1970s (thanks largely to our free, secular, and science-driven public education system) and in spite of the best efforts of the evangelical churches, it has failed to rise again.

But, where the miracle-workers of right-wing Kiwi Christianity have failed, the miracle-workers of Silicon Valley have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. In this country, the rise and rise of social-media has opened the door to all kinds of irrational beliefs and conspiracy theories – greatly facilitating the undermining of scientific authority – especially medical science. This attack on science has been greatly assisted by the Covid-19 Pandemic which has acted as the vector for the rapid spread of American-sourced social pathologies across the New Zealand population.

The consequences of this other pandemic are likely to be severe. We have already witnessed the response of New Zealand capitalism to a government willing to be guided by “the science”. We have also noted the capitalists’ near complete success in reasserting the priorities of commerce over public welfare.

In the cultural context, however, the single-minded campaigning of the business community is largely absent. What New Zealand faces instead is a potentially devastating collision of irrationalities. The quasi-religious certainties of the so-called “woke” – especially those relating to race and gender – are already crashing head-on into right-wing groups angered and frightened by the radical transformation of New Zealand which the Woke propose. What threatens is a perfect storm of competing bigotries: ideological antagonists united only in their determination to shout down and shut out the voices of reason.

The imminent overturning of Roe versus Wade by the US Supreme Court is certain to raise echoes here that are no less evocative of the dystopia envisioned by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Gilead can happen here.

42 COMMENTS

    • So? Socrates and Cicero get quoted lots but I’m sure their views on the nature of the universe were not exactly up to scratch with 21st century astronomy.

      • “So? Socrates and Cicero get quoted lots but I’m sure their views on the nature of the universe were not exactly up to scratch with 21st century astronomy.”

        So what? – right back at you.

        It’s the methodology that matters not necessarily the conclusions. Scientific conclusions and methodology are based on evidence and will evolve as the understanding of evidence demands. It is a strength not a weakness.
        Received and static messages of religion cannot be mofiied.
        Volumes can be written where science has subsequently demolished religious dogma but not a sentence written of religious dogma subsequently invalidating science.

        • While you are so sure of science you neglect that the religious text you readily dismiss has provided an accurate description of end-time events which confirms Chris’s fears that an apostate religious power is soon to rule first in the USA and then worldwide. The following text describes atheism (king of South) appearing to rule until a final push by apostate religion (king of North) works to establish a worldwide system of forced worship. “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.”
          Sound interpretation tells us that both sides are wrong but if you keep rejecting the chance to learn why then you will be deceived along with most of the worlds inhabitants.

  1. From 1984 initial budget predictions was squishy, when rogernomics begun the health budget was about 6 Billion rising to about 22 billion or what ever it is today. It’s predicted budget in 1990 was about 4 billion because of some private insurance scheme, which was just inflation.

    It’s actually 1990 budget was 8 Billion, by now it’s at least a 200% increase over projections.

    To parse the Liberal/Conservative joke I see woke-bros as not throwing a drowning tranny 20m off shore a 20m rope, then dropping your end and feel good about the ‘good deed’ for the day.

    No, this is a man drowning 20m off shore, and you only have a 10m rope. It does no good to throw the damn rope if you have to let go of your end for it to reach him.

  2. Without meaning to insult people it is easy to see how the likes of q anon, pedophile pizza joints, and whatever other nut job theories run rampant when huge numbers of the planets inhabitants believe in various forms of ‘faith’ not remotely associated with proven fact.

  3. Excellent essay. The first I’ve read by Mr Trotter that addresses the Science vs irrationality conundrum. Reassuring to read from him.

  4. You bet it can!
    As a British immigrant of some 55 years, one of the first things I noticed was the Kiwis’ proclivities for aping US trends. From the music to the designs of the towns and cities to the language used to the constant choice of conservative government. It really was a mini US.
    It is even more so in the present with politicians who do nothing to aid the lot of the downtrodden and the obsession with ‘business solutions’.
    The next step is as inevitable as rain with a Sou’ Wester.

    • We havent had a massive increase in Hispanic immigrants, probably goes a long way in explaining the continued strong influence of Christian Conservatism in the USA even as the White demographics have cratered the last few decades.

      There is huge dissonance in the heads of White social liberals when confronted by non white “communities” pushing back against their “progressive” sexual free for all ideology.

      • Too right mr. One of my favourite is the prog claim that concerns about the trans activist agenda are the preserve of religious conservatives. A good response might be “Don’t be so Islamophobic!”

      • Yes, that is why progressive social liberals need to serious think about reaching out and perhaps working with those who oppose immigration.

  5. John Key on America-‘I love everything …about the place’!
    I was hoping he would move there after …politics…but after receiving Australia’s highest honour ,the ANZ beckoned,and now it is splitting into a Goldman Sachs type entity.

  6. check out betty bowers vid on ‘god and abortion’ it’s amusing entertaining and educational….it demonstrates how most xtians don’t actually read the big black book they wave about.

    example book of numbers includes a recipe for a concoction designed to induce abortion

    • Perhaps that is why the major religions are so strong. You can join in confidence knowing that they have read all the Bible and agreed on its meaning centuries ago so now you don’t need to.

  7. It is common knowledge that the USA empire is in rapid decline, but that fact is well masked from the “blue eyed brigade” by continuous BS. The irony is that the massive panic driven sanctions imposed on Russia are actually increasing it’s rate of decline

  8. I’ve been involved in lots of protests. There is no way of controlling who joins in and nor should there be. But even in the posh and futile affairs I’ve been involved in there have been some people we were glad to not be judged by. And the media didn’t make stuff up about those of us attending either.
    It’s pretty low to ‘diagnose’ the imagined ills and flaws of the protestors according to middle-class bigotry, without knowing them, and joining in to the scapegoating they were protesting about, in the process.

  9. NZ never had the same religious fervor as USA. That nation is up their with Poland, India for strongest religious sentiment. So more conservative on moral issues like abortion.

    Abortion never got put in the constitution since Roe vs Wade because it would be political suicide for a lot of politicians to support it AND STILL IS. Therefore pro abortionists have had to make do with an ice cold technical legal win via Judicial branch of government.

    USSR was atheistic rationalism and all about science as long as it conformed to Socialist ideology.

    Remind me which superpower collapsed?

    Good thing if the Supreme Court kicks the issue back to the Peoples Representatives to sort it out like it should always have been. Over the decades various justices have expressed their discomfort at having the onus put on them to decide Big Questions that rightly need to be settled in the Peoples Assembly.

      • Like I said as long as it conformed to Socialist ideology. Soviets were the ultimate “social constructivists” re: The Soviet Man. The arms race against the West/existential threat of annihilation probably meant the true ideologues had less leverage in the rocket lab.

  10. Who said,” History dictates the future.” Chris?

    Is that what happened about 100 years ago repeating itself? The Germans have done it again!

    They pretty much have control of the continent again! They are energy dependent on their old for, again!
    They’ve proxied themselves to America. And they’re just a few days away from when Russia gets to celebrate kicking their arse all the way from Stalingrad in 1943 to Berlin!

    I think the neo nazi germans want utu.

  11. This country will end up like the USA is National/ACT gets their way, and charter schools run by evangalicals are allowed to grow like weeds.

    • Charter schools run by evangelicals? ACT at least is a thoroughly secular party – whatever their foibles, religious fanaticism isn’t one of them. And National these days is dominated by social liberals, as shown by the fact that all but 8 of their MPs voted FOR the legislation banning so-called “conversion practices” legislation. Luxon himself voted FOR said legislation.

      So what exactly is your evidence that evangelical charter schools would proliferate under a Nats/ACT government?

  12. Ours is a conflict over control of the narrative.

    The right dismiss state owned or state financed media (and state funded parties) as some sort of threat to the natural order (a religion heritage and culture derived from the throne of empire capital – their God and his son mammon).

    Their neo-liberal regime identifies whatever centres of resistance remain to their hegemony and demonises them as threats. Such as “woke” support for co-goverance model that would block the sale of public assets.

    • there’s only one thing worse than a public monopoly and that’s a private monopoly…forget who said it but all kiwis should take note.

  13. Yawn; so here we are, 1000’s of years down the track. Eye for eye & tooth for a tooth Judaism gave us ‘slave morality’ Christianity which smashed all our dynamic, natural & spunky gods & goddesses & set us on the weak, self destructive path toward communism, socialism, all forms of crusading moralistic liberalism & our wokeist consumer paradise. No worries, the military industrial complex that underpins this global leviathan has now had a shot in the arm & is doing very well out the big power jack up, which is the Ukraine war.

  14. The left need to get a grip.
    The draft ruling just says that it’s not a Supreme Court issue because abortion isn’t a constitutional matter.
    States may make laws in this regard instead, same as in Aussie where the abortion laws vary between states.
    Also because the Democrats are in charge of all three branches of government they have the power to impose federal law on abortion. Instead they’d rather run around screaming at SCOTUS because they know it won’t go down well with their Catholic supporters. ie it’s a kabuki show to confuse voters.

    • Public opinion has more or less been stable on the issue of abortion for a while with the majority being in favor of some abortion access (usually before late term pregnancy). Even fewer clinics don’t necessarily translate to fewer abortions. What it is is that the pro-life movement declaring it’s winning, which they’d do no matter what.

      What I wonder is if any has studied public optimism in the future and abortion rates. Abortion peaked in the 80s, but that was NOT an optimistic time, culturally speak. It’s no accident all the post-apocalyptic fiction fell out of the 70s and 80s. Drugs and crime seemed to be on the rise without stop, poverty seemed to get worse, American society (at least) was still getting over the Vietnam war, and the Cold War was still happening. Virtually all of that started turning around in the 90s and it seemed to me that abortion did too. I wonder if with the combination of extremely reliable birth control, the world just seems more like a place you’d want to try to have a baby in than it was when everything seemed like it was going to shit.

      • I don’t think the pro lifers are claiming a victory, but centrists such as myself are enjoying the fits of hysterical outrage coming from the left, all over a legalistic decision that is unlikely to have any impact on anyone.
        Can you imagine the tears after the midterms! And the show trials that will surely follow!!!

        • Centrist my arse, you are on record on wanting abortion banned, homosexuality recriminialised, trans people put in camps, wages cut, and US style health care imposed.

        • Plus you also think that cops should be able to gun down blacks in the streets like dogs. Same attitude as the KKK

        • We’ll have an excellent basis for objective analysis shortly, as one of the GOP’s core platforms has become defunding Planned Parenthood. What happens to the abortion rate as Planed Parenthood is gutted will provide the answer. It’s a pity that this excellent scientific experiment is going to come at such a terrible human cost, but that’s the price of pro-life policies.

  15. Good survey of our times. We are not religo-looney, thank fuck. But, as you point out, social media is as good in destroying democracy’s foundations. I put it 50-50 down to governments not working for the people after the 80s freemarket revolution and the extreme atomisation/individualization of these times/media. You don’t need to be interested in ideas any more to get a (over) suiting one land on your lap.

    • we’re not currently ‘religo-looney’ but foreign subversive evangelical money is trying to fix that for us.

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