Saturday, 5 December 2015

how to solve the inequality problem

Political scientist Bryce Edwards provides this recent comprehensive review of media coverage of income & wealth inequality

including a link to this interesting psychological perspective

It helps to clarify the psychological motivations that drive political alignments.  Inequality only shifts someone's political alignment when they suffer from it sufficiently, right?  Thus the right supports business as usual and forms governments on that basis so long as most voters don't feel that they are victims of inequality.  The left does the same so long as most voters feel they'll manage better than the right.  Neither left nor right makes any serious attempt to do anything other than make token moves to reduce inequality.

System justification theory helps us understand collective motivations much as paradigm theory does, yet is unhelpful from a common good perspective.  It is in our common interest to shift to a sustainable society in which everyone gets provision for a healthy life.  Our traditional economy evolved naturally so as to minimise the number of winners and maximise the number of losers, making inequality not only inevitable but exponential.  One need only observe the population versus wealth curve for any country to see that. 

Therefore inequality is a design problem, and progress will only come from crowd-sourcing the optimal solution.  The traditional collusion between the political left and right commits both to the status quo, so the only way to make progress is for those in the political centre to advocate a suitably-designed solution.  Academics could facilitate this progress if they shift from analysis to collaboration:  selection of the optimal design is the task.  Here's an exciting intellectual challenge - form a team to engage the task.  Form many such teams!  Then hold an international tournament in which all compete.  Provoke media coverage to escalate public interest.  That will shift everyone out of complacency and defeatism.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Revisioning John Key

Not all that hard to discredit John Key in the eyes of voters. Ask them do they really want to be ruled by a jew derivatives-trader, who played a key role in bringing about the global financial crash. Can he really be trusted with other peoples' money? This tactic could fly with tax-payers, huh?

Could be kiwis are so dumb they don't care if he's a jew financier or arab sheik, so long as he talks like one of us. I personally have no problem with the guy – he's the first leader of the Nats that isn't clearly a total fucking moron (tfm) since I started watching them in the mid-'60s. One ought to give credit where it's due, eh?

My father was a hard-line National party supporter. So was his father. As the eldest of 4 sons, I was probably expected to toe the party line, but unfortunately I wasn't born a tfm. By 1970, at age 21, I finally got over thinking politics was too boring and had sussed out that both patriarchs were closet fascists. JK deserves credit for ditching the closet-fascist stance that Bolger & Shipley had endeavoured to recycle.

I'd never seen any point in reading a book by that young feller, Nicky Hager, till a friend told me I had to read The Hollow Men a few years back, so I did. Yeah, 'twas ok. I was amused at the account of how JK & Murray McCully defeated the rightists in the Nat camp. In politics pragmatism will beat principle any day of the week & boy, do the principled folk hate that! Encountering the email in which one of the ideological purists referred to MM as “the dark side”, I thought how wonderful to be thus provided with a classic example of jungian projection in a political context. I had to concede Hager had got it right: the enemy within is a traditional political archetype and the email trail validated the high drama of the guerilla warfare in which good vs evil played out and the reader as audience was presented with an impartial account. How to tell which was which??

Most entertaining. You couldn't! Well, my sympathies lay with the pragmatic minority, JK et al. Two decades of new-right hegemony was quite enough, thank you very much! So I must credit McCully for being more than the clueless wimp that he had presented as his public image since entering parliament with long hair back in '72. The embittered right wing of the National Party refer to MM & JK as socialists. Hmmm. Can't buy it. They ain't really that stupid!

However it does rather open up a propaganda opportunity for the left. Nationalist socialists haven't been in vogue for ages. Some would even argue that national socialism is a discredited political practice. Nonetheless, JK has already done enough to be credited as a great national socialist leader. If the political left weren't entirely clueless they'd see it, right? They're even shaping up to hand JK a fourth term as prime minister. If he wins again, then he really will deserve to be called the greatest national-socialist political leader since Adolf Hitler.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

On the road to hell

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, traditional folk wisdom tells us. In recent years it has become evident that many of those pavers are actually flawed or false assumptions.

Here's a few... The political left represent the people (the political right represents vested interests - the control system). If you side with the right, you're either a capitalist or an arse-licker. The Green Party represents the broader green movement (so how come it carefully avoids representing blue-greens?). The left needs its own think-tank.

Let's take a look at that last one. A leftist think-tank would only work if leftists could actually think! Nigh on half a century of observing them, and I've never seen any evidence they can. Okay, Brian Edwards, Tim Shadbolt, maybe one or two others – just exceptions that prove the rule!

The New Left were the happening thing when I arrived at university, early '68. Big on rhetoric, small on substance. I was intrigued, but disappointed whenever I checked them out. Since then, the left seems to have gone to hell. Their only governments since Big Norm have had a right-wing agenda – competing by pretending they can do neoliberalism better than the Nats. Presuming the people are so stupid they will re-elect the left on that basis seemed a flawed strategy – it worked, but induced fear & loathing in the people.

It was Shadbolt's two-page spread in Cracuum explaining why Labour was just as bad as National that came at me as stunning revelation (in 1971): the left are part of the problem along with the right! So I must reject both, to make myself part of the solution!! I've been neither left nor right, out in front, ever since.
Come the early '80s green politics adopted that slogan, & I thought “Far out, the slow-learners are getting the picture!” Immensely reassuring - during Thatcherism & Reaganomics.

Whereas socialism produced a comfortably equitable society here in the '50s & '60s, by the '80s it was producing hordes of public servants who acted like petty dictators and were too lazy to run government departments efficiently. Then we got robotic pc conformism that turned leftists into drones.

Q: Who's winning the human race? A: the capitalists. Why? They give us jobs. Doing so makes them rich. Class analysis doesn't take account of those who employ themselves, but for the majority of us, our tacit assumption that we were born to trade on our labour produces a dependency relation; we become dependent on employers for livelihood and sustenance. Poor wages creates mass grievance. Not hard to see why the right thinks the left are emotionally juvenile: if the left were mature adults, they'd take responsibility for themselves and become economically self-determinant. If they were educated with a choice of collaborating for mutual benefit, their tacit acceptance of a power imbalance would make less of them victims of life's circumstances. Given a better choice as youngsters, more will mature.

So the inadequacy of the left is deepest in the area of preparation for career: the teenage years. It is no accident that Labour governments are widely viewed as a bunch of teachers. More trad folk wisdom: those who can, do; those who can't, teach. Adequate people, according to convention, don't become teachers. So we get an education system in which a bunch of terminal losers are employed to stuff crap into the heads of the young, producing more terminal losers. Then everyone wonders why the outcome is a dysfunctional, polarised society. Doesn't matter how dire things get, the left demands more education.

Business as usual persists so long as no alternative becomes available. Models of successful collaborative enterprise have long been available! They share profits and risks. They incorporate participatory decision-making by all who work for each such business. The team ethic prevails because of this incentive structure. The left routinely whines and moans about being exploited, like children complaining about parents. Why do they never embrace - or even advocate - such positive alternatives? They consider themselves born losers? Few of them would agree - but what if parents, teachers & employers all treat them as such? Continual reinforcement will create that subconscious identity in many. So, when that is indeed their tacit assumption, they end up co-creating their road to hell.

You'd think Karl Marx was a Marxist, right? Ain't so. Seems logical, but another false assumption. Proof lies in the historical reality as testified by his co-author of The Communist Manifesto. Engels, in an 1882 letter cites this statement from Marx: “what is certain is that I myself am not a Marxist”. Google that to verify it!

A generation is maturing into political activism who cite `perception is reality' as a truism. Sometimes it does seem to be. Politicos who assume it as a general rule will however tend to suffer the consequences of their flawed assumption: the difference between the two is often apparent to a group of politically-significant others. Those grounded in reality will polarise against those asserting the perception. Folks will tend to realise the former group are right. The reputations of the latter will be diminished accordingly.

The 1999 movie The Matrix featured a sci-fi world (ours) in which humanity's belief systems and perception of their surrounding world are entirely generated and constructed by alien controllers via high technology – an ultra-sophisticated smoke & mirrors act. A powerful metaphor for our actual collective reality!! All of us emerge from childhood growing into a cultural matrix, brainwashed by parents, teachers, and media, all of whom were likewise brainwashed. The culture of a civilisation is collectively generated by participants: in any country the national culture is largely co-created by those in control.

Our controllers are mostly capitalist, but some are socialist and some are hybrids. To survive within, we must comply as our society requires; get real. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, as the ancient adage has it. Work for a living - if you can find a job. To prosper, play the game well. Pragmatism works better than idealism (idealists focus on a better world they imagine, rather than on this one). Be here now means accept the status quo. Yet we will only ever get a better world by co-creating it! If we transcend the status quo, we are free to do so. Few do. But when we do transform our perceptions, our new reality is catalysed.

Those of us who have spent our lives pursuing self-development ought to move on to community-building, in the context that most communities now are non-local. Those of us become expert in transcendence must accept that bettering our own lives is liable to produce narcissism unless we act on a common-interest basis. The skill humanity most needs now is collective transcendence. We must apply that skill to create a positive alternative to business as usual. We must mediate between the world as it is and the world we all need. To get us all from the former to the latter, we must perform a collective act of magic: manifest our destiny. If the better world we imagine seems to distant or abstract, too ideal, and our here and now too opressive, use the tree as our model! It is anchored in earth, yet it reaches for the sky. Keep your feet on the ground – use the current reality as basis and foundation. Build your processes and structures toward the future you aspire to. Together, doing so, we can co-evolve into the future we need. Realise, make real!

The best story I ever came across that is dramatic in the way it exposes the difference between perception and reality appeared in 1981 in a book by the philosopher Raymond Smullyan. He reported “an incident I read about in a book on abnormal psychology. The doctors in a mental institution were thinking of releasing a certain schizoprenic patient. They decided to give him a lie-detector test. One of the questions they asked him was “Are you Napoleon?” He replied “No.” The machine showed that he was lying!”

What's going on here?!? Well, our societal consensus is that science defines reality. That's been the case for several centuries. The lie-detector is a device used to prove whether someone is telling the truth or not. Therefore the general perception of most people is that the reality of a situation can be established by using the device to verify the testimony of those involved. In courts of law such usage is a convention. In the lunatic asylum case Smullyan reports, the schizo patient was proven to be lying when he asserted that he was not Napoleon. Therefore the truth is that he was Napoleon! If you believe in science, technology, societal norms and mass consensus, that is!

Having been around leftist political activists close to half a century, I'm aware that their primary pathology arises from naïve idealism (which I still share somewhat), which embeds in the psyche as delusion when folk are reluctant to ground their experiences in collective reality. Thus the left traditionally asserts that it represents the people. The reality is that the people often vote in contradiction. Democracy is illusory when politicos misinterpret results. When the people vote in a rightist government, their verdict that the left is an unrealistic option tends to be ignored by the left. You can't credibly represent the people if you persist in ignoring what they're trying to tell you! The people, rolling their eyes, invariably think that the left has gone to hell. This public perception trends toward reality the longer the left takes to transform public opinion to a positive alternative. Here's a basic principle of social psychology functioning as a driver of politics: a general perception will crystallise into a shared belief via inertia, unless or until collective reality proves it wrong! Political reality emerges from such shaping of perceptions...

The road to hell resembles a highway with multiple on-ramps. Mass perceptions lead folks down the garden path, through the gate at the bottom, out through the commons and onto one of these on-ramps. Someone, like the kid who pointed out that the Emperor was wearing no clothes, may tell others “Hey, this isn't real!” But the opinion of a nonconformist is unlikely to shatter the favoured delusion of the majority – particularly when that has substantiated into the shared belief system of a social group and thereby has become a social pathology. The indoctrinating effect is so powerful that reality-checks roll off adherents like water off a duck's back. The left will march on down the road to hell in proud solidarity, until disaster looms sufficiently as imminent reality that it transforms their perception of the social environment.

Then a collective shift of perception will cascade through the group: “Oops, wrong way!” Time for a u-turn, retreat towards a place of safety, to ascertain and explore a valid path to the future. For the Green Party, shackled to it's leftist alignment, the inexorable lesson of polling and election results is starting to shift the mass perception of members out of their traditional pathology and toward reality. So many years heading down the road to hell with the left, we need to get back so we can save the world! Watch this space..

Sue Bradford on leftist think-tanks 2012:
Sue Bradford on leftist think-tanks 2014:

Sunday, 8 March 2015

green leadership

I was glad to see Vernon Tava's candidacy for the Green Party male co-leadership featuring on TV3's The Nation this morning.  I wish Vernon success, partly because he's an excellent candidate, and partly because of his desire to reposition the greens politically.  

In 2011 I established my website (alternative Aotearoa) and on the editorial page I wrote about my history as an office-holder in the Green Party in the early 1990s, and included my critique of the performance of the GP since I left in '95.  You can read that here:

Since rejoining on 1st November last year, I have been pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the culture within and the general quality of the activists.  I have been advocating that the priority of the GP must be establishing authenticity by abandoning the leftist parliamentary alignment, and returning to the original political position of the global green movement:  neither left nor right, but in front.  On my other blog I recently acknowledged that I persuaded the GP to adopt the leftist alignment back in '91 (see Green politics: an integral frame 9/2/15).  It was necessary at the time, so I don't regret that!  However the time to abandon it was about 12 years ago when Helen Clark made it clear that she was going to continue to freeze the greens out.  Anyone who thought the leftist alignment had merit since then is obviously an extremely slow learner - and thus politically inadequate.

Regardless who wins the upcoming leadership contest, I hope we can co-create the opportunity for all three contenders to establish themselves as alternative leaders.  This is best done on an issue-by-issue basis, I suspect. In permaculture (sustainability by design) the relevant concept is redundancy:  concurrent availability of more than one way to get a necessary result.  Power or water supply, for instance, when you have several different sources and are therefore able to switch from one to the other when necessary.  This design makes you more resilient. Similarly with leadership!

The Green Party would be in a stronger position with several alternate leaders - especially if integrated into a collaborative framework.  Seeing each other as colleagues rather than competitors, I mean.  When the male co-leader has prior commitments, or just prefers to give one of his colleagues a go at an issue, then he ought to consult with them to enable this.  Conventional politics requires him to engage without choice, and a below-par performance may result.

I'm confident this is workable on a mutual-benefit basis:  the other 2 guys will appreciate such opportunities to show their mettle.  Such teamwork will then become evident as genuine collaboration to the public.  Modelling a new style of politics will prove to them that we are indeed different to both the left and the right.  A paradigm shift in politics becomes likely as the result!

I always saw the old green slogan `neither left nor right, but in front' as the appropriate signal for such innovative style and practice.  Perhaps I was wrong to assume that other green activists also saw the creative potential therein - but better late than never, eh?  Media will require explanation of this:  just explain that we are the avante garde of politics.

If there's a momentary silence where you can see them wondering "Oh shit, does this mean I have to find a dictionary?" I suggest courteously adding that the avante garde were traditionally viewed as the leading edge of cultural development.

Being in front means showing the way.  You could cite the seminal text "The Way", by Edward Goldsmith (founder of The Ecologist).  Explain that the way is the path to future survival for humanity.  Explain that the greens have to provide it because the left & right remain addicted to economic growth so people need a positive alternative...

Friday, 13 February 2015

Reframing sovereignty

Having long been happy with the trend to recognise the Treaty of Waitangi as the foundation of our country, I've more recently become aware that it is inducing people to see sovereignty as an institution. I believe sovereignty ought to be vested in the people as a whole. Instead, the traditional practice of nations has been to vest it in the state - the historical rationale being that the state replaced the monarch, and the monarch was the origin of sovereign power.

What's wrong with this? The political left and right have an extensive track record of using state power to limit our attainment of human rights and freedom of expression. Not to mention mass exploitation via taxation without representation. We send them to parliament so they can get rich at taxpayers' expense and pretend to govern in our collective best interests. The collusion between left and right in the ancient control system works via the matrix, which provides a sufficient illusion of democracy to sustain public consent.

Exaltation of the Treaty in recent decades served to restore Maori tribal interests. However it seems to me that the Maori have a co-dependency relation with the British Crown which is not in the best interests of our people as a whole. Our multicultural future may be incompatible with our bicultural past if we adhere to the historic constitutional framework. Instead, we ought to consider the need to reframe sovereignty as a fundamental principle of democracy. We ought to reconstitute Aotearoa by vesting our sovereignty in all of our citizens as a collective whole.

I suggest therefore that we create a genuine progressive political movement in favour of constitutional reform as a national priority. This need not mean creating a republic; observation of the political evolution of the United States of America since the Eisenhower presidency informs us that it is such a flawed role model for republics as to make them seem little better than monarchies. Several years ago Prince Charles published his book “Harmony: a new way of looking at our world” and it reveals his extensive and authoritative track record as an avatar of the global green movement. Charles has therein proven himself both authentic and enterprising, the role model the world needs, and an entirely suitable exemplar and head of state for the British Commonwealth. I've had to rethink my long-standing dismissal of the royal family as irrelevant.

There's a middle way between republicanism and retention of the British Crown as our head of state. A prudent compromise would be to make the latter conditional upon general public satisfaction with the performance of any royal head of state. I suggest the constitutional clause to effect this should specify a plebiscite threshold of 2/3 of kiwi voters required to replace the hereditary royal system with a popular mandate for a kiwi head of state. The innovative change then results from a substantial majority deciding that the old system no longer serves the public.

Dennis Frank, 13/2/15