The Government Religion

God was dead, but God has returned to life in the form of government. This essay examines a terrifying proposition: taken together, the number of people who are willing to do violence to others on behalf of their government greatly exceeds the number of people willing to do violence to others on behalf on any other mentality or ideology. Worship of government is its own religion.

For those who follow the Government religion, any pronouncement from the government is the same as if the clouds have parted and the voice of God had boomed from the heavens. The government simply cannot lie – its size and power makes it both omnipresent and omnibenevolent. Therefore, every law and decree passed by government is regarded by its followers as if it was written in holy scripture.

If all the available scientific and medical evidence says, for example, that cannabis is medicinal and can be used to treat nausea and insomnia, but the government says that cannabis is not medicinal, then the followers of the Government religion will say that cannabis is not medicinal. The scientific literature and all the evidence be damned – the government says it’s not medicinal, therefore it isn’t.

Before any decision can be made, the question has to be asked: does the government approve of this? This is the government-worshipper’s equivalent of the Christian question “What would Jesus do?”. All actions must be viewed through the prism of whether they serve government objectives. If not, those actions are sinful and must be discouraged.

Police officers are usually fanatical followers of the Government religion, which offers a ready excuse for them to discharge their baser, sadistic instincts on members of the public. Without the Government religion, Police officers would not have the authority to physically abuse people without punishment. The Government religion raises these people, who would otherwise mostly be criminals, into a position of prestige, and they return the favour with obedience.

Mental health workers are another. The job of a mental health worker is to determine when a person has lost touch with reality and to guide them back to it. The problem with this is that they have no natural or philosophical explanation of the nature of reality and so they rely on the government to provide one. This means that the government literally decides what reality is for mental health workers. They are consequently hopelessly mired in the religion.

Bureaucrats are a third, and arguably the worst of all three. Bureaucrats are to the Government religion what the cardinals are to Catholicism. They are the ones that seek to organise the world so that their religion might be dominant. In the case of the bureaucrat, the objective is to use Police officers and mental health workers to destroy those who oppose the religion.

If one reasons by analogy to dogs, we can see why government workers behave the way they do. Dogs are completely loyal to the people that feed them, on account of the gratitude created from that dog no longer having to worry about where its daily food comes from. In a state of Nature, the majority of creatures must live in a state of extreme anxiety on account of the pressure to acquire sufficient food resources to live. Anyone feeding a dog takes all that anxiety away, and the resulting gratitude leads to loyalty.

By the same token, the natural stress of finding enough money to live on has been alleviated, in the life of the government worker, by the government. Therefore, the government worker regards the government with the same undying, arse-licking loyalty that a dog regards its owner with. The government provides food and shelter like God provides manna from Heaven, and in exchange the government worker obeys the orders they are given.

Because Government-worshippers treat the desire of their government as if it was the Will of God, they are capable of causing immense destruction and human suffering. All of the death camp guards on both the Nazi and Soviet side were Government-worshippers, as were the Chinese mandarins responsible for the mass starvation of the Great Leap Forward. Those responsible for destroying their own young people through conducting the War on Drugs on them also commit their crimes out of a sense of the holiness of government directives.

Because Government-worshippers are responsible for most of the crimes against humanity committed throughout history, the rest of us need to oppose the spread of the cult and the fanaticism of its followers, for our own good. The best way to do this is to cause the Government-worshipper to realise that the authority they worship is fallible. This is why they are extremely reluctant to consider the possibility, much like any religious person.

The discovery that the government may have actually been wrong about something is enough to shatter the life of the government-worshipper. This will cause them to have a crisis of faith, which, like the crises of faith suffered by followers of other religions, can lead to the complete rejection of the Government religion.

The more doubt a government worker has in the infallibility of their paymaster, the less likely it is that that worker will commit a human rights abuse. Therefore, causing people to lose faith in their government is essential to keeping the rest of us safe. Making Government-worshippers realise that the authority they worship is fallible is the key to undermining the Government religion.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future VI

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Welfare’. Here Seymour opens with what appears to be sympathy for the disadvantaged, telling a story about the children without shoes or food at Raumanga Middle School, before white flight took all the pakeha kids (including him) elsewhere. This doesn’t last long. Within a few paragraphs, he’s fuming about how welfare “saps the will to live”.

Seymour then tells a story about how Michael Joseph Savage, when he carried a table through the front door of the first state house in New Zealand, put that table down immediately after passing through that door. It’s not clear why this story is told here, because it doesn’t fit the rest of the section. It seems to simply fit Seymour’s narrative that anything done to help people is bad.

Like a 21st-century echo of Ebenezer Scrooge, Seymour decries the entire welfare system, going all the way back to 1937. The problem isn’t so much the usual right-wing canards of welfare queens and benefit fraudsters, the problem is that the welfare system is designed to “allow the disadvantaged to live full lives participating in equal footing in the community”.

In this section, the brutal and dishonest reasoning at the heart of neoliberalism is laid bare. Seymour makes a list of all of the problems in society and then blames them all on welfare, without providing any evidence or even so much as an argument that the two are connected. He lists a number of statistics about people on welfare, but provides no comparison to other times and places so that we can judge if those numbers are angstworthy.

Without a hint of irony, Seymour writes that “A Treasury report on life outcomes showed that at every stage of life, having parents relying on benefits predicted worse outcomes for children.” The fact that he conflates being on a benefit, rather than poverty, with being the cause of these poor outcomes, is the central error in Seymour’s reasoning, in the ACT Party’s reasoning, and is why the party can never and will never succeed electorally.

He talks about being on welfare as if it was a simple choice, and the man writing that is every bit the man writing about the horror of getting a tennis ball to the head. Seymour comes across as so out of touch that it’s almost comical, such as when he argues against the idea that “welfare is good for the people receiving it”.

The idea that welfare is bad because it makes people lazy is a fringe belief of the American Republican Party, considered gauche even by them, but it’s front-and-centre here. “Being out of work harms people, and more importantly it harms their children,” Seymour wails, crocodile tears spurting. One can easily imagine him as the overseer of a cotton plantation in the antebellum South, cracking the whip for his wealthy employers.

In an outburst of raw neoliberalism, Seymour quotes John Key when it comes to describing Working For Families as an example of “Communism by stealth”. Seymour goes as far as suggesting that not offering tax cuts when possible is equivalent to totalitarianism by stealth. Not ashamed of absurdity, he even accuses National, who slashed the welfare system so badly that we now have the developed world’s highest youth suicide rate, of not being opposed to Communism.

Laughably, Seymour claims here that ACT supports greater access to mental health care. Anyone who has been a mental health patient for long will know that the Fifth National Government slashed funding and access to mental health care, going as far as cutting benefits to severely mentally ill people – and the ACT Party supported them every step of the way. This is why there was a very strong correlation of -0.66 between voting ACT in 2017 and being on the invalid’s benefit (c.f. Dan McGlashan’s Understanding New Zealand).

It’s most notable that nowhere in this essay does Seymour mention the supply side of the welfare question. At no point does he touch on the poor wages in New Zealand, and at no point does he suggest that Kiwi employers ought to do their bit by offering a fair wage. Employers are completely exempt from playing any role in motivating workers to work by offering them a wage that they can live on or buy a house with.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Writing Conduct Disorder

Unlike most of the conditions in this book, Conduct Disorder (CD) is only diagnosed in children and adolescents. As the name implies, people who get diagnosed with it conduct themselves in ways that the clinician considers disorderly, in particular when it comes to respecting the rights of other people. This article looks at how to write believable and interesting characters with the condition.

The most important thing is to distinguish CD from Antisocial Personality Disorder. CD is the developmental precursor to Antisocial Personality Disorder – it can only be diagnosed in those too young to have a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder (i.e. 18 years of age). It is therefore a developmental condition.

One of the key symptoms of CD is a lower level of fear. This will express itself in a wide variety of ways.

The most notable way that a lower level of fear expresses itself in young people is when it comes to transgressions. A young person has not yet had time to internalise knowledge about the effects that their actions have on other people. They therefore have to learn to be afraid of punishment. This corresponds to Level 1 of Kohlberg’s Scale of Moral Reasoning.

A young person with CD will have a hard time internalising rules about those transgressions, in part because they don’t feel much fear, and so don’t have as much inhibition when primitive impulses towards violence and destruction start playing up on them. Because of this, they regularly violate boundaries relating to other people’s personal space and property.

Another way low levels of fear find expression is in transgressions against one’s own health. Young people already play fast and loose with their health when it comes to having a good time; young people with Conduct Disorder are nihilistically reckless. If the protagonist of your story has Conduct Disorder, chances are that they will be into the booze, weed and pills from their early teenage years.

A character with CD will likely be something of a daredevil. If they are male, they might find themselves drawn to racing motor vehicles or street fighting; if female, to shoplifting and starting trouble between men.

A story with a protagonist who has Conduct Disorder might read like J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Care must be taken here, therefore, not to sound cliched. Anti-hero stories mostly appeal to the same young audience, because they will most readily identify with the spirit of rebellion expressed by such a character. People with Conduct Disorder push the boundaries, for good or ill.

Punk stories, in particular cyberpunk, often feature protagonists who would appear (at least from the authorities’ perspective) to have Conduct Disorder. Young men like John Case of Neuromancer or Jonty Gillespie of The Verity Key are unrepentant criminals, usually because they have to be in order to make a living in the cracks of the edifice of respectable society.

After all, one man’s Conduct Disorder is another man’s righteous rebellion against a tyrannical oppressor. So a character with the condition might be the perfect choice of protagonist if your story involves going up against a large, faceless, totalitarian entity. After all, most of us have a point which, if pushed beyond, we will no longer behave in a co-operative manner.

If a character with CD is pitted against a malicious, evil entity (corporation or government), much of the difficulty in writing your story will come from making that entity unsympathetic enough that the reader readily comes to identify with that character. The more credibly this can be done, the less that character will look like a CD sufferer and more like a righteous hardarse.

Unsurprisingly, Conduct Disorder is highly correlated with all forms of early childhood abuse. A character with the condition might have learned by way of mimicry of their parents that violence and cruelty are perfectly acceptable ways to advance one’s interests, and that fear is for the weak and an invitation to be destroyed.

So if you are writing a character with CD they might not necessarily be a cool, daring and adventurous antihero. Realistically they are more likely to be somewhat brutal. If your protagonist encounters such a character, they might find them intimidating – the class bully, or local street thug.

If your protagonist encounters a character with CD, they could respond in a wide variety of ways, depending on how they themselves are (and their decision will be very revealing to the reader). They might consider that character a cool rebel to be befriended, they might consider them a danger to be avoided, or they might consider them a little brat to be corrected.

Conduct Disorder often occurs at the same time as Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s likely, therefore, that any character with it will have extreme difficulty at school, at work, or with either friends of family. Their life will probably be very chaotic, and will considerable Police or social worker involvement.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The New Zealand Government Has Been Separating Children From Their Cannabis-Growing Parents for Decades

This is no worse than what our own Government is doing to us

Today’s mass media assault on consciousness involved emotional images from America of Mexican children in cages. The ensuing outrage was based around the fact that when a Mexican family is apprehended crossing the American border illegally, the children are temporarily separated from their parents. Although this is regrettable, what the media is ignoring is that the New Zealand Government has been doing the same thing to its own citizens for decades.

For one thing, it’s standard practice for the New Zealand Government to separate children from their parents if those parents are going into custody for breaking the law. In this regard, the New Zealand Government’s normal actions are no better than what the American Government is doing. Even worse than this is the fact that many of those parents are going to jail for offences that don’t harm anyone, unlike (arguably) illegal immigration.

The fact that cannabis is a medicine is a fact near enough to universally acknowledged by the young people of the world, even if Baby Boomer politicians have been slow to understand it. However, cultivation of it remains a crime punishable by up to seven years imprisonment in New Zealand, despite that the plant has a wide range of medicinal effects and is used all over the country to alleviate needless suffering.

Because cannabis is so good for alleviating suffering – taking away pain, nausea, insomnia among other maladies – people continue to grow it, despite the law. But because of the law, a significant number of these people end up being apprehended by Police and sentenced to prison.

Many of the medicinal cannabis growers who have been put in prison over the past 40 years have had children. Those children were forcibly separated from their parents by the New Zealand Government for the sake of enforcing a law that should never have been a law.

So all the perfectly natural dismay that Kiwis have been induced to feel at what the Mexican children at the American border are forced to endure – a traumatic forced separation from their parents as a consequence of an arbitrary law enforced by armed men – could just as well arise as a result of thinking about what Kiwi children have to go through as a result of cannabis prohibition.

In fact, our own children have it worse, because they will often not get to see their parents again for a long time.

So if people in New Zealand are going to get upset because of an outrage that the global corporate media manufactured in order to target a conservative American President, let’s get equally upset about similar and equally evil actions in New Zealand.

Every time a New Zealander gets put in prison for a cannabis offence that has harmed no-one, leaving a child on the outside who is now missing a parent, we ought to react with the same outrage towards our own Government as we had today for the Trump Administration. If we’re going to expend energy on outrage let’s at least direct it somewhere where it can do some good.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

What Would the Average Hourly Wage Be in New Zealand If Wages Had Kept Up With House Prices?

New Zealand is torn by inter-generational tension right now. The young have no hope of finding houses they can afford and the old simply blame them for being too lazy to work hard enough to afford one. However, the numbers show that workers today get a much worse deal than they did 30 years ago. This article looks at what the average wage in New Zealand would be if it had kept pace with the price of houses since the late 1980s.

This graph from the Trading Economics website tracks the increase in the New Zealand Average Hourly Wage over the past 30 years. We can see that the average hourly wage in New Zealand, as of the beginning of 2018, is $31.03. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand website contains many interesting statistics and graphs, many of which can be downloaded from this link. This article will combine both sources.

In March of 2001, the House Price Index (from the RBNZ link above) stood at 700.2. At this time, the average hourly wage was $17.70. So if a person wished to purchase a $300,000 house, suitable for a growing family, they would have to have capital equal to 16,949 hours of work at the average wage.

According to this article by Human Resources Director, Kiwis work an average of 1,762 hours a year (this figure was for 2014, but for cultural reasons this figure does not change much over time). This means that, in March of 2001, buying a house suitable for raising a family in required capital equal to 9.62 years of full-time work at the average wage.

How does that compare to today?

After seventeen years of red-hot growth, the House Price Index now stands at 2480.8. This represents an increase of 254% over those seventeen years, and it means that a $300,000 house in March 2001 now costs $1,062,000 (all growth factors assumed equal). As mentioned above, the average hourly wage in New Zealand has increased from $17.70 in that time to $31.03, which represents an increase of 75%.

In other words, in January of 2018, buying a $1,062,000 house, suitable for raising a family in, requires capital equal to 34,224 hours of working at the average hourly wage. This is equivalent to 19.42 years of work at the average hourly wage.

We can see, then, that when measured in terms of a person’s ability to purchase a house suitable for raising a family in, the average New Zealander is less than half as wealthy as they were only 17 years ago. To have the same house buying power that it had in 2001, an average wage in New Zealand would now have to be $62.65 per hour.

People working in 1989 – when the majority of Baby Boomers would have been in the workforce – had it even better still. In December of 1989 the House Price Index stood at 453.5; the average hourly wage stood at $13.07 in the first quarter of that year.

So our standard family home that cost $300,000 in 2001 cost a mere 64.8% of that price in 1989, whereas the average wage in 1989 was 73.8% of what it was in 2001. Put another way, the average house suitable for raising a family in cost $194,400 in 1989, which represented capital equal to 14,873 hours of labour at the average wage. This was equivalent to a mere 8.44 years of saved labour.

The average house price has gone up 447% over the past 30 years in New Zealand; the average hourly wage has gone up 137% in that time. So to have the same house-buying power as the average New Zealand worker in 1989, a Kiwi in 2018 would have to get paid $71.50 an hour. This would allow them to buy a decent house after saving around 14,000 hours of the average wage, which is the standard of living that the average worker had in 1989.

In summary, the average New Zealand worker has lost almost 60% of the house-buying power of their wage over the past 30 years.

Buying a decent house in 2018 costs savings equal to 19.42 years of work at the average wage; 30 years ago buying an equivalent quality of housing cost savings equal to 8.44 years of work. So if a Kiwi left home at age 18 in 1970 and saved half of their income on the average wage they could own a house by age 35; a Kiwi who left home at age 18 in the year 2000 and saved half of their income on the average wage can’t expect to own one before they turn 57.

Despite tiny relative savings on consumer electronics, it’s obvious that the standard of living for young people is much lower nowadays than it was 30 years ago. The fact that wages haven’t come close to keeping up with housing costs is the main culprit.

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Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the statistical pulse of New Zealand. His magnum opus, Understanding New Zealand, is the complete demographic analysis of the Kiwi people. Available on TradeMe for $35.60.

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future I

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

Today, VJMP Reads has a look at Own Your Future, by ACT Party Leader David Seymour. This is a 192-page book of essays published by the ACT Party along the lines of previous ACT Party efforts such as Closing the Gaps and I’ve Been Thinking.

Previous VJM Publishing publications, such as Dan McGlashan’s Understanding New Zealand, tells us some basic facts about the ACT-voting demographic. Although few in number (a mere 13,075 in 2017), they were the wealthiest voter base of any party, as well as the most likely to be born overseas and one of the best educated (along with the Greens). Asians like them the most, white people the next most, and Maoris the least.

We have also seen that people who donate to the ACT Party get the worst return on their investment, with the party gaining 22 votes per $1,000 spent on the 2017 campaign. This compares to 388 votes per $1,000 for Labour, 452 for National and 4,761 for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (even the vanity project that was The Opportunities Party managed 62 votes per $1,000 spent).

So who are ACT, in the words of their own leader?

The Introduction runs to sixteen pages, and is worth studying on its own. It starts off by telling the story of the struggles of a wealthy couple to subdivide their land. Hilariously, by the third page there’s already a reference to how, under communism, “people starved by the million”, so it’s already a fair bet at this early stage that the book will be full of far-right-wing American-style libertarianism.

On page 12, Seymour states that he grew up “not rich”, and also states that the first time he realised that the Government might not have our best interests at heart was at age sixteen. Seymour was born in 1983, which would make him around 8 years old at the time of Ruth Richardson’s infamous 1991 Budget, which ripped the heart out of the New Zealand poor. Had it not occurred to him in the aftermath of the social destruction wrought by this that the Government is not on the people’s side, then it can fairly be said that he was unusually privileged, if not actually sheltered.

In fact, the truly sheltered nature of Seymour’s life comes through in lines that would be comic genius in any other context. How else to read “Auckland Grammar is a particularly barbaric place for some kids. I vividly remember one kid getting a tennis ball to the head, it bounced lightly but its power was symbolic”?

Like most men of his time, Seymour is a materialist. He is proud to have supported liberalising the abortion laws. ACT wanted to introduce laws that would make New Zealand a better place, in Seymour’s estimation, hence his support for them. This is stated very matter-of-factly, with no explanation as to why he thought that ACT in particular were best suited to make New Zealand a better place.

Inevitably, Seymour has a go here at the eternal ACT bugbear, the Resource Management Act. He writes that the poorest fifth of New Zealanders spend almost half of their income on housing today, compared to only a quarter of their income 26 years ago. All of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the RMA, which has strangled the rate of house building. “That’s why people are living in cars and garages.”

The obvious rejoinder to this claim is to point out that New Zealand has the highest rate of immigration of any OECD country. Seymour anticipates this, and writes of the immigration question that opinion is divided between “National’s naivete vs. the racism of New Zealand First.” Like many middle-class white people, Seymour appears to be unaware that New Zealand First’s strongest supporters are Maoris.

Seymour generally doesn’t seem bothered by anti-Maori racism, as shown by his rant about “million after million for various Maori centric projects and separatist legislation”. Racism is, perhaps, only real to Seymour when it prevents wealthy foreigners from immigrating here (after all, as noted above, Maoris don’t vote for the ACT Party).

Going by the introduction, this book seems like the closest thing to a neoliberalist manifesto New Zealand has seen recently. What Seymour appears to be about, fittingly for someone who represents foreign wealth, is freedom for money. He’s not interested in freedom for people. Freedom for people comes incidentally, in so far as those people have money.

One gets the impression that if Seymour could stuff the entire South Island into a giant machine that sorted it out into its constituent minerals for the sake of most efficiently selling it all off to foreign speculators, he would be happy to do so. This book, therefore, promises to be a journey into the mind of an absolutely fanatical die-hard neoliberal.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Who Owns The New Zealand Media?

Whoever owns the New Zealand media sets the public narrative in this country – do we know who that is?

In more sophisticated countries, informed citizens go to considerable lengths to detect any biases among the people reporting the news. This is necessary to make sure that one develops a balanced, nuanced and independent opinion. Kiwis don’t generally bother with such things, preferring instead to believe everything we’re told like the good little lambs we are – except for this article.

It’s often remarked upon, by foreign visitors, that New Zealanders blindly believe everything they hear in the news. Conditioned into obedience by a brutal state education system that encourages bullying, social and emotional abuse, Kiwis are too afraid to question anything even vaguely resembling an authority, such as a television.

Given that we don’t question what the media is trying to tell us, it’s worthwhile figuring out who owns our media, because these same people effectively own our beliefs and opinions. In other words, let’s find out who own our minds.

We can find a ranked list of the major players in New Zealand cyberspace from Alexa. The two major internet portals in New Zealand are the New Zealand Herald and Stuff. You could confidently argue that the New Zealand online mediascape was an effective duopoly, with NZH and Stuff the only real players.

New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME) controls the New Zealand Herald brand, ranked by Alexa as the 9th biggest website in New Zealand. NZME is a large media conglomerate (by NZ standards, anyway), as can be seen from the list of newspapers they own at the bottom of their company page.

Finding out who owns NZME is not straightforward, because they are a publicly traded company on both the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges. Helpfully, their own investor relations page lists their top 20 shareholders, but this doesn’t lead very far. All of the major shareholders are banks or holding companies for banks.

Number one on the list is Citicorp Nominees Pty Ltd, which is based in Sydney. According to Bloomberg, this company is a subsidiary of Citicorp Pty Ltd, which has been incorporated since 1954 and “provides a range of banking and financial products and services to retail, small business, corporate, and institutional clients primarily in Australia.”

One would think that this would surely be the end of the trail, but no. Citicorp Pty Ltd is itself a subsidiary, this time of Citigroup Holding (Singapore) Private Limited. This too, is a subsidiary: of Citigroup Asia Pacific Holding LLC, itself a subsidiary of Citi International Investments Bahamas Limited, itself a subsidiary of Citi Overseas Holdings Bahamas Limited, a child entity of Citigroup Inc.

Citigroup is a gigantic American bank, one large enough to be considered “too big to fail”, with its origins in the City Bank of New York, chartered in 1812. The closest Citigroup has to an owner, at 7.06% of the shareholding, is Vanguard Inc., “One of the world’s largest investment management companies” (as per their company page). In second place, at 4.76% of the shareholding, is State Street Corporation, another investment management bank. Third, with 4.51%, is BlackRock Inc., yet another global investment management corporation.

So that line of investigation doesn’t lead to any specific names, but neither is it any easier trying to figure out who is behind any of the other of New Zealand Media and Entertainment’s major shareholders.

J P Morgan Nominees Australia Ltd is at third place on the NZME shareholder’s list, with 12.69%. Finding out out who owns JP Morgan Nominees Australia Ltd is no easy task, as the article linked here demonstrates. One passage from the linked article reads “Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to track down the identities of those underlying shareholders through the various financial structures that hold shares for each other and on behalf of each other.”

If it’s practically impossible to find out who owns NZME, what about finding out who owns Stuff, the 3rd largest website in New Zealand?

Investigating this is just a shorter path to the same place. The Stuff brand is owned by Fairfax New Zealand Limited, a subsidiary of Fairfax Media Ltd., which is also publicly traded on the ASX. As it turns out, the second-largest shareholder of Fairfax Media Ltd. is none other than Vanguard Inc.

They only own 2.26% of the shares, however, so can only give us a clue as to the ownership of Fairfax Media Ltd. Looking down the list of funds and institutions that own shares in Fairfax, there’s little more than a pile of asset management companies, wealth funds and banks. As with Vanguard, BlackRock also appears on the list of major owners of both Citigroup and Fairfax Media Ltd.

The story with television media is little different to the story just described with print and online media. The New Zealand television market is, like the print and online media markets, an effective duopoly between Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and MediaWorks New Zealand.

TVNZ is Government-owned, but is almost entirely funded by commercials and is therefore little different to any other commercial broadcaster. MediaWorks New Zealand, for its part, is entirely owned by Oaktree Capital Management, which is (you guessed it) another global investment and wealth management fund.

In summary, no-one has any fucking idea who owns the New Zealand media, apart from the small niche carved out by TVNZ and the independents. Trying to pin it down to any one person is like trying to catch shadows in a jar. The best one can say is that the New Zealand media is ultimately controlled by global wealth management funds and corporations and their nominated representatives.

Being owned by such institutions tells us that the New Zealand media is run for profit and probably has little agenda other than commercial. In other words, there is little in the way of direct political propaganda or slanted editorial content, but one can expect the quality of the journalism to degrade to that which appeals to the lowest common denominator in society. Indeed, it has.

The astute reader will have drawn a connection between all of this bank ownership and the never-ending series of “I became a homeowner at age 21”-style stories. The reason for this is the banks benefit directly from a shallow, consumerist, disposable culture in which it’s considered normal for people move away from their parents and get a massive mortgage so that they can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest to a gigantic, parasitic investment corporation.

In other words, the owners of the New Zealand media directly make money from consumerist culture, in particular from people taking out loans to buy shit that they don’t need. This is why all manner of wasteful, extravagant and unnecessary consumer purchases are advertised, and normalised, by the New Zealand media.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Our Mental Health System Shouldn’t Run on WINZ Logic

A lot of people complain about the way WINZ treats its clients, but their logic makes a certain sense. By verbally and psychologically abusing many of the people who come to them for help, WINZ staff sharply reduce demand for WINZ services and thereby save taxpayer money. This is called WINZ logic, and our mental health system runs by the same principles.

WINZ logic seems to appeal to the vast majority of New Zealanders. We like to consider ourselves a people who have “hardened up”, and who don’t need faggy things like welfare. Moreover, the high levels of diversity in our society mean that those at the top are unwilling to pay taxes for the greater good, because those taxes won’t be helping people like them. So we make sure that WINZ runs an extremely tight ship, where there is absolutely no wastage.

Somewhere along the way, someone working at WINZ realised that many of their clients could easily be discouraged from seeking WINZ services. Many people who need WINZ services are socially outcast or psychologically damaged, and so they are easily disheartened by abuse. If these people were spoken to like thieving, bludging, malingering scum, instead of being treated like fellow humans who need help, they were less likely to come back and ask for more money.

Ultimately, the essence of WINZ logic is this: the more unpleasant the experience of being a WINZ client can be made, the fewer resources WINZ clients will collectively consume.

With ever-tightening social welfare budgets under nine years of a National-led Government, treating the clients badly became the default way to distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving poor. If someone really needed a benefit, WINZ logic claimed, they’d keep coming back despite the mistreatment. So treating the clients badly achieves the twin goals of saving money while still helping the needy.

Unfortunately, our mental health system works on the same logic. In order to save money, patients are systematically verbally and emotionally abused by support workers. They don’t admit to this, and nowhere is it written that this is official policy, but it’s apparent from collating the experiences of many users of the mental health services that this is the case.

The logic appears to be that it’s better for a hundred schizophrenics to starve in the street than it is for one person to perhaps get a benefit that they didn’t 100% need. After all, a severely mentally ill young person who is unlikely to work again is liable to cost the country up to half a million dollars in benefit payments alone over the course of their lives. If people like this could be convinced to commit suicide instead, the potential savings could run into the hundreds of millions.

This might sound implausible to some, but it’s a natural consequence of neoliberal reasoning. Human life has a dollar value. If mentally ill people can’t contribute to the tax farm, and if we can’t just kill them directly, we have to encourage them to kill themselves. This reasoning was introduced to New Zealand by Ruth Richardson in the 1991 Budget and it’s now an indelible part of our culture. After all, we already have “by far the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world”.

If this wasn’t true, then the experience of being a user of the mental health services would be entirely different. One would be treated much like a person ill with a physical illness – as a fellow human being who had had something unfortunate happen to them and required care in order to recover to normal function. Doctors would answer your questions honestly. Consultations would work towards improving your mental health rather than merely assessing your work readiness.

Further evidence for this comes from the refusal to acknowledge cannabis medicine. Despite the fact that there was enough evidence for the medicinal value of cannabis for California to make it legal already in 1996, New Zealand politicians and doctors still have their heads up their arses. Now even Zimbabwe has legal medicinal cannabis.

What this approach to cannabis tells the mentally ill in New Zealand is that the mental health system isn’t really interested in helping them. It’s just: “Take these sedatives and get back to picking cotton.” It wouldn’t matter if 100,000 people all lined up to tell doctors that cannabis had helped them sleep or had helped with anxiety, depression or suicidal ideation. No-one’s listening, no-one cares.

Our mental health system shouldn’t run on the WINZ logic of withholding aid to as many people as possible. It should be recognised that an investment in a person’s mental health now will have excellent returns in both their future productivity and future unwillingness to use mental health services. The emphasis should be on treating them well so that they can get better and we can save money over their lifetime, not treating them like shit to save money this month.

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