VJMP Reads: Religion, Property, Violence I

The next edition in the VJMP Reads column is Religion, Property, Violence: A Revolutionary Idea For Society by Horst Niclaus. This book was purchased cheaply from TradeMe. The back cover asks the question “Is the creation of God the reason why equality between human beings has not been achieved yet?”

After a short introduction, in which Niclaus recounts his early upbringing in wartime Germany, the first chapter begins. It is called ‘Does God exist?’

Niclaus mentions here that God was silent during the Holocaust and that “he” has no problems with things like the mass child rapes of the Catholic Church. It’s apparent that Niclaus is arguing against a conception of the Abrahamic God, in particular the Christian one. He lists a number of Biblical contradictions here.

In this chapter Niclaus cites Albert Einstein as saying that the Jewish religion is “an incarnation of the most childish superstition.” He then cites a list of arguments against the Abrahamic God and against religion in general, such as the fact that ignorance and fear underpins much religious belief. These arguments all proceed from a materialist perspective, and should be convincing to someone who has fallen at the second hurdle.

This list of arguments is duplicated from elsewhere, and any materialist ought to find them agreeable. One of the arguments copied here is Epicurus’s one, that makes that claim that if God has the power to end all suffering, but not the Will, then God must be malevolent.

The problem here is that Epicurus makes the assumption that the end of suffering is the highest value. The reality is that God encourages an unpredictable degree of suffering for the purposes of entertainment, on account of that infinite bliss is infinite boredom, and therefore more suffering than a the madcap mix of pleasure and pain that is life on Earth.

Many of the arguments listed here suffer from similar problems. They are attacking a Christian conception of God and therefore attack the characteristics that Christians claim that God has. These arguments do not address (e.g.) Luciferian or Hindu conceptions of divinity. As is true of many Western commentators, Niclaus appears to believe that disproving the Abrahamic conception of God is sufficient to prove the non-existence of God.

Most of the arguments in this chapter proceed on this basis, i.e. they are worthwhile criticisms towards Christianity or Abrahamism, but no more. The quoted section makes one cutting observation of missionaries in particular: while their work is risky, the rewards are to be worshipped by those who accept his guidance.

This chapter ends with the mention of some scientists who advanced the materialist world view, and then some letters to the Christchurch newspaper The Press arguing against Christianity.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda XI

This reading continues from here.

Chapter Eleven in Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘The Mechanics of Propaganda.’ Here Bernays talks about how propaganda gets transmitted to the public.

Bernays defined propaganda here as “the establishing of reciprocal understanding between a person and a group.” Therefore, there is no practical limit to the number and type of media that may be employed to transmit propaganda (one wonders what Bernays would have made of the Internet).

He writes about how the public meeting was the best means of propaganda 50 years ago (i.e. in the 1870s), but people have become “sick of the ballyhoo of the rally,” and prefer to get information from the radio and newspapers. The propagandist must keep up with the shifting patterns of the popularity of various media, as well as anticipate future changes.

Bernays notes here that there is almost no item of news that, if published, would not benefit the interests of some people and harm the interests of others. He notes also that the newspaper does not care about the propaganda value of a piece of information, but only about its news value. Thus, propaganda that is also news is more likely to get propagated.

It’s important to tailor the message to the audience. The propagandist must create propaganda items with specific audiences in mind. To this end, magazines are different to newspapers because they’re not obliged to print news. This also means that magazines are kind of naturally like propaganda organs.

The propagandist might like to consider supplying a propaganda organ with a series of articles that puts the case to a particular audience. This is especially likely to succeed if that organ feels like they can derive prestige from the association with the company the propagandist works for.

Hilariously (with hindsight), Bernays is able to speak about the radio when it was a new invention and its development uncertain. He notes that many newspaper enterprises have moved into radio, correctly in his estimation. Anticipating the Internet, he predicts that various groups will have an ev ever-increasing interest in buying media space for the sake of propagandising.

Incredibly, Bernays was able to write 90 years ago that Hollywood films were major propaganda devices. He also predicts the rise of the cult of personality by noting that “the public instinctively demands a personality to typify a conspicuous corporation or enterprise.” This is acutely true in New Zealand, where our Prime Ministers have little to go on apart from the personality cults.

Bernays notes that the public has already become cynical to attempts at manipulating them through the media, but some interests are universal. People will always have a need for food, for amusement, for beauty and for leadership. For this reason, they will always seek out sources of propaganda.

He leaves us with the statement: “Intelligent men must realise that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help bring order out of chaos.” This statement must be read in the light of World War I, which was itself the result of the old methods of fighting. In this sense, Bernays and this book herald a shift from an Age of Iron to an Age of Silver.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda X

This reading carries on from here.

The tenth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Art And Science.’ Here Bernays discusses how one can use propaganda in the service of culture.

As in other chapters, Bernays emphasises that the success of almost any enterprise today depends on public acceptance. Therefore, if a gallery is to successfully run an exhibition featuring a particular artist, they will need to first ensure that their works have public acceptance.

Bernays gives us the maxim “In art as in politics the minority rules,” by which he means that those who understand “the anatomy of public opinion” can shape it. He claims that propaganda gives the artist the opportunity to collaborate with industry to improve society.

As in previous chapters, Bernays mentions that the interest of the public can be captured by associations and by dramatic incidents. He gives the example of an American silk manufacturer who forms industry links with Parisian fashion houses for the sake of forming an association.

The effect of aesthetics is laboured in this chapter. Bernays writes that, because mass production has driven the costs of producing propaganda to the floor, propagandists must look for other ways to stand out. One way is by applying aesthetics to their product. There is an economic incentive to meet the public demand for more beauty.

Part of propaganda is to give people something to talk about when they meet up at tea parties. To that end, it’s important to bring people the best of art and aesthetics as they relate to one’s industry. Museums have an interest in making their message intelligible to the public, and to that end they must employ propaganda.

Even in the late 1920s, Bernays was able to write about the phenomenon where scientific research is sponsored by large corporations. This phenomenon was already powerful enough that Bernays could write about it changing the whole world over decade previous to Propaganda being written. Science needs propaganda in order to condition the public to accept the advances it makes.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda IX

This reading carries on from here.

The ninth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda in Social Service’.

By “Social Service,” Bernays refers to what would today be known as the welfare system. He states that the welfare system requires constant propagandising, on account of that its continued existence is contingent on the will of the wealthy. Here he states the maxim that “Civilization is limited by inertia.”

One striking feature of today’s world, Bernays contends, is the democratisation of propaganda opportunities. Back in the day, change was effected by autocratic rulers who decreed it, but today any person is able at least to try changing public opinion about something.

In this chapter Bernays again underlines the significance of appealing to the leaders of the various groups within society. If a variety of leaders of different social groups can be brought on board, it’s not too hard to get the people they influence on board too. With this achieved, it’s possible to use the approval of these leaders to further propagandise.

Bernays states here that “Social service… is identical with propaganda in many cases.” By this he means that all efforts to effect social change are propaganda efforts. The efforts of the welfare state to raise the wellbeing of people necessitates a propaganda effort. This is especially true when new scientific advances suggest certain changes (as they did in Bernays’s time in the case of prison reform).

He concludes this chapter with the statement that “Social progress is simply the progressive education and enlightenment of the public mind in regard to its immediate and distant social problems.” In this regard, the propagandist has an extremely important role. It’s perhaps telling, though, that Bernays doesn’t write about how the propagandist knows whether they’re enlightening or misleading people with their work.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda VIII

This reading carries on from here.

The eighth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda for Education’.

Bernays opens this chapter with the contention that the public is yet to fully appreciate the value of education. Here he laments that the role of educator has not kept pace with social change, and is operating according to obsolete logic. This is a common theme throughout this book, which is striking for having been written in 1928.

Teachers ought to understand that they have a job as propagandist as well. This is not only in regard to what they teach, but they have to propagandise for the same reason as any other concern, such as a business: public understanding of the teacher’s role, and their acceptance and goodwill, is necessary.

This is not only of advantage to the teachers, who will get a higher salary if their work is more appreciated, but is of advantage to society as a whole, because the profession will be able to attract a higher grade of person. It is necessary to do this because the higher education system gets funding from central governments, and the actions of these governments are subject to public goodwill.

It’s important that institutions of higher learning don’t become dependent on endowments, because this risks that they lose political independence. If the funding is dependent on industry men, those industry men are liable to coerce the university into becoming closer to a polytechnic. As such, the cultural benefits of the institution are lost.

To this end, many of these institutions have employed public relations men. This is one of several points in the book at which Bernays appears to act as a public relations man for the public relations industry itself.

Propaganda can do more for the education industry than to simply raise its profile. Through using a public relations man to stay onside with the newspapers, and thereby establishing friendly relations with the public, the colleges and universities can make sure to attract the best quality of person.

All of the general principles outlined earlier in this book also apply to education. The fact that the public now takes an active interest in the affairs of the companies and businesses that share space with it is noteworthy. This has created a new demand for propagandists, whose job is to keep the public onside.

Bernays concludes this chapter with a warning. Propaganda can be abused. It can be used to create a false image of an institution in cases where such a false image is of benefit to that institution. In this sense, education is little different to business or politics. “There can be no absolute guarantee against its misuse.”

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda VII

This reading carries on from here.

The seventh chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Women’s Activities And Propaganda’.

Bernays is comfortable stating, in 1928, that women “have achieved a legal equality with men”. This doesn’t mean that their activities are the same – it simply means that their vote is of equal worth. This makes them particularly important to understand from a propaganda perspective.

He points out that women don’t have to occupy high positions of political power in order to have a strong political influence. It doesn’t matter that women are not taken as seriously as men in positions of high leadership, because they lead women’s organisations with great numbers of members, and the women leading them have a heavy influence on how their members vote.

Bernays considers the women’s suffrage campaign (which had won victory in America shortly before he wrote this book) to be a good example of the power of propaganda to bring societal changes. He credits the use of propaganda by women’s organisations for increased social welfare and alcohol prohibition. Many female propagandists were trained either by the suffragette movement itself or by the Government during World War One.

These clubs can hold events that draw large numbers of people, so if a popular enough event can be held, it will result in great numbers of people being influenced. Bernays is especially taken with the idea of such clubs sponsoring art or literary competitions. Such events can generate enormous amounts of goodwill.

Bernays is optimistic that an increased voice for women can help mould the world into a better place for all of us. He believes that the entrance of women into politics will allow them to focus on areas that men had previously neglected or were not interested in. This is primarily achieved by the introduction of new ideas or methods.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda VI

This reading carries on from here.

The sixth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda and Political Leadership’. Having elaborated upon the basics, Bernays now turns to what this book is best known for.

The chapter opens with an almost Machiavellian statement of anti-democracy. “No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea.” The leader, then, has an obligation to use propaganda to induce the people to go in the right direction.

Curiously for 1928, Bernays is in a position to lament the apathy that already existed in the American voting population of the time. He presages the coming of Adolf Hitler when he states that this apathy only exists because of the failure of any political leader to capture the imagination of the public (this might be because propaganda has been used to destroy political communication).

Voter apathy is here blamed on the inability of politicians to dramatise themselves and their platforms in terms that have real meaning to the public. This cannot be achieved by a politician who merely follows the public whim. Given the strictures of democracy, “The only means by which the born leader can lead is the expert use of propaganda”.

Political campaigns ought to be planned and conducted as professionally and as meticulously as any advertising campaign of a large company. To this end, they would do well to be honestly funded. Bernays decries the “little black bag” method of funding, on account of that it lowers the prestige of politics.

A clever political campaign will outline, from the beginning, specifically which emotions it intends to appeal to. It will figure out exactly who it intends to appeal to, how to reach those people, and the areas in which multiple target groups have aligned interests.

Politicians, as leaders, ought to be creators of circumstances, not victims of them. In this, they have to be clever. The old-fashioned approach is to assault voting resistance head-on, through argumentation. The new approach is to arrange things so that such a conclusion seems dramatic and self-evident.

The best thing is to agitate the public into a sense of anxiety beforehand, so that when the politician speaks it is as if they are providing the answer to a desperate question. Bernays expresses a strong conviction that untrue propaganda will never drive out the honest, because the untrue propaganda will become weakened by growing public awareness of it.

Viewed from ninety years later, it seems that Bernays was altogether too naive and trusting. He wasn’t wrong when he says that the question of whether the newspaper shapes public opinion or public opinion shapes the newspaper is a bit of both. However, he didn’t appear to have anticipated that those who control the apparatus of propaganda would choose to pump it out ever more shamelessly, nor that mass media would see us soaked in propaganda 24/7.

A real leader ought to be able to use propaganda to get the people to follow them, rather than them follow the whims of the people. Again, Bernays emphasises that understanding the target audience is crucial: “The whole basis of successful propaganda is to have an objective and then to endeavor to arrive at it through an exact knowledge of the public and modifying circumstances to manipulate and sway that public.”

Government can be considered the “continuous administrative organ of the people”. To this end, an understanding of propaganda among its workers is vital for the sake of clear and accurate communication. Bernays prefers to describe this as education rather than propagandising. Perhaps the difference was more distinct in the 1920s.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda V

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Business and the Public’.

Businesses have realised that their interactions with the public are not limited to selling their product. They also have to keep on side with that public, otherwise the latter will pass laws restricting the operational freedom of that business. This need to stay onside with the moral fashions of the public has created the public relations industry.

Incredibly for 1928, Bernays is already talking about the fact that it is no longer demand that causes goods to be supplied to the market. He is aware even then that demand is something that is created, and that this is economically necessary in an age of mass production owing to the size of the capital investment necessary to get started. This is entirely different to even a century beforehand.

It has meant that psychology is now necessary in order to conduct business. The minds of the market, both as individuals and as collectives, must be understood. The vast reach of mass media only makes this more important. “Business must express itself and its entire corporate existence so that the public will understand and accept it.”

A company must think hard about the impression that it creates on other people. This means that businesses have to think about things like the dress of their staff. Much of this sounds routine for 2019, so it must be remembered this book was written in 1928.

The propagandist’s work can be divided into two major groups: “continuous interpretation” and “dramatisation by highspotting”. The former is a kind of micromanagement of the public mind in all minor matters, whereas the latter attempts to create a striking and lasting impression. The appropriate method to use can only be determined after a thorough study of the needs of the client.

Bernays writes of his conviction that “as big business becomes bigger the need for expert manipulation of its innumerable contacts with the public will become greater.” Critical to this is finding common interests between the good or service to be sold and the public interest. This search can have an almost infinite number of dimensions. He emphasises against that the goodwill of the public is necessary for any success, in particular stock floats.

Competition is now so intense that almost every decision made by the consumer is someone’s interest. Even the choice of what to eat for breakfast impacts a large number of corporate interests, all of who want to sell their product. Bernays jokes that this might lead to people becoming fat out of a fear that manufacturers will go bankrupt if people don’t eat enough – bizarrely ironic considering our obesity struggles 90 years later.

Bernays finishes this chapter writing about the amusement industry, which has its roots in carnivals and “medicine shows”. They were the ones who taught business and industry about propaganda. Ultimately, propaganda is a dynamic industry that responds to changing trends, and therefore “Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse”.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda IV


This reading carries on from here.

The fourth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘The Psychology of Public Relations’.

The study of mass psychology made people understand the possibility of the invisible government. We learned that the group has qualities that are distinct from the qualities of individuals. Bernays poses the question here: “is it not possible for us to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it?”

Bernays says it is possible, with certain limitations owing to the fact that psychological science is not well developed (it’s worth noting here, again, that this book was written in 1928). Propaganda is a human science and can therefore, like economics and sociology, never be exact.

Bernays again makes the point that if you can influence the leaders, you also influence the groups that they influence. Man’s gregarious nature will make him feel that he is part of a herd, and part of this herd psychology is to allow the group to make its imprints on him. Bernays gives the example of the man who buys railroad shares because something has caused him to associate that company with good feelings.

The group mind doesn’t really think, as such. Rather, it has emotions and raw animal impulses. Its first impulse is to follow a trusted leader. In this sense, we can see that the group mind is very primitive. But when a leader is not on hand and “the herd must think for itself”, it tends to do so in the form of simple cliches, whether in word or image form.

The truth is that men are seldom aware of what actually motivates their actions. They believe themselves to be making rational and dispassionate decisions, when in reality they are influenced by crude egotistical and biological desires. Freud was one of those who made people aware of how many of our desires and behaviours are really just expression of suppressed instincts. A man buys a car for status, not for locomotion.

The successful propagandist must understand people’s true motives, and therefore cannot be content with the reasons people give for why they do things. Human desires are “the steam which makes the human machine work”, and only by understanding these can the propagandist control society.

Old propaganda used what Bernays calls “reaction psychology”, in which people are more or less told what to buy. The new propaganda is more subtle. Instead of advertising bacon, the propagandist convinces doctors to tell their patients to eat it. Instead of breaking down sales resistance by direct attack, propagandists now act to remove it through subtle means.

If the propagandist can make it the group custom to buy a particular good, then he has succeeded. The old propaganda asked people to buy that good; the new propaganda convinces people to go into the salesroom and ask to be sold that good.

The leaders who lend their authority to a propagandist’s endeavour will only do so if it accords with their own interests. For this reason, the propagandist must endeavour to understand the aspirations of as many people as possible. There will be cases in which the interests of many different groups overlap, and in that there is power.

The new propaganda is based on “enlightened self-interest”. Bernays concludes this chapter by saying that this, and the three previous chapters, were devoted to giving a general outline of how propaganda works, and in the remainder of the book he will look at specifics.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda III

This reading carries on from here.

The third chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘The New Propagandists’. Here, Bernays gets to the task of who it is that molds public opinion. “Who are the men who, without us realising it, give us our ideas?”

Bernays admits openly that these molders of public opinion decide for us who we admire and who we despise, and what we think about all manner of political issues. They decide our fashions, our speech, and even what jokes we feel like we’re allowed to make. They decide the shape of everything in our societies – but who are they?

These people include all of the top politicians, all of the leaders of the biggest industries, all of the leaders of the largest cultural organisations, the editors of the largest newspapers and magazines, the heads of the various industry groups, the chancellors of the most prominent universities and the main religious figures. Even so, most of these people, in their turn, get their ideas from elsewhere.

In some cases, it’s clear who the wirepullers are. In most cases, it isn’t. But these people control the destinies of millions. The degree to which a small number of people influence a large number of public figures is generally not appreciated. This number will, however, always be small on account of the great expense involved in manipulating the machinery of propaganda to form public opinion.

This has given rise to the new (in 1928) profession of professional propagandist, which has been euphemised as “public relations counsel”. This role is necessary because all governments, no matter what their type, depend on the acquiescence of the people. Bernays here gives us the maxim “Government is only government by virtue of public acquiescence.” Even commercial enterprises need public approval to succeed.

The propagandist is not simply an advertiser. Although he might use letters to the editor, radio, lectures, magazines and more, his work does not duplicate that of the advertiser. His first business is to make sure that his client’s product is something that the public can be brought to accept. The propagandist’s next job is to analyse the public, and how to approach the leaders of the various groups within it.

Bernays contends that, in the age of mass media, corporations found it necessary to give the appearance of conforming to the public’s sense of decency and honesty. As a result, and much like governments, corporations found propagandists necessary in order to get anything done.

The ideal of the propagandist’s profession is making the client understand what the public wants, and making the public understand the objectives of the client. Propagandising can therein be likened to a form of diplomacy. Bernays labours at length the point that the propagandist does not work to hoodwink the public, and lists the ethical considerations of the profession.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda I

Fittingly, the Propaganda Ministry turns its attention to the granddaddy of all propaganda literature, Propaganda by Edward Bernays. This short book was written by Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, by way of explaining his own prodigious insight into the manipulation of mass consciousness in the America of 1928.

He opens in the first chapter, “Organising Chaos”, with a stark declaration that the “organised habits and opinions” of the masses are formed according to the will of men who effectively form an unseen government. These men mold our minds and our tastes, mostly without us knowing who they even are.

Bernays contends that this is necessary, owing to the confusion ordinarily created by the democratic process, with its hundreds of different candidates. People would become confused if they were expected to understand the inner workings of all the issues that politicians are faced with. Therefore, the media narrows things down to a range that can be grasped.

Likewise, Bernays claims that society consents to have its choices relating to commercial products narrowed down by way of media propaganda. Because of reasons like these, there is a constant battle going on to capture the minds of individual people.

Bernays mentions that it may have been better to have had committees of wise men, who made decisions about the best way to do things. But we elected for the opposite of this. We have free competition of ideas, and in order for this to not lead to chaos we have to allow for leadership and propaganda to direct attention. This can be misused, but it is necessary nevertheless.

The advent of mass media has changed the way that the world is organised. At the time of the writing of the American Constitution, the village was the basic unit of society. Thanks to the mass media, it has become possible to be organised alongside people who live thousands of miles away.

Our society, instead of being divided by coherent geographical units, is now cleaved by all manner of social, political, ethnic, religious, racial or moral divisions. It is along the lines of these divisions that propaganda is spread. One influential group leader in any of these domains can soon have all the others in that domain following an idea.

Bernays labours the point that these cleavages are nonetheless comprised of individuals who exist in several groups, and therefore these groups are all interlaced. This is, in Bernays’s view, what society is. It is how democracy has chosen to simplify its decision making.

He summarises the book in the final paragraph of the first chapter. It is to explain how the minds of people are molded in modern democratic society, and how the manipulators of it go about their work.

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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto VII (fin)

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Two Kinds of Technology’. Here Kaczynski works to counter the argument that technological progress is so inevitable that revolutionary efforts are futile.

First, Kaczynski distinguishes between two different scales of technology. Small-scale technology is different to organised-scale technology. The former is technology that can be used by communities without outside help, such as simple crafting or metalsmithing. This kind of technology can survive a collapse of the industrial system, unlike (e.g.) refrigerator manufacturing.

Because organised-scale technology is dependent on other organised-scale technology, any collapse of the industrial system would take centuries to rebuild, if it ever happened. In any case, there’s no guarantee that a medieval society would even develop an industrial system again. It didn’t happen in India, China or the Middle East. It is therefore still worth opposing organised-scale technology, even if opposing small-scale technology is meaningless.

The final section in this manifesto is titled ‘The Danger of Leftism’. Kaczynski exhorts anti-technology revolutionaries to take a resolutely anti-left stance from the beginning, otherwise they will get co-opted. Leftism is incompatible with freedom, because it is collectivist and seeks to bind the entire world into a single whole. Because collectivism is only possible with technology, leftists will never really support it.

Some leftists claim to oppose technology, but they only do so as long as that technology and the system is in the hands of non-leftists. Much like censorship and academic freedom, whether or not leftists support it depends on whether or not they are in charge. They cannot be trusted because they will double-cross anyone they work with.

For many people, leftism fills the same psychological niche filled by religion. The leftist needs to believe in it. Kaczynski notes here that leftists are driven by a compulsion to impose their beliefs onto everyone. “Everything contrary to leftist beliefs represents Sin.”

Leftists seek power through identification with a social movement; helping that movement attain its goals helps satisfy that leftist’s power process. However, the desires of the leftist are infinite. They are not satisfied with anything; they demand total control. “…as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educated him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on…”

The leftists will never stop until they have complete control. Even if you gave them everything they wanted, they would soon want more. Ultimately the leftist is not motivated by good, but by the desire to fulfill their will to power by imposing it on society. Most leftists are driven heavily by the desire to impose their own morality on everyone else. Individual tendencies towards liberty don’t change this general trend.

Identifying the leftist is not difficult. They inevitably identify with the victim, and with the collective. They tend to be against individualism, competition and violence, although they readily find excuses for violent leftists. “Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights, political correctness.” (a previous article here would describe them as horizontalists.

The manifesto ends with a number of footnotes; there is no conclusion or summary. The reader is left with the feeling that Kaczynski was an extremely intelligent man who saw very deeply into the nature of reality, but who was not necessarily able to pull everything he knew into a coherent worldview, perhaps on account of some psychological disturbance.

This may have been a result of Kaczynski’s apparent lack of spiritual belief. Many of the problems he attributes to the techno-industrial system could just as well be argued to be problems with materialism. Yet, the absence of spiritual knowledge and the consequences of this are not addressed by Kaczynski. It could be said that Kaczynski, despite his immense insight, was fighting his own shadow to a large extent, in the form of materialism.

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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto VI

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future, beginning from paragraph 171, is ‘The Future’. Here, Kaczynski discusses the likely outcomes of the perpetuation of the techno-industrial system.

One potential outcome is that increasing technology and automation means that the vast majority of human labour becomes performed by machines instead. At this point, one must consider whether this machine workforce is to remain working under direct human supervision or if it is to work autonomously. It could be that our increasing dependence on the decisions made by these machines make us dependent on them, in the same way that we have become dependent on other technology.

The horror scenario, as Kaczynski sees it, is that automation will incentivise the extermination of the masses on the grounds that they are no longer needed for their labour. A more humane scenario is that the elite uses propaganda to reduce the birth rate of the masses so that natural deaths cause the population to decline. This may become necessary because of ecological considerations. The only alternative is to essentially domesticate humans like pets.

Kaczynski flat-out rejects the idea that work for the sake of the work is the solution to the problem. Makework will not lead to any kind of fulfillment. Even more of a worry is the fact that these problems will continue to get worse. The bourgeois sort of person who runs the machine will only become more and more a part of it, and the machine will grow to absorb all, barring the odd pocket of nature kept as reserve.

He concludes, “It would be better to dump the whole stinking system and take the consequences.”

The next section is titled ‘Strategy’. Here Kaczynski talks about what specifically can be done to oppose the techno-industrial system. Most people believe that the forwards march of the system is inevitable; Kaczynski disagrees. It can be meaningfully opposed in two ways: by increasing the stresses within it to hasten its collapse, and by developing an alternative ideology so that people can learn to live without it.

The French and Russian Revolutions provide an example of how this could be achieved. Ideologies must have both a positive and a negative ideal. Kaczynski proposes valuing wild, raw Nature as something that should prosper freely. This includes human nature. If the techno-industrial system collapses, people will come to live close to Nature again, on account of that they will be forced to.

Most people don’t like psychological conflict, and as a consequence they do like black-and-white thinking. Despite that, it’s important to target the ideology at intelligent and thoughtful people, because they will be most capable of influencing others. Even so, it’s necessary to have a simpler version of the ideology that even simple people can understand. Care must be taken so that propagandising towards this simpler version doesn’t put the more thoughtful people off.

The most important thing is building a committed core of good people. For this reason one needs to take care who one attacks and who one befriends. The general public should never be blamed, but focus should be placed on the ruling class. Care must be taken not to encourage conflict in the wrong places, because that will lead to more technology. It’s also a mistake for minorities to put members into high positions in government and business, because that will just hasten the absorption of that culture by the system.

For this reason, it’s better for revolutionaries to not try to win power in the democratic system. There is no way to change the system from within without getting co-opted. The collapse of the techno-industrial system will induce short-term suffering, and the politicians will get blamed for it, so best to stay out of the way until such a time as this suffering gets blamed on the shortcomings of the system.

The revolution will have to happen in all nations at the same time. For this reason, it’s better for the world to become interconnected – the hope is that if, for example, America collapses, it will take the rest of the world down with it.

People will not be aided by becoming more passive in the face of the system. Humans have a will to power; this is a fact. This will to power can be better satisfied in primitive conditions, because people will satisfy it by meeting their survival needs.

Technology can be freely employed by revolutionaries, but only if it is directly employed in the destruction of the techno-industrial system. Humans cannot be trusted with technology any more than any alcoholic can be trusted to babysit a bottle of wine. In any case, revolutionaries should have as many children as they can, because anti-technological attitudes will be in some way inherited.

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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto IV

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society’. Here Kaczynski expounds at length what appears to be the central thesis of the manifesto.

Modern man is strapped down by a number of rules and regulations that have been laid down on him by faceless people far away and who he cannot hope to influence. Kaczynski contends that this is not because bureaucrats are malicious or because the system is yet to be perfected – this is the nature of technological society. Generally speaking, our lives have to be closely regulated by large organisations in order for society to function. Human lives have to be modified to fit the system.

This close regulation happens even to children. The system needs people educated in a particular manner in order to run its machines, and so children have to be forced to study things that they don’t really care about. This social pressure creates a lot of dysfunction in the form of dropouts and mentally ill people. The system uses propaganda to try to induce people to want what the system is doing to them. This is a complicated and dishonest process.

In ‘The Bad Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated From the Good Parts’ Kaczynski argues that technology is a double-edged sword. Not only does advanced medical treatment require an entire industrial society to maintain, but it also removes the natural selection pressure that is, in many ways, keeping the human race healthy. The only solution to this is either eugenics or massive genetic engineering. Kaczynski contends that this genetic engineering is inevitable owing to the good things it promises.

The next chapter is ‘Technology is a More Powerful Social Force Than the Aspiration For Freedom’. Freedom is continually forced to compromise to technology, and after many repeated instances of this, all freedom is gone. The motor vehicle is a great example: when first introduced, they took no freedom away from the walking man, but society has been forced to adapt to accommodate them, and now walking in many places is impossible. Moreover, regulations such as driver’s licences and insurance have tied people down.

New technology changes society in a way that people are forced to use it. Each new advance, taken by itself, is desirable, but the cumulative effect is to lose freedom to people far away. Technology always advances, but can never be rolled back without a collapse of the system. This means that reform is impossible, which in turn means that any resisters effectively have to be revolutionaries. History shows that social arrangements are temporary, but technological advances are more or less permanent.

The last two chapters in this section are ‘Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable’ and ‘Revolution is Easier than Reform’. These contain a summary of the main statements made so far. Humans have proven themselves incapable of dealing with much easier problems than resisting technology, and therefore cannot succeed without a revolution that destroys the entire industrial system. Kaczynski points out here that we have already left massive environmental problems to our grandchildren merely for the sake of convenience now.

Revolution will not be as difficult as it seems, because the prospect of revolution is capable of inspiring powerful emotions in people. By contrast, the prospect of reform can only inspire lukewarm emotions at best. It is not necessary for a majority of people to become revolutionaries, just enough so that the system is incapacitated.

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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto III

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘How Some People Adjust’, namely, how people adjust to industrial society.

The first thing that Kaczynski points out is that people naturally differ with regards to their drive for power. They also vary with regards to susceptibility to marketing and advertising techniques. These people can never be satisfied, because they will always want something else. These desires add to the collective frustration. Adding to this frustration are the wide range of instincts that our oversocialisation causes us to repress.

Other people adjust by joining a political organisation and adopting its goals, because they find satisfaction when some of those goals are achieved. By this method can their desire to partake in the power process be satisfied. Many people experience the power process vicariously through the actions of these larger political movements. On top of this are a variety of surrogate activities, but for the majority of people the desire to experience power goes unfulfilled.

In a section on ‘The Motives of Scientists’, Kaczynski dismisses the idea that scientists are driven by curiosity. Neither are they driven to benefit humanity necessarily, because some subjects (archaeology and comparative linguistics given as examples) are of no benefit to humanity at all. In reality, most scientists are simply motivated by going through the power process by way of scientific endeavour as a surrogate activity. As a result, science itself has become like a destructive juggernaut.

In ‘The Nature of Freedom’, Kaczynski defines freedom as the ability to participate in the power process to achieve real (not surrogate) goals, and without supervision or control by any outside agency. “Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life.” One does not have freedom if another entity has power over one – having permission to do something is not the same as having the freedom to do it.

We don’t actually have much freedom, because in practice freedom is a function of the economic and technological structure of a society, and not by its laws. A lack of technology makes people more free, because it makes it more difficult for the ruler to enact their will. The press is not freeing because it is tied to major media enterprises, who dominate the informational space through sheer volume. Frighteningly, our freedom is restricted, to a large part, on controls that work on our subconscious.

Kaczynski lays out some of his theory in ‘Some Principles of History’. He considers history to be a function of two subfunctions, one which is erratic and almost random, the other composed of long-term trends. Here he is concerned with the long-term trends. Outlining five basic principles of history, Kaczynski asserts that any chance large enough to change a long-term trend will also change the nature of society, and in unpredictable ways.

New societies cannot just be laid out on paper and expected to function. This is because they are too complex. The economy, the environment and human behaviour are all interdependent, and changes to any one will create changes in the others. Relating to this is the principle that people do not choose the nature of their own societies – this is something that evolves over time, and is not under rational human control.

This is the theoretical basis for his contention that industrial society inevitably will take away more and more of our freedoms. This is the argument in ‘Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed’. Resistance is futile – as long as the general trend is towards more technology, the general trend will be towards less freedom. The sentence “It seems highly improbable that any way of changing society could be found that would reconcile freedom with modern technology,” suggests that Kaczynski saw us on a crash course with a technodystopia.

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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto II

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘The Power Process’. The next few chapters relate to this. Here, Kaczynski outlines his take on Nietzsche’s concept of the Will to Power. He states that “in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.”

Consistent failure to achieve goals throughout life leads to depression and low self-esteem. This is a particular problem in modern society on account of that we have a lot of leisure time – all that is necessary to be wealthy is to learn some simple skill and then to hold down a job. As a consequence, we have developed surrogate goal-seeking activities.

Kaczynski was able to point out, even back in 1995, that many leftists support their pet political cause by means of finding a surrogate for their need to partake in the power process. These surrogate activities can be dangerous because they aren’t as satisfying as taking care of actual survival needs. As a result, they tend to be performed without end.

In the chapter ‘Autonomy’, Kaczynski points out how a sense of being able to operate autonomously is important for a satisfactory resolution of the power process. Individuals need to feel like they have had some input into how things are run, or at least need to be able to have some autonomy in how they carry out their orders. Absent this, we get “depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, abnormal sexual behavior, sleep disorders, eating disorders, etc.”.

‘Sources of Social Problems’ is where Kaczynski relates all the previous to the problems currently plaguing our society. Acknowledging that “the world today seems to be going crazy”, he argues that primitive man was free of many of the stresses that currently plague us. However, he is not a Rousseau follower – he acknowledges that primitive life was tough in many regards. The main point is that human beings evolved to adapt to a radically different from the one we now live in.

Here Kaczynski is extremely insightful. He pinpoints the origin of many social problems as excessive population density, alienation from nature, speed of technological change (what Alvin Toffler called “future shock”) and breakdown of the normal small-scale communities like the family and village. The crowding and isolation from nature follow naturally from technological advancement. A modern industrial society has to tame and emasculate people in this manner in order to function.

Modern people feel like all change is imposed in them from the outside – this is the origin of their frustration and discontent. “the most important cause of social and psychological problems in modern society is the fact that people have insufficient opportunity to go through the power process in a normal way”. Leftism is a symptom of this deep malaise.

In the chapter ‘Disruption of the Power Process in Modern Society’, Kaczynski gets down to the evolutionary psychology behind our current malaise. Essentially the problem is that all of our physiological needs are easily met: all we have to do is to be obedient at work. This means that the power process is not being met. We have very little autonomy at work with which to achieve our goals.

Capitalism is partly to blame. “Advertising and marketing techniques have been developed that make many people feel they need things that their grandparents never desired or even dreamed of.” We put a lot of effort into chasing meaningless things, and consequently life feels meaningless. The power process can only be fulfilled by external goals, not concepts like “fulfillment”. This is hard because “Today people live more by virtue of what the system does FOR them or TO them than by virtue of what they do for themselves.”

Frustration also arises from the fact that only 500 to 1,000 people have any real power, and the rest just get things done to them. Primitive man, although his life is shorter, is better off in this regard because he is not helpless. Modern man can do anything he likes as long as it is unimportant; our behaviour is tightly regulated in all other matters. Primitive man has fulfilled his need to participate in the power process and therefore avoids many pathologies that affect modern people.

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VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto I

Having completed our reading of David Seymour’s Own Your Future, we now turn away from neoliberalism and have a look at anarcho-primitivism. The next subject of the VJMP Reads column will be Industrial Society And Its Future, otherwise known as the Unabomber Manifesto, by Ted Kaczynski.

Sent to the Washington Post in June of 1995, alongside a threat to kill more people with mailbombs if it was not published, the 35,000-word manifesto is broken down into 232 numbered paragraphs. These are grouped in short chapters, each with a subject heading.

The first of these groups is the Introduction. Kaczynski wastes no time shocking the reader: the first sentence is “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.” This section pulls no punches: Kaczynski is adamant that the effect of industrial society has been to increase the amount of human suffering, and that it will only get worse as society develops. The only solution is a revolution, which may or may not be violent.

Kaczynski then moves on to the psychology of modern leftism. He writes that “One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism,” which is curious if one thinks that this was written in before 1995, when ‘trans’ meant transvestite. What underlies modern leftism, Kaczynski states, are feelings of inferiority and oversocialisation. This ties in with the idea, expressed elsewhere by Nietzsche among others (such as VJM Publishing), that leftism is essentially a slave morality.

To elucidate further, these feelings of inferiority are a group of qualities such as self-hatred, low self-esteem, defeatism etc. that are not only shared by modern leftists but which have collectively come to shape the course of history. Kaczynski is extremely insightful when he points out that the people who most angrily take offence at politically incorrect statements are those from privileged families. Leftists are also dishonest. They are outraged when a Western country performs a certain action but are indifferent when a Third World or socialist country does so.

Leftists identify intensely with anyone weak, repellent or otherwise inferior, hence they take offence on their behalf. They hate anything good and successful. This makes them feel like losers, so that they have no faith in their own personal ability to provide. As a consequence, they become collectivists. They hate science and rationality because these mindsets consider some ideas superior and others inferior. Leftists hate that, because of their fear of being judged inferior. They hate IQ tests for similar reasons.

Oversocialisation is an extreme form of the process that psychologists describe when they explain how children learn to conform their behaviour to the demands of society. The difficulty with the current world, Kaczynski has it, is that has become so complicated that no-one can act morally anymore. Oversocialisation is the process whereby leftists, “In order to avoid feelings of guilt, […] continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin.”

Oversocialised leftists tend to be intellectuals or members of the upper-middle class. What they like to do is to take accepted moral principles, declare them as their own, and then accuse society of violating them. Leftists do not rebel by violating society’s principles, but they express their hostility by accusing society of not living up to them. Their hypocrisy is evident when they claim to support black people, but then insist that these black people live up to the values of the industrial-technological society that imprisons them.

Today’s society seeks to socialise us more than any previous society. As a consequence, oversocialisation has affected us more than ever before. These problems of the leftist are problems of our entire society in microcosm.

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VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future XII (incl. Summary)

This reading carries on from here.

The eleventh, and final, chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Treaty of Waitangi’. Given eight pages at the back of the book, it’s hard to imagine that Seymour takes this issue very seriously. One gets the feeling that it will be a quick virtue signal with one quiet mention of the Resource Management Act and that would be it.

He starts with a story about how the elders at the Te Tii Marae preferred him to the Green Party MPs at a Waitangi gathering on account of that he knew his Ngapuhi genealogy. Dismissing the Green MPs as “up themselves”, he is very much the hero of this story.

True to form, he then launches into the virtue signalling, being careful to place a macron over the a in ‘Maori’ and pushing a warm, fuzzy, globohomo vibe about how much he loves Maori culture. Seymour comes across as revoltingly dishonest and shallow here, considering that his ACT Party supported the Fifth National Government in its destruction of the Maori people. Politicians demand to be judged on their words, not their actions, like all hypocrites.

What Seymour writes here isn’t unreasonable on the face of it. It’s certainly true that many of the land confiscations made by the New Zealand Government were done so on spurious grounds, often outright false, and it is not reasonable for the beneficiaries of this process to get away with it scot free.

The problem is that the same logic can justify a great many other things. What Seymour and his kind like to call “profit”, others like to call “wage theft”. So if it’s true that “if you take something that is not yours, you should give it back” – which is apparently an ACT Party principle – then are the New Zealand working class owed some of their past production that was taken off them in the form of company profits? Why are wages dwindling relative to the cost of living? Seymour doesn’t seems to care about that side of things.

Indeed, the first mention of the RMA comes four pages in. Here, Seymour objects to the idea that local iwis might be allowed to object to land developments under the RMA. This, he cautions, leads to the possibility of Maoris being given a special class of citizenship. So Seymour is happy to virtue signal about how important Maoris and Maori culture are, he just doesn’t want to pay anything extra for it.

Laying down his neoliberal credentials harder than anywhere else in the book, Seymour declares that “New Zealand at its best” can be found at a citizenship swearing-in ceremony, where a bunch of people from other nationalities can be found “uniting as true Kiwis”. Not for Seymour the argument that a true Kiwi is someone who has roots in the country, or someone who can tell stories about his ancestors and their childhoods in the country. Kiwiness is merely another commodity to be bought and sold.

We could bet money that Seymour would profoundly disagree with this article about how being a Kiwi is a matter of the depth of one’s roots in the country.

He is, however, correct when he points that that Maoris have not actually benefit from all the special treatment of the last decades, and in some major measures (such as home ownership) have actually lost ground. He further makes a good point when he mentions that the problems faced by Maoris are the same problems as faced by all New Zealanders to a greater or lesser extent.

In summary, Own Your Future is a terrifying vision of how money and virtue signalling can matter more than heritage, blood links or any other basis for solidarity. David Seymour is the High Priest of New Zealand Neoliberalism, proudly carrying on the ACT tradition of valuing money more than people. He follows Rodney Hide, Richard Prebble and Roger Douglas in the ideology that everything in the nation can be packaged up and bought and sold for cash, people just as well as timber and lamb chops.

In this sense, he is unrepentant: he believes that New Zealand has a moral obligation to take care of foreign refugees out of general taxation money, but has no such moral obligation to take care of its own poor, even though many of them were created by the horrors of neoliberalism, the very same political philosophy he espouses in this book. Own Your Future stands out, even by the standards of political treatises, as an example of absolutely shameless virtue signalling.

Despite this, he makes several very good points about government overreach, especially with regards to its failed War on Drugs. He isn’t wrong when he points out that unnecessary taxation sucks energy unnecessarily from people, and although Seymour could never be a Georgist, he is correct when he labours the link between capitalism, innovation and prosperity. Perhaps, for that reason, there is merit in having an ACT Party seat in Parliament.

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VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future XI

This reading carries on from here.

The tenth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Environment’. Seymour begins with an anecdote that gives us an idea of the moral sentiments that led Seymour to the ACT Party. The child Seymour didn’t like the moralistic implication of the Captain Planet writers that humanity was inherently evil on account of our environmental impact.

Seymour soon has a go at the Greens, who he labels hypocrites. He does make an excellent point: none of the Greens have any scientific background. This is certainly very curious for a party that makes such a point of having scientific backing for their policies. They also waste an incredible amount of money on junkets, especially when climate change is the excuse.

Another fair point he makes is that the price distorting effects of Big Government intervention often have environmental consequences. This is especially noticeable in the case of agricultural subsidies, which tend to lead to overproduction and exploitation of land. Much better to let the market solve such questions, as with water rights.

When talking about the importance of property rights, he unwittingly reveals the secret logic behind much of ACT Party thinking, when he says “pricing and property rights go together”. In the ACT mindset, wealth equals rights. The more money you have, the more rights you have to do things, including doing things to the land and to other people. The RMA gets attacked here again as a quasi-communist institution.

Seymour makes a very clever point when he says that productivity growth is the basis of prosperity. ACT have been heavily criticised in the past for taking a “rape and pillage” approach to New Zealand’s native areas, in which everything can be sold off for money. In this essay, Seymour switches focus to productivity gains from technology and software.

However, he doesn’t stray far from the general neoliberal path. Globalisation is good, and signing the TPP is a good thing. Not for Seymour any sympathy for those who have lost out from neoliberalism. The wealthy benefit from it, and ACT is fundamentally a party for the rich.

Noting that the left/right political divide correlates strongly with alarmist and sceptical positions (respectively) on the issue of global climate change, Seymour declares himself a “luke-warmist” who agrees that some degree of climate change is man-made but does not agree that it will necessarily have devastating effects.

The environmental idea that seems to appeal the most is the idea of having inland sanctuaries, naturally run by private investors. This, Seymour believes, is the only way that New Zealand has a chance of bringing back the dawn chorus that was sung by our birdlife several hundred years ago. Curiously, he wants to have a large trust to dole out grants for these sanctuaries, which, along with his support for foreign refugees, makes one wonder if working-class Kiwis are the only people he doesn’t care about.

It is interesting that ACT might have so detailed an environmental policy, because it seems like an attempt to attract alt-centrist voters. Both ACT and Green voters are young. Indeed, ACT and the Greens could be considered the alt-right and alt-left of a new paradigm of politics, or at least one that has been remodelled to appeal to the young.

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VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future X

This reading carries on from here.

The ninth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Personal Responsibility’. Seymour opens here with a stark claim that ACT doesn’t believe in the nanny state or in a paternalistic government. Many of our laws are holdouts from an age of Victorian values, he states, and they are enforced by politicians who transparently do not have a deeper grasp on morality than anyone else.

Breaking rank with the other Parliamentarians, Seymour is willing to admit here that cannabis does less harm than alcohol and tobacco (although he points out that cannabis is not without its own harms). He also echoes a point often made by Kiwi cannabis law reform activists (such as here), that the burden of Police enforcement of cannabis prohibition falls mostly on Maori.

Seymour cites a Treasury study that estimated that cannabis prohibition costs the country $300,000,000 annually, as well as tying up 600,000 hours of Police time. Worst of all, the supposed criminal deterrence doesn’t even work – the overwhelming majority of people convicted for cannabis offences go on to use it. Moreover, the law is applied in a haphazard manner, as can be seen by the 26-month sentence initially handed down to Kelly van Gaalen.

In a distinct break from the right-wing that ACT is usually associated with, Seymour repudiates the moralising that is chiefly responsible for cannabis prohibition, pointing out that not only is there a heavy majority in favour of cannabis law reform, but that majority is steadily growing. This contrasts with the proportion of people who oppose actual crimes, such as murder – this proportion remains constant.

True to the libertarian image that Seymour is trying to stake out, he argues for legal recreational cannabis as well. However, true to the conservative streak that binds his party to National, he is torn, claiming that 80% of the New Zealand public opposes recreational cannabis. He does not cite a source here, and neither does he note that such opposition would be unusual in the context of places like Colorado and California voting by referendum to legalise medicinal cannabis.

Seymour takes pains to seat himself as immovably as possible, right in the middle of the fence. He is open to the possibility that countries that legalise cannabis might “lose their morality” and “become cesspits of unmotivated human squalor” (as if alcohol was not well capable of achieving both), and wants to have a Royal Commission that takes five years before he will consider that we have satisfactory evidence to make a decision.

He rightly pillories the Government for its sharp increase in the tobacco tax, pointing out that the people most sharply affected by this are those who can least afford it. Worst of all, it seems that raising the tax further will not help persuade people to give up smoking. Those who are still addicted are so addicted that they will do almost anything to get hold of tobacco. Sensibly, Seymour would legalise vaping and e-cigarettes.

Euthanasia is another thing that Seymour would legalise, promising an end to “morality-based harassment”. His reason for promoting this is to avoid the indignity of the last weeks of life. Having nursed elderly grandparents to the end of a terminal illness, I can commiserate with him in this regard. He is also in favour of abortion, which makes him less hypocritical than the old right. Seymour doesn’t want to pay for your kid either, but he’s happy to help you get it aborted.

It’s hard to find fault with any of Seymour’s proposals in this chapter. Even if the only right he champions with conviction is the right to die, it’s an excellent thing that these libertarian proposals are even being suggested. It is interesting to note how similar ACT is with the Greens on issues such as cannabis, especially if it is considered that being young is highly correlated with both voting ACT and Green.

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VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future VIII

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The seventh chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Public Safety’. Here Seymour opens the chapter with one of the non-sequiturs that seems to be characteristic of his style. He talks about visiting a prison, and seeing the downcast faces on the prisoners there. For some reason he lurches directly from this to stating his belief in deterrence being the primary solution to the crime problem.

It’s hard to believe that Seymour is writing this chapter with a straight face. He claims to be tough on the causes of crime – yet his party supports National every step of the way in ripping down the social welfare that people need to get out of the poverty that causes crime.

Indeed, the facade soon slips, and he openly admits that ACT Policy is based around “making the consequences of committing crimes sufficiently bad that people will decide not to do it in the first place.” Within the space of a few sentences he goes from complaining about the cost of prisons to crowing about ACT success in keeping people in prison for longer through their three strikes policy.

From there, Seymour launches into a rant against burglary. Fittingly for a party that values property more highly than people, he wants to add burglary to the list of crimes that involve the three strikes law, the third offence being punished by a minimum three years without parole. Helpfully, he informs us that “The aim [of burglary] is getting more money or goods without working for them or being given them.”

At this point, Seymour serves up a genuinely good idea. Prisoners often find it difficult to return to civilian life after their sentence on account of poor literacy and numeracy, so Seymour proposes that they can get time knocked off their sentences by completing adult reading and maths courses while in prison. Any prisoner who is already educated can get time off for helping to tutor the other prisoners.

This is actually a really good policy, but it’s incredible that Seymour, as a supposedly principled libertarian, doesn’t mention cannabis law reform here. If it costs $105,000 a year to keep a person in jail, we could save tens of millions immediately just by letting cannabis growers and dealers out. He doesn’t suggest this, even though it seems like such an obvious thing for a principled, libertarian party to suggest at this juncture.

This newspaper wondered some time ago if perhaps David Seymour is the biggest coward in the New Zealand Parliament. It’s astonishing that ACT, who barely get more votes than the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, aren’t willing to support cannabis law reform as their libertarian counterparts everywhere else have done, when the entire country is crying out for it. They could take votes off the Greens and the Opportunity Party simply by offering a right-wing alternative to how to legalise cannabis.

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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 VII

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The sixth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Immigration’. It starts with an attack on Winston Peters’s “twenty year racist dogwhistling campaign”, in which Seymour takes the opportunity to position himself as a crusader against racism and bigotry. This is a wise strategic move on Seymour’s part, considering that his party gets more votes from the foreign-born than any other. The Greens are also accused of racism for wanting to lower immigration levels.

Astonishingly, Seymour makes a passionate appeal to New Zealand’s moral obligation to help displaced refugees – but at no point in this book so far has he made any appeal to New Zealand’s moral obligation to help its own people, especially its poorest and most disadvantaged. Here Seymour comes across as the out-of-touch, highly privileged urban dweller who is horrified by a tennis ball to the head.

Ironically, Seymour pillories those who cry “racist” at everyone who claims that we need some immigration restrictions, despite doing the same thing himself on the previous page. This he does in an attempt to position himself as the supporter of a “smart” immigration policy, pointing out that no-one wants no immigration and no-one wants open borders.

He lists at length what he perceives to be the good things about New Zealand, as a way of explaining why so many people want to come here. He claims that New Zealand has a “generous” welfare system, no doubt by way of comparison to Samoa or India. Noting that New Zealand would be swamped tomorrow if we decided to throw open our borders, he seems to think it’s good enough for New Zealand to be doing better than the global average. No word about our domestic violence, child abuse or teen suicide rates.

He also makes some fair criticisms of the current immigration system, such as the absurdity of getting an investment visa from buying and holding for a few years a couple of million dollars’ worth of Government bonds. He laments the shortage of workers at tech companies and hospitals, but manages to resist the temptation of arguing that we need to attract them through lower tax rates.

New Zealand First comes in for special criticism here, with Seymour going as far as to claim that their “poisonousness” is “intended to hurt those who want to bring their skills and settle in New Zealand”. Seymour might not be aware that Maoris vote New Zealand First much more often than white people, so one wonders what he makes of this. Are Maoris racist for not wanting mass immigration? No-one knows.

There are many contradictions in this essay, many of them glaring. Possibly the most grievous encountered so far is when he complains that previous Governments have failed to make sure that the immigrants coming there are those who will integrate and contribute to economic growth, but in the very next sentence complains that those Governments only “reluctantly and begrudgingly” increase the refugee quota when concern about overseas suffering becomes “overwhelming”.

Anyone with the most passing familiarity with the situation in Europe knows that refugees are precisely the sort of person who are least likely to integrate, and who will offer negative economic growth. This contradiction is so glaringly incredible that it’s unclear if Seymour is being dishonest here or if this essay is simply poorly written.

Hilariously, Seymour is willing to grit his teeth and write that New Zealand doesn’t need “upper middle class foreign citizens flashing their bank accounts at us on their way through customs to get to a beach house” – when those people make up most of ACT’s voters. Also, we don’t need more Pacific Islanders “taking the piss” by using family migration to get their extended family “to come and live and take advantage of our generous welfare system”. Seymour writes this, apparently completely unaware that, earlier in the chapter, he pilloried New Zealand First and called them racist for saying much the same thing.

Seymour concludes this chapter with some virtue signalling about how our refugee quota is an “embarrassment”. He doesn’t appear to understand that keeping the number of Muslims and Africans low is the only way that the New Zealand population will remain favourable to immigration in general – this has been the lesson of the last twenty years in Europe. This contradiction is typical of what has so far been the most poorly written and argued essay in this book so far.

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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).

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future V

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The fourth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Education’. Seymour opens this essay with a mention of Vanguard Military School, the establishment of which he credits to ACT. This is an “exceptional” story because New Zealand’s education system is “a mess”. Although he writes that no-one begrudges the $12,000,000,000 yearly cost of educating New Zealand’s 800,000 students, many people have problems with the outcome.

New Zealand has a lot of problems because people aren’t literate enough, Seymour says. This is why employers “prefer a stream of immigrants”. There is a long, rambling passage here where Seymour touches on a variety of themes, including having a go at Hekia Parata. Apparently New Zealand is going backwards in PISA rankings. It’s hard to tell who Seymour is blaming for the mess in question.

Without a hint of irony, Seymour writes that “the outcomes have got worse for kids from poorer backgrounds”. Most Kiwis could tell him that the reason for these worsening outcomes were the policies of the Fifth National Government, which raised GST on those kids from poorer backgrounds while cutting other people’s taxes, and cutting services to those same poor.

What Seymour pushes here is the idea of a variety of schools with different cultures, which he believes will better suit the individual needs of the various students than the current “one size fits all” model. It follows from this that the Government is not the best provider of education services, because they don’t tend to tailor things to the individual needs of the citizens.

Much of this section reveals the specifically Auckland-centric focus that ACT has always had, and which leads it to get very, very few votes outside of that city. The logic behind the school zoning system is dissected at length, but this only really applies to Auckland and, to a small extent, Christchurch and Wellington. Perhaps Seymour is writing more as Epsom representative here.

True to form as a politician, Seymour demands that teachers be better trained and better resourced, but doesn’t explain where this money will come from. Despite this budget hole, it’s hard to deny that Seymour has several good points here. The cultures of individual schools are usually too sclerotic to adjust to the changing needs of pupils, so they could be supplemented by Partnership Schools that more specifically meet the needs of their students.

These Partnership Schools would be run more like private schools and could be easily closed down at any time if they were underperforming. Seymour touts this as a major feature, on account of the difficulty with doing so in the public sector. Students would be best served by flexibility in the educator sector, which is an intelligent way of increasing value without spending more money.

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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 IV

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The third chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Superannuation and the Gold Card’. This essay starts with a dig at Winston Peters, who was once investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. Seymour doesn’t like the wasteful spending he sees in the Gold Card, especially as many of the recipients of the largesse of it are already millionaires.

Universal super is set to cost us around $20,000,000,000 per year by 2031, Seymour informs us. Here he makes a play for younger voters by having a go at the Baby Boomers. He references the suspicion of the younger generations that they aren’t going to get the same sweet pension deal that their parents got – after all, we didn’t get the same free tertiary education that they got.

He raises the spectre of a Greece-style economic apocalypse happening as a result of a debt spiral triggered by having to pay these lavish pension funds up to and past 2060. It’s hard to deny Seymour’s maths, as it appears to be true that we will soon reach a point where there are only two workers for every pensioner (as opposed to today’s four).

The options, as he sees it, are: raising taxes by about a quarter or raising the retirement age, neither likely to happen because young people don’t vote. Seymour here criticises both John Key and Bill English for lacking the courage to deal with the issue, and makes an entreaty to the young to not become disengaged from politics.

This seems baldly hypocritical, considering that ACT spent all of the last nine years voting alongside the National Party, who are the party that represents all the Baby Boomers. As Dan McGlashan showed in Understanding New Zealand, the vast majority of Baby Boomers vote for National, whose efforts to fuck over the young were eagerly supported, for nine years straight, by all ACT MPs including David Seymour.

National closed down rape crisis centres and gutted mental health funding, leading to New Zealand having the developed world’s highest youth suicide rate, and Seymour supported them all the way, despite that many young people voted ACT in 2014. He does not acknowledge that this may have contributed to the low turnout rate among the young.

True to neoliberal form, Seymour’s solution to this looming pension crisis is to squeeze some extra labour out of the working class, by raising the age of retirement to 67, and soon. No means testing, despite that 25% of people claiming the pension are also either claiming a salary or run their own business (as admitted by Seymour himself) and at that point the chapter abruptly ends.

One realises here that Seymour is primarily trying to win votes from people too young to know anything other than neoliberalism. Old people are too conservative to vote anything other than National or sometimes New Zealand first, and it’s the young and well-heeled (who don’t expect to be reliant on a public pension in old age) who are the most amenable to Seymour’s suggestions here.

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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 III

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The second chapter of Own Your Future is titled ‘Tax’. Seymour opens with a complaint about wasteful government spending, citing the example of Gerry Brownlee flying to San Francisco on the taypayer’s dollar for a photo op. Indeed this was an appalling waste of money for no benefit to the nation, but Seymour leaps from this fact to the tacit assumption that all tax money is likewise wasted.

Seymour is right when he says it’s stupid that the Government is running surpluses while the average New Zealand household is at record levels of debt. The solution is, naturally, lower taxes. Here Seymour makes a sharp distinction between “our own” money, and “another person’s” money. Not for him the interdependence of all things. In Seymour’s world, there are very clear lines over who owns what.

Government takes in taxes equal to 40% of GDP, Seymour notes – “exclusively” another person’s money. Seymour doesn’t agree with the idea that the state is the most efficient provider of many services on account of the economies of scale afforded by its unique size. For him, the Government is merely a parasitic entity that sucks tax money out of hard-working Kiwis and wastes it frivolously.

Breaking step with the usual neoliberal choice of target, Seymour points out that there is a tremendous amount of corporate welfare in New Zealand as well. This only lasts for a few sentences, because he’s soon back to crying about taxation. Bracket creep comes in for particular ire – for Seymour, the wealthy aren’t getting a big enough share of the spoils of economic growth.

True to being a politician, he is dishonest. He claims that bracket creep happens because wages rise (which is true) but he also claims that wages rise to meet the increase in the price of consumer goods. The truth is that wages are not linked to the inflation of consumer goods – they are a function of the relative leverage that the employer has over the employee. When consumer goods become more expensive, this gives the employee absolutely no additional leverage through which they can negotiate a higher wage with their employer. If anything, it gives them less leverage because the lower standard of living makes them more desperate to settle.

In one paragraph, Seymour abandons even the pretense of reasoning and simply lists American libertarian slogans: “High tax rates… drag the economy down”, “people spend their money better than governments do”, “Money goes more good in the private sector than in the public sector.” Again one senses the cold shadow of the millions starved to death by Communism.

Seymour makes some good and fair points when he talks about the bureaucratic waste in the system. The problem is that this waste is the only thing he sees – all Government spending is hip-hop tours and junkets to San Francisco. He will not acknowledge that tax money is used for anything good, or that taxpayers get anything back for their tax money. National are the good guys because they levy less tax; Labour are bad and the Greens are the worst of all.

It’s hard to disagree, however, when he complains about the top tax bracket being $70,000. One doesn’t have to be wealthy to concede that someone earning $70,000 a year is far from loaded.

In all, one feels that Seymour is capable of making some good points but has a dishonest method for selecting and presenting them to the reader. Despite that, it’s easily arguable that Seymour and his party are tasked with playing an important role in New Zealand politics – that of keeping a check on Government waste – even though they are apologists for neoliberalism.

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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 II

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The first real chapter of Own Your Future is titled ‘Housing’. The degree to which Seymour is out of touch comes through again immediately, when he states a belief that an “ordinary” New Zealand family is one that owns 50ha of land. His maths seems fair when he calculates the deficit of new houses, but it is notable where he lays the blame.

Seymour is willing to appeal to “basic economics” when he points out the factors restricting the supply of housing – in particular red tape – but basic economics does not seem to apply to the demand side of the equation. Following the neoliberal playbook closely, Seymour dismisses entirely the idea that migration could make a contribution to the increase in house prices.

His logic here is curious. New Zealand’s waves of migration “have not caused food prices to double, for example”. He is comfortable with concluding therefore that “there is no evidence that immigration has increased the price of commodities”. It’s certainly an unusually high standard for a variable to need to double a second variable before it can be said to have caused it to increase.

This line of reasoning can be explained by a study conducted by Dan McGlashan, in which he found that Asians voted for the ACT Party at higher rates than anyone else. No doubt Seymour is wary of placing any blame on immigration because that’s how most of his voters got here.

Perhaps through some effort of will, Seymour holds off on mentioning the Resource Management Act until the sixth page of the essay. This is invoked to take all the blame for rising house prices. He points out that, 30 years ago, the bottom 20% of the population paid 27% of their income in rent, whereas now they pay 54%. This is a fair comment but it’s not clear that all of the blame for this necessarily lies with the RMA.

Seymour repeats the claim that only 0.8% of the land area of New Zealand is urbanised, but doesn’t mention how this compares to other countries or who benefits from raising this percentage. How does the average Kiwi benefit from urbanising more of the country for the sake of letting in more immigrants? It isn’t said.

He goes further, pillorying the Greens’ proposal to limit immigration to an increase of 1% of the population every year. Even an immigration rate of 1% is enough to double the population of the country before the end of the century. This is very interesting if one considers that the people of New Zealand have never asked for the Government to increase the population at all, much less double it.

The most striking thing about this essay on housing is that Seymour never refers to the experience of overseas countries that have had similar housing crises. Housing in Sydney, Melbourne and London has increased in price much like Auckland – do they have RMAs constricting the supply of housing? Seymour doesn’t say. What has happened in other jurisdictions that have implemented his suggestions? He doesn’t say.

One gets the feeling from this essay that Seymour is a dedicated supporter of neoliberalism, but does not feel the need to back up his assertions with real-world examples, preferring instead to use rhetoric.

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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 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).

VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger X

This reading continues on from here.

The 27th essay in Ride the Tiger is called ‘Relations Between the Sexes’ and seeks to cover a different range to the essay about marriage. When the order of the world is dissolving, men and women are naturally separated. Our sexual prejudices have contaminated our ethics. Nowhere is this more evident that in the idea of sexual revolution.

Processes have worked towards a freeing of sex, but not a freeing from sex. The sexual revolution has not liberated us from the suffering caused by sexual desire; to the contrary, we are now intoxicated by it. This is contributing to the collapse of society, but we can use the space afforded by the chaos to assert higher values. Bourgeoisie values, being materialistic, cannot conceive of woman in anything more than her anatomical capacity as instrument of reproduction – in reality, she has a spiritual value.

Sexual liberty therefore leads to materialism, and thereby away from spirituality. Incredibly for the 1960s, Evola is already able to anticipate how widespread pornography has affected the “polarity” between men and women. Nowadays a naked woman doesn’t stir much more interest than the sight of a cat. This is a tragedy because the sexual union is capable of acting as a bridge to higher consciousness via “an existential rupture of planes”. Making love can be Dionysian.

Part Eight of Ride the Tiger is where Evola finally gets to the spiritual side of things. This final section is titled ‘The Spiritual Problem’, and consists of two essays. The first of these is called ‘The “Second Religiosity”‘.

In this essay Evola decries what he calls “neospiritualism”, which he describes as an attempt to lead people beyond the material without giving any credence to the old, dogmatic religious movements. He has no time for the “movements, cults, sects, lodges, and conventicles” of the modern day, and considers them also a phenomenon of dissolution. In fact, things have gone so far that we are now in the rigor mortis stage, and all that awaits is the decomposition of the corpse.

When man closed himself off to the higher, transcendent world in the 19th century, this did not liberate him from superstition but merely opened him up to the lower, primitive emotional world in the 20th. We are now in the “soulless, collectivistic and materialistic phase corresponding to the closing of a cycle of civilisation”. All of these neospiritual movements thus represent an excess of the feminine. Evola is highly cynical and dismissive of these movements.

It’s difficult to correctly discriminate between all the garbage thrown up by neospirituality and the wisdom of genuine value. The emphasis ought to go on the deconditioning of the spirit. Here, Evola is at pains to emphasise that a person cannot achieve initiation by themselves, in contrast to the belief espoused by many. One is either born initiated, or one achieves initiation by way of spiritual emergency or ordeal, or one is initiated deliberately by someone who is part of a tradition and who knows what they’re doing. This is hard to achieve because the organisations that do so hardly exist any more.

The 30th and final essay is titled ‘Death – The Right Over Life’. Evola begins here by talking about the common belief, held by Heidegger (as well as by Socrates) that life is in some way a preparation for death. Death appears to be the end of the “person”, and atheism and materialism have made this simpler to deal with. Contemplation of death is a noble endeavour, as it can lead to a heightened state of appreciation of one’s life.

The traditional doctrines had the correct approach to death. The truly differentiated man cannot believe that his being began with the beginning of his physical body. He must solve the problem of nihilism by “displacing the I towards the centre of ‘being'”. Here Evola is talking about consciousness: “the human condition οf earthly existence is only a restricted section in a continuum, in a current that traverses many other states.” This eternal truth is not easy to grasp in an age of dissolution like ours, but it is much better than the lies of theistic creation myths.

A truly differentiated man, much like the Stoics and the Pythagoreans, could never take his own life, no matter how poor his conditions. This is because to do so would acknowledge that he was not strong enough to overcome the irrational part of his being. However, one always has the moral right to exit the world, should one decide that remaining ordeals are not meaningful. The differentiated man would be extremely disinclined to take this option in any case, right or otherwise. This is because of the possibility that one has chosen and said yes to – whether before or beyond this life – all of the ordeals in it.

In the final analysis, one can say that, no matter how degenerate and dissolute the world, it can still have value. It might be that, in order to achieve the highest state of being, consciousness must challenge itself as intensely as possible. To that end, there’s little more challenging than existing in a world where everything is contrary to one’s nature.

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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: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger IX

This reading continues on from here.

Part Seven of Ride the Tiger is called ‘Dissolution in the Social Realm’. This consists of four essays. The first of these is called ‘States and Societies – Apoliteia’. In this essay, Evola contends that the sociopolitical environment has essentially collapsed, and that the right sort of person must learn to govern themselves in the absence of social guidance. This is because there are no longer any legitimate nation-states.

True leaders, Evola states, do not exist today. Neither does any movement exist that offers itself as a defender of higher ideas. The petty politicians of today are just figureheads “at the service of financial, industrial,
or corporate interests” – essentially prostitutes. Even if a party that reflected a higher truth appeared, the people are simply too base to voted for one. The only realms left for political action are the irrational and the subintellectual.

Apoliteia means detachment from the political. Evola notes that the great conflict between Western democratic capitalism and Eastern socialism requires no appeal to any higher ideal. The West is equally as destructive and nihilistic as the Marxists. However, the West does at least offer the freedom from where an assault can be mounted. The really difficult thing is to defend one’s dignity when one feels that one belongs to a different humanity.

Essay 26 is called ‘Society – the Crisis of Patriotic Feeling’. Evola immediately lays out the problem – “eνery organic unity has been dissolνed or is dissolν­ing: caste, stock, nation, homeland, and eνen the family”. The associations of today are not built on blood or ideals or anything meaningful – people only come together temporarily for economic advantage. Spiritual superiority counts for nothing. The problem can be summed up by Nietzsche: a great struggle just to win nothing. Modern states are so bloated and overreaching that they have destroyed all remaining organic bonds.

Curiously, even for writing in the 1960s, Evola can already criticise an “economy of excess” that no longer serves to meet necessities. Evola is able to deduce that overproduction has become normalised – people’s wants simply increased to meet the increase in production. Moreover, the desperate need to employ everyone has people working to produce things that no-one needs.

The modern world is absurd. Our massively increasing population is an insanity, and serves as proof that man, for all of the impulses he has overcome in his conquest of the Earth, cannot control his sexual urges. This population growth has led to the need to condition people more and more in order to force them into the workplace. The overall effect is much like a cancer. No really aristocratic soul could possibly identify with a modern world so base.

Men of our age respond even less to the old appeals for action. Appeals to religion died with World War I; appeals to the nation died with World War II. The traditional state won its power through appeals to order. It was a matter of unification from above, not below. The void can be filled if the ancient principles returned. What is needed is an invisible unity of individuals associated by their nature.

The 27th essay is called ‘Marriage and the Family’. Here Evola contends that we have to face up to the fact that the family no longer has the same meaning and importance as it once did. The essential thing is the transmission of spiritual truth from generation to generation, not merely passing on the bloodline. This loss of meaning in the idea of family combines with the trend of materialism to create misery.

Marriage is now “little more than a puritanical veneer for a regime of high prostitution”. The marriage rites that supposedly made the profane into something sacred have merely served to do the opposite. Part of the problem is that sex is seen as something sinful, which means that marriage itself is something that one only chooses to participate in because one does not want to be an ascetic.

As it is, there is no longer anything worth defending or preserving. Therefore the differentiated man cannot ready form social bonds such as marriage. He must have his own self. Part of the reason for this is, again, that if a true leader arose in today’s time, he would be the last of men to be followed. More important than ensuring a succession of blood is ensuring a succession of spiritual knowledge.

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger VIII

This reading continues on from here.

The 22nd essay in Ride The Tiger is called ‘Dissolution of Modern Art’. Much like everything else, Evola contends that art has also degenerated. In the case of art, it has degenerated into a feminine subjectivity that is too afraid to say anything. Now we can no longer even speak of traditional art because no-one has any idea what that even is.

In this essay Evola echoes Plato’s description of the degeneration of political forms, only applied to the world of art. Modern art would be best served by achieving maximum craptitude, because that would provide the clean spiritual slate upon which something authentic could be written. Literature is also criticised as “fetishising” human relationships and merely documenting them with full banality.

As in many previous essays, Evola concludes that art has been given too great an importance, to the detrimental of the spiritual. What gives meaning to life can exist “even in the virtual absence of art”. Art has, in reality, undermined idealism, especially in the modern world. Positive realism lies in the assertion of values such as truth and spiritual courage. That which truly has value needs no consensus to agree.

The 23rd essay is ‘Modern Music and Jazz’. Evola has a keen interest in music and understands its development over the course of recent centuries. Perhaps weirdly, Evola writes here about the “preponderance of dance music over vocal and emotional music” – a sentiment shared by many today. He considers that the drift towards nihilism in philosophy and art has been echoed by one in music.

Music has, according to Evola, developed in ways that mirror the development of all other social movements. Therefore, the advent of jazz is no surprise – it is merely the democratisation of music, something “primitively ecstatic”. This doesn’t mean that jazz is crude, though, or that jazz players are unskilled musicians. It simply heralds the return to the world of fundamental, elemental forces.

This “Negro music” is associated with “dark forms of ecstasy” in Evola’s reckoning. He compares the feelings that arise from dancing to rhythmic music to the frenzies of the dervishes: “possessions of savage ritual”. Despite frequently being paired with drugs, these occasions cannot be compared to the ancient rites of Dionysus etc. because there is nothing sacred about them – they are mere escapism.

On the subject of drugs, the 24th essay is ‘Excursus on Drugs’. Evola considers drugs to “most visibly have the goal of an ecstatic escape”. Some of the people who choose such an escape are those who have perceived the meaninglessness of human existence. Others are “neurotics and psychopaths”. Part of the danger of drugs is, like rhythmic music, they can be used to open up awareness to a suprasensible world, such as in initiatory ritual.

Despite this caution, Evola gives due credit to the use of various drugs in sacred ritual. The Taoists considered even the use of alcohol to have a kind of magical effect, and he mentions the Central American shamanic traditions that made much use of mescaline, peyote and psilocybin mushrooms. However, he also points out that no-one really understands how to use these sacraments anymore, because no-one is capable of the necessary spiritual preparation. This leads to the risk of “possession by dark powers”.

If used correctly, nonprofanely, drugs offer the possibility of coming into contract with a superior dimension of reality. Stimulants and depressants can more or less be ignored for these purposes. Hallucinogens are excellent but have many drawbacks; their ancient use involved guiding the trip with symbols and a preliminary catharsis of emotion, two things that are seldom done today. Narcotics can be useful for the sake of dissociating from the mundane but the experience is hard to control.

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger VII

This reading continues on from here.

Part Five of Ride The Tiger is called ‘Dissolution of Consciousness and Relativism’ and is comprised of two essays.

The first of these is called ‘The Procedures of Modern Science’. Here Evola begins by describing how the Western idea of Western supremacy upholds itself by appeal to its achievements in materialist science. Evola thinks that this is a gross error, and goes as far as to say that “None οf modern science has the slightest value as knowledge.” It is concerned with statistics and probability rather than truth.

The cult of scientific objectivity that Evola decries is all too willing to discard currently-held theories in favour of ones that, if adopted, provide temporary gains in terms of political power. This supposed objectivity, instead of leading to ever-refining truth, has merely caused science to lose itself chasing shadows. Einstein’s theory of relativity comes in for special criticism, being notable only for producing the bomb.

Scientism has only led to a kind of cult of quantity, which has made people obsessed with numbers and formulas and abstractions, so that we have forgotten what reality actually is and what it’s about. It’s a false logic, and it’s grossly unsuitable for anyone with spiritual pretensions.

The twentieth essay is called ‘Covering Up Nature – Phenomenology’ and continues the theme of the inadequacy of the scientific culture. Science hasn’t really got us any closer to the nature of reality, and each new “advance” merely takes us further away. After all, the world of our actual experience is still made up of fire, air, earth and water, and mathematical abstractions tell us nothing about how to deal with these.

Modern man is destructive because scientism has conditioned him to see everything as soulless. Our compulsory education system brainwashes children with this perspective from when they are very small. Even worse is the popular delusion that science can replace religion in the sense that it might give humanity a promised path to future happiness. This delusion has caused much misery.

Alchemically, this essay continues the theme of decrying the men of silver, whose preoccupations have not and can not lead to spiritual absolution. Evola gives credit to the concerns of the men of silver in so far as the discipline of mathematics cultivates clarity of thought, but all of these intellectualisms ignore the spiritual. Once one has seen the “great illusion” it’s apparent that science cannot be sufficient to solve human needs.

The twenty-first essay is called ‘Sickness and the European Culture’ and comes back to the subject of European decadence. This essay is very short, at only three pages.

Here Evola reinforces the contention that European culture has become sick because it has lost its spiritual centre. With no shared sense of spiritual tradition, the forces holding society together have weakened, and some parts of it have broken away. The tragedy of World War II is considered a natural consequence of this process of technical and scientific advancement at the expense of spiritual knowledge.

Part of the problem, Evola holds, is that politics has become separated from an intellectual and cultural class that, in its conceit, has decided it’s above the political. This is not the fault of that class so much as it is a symptom of the collapse of the unifying, transcendent and spiritual ideas that lie underneath cultural expressions such as politics and the arts.

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger VI

This reading continues on from here.

Part Four of Ride The Tiger is called ‘Dissolution of the Individual’ and is comprised of three essays. The first of these, the sixteenth in the book, is called ‘The Dual Aspect of Anonymity’. Railing against the “collectivism, mechanization, standardization, and soullessness οf modern existence,” here Evola attempts to find an answer to the question of what is worth saving.

It’s at this point that Evola finally gets to the esotericism. Individualism is part of the problem facing us, he contends, because it has led to the atomisation of society. Worse, it has no spiritual basis. What is taken by Westerners to be the individual is not what a person really, fundamentally is.

In esoteric terms, Evola is here talking about the difference between silver and gold. Here the men of silver are decried for their pomposity and hypocrisy, for this has obscured the light of spiritual truth and made it more difficult for the men of gold to play their part. The false self must be transcended and the true self reconnected with, otherwise we will continue to flounder.

The seventeenth essay is called ‘Destructions and Liberations in the New Realism’. Here, Evola gives us for the first time a specific sense of what it might mean to “ride the tiger”. For him it is a life lived at the limit, in a way that actualises the “absolute person”. Most people who discover this do so through warfare, for it is here that an extreme lucidity stripping away all extraneous concerns can be achieved.

Evola makes vague hints at a gross feminising process that, he warns, will make any individualisation impossible. Crucially, however, this feminisation is necessary, to destroy the corruption of the old order. He continues to emphasise that any true revaluation of values must come from that “minority” who retain a sense of the transcendental. Anyone else will merely make the same mistakes that the other non-spiritual people have made.

What is necessary to move forwards from here is “a clear, detached, objective vision οf existence” and “a positive, existential incapacity to submit to ‘myths’ οf any kind whatsoever”. The new mythologies (such as Marxism) are not only doomed to fail, they are in fact signs of systemic failure.

The eighteenth essay is called ‘The “Animal Ideal” – the Sentiment of Nature’. Here Evola talks about the two fundamental spiritual orientations – the first being the hermit who lives without company and the second the wanderer who lives without fixed abode. Incredibly for an essay published in 1961, here Evola talks about the isolation and detachment that can be caused by modern communication technology and city life, foreshadowing contemporary sentiments about the Internet and smartphones.

Anticipating – and pre-emptively decrying – the hippie movement as a bourgeoisie failure, Evola rejects a return to primitivism as being merely a naked form of materialism. Conceding that athletics and sports may be useful (although he decries professional sport), Evola once again asserts that spiritual needs must come first. The true aristocrat of the soul must feel as comfortable among dams and skyscrapers as among trees and streams, for the former is an expression of human nature and thereby of Nature itself.

Fundamentally, a person needs to accept that “nothing extraordinary exists in the beyond”. Only the real exists and only the real can be said to exist. To this end, there is a lot of wisdom in ancient traditions, especially Zen. These allow us to cultivate an appreciation of how reality consists of both the immanent making itself transcendent and the transcendent making itself immanent.

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger V

This reading continues on from here.

The 13th essay in Ride The Tiger is called ‘Sartre: Prisoner Without Walls’. This essay is very short – only three pages – and concerns itself with the attitude that one ought to take towards inherent freedom. Criticising Sartre’s conception of man as “condemned to be free”, Evola decries the idea that ultimate freedom is any kind of curse, describing this attitude as characteristic of the deep nihilism of the 20th century.

Sartre’s conception of life is, in Evola’s estimation, a fundamentally negative one in that one considers the human experience akin to being a prisoner without walls. For Evola, this maudlin attitude is not appropriate, for it brings with it suffering. Something more is needed.

The 14th essay is called ‘Existence, “Α Project Flung into the World”‘. Here Evola continues to outline his misgivings with existentialism, despite giving it credit for accurately describing the dilemma of the human condition. Existentialism also gets credit for moving beyond primitive solutions like religion and scientific materialism.

As mentioned previously, Evola’s main problem with existentialism is metaphysical. The varieties of existentialism that do not give a satisfactory answer to metaphysical questions are no better than nihilisms. For this reason, the maxim “existence precedes essence” must be rejected. A person is that which transcends the mere physical form; if not, existence is nothing more than morphing randomly into various shapes. Transcendence cannot and will not be found outside the self.

The idea of anxiety over lost choices, opportunities and paths is, for Evola, ridiculous – and materialistic. The transcendent principle ought to exclude such thoughts. The nature of things cannot usefully be said to be sinful in and of itself. Much better to adopt the ancient Greek view of cultivating appreciation of the beauty of limits and form.

The 15th essay is called ‘Heidegger: “Retreating Forwards” and “Being-for-Death” – Collapse οf Existentialism’. The problem with Heidegger, Evola contends, is that his philosophy is motivated principally by a fear of death, in particular the death of the false self, or I. It’s better to disavow identification with the I, and to choose instead to identify with the transcendent, than to march to the drumbeat of death.

Here Evola continues with his criticisms of existentialist philosophy, accusing it of promoting a bleak, sombre and submissive attitude towards the world, one of resignation. Jaspers offers no other solution but faith. In fact, none of the existentialists have offered a satisfactory solution to the problems of nihilism as outlined by Nietzsche. “Existentialism is a projection of modern man in crisis”.

Neither is faith satisfactory, for that is essentially no different from the “Catholic existentialism” that has already been rejected on account of positing the transcendent outside oneself. It must be accepted that God is dead. Transcendence ought not be conceived of as the ‘other’; rather one should begin from the point of transcendence and consider the world from that perspective.

In any case, all of these men, religious and existentialist alike, are written off as petit bourgeoisie, writing about petit bourgeoisie concerns. The real philosophy comes from the men who have survived the “storms of steel and fire” of the early 20th century: those who have been tested. These are the men who understand the true nature of things; they understand “being able to be destroyed, even, without thereby being wounded”.

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger IV

This reading continues on from here.

The tenth essay in Ride The Tiger is called ‘Invulnerability – Apollo and Dionysus’. Here Evola further describes his conception of an aristocrat of the soul as someone who feels very deeply and who is very moved by things. The modern man (the man of clay, essentially), only feels very shallow emotions, and quickly moves from one such shallow impression to the next.

In this essay, Evola touches on the truly aristocratic topic of deliberately exposing oneself to great trials and tribulations, for the sake of learning one’s true nature. Alchemists will recognise this mentality as the one necessary to burn away everything but the gold so as to learn to distinguish Spirit from Nature. The purifying fire is that which burns away body and mind and leaves one with one’s true nature – it is necessary because it burns away everything shallow, leaving only actions which arise from the depths.

A person who has done this may find themselves gifted with a “transcendent confidence” that is characteristic of the aristocrat of the soul. This is important because in purifying oneself down to the gold one also strips away all of the conditioned belief in life’s meaning. To proceed past this stage, the alchemist must find within themselves the will to assert a meaning to life independent of any outside source. Then one is invulnerable.

To open oneself without falling apart is not easy in an age of dissolution. Here Evola takes care to point out that it’s very easy to fall at the second hurdle. Just because mainstream religion is bullshit doesn’t mean that we should abandon it for wild paganism and barbarianism. There is more.

The eleventh essay is called ‘Acting Without Desire – The Causal Law’. Once a person discovers their true nature, they should also learn the ability to act without desire. This entails taking the correct action at any given time instead of becoming distracted by profit or loss, or by what other people might think of you. Doing what needs to be done.

This needs to be qualified, however. There are naturalistic desires, that arise from the biology of the human animal. These are generally to be avoided. There are also, however, heroic desires, that arise from something greater than the merely physical, from something transcendent. These may be acted upon.

An aristocratic person, then, thinks not in terms of sin but in terms of error. The concept of sin is impossible because God has long been repudiated; all that remains is adherence to standards that one sets from within as an expression of one’s true nature.

One ought to act with a mind to what is effectively a law of karma, in that actions have consequences, regardless of whether those actions conform to any conception of good or evil. Those consequences are real and should be regarded as such. This is fine because the real man of gold doesn’t just live, but rather manifests himself and his true nature in the world.

This is the end of the second part of the book. The next part is called ‘The Dead End of Existentialism’, and the first essay here is the book’s twelfth: ‘Being and Inauthentic Existence’. This deals with the two types of existentialism (as Evola sees it): the philosophical, academic tradition and the practical tradition exemplified by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Evola dismisses existentialism almost entirely, for the reason that the existentialist philosophers are too much a product of their times, and because they are not themselves interested in the world beyond. The existentialists are very materialistic and this disqualifies existentialism from being a philosophy that an aristocrat might be concerned with.

Despite this, existentialism can be credited with some things. For one, the idea that “existence precedes essence” serves to keep the existentialist in touch with the metaphysical and transcendent. It also helps to highlight the dual nature of the aristocratic soul, which, as described earlier, is much deeper than that of the pleb.

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger III

This reading continues on from here.

The sixth essay in Ride The Tiger is called “Active Nihilism – Nietzsche”, and continues to deal with the problem of the Death of God. Also continuing with the esoteric theme of this book, Evola appears to insist that the solution is alchemical. The negative is overwhelming and ascendant; it cannot be resisted. So the question becomes “how far the negative can be transformed into something positive.”

Here we are concerned with “the transition to the postnihilist stage.” Modern man is free, free from the strictures of Abrahamism – but free for what? We have striven against our enslavement for so long that we don’t know what to do with freedom. We invented God to assuage our existential anxiety, and, now that we are “free” from this God, that anxiety has rushed back with a vengeance. Evola cites Sartre here: “We are condemned to be free.”

Evola contends that Nietzsche’s conception of the Superman is not sufficient to avoid this nihilism. His reasoning is that the Superman theory is not sufficiently different from the other eschatologies, such as the Marxist one, and therefore cannot be more than a pseudosolution to the problem of nihilism.

As was true for Marxism, the Superman theory could potentially be used to justify all manner of horrors in the present by promising paradise in the future. However, Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence strikes much closer to what might be described as a perennial philosophy.

The seventh essay is called “Being Oneself.” It seems as if that, once the pseudosolutions and outright false philosophies are abandoned, what one is left with is oneself. This something is beyond morality (indeed, morality is considered something to be liberated from), and internal, instead of imposed from without as if by God or King.

Nietzsche comes in for some criticism here. Evola considers his attitude to the human spirit “materialistic”, but concedes that Nietzsche must have seen beyond because he is capable of distinguishing the “Self” from the “I”. Other thinkers, such as Guyau, are considered, but dismissed for not offering anything truly new, merely “restrictions that more or less return to one οf the systems οf the old morality.”

Evola concludes that the answer, as ever, is to “Know Thyself”. However, there’s a caveat. In the past, it was easier to know thyself because one was defined by strictures of class, religion, nation, caste and many other things. Modern man is free, so he cannot fall back on these now-abandoned strictures.

Modern man is, in fact, so free that it is as if he has been shattered to pieces. His soul “contains multitudes”. This shattering, Evola contends, can be most easily observed in remorse, which is an emotion that mostly affects divided people and which is characteristic of our time.

The eighth essay is called “The Transcendent Dimension – ‘Life’ and ‘More Than Life'”. The man who gets it, Evola contends, is one who possesses a transcendental dimension, a spiritual dimension. Here he distances himself further from Nietzsche, who for Evola was more of a vessel that history acted through than a genuine actor in his own right. Nietzsche’s great error was “confusion of the sacred with the profane”.

Evola, through quoting Nietzsche, gives us a prescription for a man of gold, although without using alchemical terms: a many who has great passions (clay), but who holds them in check (iron), and who hold them in check with apparent ease (silver) and who, last of all, does not draw any particular egoic satisfaction from doing so (gold). Here, the highest sort of man is one who overcomes great dangers, for it is only in doing so that all these qualities can be expressed.

Evola mentions the common interest in Zen philosophy among the Beat Generation that was heavily influenced by the existentialists. Here, religious belief (of any kind) is rejected as a failure of the human spirit, of the sort of person who did not have the character to survive the tension of the Age of Nihilism, and who hence surrendered to easy answers.

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger II

This reading continues on from here.

Part II of Ride the Tiger is called ‘In the World Where God is Dead’, and deals with the ever-present problem of the nihilism that arises when one abandons traditional values. This part consists of nine essays.

The first of these (the third essay in the book), ‘European Nihilism – the Dissolution of Morals’, sets the tone for this section. The subject matter will be familiar to any reader of Nietzsche, and indeed Nietzsche is mentioned in the first paragraph. This essay also mentions Doestoevsky, in the context of “If God is dead, everything is permitted.” It promises to be heavy stuff!

“Rational”, or atheistic morality, has no firm basis, Evola contends. Without an appeal to a higher power, any moral philosophy will eventually be chipped away at by critics until it disintegrates. Moral taboos cannot be justified, and therefore we can’t move past “everything is permitted”.

Perhaps more worryingly, it’s possible that, even if God did exist and inform us all, nothing would really change.

The fourth essay is ‘From the Precursors of Nihilism to the “Lost Youth” and the Protest Movement’. Existence has become absurd, Evola contends, because there are no longer any restraints. Here he traces the advancement of nihilism in the years post-Nietzsche. As Nietzsche predicted, the problem of nihilism only intensified as we entered the 20th century.

Movements such as punks and beatniks are drawn under the wider rubric of nihilists. The counter-culture becomes, for Evola, a “destructive, voiceless rage”. It’s isn’t necessarily that things are bad in and of themselves, but that a quiet, peaceful, mediocre life evokes this rage. Natural man feels little difference between the modern cornucopia of manufactured goods and slavery.

Citing Paul van den Bosch when he wrote that “When we were born, the gold was already transmuted into lead,” Evola makes another appeal to the perennial philosophy and its esoteric nature. This is necessary because the left-wing revolution has “betrayed its origins” with “a new conformism” – a statement that echoes in 2018.

The fifth essay is ‘Disguises of European Nihilism – The Socioeconomic Myth and the Protest Movement’. To Evola’s mind, there are two great socioeconomic myths of our time: the myth of Western prosperity, and the Marxist-communist myth of oppressor versus oppressed. Both myths are predicated on the same falsehood, namely that the signs and markers of the dissolution of society represent “progress”.

One severe problem exists with both of these myths: neither has any room for any conception of a higher world – the realm of gold in alchemism – and so both myths, while they solve the problem of nihilism, introduce unacceptable problems of their own. Both ideologies are predicated on a gross, fundamental error: that solving questions of material suffering will also solve questions of existential suffering.

Perhaps the last words here are “there is no correlation between material and spiritual misery.” This lays out the futility of trying to find absolution through materialist avenues. One is left with the impression, in Evola’s words, that “The time is near of the most despicable οf men, who can nο longer despise himself.”

Are we now in the time of the Man of Clay?

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VJMP Reads: Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger I

Having chosen a left-wing work (The Interregnum) for our previous reading, we now go to the right again and have a look at Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger. Subtitled “A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul”, it’s based on the premise that the fight against modernity has been lost and the only thing a thinking man can do is ride the tiger of modernity until it’s time to rebuild on the other side.

Part I of the eight parts of this book is called “Orientations” and divides into two essays.

The first of these is called ‘The Modern World and Traditional Man’. This opens outright with a declaration that this text isn’t for everyone. Like The Satanic Bible, Evola is explicit in that his book is only for a particular kind of person. Ride the Tiger is written for the outsider.

Evola’s style seems timeless in the sense that his complaints about the nature of society apply just as well to 2018 as they did to his time, and probably apply well to many times in the past. Things are collapsing, certainly in social terms if not yet physical ones, and so Evola advocates a return to traditional values.

These traditional values are not bourgeoisie ones, Evola is at pains to point out, but in fact “the very antithesis of them.” Indeed, he hints at evoking the perennial philosophy, such as when he writes “It is good to sever every link with all that which is destined sooner or later to collapse. The problem will then be to maintain one’s essential direction without leaning οn any given or transmitted form.”

Psychonauts such as the readership of VJM Publishing will commiserate with this feeling, as it’s a handy description of the ego death experience that comes with the peak of a psychedelic trip. One loses all touch with and memory of the fleeting forms of energy that make up the material world, and resides solely in pure consciousness, and thereby reunites with God.

Fittingly, then, Evola states that the Tradition that inspires him has “the character of an esoteric doctrine.”

The second essay, ‘The End of a Cycle – “Ride the Tiger”‘, continues in the same vein. Evola explains that the expression “to ride the tiger” is from the Far East and refers to the idea that it’s safer to ride on the tiger’s back than to try and flee and get pounced on, for the tiger will eventually tire out and then one can make an escape.

Essentially, the idea expressed here is this: great and terrible changes are sweeping the world, and will continue to do so. They will destroy much, if not all, of the existing order, regardless of whether this order is good or bad. There is no hope of resisting this process.

All of this sounds terribly pessimistic and nihilistic on the surface, but it’s clear that, like Nietzsche before him, Evola has anticipated the nihilism that follows the destruction of the incumbent value system, and is speaking of what must come beyond that. He writes of the “Four Ages” system famililar to readers of Plato’s Republic as well as to Hindus.

The warning of this chapter is that the forces of destruction and degeneracy are too powerful to be overcome; resisting them is as futile as resisting the tide. But in this there is still a message of hope: those destructive forces are too mindless, stupid and disorderly to hold sway for very long and so, like the storm, they will pass, and leave an opportunity to rebuild order in their wake.

And so, Evola mocks the “progressive” and “advanced” thinking of the West as little more than symptoms of a disease of the soul. This is apparently the context in which the book ought to be read.

The object of the book is summed up in the final paragraph of this essay: “defining the attitude to be taken toward certain experiences and processes of today”. In other words, how do we deal with the fact that everything’s falling to bits?

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VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand X

This reading carries on from here.

The tenth, and last, essay in The Interregnum is ‘Politics of Love’, by Max Harris. Like the other essays in this collection, it speaks from an unashamed youth perspective, such as when Harris complains of the “stale language” of the current political discourse.

This essay is about the politics of love, and it opens by defining what love is to Harris: “a feeling of deep warmth that is directed outwards towards an object, such as another person.” There is nothing objectionable about his definition of love; indeed it seems fairly comprehensive, especially when he writes that “the idea of love is closely tied to relationships and the connections between people.”

Predictably, given the Marxist leanings of the previous essays in this book, this essay quickly moves on to a declaration that the politics of love would necessitate “a willingness to accept a greater number of refugees.”

But one wonders why it is that emphasising the aspect of love leads naturally to the conclusions that Harris takes it to.

Why not, for example, stop all immigration to New Zealand from the Third World on account of love for the people already in New Zealand, whose living standards drop when Third Worlders move into their locales? Isn’t it entirely possible that my love for the people of New Zealand impels me to want to see them safe from robbery, rape and murder – the crimes that mass Third World immigration has brought to Europe and America?

Doesn’t our love for young New Zealand girls and women drive us to keep them safe from the rampant sexual abuse and harassment that is now part and parcel of the female experience in Europe?

Doesn’t our love for the homeless and mentally ill already in New Zealand drive us to take care of them as a priority, before we spend money importing irreparably damaged people from the other side of the world to jump in front of them in the queue?

Doesn’t our love for the hardworking taxpayer who has busted his back his whole life drive us to ensure that he can retire at a fitting age, instead of having to work into senescence to pay for gibs?

The essay makes a plea for more solidarity, but how is that possible when diversity is also increasing? It points out that New Zealanders already feel disconnected – so how will importing tens of thousands of “refugees” help? It will only add to the ethnic chaos, making us feel even more disconnected.

But Harris, and people like him, would happily call me hateful for asking those questions.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand IX

This reading carries on from here.

The ninth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Religion and the Real World’, by Daniel Kleinsman. It lays out its thematic question in the first paragraph: “does a pope’s ‘apostolic exhortation’ have any weight or relevance in the modern world?”

The scene is set by the usual canards of climate change and inequality. Pope Francis’s recent comments about how the world needs to do its bit to help with such issues is discussed.

Unfortunately, Kleinsman comes across as just another tub-thumper with an agenda. The insight that no relationship exists in isolation is credited to Francis as a “pope’s innovation”, when anyone with even a passing familiarity with comparative religion would know that the interdependence of all things is one of the original insights of the Buddha.

Ironically, even in an essay where Kleinsman has his lips firmly attached to the Pope’s anus, Kleinsman reveals the sham at the heart of Catholicism: the Pope credits evolution with bringing about consciousness, and is therefore a materialist who doesn’t actually understand spirituality.

This essay is poorly-written enough to contradict itself at several major points. The common theme of these contradictions is to demand that the whole world come together in harmony but to also dump all the blame for the condition of the world on a very select group of people.

If we’re all one, what’s the point in promoting this antagonistic dichotomy of “tangata whenua” and “tangata tiriti”, the only possible outcome of which is dividing the population into two opposing groups?

And if we’re all part of an interdependent system, aren’t all of us guilty of upholding and facilitating exploitation – even those being exploited by it?

One wistfully recalls the days when the left stood for solidarity between all people, and when the New Zealand left promoted the idea of Kiwitanga as a way of bridging the gaps between Maori and Pakeha. Now, those who speak the language of unity out of one side of their mouths are seeking to divide the country out of the other by talking about “those who are owed” and “those who owe”.

Kleinsman describes the masculine-oriented language used by Francis as “unhelpful”, but does not mention that the same holy book where Francis is getting all his stories from also commands women to shut up and and be quiet (Timothy 2:12 etc.): “…A woman must learn in quietness and full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first…”

On that line of reasoning, when are we getting a female Pope?

These are questions that the religious will never answer. Theirs is not to reason or to honestly inquire; theirs is to lecture, admonish, guilt trip and harangue. In that, they have something very powerful in common with Marxists, which perhaps hints at a possible alliance this century.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand VIII

This reading carries on from here.

The eighth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Feminism and Silence’, by Holly Walker. Feminism belongs, to most people’s minds, to the sort of thing the left was occupied with before it went crazy. So I’m almost expecting this essay to be relatively conservative compared to the Marxist insanity in much of the rest of the book.

Happily, the basis of this essay is the real-life challenges of a Green MP who found it difficult to combine the demands of her job with the demands of raising a child. This makes a refreshing turn back towards the real world, and the hardships Walker faced in her short time in Parliament are relatable.

Unusually for the essays in this book, Walker’s effort here is honest and disarmingly humble. She writes that “most MPs knew very little about the bills they were speaking on,” and laments that the further she got sucked into the party Parliamentary system, “my ability to share my true thoughts diminished.”

Unfortunately, from there the essay degenerates into the same Marxist politics of antagonism as most of the rest of the book. Walker complains about the proportion of female MPs being too low at 29 percent, not stopping for even a second to question whether it needs to be any higher. The equality dogma has choked all other lines of thought out of Walker’s mind.

Indeed, she even goes as far as asking why Parliament can’t just shut down sooner for the sake of making it easier to combine being an MP with being a mother, as if having mothers in Parliament was so important that it was worth sacrificing a major part of the Government’s efficiency and effectiveness for. The cynic will note that MPs taking a pay cut to reflect the drastic reduction in work hours is not proposed here.

Walker hits the right note when she writes “Let’s unstitch the neoliberal, individualistic mindset we’ve all internalised,” but it’s not easy to see how this essay, or this book, ultimately contributes to that. Neoliberalism and Cultural Marxism work hand-in-hand in that they both serve to divide and conquer the people and to set them against each other to be more readily exploited by an international ruling class, so it’s not credible to argue against neoliberalism from a Marxist perspective.

The essay ends with the author declaring that she spent an entire year reading only words written by women. From the perspective of the eternal victimhood of the female this is no doubt a victory; from the perspective of a working-class man watching his university opportunities dwindle ever-further, as women are assisted to take his place despite already being a clear majority of university students, it seems obscene.

In summary, this piece is very similar to most of the other efforts in the book. It’s clearly written from a privileged, middle-class perspective, despite claiming to speak for the disadvantaged, and it furthers the divide-and-conquer narrative of globalism while claiming to oppose it.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand VII

This reading carries on from here.

The seventh essay in The Interregnum is ‘Contributing to Public Life From Afar’, by Lamia Imam. If the essays so far had mostly managed to be worryingly Marxist without being alarmingly so, this essay leaps right into the deep end with no restraints at all.

In an effort that stretches credibility beyond breaking point, Imam complains about the difficulty she has found being accepted by New Zealanders as one of our own, despite literally being an anchor baby who spent almost all of her formative years overseas.

Echoing the complaints of Golriz Ghahraman, who also spent most of her formative years overseas being raised by non-Kiwis, Imam describes being born in New Zealand only to move away with her parents while still a toddler, only to wonder why she isn’t welcomed with open arms when she decides that she is a New Zealander many years later when she briefly returns to study (before shifting off again).

The question she does not confront is: why should Kiwis form close social bonds with people who are liable to up and leave the country forever, rendering that social investment worthless? If a person has all of their family overseas, and are themselves getting educated overseas, the likelihood of them still being here in 25 years is very low, at least in comparison to anyone else.

Really this essay should be seen for what it is, which is an effort to destroy the social bonds between New Zealanders for the sake of making us more easily exploitable by the international globalist class of which Imam is a member. To this end, it uses a number of globalist rhetorical devices that have previously been successfully employed towards the destruction of the Western working class.

One of the most obvious of these is crying about the “racism” she has faced on account of being Muslim (which is, of course, not a race). Another is the astonishing claim that people who don’t consider her to sound like a Kiwi on account of her admitted lack of a Kiwi accent are “ignorant”.

Claiming to be “hyper-aware of her privilege”, Imam appears to make no effort whatsoever to understand the thinking of the New Zealanders she claims to be her countryfolk. Relating an incident where a highly distressed man at a Community Law Centre “started screaming at me about immigrants, and specifically Muslims… ruining his job prospects,” absolutely zero effort is made to commiserate with one of the many Kiwis who have lost out from globalism.

Instead she complains that “acceptance was hard to come by,” as if the rest of us ought to have been grateful for the presence of a Muslim immigrant – a sight that has heralded the impending destruction of communities and nations all around the world for 1,300 years.

It seems that, according to Imam, Kiwis no longer have the right to decide for themselves what a Kiwi is. That can apparently now be decided by people who have lived three years of their life in New Zealand and who do not have Kiwi ancestors. Now you can just step off a plane and say you’re a Kiwi and that’s as good as anyone else can do.

As a reader I wondered how welcoming Imam would be if I turned up at the funeral of a wealthy family member, declared myself to be one of their tribe and demanded a share of the family fortune? Would I also find that “acceptance was hard to come by”?

In the end, I gave up when I read “Ordinary Kiwis supposedly do not care about identity politics, which suggests to me that they don’t have an identity.” No-one who, while claiming to be a Kiwi, writes something that stupid is worth reading.

In summary, this poorly-written effort rambles, does not employ logic and frequently contradicts itself, but the essay does raise many questions that are yet to be meaningfully discussed in the West, such as: who are we allowed to exclude?

Answering those question is not for The Interregnum. This book that preaches inclusivity as the highest of virtues has expressly excluded right-wing and working-class voices.

Fair enough on excluding the right-wing, if one wants to restrict the dialogue to the voices of the young, but why provide a platform for a jetsetting middle-class professional woman while denying a platform to working-class white people? It seems very strange that a book can claim to be speaking for the underdog but deny that underdog the right to speak about the issues that are causing them to suffer.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand VI

This reading carries on from here.

The sixth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Radical Kaupapa Maori Politics’ by Carrie Stoddart-Smith. Turning to maoridictionary.co.nz I discover that kaupapa means, in this context, something like ‘agenda’ (indeed, within the first page it has been defined as “something like first principles”), but the essay itself explores the various definitions of ‘Kaupapa Maori’.

At the core of this essay is the question that Maori have been asking themselves for 200 years. To what extent to we cling to the old ways, and to what extent to we abandon them for the sake of adaptation to a world that is different to what it was when the old days arose?

Many mainstream readers, conditioned to mainstream journalism, will find the tone of this essay jarring, as it is heavy on the kind of guilt-based sermon-style rhetoric that so many have learned to manipulate otherwise well-meaning audiences with.

It’s also full of the unnecessary race-baiting and shit-stirring that has become associated with the American style of race rhetoric, such as when Stoddart-Smith justifies the exclusion of non-Maori with “empowering Maori voices that continue to be silenced by the noise of history, and by the protestations of white New Zealand that insist on shouting us down and shutting us out.”

Unfortunately this dishonest, deliberately aggravating style of rhetoric is a throwback to the Cultural Marxism espoused in the introductory essay. Only “white New Zealand” is the enemy; the fact that Asian and Pacific Islander New Zealanders think much less of Maoris than white people do, not having had two centuries of living together, is ignored on account of not fitting the narrative (the fact that Asians and Pacific Islanders are harder to guilt trip may also be a factor).

It’s a shame that a confrontational and antagonistic stylistic approach was taken, because there’s plenty of philosophical value in this essay. In particular, Stoddart-Smith draws multiple parallels between kaupapa Maori and the anarchist philosophy of mutualism.

After all, pre-European contact Maori did not have a central government, and as a consequence they adapted to learn patterns of mutual support that helped them and their neighbours to survive. In some cases the agreements over which tribe had the rights to access what were very sophisticated and complicated, but the important thing was that they were mutually consensual, in contrast to today’s arrangement where representatives of the Queen enforce the law whether people like it or not.

If this side of things had been emphasised, this could have been a good essay. Unfortunately it’s full of common separatist canards like “colonialism embedded patriarchy in tikanga Maori” and the revisionist attempt to ignore He iwi tahi tatou, as if the historical nature of interactions between Maori and British settlers had been entirely involuntary on the part of the Maori, rather than mutually beneficial.

One feels that a sophisticated approach to redressing the historical wrongs done to the Maori people, and this essay falls a long way short of that. It is, however, a good example of Marxist agitprop.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand IV

This reading carries on from here.

The fourth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Climate Change and Just Transition’ by Edward Miller. Keeping with the theme of the book so far, Miller describes himself as “a political activist with a keen interest in global justice,” and declares the enemy as “the deeply held commitment of large businesses and governments to maintaining economic growth at all costs.”

Miller laments that neoliberalism has made conditions worse for the “most vulnerable of society,” and it is for them who Miller claims to speak. There is already a problem with this, as anyone who has spent time around the most vulnerable of society would know, and it’s that people with pressing, immediate problems couldn’t care less about things like “global justice”.

Writing of the need to sacrifice economic growth for the sake of lowering our carbon emissions, Miller suggests that he is completely engrossed in the bubble of middle-class privilege, like many Green supporters. The practical reality is that sacrificed economic growth means workers getting fired, hours being cut, health care being postponed or cancelled, and children going hungry – considerations often lost on the young and carefree.

Action on climate change is described as something “we so desperately need” – further evidence that Miller lives in an echo chamber. What we need are better wages, better houses, and better attitudes to mental healthcare and to child abuse. Problems with proximate causes and clear solutions. Focusing on problems with clear solutions will all us to ensure that our energies are not wasted from virtue signalling about issues we cannot affect.

Much like other commentators in this book so far, Miller attacks neoliberalism as if it was an evil that sprang from nowhere upon an unsuspecting world in the mid 1980s. This is perhaps to be expected of young writers who are yet to comprehend that history and the world existed before they were born, and were not things discovered by them.

But it’s difficult to take seriously a work that does not place neoliberalism in its context of the complete collapse of the Soviet Union and the West’s increasing awareness that Communism had directly led to the starvation of tens of millions of people. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Communism appeared to the world as a monstrous evil that had, after almost half a century, finally been defeated. It was natural that things move in the direction away from it.

Almost certainly, this movement away from Communism went too far, as political movements tend to do, and so neoliberalism does need to be balanced. But we don’t need to balance it with economic and social policies that have established historical precedents of failure.

The idea of returning the means of production to the masses via an unelected ideological elite that purports to speak for those masses is known to be suicidal, but Miller avoids this easy fantasy, making a successful point when he promotes the idea of a universal basic income by means of the Government printing money.

Unfortunately, the fate of those other men who have proposed debt-free Government-backed money (McKinley, Lincoln, Hitler, Kennedy, Gadaffi) is ignored here. Perhaps this book is not thick enough for the kind of investigation necessary for such a thing.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand III

This reading carries on from here.

The third essay in The Interregnum is “Reimagining the Economy” by Wilbur Townsend. I must admit that reading a book that opens with several Marx and Gramsci quotes which then goes into radical economic intervention makes me think of the millions of people who starved to death in the 20th century. Despite that, I continue in the belief that the left must have learned to moderate its radicalism by now.

Promisingly, this essay opens by sticking to sober facts. Townsend points out that the economy has grown by 48% since 1990, but the average wage is only 22% higher, on account of that the dividends of this greater economic growth is not being distributed. Moreover, wages in finance and insurance have grown 62% while wages in hospitality have grown 3%.

“There is money being earned in this country but, increasingly, it isn’t being earned by us.” This is the central lament of this essay, and it’s a fair one. After all, neoliberalism and free trade are sold to the people as innovations that will increase the logistical efficiency of getting cheap goods and services to market. But it’s not worth saving $500 on a television if you also lose $15,000 in wages.

In an odd coincidence, the essay contains a reference to Luddites, in the context of people who opposed technological advancement on the basis that it destroyed labour opportunity, and who question the liberating potential of these advancements. Jonty Gillespie and the machine cultists in The Verity Key refer to people as Luddites if they’re not interested in going deep enough into a virtual environment to forget the outside world.

Despite representing working-class sentiments more faithfully than Morgan Godfery managed in his opening effort, the middle-class social justice warrior influence does shine through at some points in Townsend’s essay, such as when he laments that “Misogynistic workplaces” and “sexist bosses” are responsible for the dearth of female truckies and wharfies. One suspects that some of Townsend’s acquaintances would happily have a proportion of men castrated if such was considered necessary to “solve the gender gap”.

Like many in the left of today, biological explanations for gender differences are avoided with superstitious fervour.

The youthful idealism also shines through when he argues for a universal basic income.

No matter how good the arguments for a universal basic income are, we have never had one before and there are good reasons for this. Townsend possesses an eerie certitude about the idea that a universal basic income would lead to a sharp increase in the quality of life, and, although there’s good reason to agree with him, raising the spectre of people dropping out of society to move to Takaka and smoke bongs might not sell it to a Middle New Zealand that just put the National Party in power for nine years.

Townsend takes this idealism so far as to insist that the factories, machines and raw materials should be returned to the collective. He pre-empts the obvious criticism by acknowledging that historians don’t have much time for Communism, but he waves it away by saying “I suspect they just haven’t noticed it done well.”

Despite this, he makes a good point when he mentions that sovereign wealth funds could serve as the capital owners of a range of national assets or robot workfleets, and from there a universal basic income might become possible.

In summary, this essay mixes some good points with a terrifyingly nonchalant self-righteous belief in the primacy of Marxist ideas. It’s probably fair to consider this a piece inspired by youthful idealism, despite the intelligent points occasionally raised.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand II

This reading carries on from here.

The second essay in The Interregnum is called ‘Speech and Silence in the Public Sphere’ by Andrew Dean. It recounts the story of the abuse copped by Eleanor Catton in the wake of her criticism of the direction the county was taking in 2015, and how this is indicative of deteriorating levels of public discourse.

Although most of the essay is devoted to quoting Philip Catton, which makes one wonder why Professor Catton didn’t write the essay himself, it aptly summarises the state of the cultural wars in New Zealand and in the West. The narrative of neoliberalism is triumphant; its victims are marginalised because their suffering goes against this narrative.

I was in Philip Catton’s History of Science class at the University of Canterbury in the year 2000. It’s curious to think about what the professor teaching that class 100 years from now will say about our time, and about the quality of our public discourse. Dean is right: our public discourse has degenerated to a shameful level, even as the Internet has theoretically made it easier than ever to share science, knowledge and truth.

Catton and Dean both have a point when they say that inequality has made the level of discourse more degenerate. The greater the inequality in a society, the more criticism of it is dismissed as “whinging” by those at the top and their lackeys in the mainstream media. Furthermore, the greater the inequality the more society becomes stratified into subgroups that speak their own dialect, so that it becomes difficult to communicate between different positions on the hierarchy.

The worse any one group of people is doing, the less their voices fit the neoliberal narrative that “Everything is better than ever, so spend spend spend!” And so, the more their voices are silenced by a mainstream media that is beholden to the same capitalist interests who support neoliberalism.

Dean refers to the same pattern that Dan McGlashan calls the “general disenfranchisement rule” in the demographic analysis Understanding New Zealand. It’s a feedback loop in which increasing inequality causes the people in the lower socioeconomic demographics to lose faith in the belief that the system represents them at all, which leads to a decreased turnout rate in elections, which leads to a system that represents them even less, leading to a further decreased rate and so on.

He also mentions the effect that neoliberalism had has on the discourse at our universities. Instead of acting as the conscience of the nation, our universities have to compete for students in order to get funding, which means that they have to present a certain image. In the case of New Zealand universities, which get a lot of international students from Asia, it is almost impossible to have a public discussion about the need for cannabis law reform.

All in all, this essay is pleasingly accurate and concise, and ends by pointing out that not only it is necessary to point out the failings of neoliberalism it is also getting harder to do because of the silencing of dissenting voices to the mainstream narrative.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand I

The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand is a small book of essays that is for sale at the Volume bookstore in Nelson, by Bridget Williams Books. The blurb on the back asks the question of whether New Zealand’s political settlement is beginning to fray, and purports to “interrogate” the future from a youth perspective.

The first essay, by editor Morgan Godfery, is called “The Voices of A New Generation” and opens by relating an anti-TPPA demonstration in Auckland. It breathlessly describes the excitement of thousands of diverse people coming together to oppose the signing of the multilateral trade agreement.

Reading this piece, something about it speaks to the lack of purpose that the young generation now has. The fight against apartheid seemed meaningful at the time; it seemed a great evil was being fought. A law that says that a large section of the population are second-class humans, for no other reason than skin colour, seems like the sort of arbitrary and cruel treatment that everyone should be against.

But can the same be said of international trade? Who really understands it well enough to decide? And so what if “trade agreements are signed”?

By the fourth page of this essay there is already a Marx quote, which bodes poorly. The reader gets the sentiment that the new voice here is going to be an echo of the same social justice warriors seen overseas. If not, why oppose something as vague and nebulous as the TPPA, instead of protesting about poor wages, poor housing, poor mental health outcomes?

The essay finds its feet when it hones in on the real enemy: neoliberalism. Godfery mentions the damage done to the national psyche by the Mother of All Budgets, and it feels like he speaks for many when he says that the children condemned to poverty by Richardson’s Budget are now adults, some of us with our own children.

But again, this speaks to the confusion in the New Zealand Left. What to make of the fact that the signing of the TPPA was protested under a National Government, with many prominent Labour supporters in attendance, and then the Labour Government went and signed it anyway? No-one knows yet if Labour will get criticised for their evident support of neoliberalism, or whether people will let it pass.

This introductory essay declares that the book is for those who have “a fierce desire to radically reshape politics.” It proposes that instead of focusing on “returns on investment”, that we return to a politics of “higher principles and values”.

This is all very well, but the question that strikes one is: whose higher principles and values? Because usually when the working class votes for people promising to govern by higher principles, it turns out that those principles only apply to a chosen few groups, and if you’re not one of them then you’re “privileged” (“privileged” means “untermensch” in social justice speak”.

We can see this now with Jacinda Ardern’s decision to give Manus Island “refugees” her highest priority, while saying nothing about the Kiwis suffering from the illegal status of medicinal cannabis. Unfortunately for medicinal cannabis users, official victim status has so far eluded them, and so they continue to be ignored.

Concluding with half a dozen mentions of the word “love”, this essay promises that the book will make for interesting reading for the sake of political philosophy. However, it’s not possible to believe that a book that opens by quoting several Marxists could be entirely trustworthy or honest, even if it is earnest.

It remains to see what these higher principles are.

VJMP Reads: Anders Breivik’s Manifesto XVII (End and Summary)

This reading is the final one in this section, and completes our reading of 2083: A Declaration of European Independence. It carries on from here.

This final section of the document (pages 1414-end) is mostly given over to a diary-style account that Breivik wrote when he was planning his operation. It describes in detail his thoughts leading up to the event and the caution he took in order to go undetected until the final moment.

It reads eerily because of a combination of a few things, especially the ordinariness of the vast majority of Breivik’s thoughts when contrasted with the murderous intent and fanatical devotion with which his deed was planned. Hannah Arendt’s comment about “the banality of evil” comes frequently to mind.

Most of the concerns and anxieties that he describes here are simply everyday concerns. One passage about the tediousness of email farming could have been written by any non-violent person, and another passage about Breivik being forced to overcome his fear of spiders might even be endearing if the reader hadn’t already gone through 1,450 pages of justification for shooting teenagers.

This section is actually capable of being self-consciously dark and comical, such as when Breivik is describing the difficulties he initially encountered trying to buy black market firearms in Prague, when his typically Norwegian frankness brought instant paranoia to the criminals he was trying to do business with.

All in all, it’s things like this that make this document so unsettling. Breivik is clearly capable of sophisticated humour and was apparently able to make friends and socialise without anyone realising what he was planning. With his references to social competition and a great future ambition he seems unbelievably normal – most of the friends he references have serious girlfriends and/or professional jobs.

This is a common sentiment for people who have known serial killers and the like, and were astonished by how normal they seemed. After all, Breivik killed over 70 people, which is more than other infamous killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. So it’s reasonable that many people would be surprised and astonished when they saw on the news that someone they knew and considered normal did such a thing.

A question about gun control is raised in this section. If Breivik purchased a semi-automatic rifle legally under stringent Norwegian gun control laws, and still managed to kill more people in one incident than has ever been managed by an American terrorist in the entire duration of that country and its long love affair with firearms, then what’s really going on?

At one point, Breivik relates a discussion with a Marxist friend at a party, where Breivik asks: “Don’t you consider yourself to be a hypocrite considering the fact that you support mass Muslims immigration and at the same time refuse to actually live with them?” It’s a question that many young Western people have asked themselves of the middle-class left.

If a person would start to read this manifesto with a certain idea in their head about Breivik being a neo-Nazi and Nazis being simple but emotional people, they would get a completely different idea by the finish. Breivik is genuine when he claims to despise Nazis, for the reason that Nazis would soon get rid of people like him, a “cultural conservative” who considers Israel a brother nation.

Breivik is not a Nazi, and neither is he a thug. There are grammatical errors characteristic of a native Scandinavian speaker throughout the text, but at the same time there are few people who would be capable of compiling a mostly coherent 1,500 page document in a foreign language.

Also striking is the fact that Breivik made over $1 million over the course of five year through a variety of entrepreneurial schemes that would have taken good intelligence and great personal drive and commitment to complete.

This paints a picture of Breivik as a member of the class elite in many ways. He was physically, financially, socially and intellectually (to say he was ‘mentally’ healthy would be pushing it) in excellent shape.

Perhaps here the signs of his downfall can be first observed – in one passage he describes himself as someone with “basically the perfect body”, and at no point in this document does he express an appreciation of or reverence for any other person, apart from vague historical figures.

Also telling is the fact that no romantic engagement with a woman is ever mentioned. Breivik mentions partying with Norwegian friends and their girlfriends, but at no point does he mention a girlfriend himself, a desire for a girlfriend, or getting laid (beyond the need to breed children to counter Muslim rates of breeding). It’s possible that his narcissism made him lonely on account of making him intolerable to women.

When all the signs are put together, Breivik is clearly a monstrous narcissist, which is perhaps from where he got the willpower to reject the socially accepted history and modes of thinking and arrive at an intelligent and accurate conclusion.

It’s perhaps also possible that being one of the few people in his social circles to appreciate the iron-cast logic of Muslims eventually becoming a majority in some European countries if current trends continue, Breivik suffered from a profound sense of alienation and isolation. It’s an extremely difficult experience to be the one person who can see the truth while the masses rip you down for speaking it. This may have caused him to become bitter, resentful and vengeful.

In the final analysis, it’s more than possible to put aside the narcissism and the murders and to consider Breivik’s unusual perspective on its own merits. Dismissing this document on the grounds that a murderous narcissist wanted it read is to fall victim to precisely the kind of logic dismantled in the document itself. It would represent the intellectual cowardice that gives rise to someone like Breivik in the first place.

After all, Breivik’s political complaints are entirely reasonable, even if his conclusions are not. The real danger is that people with entirely reasonable conservative beliefs are radicalised into violence on account of the utter refusal of the left to engage with them civilly in favour of adopting “Punch a Nazi” style thuggery. A refusal to honestly talk will lead to violence, so any leftist with an honest sense of duty to keep peace and good order in society has to at least consider this question.

*

This is the end of this segment of VJMP Reads. Now we have put to the readers on our FaceBook page the question of which book to read next.

VJMP Reads: Anders Breivik’s Manifesto XVI

This reading carries on from here.

In this section (pages 1294-1413), Breivik describes what he predicts will happen when a European civil war kicks off, sometime around 2070 A.D. Chillingly, he is clear about his belief that democracy has already failed. He points out that if Europe is to remain a democracy then it is already lost, because demography has already gone so far as to shift the power into Muslim hands.

After all, if Muslims become a numerical majority anywhere then it is no longer a matter of fighting – they will be able to simply vote any aspect of Islamic culture into law. It is a curious fact of the modern public discourse that few commentators are willing to speak about what will happen if current demographic trends continue, even though the historical example of Lebanon has been clearly described by many, not just Breivik.

A particularly odd paranoid streak, common in European nationalists, comes through in this section when Breivik lists the crimes of the American Empire. This list is not as exhaustive as his list of the crimes of Islam, but it emphasises a point that is not easy for people in the New World to understand: namely, that the idea of “The West” is a New World concept and European nationalists are quite happy thinking of Europe by itself as a self-sufficient system.

Interestingly, here Breivik puts a precise monetary value on his willingness to get rid of Muslims. He states that, when the inevitable deportations begin, every Muslim will be offered 1kg of solid gold to voluntarily go away. $15 billion Euros to get rid of a population of 1 million is a fine exchange in his mind.

The plans for a cultural conservative revolution here are comprehensive. Breivik writes about the need to reform education so that children are taught that Islam is a hate ideology on par with Nazism. Re-educated is the preferred method for dealing with Marxists, unless of course they are “Category A, B or C traitors”.

Again underlining Breivik’s inability to understand irony, he writes “Crusading is not just a right, but a duty according to Canon Law,” which is precisely the mentality that he is accusing Islam of and which he uses to justify his action. Much like the jihadists he excoriates, Breivik claims that “in the context” of the Islamic invasion of Europe, any action could be considered self-defence, echoing Osama Bin Laden’s justification for the 9/11 bombings.

This section then takes a rather bizarre turn, with a series of cut-and-pastes on religious themes such as the ability of the Christian cross to act as a unifying symbol for all Europeans, how the Lord demands that his followers be warriors, and a fire and brimstone laden spiel about the hell that awaits atheists after death.

Here Breivik mentions explicitly that he considers himself a warrior of Christ and that if he is killed in action he expects to get into the Christian heaven as a martyr.

This section finishes with a c.50 page “interview” with himself, in which Breivik responds to anticipated criticism. Here he again expresses his disdain for Nazism, calling it a “hate ideology” and saying that he could expect the Nazis to turn on conservatives like him as soon as the Marxists were dealt with.

Breivik makes a very compelling argument here. The Marxists claim to oppose Nazism on the grounds that declaring a person to be subhuman and then treating them as such is grossly immoral, yet anyone who doesn’t agree with the Marxist doctrine on every point, no matter how evidently ludicrous and self-defeating, is themselves treated as subhuman. Already the Austrian Government is putting elderly ladies in prison for the utterly preposterous non-crime of “Holocaust denial”.

It’s hard not to appreciate the accuracy of this criticism of the Left’s behaviour.

VJMP Reads: Anders Breivik’s Manifesto XV

This reading carries on from here.

In this section (pages 1235-1290), Breivik turns to the question of how to consolidate and organise European conservative groups. This is mostly to be achieved through the promulgation of what Breivik calls the “Vienna School” of ideology, so named because it was in Vienna where the last great expression of a European will to not be ruled by Islam took place.

For Anglo readers, some of Breivik’s philosophy will appear very curious. Some of this originality is a consequence of being European, such as his desire to resist “excessive US cultural influence”. He also believes in the idea of partitioning South Africa in two countries, with one for the Europeans. These sentiments he shares with many other European thinkers, not all of whom are right-wing.

Fundamentally, as is repeatedly emphasised, Breivik is looking for space away from what he considers hate ideologies. These hate ideologies are all as bad as each other in Breivik’s mind, and he claims to oppose any such ideology based on hate: “A multiculturalist is just as bad as a Nazi, which again is just as bad as a true Muslim, a communist or a fascist.”

The four most prevalent hate ideologies in the modern world, against which all nationalists and patriots much stand, are according to Breivik:

1. National Socialism (anti-Jewish hate ideology, racist in nature).
2. Islam (anti-Kafr hate ideology, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists etc).
3. Communism (anti-individualism, anti-freedom).
4. Multiculturalism (anti-European hate ideology, anti-white racism).

Sometimes Breivik’s argumentation is so reasonable that one is forced to consider whether or not he may have become demented after composing this document. For instance, he correctly points out that it isn’t a good or honourable idea to fight the hate of multiculturalism with the hate of Nazism, and one ought to strive to find an ideology without hate. He also points out that young people should not be considered “lost causes” just because the media labels them racists, a level of tolerance severely at odds with his infamous actions.

Much of this section is taken up with talk about the “seven fronts” of peaceful activism, which involve ways of promoting a cultural conservative message and resisting the hate ideologies of Communism and Multiculturalism while acting within the law at all times, and how people in these fronts must officially deny support for the “eighth front” of armed resistance.

Breivik gives a sense of having left no stone unturned when he writes at length about the reality of time in prison for anyone really interested in being a member of the eighth front. How to conduct oneself in prison in order to undermine Islam is discussed at length.

The most interesting thing to take away from this section is the question Breivik raises when he talks about the need for reasonable cultural conservative movements. He makes the claim that multiculturalists have sown the seeds for their own downfall by making moderate cultural conservatism impossible, because this has driven a large number of impressionable young people into the embrace of hate ideologies like Nazism.

This might be the aspect of Breivik’s philosophy that people will have the most difficulty understanding. He has the historical understanding to foresee a counter-reaction to leftism, and he knows that the greater the excesses of one age, the greater the excesses of the counter-reaction. So he is a voice of moderation in a very real way, somehow managing to be a centrist on the paranoid and aggressive axis.

Interestingly, however, Breivik puts the responsibility of creating this reasonable cultural conservative movement on his readers. He argues that any unwillingness to do so will inevitably result in impressionable youth having their social needs met by more insidious movements.