Spoiler alert; Colonisation in Crocs

Let’s play spot the difference;

What’s going on in New Zealand this week? General freaking out about Peter Thiel buying New Zealand citizenship, that’s what. This brand new Kiwi is now the proud owner of a humble pile in Wanaka, apparently hedging his bets against a global, US centric clusterfuck.

Bolt-holes in New Zealand are the latest asset of the uber wealthy, or so we’re told. Don’t worry about being forced out of your country though, like other peaceable, desirable countries with WIFI and vegetables, NZ has an Overseas Investment Office (OIO). It ensures that only the most criminal of oligarchs can purchase state significant land.

So why didn’t Thiel go down this route? Well, as we all know, waiting for approvals on multi-million dollar purchases is so tedious. Sometimes it takes literally months. Luckily there’s another option. You can simply buy New Zealand citizenship, and then purchase whatever land you want! Just like in the olden days. Cos let’s face it, New Zealand citizenship has been a tidy export earner since The New Zealand Company*. Add to cart!

It’s not like Thiel, who is a US citizen, hasn’t bought little bits Pacific islands before. He recently purchased a home on Maui. He’s in good company, his friend Mark Zuckerberg also bought a hugely expensive estate on Maui. In a magazine article (that now seems to have disappeared) locals described Zuckerberg’s attempts to muscle out his neighbours, some of whom are indigenous owners. Zuckerberg started off by offering his neighbours inordinate amounts of money for their land. In the case of the indigenous owners, he got a few representatives to sell him pieces of land. Trouble is, indigenous title is famously complex – it doesn’t always mesh with Western capitalist version of land tenure. While some ‘owners’ took the money, others argued that it wasn’t really theirs to sell. Some people simply didn’t want to leave the place they’d called home for generations. For those who quibbled about the process, Zuckerberg’s lawyers applied force. This is called negotiation between unequal actors. Or, to use its older term, Treaty.

This is just another form of blockbusting – a co-ordinated attempt to reach a tipping point in a neighbourhood. YOU might dig your heels in and stay but everyone else has buggered off. You’re no longer among friends. But hey, if you need a job as a gardener….

It’s not that Zuckerberg or Thiel behaved illegally in Hawaii. After all, they’re simply participating in the real estate market, a market underpinned by the legitimate structures of US government. The same government that turned up about about a hundred years ago and put those structures in place, by legitimately negotiating with the indigenous Hawaiians to cede their sovereignty and accept a US system of private property and governance ….Kidding! Phew, that was getting awkward…

Seriously though, these uber wealthies seem to be doing something relatively unremarkable on Maui; using their wealth to reach a tipping point in the property market, the point at which those who’re left behind choose the carrot (take the money) instead of the stick (community dislocation and/or expensive lawsuit). Simply put, the peasants move on. Forget capital flight!  Deficit flight is where it’s at!

Johnny Moore’s article suggests that Thiel’s New Zealand property venture will be more exciting than his foray into the Hawaiian market. He describes oligarchs on the run, their children kidnapped, houses burnt to the ground. In this age of global connectedness, he argues, the only real bolt-hole is on the moon.

I think this is alarmist. The consequences he suggests are violent and also illegal. You can bet that Mr Thiel won’t be waiting a year for police to turn up at his place when someone sets fire to his woodpile. Not all NZ citizens are equal. ( I also found the casual discussion about kidnapping children bloody terrifying – I think others would too).

What’s more likely, I think, is people like Thiel will engage in a form of hyper-gentrification, a market distortion where one bolt-hole turns into a series of enclave economies. Ordinary New Zealanders will resent being made to feel like second class citizens, but hey, we’ve seen this movie before. See; New Zealand Company. Who’s dispossessed now?

 

*For those playing at home…The New Zealand Company sold parcels of land to British citizens who then sailed all the way to the other side of the world to set up house, only to discover someone else was already mowing the lawn.

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Again

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No no, don’t get up.

It’s hovering around 40c again. I’ve got something to say about America, but I can’t make it come out, so this more of a stream of consciousness. If only it was enough to keep my zucchinis alive. But they’re foreign too, so it’s curtains for them!

What? She’s gone mad. It’s the heat.

I’m reading Paul Theroux, specifically, the Patagonian Express. Published in 1979 it’s a bloody interesting insight into the American expansionism of the era. Take, for instance, Theroux’s visit to Panama. The Panama canal zone, in case you didn’t know, was more or less a US colony. The deal was; we Americans will run the canal, the ex-Columbians and Panamanians can just kind of hang out and NOT BE COMMUNISTS.

But you see in the face of rapacious extraction and the looming control of international predatory lenders, South Americans in general started to get the feeling that they were being generally destabilised in order for the US to continue its interests. They also had quaint ideas about running their own countries. Sovereignty means not everyone gets a crack at doing a shit job.

What’s particularly interesting is that Theroux gives an everyday account of Panama, including discussions about Panama’s leader, Omar Torrijos. He wasn’t a communist, he was more like what we would today recognise as a centrist – he believed in social welfare and education. Most importantly, however, he represented the majority of people in Panama, instead of the small cabal of American interests.

Theroux left Panama, and I wondered how the transition panned out. So I looked it up. Torrijos died in a plane crash. And Noriega took over. You see I remember Noriega (child of the 80s) but not Torrijos. So that was interesting to me.

Now, coming back to 2017….because I live in a left wing bubble, I’m perpetually surrounded by earnest social media posts that sound something like this;

I’m compelled to speak up with love and respect about the harms that this blah blah has done and this is not the America I know and love, the place that welcomes everyone and we love everyone and this is a time for strength not division etc., etc.,

It’s worth remembering that this isn’t the America that many non-Americans know. They know a posturing, illiberal super-power, one that is admired and feared, exploited for its economy and reviled for the interventionism that feeds it. In short, there are a lot of people in the world who have a mixed view of the US. It’s not the one that pops up underneath an artfully composed flat-lay on instagram.

Theroux talked frankly about Americans lack of awareness of their place in the world and the shenanigans carried out by their government. I think this is perhaps more true now than it was in 1979. The political sphere seems entirely domestic. Americans are protesting about American women’s rights, American muslim’s rights, American LGBT rights, African American rights, American workers rights. And well they should. I’m just surprised at the domestic focus I suppose…

Maybe I’m must engaging in that thing where I claim to be more righteous than everyone else, because I’ve got some interest in global history. But I don’t think this is it. I think politics is a cultural thing, and I generally think most people want to do what they think is the right thing to do. It’s the juxtaposition between the ‘soft’ domestic politics and the ‘hard’ bundling people into diplomatic bags politics that intrigues me.

See, I told you this wouldn’t make a lot of sense. See what you can do in 40 degree heat.

 

My left wing media bubble

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I had a feeling this was coming…

I think it was when my left wing media bubble told me that Trump is a sexist misogynist, and that was the most important thing to know about him. The final days of the campaign even helpfully presented the choice in cartoon form;

Trump; Rapist, bigot, racist etc.,

Clinton; used private email server.

Ho ho ho.

My left wing media bubble even infiltrated Trump rallies, producing nuanced ethnographies of how ‘nice’ and polite his supporters were. I learned that Trump’s baseball cap sits on his head in a gently amusing way. His supporters are generously built, and often wear clothing from the nineties in an un-ironic fashion. It is these unwitting dupes who’re engaging in the ‘post-truth’ future.

My left wing media bubble told me that it’s not their fault they conflate T.V infotainment with reality. It told me to feel sorry for them, wallowing in their half-arsed, endlessly reproducing simulacrum.

It didn’t mention the other side of the ‘post-truth’ future – the inescapable conclusion that all sides might be full of shit. Trump was positioned as an inveterate liar but he lied in an honest way. Clinton represents a government of impenetrable sophistry that results in things like the lack of prudential legislation that lead to the sub prime mortgage clusterfuck, or tap water you can’t drink.

The US government has presided over an ever increasing polarisation of wealth and opportunity. Attempts to claw back some sense of dignity for those ‘at the bottom’ are personalised and denigrated as welfare. My media bubble might think we’re in a post-truth world, but there’s a truth that people live every day.

It’s the one where 18 year olds go into the army because it’s the only job they can get, only to come home broken and forgotten. It’s the one where ordinary people pull their own teeth out, or work three jobs and still live below the poverty line. And it’s not just really poor people either. It’s the lack of wages growth for the upper working class, or the general discomfort over America’s intervention in….exactly what in Syria? It’s the people who hear that free trade means they can buy cheaper goods, but still worry they won’t have a home to put them in. It’s the people for whom the government is far less relevant than their church.

They are well aware who will bear the pain of austerity or structural adjustment or whatever you want to call it. They are unmoved by claims that Trump is a sexist, racist bigot*, because, guess what? They’ve been subject to sexism, racism and misogyny this whole time! America might have its first black president, but he’s been there for two terms and guess who’s still getting shot by police? Statistics show that black and Latino voters predominantly voted Clinton, but they also show that many eligible voters simply didn’t vote at all.

Clinton also made a mistake in treating her campaign as a holiday length episode of Oprah’s Book club. Her campaign mobilised the idea women should vote based on little more than the fact that Trump is a smutty pervert, as if all women are primarily concerned with their pussies. And by the way, America has had smutty presidents before. At least this one is honest about it.

She also told everyone, at length, how hard she’d advocated for some of America’s most vulnerable, which just reminded everyone that the most vulnerable still need to be continually advocated for. She also failed to address very real questions about her government’s role in Syria, circulating rumours and stories about arms deals and a fraught relationship with Russia. But you know, hands off my pussy!!

Oh sure, here in Australia we’re all poking the borax at the US for voting in an overgrown oompah loompah. Ho ho ho. But it was easy to see. Clinton represented the establishment.

*He obviously is a racist, sexist bigot, which actually is pretty uncool.

You’ve been profiled

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Apparently, this is how to deal with racist, sexist and homophobic talk in the classroom. And it probably is – my insights into possible classroom management strategies begin and end with a lollies and/or a Taser. This chap Greg seems like he’s on the money. 

What’s more interesting to me is how this article ended up in my facebook feed. It was recommended by a friend, sure, but so are many other articles I read. This one however comprises a growing body of similar articles about the management of bad interpersonal behaviour appearing in my feed. I’m told that racist and sexist talk is on the rise, and, miraculously, so is the number of personal accounts of it appearing on my facebook feed. 

I’m also told, by way of framing, that this kind of behaviour is on the rise because of Trump (and/or Brexit). The idea that Trump is causing an increase in sexist, racist behaviour is stated as a given. In response to this new Trump-caused permissiveness, many women are submitting accounts of (especially) sexist treatment and abuse. Most of these accounts however, happened well before Trump scaled the greasy pole. So whar is driving this new, ‘I got groped’ internet trend?

It’s framing. Trump has become an easy catalyst for what is probably a long overdue bloodletting about groping. Why? Because it characterises him as a scumbag, on terms that almost everyone can access. No-one likes to feel impugned or assaulted, but everyone has an opinion on constitutes the experience.

Dig deep, women, think hard about all those times you’ve been assaulted. Now connect them with Trump.

On these terms, Trump is irrefutably a scumbag, an orange kernel of hatred, seeding abhorrent social injustice amongst ordinary Americans. Oh sure, I’m also told that Trump mobilises and capitalises upon the economic anxieties of predominantly white, poor people. These anxieties however are not demonstrated through personal testimonies that appear on my facebook feed. They are outside the frame of reference. 

I have no strong inclination towards either candidate, but I’m not prepared to believe that the appearance of Trump has unleashed a national, spittle-flecked descent into entitled pervery. I think, by and large, that people were probably just as racist, sexist and badly behaved as before. What’s changed is that white, middle class women have been told to feel insulted. That’s new to them. Black women are welcoming them in and handing out trail maps*. Being insulted by something simple like sexist behaviour now comes with a clear, personal connection to a candidate. In terms of marketing, it’s low hanging fruit.  

Overall, I think this is a classic example of framing and facebook tailoring my feed. It doesn’t really matter to me, as I get most of my information about the US election elsewhere. So, facebook, if you’re listening; 

 

 

 

*Not necessarily because they experience more sexual harassment, but because they definitely have, and continue to experience racial harassment.

It’s OK to say ‘cunt’.

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‘I was shocked by his words. And it looked like this.’

I learned something today;  There’s a right way and a wrong way to object to someone referring to women’s ‘pussies’.

Man, am I glad I tuned in to the ABC this morning.

Apparently, the statement; “I don’t want anyone to talk about my daughter or mother as pussies”, is something that men say to defend the honour of women. It suggests ownership – that (in this case) Trump is somehow sullying a possession that isn’t his. This is the equivalent of a man saying; it’s MY pussy, not yours!  Back off!

In case you’re wondering, the correct way to deal with challenging pussy situations is to demand that women be spoken to with respect because they are women, not because they are the putative possession of a man.

Less clear is what to do if you already happen to be a  woman, but still object to the idea of your mother or daughter being called a pussy. Feminism’s removed that particular protest – see above. It’s only for men, cos you know, they own us.

This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yeah, I get that men have a proprietary relationship with women in western culture. It exists, to greater or lesser degrees. But I don’t really think attacking men for defending women automatically suggests patriarchal ownership, no more so than any other exchange or utterance they might make about women.

And as far as Trump is concerned I think claiming his disrespect as something uniquely targeted at women comes straight out of the Hilary playbook. It’s just her PR machine getting the 17th estate (click-bait vox-pop feminism) to call Trump a tumescent fool.

Here’s the thing; this isn’t news. Donald Trump’s disrespect isn’t limited to women. He’s an arsehole to minorities, poor people, Mexicans – in fact, unless you’re a white, super-hot wanna be model with a penchant for friendship bracelets and vampire movies, he pretty much hates you.

The idea that Trump thinks poorly of women shouldn’t come as a shock. The only women he allows himself to be seen in company of are poorly upholstered sex toys. He obviously thinks this makes him look like a powerful man (rather than a desperate pervert rubbing himself in the Judy Blume section of the public library). This should tell us everything we need to know. Quite some time ago.

So why do I have to listen to three thirty-somethings on the ABC, earnestly squirming through a ‘respectful’ conversation about Trump’s misogyny?

Maybe I’m getting old, but I’m growing increasingly tired of this brand of manufactured squabbling within feminism.  It damages the cause in two ways. First, it detracts attention from more important debates we need to have about gender roles in modern life. I want to talk about work, and money and household labour and children and reproductive rights and childcare and children’s rights. These are all important feminist issues.

But it also has a more insidious effect; this kind of nit-picking destabilises and alienates those who would otherwise be engaged in this discussion. Men and women are cagey about engaging in feminist conversations for fear of falling foul of an increasingly rarified elite set of cultural mores. Self-censorship floats on top of a bubbling brew of resentment and dissent.

So as a feminist woman, I’m going to say a few things;

It’s OK for you to use the word cunt. I won’t get mortally offended if you assume I’m ‘just a mother’ or assume I don’t pay tax or can’t back a trailer. If we’re in a meeting I’ll make you a coffee but only if I’m making one for myself (I’m also a lazy feminist).I will take your sexism in good faith – I won’t automatically assume you’re being an arsehole on purpose. Of course, if you talk to me like an extremely sexist, boorish old man (this happens from time to time) I’ll make fun of you in a cruel and unfair way. (This also happens).