Thursday, January 29, 2015

Eleanor Catton's views are tediously predictable

There has been a great deal of comment here in New Zealand about Mann-Booker Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton's comments to an Indian literary festival. No country likes its prominent citizens being disloyal and New Zealanders seem to be particularly sensitive about this sort of thing. Personally, I think it is a bit of a storm in teacup and I have to say I agree with some of her comments, particularly the bit about the strange belief New Zealanders had (at least up until recent years) that their writers were less great than writers from Britain and America. I suppose the only part of her comments that is disappointing to me is her statement about the current middle-of-the-road John Key-led government being "neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture."

Anyone who regularly reads my blog will know that I am no fan or defender of the Key Government and it is not that Catton is criticising the government that disappoints me. It is rather that her left-wing views are so damned predictable. Writers, actors, musicians and others in the so-called creative sector are tediously conformist in their politics and, in my view, invariably hypocritical and disingenuous. I can only interpret Catton's comment about the government not caring about culture as meaning it does not care enough about her cultural output to bestow large sums of money on her personally.

Actually, there are a few exceptions to the tedious political conformity of the entertainment sector and one that comes to mind is British singer Adele. Her comments several years ago on high taxes and the National Health Service were a breath of fresh air. Likewise, James Blunt's recent response to a senior British Labour MP's comments about Blunt's 'privileged background' were brilliantly apt. I am sure there are many more singers, writers and actors who don't share the left-wing faith of many of their peers. It is a pity more of them don't have the courage to say come out publicly and say so. Certainly, there is nothing brave in Eleanor Catton spouting her entirely predictable, run-of-the-mill, bien pensant views.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Welcome to Reality, Lefties

I've been slow to start my blog posts for 2015, in part because I have been enjoying a wonderful New Zealand summer holiday with a large number of international family and friends, and partly because I felt that any further comment on the only topic worth writing about - the Islamic terror attacks in Paris - was redundant in view of the screeds that have been written on that subject already. But over the weekend a second, less dramatic but not unrelated international news report got me thinking. That second event was the massive drop in the value of the Euro against the Swiss Franc, occasioned by the decision of the Swiss central bank to stop propping up the Euro through massive buying of the common currency. Now what, you might wonder, do these two events have in common? The answer is that they are both massive reality checks for, and repudiation of, the conventional left-wing viewpoint of world affairs.

For years the political left-wing has been promoting the idea of cultural relativism, that is the view that there is social, scientific, economic or moral equivalence between all cultures. This view says that Western, liberal, democratic, capitalist societies are not in any way better than the most primitive, brutal and oppressive societies. Alongside cultural relativism, the left-wing also favours the notion of group identity, that is that we should not be judged as individuals but rather as a member of a culture, be it race, sex, religion or whatever group they (i.e. those doing the judging) choose to identify us with. Identity politics demarcates us into favoured and unfavoured groups, usually determined by our supposed victimhood. Therefore, African-Americans are favoured because they were once slaves and are still arguably the subject of some discrimination, while European-Americans are unfavoured because they aren't identified as victims (various European genocides notwithstanding). Likewise, women are good, men bad; gays are good, 'straights' bad; and, in the latest cause du jour, Muslims are good, Christians bad.

I'm sure you can already see a contradiction between these two ideas that are held as articles of faith by the left-wing. If there is equivalence between all cultures then how can it make sense to judge people on the basis of their culture?

The shootings in Paris, as dreadful as they were, couldn't have presented the contradictions of left-wing dogma better than if they had been staged to do so. In the Charlie Hebdo shootings, a group of left-wing journalists (the high priests of their social justice religion) were shot for exercising their right to satirize Islam. Cultural relativism came face-to-face with identity group politics and it was amusing (no, actually appalling) watching the contortions of politicians such as Barack Obama and Francois Hollande as they tried to steer a line between condemning the attacks whilst avoiding assigning any blame to the religion with which the perpetrators identified. If there was any doubt about the explicit aims of those responsible, it was removed in the second attack on a Jewish grocery store, a shocking in-your-face repudiation of all the weasel words about the Charlie Hebdo attack that had issued from Western politicians.

Which brings me to the collapse of the value of the Euro against the Swiss Franc. The political left-wing and economists who sympathise with their aims believe in the boundless benevolent power of the state when it comes to economic matters. They believe they can magic money out of thin air, so long as that money is used for government spending that is directed towards 'worthy' consumption. Of course, history teaches us that states cannot just print money without it eventually debasing the value of the currency (i.e. causing inflation). The European Union and the United States have both been making new money in huge quantities to fund their profligate spending. They have got away with it to date because, like the emperor's minions, everyone has turned a blind eye to their monetary nakedness. In the case of the Europeans, the Swiss had agreed to support this economic farce by pretending the Euro continued to maintain its value against their franc. What the Swiss National Bank did last week was to abandon the pretence and the Euro went down by more than 30% in a day. The Swiss did what they did for a very obvious reason - they couldn't afford to keep buying Euros to maintain its value (Switzerland's reserves of Euros amounted to the equivalent of 70% of its GDP prior to the fall). What has just happened to the Euro is a demonstration of what is going to happen to the US Dollar once the world realises that its value is also built on pretence.

Maggie Thatcher is credited with saying that the facts of life are conservative. What she meant is that that sooner or later reality destroys left-wing illusions. You can't pretend every culture is equal and then be surprised when one of those cultures throws out the rule book and destroys everything that you value like free speech. And you can't be surprised when you magic billions of dollars out of thin air and then your currency collapses in value. Welcome to reality, lefties.