Guest post: It’s Winston Tailoring the Emperor’s New Clothes

The following is a guest post in response to Chris Trotter’s column, “Who will cry out that neoliberalism’s new clothes are invisible?” published in The Press on 18 July. 

Leading into the 2014 election Chris Trotter was feeling pretty optimistic, he even suggested National’s vote could slump to the low 40s and a Labour – Green bloc would therefore have a chance of clinching power.

He must have been polling in Mt Albert.

Fast Forward to 2017, and the ever adaptable Trotter has taken a more pragmatic approach, he’s channeling Winston Peters as man of the hour, someone willing to call ‘time’ on the experiment we refer to as ‘neoliberalism’.

So, Peters the revolutionary? Oh, Please.

What is true about Peters is that for decades he has been part of an enigmatic group of politicians around the world who ply their trade casting suspicion over society’s elites. In 1992, he became fed up with his place in the National Government and buggered off to start his own political party, calling it ‘New Zealand First’.

Under the auspices of Mr Peters, New Zealand First have constructed a political platform that resembles a ‘giant jenga’ of bicultural nationalism and blue rinse conservatism.

In contrast to the liberal order that arose and its claim to ‘empower’ individuals, Peters spoke about the faceless elites within it who he claimed were in fact ‘disempowering’ the nation. It is a form of politics that has struck a chord with a significant cross section of the voting public.

But from the mid 90s, Peters had started tailoring the first of his invisible ensembles, something he could drape over a newly empowered and marauding constituency. He accomplished this by promising many things to many people.  He promised the workers that he would ‘stop the clock’ on economic liberalisation, the elderly were promised that he would safeguard their retirement and Maori were promised an end to the National Government. He would also sing a tune that would resonate with all 3 groups, an end to the record numbers of Asian immigrants arriving in the country.

In New Zealand’s first MMP election he garnered 13.4% of the vote and every single Maori constituency. This brought him 16 MPs and more crucially, the balance of power.

It was in the period between 1996 and 1999 that Peters suffered his first public calling out.  After tailoring the imaginary threads of National’s demise in the ‘96 election, he made an about face and joined with them in coalition. And instead of providing the elderly with the financial security he promised, he severed the area between his spine and lower back and fought for a referendum on compulsory superannuation – a proposal that was bitterly rejected by voters.

By now, the facade of fine tapestry became clearer and the popularity of Peter’s party begun to plunge, as did National’s.  Shortly thereafter, a plucky Jenny Shipley rolled Jim Bolger out of a job and Peters knew it was time to abandon ship. But a small group of New Zealand First MPs, led by Tau Henare, broke away and continued to support the now Shipley-led National government.

Peters’ plan to flush away the Shipley government and save himself had backfired spectacularly.  When the 1999 election finally came around just about everyone linked to New Zealand First were bundled out.  Peters himself only clung on to his seat by only a few dozen votes.

But Peters was by no means a spent force.

The old yarn of a child finally calling out the Emperor for ‘not wearing anything at all’ should also present an opportunity for us to reflect on why we have such difficulty calling out politicians who offer us such little substance.

It is as if the ‘system’, this ghastly form of neoliberalism, has taken on a form of personification that absolves those who have spent decades governing within it, from taking any responsibility for its existence, or any meaningful action to replace it.

By 2002 Peters had bounced back, scooping up votes from a National Party that had plummeted to its lowest share of the vote in electoral history.  He still rallied against immigration from the sidelines but the Clark Government didn’t require his services until 2005.

Just as the first tranche of baby boomers started heading into retirement, Peters reentered government and produced a ‘senior card’. But seniors would have about much use swiping a Flybuys card, because the price of everything had started increasing at a rate not seen before.

Ironically, despite decades of isolationist rhetoric Peters traded in domestic policy for a post as Foreign Minister. And throughout his tenure the bi lateral trade agreements continued, the numbers of cashed up immigrants accelerated and the gaps between rich and poor widened.

By 2008 the public started to howl that the fine tailored ensemble they had been sold (again) was in fact ‘nothing at all’.

This time Peters and his mob were voted out entirely, albeit for only 3 years.

Peters emerged from the ashes in 2011 to lay claim as a guardian of democracy. Just as he had done decades earlier, he convinced the public that he was the man who could be trusted to keep those faceless elites in line, especially those who frequent otherwise innocuous looking Auckland cafes.

By 2014 he was so emboldened by the response to his campaign that he took his immigration stump speech to the oldies a bit further than he usually would. “Two wongs don’t make a white” said Peters, who made the news that night for being a racist dick.

Peters has spent longer in the New Zealand parliament than the time neoliberalism has dominated its politics and he has been part of 3 governments (Bolger, Bolger / Shipley, Clark) that were proponents of it.  Meanwhile, his go-to election issues have remained practically unchanged for the past 25 years, the only notable exception is that his party sometimes oscillates between pro Maori positions and others which are clearly antagonistic.

New Zealand First policies are just ‘common sense’, Peters will say.  And it is the promise of ‘common sense’ that leads a disillusioned public toward measuring up for his triennially regurgitated and largely evidence-free vision for the country.

It is as if every 3 years the Emperor’s subjects become inflicted by one of those memory cleansing devices you would find in a ‘Men in Black’ movie.

Now to the 2017 campaign and the mood for populist quasi-conservatism articulated by Peters is perhaps stronger throughout the world than it has ever been. Some political pundits are even suggesting that Peters could go as high as 20% of the party vote, virtually all of it coming at Labour’s expense.

The blue rinse constituency will tell you that a vote for Peters is a return to the nostalgia of better times. A time when New Zealand was supposedly prosperous, egalitarian and grounded in its bi-cultural underpinnings.

It’s actually just a vote for the Emperor’s new clothes.

Chris, the facade is not neoliberalism – just those who pretend to be doing something about it.


2 thoughts on “Guest post: It’s Winston Tailoring the Emperor’s New Clothes”


    The Matrix is invisible by intention. We are meant not to perceive it. If we cannot see it, we cannot question or challenge it.

    How do our Matrix Masters achieve this? By surrounding our cognitive thought process with impenetrable barriers. In our cognitive mind, all things must have a beginning and an end. Consequently there can be nothing before the beginning, and nothing after the end.

    This lends itself to a kind of universal atheism wherein life begins as a result of a meaningless and random cosmic fluke; and life ends with the same absence of meaning with which it began.

    From this perspective the human suffering of others has no meaning to the individual, whose sole purpose in being then becomes the gratification of personal needs with no regard to others.

    This total absence of compassion has been witnessed in the horror and carnage visited upon humankind by despots and dictators throughout history. From this perception the end- glorification of the egoic self- justifies the means- which often leads to the death of millions.

    It has recently come to light that 200 leaders and public figures have signed a document encouraging the elimination of 95% of the world’s population. I wonder how many of those persons are prepared to offer themselves as part of that 95%?

    It would appear that the Nazi code of genocide for inferior races, having lost the final battles of WW2, has somehow managed to win the war.

    Nothing is at it seems. Elections are brought forward to convince us that we are free to choose our leaders and our future. But why is it that our social order continues to disintegrate right before our eyes? Why is it that our present government, having just set upon us another $20 Billion in overseas debt in the past year, has the incredible guile to tell us that they are operating in surplus?

    If this is the best of all possible worlds, then they, of course, must also be the best of all possible governments. It comes as no surprise that the political narrative of every political party in New Zealand includes the assumption that income taxes are the best way to fund government. It also comes as no surprise that nearly everyone assumes that our money somehow comes from government.

    If government creates and issues our means of exchange, then why do they remove it via income taxes? This creates a conundrum in that one or the other of those fiercly held belief systems must give way to the other. For most persons unable to escape the confines of their own personal experience this creates an impossible challenge. The result is a form of cognitive dissonance whereby the question simply disappears. It falls outside the square of politically correct thinking. What is outside the square simply cannot exist.

    My brother Bill, a decorated and intelligent US Marine Colonel, once engaged me in a discussion of the causes and persons involved in the 9 11 tragedy. I presented indisputable evidence that the three buildings had been brought down by controlled demolition. Brother Bill, now deceased, refused to even look at the evidence; so convinced he was that his government would not sacrifice its own people to pursue its own empire building agenda.

    Nearly 50% of the American electorate continue to believe- in spite of all the indisputable evidence coming forth- that Hillary Clinton could not possibly be engaged in Satanism and pedophilia. Wikileaks has never been proven wrong; in spite of being called Fake News by the mainstream media. But who controls the mainstream media? Our Matrix Masters, of course. Believe anything on CNN at your peril.

    This all may be too much for you to take in. If it is, just keep taking the same pill, and doing the same thing, and saying the same thing that you have always been taking, doing and saying; and you will continue to get the same result.

    However, if you have the courage to confront and master your own inner demons, there is another pill, another way to ‘think’ that can take you out of your own mental box and place you as the master of your destiny, master of your emotions, and even master over life and death.

    This is the pathway of inner silence. Within the infinite silence- beyond the confines of thought- lays the pathway to all genius, insight, invention, meaning and purpose. This is the road to true enlightenment where all things appear as manifestations of a higher truth; where all things merge together as one consciousness; and where all things at their foundations can be seen as pure unconditional love.

    It is no mystery that enlightenment exposes the dark truths of political manipulation, debt slavery, and power of the few over the many. When the eyes are opened, all the hidden horrors around us are revealed. This may seem frightening at first, but when the doorway of enlightenment is opened, the truth will set you free- for all time.

    And so it is in the present New Zealand election. There is not one single party exposing income tax as the tool for enslavement that it is. Consequently, nothing will change as a result of this election. Our only real hope is that another political initiative will arise exposing the truth about the relationship between income taxes and the pervading un-repayable debt slavery drowning the masses.

    Society may be drowning but it is not too late for you to save yourself from the Matrix. One day, there will be many of us, and the truth will prevail.


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