vostoklake: (commie)
All right, so last night I had the strangest dream, but this isn't a State Insurance ad.

A political leader called a few hundred people together and announced "HOLY CRAP eco-catastrophe is getting out of control. The town where we live will be underwater in less than a week! Luckily, I have charted a new form of flying vessel that can get us all to our new home on safely elevated land in just a couple of hours."

So we were all lined up in the chilly cold night, hundreds of us, waiting to get into something that looked like a six-storey ambulance. (Don't laugh, this is how my subconscious works.) We were all squashed in very, very tight. I remember getting to the head of the queue, then climbing up a long metal ladder until I was just behind the cockpit.)

We took off, and the flight was amazing. It clearly wasn't along the ground, as the various twists and turns and 80-degree dips proved. We were actually flying. Through the air. To our new and better home...

... and then I found myself flying a paper aeroplane through a large cafeteria-like place, making "zoom zoom" noise. I stopped in front of the political leader, who said "well done". It turned out there was no eco-catastrophe, and no flying vessel, and we hadn't gone anywhere. He had just hypnotised us to think there was, to "make the danger of eco-catastrophe more real". And to encourage us to donate to his political cause.

So there was a party afterwards and I was talking to several people who said: "Oh well, that was fun while it lasted, and it certainly got us excited for the political work ahead."

"But he lied to us," I said.

"Well, it was in a good cause and we got excited!"

"Yes, but he LIED to us," I said.

"Hush! Someone might tell him you said that and you'll be in trouble."

And then a fight broke out among a bunch of crust-punks in the carpark, and I woke up.

I wonder who can riddle me the Secret Message of this dream.

vostoklake: (commie)
(hat-tip to John A. Lee for the title)

At the time when John Rees was losing a power struggle in the Socialist Workers Party (Britain) of which he'd been a central if not the central leader for more than a decade, and consequently quitting to start his own socialist party, with blackjack, and hookers, stories started being openly spoken of about a pattern of terrible behaviour on his part, going on for ages. (But isn't that always the way? Sometimes the only time a victim can kick their abuser is when they've lost a power struggle with someone else who's not necessarily any better. And then the New Boss uses the victim stories to justify the purge of the Old Boss. Witness the kangaroo trial of Bill Logan by the Sparts, 1979.)

So anyway, the brilliant if eccentric Irish-socialist-Catholic blogger Splintered Sunrise spoke of Comrade Rees thus:

I stick to my position that he’s basically a high-functioning sociopath, and would further point out his tremendous vanity, which explains the explosive reaction when (George) Galloway suggested he could do with someone to work alongside him. His ability to switch from being utterly charming when you’re of use to him, to petulant and spiteful if you get in his way, gives you some clues as to why he’s quite good at putting an alliance together, but a fucking liability if you want to keep one together. So his eventual defenestration shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
Emphasis added. Note also that one of Rees' biggest blunders was accepting a dodgy cheque from a Dubai construction firm, then he or his allies suggesting that people who complained about this were "submitting to the bourgeois legal system" and going on about Lenin taking gold from the Kaiser. In other words: it's okay if you're a revolutionary socialist. (There are also rumours about atrocious behaviour towards the women in his life, which I won't comment on because I'm far outside the loop on that issue.)

Anyway, The issue I want to discuss is "high-functioning sociopaths", or people of similar personality traits, who feel entitled to burn humans as fuel in their personal quest, either because they really think we're in wartime and the stakes of survival are so high that issues of decency no longer apply, or because that's just the way they roll. I am in particular thinking of a prominent figure on the NZ radical left who used to be in the same organisation as me. A man of quite massive political talents - once described as "one of the top 10 agitators on the whole planet". This guy could start a picket line in an empty room.

This was also the man who would invite me out drinking with him, and then turn into what can technically be described as a raging asshole, boorishly gatecrashing parties he hadn't been invited to. I remember once when I tried to stop him doing this, he fixed an unsteady gaze on me, and said with the deepest contempt: "I don't care about you." "Never thought you did," I muttered resignedly as I turned around and went home.

There was also the time this comrade let out a screaming tirade of abuse to me, in the car in which I had just given him a lift home, for "acting the victim" when I was complaining about a sharp "turn" in our organisation's tactics which made me feel stupid for having spent the last year or three doing precisely the opposite. Funnily enough, I spent the day miserable for having "provoked" him, and felt huge relief when meeting him later that evening, he didn't seem to remember the incident at all. 

Let me explain the thought patterns which went through my head: this man is a great revolutionary. You are weak and useless. Even though you try to be friendly and helpful, you're a social outcast. In contrast, this man is a drunken boor and yet he's incredibly popular and respected because he's so good at what he does. You don't have any rights to judge this man. Be quiet and maybe you'll be allowed to be in his presence some more.

Quite soon afterwards, this man went on a drunken rampage (at a party I'd left, so this is second-hand) and was reported to have acted violently towards both male and female comrades. Our leadership voted to suspend him from his position, a decision which he accepted. To his credit, this man no longer drinks and I have never heard of him behaving in a personally abusive way ever since.

(I should also notice, though, that another member of our leadership, who had been out of the country at the time, criticised us for "witchhunting", saying "this man has done more to bring women into the organisation than anyone else!" This is the kind of "ethics" as practiced by the Church of Scientology - L. Ron Hubbard said that a staff member who was doing great business could literally get away with murder, while someone whose stats were down wouldn't be allowed to sneeze without written permission.)

And yet ... this man is now the leader of a political organisation involving a number of leading comrades who - credible testimony suggests - have acted in atrocious ways towards women. The "internal" position of his organisation is apparently that these are politically motivated slanders; and they have acted to exclude comrades who didn't buy that explanation. It does not seem far-fetched to argue that this "soft-pedaling" of macho abusive behaviour may be related to the organisation's adventurist, confrontational, every-demo-is-The-Battle-Of-Wherever politics. I remember one conversation I had with this group's leader, who was amazed to hear that I wasn't a natural rebel, that I had spent my whole life trying to conform but failing. (Indeed, perhaps I only got into revolutionary politics looking for a new peer group to submit to.)

To be 100% clear - it should be obvious to everyone on the Auckland left, at least, whom I'm talking about. I am not actually accusing this person of being a sociopath. I still consider him a comrade and a valued acquaintance, if not a friend. But I am worried at the pattern of behaviour of his organisation; and I am extremely critical of myself for having taken so much shit because I thought that that was my place as "not as good an activist". This is not me trying to start a witchhunt - this is me, looking in horror at how many times I sold out my personal integrity because I wanted to be liked, I wanted to be good.

vostoklake: (emeter)
I could never understand those people who are "natural rebels" - whose instant response to being told to do something is to do the opposite. The way I survived my entire life was to do what I was told - in public, at least. I would never want to be bad where anyone else could see - punishment and disapproval was the worst thing that could happen. But I could gratify my desires in private, in hiding, in shame and self-hatred.

In his autobiography, Malcolm X said that the hardest part about becoming a Muslim was going down on his knees in prayer, after a lifetime showing everyone he couldn't be pushed around. That could never have been a problem for me. I would go down on my knees in front of Joe Stalin if I thought I could get personal advantage out of it. I've spent a lifetime learning to be a hypocrite and a people-pleaser, because it meant that "the real me" could continue to exist in an internal closet, unseen and unmolested.

Even into adulthood - and in my political activism - I let myself be pushed around and used by the kind of political operators who use keen, devoted young radicals as fuel for their personal schemes. I have so wanted to be good all my life, to find some arena where I could be the "teacher's pet" (or the priests', or the General Secretary's). This is why people join cults, of course. I've never been in a cult but I have ended up trading my personal integrity to dominant personalities, many a time, in return for a feeling that I was "being good".

The underlying theory behind this behaviour pattern is that I could only get what I wanted by the grace of some Big Parent figure who would reward me with all my secret desires, in return for obedience. I had a horrible childhood of wanting to be good but never managing it. Can you understand that? Wanting to be good but having something "bad" inside me which always sabotaged things.

Well, a lifetime of trying to be good so someone else would tell me that I was allowed to continue to exist hasn't worked. Perhaps I'm just going to have to own my own desires and be myself - even if it does mean that other people will despise and try to destroy me. Perhaps I could even learn to protect myself.

vostoklake: (commie)
Sad to see my leftist comrades screaming and ranting about the election results, as if they truly expected something better. Even worse to see the minority of them cursing the broad masses for being unenlightened, which is exactly the reason we have trouble getting through to the broad masses. Facts:

1) No Don Brash.

2) No National overall majority. Pro-government parties actually LOST seats. (National +2, ACT - 4, Maori - 1 = Government -3.) It should therefore be HARDER for the Smiling Assassin to get his policies through.

3) John Banks is at least in favour of the Auckland central city rail tunnel, the biggest "green jobs" project which is actually feasible under current circumstances.

4) No Don Brash. (I know I said this before, but it bears repeating.)

5) So called "people's parties" which sold out to neoliberalism (Labour, Maori) got a slapping.

6) A small handful of MPs now openly opposed to neoliberalism and in favour of a social democratic solution - Hone Harawira, Catherine Delahunty, perhaps a couple more Greens and even some Labour guy in the closet.

7) Labour's right to lead any alternative government shaken. Things go on like this, the leader of the opposition might be Metireia Turei next time. Or Winston Peters, but let's not go there.

8) Speaking of Winston, he's not on our side - he's an old-school anti-free-trade One Nation Tory - but he will troll the Government mercilessly, something that P. Goff couldn't do in his wildest dreams.

9) New Labour Party leader who might not be a turd.


I know that I'm now bursting with renewed energy to work with my comrades in Mana, the Greens, the broader socialist left and anyone with half a brain to start building an Ecosocialist political force in this country.
vostoklake: (commie)
The other week, I came to help out at a political street stall for the first time in ages. To my embarrassment, I was totally disabled by a full-blown panic attack - pulse pounding, hyperventilating, even difficult to open my eyes. The whole thing.

This didn't use to happen to me. I used to be able to happily stand behind a stall and hand out leaflets, even ask people to buy amateurishly but enthusiastically produced socialist newsletters. Sometimes they even said yes. So what went wrong?

extremely long and perhaps half-baked ponderings )

So, what am I left with? The strong conviction that - while anyone who doesn't attempt to fight for what is right at this point of planetary upheaval is pretty much a contributing factor to impending eco-social catastrophe - I am of no use to anyone in the struggle. That because of who I am, my particular strengths, weaknesses and background, I am unwanted by anyone or anything, except to the extent that I am prepared to offer myself as cheap or free labour for someone else's agenda.

Let's end by attempting to break out of the cycle of personalisation. Perhaps this isn't an issue for me, a question of my own personal weakness, of my own need to either "take a spoon of concrete and harden up" or simply admit my own uselessness to a struggle for a better world. Perhaps other people have similar experiences, and perhaps self-described groups of revolutionaries have to consider whom they might be excluding - to their detriment. On the other hand, perhaps I (as I am now) really am politically useless.
vostoklake: (commie)
Memes - or, to use Leninist terminology, "ideas which seize the masses" - are more powerful than any organisation. Actually, let's face it, all the most influential organisations are memes first and bureaucracies second - or, in the case of al-Qaeda, not an organisation at all, just a meme. Lawrence Miles foretold this in This Town Will Never Let Us Go.

There was at least one guy on Auckland's anti-Mubarak rally on Saturday wearing a V for Vendetta / Guy Fawkes / Anonymous mask. I wonder who wets themselves with insane glee more every time that happens - Alan Moore or the Wachowski siblings? (One could actually argue that the Wachowskis, what with two reasonably influential movies, have done more to bring revolutionary consciousness to the masses of the West than anyone outside of Noam Chomsky.)

And I remember when no-one but a tiny faction of internet nerds would have gotten the reference. But that's the point at which the memetic universe of the intarwebz - and thus the main noosphere of young people - are so far ahead of the language spoken by our rulers. Similarly, when young people in Malta spraypainted Pedobear onto a poster of the Pope, the mass media didn't get the reference. Similarly, so many "radical leftists" don't understand what Anonymous / Wikileaks / open source / the Pirate Party mean in terms of good honest Marxist categories such as "the forces of production overthrowing the relations of production" or "the self-organization of the advanced workers".

So anyway, I have been offered an opportunity to participate in a project that will combine radical-left politics with cutting edge cultural/memetic science, and even be relevant to my music - the kind of thing that I've been waiting for for a long time. When that goes live, consider it my return to active service as a political activist.
vostoklake: (commie)
One of the saddest things that has happened in this country for the last 25 years is the "touristification" of the national consciousness. We have made ourselves a country which grovels and capers so that rich foreigners will throw us money. I can't stand the NZ of docile waiters, bungie jump operators, and cheap labour for foreign films... I love the NZ of the #8 wire mentality, of Split Enz and Flying Nun, and yes, of "Bad Taste" and "Meet The Feebles". (And of course the material basis of that reality was a country with heavy import controls and huge state-funded Railways workshops and the like, where ingenuity was forced-fed on a very lack of resources and foreign investment.)

I can't stand the NZ where, on one hand, we're supposed to agonize over the fact that Australians make much more money than us; and, on the other hand, a foaming hysteria is building up against teachers, doctors, and yes, actors who actually want higher wages and better conditions and are trying, howsoever unsuccessfully, to fight for them. So that can only mean one thing - we must want working NZers to get poorer so that rich NZers can make more money. Like the Teabaggers in the USA, we are prepared to impoverish ourselves so that other people can live a fantasy life which we can then vicariously share.

Is your national pride and personal identity so freakin' dependent on living in a country which is some tourists' fantasy vision of Middle Earth? (Prof. Tolkien would be spinning, of course, because his fantasy world was designed to be quintessentially English and the Shire is actually Warwickshire/Oxfordshire, not freakin' Matamata.) In fact, that's what I have so many issues with tourists to this country. They come here for the scenery. They avoid the actual lived experience of the people - except in so far as we're serving them coffee, of course.

But I do not base my personal identity on living in a country where big-budget fantasy films (even very good ones, based on books I love) are made. Nor do I resent any group of workers, anywhere, anytime, trying their best to get a fair deal, although I might disagree with their tactics. I remember when I worked at a university during an industrial dispute, and students were actually talking about getting together fascist-style squads to bust our picket lines. Is there deep down an actual hatred of organised workers in this country? Why is it "jealousy" or "tall poppy syndrome" to be skeptical of how "Sir Peter" (or Terry Serepisos, for that matter) makes his money, but perfectly okay to unleash our negativity on groups of working people just trying to get a better deal?
vostoklake: (commie)
... that we should stop seeking to bury our values and instead explain and champion them. So... here goes.

Listen here, you guys out there: I ride an electric bike even though it's slow and inconvenient and sometimes tiring because I don't want to be responsible for burning fossil fuels. I deliberately run a low-budget, self-reliant musical operation because the mainstream music industry disgusts me. I'm working in indexing because I didn't want to fit in with the self-congratulatory culture of academia. I lead a low-budget, frugal lifestyle by choice, and I don't envy those Captain Creeps in their McMansions and bourgemobiles, I just want to stop them enjoying those things at the expense of the vast majority of the planet, and indeed the integrity of the ecosystem itself. My politics are simple - I want to help build an ecologically sustainable high-tech culture, where all citizens can contribute and participate (not just a smug, self-congratulatory elite), and we save resources by minimising waste, greed, violence and social exclusion.

YES I MAKE THINGS HARD FOR MYSELF. Because those are my values. And I think that if everyone adopted those values the world would be a kinder, nicer place. So I try - and fail, because I'm a human being - to live as an example of what is possible if you live in the Real World of Horrible Jobs but don't let yourself become a part of it.

And, yes, there's a tiny part of me which would love to "give up", to learn to schmooze, to create music or write books that would sell (by telling people the lies that they want to hear), to live in air-conditioned comfort and be able to buy everything and everyone I wanted to. Because, once again, I'm a human being. But I think the essence of being a human being is to know which is the winning side, and still to choose the other - to do things not because they're convenient or fun or easy, but because you've made a choice.
vostoklake: (commie)
My motivation for supporting the amalgamation of Auckland into a single political entity (although not for the undemocratic governance system that central government has forced upon it) is also the reason why 90% of the election advertising irritates the hell out of me. All these candidates yelling about "your local voice" or "dealing with local issues".

Screw local, is my chief remark. "Local", in objective fact, means "anywhere you can get to in half an hour". As most Aucklanders have cars, several thereof, and generally work on completely the other side of the region from where they live, "local" no longer means "as far as the local shops and back". If you live in Albany and work in Manukau, and spend your Friday nights getting drunk in Ponsonby, where is your "locality"?

In such a situation, the people of Avondale or Birkenhead trying to focus on their "patch" to the exclusion of the wider web of humanity in which they live, are going to be prone to the character fault of parochialism, leaning over into NIMBYism (the "not in my back yard" mentality) and an active contempt or hatred for other human beings who - like it or not - inhabit the same unified socio-economic web.

I am opposed to localism. I will be voting in this election on the sole issue of sustainable and useful public transport - so that my "locality" might be able to, in objective fact, expand past the limits of my bicycle and the existing web of badly-connected bus and train lines. I want to be able to feel as home in Oratia, Botany and Papakura as I do in Grey Lynn. Face facts, reactionaries, it already is "one city". The question is - whose city? Localism doesn't provide an answer to that one. A People's Republic of Auckland is feasible - an Independent State of Devonport (or an Otara Commune) aren't.
vostoklake: (commie)
One of the motivations for my decision to step out (temporarily?) of political activism is that the life of the radical political activist, in the current space-time juncture, is unremittingly negative. There are no significant "wins" for our side, where we are. At best, our activity turns terrible crushing defeats into mild, tolerable defeats - or we can vicariously "get off" in things that happen in exotic locales like Venezuela or Nepal. I can see why people sell out to liberal/reformist politics - because they win sometimes, in their own terms - whereas such as me can always see why no win which the current system allows can ever be "good enough". Even good radicals "emotionally piggyback" on liberal victories - even though I had absolutely no illusions that Barack Obama was going to be anything other than he has proved to be, I got drunk when he beat the crazy old guy and that snowbilly grifter.

But on the other hand, I'd rather be me than actual liberals who do have illusions that the extremely mild "centre-left wing of global capitalism" whom they elect will be anything different. I shake my head at the people who thought that the Obama presidency was going to turn all of America into San Francisco overnight. And I am actually scared by the people who blame it on his "lack of nerve" - i.e. the idea that he wants to be some kind of progressive superhero but is too "afraid" to just shove it down the throats of his political adversaries. Some guy even said that he wished that George W Bush was a liberal - in other words, we want our own mean, callous, emotionally blackmailing borderline sociopath who cows and intimidates his enemies! Such a narrative - that political victory is based on being "tougher" than "the other guy" - is what any Marxist would recognize as sheer voluntarism, and what any psychologist would see as a naïve fantasy wish-fulfilment attitude, as if politics were a TV cop show. (And when a strong leader on the left does arise - like the guy in my icon - the good liberals are always happy to believe the worst propaganda lies against him. Hugo Chávez does some dodgy deals with people like Putin and Ahmedinejad to get things done, and even intimidates his own side sometimes, but I thought you preferred that to the hands-clean constitutional scholar?)

Only class forces win the day, and the good liberals were more than happy to see the unions beaten and disintegrated (because working class people are sometimes prejudiced, not like us, you see?) And then the good liberals are amazed that the "good guys" don't win automatically, that you need organisation to win in politics, and Beautiful Souls who prefer their precious "individuality" and "thinking for themselves" never win unless their cause is bankrolled by some real serious class force. (You think Vaclav Havel got to be president of the Czech Republic by the force of his ideas? No, because the private capitalists who took over from the Stalinist bureaucracy wanted a figurehead who looked good on TV.) There is some possibility that professional middle-class forces could get organised and wield serious power - especially in the Internet era - but they're just not doing so. They're watching politics like any other spectator sport and bitching about why their team seems to have no "muscle". When they cheered on while that muscle was atomised in the 70's and 80's, of course.
vostoklake: (crazy)
“To you [...] we pledge our allegiance, our faithfulness and loyalty. We pledge to serve the cause that is in your heart and to finish that work. Success to you and success to those who help you - for God is with you.”

"I swear to you [...] loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to my superiors designated by you obedience to the death. So help me God."

One of the above is the Destiny Church oath, and one is the oath of the Waffen-SS.
vostoklake: (crazy)
...even ultra-conservative op-ed writers in Granny Herald have realised that "Bishop" Brian Tamaki's own personal mind-control cult is serious business.. On the other hand, cult leaders and dictators only break out the repressive apparatus and the loyalty oaths when their status is being threatened somehow, which indicates that there might be trouble in paradise.

And you rage and fume at the godless ones
Cause they don't understand how the company runs
And they think it's the money that you care about
You pretend to be offended when they figure it out
Tell me what kind of heaven do you think awaits
When your ass is too fat to fit the pearly gates?
It's like the eye of a needle and a limousine
Paradise is set aside for the less obscene
You only care for the power that the lucre brings
And you have no love for any living thing, save Mammon...