It is Wednesday and only a short blog post. I am also ailing with the flu and my head hurts. As I noted in Monday’s blog post – The conservative polity is fracturing – an opportunity for the Left (August 27, 2108) – Australia now has a new prime minister, the former Treasurer. His elevation has been celebrated as a victory for the ‘moderates’, given that his main contender, the guy who attempted the coup in the first place and succeeded in getting rid of the incumbent PM, was rather obviously extreme right in his views. Some are saying we have been saved by the fact that he didn’t succeed. But to call the new PM ‘moderate’ is to lose all sense of meaning to our language. He is a dangerous neoliberal ideologue who has inflicted untold pain on many people as he has made his way to the top.
Australia’s new PM
I have been interested in the question or concept of ‘neoliberal capitalism’ and its relationship to Christianity, and it is no surprise that many fundamental Christians turn out to pursue Gordon Gekko’s ‘Greed is Good’ approach.
This is one of my simmering research topics in addition to topics such as – how can a supporter of The Greens be a carnivore, given the massive relative damage to the environment that growing animal protein causes.
There is quite a literature on the first topic.
At the outset, I should confirm that this interest is not motivated by any religious beliefs I hold. I hold none!
It is more about how we become duped into doing the work for the ruling classes and use various smokescreens to justify or to give authority to that ‘devil’s work’.
A resort to the Bible (either testament) will not help much as that document is no riven with contradictions that one wonders how a unified doctrine could emerge from it.
So I could find paragraphs in either testament that supported any position one might want to take.
But my understanding of Christian thought and the Catechism would tell me that it is not very compatible with the fundamental precepts of neoliberalism, which, in part, is drawn from neoclassical economics.
Neoclassical economics is about individualism not collectives. Every person for themselves. All of us are assumed to be rational and pursuing our own self interest.
We are assumed to maximise all choices now and into the infinite future and if you turn out having unfortunate circumstances then you know who to blame – yourself.
The assumption is that if everyone is vehemently pursuing their own selfish endeavours then all of us will reach the apex of satisfaction.
That is what is taught in universities around the world.
There is a recognition of market failure – pollution etc – but that is usually the result of inadequately specified and enforced property rights.
David Harvey’s 2005 book – A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press) – highlights the way that neoliberalism has privileged ‘capital’ over labour by the broadening of the concept of the ‘market’ and the ‘labour process’, such that it spans all our social and cultural institutions.
All human activity becomes a market transaction.
I wrote about that in this blog post – Reclaiming our sense of collective and community – Part 1 (August 21, 2018).
We learn that at the global level, free trade, which compromise the rights of local communities, and IMF structural adjustment programs, which decimate local public welfare services become the norm.
They are poor because they are lazy or poorly governed (corrupt, profligate, etc).
At the domestic level, neoliberalism is about deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, cuts in public services, entrenched unemployment and a diminuition of workers rights and job security.
Taken together, this way of organising Society, has successfully transferred billions of national income to profits at the expense of wages in most nations.
It is also inherently anti-democratic because, while it claims to be about freedom, it has to suppress participation in the political process by the ‘many’ and give priority access to the ‘few’, because the outcomes of the policy regimes are detrimental to most of us in one way or another.
Governments must not ‘spend’ much unless it is in the course of socialising the losses of the capitalist firms. There is a massive hypocrisy which is suppressed by a media that is controlled by the same firms in one way or another.
The question then is why do Christians, particularly the more evangelical varieties, think they can rationalise this form of economic organisation with their Christian beliefs – about caring for the poor, taking care of the natural environment, and, rejecting all forms of wealth.
Neoliberalism is thus, in its concept and practice, the antithesis of what the Christian doctrine says.
Why then are these fundamentalist types often part of the vanguard of the neoliberal polity?
The answer probably lies in the way that neoliberalism has ‘framed’ Christianity, and this exploration forms part of my current research program, given how influential these religious right groups have become.
Groups like the world-wide (US-originated) Focus on the Family mount aggressive campaigns against a range of liberal social policies, and is one of many ‘anti-science’ lobby groups that push a neoliberal construction of Christianity.
It selectively uses the Bible and when that is not sufficient it makes stuff up.
It is just one step from the conception they promote to the economic dimensions of neoliberalism – it is all about free choice, individualism, and you get what you sow.
Caring for the poor morphs into what is known as – Prosperity theology – which bears no relation to the way in which, historically, the Christian movement has see itself.
God is good and makes those who serve in his name rich and if you remain poor then that was God’s will. Win-win for the top-end-of-town.
The Hillsong Church (part of the worldwide Assemblies of God) is a particularly odious organisation. It has deep pathways to the Liberal Party in Australia (the conservatives).
It attracts government grants (large), has been involved in sexual abuse, aggressively works for the Mercy Ministries (anti-abortion), is homophobic, and more.
Its leader, one Brian Houston published a book in 1999 entitled “You Need More Money” and Christians should strive to become ‘money magnets’.
After all, the “poverty mentality” that he associates with traditional Christian values, prevents people from “enjoying the blessings of God”.
So out with Mother Theresa and in with Gordon Gekko.
What has this got to do with Australia’s new Prime Minister?
Scott Morrison is a self-proclaimed Pentecostal Christian and when he entered Parliament in 2008 he praised Hillsong and its leaders for “great assistance”.
He claims that “My personal faith in Jesus Christ in not a political agenda”.
So what has been his political agenda?
1. Became Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in the conservative Abbott Government in September 2013 and launched “Operation Sovereign Borders” which was about stopping refugees from places where Australia had invaded (in part) coming to Australia to seek a better life.
The UNHCR indicated that his approach probably violated the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Refugee applicants were hijacked under his watch to Manus Island and Nauru and effectively imprisoned for life. Children have grown up in these sordid prisons that the Australian government created.
Several studies (when they can gain access) show the conditions are cruel and have generated a wave of mental illness among the detainees (including children).
Privatised security guards killed one refugee seeker in 2013 and injured more than 70 others. They were under Australia government care (under international law) but Morrison turned a blind eye.
In the wake he recorded a video message “for asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru in which he emphasised that they would never be coming to Australia” (Source).
This UK Guardian article (June 25, 2014) – Morrison: asylum seekers should go home or face ‘very, very long’ detention – contains access to the video.
It is a disgusting piece of media.
The guy claims he is driven by Jesus Christ yet he has been consistently accused of violating basic human rights.
2. From that gig, in moved on to become Minister for Social Services in December 2014 and set about cutting pensions for around 90,000 recipients.
3. Soon after (September 2015), he took over as Treasurer and in this role brought a lump of coal into Parliament, announcing “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you” and said that those who were pushing the renewables case had “an ideological, pathological fear of coal”.
He opposed same-sex marriage despite the overwhelming support for it within the Australian community.
As Treasurer he adopted an austerity mentality except when it came to handing out ridiculous tax cuts to the rich corporations. His 2015 fiscal statement (his first) impacted harshly on the poorer segments of Australian Society.
He was also dragged kicking and screaming by elements in the cross-bench to agree to the – Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry – which has unveiled corrupt and criminal behaviour that you can only dream about.
At the time he claimed that the push for the Royal Commission, despite a raft of evidence emerging of the deep corruption in the sector was “nothing more than crass populism seeking to undermine confidence in the banking and financial system, which is key to jobs and growth in this country”.
His most recent fiscal statement (May 2018) refused to increase the unemployment benefit despite all the evidence showing that this cohort is living well below the poverty line through no fault of their own (there are not enough jobs).
In August 2016, he called the unemployed and other income support recipients the “taxed nots” saying that:
There is a new divide – the taxed and the taxed-nots …
This speech was presented no long after data came out from the Australian Tax Office that around 33 per centr of large companies in Australia paid no tax!
So this is our new Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen. A servant of Jesus Christ and a disgusting individual to boot.
Going all Mod today …
I am ailing today and for some reason decided to go all Mod and dug out this gem to work with.
He said that the media amplify cultural shifts that challenge the existing consensus, which, in turn, just leads to a greater lack of orthodoxy.
Anyway, you closet mods out there, get your broad brimmed hats out, put on your blue corduroy jacket, stovepipe satin jeans, and flower shirt and rock along to this song from 1968 – the Road to Cairo (which was written by American songwriter David Ackles about Cairo, in the US State of Georgia).
The original album, which I purchased as a teenager, was a somewhat mix of free-form, jazz and pop with Brian Auger’s huge B3 Hammond pushing the sound. This is one of the most beautiful sounds in music.
His band The Trinity – had some exceptional musicians who were from a jazz background. They were pilloried when they made the move into more pop-oriented styles in the mid-to-late 1960s.
In much the same way as Bob Dylan was criticised when he hired Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (among others), strapped on a Fender Stratocaster and played an electric set at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965.
Anyway, here is the song:
The whole ‘Open’ album is available – HERE.
Oh, and I ride a BMW motorcycle, having sold my Vespa a long time ago!
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.