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On The Public Sector Carnage, And Misogyny As Terrorism

It’s a simple deal. We pay taxes in order to finance the social services we want and need. The carnage now occurring across the public sector though, is breaking that contract. Over 3,000 jobs have been lost so far. Many are in crucial areas like Education where the impact of losing support staff is either going to fall back on teachers, or result in crucial things being done poorly by the overworked survivors at the Ministry. Similarly, Oranga Tamariki is set to lose nearly 10% of its staff. While OT has problems, a reduction on this scale can only make things worse.

These public service cuts are being enacted without the coalition government having a clue (or visible concern) about what the impact will be. The prior promise to go through this stuff “ line by line” has gone out the window. Scientific research and climate change knowledge is also being cut – 90 jobs gone at NIWA, 270 jobs gone at Conservation. Some of the dumbest people in politics are dumbing down the country.

The NZ Herald is keeping a running tally of the public sector job losses and where the cuts are occurring. So is RNZ. To repeat the obvious: these job cuts are ideological in nature. They are occurring (a) in order to reduce the role of government, (b) to open up monetising opportunities for the private sector, and (c) to abolish outreach programmes formerly targeted at Māori communities, which is the real aim behind the jargon about getting back to “core” (i.e.white) functions.

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Most of all, the job cuts will finance National’s tax cuts election bribe. Those cuts and the tax handout to landlords will significantly reduce state revenue at a time when the need for public service provision is increasing, within a growing, ageing population. Weirdly, the coalition parties regard any spending carried out (or services provided) after 2017 as being frivolous and unnecessary – as if the country should be frozen in time at the point where we were seven

years ago.

As the axe falls on those losing their jobs, spare a thought for the people left behind. Reduced numbers of staff will have to cope with the damage and mountainous workloads that these cuts will leave in their wake. A public service stretched ever mote thinly is going to have fewer funds available to do more, in the face of rising public expectations.

Footnote: One should also mention the harm that the sudden loss of over 3,000 public service jobs will do to Wellington’s struggling retail economy. Firms will struggle, as the economic impact of sharply reduced spending power ripples outwards across the private sector as well. Private sector jobs are going to be lost, well beyond the baristas. I can’t understand why the Retailers Association and the Wellington Chamber of Commerce aren’t up in arms about the government’s mindless attack on the interests of their members. Isn’t lobbying supposed to be what they do well?

Misogyny, Again

Is misogyny an ideology? It isn’t treated as one. This could be because it is so woven into the fabric of society (the culture, the economy, the arts) as to be virtually invisible. Occasionally though, there are giveaways. The knife attack in Sydney by a 16 year old boy on an ultra conservative cleric was immedtaiely labelled by Police as an act of terrorism.

In sharp contrast, and even though Joel Cuachi deliberately singled out women in his Bondi shopping mall attacks, Queensland Police assistant commissioner Roger Lowe remained agnostic:

“There is still, to this point no information we have received, no evidence we have recovered, no intelligence that we have gathered that would suggest that this was driven by any particular motivation, ideology or otherwise.”

Duh. That’s the pattern. As the Aussie website Crikey pointed out this week, crimes against women get treated as personal crimes, and not as a public

threat driven by religious, political or ideological beliefs. Its a weird distinction and not one being made by the perpetrators. Online, their misogynistic rants commonly sit right alongside their anti-Islamiic and anti-Semiitic diatribes and screeds hostile to immigrants and indigenous communities alike.

When violent acts erupt against those communities, only the ones against women are exempted from being treated as terrorism. Thgis is despite the fact that part of the definition of terrorism ( in say our Terrorism Suppression Act) includes the intenttion to “intimidate” the target population. It doesn’t seem to matter that the rampages by ‘involuntarily celibate” Elliot Rodger, and the Alek Minassian copycat crimes were accompanied by quasi-political manifestos justifying their anger at women in general, for not wanting to have sex with them.

That’s a problem. Wthin popular culture, women are commonly portrayed as sexually available, and masculine conquest is valorised. Society shouldn’t be shocked when some men act in accord with those ingrained beliefs. In Joel Cauchi’s case, one statement by his father Andrew Cauchi suggested that in part at least, his son had incel motivations :

“He wanted a girlfriend and he has no social skills and he was frustrated out of his brain,” the attacker’s father Andrew Cauchi father said in comments reported by The Australian newspaper.

Cauchi’s full motivations may never be known. His complex history includes a 20 year battle with schizophrenia; there is evidence of his working as an escort; and some women he befriended have spoken positively of him. The reality remains that (a) Cauchi targeted women for murder and (b) his violent crimes against women are being attributed to mental illness i.e. they’re being psychologised, and not treated as a by-product of harmful social beliefs.

Perhaps if we did treat misogyny as an ideology – and regarded violence against women as terrorism - we would be better able to recognise the social origins and trigger points for this kind of violence.

Religion sucks, politically

Weird how the media accounts of the escalation of the Israel/Iran conflict have virtually ignored Israel’s bombing of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, which was the initial cause of the uptick in tension. Such gas been the lopsided coverage that now, Israel is getting away with contemplating its further right to attack Iran.

That said, relatively few people inside or outside Iran will be sympathising with the mullahs, such has been the regime’s loss of moral credibility, even among ordinary Iranians. Long ago, the most respected voice in Shia Islam – Ayatollah Ali Sistani – had warned the mullahs against assuming political power and turning the country into a theocracy. His reasoning being that this fusion of executive power and religious judgement would be likely to end up discrediting public support for religion.

Sistani was right. Surprisingly though, the same process seems to be playing out in America as well. Trumpism’s close alignment with American religious fundamentalism is turning people off religion. It is either actively driving them away from church, or convincing them that their prior decision to leave had been the right one. As Bloomberg News recently noted :

Trump is running for president as a divinely chosen champion of White Christians, promising to sanctify their grievances, destroy their perceived enemies, bolster their social status, and grant them the power to impose an anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ, White-centric Christian nationalism from coast to coast. That Trump doesn’t attend church and has obviously never read the book that he hawks for $59.99, seems of interest exclusively to his political opponents.

Between 2013 to 2023, the ratio of Americans saying that religion is the most important thing in their life - or is among the most important things – fell sharply from 72% to 53%. That’s a huge fall in only a decade. As the eminent sociologist and author Michael Emerson told Bloomberg: “The now-intimate tie between religion and a host of political and social positions, for many people, either drives them away from religion altogether, or leads them to distance


Samuel Perry, another author who has written extensively on the US religious right, summed things up like this:

“Younger, left-leaning, or moderate Americans who might have formerly identified as ‘Christians’ in decades past are growing up in a world where the most famous representative of conservative Christian values is Donald Trump. They’re saying, ‘No thanks...

Electorally, the sense of alienation from religion has been accelerated by women’s loss of their reproductive rights. The overturning of Roe v Wade by a Trump-created Supreme Court majority (and the extreme state laws against abortion now being pushed through Republican state legislatures by religious lobbyists) are very unpopular among mainstream American voters.

The outrage is giving Joe Biden his best chance of being re-elected in November. It also explains why Trump himself has been trying to portray himself as a moderate on abortion, at least until the day after Election Day.

Preachers, leeches, lechers

There are any number of good songs (and good films) about religious fakers. Back in 1928, when the blues as we now know them was still coming into being, the great Memphis singer Frank Stokes (of “ “How Long” fame) recorded this song about a no-good, cheating preacher who came around stealing watermelons and making a play for the singer’s wife, before finally getting his come-uppance:

Now when I first went over to Memphis Tennessee
I was crazy about the preachers as I could be
I went out on the front porch awalking about
Invite the preacher over to my house

He washed his face, he combed his head
And next thing he want to do was slip in my bed
I caught him by the head, man kicked him out the door

Don't allow no preacher at my house no more... Right now, many American voters are feeling exactly the same way. They don’t want preachers messing around with what happens in their beds.


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