February 2021

Goodbye, Peter

                 My own songs awaked from that hour

 our families were very close

                 You know his voice

 but you think of him saying other people’s words

                  and you think of pronunciation

 when words are words. I have kept embers of that time

                  Have asked the wind to blow on them.

 Not in Wellington. Surprise, his eyebrows almost shot out of his head

                  to find me with my own beard.

                              I was a child who said surprising things

 which he saw through. Perhaps the wind will not come,

                   the voice is gone. I was not so golden

 in his regard. He laughed. Had a pipe. The time, the Whole

                   Earth Catalogue and Little Red Schoolbook,

 of cultural answers to political questions, was rather beginning

                   than drawing to a close. And the pipe had to go.

 Not the pipes. But certain words. Socialism. Egalitarian society.

                   Socialist utopia. I heard him say too soon to say

 in the brief gold sunrise before, presage to the coming age, when

                   If we speak kiwi, if we do, then, she’ll be right.

                               But I would stay up precociously late

 to hear, bear out the heaviness, of any argument again, about

                  the human element, its burden to government,

                               when we cast our vote by machine,

 when we do. Again have my first glass of cherry brandy, hear

                  on your headphones Switched-On Bach and

                              and hear, His mind is blowing!

 Who is here to see through me if I should presume to say he was

                   an actor unlike any other I knew and how he

                              was, he was my father’s friend, how

 like no other, again, you hear the voice and not the words,

                    what are words? not the song, and if I

                              pronounce he spoke with his fragility

 and his intelligence, how should I presume? without gesture, without

                     face, with the presence of his body.

                              Seat, self-

 aware, and self directed, as my father knew,

                      knew him, vulnerable seat, of his working mind.

                              His angles graceful

 elegant songs. A photo of him like this, in State of the Play

                      resting his elbows, on the side of the stage,

                              the classroom. So the older writer I knew him as,

 awaked my own songs at that hour. With an irony

                      hurt by its own distance

                              by laughter overcoming it. And I have at home

 A Choice of Whitman’s Verse, ten years after their wedding, I

                       remember. That day, Farm Road.

                              And in it, written in the front cover, is

 Simon. and a choice for a young poet, with

                       regards from Peter & Sue V.J,

                              christmas 1980. I don’t know how they

 thought of me. Did they consider the first line for Peter

                        of this song would be from there?

                              Consider at that time I was reading

 Jean-Paul Sartre, I awaked precociously late

                        with only embers, hoping for the wind

                              which changes direction frequently

 on these islands, to the hour of the gifts they gave,

                        in that generous brief and golden sunrise.

 That I was not golden in his regard. You see how he saw

                         through me? to my youth, a child of Whitman’s

                              who stayed young for you and sings

 and shares, with that poet forever youthful, his birthday.

                         At Rotoiti, we liked to pronounce it, aping the

                              accent of the well-to-dos, as leak,

 Another photo. This time, taken by Peter. I am on the jetty.

                        My younger brother is there beside me.

                              News of his birth came

 when I was in the bath at Peter and Sue’s. My parents’

                        game, If you had other parents who

                              would they be? So there I was.

 In Peter’s black-and-white photo I had freckles, a soft brim

                         hat, old clothes, a trenchcoat and belt,

                              gumboots. With perhaps no intelligence

 at all, but thoughtful, and no intelligence of what,

                         I am looking into the grain of the photo,

 the water and the mist, it is agreed that

                         it is of Christopher Robin, so it is.

 So it is Christopher Robin

                         who says,

                              Goodbye, Peter.













 [for Peter Vere-Jones,

  21 October 1939 – 26 January 2021,

  by Simon Taylor, 14 February 2021]
 

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day 285 – 295 dears protect me. And: Who is … ? or Hooton hears a hayek

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works of subversion, of critical subversion, of the dominant digital culture, works critically subverting, for the minority interested in such things, the domination of digital culture, as clever as they are, sometimes ingenious, remain as clever and ingenious as the objects of their critique, they remain as a paean to human ingenuity, forgetful of the other species who lack that ingenuity, but, still, who underwrite the ongoing survival of this clever ape

We have no confidence in this attempt at the man in full.

— email from Christopher Hitchens’s widow and agent to all who would act in complicity with his biographer, Stephen Phillips or the publisher of the proposed bio, W.W. Norton

Who is … ? or Hooton hears a hayek

Matthew Hooton, a PR consultant1, writing the Politics column for the NZ Herald of 5 February 2021 (PR–with the bloody beating heart of politics in its hands), warns that the Climate Change Commission’s advice to government, if followed, would make 1984’s reforms seem like kid’s stuff. He says the report, prepared under the chair of Rod Carr–the Rogernome in question–“combines the chilling indifference of the most swivel-eyed 1980s Rogernome with the absolute certainty in analytic ability of the hardest-line Soviet apparatchik.”

Rod Carr himself shown in the photo beside the column looks more like Tolstoy in his muzhik phase than any apparatchik–that or a Roger-Gnome. But the language is striking in its evocation of another era altogether.

carr, with symbolism

“Give Carr,” Hooton writes, “a ready-made ideology, whether written by Friedrich Hayek or Arne Naess, and he undoubtedly has the intellectual capacity to drive it to its logical end.” While the intelligence is not doubted, the wisdom is. “[Simon] Upton,” Hooton continues, “now Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has always displayed similar fervour, making the same transition from free-market radical to deep-green mandarin.” This is a striking observation, about mandarins … but it has nothing to do with Arne Naess’s whose deep ecology cannot be called an ideology, and whose injunctions on public debate I am here breaking–avoid tendentious quoting, he says. Avoid tendentious use of straw men.

It has everything to do with Hayek, as a lot does since the war, except the war. It has not least to do with the era in which he propounded his thesis.

this is hayek

Apart from sounding the alert about the dangers of communism (“Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion”)–like Henny Penny (the sky actually was falling)–Hayek wrote: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men [sic] how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” (The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, 1988) He also said that if socialists studied economics they would not be socialists. Or deep-green mandarins.

Hooton writes the “commission says bluntly that some businesses will need to be closed, but says the benefits of climate action must be shared across society, and for the costs not to fall unfairly on certain groups of people.” I’m not sure what he means, and suspect a meddlesome sub. But then he goes on, and this is the Hayekian bit:

“To achieve this [sharing both costs and benefits of climate action equally?], [the commission] says we must consider the connectivity between “the material and non-material”, between “the people, the land, the atmosphere and the oceans” and indeed “the connectedness of all things, including the past, present and future”. It claims to have in fact taken all this into account when setting budgets for each gas and advice for each industry.2

“No human mind can do this, as understood by everyone but fanatics.”

I think that bears repetition: No human mind can do this, as understood by everyone but fanatics.

But what about a deep-green mandarin who has the intellectual capacity to drive a ready-made ideology to its logical end?

Hooton recommends that Carr move back to his “old belief in using prices to gather information and markets to make decisions.” This is despite the Letter from the Chair, the Carr-seat, stating on page 3 of the report, “As a country we should use only our fair share of the remaining global carbon budget,” and despite budgets referred to throughout the report being not financial but carbon. So that a market does seem to be at issue, one where carbon–and its emission in the form of gases–is monetised in order that price information can be used by that market to make decisions.

Hooton signs off with, “The Soviet economics he seems to have adopted…” this is Rod Carr he’s talking about “…more recently…” seems to have adopted more recently, or, more recently “…has a record unparalleled in history…” ? “…not just of causing unnecessary disruption and incalculable costs…” incalculable! “…but of delivering everything but what the policy-maker intended. There’s only 37 working days to tell him so.”

Only 37 working days to work up a parallel history to show that the record of these Soviet economics Carr–he’s only chair of the Commission mind you–has more recently adopted, or, these that more recently have a record of producing everything but what the policy-maker intended–the report contains only advice not policy mind you–and of causing disruption that is unnecessary, probably because it involves action on climate, the costs of which are incalculable, despite the best efforts of the report to calculate them.

But only fanatics could! Only the fanatical would attempt to! No human mind could do so.

However, and this is the clincher for Hayek’s thinking, what no human mind can do, except the fanatical, the market can, using the mechanism of price to gain information. And this is in fact exactly what the Climate Change Report proposes. With the rider that the auction reserve and cost containment reserve price triggers in the NZ ETS need to be higher and that the price corridor they signal should be sufficiently wide, precisely, to allow price discovery by the market to occur and to factor in inflation to prevent the price levels from eroding in real terms.3

The belief underlying the Climate Change Commission’s Report on climate change is in its quantifiability in keeping with current economic thinking. The problem is seen as one belonging to the carbon economy. This is the economy that trades in carbon stock, storage and the reductions of its release into the atmosphere quite apart from any deleterious effects it may have there. When the sky is actually falling.

The report and the advice it contains refuses the political courage that in a time of plague protected NZ from its worst effects in favour of an economics in mitigation of those effects.

This leaves open the question of what is driving Hooton’s attack on Carr, which offers the grotesque spectacle of an Hayekian using Hayek to attack an Hayekian. How many Hayeks could an Hayekian Hayek if an Hayekian could Hayek Hayek? As understood by everyone except fanatics, no human mind can do what a market can.

Meanwhile, in a parallel history in the multifactualmediawurst, advertising himself on Twttter and weighing in at a healthy midbeard length, seemingly unaware of Hooton’s PR pro bono work for Carr, in the same newspaper the day after, Simon Wilson plays down the red scare Hooton hacks up.

…”the most shocking thing about the CCC report is that it isn’t very shocking. … The proposals seem, somehow, obvious.” (Saturday 6 February 2021, Weekend Herald)

Wilson concedes they will be lifechanging. But he is fearless, looking down the barrel of a “mere 1 per cent per year hit on GDP”. It’s like it’s a barrel of fun–“a mountain of new economic opportunities”–and Carr is a barrel of monkeys.

But, scarily, “lurking between the lines on those 188 pages”, and likely what has stirred the Hooton from its hole, “the hope that we’ll do it using good democratic processes.” Like cheese. I suppose.

carr with cheese

Carr ends the interview thumping on his tub so hard Wilson can’t decipher the words, having, perhaps, got beardlash from Carr. “And then it was over.” Wilson writes. “He walked off into the bright sunshine, a little skip in his step. Let the debate commence.

“Read the report. Submit on the report.”

Or just submit.

  1. “The eloquent, sometimes angry, dependably provocative commentator from the free-market right of politics. The bête noire of very many on the other side [sic]. The founder and owner of Exceltium, a political PR firm, a role which his detractors contend should disqualify him from …” – for who Hooton is see here
  2. The oddity of a budget for “each gas” has sort of been addressed earlier in the article, having to do with “emissions reductions” in the Commission’s report, itself a grammatical oddity, since it is not a question of the reduction of emissions such as the addition of an apostrophe would express, as in emissions’ reductions.
  3. The relevant passage is taken with minor alterations from page 131 of the report. NZ ETS–New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme–is a carbon market towards decarbonisation (a favourite word of the report), that is, turning a negative to positive account, for the sake of measurement, by price, that is monetisation. But this magical trick is not without the consequence that the new positive will then obediently go back to being a negative.

, it is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds …

, email us with your favourite historical lovers.

— from Auckland Art Gallery’s newsletter promoting Ammonite.

and now to end with the very quite music of Lotte Laserstein’s Abend Über Potsdam (Evening Over Potsdam), 1928:

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Hi this is rit. days 283 – 284.

Hi, this is Jenny. I am sending you my intimate photos as I promised.

From: rit 
Subject: I promised.

The amazing thing about Vernon Subutex is that it precisely predicts the past. It predicts that it will be made into a television series and it was!

It is almost as if its producer did not read through to the end of volume 3. The end is the end for Despentes’s trilogy–as it is the end for any novel: to be turned into a tv series.

…some bits I like–interspersed with the intimate photos as I promised:

Gradually, he came to the realisation that the world is full of people with fantastical beliefs who, on first meeting, may seem completely sane. The enigma that is Vernon gives them free licence to express their bizarre nature. This is how, between the salad and the cheese course, someone can end up telling him about their privileged connection with the vibrations of macrocrystalline quartz. The country is full of fanatics convinced that the dead walk among us, that invisible creatures gambol through the forests and that by exposing oneself to the right sound waves you can restore your magnetic field … Give them an opportunity to expound their theories, and you can find yourself going down some very strange paths. [Like, for the fact of everyone having this opportunity, this one–that leads to the future.]

— Virginie Despentes, Vernon Subutex 3, Trans. Frank Wynne, (London, UK: Maclehose Press, 2020), 15-16.

[Charles: …] and the old bastard would reveal a surprising knowledge of politics, an unexpectedly analytical mind, and a tenderness, wounded but very much alive, for what the future might hold for humanity.

[Véro:] She was whiny and manipulative like a lot of alcoholics late in their career. But she had the same ability to briefly lift the curtain, offering a glimpse of that same intelligence, marked by flashes that illuminated vast swathes of reality before the curtain fell again, as though hurting what was luminous within her was a matter for survival.

— Ibid., 59.

[when it boils down to it we are] all on the side of right. All we really care about is legitimising violence. It must be in a noble cause. Because we’re happy to have blood on our hands as long as we have a clear conscience. That’s the only difference between the sociopath and the militant–the sociopath doesn’t give a shit about being on the side of the just. He kills without the foreplay, without wasting time turning his victim into a monster. Militants, on the other hand, do it by the book: first the propaganda, and only afterwards the massacre.

— Ibid., 124.

It is a very particular group of individuals who have nothing in common and yet instinctively manage to speak as one. … it’s not impossible that one day he will say to his daughter: we created new possibilities. New openings. They are viable. We created a place where you can live differently. [and Peter Pàl Pelbart would say: yes, that’s because you created a plane of consistency. As he said about Minus Theatre.]

— Ibid., 129.

Terror has slipped inside their bodies like a puppeteer’s hand.

— Ibid., 194.

He often thinks of an article he read about dogs. “Learnt Helplessness”. You lock dogs in a cage and you slam them against the floor. Pretty soon, the dogs stop trying to get out to ward off the shock. Or to bite. They just lie on the ground and take it.

— Ibid., 205.

He had that delicate politeness of people who know that evil truly exists.

— Ibid., 293.

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