[-empyre-] Debt Culture--types of debt

simon swht at clear.net.nz
Fri Nov 30 10:06:08 EST 2012

a couple of useless observations from NZ:

We occupied the registry building at Canterbury University in the early 
nineties over a bill which for the first time gave the government, 
through the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, a place in the 
decision-making process setting academic courses. The state via the 
media justified this manoeuvre as 'bringing down academic staff from 
their Ivory Tower' where they were 'out of touch' with the pragmatics of 
the economy since they'd been teaching skills which employers 'did not 
want and could not use.'

Milton Friedman-inspired thinking, called in NZ Rogernomics, preceded 
this political intervention, having been introduced by Labour, the 
traditional working-man's Party, in 1984. We the students, particularly 
those of us in the humanities - Michael Parenti had been on campus 
recently -, protested the political independence of the university in 
general, which this act was seen to impugn, as essential for a working 
democracy, as a critical bulwark, affirming the traditional critical 
role of the intelligentsia. And playing into the hands of the media who 
characterised this view as elitist. However I remember Jackie holding a 
placard that read, "Education - a right not a priviledge!"

What this highlights is a series of reversals in political polarity 
preceding the structural changes in the economics of higher education, 
which only completed and complicated and to a degree covered over these 
oscillations in political ideology. The most obvious switch in ideology 
along the way to free market immanence is that from neocon and neolib, 
as if the ideological struggle itself were already elsewhere than in, 
say, an election.

The other observation is more recent and more useless: attempting to 
establish an practice that was equal parts academic and artistic, in 
theatre, having its counterpoint in theory, I approached Creative New 
Zealand, the primary state 'funding body' - and erstwhile advocate - for 
the arts, to fund an initial 'project.' They were very happy to support 
an application, until informed there was an 'academic component' to the 
work. "CNZ does not fund art projects that have an academic component."

In fact, this complements very well CNZ's overarching strategy of 
minimising the cultural impact of the arts in NZ, lest they have one, it 
would be elitist so to presume, and lest they contribute to any kind of 
critical discourse in our working democracy. I say overarching because 
the Arts Council, no longer to be known as appointed to her Majesty, QE 
II (disappointed as well), has long conducted a political campaign - 
decades - of divide and rule in, over and against any competing artistic 
or cultural institution. CNZ now occupy the key position, theatres, for 
example, having long ago been lost to political divisiveness (again with 
a Left/Right, solar plexus, then undercut) completed by economic attrition.

My point over all is that a representative - of a working democracy - 
oscillation of ideology precedes the instauration of a sticky economic 
immanence on whose planes roam fascist jellyfish - social and cultural 
institutions - assimilating critique and losing none of their sting in 
the wrestling.


Simon Taylor


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