I want to write about ….

I want to write about how we cannot afford poverty, how stupid it is, how it degrades our economy and our spirit.

I want to write about the trends in our New Zealand economy to a power-crazed, corporatist, extractive, one-dollar-one-vote destruction of democracy; the destruction of local enterprise and family owned farms – and why those targets of the corporate agenda would even think of voting for their own turkey christmas.  There is nothing good in this trend.  There is no creativity, nor meaning, nor soul.


I want to write about how a strong community is your business friend, how treating people as things is stupid if you want a future for your own town and region.  The only people – if you could call them that – that benefit from treating us as third world colonial slaves are the corporates who do not live here.  Wake up.  We are being colonised – and that colonisation is supported by the right because they are paid by the colonisers and the media is owned by the colonisers.

I want to write about how the environment is your friend.  Not just in building your soul and a meaning in life, but in your business as well – unless you are an absolute scumbag who will pillage the kauri, the water, the soil, the fisheries for your immediate self-gratification.  Vice.  Business does not have to be vicious.  It can be virtuous.  Realise that building the hope and dreams and connections and laughter and spirit and trust and participation and esprit de corps of people – community – staff – *creates* and drives our world.

I want to write that only an unthinking moron would throw the capacity and value of their land down the stream by washing away soil and nutrients. Pure and utter stupidity. Dumb and dumber.  Fed Farmers type moronity.  I want to write that land capacity to cope with drought and flood is your friend. I want to write that you get benefits from a functioning landscape where diversity and biota are your friends. Free gifts, cashflow options, resilience, beauty, function, stock health, less need for inputs – more dollars made for less dollars spent.  I want to write that the environment means you have a story to sell, a market position essential to a premium while commodities continue their downward slide.  Better environment, more resilience, better economics, a better place within which to create and be.

I want to write about systems thinking and strategy and getting your head out of the technocratic falsehood of only looking at the measured things in a spreadsheet. At the insanity of discounting your future by 10% real.  The immorality.  The death of art, and with art, wisdom.

I want to write about the need to be able to differentiate lies from truth, to dig into the root causes and not – ever – be influenced by some empty cliche like “a war on P”. I want to write about scapegoating, and the nonsense of some economic theories, and the history of stupidity within various economic extremes. Beware of economics, especially when it involves absolutes – “the market will provide,” “the state will dissolve to a worker’s collective,” “there is equal powerlessness in the world,” and “people make rational all-knowing asocial choices to be poor.”  Think for yourselves.  Learn for yourselves.  Dig into the assumptions.  They are easy to find.  You’ll quickly spot the bullshit there and realise that the smartly dressed men in suits do not have superior minds.  They have no authority of thought – and we should never give them that.  They live within a social paradigm of unquestioned belief without internal critique.

I want to write about Modernity and finding our way back home to becoming native to place – to return to *being* *in* and *of* our lands and our communities where they are never defined by the measurement of stocks.  We do not raise children by measured calorie flows alone.  Why would we do that for economics or society.

I want to write about the radical radicle root core philosophical depths of wisdom.

And how we are not being wise in our political choices.

Chris Perley

Chris Perley has a background in embedding himself in our landscapes and fields, in management, policy, consulting and research relating to land use, the environment, provincial economies and communities.  He is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability.

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Neoliberalism and Rawls’ Theory of Justice

How would you structure the justice in our society today?  One method is to look at a blank canvass of what might become a moral society from an “original position” behind what John Rawls described as “A veil of ignorance” [A Theory of Justice, 1971].

john-rawls original position

Imagine you do not know who you will be in the real world – you might be poor or rich, black, white or brown, male or female, young or old, felon or victim, born today or in 150 years time, etc.

Then consider what sort of justice system you would think is fair for whatever your real position in life will be.  Justice is fairness.

Now ask yourself a few questions about how the justice of the world is structured now – take particular note of power structures – and how that contrasts with your view from behind the veil.  Is our justice – built into the structures of social norms, behaviours, sentiment and legal frameworks – fair?  Think particularly of your ignorance of whether you will be born today, or in 150 years time.

I ask this because – in my view – we have structured deep injustices over the last 30 to 40 years in New Zealand and around the world.  We have allowed more exploitation of our people and our land & sea natural systems upon which – ironically – our long-term society and economy depends.

Ironic because we were told by the priests of the Neoliberal faith that it’s all for the best.  The ‘market’ – all-knowing as it is – will magically allocate and price ‘resources’ as they ought to be allocated.   So if the system is exploited, that is right.  If you are poor, that is right.  If power accumulates and you invade or buy another part of the world far far away, then that is right.  Might is right because the market recognised your ‘merit’, and made you mighty.

John Rawls Veil of Ignorance

We have ‘justified’ that exploitation – an exploitation that cannot be sustained without eventual economic, social and environmental collapse – by 1. that Neoliberal faith, 2. the glorifying of mega-corporate business entities who act for their short-term expedience at the expense of any value that gets in the way of making an immediate profit (never mind even their own great grandchildren), and 3. the scapegoating of the victims; the poor and dispossessed.

Their poverty is apparently their own choice.  They could have gone to the banks, I was once told, and talked to their old school buddies there, and asked for the billion dollar loan, just like anybody else (I was given that actual excuse once when pointing our that only the already wealthy have the opportunity to buy billion dollar public assets at fire-sale prices, and thereby enrich themselves and impoverish the rest of us).

Then the felons who perpetrate this ‘fair deal’ are given knighthoods.

Neoliberalism is very much implicated in this system of injustice.  Let us consider the following.  Neoliberalism presumes there are no power differentials because that is convenient to model.  Power is far too complex and relational to model easily.

Smith Beware commerceWonderful.  The market is presumed to be always fair.  Problem solved. Who needs an original position behind a veil of ignorance when there is no chance of an unfair outcome.

And so arithmetic convenience overrides truth & questions about reality.  We presume that the world of business is like Adam Smith’s village of bakers and candlestick makers.  Let’s also presume that we can just ignore Smith’s warnings of the need to control the power of corporations and aristocrats, to publicly educate an enlightened and moral populace (What?!  State intervention?!) and to be highly suspicious of merchants anywhere near the making of our laws because they will try to exploit if they are given half a chance.

Neoliberalism also presumes that rational decisions are made through exchange of goods and services within the market.  So if someone makes a lot of money in the short-term out of pillaging the kauri for personal gain, or drift netting the ocean, or depleting or polluting the finite or slow-cycling water ‘resources’, or – sigh – destroying the soils that will not recover for many millennia (in the case of our hill country soils), then that is all fine and good.  People will – apparently – rationally discount the future cashflows at a rational rate, using rational calculations of Net Present Value, and the benefits will accrue to future generations in accordance with the wisdom and justice of the market and private investment.

Except that if you have anything to do with discounted cashflow over intergenerational periods of time using any real rate much over 2% you see the moral nonsense that you can rationally advocate the bankruptcy and extinction of your own family’s future.  Rationalised insanity.

Cutting your own roots.jpg

What bunkum.  Meanwhile the fisheries collapse, forests are pillaged, soils wash or blow way, water systems are depleted and degraded, species go extinct, the functionality of our natural systems teeter on the edge, we run out of key nutrients, and the globe warms and warms.  What could possibly go wrong when we cut our own roots from under ourselves.

Never mind that history has demonstrated that for finite or slow cycling natural systems it is exceedingly profitable to pillage to the point of system collapse, and that such collapses have happened time and time and interminable time again and again and again.

Newfoundland fisheries collapse.jpgNice to ponder upon this when discussing with Neoliberal economists that a forest or soil natural *system* is not the same as a bean farm with a canning plant attached.   Short-term market cycles can be fine for short-feedback systems.  They can be destructive and terminal where the feedbacks take generations, or occur over distant geographical scales, or are positive feedbacks – such as happens all the time in agriculture where a price decline leads to a production increase, which leads to a price decline, ad infinitum – until the social, environmental and economic system collapses (most demonstrably in the US Dustbowl of the 1930s).  The Neoliberals, living as they do with faith, not empirical evidence, will tell you that this couldn’t possibly happen.  Must be the government’s fault, obviously.

Yet it happens …. I’m sorry, I mean to say it happens in the real world, outside the models.

[Also note – please Mr Neoliberal – that you do not adequately describe such ‘natural systems’ by describing them as ‘natural resources’.  The latter (resources) reduces complexity to an inert set of things without function.  Natural systems evokes the considerably more accurate view of processes of energy flows, feedbacks, thresholds and emergence of something with entirely new properties not inherent in any part.  This is the dynamic complex that provides for trivial things – like life itself.  Life is – perhaps unfortunately – not often included in discounted cashflow accounts.  It’s often more profitable to do without it.]

quote-a-just-society-is-a-society-that-if-you-knew-everything-about-it-you-d-be-willing-to-john-rawls-81-28-14Neoliberalism is in direct conflict with Rawls original position in presuming that there is a true meritocracy in play.  Isn’t that wonderful.  Problem of justice solved.  The market will provide.  There is no need for a government-determined justice beyond property rights and obvious violence crimes – because the perfect market and a world of presumed equal opportunity will ensure all the dice of life fall where they ought through fully informed rational choice.

Because there are no power differentials in their models, then there is no need to recognise the real, empirical, industrial, feudal and colonial exploitation of people and natural systems.  All, apparently, willing buyer-willing seller structures of equal powerlessness and rational acts by benevolent firms.

As someone in a wheelchair one might expect that I would be outraged by this.  I am outraged, but it has nothing to do with the dice I know people suffer from; it is because it is a deeply unjust and philosophically ignorant view.  It is pure and utter bollocks justified for the sake of a convenient mathematical model.  And that is both deeply, deeply immoral as well as far more a fundamentalist faith than the normal academic critique you expect from both the sciences and the humanities.

The long & short term selfSo let us presume that there are some problems in the Neoliberal view.  Let us presume that power does concentrate and can and does buy political parties of the right, degrades democracy where it suits (who needs elected local body councillors in Canterbury anyway) and effectively buys the policies they desire.  Let us presume that the success of that rort by the powerful, as allowed and actively encouraged under Neoliberalism, has concentrated the worldview (or rather the me-me-me-view) that short-term profit is far more fun and acceptable than worrying about future things like the life of the planet, functioning natural systems, and the future of society.

Let us presume that expedience, the abuse of power, and greed will lead to everyone losing in the long-term and fewer and fewer people ‘winning’ in the short-term – if by ‘winning’ we mean gambling on a living in meaningless luxury and dying before the consequences take hold.  Let us presume that there is patently not a meritocracy in play, somewhat the reverse if by ‘merit’ we presume some moral dimension – that is, a good person who thinks about the future of community, and the need for meaningful lives beyond their own short spell on our planet.

This is the world in which we have been forced to live for over 30 years.

Knowing that, and putting yourself in Rawls’ original position, behind that veil of ignorance, what then would you do about it?


Would you view the concentration and abuse of power as antisocial, far worse than minor theft because it has the potential to destroy our world?   Would you treat that abuse as a root cause of evil, and put in place constitutional means by which such commercial absolutism was prevented, as has been done before with various constitutional permutations from the Magna Carta?  Would you retain or discard the economic ideology of Neoliberalism that has let loose these Hyenas of Commerce upon us and those unborn?  Would you safeguard the functioning of our life-support systems as paramount, and treat them as systems, not mere stocks of ‘things’?

Would you ensure – should you be born in 150 years, brown, women and poor – that there were unwritten and written norms of justice in our society that allowed you to be the talent that you are?

What would those be?  Or do you think the market with all its power distortions and lack of concern for consequences – even to your own individual survival – will suffice?

Chris Perley

Chris Perley has a background in embedding himself in our landscapes and fields, in management, policy, consulting and research relating to land use, the environment, provincial economies and communities.  He is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability.

Rawls, J. 1971.  A Theory of Justice.  Belknap Press, NY

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The Joy of a Moment

I need to say something.  We all need strength at times, and it’s nature and people that give us that.  They feed the soul.  They provide meaning.

Our world seems strangely to treat these blessings – people and nature – as mere ‘things’ to use, rather than the whole of whom we are, inseparable, the place within the sum of us where we can ‘be’, within.

It is worse when we see ‘them’ – the destroyers of worlds – take a whole like nature and community combined, and deny their very existence; deny the quality and the function, and reduce to quantity and noun.

It is so strange that we have elevated those who do this.  We have promoted the visionless and the least feeling to positions of power, and allowed them to tell us that this is how we ought to see and be in this world.  The dominant narrative ought to be this truth; that the really valuable things are those that are as fleeting as the joy of a moment, and which we cannot measure – and nor should we bother to try – for any longer than an instant, in this place.  Even thinking of measuring these moments diminishes them; destroys the joy of them.

The burst of a golden pheasant, the smell and light of a forest, the absolute joy of leaping from a height into a river, feeling a fish on the line, going through a gap running for all hell and passing for a try.  

Our friends, the meeting of eyes and the smiles you see every day, the sparkle of voice and the humour of a glance, a melody, unspoken connections, hearing a poem read with emotion, a piece of art that moves you.

I do not like that we have put measures above these things.  We need to keep reminding ourselves not to listen to those who would reduce life’s meanings to some form of measured control.

Be wild.  Be free.  Feel.  Love.


Little Truths Studio

Chris Perley


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Is This our Neoliberal Meritocracy?

More on the theme of Neoliberalism, and what enormous damage it has done to the very culture of New Zealand society and our organisations. We are far less encouraging of talent, wisdom and thought. Our country is less a meritocracy than it once was, and we should remember that when we see immoral wheeler dealers with knighthoods, and those who have exited today’s concentration camps for the sake of their souls.

Chris Perley

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Chris Perley's Blog


I know many people who are truly amazing.  They think outside the box, they practice an art, they connect to community and to land, they have passion for some goal, they can hold a humorous conversation and be great company in any context.

And many tend to be ‘underemployed’.

I find this very, very curious. Isn’t the cream supposed to float to the top – at least in the sense of being closer to the inspiration and big decisions?

Under conditions of tyranny it is easier to act than to thinkMost of these amazing people are not the dull conformists who keep the trains running (sorry, I know that is important).  The schedulers are the same people who now get promoted to positions where it isn’t operational scheduling that is the necessary attribute, but thought and the ability to create a motivated, adaptable team who genuinely care about the direction, rather than just the task.  Thinking strategically and adaptively requires an understanding…

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The Housing Crisis and Neoliberalism

The housing crisis – Crisis? What crisis? – is still with us after years of denial by the National Government. I wrote this a year ago when they were claiming there was no crisis – denial being the mantra de jour – no housing problem, no homeless, no child poverty, no job problem, no economic problem, no water quality problem, no climate change, no provincial problem.

Crisis what crisis.jpgThey are promising us now that they will fix housing, yet they are doing nothing that differs from the neoliberal and corporatist delusions they and Treasury have followed since 1984. Those same delusions that created all the problems. It is pathetic that they are going after the populist treat the symptom policy option, instead of trying to identify and treat the root causes. Here I discuss some root causes.

We need to change the framework, not just add populist surface policies that seek to empty the toxic river with a bucket, while doing nothing about the toxins flowing in at the top.

Frankly, I seriously doubt that National have the intellect to see, let alone critique the dysfunctional ideologies through which they see the world. Gold fish in the goldfish bowl …. what water?

Chris Perley's Blog

Irish Famine

Listening to Morning Report this morning (25th May 2016) interview these right wing completely out of touch politicians from this government making excuses for the New Zealand housing crisis, was like a rerun of the Irish Potato famine. It so riled me – all the cliche-laden stupidity and faux “I am your leader, so trust me” emptiness and attempts to convince us there is no crisis.  Well, we’re living it.

The same dull unconcern.  The same rationalisations and talk of market supply.  Neoliberal fundamentalism without a shred of self-critique of its nonsense assumptions.  All to make the mathematics work in the model.


Underlying our crisis, and the complete inability of either government or public sector to deal to root causes, are all those hollow neoliberal assumptions that price and the ‘efficiency’ of the market are dependent on where the supply line meets the demand line.  Complexity reduced to two dimensions.  I’m…

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Neoliberalism and the Bullying of the Poor & Dispossessed

The National Party’s latest bullying of the poor and the punitive threats to those without hope needs more than just our outrage for their ignorance and immorality.  It also deserves a critique of what the hell is going on in their heads and our society where such idiocy can be seriously put forward as a supposedly ‘rational’ policy.  Any sane person – one with empathy that doesn’t see humanity as a mechanical automaton in a Neoliberal Treasury model – can imagine the consequences very readily; more problems; more costs; less hope; more despair; more suicides; more mental health; more people losing the plot in a WINZ office near you.

Glynis Sherwood’s thoughts on scapegoating shines a light on National’s continued attempt to blame the poor for their lot.

Scapegoat.jpgThe most vulnerable are scapegoated, not the most powerful.  It is ever so.

We ought to reflect on that.

Scapegoating the most sensitive, the most unhappy, the most vulnerable, or those that speak out when something is morally bankrupt, or a distorted untruth, is straight out of the Neoliberal worldview of course; the lie we have been told to believe in, and worship, for 33 years.

Do not care for others.  Be selfish.  Be judgmental of the embarrassing poor, the homeless and Third World child health diseases – the things who stand in stark relief against empty and dishonest claims of a “strong economy” – those who do not deserve because merit rises in their models, and so the only explanation is that those who are sick, or poor, or die, lack merit.

Under Neoliberalism we are told by people who call themselves economists in Treasury and the corporate media, not to adversely judge the other end of the asset and income spectrum.  Those destroyers of worlds, the Koch brothers and the rest, are simply “maximising their utility,” and we all will prosper from their meritorious works.  So it is written in the good book of Milton Friedman.  When that patently doesn’t happen, no matter.  We’ll rationalise it by blaming the ones we exploit,

psychopaths_vs_humanityor hold conferences looking at The New Zealand Paradox (shouldn’t we be rich by now?) like a bewildered flock of hen pecking chickens.  Everyone is to blame except their completely bonkers theory.

Neoliberalism frames of the poor as undeserving, as choosing to be poor within their models of asocial rationality, equal opportunity, perfect information and no power differentials, where all the dice of life fall where they ought.

Nonsense all.  Complete and utter delusional nonsense.  Extraterrestrial, off the planet, outside this galaxy, in a universe far far away, beyond bonkers.

Yet they teach this crap, and their students worship The Lord Market (Hallowed be Thy name) as the arbiter of all, where we and the planet are just sets of things, resources, for the efficient allocation of.  Then they get a job in Treasury, join the National party, or go trading derivatives in London.

The poor are undeserving, lacking merit.  But the uber-rich non-tax paying buyers of politicians and world trade policies are the best of the best.  This is a pernicious evil, and the National Party apparently cannot think in any other space.

We have set up a society that gives knighthoods to – let’s face it – some pretty ghastly scum, and a society that vilifies those who are poor, and brown, who’ve lost hope, and who do things they might, once they dig themselves out of their hole, regret.


But many will only be driven deeper into that hole by National’s quite incredible stupidity.  And we wonder why we have a P problem.  And bursting prisons.  And health issues.  And mental health.  And suicides.  And child poverty.

If you have no other reason to change the government, then choose this.  Their complete inability to see society, community, sociology or psychology.  Their apparent complete inability to feel empathy.

What are the respective definitions of a sociopath, a psychopath, a narcissist?  I’m trying to work out which one best fits this government’s policy making and distortions of the truth.

They, and their fellow travellers in Treasury, need to go.  We need a morality back that puts people and the future of our communities back at the centre of things.

We need a government that has some measure of common decency and thoughtfulness.

Chris Perley

Chris Perley has a background in embedding himself in our landscapes and fields, in management, policy, consulting and research relating to land use, the environment, provincial economies and communities.  He is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability.

Evil begins Pratchett

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The UN Declaration of Human Rights: We need this Moral Compass back.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights was ratified in 1948.  It is a measure of any government.  Just how well are our people doing?  It is a measure for any commercial behaviour as well.  Are you a contributor to this world and its people, now and forever, or are you here to extract, abuse and take, whatever the cost?  Do you govern and manage with some element of soul, some moral base to what you consider right or wrong …. or is it just expedience and the short term deal that spins your wheels?

UN Declaration on Human Rights.jpgI got politicised in the early 1990s when Ruth Richardson came along and continued (on steroids) to rip the soul out of our society – and these, our human rights – continuing the Neoliberal agenda of Treasury and Rodger Douglas since 1984.  People and place were no longer at the centre of things – of economics and policy.  No, the dollar was, and those who owned most of those dollars, and had the contacts, and could buy all the public assets that were gifted to them.  They were those who wanted more and more for themselves, and were applauded for their greed.  They were and are those with the least morality, the greatest selfish, and the most manic madness for power.  

The eaters of worlds.

When would all this madness end?!?!?!

I got politicised *and* contemptuous – because of the obvious rogues that clasped their new ‘freedoms’ to exploit and make our world more nasty, brutish and short-term in outlook – and far less moral or wise.  The rouges are very much alive.  We heard the some ACT mouthpiece only recently suggest giving money to schools whose teachers were not unionised.  They used the word ‘freedom’ of course.  Their freedom, grounded on the shackles they put on others.

Freedom.  There is always some loss to our culture when a word that means so much is taken and twisted by some fanatic to represent its opposite; Arbeit macht frei.

I became increasingly contemptuous also because in the 1990s I was witnessing 1984 (the book, not the year) and Brave New World in one – with some people blowing deeply dishonest Newspeak smoke in the eyes of the public while claiming

Work will set you free

“Work will make you Free,” at the gates of a Nazi concentration camp

all these fatuous clichés involving ‘freedom’.

The clichés came thick and fast: “There is no alternative,” “no gain without pain,” “we all have the same opportunities and the same power exercised through the market,” “meritocracy” and “rational choice” (even the presumption that the poor ‘choose’ to be poor) – while thought and expression of any disagreement was increasingly stifled – or you were pigeonholed as extreme left if you questioned all the nonsense assumptions.

“You don’t believe in the long list of completely spurious assumptions of Neoliberalism?  Well, then you must be a baby killing Stalinist obviously.”

But I don’t think there would be more than a handful in Treasury – let alone Richardson or Douglas – who had ever read either 1984 or Brave New World, and perhaps they wouldn’t have understood them even if they had (I think Brave New World won btw – their system is much less overt than the totalitarianism of 1984 – which is what we have; a form of covert thought control and consumerism and reality TV soma to keep most people in some state of acceptance).  The Treasury-types certainly didn’t get any of their own ironic parallels with fundamentalist state communists and their oh-so-similar fraternal totalitarian methods of ensuring obedience, group-think and thought control.

I realised how far politics in this country had lurched to the far right, and it just kept on lurching – with all the ‘third ways’, and oh-so-deep wheeler-dealer commission salesmen like John Key calling himself “centre-right.”  He probably had no idea.  Our governments


Eleanor Roosevelt holding the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

since 1984 (the year, not the book – confusing coincidence that??) have leapt so far to the right that they could no longer look at this UN Declaration and presume that they were in any way directed by the people-centred moral rudder it provides.

It was as if we tore up our UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and began working on some Declaration of the Rights of the Powerful and Never mind the Rest.

Faced with the inevitable abuse and decline from such a shift in our moral compass, you have to speak.  The world needs its moral compass back.  It needs to think in human rights terms both for the people alive today and for those yet to be born.

That will be a particular challenge for the powerful commercial interests of the world, simply because you make more money – if that is your sorry obsession – by degrading the worth of tomorrow for the cashflow of today.  And you make more money – until the pitchforks inevitably come – by using your power to suppress the rights of people and the natural systems of the planet you would prefer to be defined as measured ‘resources’, mere ‘things’; means to your singular end.

David Orr wrote that these brain stem behemoths,corporate_palaeontology“… spawned gargantuan organisations with simple goals, roughly analogous to the body/brain ratio of the dinosaur … lack[ing] the ability to think much beyond business equivalents of ingestion and procreation.  The monomania drove out thought of the morrow, warped lives, disfigured much of the world, and dominated the intellectual landscapes.”

Such minds should not be in any position to rule.  They have no moral rudder, nor a shred of wisdom.  We have put the fools on a pedestal and called them statesmen.

Chris Perley

Chris Perley has a background in embedding himself in our landscapes and fields, in management, policy, consulting and research relating to land use, the environment, provincial economies and communities.  He is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability.

Orr, D. 2002. The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture and Human Intention. OUP, NY p69-70

Manaakitanga - mycommunities

The Perennial Philosophies of the world all involve treating people as people, as ends in themselves,  and never means to your own ends. Treating people as mere things, means, resources, is immoral.

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The Future of Belonging in This Place

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Originally posted on Chris Perley's Blog:
It took 27 years for me to come home. For years I felt the lone voice screaming “Come on the Bay” amongst the red and black rugby faithful during Canterbury’s 1980s Ranfurly Shield…

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The Myth of New Zealand’s Strong Economy

I keep hearing the repeated emptiness that New Zealand has a ‘strong economy’. It has become a cliché, a soundbite that has become unthinkingly repeated, a lie that is now absorbed into the national psyche.

Homeless in NZI was writing something on the stupid economics of poverty (lost potential, so lost value, increased costs & anti-social behaviour, less money in the local economy, favouring the colonial corporates over local businesses, loss of democracy & therefore wisdom), and ended up writing about the Smokes and Mirrors deceit we keep hearing.

New Zealand’s economy is a cocaine-fueled rush, on a base without a future – a low wage, low value, low diversity, short value-chain, socially-degrading, environmentally-degrading extractive economy that suits the colonial/corporate model of Cecil Rhodes – take the cheap resources using slave labour, leave the environmental & social costs in the colony, and take the money and multiply it back ‘home’ to a country or a disconnected gated community far far away.

I ended up writing this ….


The rise in child poverty & inequality from 1988 is a direct consequence of the emergence of the Neoliberal agenda imposed on New Zealand since 1984.  The economic negatives are considerable


There are disconnects in New Zealand between the sobering stories of poverty, inequality, housing and child deaths from Third World diseases, and those who stand on podiums in suits claiming we have a ‘strong’ economy.  How can both coexist?  Isn’t an economy there to serve the wellbeing of us all?

These social costs associated with poverty and death are indicative of a number of things.  The economy is clearly not working as it should.  It self-evidently no longer serves us all; it serves the few who are increasingly disconnected, both geographically and psychologically.  Claims of merit rising and the poor choosing their own poverty are arrant nonsense, much like ‘trickle down’.

Most of us have become increasingly subservient servants to the economic beast.  It is

Rhodes - cheap resources & slave labour

Statesman, my arse

also self-evident from the smokes and mirrors and the denials of various problems that the current government does not care.  And all to further a frankly dumb economics of poverty that only serve the interests of the international corporate elite who are emulating a form of latter-day colonisation – cheap resources and slave wages.  Cecil Rhodes will be cheering from his Zimbabwean crypt.

In making these claims of a ‘strong’ economy, the government hopes that people will look away.  It hopes that their cynical – even deceitful – use of smokes and mirrors will work.

There is a danger in that approach.  The right wing propaganda machine of Lynton Crosby has already faltered. People began to laugh at Teresa May’s ‘strong & stable’ political tag line as it was increasingly exposed as empty blather.

And it is empty blather in New Zealand as well.  For instance, what growth we’ve had is due to immigration, house price rises and earthquake rebuilds, while the current direction of our low wage, low value colonial and increasingly corporate-dominated economy continues.  In that context, our economic performance has been worse than

Auckland house speculationordinary.

But on top of that mediocrity have come our social costs, including child mortality.  Some of us are involved in politics because we are determined that we have to change from our vicious cycle of mediocrity.

Similarly, the smokes and mirrors of ‘job growth’ ignore inconvenient definitions.  A one-hour, casual, temporary ‘job’ so common amongst the under-employed ‘precariat’ is markedly different than a permanent full time position.  But the spin-doctors hope that the public will interpret ‘jobs’ as full time equivalents. Meanwhile, under-employment has tripled since 2008, and the precariat grows and grows.


Rhodes - our duty to take it

It is our *duty* to take?

Perhaps the most ludicrous claim is the right’s non-inflation indexed wage growth that takes no account of the massive increase in top salaries and the static or decreased bottom.  On ‘average’, we’re told it’s all fine when it patently is not.

It really is time we looked deeper at where New Zealand’s economy is going.


You cannot look at our extractive increasingly outside corporate-owned and directed economy without hearing the distant echo of Cecil Rhodes. We are heading into a new colonialism.

Rhodes - Annex the stars

While the agent of power has changed, the ideas of superiority, entitlement, taking, exploiting, reducing of land and people to resources, even the ‘duty’ to take, is *exactly* the same.  The mega-corporate mind would annex the stars if it could.  These are the immoral sentiments of the gluttonous psychopath.

Chris Perley


1st September 2017

Chris Perley has a background in the field, in management, policy, consulting and research relating to land use, the environment, provincial economies and communities.  He is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability.  He is a 2017 Green Party candidate for the Tukituki Electorate.

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Posted in Building Regional Economies, Thought Pieces | 2 Comments

Governance for the Many or Expedience for the Few

I’ve always been interested in the distinction between short-term expedience and long-term governance – between the technocratic narrowness that focuses on the quantitative and the broader strategic wisdom of knowing that culture and nature cannot be known through numbers alone.

The long & short term selfI’ve always been interested in the distinctions between types of commerce – distinctions apparently not recognised by those economists who put generic ‘firms’ in their models with assumptions of equal powerlessness and other complete nonsense.  I’m interested because I know that qualitative distinctions are vital.  I know of companies that do great and creative things within the local communities and environments to which they belong … and I’ve seen the extractive and exploitative mega-corporate types who live far from our local life, and who do not care whether they push our environment and society to the edge.  Their narrowness and short sighted view is the very reason for their lack of wisdom.  Their cult of entitlement blinds them to their own connections to this world we all share, like those in the 1789 Court of Versailles.

I’m interested because the latter extractors are dominating in our world, and we have right wing governments who are effectively their lackeys.  The extractive corporates now pay these parties to govern in their short-term and narrow interests, and provide them with the marketing apparatus to “manage the perception” and “manufacture the consent” of the voting public.

We have seen good governance eroded since 1984 and the rise of Neoliberalism.  The ‘Lord Market’ has become the governor of all, assumed to be all knowing, benevolent and wise, and encompassing of all things – including community and the planet itself.  How they could presume such scope is a reflection of both Neoliberalism’s ignorance and its fundamentalist quasi-religious arrogance.

Without the constraints we once imposed on the worst excesses of exploitative commerce, we have seen the short-term financial model of the corporate world completely replace the long-term governance model that cares for all, now and yet to be a-culture-is-no-better-than-its-woods.jpgborn.  And with the extra wealth generated for the already powerful by the freedoms to exploit provided by the Neoliberals, we have seen the perpetuation of the trend – a positive feedback accelerating us toward the edge – of the money from the Koch Bros, the Fays, Richwhites and Gibbs of our world supporting political parties that think only in short-term markets.

Deregulate those constraints on our opportunity to abuse, and call it freedom.  Privatise, and call it efficiency and wealth creation.  Pillage and call it progress.

Expedience begets extraction and exploitation, begets the money to finance your favoured political party, begets expedience …

As anyone knows when studying systems, positive (i.e. self reinforcing) feedbacks are potentially very destructive – vicious cycles, racing to the edge of the abyss.

There is a ‘logical’ rationale for thinking short term.

Cecil RhodesYou can become rich rather quickly if that is your thing.  In the short term, and if simply having more money in circulation or your own wee pocket is your aim, then exploitation of other people and the environment is ‘good’.  You can cut down all the Kauri forests as quickly as possible, take your ‘hard-earned’ cash, reinvest in drift netting some other distant place in which you have no interest in living, subjugate and colonise for cheap ‘resources’ and slave labour, and retire with a degree of smugness to a palace on a hill.  Cecil Rhodes’ Colonisation meets Corporate Globalisation.

It’s really good if more cash is the goal to ‘extract’ from the system, and have no regard for the continued functioning of that system once you have gone.  You do not even need to recognise the system, nor any value that is not measured as a dollar.  Beauty, belonging and love are not tradable commodities.  Functional integrity – the qualities that keep a system working now and forever – require a breadth of view far beyond the narrow technocrat looking at a computer screen.  After all, if you cannot measure them, do they really exist.

After retiring to your palace, you can even smoke a cigar and pontificate on why you are such a ‘good’ businessperson.  You live outside the world, disconnected, with no sense of reverence for something bigger.  This is the life of hubris, or Ozymandias, the King of Kings.  And without the humility that recognises the power of Papatūānuku Mother Earth, or the power of the people once stirred, you become the tyrant of our classical myths.

Ozymandias.jpgI once had an argument with one of those neoliberal economic acolytes who tried to tell me “the free market provides the best environmental solution.”  I explained that pillaging a forest is always better financially than attempting any for of sustainability.  I couldn’t believe he was taught that nonsense.  I despaired that such unintelligent and baseless beliefs were directing the policy of my own country.

There is another way.

In the long-term, if we are interested in the wellbeing of the world, local community and local economy, then our approach must be different.  We can recognise the bedrocks of the good life and a ‘good’ society.  We have a moral concern for others.  We build and maintain the functional integrity of the environment upon which community depends, and the functional integrity of community upon which the current and future economy depends.  We build legacies rather than destroy them.  We create rather than extract.

This is the role of good governance: the long-term view, the building of legacies; the caring for others and for our joint future.

Smith Beware commerce

But particularly, good governance has to get real.  It has to recognise the distinction between bad expedient commerce and good creative commerce; it has to recognise that there are those who would extract, colonise, commoditise and destroy for short-term personal financial gain.  They will do it simply because it pays to do so; because it pays to pillage.  Good governance must not only appreciate the nature of such commerce; it must also ensure that those Hyenas of Commerce be constrained.

This is not just the message and lessons of the ages – of our cycle of environmental, social and economic collapses into chaos – it is also the message from Adam Smith, whose ideas are used so selectively to justify their excesses.

Good governance recognises the short-term deal makers for whom they are, the destroyers of worlds.  Good governance recognises and builds upon our underpinning bedrocks of environmental and social function.

Good governance recognises the value and vital need for a healthy planet, and for the hope within communities and individuals, and for love.  Good governance knows that the values of local knowing and a sense of belonging cannot be measured in financiers’ spreadsheets, but are real for all that.  Good governance recognises the overriding moral rudder of providing the good life for the many, not the few, and for both the future and the now.

There is another truth.  Good governance is our choice.  We decide.  We could wait until the threshold is reached, but that is a very risky strategy.  The abyss can lead us into horrors from which we may not recover.

Or we can demand the change now.

Elections are very very important.  We can choose between good governance for the many and expedience for the few.

And the world has had quite enough of the tyrannical few.

Chris Perley

Chris Perley has a background in the field, in management, policy, consulting and research relating to land use, the environment, provincial economies and communities.  He is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability.



Posted in Thought Pieces | 4 Comments