The crowded fringes

Just returned from a wedding down country. It was a small affair with little in the way of formality. The groom, an in-law, is a “drifter” in his spare time, which has something to do with driving a car sideways, I gather. The bride’s family were all dressed in black, as though for a funeral.

Despite this, and partly because of my own tenuous position, I felt that I should socialise with the “other side”. Eventually I found a farmer who was not dressed for a funeral, and who seemed very affable. All went well until I ventured that the food crisis could last some time. Why, he asked. Amongst other things, I mentioned climate change.

This was the trigger for the standard litany of climate change sceptism. Did I not know that Greenland was lush and green when the Vikings discovered it? That the world hadn’t been warming since 1998? That plants grew better the more carbon dioxide there is? And so on. This led onto the fossil record and how the theory of evolution is easily disproved. By the time we got to the prophesy in the Bible that we would have microchips under the skin on the backs of our hands and One World Government, I was wondering which alias he used on kiwiblog.

Seriously, why do so many NZers seem to be hooking into the right-wing craziness of the neocon and christian rights in the US?

I know that one chance conversation is far from a scientific sampling, and I know that they constitute a miniscule proportion of the population when all is said and done. But I have been pondering this for a while. The NZ blogosphere is infested with aficionados of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and the like.

I asked a friend in London and he agreed that it is “weird” that the right-wing nutbars were more prominent in NZ than in Old Blighty. Could it be that such excesses are constrained by the force of tradition in the Old World? Anybody have any ideas?

This morning we brunched at the Nikau in the Wellington City Gallery. It is the best cafe in the country (sorry Richmond Rd). The almond brioche was a divine inspiration. Apparently the owners don’t want to run a big business and have no plans to open in Auckland. Can someone please help here to persuade them otherwise?

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10 Responses to “The crowded fringes”

  1. truthseekernz Says:

    jp: One people have bitten of the apple of unfounded beliaf and swallowed religion, they are open to being told all manner of unfounded drivel from people who claim to “know”…and they will believe every word of it.

    The time we live in now is a contest between unfounded belief and rationalism based on observation and evidence.

    Rationalist were for many years fiercely anti-clerical. They helped establish the separation between church and state that has allowed democracy and civil society to flourish.

    The folks who have been sucked by unfounded belief want to roll all that back and return us all to a time when truth was whatever the high priest said and you could be killed for opposing it.

    Not just political tyranny, but experiential tyranny – redefining reality to fit their fantasies….as is often the case with more extreme flavours of Islam.

    I have no desire to join your farm friend on a return journey to the dark ages. Unfortunately, his sort are always out there and DO represent a real danger to democracy and freedom through their willful blindness and willingness to impose it on others, too.

  2. adamsmith1922 Says:

    I tend to agree with you jp and truthseekernz in this instance.

    Rational debate on a number of issues is not possible

  3. Sconehead Says:

    Why on earth should rationalism and nothing else be acceptable?

    Materialism, scientific inquiry, logic, maths, scepticism even, are all fine but unsatisfactory at answering the questions that matter. Only a religious and an aesthetic sense bring us close to answering questions of meaning and purpose.

    I can barely contain myself these days when I hear, say, an economist blathering on about what he (yes, it’s always a he) thinks is going on. And those who talk econometrics are even dafter.

    Then we get the hard-core materialists, the heavy metal physicists or chemists who can’t even tell us which way is up or why a rose smells so beautiful.

    Heaven help us.

  4. MacDoctor Says:

    truthseekernz:

    Rationalism has been the dominant thought process for the past 100 years or so (notably the past 50 years). I can’t see that it has made the world a better place in any way. And just so we have our prejudices out in the open, I am indeed one of those right-wing Christian fundamentalists you seem to be so afraid of (in that I am mildly right-wing and certainly a bible-believing Christian). Your presupposition that I drool and grunt a lot and wish to enslave you are clearly somewhat exaggerated.

    I must point out that there are, regrettably, nutbars in all walks of life both Christian and non-Christian, right-wing and left-wing. A quick scan through certain blogs will demonstrate this admirably (you know which ones I mean!)

    That we are occasionally swamped out by these weirdos should not stop us from partaking in rational dialogue. This is why I stick to rational argument on blogs and do not put forward spiritual/religious viewpoints (unless that is what the conversation is about.)

    Might I suggest that the strength of Christian reaction comes from the very real perception that the current government is forcing a very left-wing agenda into the lives of a very unwilling population. The repeal of section 29 would be an obvious case in point. About 80% of the country signaled they did not want this legislation yet it went ahead. My question would then be what can you call this but political tyranny? The idea that a few right-wing nutbars are a danger to the country is laughable, when we have a government that completely ignores its people in such a fashion.

  5. MacDoctor Says:

    Jafapete:

    I suspect you goaded this poor man into making an idiot of himself, didn’t you? Exactly how many farmers do not have a “climate change” hot button. Bad boy! 🙂

  6. Ari Says:

    Well, you could always have talked about a safer topic, like Peak Oil 😉

  7. Bill Browne Says:

    It always surprises me that people who do not have the mental capacity to grasp the real complexities of the universe as described by “scientific inquiry, logic, maths” resort to an even more complex argument – “guy with beard says ‘let there be light'” to try to get their heads around reality.

    Face it, roses smell like roses because they started off smelling nice to attract insects so they can reproduce. Later, humans came along and bred them to enhance that smell.

    Don’t apologise for giving a rational argument, anything else is irrational and therefore isn’t worth the breath you expend on it. You’ve only got a limited time here and, one day, you’ll have to face the fact – when you’re dead your dead and there’s no going back – except being food for worms.

  8. jafapete Says:

    MacDoc:
    Goading? I was on best behaviour. I wasn’t expecting the response I got.

    Re your earlier post. Yes, there are extremists on both sides — and your views seem too nuanced to be fundamentalist BTW — but the strength of this element in some quarters has been remarked upon. I don’t see a ‘standardista left’ that does “Pay the Bill” stuff.

    On the point about tyranny, in our democracy there are limits as to how far any government can ignore the feelings of the voters. They are up for election every three years. And there’s another verdict due soon…

  9. Sconehead Says:

    Thanks for clearing that up Bill.

    So, the purpose of my life is for me to become food for worms? Sorry, I can’t accept that. The ‘guy with the beard’ has a much more persuasive, comprehensive, compassionate and meaningful position than the guy in the lab coat.

  10. Bill Browne Says:

    I’d say you’ll see I’m right when you’re dead, but you won’t ’cause you’ll be dead.

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