Aotearoa: let’s decolonize our rip, shit and bust capitalism

The 2-hundred-year ‘weather event’ of Cyclone Gabrielle was a momentary deluge compared with NZs 200 years of colonisation.  Let’s get things in perspective. There is nothing natural about either, but colonisation frames the conditions for the cyclone. This was nature warning us that if we don’t act to undo our past we are doomed to extinction.

When Marx talked of the modern theory of colonisation revealing the hidden secret of capitalism, he was right on the mark. Capitalism was not possible without separating the indigenous people from their lands to create private property as the basis of their exploitation. Killing two birds with one stone, labour was separated from the land and starved of its means of subsistence to create a class of landless labourers ripe for exploitation. Colonisation was all about ‘Aotearoa- the land of the wrong white rent-seekers’.

But this was not an isolated event in Aotearoa. When capitalism alienated humanity from nature it created the capitalocene – the obscenity of a colonised world where ‘progress’ was measured by the destruction of nature. Wealth was the accumulated dead labour of humans and the appropriation of nature’s bounty. Privatising nature set in motion the forces of destruction of the planet that now shows its rage in the rain-dark clouds, floods and whipping winds. The warming ocean disrupts the jet-stream which oscillates wildly across the latitudes bringing with it the promise of climate catastrophe.   

So, when we suffer growing disruptions to our lives from pandemics, climate catastrophes and economic crashes, remember that these are not natural events. Colonisation destroyed the harmony of indigenous societies organised as families, tribes or clans, adapted to nature, cooperating in reproducing the material world, and sharing everything according to need. When tribes went to war and captured enemies, they did so as ‘utu’, to restore a balance between tribes and nature, not to please any foreign king.

Colonisation fought wars to privatise the land, destroying the forests and wetlands ripping out raw commodities for the imperialist motherland, shitting on the environment, and busting the natural order in the process. This was overseen by kings and queens who claimed divine rights over the suffering masses. Today these regimes of naked emperors are now locked into a war dance of death and destruction in which the benighted masses are ground up as cannon fodder. It follows that to escape the inevitable destruction of a rip, shit and bust economy we have to decolonise our capitalist past.

When un-natural events threaten to overwhelm us, we fall back on what seems to be our social instincts of solidarity and sharing. What we don’t see at first, is that that solidarity and sharing was part of our human story, beginning over 200,000 years ago. For many millennia humans lived in large family communes in which adaptation to nature led to social selection of genes which favoured cooperation and sharing. Many such societies still survive on the margins of the capitalocene, and remain as part of our human phenotype.

The disruption of these societies in the last two millennia by colonisation and kings reached its peak with the arrival of capitalism in the 1700s. Globalization was the rip, shit and bust colonisation of the commune writ large. But today we can see more clearly that this was a relatively short deviation in human history, that can be set right by decolonizing the capitalocene and returning to the human commune.