Wednesday, 7 January 2009


(First published in the Christchurch Press)

The hunt season is upon us - the sort of hunt which involves dozens of humans, horses and dogs, and one small herbivore. Quite often the herbivore gets away after being terrorised for varying lengths of time and sometimes it gets caught.

When I was growing up in North Canterbury in NZ I met a small jodhpur-clad girl who had the thing I wanted more than anything else in the world at the time – a pony. She also had stripes of blood on each cheek and was clutching a rabbit's foot. She had been to her first hunt and had been 'blooded'.

I couldn't make up my mind whether to dislike her for being excited about the killing of a bunny, appalled that she could let someone stripe her face with its blood, or envy her for her pony. My envy lost – a portent of a lifelong sympathy for the underdog or, in that case, the under-rabbit.

I'm a horse owner and, before the onset of age-related sanity, I was also a keen rider. But, I have always disapproved of hunting with hounds. 40 riders on horseback plus 30 hounds pursuing one very small herbivore is symbolic of all the one-sided battles there have ever been. It's David against 110 Goliaths. It's the little guy up against impossible odds, sometimes getting away but mostly being chased to utter exhaustion, then being torn limb from limb. It's indefensible.

This form of hunting causes living creatures to experience prolonged terror. It is neither a humane nor an efficient way to kill pests. I know that nature is red in tooth and claw but there's nothing natural about 18000 kgs of horse, 2500 kgs of rider and 1000 kgs of dog versus 4 kgs of hare.

I have no problem with people enjoying riding across country. Those who enjoy following hounds in pursuit of some small furry thing can still do so - the small furry thing just mustn't be a living creature. We don't allow racing greyhounds to chase living bunnies.

Given the fact that the hunts put spars on fences for those sensible folk who don't like to risk themselves and their horses leaping full-wire, why not drag a scent for the hounds to follow? It's better for the land and safer for horses and riders. Drag hunting (the name conjures up some amusing images) was preferred by some hunts in the UK even before anti-hunting legislation was passed.

Prior to being banned, the sight of well-heeled humans astride their well-shod horses, quaffing spirits from hipflasks and lurching off in pursuit of Britain's only remaining large predator, was always good for a laugh - if you weren't a fox. Some people saw it as a proud tradition, some as selfish and cruel, and others as symbolic of centuries old class divisions.

The spectacle of dozens of riders astride powerful horses, scores of hunt supporters and spotters following in cars and a team of terrier men to dig the fox out if it went to ground, was quite surreal.

The dogs were just following their instincts, the horses were trying to balance theirs against the demands of their riders, and the humans – well, they were just having a good time. But when you know how reclusive and small a fox is, the whole thing became rather ugly.

I had a debate with a neighbour in London who said he'd seen a fox the size of an Alsatian dog in his garden. I said it probably was an Alsatian dog. No he said it was a fox. Nonsense I said foxes are little. Not this one he said, it was huge. I thought he was on drugs. But, my curiosity was piqued, so I asked various people how big they thought a fox was. Estimates ranged from about the size of a spaniel to the size of an Alsatian.

The Scottish fox is the bigger of the two foxes native to the British Isles. It was introduced to England because it provided better sport than the smaller, more timid English fox. A fully grown Scottish fox weighs in at around 7 kgs – about the size of a very big cat. The vixen is much smaller.

Ok, it's a wild animal and can give good account of itself – when killing chickens. Against 40 or more fox hounds aided by the (relative) intelligence of all the humans involved and the speed and stamina of the horses (without which most of the humans wouldn't make it over the first fence) it's not very formidable.

Thankfully, Europeans didn't introduce the fox to New Zealand but, undeterred by the absence of the traditional British prey, the hunt fraternity looked around for a suitable huntee and, sadly for the hare, their gaze rested upon it.

Faster than a rabbit, lacking the rabbit's defence of going to ground, big enough (at a stretch) to justify the chase and responsible for the occasional pruning of young trees, the dotty little hare became the prey of choice for the great Kiwi hunt.

These days we place both moral and legal emphasis on humane methods of killing animals. I cannot see how hunting hares with hounds qualifies.


(First published in Christchurch Press)

2007 is the 200th anniversary of what has been described as one of the few 'perfectly virtuous acts in the history of nations' – the abolition of the British slave trade.

There were virtuous people involved, among them the Quakers, who started the movement; Thomas Clarkson, written out of history by Wilberforce's sons and Granville Sharp, who defended runaways.

But the reason abolitionism became so powerful in England was a coalescence of social and political movements, shifts in political consciousness and changes in production methods.

This social revolution made it politically, economically and militarily expedient for Britain to end slavery. It also changed the way Britain dealt with its colonies, especially New Zealand.

On a prosaic level, our consumption of sugar, potatoes, tobacco and coffee derives from the triangular trade in which ships took goods to Africa, bartered them for slaves, transported the slaves to the colonies, and returned with the products of slave labour. Our use of the word 'manchester' to describe cotton and linen goods reflects that city's key role in the triangular trade.

The English dominated the trade from the late 16th century. Estimates of the number taken, mainly young and able-bodied, vary between 8 and 14 million, and up to 40 million more died in wars and raids.

From Elizabethan times slaves were taken to England where their legal status remained unclear. They often absconded and when recaptured would be sold to West Indian plantations. Granville Sharp and others fought for years defending runaways and pressing for a legal ruling on slavery in England.

The 1772 Mansfield judgement in the Somerset case said no-one could compel a slave to leave England, but it did not formally end slavery. Most English slaves effectively freed themselves by the 1790s and, with the freed slaves who had fought for the English in the American Revolutionary War, formed part of the abolition movement.

From the 1770s, Quaker pamphlets and posters exposed the way slaves were treated in the colonies. Mortality rates were very high; beatings, rapes, torture and murder were commonplace. In 1781, in an insurance scam, 135 sick slaves were thrown overboard from the slaver Zong. The case was dealt with in the English courts, not as one of mass murder, but as a property dispute.

Conditions on board slavers were little better for sailors; one in five died on the voyage. Many people saw a correlation between slavery and the injustice of press ganging and forced labour in the Royal Navy.

The Acts of Enclosure, the colonisation of Ireland and the Highland Clearances forced people off the land and enabled the creation of vast estates by rich men, many of whom made their fortunes in the triangular trade.

Feudal production methods and ties were being broken; dispossessed rural folk and unemployed artisans formed a new urban poor for whom life was both harsh and precarious. A new middle class emerged; people with the time and means to act upon their consciences and to question the vagaries and corruption of the parliamentary process.

At this time, only 5% of men could vote, but there was a strong culture of intuitive democracy. It was legal to own and operate printing presses; there were many libraries and debating societies and an efficient road and postal system allowed a high level of uncensored communication. All these factors were successfully exploited by the Abolitionists.

Slavery created the capital that fuelled the industrial revolution that created a working class - and it was the first issue to galvanise nation-wide working class action. After Wilberforce's first abolition bill was defeated in 1788, anti-slavery petitions flooded into parliament from working class organisations. At the forefront of the demand for emancipation were women's associations which organised a boycott of sugar that was supported by 300,000 people.

The link between abolition and the radicalism of levelling and the rights of man horrified Wilberforce who believed the trade should be stopped, but that the property rights of slave owners had to be protected. He also believed that working people should be treated well but kept firmly in their place, hence his support of the 1795 Combinations Acts and the outlawing of radical and trade union activities.

The 1807 Act formally halted the slave trade but it wasn't until 1833 that slaves were freed throughout the empire. Whilst hefty compensation was paid to slave owners, slaves were forced to work for a further four years without pay. Freedom when it finally came was notional; ex-slaves had no political voice and were shackled by debt. Slavery had been replaced by another system just as brutal and exploitative.

One year after emancipation, the Reform Bill introduced one of the most detested institutions in British social history – the workhouse.

Political Correctness: The New 'Loony Left'

(First published in Christchurch Press)

In the mid-1980s I read in this newspaper that the borough where I lived in London had banned the use of black bin bags because they were racially insulting. That untrue story was one of many about Labour-led boroughs which appeared in the British tabloid press. As smear campaigns go, it was pretty effective - until it died from a combination of the weight of its own lies and overwork.

I have been watching the development of a new version of the 'loony-Left' campaign here in New Zealand. Some old-style stories have even reappeared. For example, last year Michael Bassett claimed the London Borough of Wandsworth's Labour Council had removed Charles' and Diana's portraits because they 'celebrated heterosexuality'. Wandsworth has always been a Tory Borough and if this story is anything like the saga of Baa Baa Green Sheep, it should be consigned to the Bad Black Bin Bag.

The Right's current scare and smear tactic is the spectre of 'PC madness', which is being blamed for everything from rising crime to falling academic standards. The notion of a coterie of leftist 'elites' which attack traditional values, using the 'weapons' of political correctness, cultural relativism and multiculturalism, is an American, neo-conservative creation.

The idea is that leftist minority interest groups have engineered a social agenda which has undermined the 'traditional' family and marriage through such things as the legalisation and/or promotion of abortion, prostitution, homosexuality and feminism.

They are also accused of having created a claustrophobic intellectual environment, a crime wave, reverse discrimination and, by pursuing multiculturalism, of having eroded Kiwi values.

It's no wonder some New Zealanders feel out of their depth. But that's the intention, so they'll be relieved when the anti-PC life guards arrive to pull them back onto terra firma, 'the way things used to be'.

Quite how a loose, and often competing, coalition of minority interest groups has managed to acquire weapons of mass indoctrination and use them to such shocking and awesome effect mystifies me -- in my experience of interest group politics, they'd be more likely to use them on each other.

The term 'politically correct' came into popular usage in the USA in the early 1970s to describe social and political initiatives which challenged discriminatory attitudes and practices. A particular focus of this was on language and imagery which perpetuated negative racial and gender stereotypes.

Some people claim that it has gone too far and has given minorities an unfair advantage over the mainstream. Claims of unfair advantage are usually ideologically motivated, as is the contraposition of minorities against mainstream. After all, everyone is in some sort of minority, especially the very rich.

No doubt political correctness has been used to intimidate and to exclude, and overly enthusiastic, opportunistic or just plain angry people sometimes use it as a stick to beat their opponents. However, the bigotry and discrimination which gave rise to it were, and remain, vastly more hurtful and harmful.

Some argue that PCness prevents people from speaking their minds, but there are always limits to what may be said in a public arena. These shift, either reflecting broader socio-political changes or as a deliberate tactic to stretch or narrow the boundaries of acceptability.

Some commentators these days use un-PC language to make a political point. In so doing, they risk legitimating the words and actions of people who take their bigotry a great deal more seriously.

A reporter asked Peter Jackson how he'd deal with the name of Guy Gibson's dog in The Dambusters. Jackson didn't comment but the non-story provoked debate about whether people who object to the 'N word' are being PC or oversensitive. Those who mourn the loss of Golliwogs and the freedom to call their dogs 'Nigger', need to remember their history.

Industrialised slavery reduced black people to the legal status of animals. Slavery was abolished in 1865 in the USA but, by the early 1900s, all the Southern states had disenfranchised and segregated former slaves. Vicious caricatures and moral panics fuelled and legitimated the beatings, rapes, castrations and lynchings of black people that were commonplace throughout the South until the1960s.

That word in the mouths of white supremacists, became the most potent symbol of those dreadful times.

When earlier generations used the word to name a pet they didn't question whether it was offensive. They had the excuse of ignorance, given any voices speaking for women's and minority rights and interests were drowned out by the clamour of the largely white, male status quo staking its claim to the economic, political and moral high ground.

It's hard to use that excuse now that women and minorities have a political voice. If what they demand seems to be extreme, it needs a reasoned debate, not the hysteria of moral panics.

Political correctness cannot force people to abandon their values. A law which allows people to formalise same-sex relationships won't destroy the nuclear family - but the financial and emotional pressures of over-consuming, isolated family units might.

Harsher sentencing won't stop property crime while the poor have their noses rubbed in images of wealth and privilege, and where many means of achieving wealth may be legal but are unethical.

Deploring sexual violence against women and children without considering the effects of commercially generated words and images that objectify and sexualise them is hypocrisy.

The anti-PC campaign creates moral panics by presenting extreme examples of 'PC-ness' as typical. It links PC to emotive words like 'madness' to scare people who see themselves as middle-of-the-road. It doesn't specify what 'traditional values' are so it won't alienate people who have conflicting definitions and expectations.

Its appeal lies in going back, to an idealised time when there was moral certainty and social order.

In reality, it's about going back to a time when women's place was in the home and people of colour were acceptable as long as they stayed apart or behaved like white people; when homosexuals stayed in the closet, criminals were hanged, disabled people were pitied, and government's primary function was to facilitate business and maintain the armed wing of the state.

It was once a sin and treason to challenge the divine right of a king. Not so long ago only white, property owning men over 30 could vote and it was inconceivable for a black woman to be a Republican US Secretary of State.

The social changes which allowed Condoleeza Rice to rise to the top of world politics were fought for by people who would be dismissed by the anti-PC brigade as left-liberal, crusading, do-gooders out to destroy the natural order of things. Go figure.

The Joys of Gowdom

(First published in Christchurch Press)

A while back I wrote a piece in which I suggested that older NZ should look to itself for an explanation for the behaviour of anti-social young people.

From my vantage point of Gowdom (the state of being a grumpy old woman) I have decided that that there is a broad phenotype - the Git - a grievously irritating tosser, which has two sub-types – the Oaf (obnoxious, antisocial fool) and the Oik (over-indulged kid).

Sometimes you can get an oafish oik or an oikish oaf – but the distinction is purely academic when your life is being disrupted by their antics.

Interestingly, in 21st century New Zealand, if you are mentally ill and become belligerent, you may be shot dead by the police or die as a result of being pepper sprayed. If you are Maori nationalists you may encounter the armed might of the paramilitary police. If you have a domestic in the wrong part of town, armed police may try to shoot your dog. If you are a member of a family identified by the police as 'criminal', you may be subjected to calculated police harassment. If you are students caught up in the annual festival of fools, you may be charged with riot.

But, let a huge mob of Gits pour diesel on the road, throw bottles at the police, race their cars in city streets, behave in ways which endanger, disturb, frighten and intimidate residents and visitors alike – and they are 'allowed to disperse'. No arrests are made, all the police do is confiscate 50 cars. Someone decided 'not to inflame the situation' but to follow up on some offenders at home.

This won't be in riot gear with battering rams, helmets and automatic weapons – no, no – an unarmed police officer will knock politely on the door and suggest that little Jarvis or Jade not behave as antisocially in future. Maybe a few with outstanding fines will be arrested – but mostly they'll get away with it.

So what's the difference here? Did the police take a this approach because they identify with many of these young people? Perish the thought.

How is it that these Oiks and Oafs can hold a whole city to ransom and get away with it? Why didn't the paramilitary wing swing into action and seize a few miscreants at gunpoint? Why didn't they set up armed road blocks, confiscate car keys and make the occupants walk home?

Of course it's still possible to behave oafishly and oikily on foot – but these are people most of whom, when deprived of their metal carapaces, are exposed as weak and vulnerable little things. Their belligerence will reduce in direct proportion to the distance their soft little bodies have to walk.

These 'car enthusiasts' don't frighten or intimidate me. I worked for years in areas of London that would scare these brats into peeing their pants. No, they embarrass me. They're like a bunch of over- indulged toddlers who've learned how to get their own way by wailing. Grown larger in size, they amplify their noise potential by driving around in souped-up cars with neuron-zapping sound systems and huge exhaust pipes (compensation for a lack of something) – still behaving like toddlers but manipulating the entire community.

This is a disturbing generation. A high proportion of it is scarily self-absorbed, ill-informed and insular. Faced with arguably greater threats to their own and their children's survival than any previous generation in the history of human kind - they find fulfilment in fiddling with cars, trying to defy gravity with their trousers and creating a carbon footprint in direct inverse proportion to their social worth.

They are aping the worst aspects of a culture which, more than any other, has set the world on a path of hedonism and self-destruction. There is so much that is great about the USA – but they choose to identify with its ugliest face.

And of course this occurred in the weekend of Earth Hour. While the good citizens of Christchurch were exhorted to 'switch off' for the planet, the Gits switched on their cars to burn oil, make noise and pollute the atmosphere.

They offend me. The fact that they are treated differently by the law offends me. They offend me because they are a very public symbol of an increasingly selfish, stratified and greedy society. They are the sort of people that the paean to rampant consumerism - the advertisement for the Wednesday lottery - is aimed at.

In the UK now, kids of the inner city slums ape American gang culture and shoot each other over drugs or just because they feel like it, while the kids of the suburbs congregate and numb their brains by 'drifting' and doing 'burn outs'. There's a certain grim irony in the terms they use to describe their play. The car is central to both – burn outs on bikes, cycle-by shootings - don't have quite the same street cred or gangster cachet.

So, I call upon all Gows and Goms to put quill to parchment and demand action. My suggestion is make Gits suffer the dangers and abuses of outrageous drivers by requiring them to walk or cycle to school or work. Parents should exercise their parental responsibilities by confiscating cell phones and credit cards, cutting hoods off sweat shirts and insisting on trousers and caps being worn correctly.

As to a suitable punishment for offenders - how about dressing them in orange boiler suits and making them scrub the roads clean of diesel and burnt rubber?

The State of the Nation

(First published in Christchurch Press)

There is something rotten in the state of New Zealand; something deeply and dangerously rotten.

It manifests itself in the selfish and aggressively competitive behaviour of drivers towards other road users and in the mindset of the boorish no-marks who throw bottles at cyclists.

It is the very life blood of the sleaze industry and peeks out of newspaper reports that grace porn-mongers with the title of 'magnates' and gives them front page billing.

It’s latent in the oafish behaviour of school boys ogling bare-breasted women; and is fully fledged in the sort of locker room humour that thinks it's appropriate to simulate a woman having sex with a bull in celebration of a sporting victory.

It's at the roots of the institutionalised sexism that made police officers think it was acceptable to have group sex with a 16 year old girl.

It's lurking in the rationale behind prime time screening of docu-soaps that feature labia reconstructions and porn actresses having their anuses bleached. It feeds off the failure to ask who these programmes are aimed at; why women feel the need to return their genitals to pre-childbearing state, or their anuses to the unsullied pinkness of a child's, and who such self imposed tortures are meant to please.

It's immanent in the obsession with breasts, no longer glands that produce milk for human infants but hyper-sexualised objects to be surgically altered, sometimes to the point of freakishness and at risk of women's health and well being.

It's embedded in the cynical reasoning behind the use of highly sexualised and objectified imagery of women to sell the high-tech ephemera that passes for popular music; in the sexualisation of children and in the coldly exploitative creation of new markets aimed at the very young.

It fuels the snarling rejection of those who question these things and is the glue on all the derisory labels that are attached to them. It is the motive force behind every act of violence - physical, emotional, commercial - by the powerful against the powerless.

It lies at the very heart of our big social problems – the abuse of our young and the neglect of our old. If the worth of a society can be measured by how it cares for and protects those who built it and those who will inherit it, what does the fact that we beat our young and try to pretend our old don't exist, say about us?

It is a deep brutish vein of aggression, masquerading as masculinity, which is legitimated and strengthened by all those who perpetuate it, aspire to it or condone it.

And it has a partner in crime - a narrowing, stultifying obsession with celebrity that the media is complicit in both creating and perpetuating. The dumbing-down of a once proudly literate society is almost complete – your average Kiwi is now almost as poorly read, insular and parochial as your average middle-American. We are more interested in Britney Spears mental health and knickers than we are in the 6 million kids who die from poverty every year around the world.

We have become a nation of selfish, greedy slobs. We've sold our heritage for a houseful and a belly full of junk – and a few second hand cars. On the way to this state we've also become more violent, abusive and intolerant.

We blame society's victims and we label those who try to defend them as 'bleeding hearts'. We turn the term 'do-gooder' into a pejorative, and hate those who defend the environment more than those who rape it. We create scapegoats to avoid responsibility for our actions and dehumanise them with the label of 'feral under-class'.

Anything that generates a buck is OK. People who effectively steal millions are lauded as entrepreneurs; people who make false claims for benefits are derided as bludgers.

Our wealthy emulate the culture of the world's arch-consumer but are horrified when our poor emulate its street culture. The wanna-be wealthy try to swim with the consuming tide using their credit cards as flotation aids. Many who drown do so believing it was their own fault for not being stronger swimmers.

I used to be proud of being a New Zealander. I used to think that Kiwis were, of all things, fair and tolerant people. Now I see mainly a selfish, disregarding obsession with consuming – as if the junk we stuff into our mouths, our houses and garages will quieten our consciences, somehow make us better people, somehow make our small lives bigger.

It doesn't work, except for the irretrievably self-centred and self-absorbed among us

As a nation we are increasingly deskilled, fat and unfit – physically, intellectually, morally and emotionally. We're unmotivated except by greed and competition; we are so lacking in a positive vision of ourselves as a people, that as a nation we get depressed when the All Blacks lose a rugby match.

So come on New Zealand, someone really is stealing your stuff – not the junk, but the right stuff, the stuff that makes good people, good communities and good countries.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The True Internationalists

Within the financial and ideological walls of a place known as Richistan, live the tiny number of rapaciously greedy people who control our world. These are the Obscenely-Rich who are greedy for money because money buys power and power is addictive; the more power they have, the more they want.

Money and power distances the Obscenely-Rich from the lives and concerns of the rest of humanity. The more rich and powerful they are, the smaller and less significant ordinary people appear to be. This moral radar can also be calibrated so as not to register people of the 'wrong' skin colour or belief system and is invaluable when the Obscenely-Rich need to harm or kill their fellow humans in pursuit of more money and power.

Be it through over-work, hunger, disease, pollution, industrial accident or war – all the Poor are dispensable to varying degrees. The Utterly-Poor are simply a nuisance. They add little or no value and can be left to die in any of the myriad ways man and nature has devised to rid the earth of the vulnerable. Their one small use to the Obscenely-Rich is as a reminder to the Relatively-Poor of what might happen to them if they don't behave.

The Obscenely-Rich don't need to worry about running out of Utterly-Poor as there are plenty of the Relatively-Poor who lose their grip on their place in the global scheme of things. The Relatively-Poor have a greater value in that they can both produce and – importantly - consume. 

They can be persuaded into being perpetual debtors, working for the Obscenely-Rich to pay the interest on loans extended to them by banks owned by the Obscenely-Rich. They can be manipulated, through nationalism, bigotry, religion or other fervour-raising agents, into fighting the wars that the Obscenely-Rich foment in pursuit of more money and power. They buy into the Great Con with its twin illusions of political and consumer freedom - the right to vote for effectively powerless governments, and the right to buy the commodities they produce, with the money they have been paid for producing them. They live in perpetual fear of becoming one of the Utterly-Poor.

Most strive to drag themselves into the relative safety of the Favoured-Few which includes those who provide the essential expertise without which the world could not be efficiently plundered by the Obscenely-Rich. The more widespread and sophisticated the plundering is, the more these experts are needed. Their rewards, in terms of money and status, rise commensurately and their stake in perpetuating the Great Con is driven deeper. They perpetuate the idea that, without the profit motive, there would be no incentive to progress and therefore the Great Con is the only way to organise production. They use their clever minds and hands to design and produce ever-more useless stuff and to create ever-more subtle ways of selling it. They devise ever-more sophisticated weapons to kill other humans, and substances and techniques for saving lives that only the Obscenely-Rich and some of the Favoured-Few can afford to buy. 

They live happily with the fact that the Utterly-Poor die for want of clean water, food, shelter and medicines all the while developing more ways of keeping themselves and the Obscenely-Rich alive longer and looking younger. They try to justify a world in which millions of children die every year from the effects of poverty; and in which millions of others face a future of obesity and metabolic chaos induced by products and lifestyles sold to their parents by companies owned by the health, and appearance-obsessed Obscenely-Rich. And, they obscure, with complex and clever justifications, the fact that these ideas are nothing more than the crude ideology of a god-given order of the rich man in his castle, the poor man at its gate - and the poor woman and her children – well, who cares?

Sadly, for all the world's Poor, as the plundering becomes more efficient, it also becomes less labour intensive. Some of the Favoured-Few lose their grip and slip into the ranks of the Relatively-Poor, which forces many of them to fall into the realms of the Utterly-Poor. 

The dispossessed and disillusioned become potential rebels who are all the more dangerous because the key trade-off for their cooperation in the Great Con – ie political freedom with its notions of individual and human rights - has made them believe that they actually matter, that they have a right to their piece of the pie, and even a say in how the pie should be divided.

They are both the creation of the system and the very thing that might bring it to its knees. Except the Obscenely-Rich have foreseen this and created many means of diverting and controlling the rebellious Poor. Some are brutal and obvious, others are so subtle they are seen as rights and freedoms. One of the most effective weapons of the Obscenely-Rich and their courtiers is telling the Poor that their worst enemies are the Other-Poor. So much the better, if those Others have different coloured skins, speak a different language or worship a different god.

And so the Relatively-Poor and some of the Favoured Few regularly march off to contrived wars which have multiple benefits for the Obscenely-Rich. They reduce the numbers of the Utterly-Poor, who are always worst affected by war. They kill off great swathes of a most potent rebellious force – young men - and envelope their families and communities in a haze of grief and hatred of the 'enemy'.

They also have the added benefit of generating vast amounts of the stuff that keeps the walls of Richistan standing.