New Zealand is ending 2020 with its relationship with China as strong as when the year began, Jane Patterson writes paraphrasing Jacinda Ardern in an article recently published on Radio New Zealand. Our trials and tribulations (relating to China), I surmise from what Ardern has said in regard to China, ‘are a matter of upholding principles which retain importance regardless of whom it is New Zealand’s government is in a relationship with’. Ironically, despite Ardern’s bravado relating to humanitarian issues in China, the neoliberal agenda remains at the forefront of her thinking because there are thirty-three billion reasons why Ardern would not cease Our special relationship with China – perhaps even if they were live-streaming the mass-murder of cultural opponents. This distinct lack of political thinking places New Zealand not only under the thumb of Asian economic markets such as China’s but under that of the overarching world system, which steadily tears away at the fabric of all societies.

Ardern’s cult of personality extends no further than her social capabilities whereby she relies solely on her cunning ability to turn – seemingly – every issue to one which purports her moral superiority. Evidence of her incessant proclamations of love, sympathy, and empathy is a constant stench under our noses as she bandies about the world fulfilling globalist dogmas and professing her neo-American fervency for spreading her particular flavour of freedom, which comes in the form of phrases similar to ‘spreading the aroha.’ But what does spreading the love mean aside from being an appeal to emotion from a politician who does very little for the society in which she is supposed to be acting on behalf, one wonders. Well, it does well to disarm political opponents who, if we are to consider Collins’ recent rather meagre run at the leadership, are forced to play the same game or face moral retribution from a general public who have ostensibly subscribed to Saint Jacinda Weekly and bow at the feet of Her holiness. Given that Ardern’s philosophy appears to favour all the wonders of what could be described as a culture that worships capitalism, including most elements of the neoconservatives as well as those with an overtly materialistic view of history, it is safe to assume that pushback against these pervasive appeals to emotion will be few and far between in the mainstream political discourse. Unsurprisingly, this culture of superficiality expresses itself to the broader society and manifests in subcultural consumer groups.

Reading and listening to content produced on and by RNZ one cannot help but be introduced to the dispiriting reality of contemporary consumer culture. In this instance, one finds oneself briefly glancing down the rabbit hole of what are known as Sneakerheads, a subculture made up of individuals who have ostensibly forged their identity on the queuing for, the purchasing of, and general attraction to having an inordinate collection of expensive sneakers for largely impractical reasons. Quintessentially modern-aged, the Sneakerhead is an individual whose identity provides one the perfect accompaniment to the politics of the superficial and the society which exists under the thumb of individual consumption markets.

As the word itself is indicative, the Sneakerhead is a creation of an American-inspired capitalistic culture that has the sole aim of crafting an identity on the purchase, use of, and obsession with a product; shoes, in this case. Not at all dissimilar from the cultural ethos of other identities that have come out of the United States and made their way to New Zealand, such as rap music and all its crucial contributions to the world, the Sneakerhead is another identity which boasts all the important elements of what it means to be part of a culture in modernity. That is, an identity in which any individual from any ethnic or racial tradition can participate, is centered around the consumption of a product, and, most vitally, its only requirement is that one contributes currency to be involved. These points, although not exhaustive of what defines the depthlessness of modern culture, highlight why it is that global capitalism is, and has been, so successful in aiding the erasure of any of the traditions of yesteryear. Yes, it may be true that rap music is both subjectively and objectively worse than the likes of craving the purchase and potential resale of a pair of shoes, but they are, in effect, of one side of the same coin. Both, perhaps in similar as well as slightly divergent ways, exist in a time where for individuals to be a part of a culture they are merely required to consume the fashionable products and tropes associated with said culture. As is true for New Zealand’s contemporary relationship with China, the individual Sneakerhead here exists in symbiosis with a global culture that views trade and consumption within and between countries as peerless in their value, regardless of moral issues stemming from them.

This environment that is created as a result of decaying cultural tropes such as those associated with consumer capitalism necessitates epigenetic influence that lessons the importance of genes in a given environment. This is because said environment no longer resembles the traditional one which the genes of one’s ancestors and ancestor’s ancestors cultivated, but one which is most often antithetical to that. As a result — provided you are not some kind of unperson or are physically unable to participate — the environment created by a culture that puts huge social importance on what one consumes, how one consumes it and the way in which this consumption of the product affects those around the consumer affords anyone, from any racial or ethnic tradition, the opportunity to be involved.

Similar to the politics of Ardern, the sneakerhead subculture is derived from a depraved and materialistic conception of societal culture. Rather than the individual being someone who is intrinsically part of the society; someone who exists as a result and in the reflection of it as well as living for its continuance, the materialistic view places society at the whims of any number of individuals who will take from it what they will and abandon it on a whim to cater to their transient wants. Apart from being a depressing notion of how one should live, this existence removes from society those traditional ways of being which we previously evolved knowing: vital elements of being such as brotherhood, unity, honour, community, and nationhood. It is our hope that we can return to ways of being that reflect a more natural way of being in the world.

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