The Dim-Post

February 13, 2014

The supermarkets of August

Filed under: books,Politics — danylmc @ 11:45 am

I’ve been reading The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark, a very good history of the origins of WWI. And I’ve been joking to myself that if I were Chris Trotter I’d be gleefully stuffing every event in New Zealand politics into some tortured parallel of fin de siecle Balkan history. (Just as Dragutin Dimitrijević outmaneuvered Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić, David Cunliffe must outwit John Key and assassinate the arch-duke of west-Auckland voter turnout.)

Only, this thing with Australian and New Zealand supermarkets does have a pre-July crisis vibe to it. You have an international system in which politicians and other players make short-term rational decisions based on business needs or domestic politics, possibly leading to an escalation as individuals in the other country also respond with their own domestic politics or short-term interests at heart.  Hopefully this won’t all lead to a trade war. (Or an actual war.)

Also of note about The Sleepwalkers. Clark notes in the introduction that the various statesmen involved in the outbreak of war all published post-war memoirs giving their eye-witness to history account of things. And when their private diaries, meeting notes etc were declassified decades later the memoirs all turned out to be steaming piles of self-serving lies. Worth bearing in mind. (I’ve noticed that politicians tend to read political memoirs rather than actual history.) Also of note. None of the key political players involved in the outbreak of a war that led to approximately twenty million deaths ever showed the slightest flicker of remorse or self-doubt about their actions.


  1. Hopefully this won’t all lead to a trade war. (Or an actual war.)

    It’s hard to have “a trade war” when your nations have a treaty forbidding any sort of protective tarriffs or disadventagous treatment. It’s even harder to have “an actual war” when your ability to project force is minimal-to-non-existent.

    More likely is that we’ll have a short-lived outburst of public nationalist sentiment in the form of a boycott of the “Aussie supermarkets” (whipped along by the “New Zealand supermarkets” loudly advertising their status), which will fade as the “Aussies” seek to win back market share by heavy discounting, which will further lower the prices they’re prepared to pay to their NZ suppliers.

    But I guess that’s what you get when you heavily lean on the “buy NZ made” button … .

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 13, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

  2. Or, we’ll get politicians standing up in Parliament to blow the whistle on dodgy practices by an Australian-owned supermarket chain, prompting consumers to shop at the NZ-owned competition. Certainly looks like some form of warfare…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 13, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

  3. Whenever I see product that carries an Australian-made sticker, I always look around for an alternative from a less obnoxious nation, like North Korea or Zaire.

    Comment by richdrich — February 13, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

  4. @richdrich,

    And so the first shots in the great Transtasman War of 2015 were fired. History shall forevermore judge you.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 13, 2014 @ 1:12 pm

  5. Time to stock up on (NZ made) baked beans.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 13, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

  6. The lights are going out all over Oceania.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — February 14, 2014 @ 6:38 am

  7. Like i said yesterday, outside the blogway the big story isn’t Dotcom, it is basic hip-pocket stuff around Countdown’s apparent sharp practices.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 14, 2014 @ 7:12 am

  8. I hate to burest your bubble but outside of the blogway and talk back radio most people are just getting on with their day to day lives.

    Comment by bart — February 14, 2014 @ 7:22 am

  9. A burest bubble. Sounds sexy. Are you trying to tell me something on Valentines day?

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 14, 2014 @ 7:31 am

  10. Another very good origins-of-WW1 source for the busy modern person is the podcast (it’s more audio-book) series ‘Hardcore History’ by Dan Carlin. He’s prone to a little bit too much hyperbole at times, but I’ve never come across anyone who is so able to make the past come alive.

    Comment by Phil — February 14, 2014 @ 9:19 am

  11. Ah yes, Dan Carlin. Like most US amateur historians is reading list is heavy on the conservative establishment historians (Keegan, Lyn MacDonald, Barbara W. Tuchman and scarily the ubiquitous Niall Ferguson) but not so much from the likes of Liddell Hart, A.J.P Taylor, Correlli Barnett or even Eric_Hobsbawm.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 14, 2014 @ 9:49 am

  12. Oh, FFS Sanc!
    Not everything is about politics.

    Comment by Phil — February 14, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

  13. That’s a pretty legit critique of an origins of WWI thesis.

    Although fuck some Corelli Barnett.

    Comment by Keir Leslie — February 14, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

  14. Liddell Hart is hardly a progressive! (Or a historian for that matter)

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 14, 2014 @ 6:18 pm

  15. I don’t often get to name-drop concerning my familiarity with historians of twentieth-century Germany, but I am happy to confirm that – as well as being a superb historian and a good sound left-winger – Christopher Clark is also an extremely nice chap. I once had drinks with him at a boozy graduate event in a cheap Italian restaurant beside the Cam. He’s very personable and helpful, though I must warn that – like Countdown supermarkets – he is also secretly Australian.

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — February 15, 2014 @ 11:30 am

  16. I downloaded “The Sleepwalkers” for my Kindle on Saturday, to go with my finally getting around to reading Julian Jackson’s “The Fall of France”. The defeat of the French in 1940 is probably the least appreciated massive historical event of the 20th century.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 17, 2014 @ 8:41 am

  17. I downloaded “The Sleepwalkers” for my Kindle on Saturday

    A capital-K Kindle! Did you buy it from Countdown?

    Comment by Joe W — February 17, 2014 @ 10:11 am

  18. No I got from AMAZON.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 17, 2014 @ 10:40 am

  19. It is a 8.9″ Kindle Fire, I really like it.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 17, 2014 @ 10:43 am

  20. @Sanc: You’re kidding, right?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 17, 2014 @ 10:58 am

  21. It’s fairly unlikely that internal conflict in a minor East European state would draw the major powers into global war, right?

    Comment by richdrich — February 19, 2014 @ 9:58 am

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