Book review: Privatising Parts

Privatising parts

Richard Meros

Lawrence and Gibson 2011

Reviewed by Joel Cosgrove, Workers Party Wellington Branch

“Who better than students to teach teachers what students ought to be taught?”, so asks Richard Meros in his new fiction Privatising Parts. Quite simply this is a beautifully crafted piece of satire. On the surface this is a stinging critique of the far-right dwellers floating far out in the political stratosphere, think Muriel Newman, Roger Kerr etc. But this is not just a lampooning of the free-market logic taken to its extreme, it’s a satire of the underlying free-market logic itself.

For those unfamiliar with the work of Meros, he is the author of a number of independently produced books (so independent, that he takes part in the printing and binding himself). On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, and Beggars and Choosers: The Complete Written Correspondence between Creative New Zealand and Richard Meros volume one are amongst a slew of self-published titles.

Young Lover… was the breakout title, being successfully adapted to theatre and described by The Guardian as “skip[ing] between sociology, psychoanalysis and cringe-making erotica.” Privatising Parts picks up a couple of months after the 2008 general election, with Meros freedom camping and trying to escape the supposed backlash-permeating feral blogs and bitchy Labour Party cliques. He meets a hitchhiker and in an awkward conversation with Silence of the Lambs/Buffalo Bill undertones he proceeds to unleash his grief and sadness on being rejected as a young lover by Helen Clark.

This rejection has made it clear to him that “only the compulsion of a competitive market will sew up the aorta loopholes that perpetuate humankind’s recurring errors in love”. Meros proceeds to outline the basis of this proposition.

The intimate sphere is neither a public or private sphere, but a personal one. Not governed by the laws of the market but also not overseen by the state. Huge amounts of emotional time and energy are wasted in the failed pursuit of intimate relations. The ultimate goal is for the competitive disciplines of the free market to provide the optimum outcomes for society as a whole. Or so it’s said.

But in order to enforce free-market discipline. You need information. This is because the failings of the current framework are due to a lack of information, of people thinking with their loins and not reason. The first step towards rationalising intimate relations along a more free-market framework, is for the Labour Party to nationalise the intimate relation into an SOE, Randycorp. Starting from an overwhelming faith in ‘progress’ Randycorp will manage intimate relations using rigorous, modern, scientific methods to most efficiently distribute the intimate relations of the population as a whole, not as a dating agency (which only deals with the dregs of society) or as a eugenics project (the aim being not to persecute or criminalise but to maximise total happiness).

The endpoint here is that what Labour nationalises, National then privatises. “Obviously there would be many companies like Randycorp and refinements would be made with experience, as occurs in any mixture of planned and free economies” says Meros, intentionally ignoring the glaring examples of the insurance or electricity industries and the method in which they collectively conspire to fuck over the unknowing consumer.

While this book is hilariously extreme in the manner it stretches the logic of privatisation to its limits, it is very much an attack at the core basis of the ideology and surface truisms that are put forward on a wider basis as an aspect of capitalist hegemony. In reality, situations that aren’t very much less outrageous than this are put forward as truths, on the basis of nothing much more than hack-pseudo-psychology e.g. the idea of perfect information, or the natural selfishness of people etc.

At the launch of the book, I gave a reading of the passage extolling the virtues of privatisation. Although put forward with the ideological inanity of a university debater, the book still drove the audience to stop the reading and argue. Even though a satire at its opening, the book is so borderline in its deep understanding of its subject, that it is more than believable. Which is kind of what makes it funny.

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