Wednesday, 28 July 2010

loving maori language week

i've been posting over at the hand mirror over the last few days, with a post about one of my favourite films, another on getting more women nominated for honours, and a post today about the lack of stories about peace.

also loving maori language week, again. it's great to see the media making such an effort - it's one of the few times when i really love nz media. especially good has been the waikato times, with a major article every day this week on te reo, a list of 10 words with translations every day, and audio files on their website. today's article is here, so you can see what i mean. and the week started off with this, not so well written, but quite courageous piece. can't wait to see all the outraged letters next week!

yes, and i'm one of those who think maori should be compulsory at nz schools. it's a language of nz and we should know how to speak it.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

speaking up and speaking out

i've been spending my time over the last few days having a debate by email on a yahoo group i belong to. the group has several hundreds of members, but i've been battling with only two of them. i have no idea what the rest of them might think, or whether it's even worth the effort. but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

it's been pretty frustrating, because i'll put up a whole heap of reasoned arguments, explanations, sometimes links when i get the time. and all i get back are one or two sentence replies with unsubstantiated accusations, or wild generalisations with no proof whatsoever. a couple of the replies border on the nasty, but don't quite get there. again, you might wonder what the point is, as i have a few times.

quite simply, the point is to try to educate people, to try to fight misconceptions with facts and reason, to make them think about their prejudices and why they hold them. even though i pretty much know that the two people i'm directly talking to are not listening, probably not even reading most of what i've written. but maybe other people are, and maybe even for these two, something, somewhere might sink in.

speaking up and speaking out are basic human duties, as far as i'm concerned. to stay silent when something that is clearly wrong going on is to actually participate in that wrong. i guess that's been one of my strengths and one of my greatest weaknesses: not being able to shut up when i hear something that i know to be wrong, when i see attitudes that i know to be destructive. it's a weakness in that it can hurt relationships and because i can get too passionate, which means that i say things in a way that isn't sensitive to the person i'm speaking to. i hope i'm never malicious but i know that i'm not always tactful.

still, despite that, staying silent is not an option. in this particular round of arguments (i've tried it with these particular couple of people before, and given up in frustration), my underlying principle has been to maintain my dignity, present things in a clear way, and to let people judge for themselves as to who is providing the better contribution. it's the best i can do, and the least i can do.

Monday, 19 July 2010

not quite better

still not over the cold. the headache is gone, but the hacking painful cough remains, not helped by the asthma. this means that i didn't get to do the things i wanted this weekend, deeming it better to stay at home to rest. one of the things i really wanted to do was this (ie protest outside the national party conference). i'm absolutely appalled at the proposals that are going to make life so much more difficult for employees, especially for the unskilled or those with less bargaining power.

lots of good posts on this at the usual places. i don't think there's anything much i can add to all of that, so let me just agree with all of it.

i put up a post at the hand mirror last night about my loathing of self-service checkouts at supermarkets, and have had some really interesting and thoughtful responses.

Friday, 16 July 2010


i've been out of action for much of this week, with a really bad cold. three days in bed with a sore chest and asthma playing up, so no time at the computer. hopefully things will improve soon, and i've got a pretty busy weekend coming up.

i've spent most of my writing energy putting up this post at the hand mirror about laniet bain, so i won't write much here today. other than to say that it's my birthday, i'm 44, and hasn't the year gone by fast. it's not been as eventful as the previous year, but that's because i've been trying (with very moderate success) to cut back on various things. but that's just in terms of major events. it's been the small stuff that's been taking up my time, a lot of it frustrating but necessary to deal with.

however, i'm glad to have found time this year to catch up on books and movies, and spend more time with friends. and i'm glad i've managed to keep up with the blogging. even though it's much more sporadic, it's still a medium to say important things that need to be said - well, important to me anyway. thanks to all of you who happen to drop by and read what i have to say. and i hope the coming year brings good things for you.

Monday, 12 July 2010

lazing around

so i've been, well you could say "busy" but more accurate would be "lazing around", finally getting around to reading the second and third books of the millenium trilogy by stieg larsson. they were interesting, but. left a bit to be desired. i'm still not enamoured of the sometimes nasty & graphic depictions of violence. and i'm not sure how courtrooms in sweden work, perhaps they're more like a family group conference compared to nz courtrooms, but the courtroom scenes in the third book just seemed way too unrealistic to me. the plot was a little bit too predictable in the third book.

but despite all of that, i still did like his main character and i think there was good coverage of the reality of things like sexual harassment in the workplace, domestic violence, and inadequacies of mental health care. i'm not sure that i feel any richer or better informed after having read these novels - well, maybe i do quite a bit more about sweden than i did previously - but i do think they are a useful addition to popular literature in that the female characters are much better than what you often get in books written by men.

also this weekend, i caught the film "fast food nation" broadcast on maori tv (go them, yet again). i seriously think that every person should be sat down and forced to watch this film. it was a pretty brutal and gruesome look at reality, but it also really connected to some of what i was trying to say in my last post. the thread in the film i related to most was the appalling treatment of illegal mexican workers and the exploitation of their poverty. given the current immigration debates around the world, i wonder if seeing more of this kind thing would change people's minds about who the real parasites of this world are.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

a new iron curtain

ah yes, the australian policy on asylym seekers and refugees announced by julia gillard this week. so much has already been written about it, that it's hard to know where to start. larvatus prodeo has a series of posts that have attracted a whole heap of comments.

the first seeks to find a differentiation between ms gillard's policy and john howard's. the difference, according to some commenters, is that the new policy will seek to ensure humane treatment and UN oversight. the second is about the president of timor leste voicing similar concerns about the humane treatment:

“I wouldn’t want Timor-Leste to become an island prison for displaced persons … fleeing violence,” he said. “If they were here, they will have to have certain freedoms.”

He said the people of East Timor were generous and had a long tradition of hospitality. “If we’re to do it, we do it out of our personal humanitarian, our collective convictions in helping other poor people who flee persecution,” he said. “I would never turn my back on people who flee violence in Afghanistan or wherever, but on a temporary basis.”

the third post is a bit of satire using the prophet moses, harriet tubman & oskar schindler as examples of "people smugglers", whom ms gillard's policies are apparently directed against.

todays dominion post quotes jeff thomas of the wellington refugees as survivors trust, who has a different concern:

...the centre – proposed by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard – could encourage more asylum seekers to bypass normal refugee procedures and try to reach Australia by boat. "That would create a system whereby people could jump a queue – and it's a pretty long queue."

he also speaks against john key's statement that, if nz were to accept refugees from any such centre, that they would come out of nz's refugee quota of 750 a year.

the last paragraph of the article quotes an amnesty international spokesperson asking that asylum seekers shouldn't be used as a political pawns, a comment also picked up by the sydney morning herald:

Debate in Australia and New Zealand has been split over how to deal with asylum seekers, but Amnesty International New Zealand spokeswoman Margaret Taylor said on Wednesday most had genuine reasons to seek refuge and should not be used as political pawns.

Both countries had an obligation under international conventions to protect asylum seekers fleeing from violence and persecution, and who may have a genuine refugee claim, she said.

Ms Taylor echoed calls from Labour and the Greens about a processing centre being an unlikely solution and warned against a return to the former Australian policy of mandatory offshore detention, known as the Pacific Solution, where detainees were left in often inhumane conditions with little access to assistance.

the refugee council believes nz policy should be independent to that of australia's:

The Refugee Council of New Zealand is opposed to the announced intention of the New Zealand Government to participate in the Australian plan to hold asylum seekers and boat people in regional detention centres in East Timor.

RCNZ believes that New Zealand should take its own independent course in a policy based on humanitarian principles, and not follow the present direction of the Australian government. Australia has quite different asylum issues which are presently bound up in domestic politics related to their own upcoming elections...

RCNZ also is also concerned about the detrimental and damaging effects of long term detention on women and children particularly. Hard evidence regarding the exact nature and extent of the effects of detention is included in the enclosed attachment. [note: i can't find any attachment on the scoop site]

all of the above is commendable, and i have no quibble with it. but it seems to me that there is something missing from the discussion, and that is a discussion about the wider of issue of what is causing people to seek asylum in the first place. that so many people in the world today are displaced, are suffering from war and extreme poverty, is a thing that can and should be changed.

the discussion needs not only to include the way we treat those who seek asylum, but also what we need to do to bring peace and prosperity to many countries around the world. it needs to include consideration of how the inequitable sharing of the world's resources has come to be, and how those injustices can and should be righted.

of course that would involve radical change, and the rather scary notion that those of us living in the west need to accept a lower standard of living in order for equity to be achieved. it would mean significant changes that would affect our well-being. and it would require a massive collective effort in order to achieve such a result.

it's a tall order in a world where individual responsibility and achievement are considered more important than collective wellbeing. in a world where considerable resources and efforts are put towards the maintenance of the status quo. maybe we don't talk about it because it seems almost impossible. but unless we do starting talking about it, it will never be possible. to borrow a notion from a documentary called "reframe" on palestine which i saw some years ago: we need to reframe the argument so that the discussion isn't always a fight about the compassionate treatment of asylum-seekers, but rather it's about examining our privileged lifestyle, and why others around the world shoud have an equal share in that.

one other reason why i think this reframing is so important right now is the trend i see around the world in western countries. in this regard, margaret taylor has it right. right wing governments through europe, the united states, and australia are using hatred of immigrants (often tied in with islamophobia) as a major political platform, and winning. that's the saddest thing - not that politicians use immigrants in this way, but the fact that their rhetoric is resonating so widely.

the effect of this is that a party of the left, in australia, is considering policies on asylum seeking that are far from progressive. and the prime minister is taking a position that appeases those who shoudn't be appeased. it's a trend that doesn't bode well for the future of the planet. i think back to the "iron curtain" concept that was applied to europe, except that curtain is now being drawn between developed and developing countries.

we need start talking about how to dismantle that curtain, before it becomes too solidly entrenched.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

fighting trolls

i've just posted over at the hand mirror, on a couple of topics related to workers rights.

it's been a bit of stressful afternoon over there, in the comments section. the worst of the comments have been deleted by me, and they certainly weren't as bad as some of the stuff we got last year when we covered the rape allegations against an aussie sports commentator. still, the threat to derail our blog in a rather aggressive way was unsettling. reminds me why i still choose to moderate here.

the attitude of this particular troll was quite telling. the need to intimidate, control the environment and dictate terms. all classic tactics used in domestic violence situations. luckily he backed off once his bluff was called (and after he got some wonderfully robust responses from other commenters). even if he had persisted, i would have turned on the moderation until he got bored. but really, i can't understand people with so little empathy or caring that they would try to impose themselves in that way.

oh well. i did want to write something about the new australian proposals to deal with asylum seekers, but i've run out of steam just now. maybe tomorrow.

Monday, 5 July 2010


well, i've had a nice quiet weekend, after an extremely busy week last week. not only the concert on tuesday night, and a community radio board meeting on monday, and a trip to auckland on thursday night to celebrate 4th of july by invitation of the american consulate, and a function on friday night (community radio again), i was ready to just relax at home.

the 4th of july thing was interesting - the usual crowd, though with a lot more colour and diversity than i've seen in previous years. despite what i've said in previous posts, it was pretty obvious that america has a democrat president in power, just from looking around the room. also nice to shake mr len brown's hand and wish him well for the upcoming elections. pity i can't vote for him.

the sporting interlude hasn't been going too well, with roger federer out in the quarter-finals, and ditto argentina with a thrashing from germany. i couldn't be bothered staying up to watch the men's finals at wimbledon, though i did actually enjoy watching serena williams win the night before. and as for the world cup, i don't really know which team to support now. i was offered a bribe (a slab of chocolate, very tempting) on friday night to switch my allegiance from argentina to brazil, but i resisted. but i can't even support brazil now, given they were out before the argentinians.

so i guess it's time to get back to more important matters. i don't know what other papers around the country are like, but here in the waikato, the farmers have been waging a strong and sustained letter-writing campaign against the ETS. we're having to read a lot about what a hoax climate change is, or how nz can't possibly make a difference, and generally how the sky is going to fall on our heads because of this apparently awful scheme that really isn't going to impact the agricultural sector all that much in the near future.

then today's paper has this as the main front page article:

Waikato's Waipa and Waihou rivers are in the top four on a list of New Zealand's filthiest rivers.

He was "not surprised at all" to see the Waihou and the Waipa rivers on Dr Wright's list, and said since his 2008 report was released there had been little improvement.

Nutrient levels in the Waihou were "already quite high, much, much higher than the Waikato River".

"The amount of worsening is increasing at a small rate – but that doesn't mean there is not a problem," he said.

There was also "high faecal content" in the Waihou due to farm run-off and other sources.

High sediment in the Waihou and Waipa rivers could also be attributed to natural issues such as geography, "which isn't to say it couldn't be reduced".

Excessive nutrients and pollution of the Waihou River meant there were risks to the southern Firth of Thames, Dr Singleton said – although that could take many years to occur.

Dr Singleton said central and local government had to take leadership on the issue, and the agriculture sector needed guidance and advice to curb discharges and excessive use of nutrients on pasture land – nutrients which leached into rivers.

Over-fertilisation of pasture land "continues to increase", he said.

i wish they had the photograph accompanying the article on the website, because as you know, a picture tells a thousand words, and this particular picture was pretty eloquent. given the very obvious evidence of pollution from the agricultural sector, consistently over a number of years, i find it really hard to understand the attitude of farmers. in the end, their own businesses and lifestyles will suffer when the environment will no longer sustain their activities. forget about the harm the rest of us suffer.

you'd think, then, that they would support adding the costs of pollution to all the other costs of their business. it's an incentive to reduce pollution, and according to the free market rules that most of them hold dear, it will serve to weed out those businesses that aren't able to cover the costs of the damage they do to the environment.

but no, the resistance is high. i wonder how bad things have to get before they'd be prepared to change.

since i couldn't put in the picture i wanted, i'll put this one in instead, just because i love it.