Thursday, 22 September 2011


it has been a week of engaging with young people for me. the first was a skype discussion with a classroom of year 12 catholic boys in christchurch. since they're doing that sharing of schools thing down there, the morning session runs from 7am to 1pm, and i was on skype around 8am. unfortunately it wasn't working properly so they could see me but i couldn't see them. that was a bit wierd, but i hope they got something useful out of it.

the second encounter was on tuesday when i had to give a lecture on MMP vs FPP to a group of students at university. these were people who were doing some kind of bridging course as they hadn't got through NCEA. having spent 4 years of my life teaching at uni, many years ago, i don't particularly look forward to going back there for the purpose of giving lectures.

i remember one i did to a 4th year accounting class last year. a room full of young people who looked like they would rather be anywhere else, who seemed to have no enthusiasm for the subject, and it's really not fun to have to speak to that kind of a crowd. these days when i have a public speaking gig, i'm invited by a group that has some interest in what i have to say and are there because they want to be there. so i find it even more difficult to deal with a group who is only there because they want the degree that will be the result of sitting through any number of tedious lectures.

still, this tuesday's session was much better than that, mostly because the people attending seemed to be interested in the subject, seemed to be more motivated and engaged in the topic. and possibly it was because i was also feeling that way. it's much easier to engage an audience when you feel passionate about the subject matter.

but it just goes to show that, really, it's such a pity that young people these days are getting an education soley for the purposes of getting a high-paying job. wouldn't it be so much better if they could make their educational choices based on the subjects they felt passionate about? it would definitely be better in terms of the quality of education they obtained, in terms of their intellectual stimulation and increased capacity to contribute to that particular field. and i'm sure, in the long run, it would be much better for the economy, as the country would be producing workers that more highly motivated and enthusiastic about their field of expertise.

instead, we have people making decisions based on the size of the student loan they'll have to leave university with, and on their ability to pay back that loan. it's hardly surprising that they look so bored.

Monday, 12 September 2011

homegrown terrorist

as promised, i'm going to talk about the 60 minutes piece on our own, homegrown terrorist suspect with alleged links to al-qaeda.

first off, let me say that i don't know mark taylor. i've never met him, but i know people who have. he's a pretty recent arrival in hamilton, from what i understand. so i suspect the people who were vouching for him on the 60 minute clip don't really know him very well. but i can't be sure of that - maybe they knew him from before he moved to hamilton.

i certainly don't know if he has any real links to terrorist organisations or if he has been part of any terrorits activity. and i think that's the main point. it's pretty much impossible to tell, because the evidence is being kept secret. yes, i get all that espionage stuff about it being dangerous to put certain information in the public sphere. i can understand that there are legitimate reasons for not letting us all know the actual nature of the concerns regarding mr taylor.

the problem, though, is pretty much the same one faced by ahmed zaoui. the rules of natural justice require that a person know the charges/ allegations/ evidence against them, so that they are able to defend themselves. there may well be some explanation for mr taylor's travel movements or activities (i'm also finding the "looking for a wife" explanation a little difficult to believe), but he gets no opportunity to provide such explanations or countering evidence. he is restricted but never gets the chance to clear his name.

i don't think it's acceptable. there must be some way to set up a legal process - a closed hearing with only counsel and defendant present, or some other mechanism - that allows a person to clear their name. and if they are guilty of something that can't be tried in open court, then there should be definite sentence period - a time when the person has paid their dues and can go back to being an ordinary citizen. to have an open-ended sentence with no idea of what it might be based on isn't right.

i though patrick gower did a pretty good job of covering these issues on 3 news tonight. i do wonder if there would have been the same sort of coverage if mr taylor had been of a different ethnicity, but maybe there would have been. there were plenty of people asking similar questions regarding the process around mr zaoui.

there were a couple of things in the 60 minutes clip that i thought needed clarifying. mr taylor claims that he is required to migrate to a muslim country - that this is a requirement in islam. not true. the only requirement to migrate is if a persons feels that they are unable to freely practice their religion, particularly because of an oppressive regime, that they are required to migrate. so, for example, an argument could be made that families where women wear the burqa would be required to migrate from france to another country where they were able to practice their beliefs freely. that does depend on the family having the resources and ability to make the shift. but there certainly isn't some kind of universal requirement, otherwise there would be no muslims in nz.

also, i was a little bemused at the notion that mr taylor's belief that the attacks on 11 september 2011 were an inside job somehow point to his instability. seriously, there are heaps of people who believe that - i read somewhere that it was like 30% of people in the UK and some similar percentage in the US (sorry can't remember where, so can't link to it). there are all the people in this documentary, for starters.

in any case, all i can say about mr taylor is that he's innocent until proven guilty. and i've certainly yet to see any evidence other than his movements in pakistan - which is pretty indirect.

playing time

again, my blogging energies have gone to the hand mirror, with a 9/11 commemoration post of sorts. i also wanted to write a post on the 60 minutes piece on the nz al-qaeda terrorist suspect but i'll have to leave that for tomorrow.

yes, i watched the rugby world cup opening ceremony (but i had to do that from the tvnz on demand site - which thankfully meant i could skip the speeches), and no i didn't watch the game. so totally missed the taking-off-shirt incident. but i'm not particularly sad about that, as i would have been quite bored watching 90 minutes of game for 20 seconds of fun.

one of the problems i have with rugby is that there is not so much playing time. this is the same for games like baseball and grid iron. so much time is spent setting up plays (or coming onto or off the field in terms of baseball) that the actual play time is just not enough to sustain my interest. compare this to basketball or soccer, which is pretty much continuous play - and soccer adds additional minutes for injury time, so that you get to watch 90 minutes of actual play.

tennis is probably about in the middle, and worst when you get players who need to bounce the ball 20 times before they'll serve. golf would have to be the absolute worst in terms of actual time played and i really can't understand why people would actually want to watch a game live. getting a summary of the shots seems to be a much more sensible option to me, but who know, maybe there's something about the atmosphere or scenery or chance to get near famous players that makes up for all the non-playing time.

so yeah, not much rugby watching will be happening by me.

Friday, 9 September 2011

the indian anti-corruption movement

yes, still a bit sore, but not as bad as i expected. also, i have spent all my blogging energy writing this post at the hand mirror, on the indian anti-corruption movement, with which i have a few issues.

also, i need to thank QoT for the various links she's included in the latest down under feminists carnival. given that i didn't have time to submit any entries this last month, it's really nice of her to include these.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

eid at parliament

ow, ow, ow. i've just been to my first karate session (well the first of four, let's see what happens after that), and my muscles are already sore. i hate to think of what's to come tomorrow. i've had a long soak in a hot bath (and i'm currently a huge fan of lush, especially these), which has helped. it's my own fault for being so terribly unfit. my level of fitness has really dropped in the last couple of years for various reasons. maybe things will start improving soon.

part of the class was some basic self-defense moves. i'm in two minds about this. on the one hand, i shouldn't need self-defense and by doing this, i buy in to the notion that i'm more responsible for keeping me safe than another person is responsible for not harming me. on the other hand, it does feel empowering to know some cool moves. maybe there's also a natural human tendency to aggression - the kind of thing that causes people to enjoy sports like boxing or even rugby - because i can't deny that i enjoyed the kicks and punches. however, there is the fact that i was punching & kicking the air, and i'd probably find it extremely difficult to actually do this to another person with the knowledge that i was causing pain.

in other news, i got back from wellington this morning. i basically went to wellington for dinner last night, which sounds extravagant. but it was actually for the official eid function at parliament, hosted by the minister of ethnic affairs. this function has been happening for several years now, and was an initiative of chris carter & ashraf choudhary. the same chris carter who was giving his valedictory speech at exactly the same time.

i couldn't get to the speech, though i had planned to, because there was a mix-up with the invitations, and a friend of mine from the buddhist community wasn't allowed into the function, even though there were plenty of people willing to vouch for her. it was extremely frustrating, and i was really sad that she had to go back home. the minister's office really need to do better, especially when this is a person who has attended many eid functions in years past.

still, despite this glitch, i think it's symbolically important that this celebration happens in parliament, and that it is organised by the government. it's an important recognition of the diversity of nz, and the fact that the muslim community is an established part of this country. in the same way that parliament celebrates diwali and chinese new year. the funny thing is that they don't formally celebrate any christian festival, unless there's some official xmas party i haven't heard of. on the other hand, the daily prayer at the start of each sitting day is pretty christian-based, so they get their formal recognition that way.

another nice note was the attendance of the young women from the waikato, some of whom were featured in the herald on sunday article. they've been on a road trip to wellington, where they've met various ministers, MPs and public servants. here's hoping that one of these young women steps into an important leadership role in the future.