Tuesday, 28 February 2012

protecting yourself from google

i've been blogging over at the hand mirror, in case you missed it. there's this one with some interesting things to read, then this one about the comedian who dismissed the protest again tui ads, and finally, one tonight about a pretty nasty letter to the editor published in the waikato times.

so in lieu of more writing, i'm going to give you a public service announcement. i don't really understand about the changes to privacy that google is making, mostly because i haven't wanted to spend time reading up about it. there's a brief description here, but more importantly, they tell how to delete your web history from google. i'm going to reproduce that bit because i think it's important:

1. Go to the google homepage and sign into your account.

2. Click the dropdown menu next to your name in the upper-right hand corner of your screen.

3. Click accounts settings

4. Find the "Services section"

5. Under "Services" there is a sub-section that reads "View, enable, disable web history." Click the link next to it that reads: "Go to Web History."

6. Click on "Remove all Web History"

i managed to follow all that and do it, so it's not too difficult. the only thing they miss out is that you have to enter your password again between steps 5 & 6. apparently you can only do this over the next few days, before google makes the actual change to their privacy settings. so if you're interested in protecting your privacy, do it now.

Friday, 24 February 2012

no more training wheels

it's been a while since i added a blog to my blogroll. but this one is well worth a look at. it's written by a young woman with a disability, who writes with a maturity and perception well beyond her age.

also thinking today of the port workers in auckland, starting on their 3 week strike today. i hope they can hold out and prevent their jobs from being casualised. i really wish i could go up to auckland to support them, but i'll have to settle for moral support. and also financial support. if your able to help:

Financial Support

We have set up 2 ways for individuals to provide financial support for our members: by calling our information line 0900ourport / 09006877678 to make a $5 automatic contribution or by depositing money into our bank account:

Account name: MUNZ National Fighting Fund
Account number: 02-0560-0450165-004
Branch: BNZ Manners Street, Wellington

(via here)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

pushing for change

i've used up my words by putting in my two cents on the campaign against tui ads, over at the hand mirror.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

just don't say it

i'm thinking i should do a post about christchurch, given the one year anniversary of the earthquake. but while i really feel for the people there, i'm uncomfortable with media and politicians using this event in the way they are. there must be a way to do a commemoration so that it belongs to the people who suffered & other people don't profit from it. but then maybe the people there prefer the way it's being done. whatever the case, i'm thinking of them and wishing they get the actual support they need to improve their daily lives and their livelihood.

instead i'm going to focus on unpicking a phrase that is being much more commonly used by bigots to excuse their bigotry. the phrase is "i'm only saying what everyone thinks but is afraid to say".

the first problem with this idiotic attempt at justification is that the speaker actually has no proof that "everyone" thinks this way. it's not like they have conducted a scientific poll that gets responses from a cross-section of society that includes people who aren't white & middle class. it's not like they're presenting the results of such research to give any authority to the notion that they somehow have some special insight into what "everyone" thinks. and they use this phrase "everyone" especially at a time when they have received significant negative feedback, which proves that clearly everyone does not agree with what they have said.

second, if people are afraid to say it, perhaps they have good reason to be so. perhaps they are afraid because they know what they want to say is problematic, hurtful, disrespectful and downright nasty. in which case they should very well be afraid to say such things - afraid of the pain they will cause and the unfairness of their words.

or they maybe afraid because they know they will be criticised for what they say. and so they should be. people who say silly, stupid, ignorant and hurtful things deserved to be called out on, deserve to be told exactly the reasons why their words are so clearly wrong. as i've said many times, free speech applies equally to those who criticise you as it does to yourself. you may well have the right to say stupid things, but don't forget that those who hear you hear you have an equal right to point out just how stupid that thing you said was.

the third problem with this phrase is that it implies some kind of bravery on the part of the bigot. as if they are being especially courageous by being nasty. no, nastiness does not take courage, it takes insensitivity, callousness and selfishness. it comes from a person who has a complete disregard for those who might be hurt, and who believes there own ability to be offensive is more important than anything or anyone else.

nastiness comes from a place of thoughtlessness. it comes from a person who can't be bothered thinking about the implications of what they say, can be bothered to take the time to educate themselves, and to put some time towards the way they phrase their words. no, they want to be able to utter whatever pops into their brain, without any consequences to themselves. if others have to face consequences because of their utterances, this person just doesn't care. there is absolutely nothing brave about that.

bravery involves challenging power structures, speaking out against injustice when the consequences could be detrimental to yourself and possibly your family. bravery is in whistleblowing, challenging stereotypes, giving people reason to question their own prejudices and reducing the amount of hatred in the world.

Monday, 20 February 2012


apparently the following cartoon appeared in the sunday star times, which together with the herald, seems to be outdoing itself in really crap analysis when it comes to minorities:

let's just analyse the crappiness of this cartoon. the first thing we get from it is that maori are lazy and don't care about or do anything about child abuse. despite the fact that there are any number of social service agencies run by maori trying to deal with this. despite the fact that there are many maori social workers working for government and non-maori organisations. despite the fact that there are many maori community workers and volunteers who are trying to make a difference.

and yes, i get that the cartoon is apparently not targetted at "all maori" because the standing-up guy is also maori. but he is one of the "good" maori who don't protest or fight for their rights. he's the kind of maori we can like, because he only cares about issues that don't make the majority uncomfortable. he only cares about important issues, that importance being defined by others outside of his community. and there is still the clear notion that the protester can't possibly have been working, in whatever capacity, on issues around child abuse, because the two are being presented to us as mutually exclusive.

the second thing we get is that child abuse is apparently a maori problem, despite the actual fact it is a whole-of-nz problem. but the cartoonist doesn't bother to give any attention to the fact there has never been a march against child-abuse that has drawn the number of people as, for example, the anti-mining march that got around 40,000 people off their butts and caused the government to change its policy pretty quickly. but no, there is no mention of non-maori nz'ers lack of sufficient public protest action on child abuse, nor have non-maori been portrayed as sleeping and unwilling to listen or act.

what we also get from this cartoon is that treaty of waitangi rights, as legislated in s9 of the state owned enterprises act, has anything to do with the prevention of child abuse. there is no consideration of the possibility that s9 could either ensure that maori communities do not lose rights to economic assets or that their interests are protected, amongst other things. and by protecting economic, social, cultural and political rights, the maori community as a whole benefits. the loss of those rights are detrimental to economic and social well-being, and such a loss feeds into negative statistics such as those around child-abuse.

in other words, fighting for the protection of treaty of waitangi rights will have benefits around a whole range of areas, one of which is child abuse.

note also the implication that people can only protest about one thing at a time. because there is child abuse in this country, no-one should be protesting about the removal of treaty of waitangi rights. isn't that just the tired old argument trotted out by the likes of richard dawkins and naomi klein: don't dare complain about an injustice because somewhere, someone is suffering a bigger injustice. so whatever bad or unfair thing that has happened (or is going to happen) to you is unimportant and you should be ashamed of yourself for even bringing it up.

or it's more the if-you-haven't-complained-about-that-then-you-don't-get-to-complain-about-this argument. as if a person should have spent every moment of their waking life being an activist on a whole range of issues before they get any right to protest on this particular issue.

both of these are silencing tactics, tactics that ensure that injustice continues and protesters and activists aren't taken seriously. they are tactics that protect the status quo and prevent positive change. they are tactics used against minority groups who try to speak out against the oppression they face, and they are genuinely nasty.

we could equally ask what this particular cartoonist has done regarding child abuse. if he hasn't done enough according some arbitrary standard set by me, then he surely shouldn't have the right to chastise anyone else about what they have or haven't done.

should maori be doing more about child abuse? of course. but shouldn't everyone? is anyone actually doing enough? CYF is massively understaffed, and existing staff are working under incredible pressure. housing nz is making it increasingly difficult for people to access decent housing - adding to the stress families face. wages aren't keeping up with inflation. unemployment is rising. work conditions are deteriorating with people having to work longer hours or uncertain hours on lower pay - which means less family time. health services are being cut. access to primary health care is pretty appalling in some areas of this country because there aren't enough GPs. funding for and access to mental health care is even worse. all of these and many other things are factors that feed into our child abuse statistics, and all of these areas are getting worse.

there are constant reports and research highlighting issues around child poverty. each and every one of us has a responsibility to agitate for change, especially at a governmental level. demonising one sector of the community and deriding their legitimate right to protest a very real injustice will do nothing to protect our children.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

refresher on palestine

i'm really physically exhausted tonight. i've had a few days of intense activity at the 9th national interfaith forum, which is now over. i'd like to say it was a wonderful forum, but i didn't get too much of it. the feedback, however, has been good & i did have the opportunity to connect (albeit far too briefly) with some wonderful people. i can at least confidently say that they were all well fed, the food was plentiful and on time, and the kitchen & dining room were kept clean!

i got to put my feet up tonight when i went to a talk by a palestinian woman about palestinian history and contemporary life. much of this stuff i already know, but there were still things to learn about history that i really need to catch up on. the present offers little hope - there are no significant efforts at working towards peace, the world seems to have lost interest in the midst of a financial meltdown and popular uprisings across the middle east and the west. these people continue to live in a desperate condition with little sign of progress towards self-determination. in the meantime, settlements continue to be built and the land continues to be stolen bit by bit.

i've heard many talks about palestine from a variety of sources, but it is something else to hear it from someone who lived through the first and second intifadas, and had to suffer the consequences. in world full of injustice and inequality, the lives of the palestinian people become just another small part of a larger narrative. and we wait for something to change, but somehow it never does.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

maori speak back

i've written a lot about hate speech and freedom of speech over the years. i even made written and oral submissions to the parliamentary enquiry on hate speech - which never ended up reporting back to parliament. but one of the most effective measures against hate speech is enabling the targetted group to speak back, and to have their voices heard stronger and louder than those who peddle hate.

there are many ways to promote the voices of those who are targetted, and i'm going to do my bit by linking you to some responses by maori to the nonsense spouted by paul holmes regarding waitangi day. if you haven't read it yet, i'd recommend an internet search engine.

i've already linked to a couple of pieces at the end of this piece, one of which is from a maori writer. there is also mr bradbury's take down at tumeke. but i'll focus on 3 other pieces. first from this blog run by an awesome group of maori women, tewhareporahou:

Our national day is Waitangi Day. Waitangi Day is a day of honour, and struggle, bravery and sacrifice. A day on which we commemorate the time when our ancestors sought to put into place a convenant that would protect future generations. It is day that signifies a belief in a partnership. A partnership that is yet to be honoured. And Paul Holmes does nothing but degrade that day. He spits his words onto past, present and future descendants of those tupuna.

the herald gave hone harawira the opportunity to speak back - the least they could do really. it's an excellent piece and well worth reading in full:

So I'd also like you to know that along with a whole lot of other people (Maori and Pakeha), I enjoy going to Waitangi every year.

I enjoy the company, I enjoy the politics (both the Maori stuff and the Pakeha stuff), I enjoy the banter, I enjoy the people (both Maori and Pakeha), I enjoy having the kuia tell me they love me even when they're telling me off, I enjoy watching the kids playing sport, I enjoy the kapa haka groups, I enjoy the kai, I enjoy the march up to the top marae, I enjoy the church service, I enjoy seeing people I haven't seen in a while, I enjoy the occasion ... and yes Mr Holmes, I even enjoy the protest, because protest is every bit a part of Waitangi as anything else.

Waitangi Day is our National Day Mr Holmes. It is rightly commemorated in many different ways in many different parts of the country, but it was at Waitangi that a group of people chose to sign a Treaty that was to be the foundation of our nation, and it is to Waitangi that we rightly return every year to see how well we're doing.

and finally, there's this open letter to mr holmes:

I just wanted to say that I’m terribly sorry about the annual Waitangi Day predicament that Maori are continually putting you through.

It must be tough for you as a political blogger, talkback host and current affairs broadcaster to have to turn your attention towards the more heated and controversial side of New Zealand's history. Lucky it's only an annual event I suppose....

Well Paul, I think I have a solution for you that will free you up from a life of stress and worry.

Stop giving your opinion on important New Zealand issues. Take your hands off the keyboard and step away from the microphone.

now that's the best advice i've seen. again, i'd recommend you go to the blog & read the whole post.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

shoddy reporting

i meant to do an update to my previous post last night but just didn't have the energy. first this statement was put out by the office of ethnic affairs yesterday:


You are probably aware that the Office of Ethnic Affair's (OEA) Briefing for Incoming Minister was on the front page of the Sunday Star Times yesterday. The article gave the perception that the Office is advocating for a multicultural policy and that such a policy should set up a different rights under law for ethnic communities.

The report is not accurate.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs is part of the Public Service and does not advocate for any specific policy.

Our role is to advise Government about ethnic diversity in New Zealand and to offer neutral advice. One of the ways we do this is by having strong connections with ethnic communities so that we know what issues are being discussed.

The issue of multiculturalism is a common topic. There have been articles on whether New Zealand should have a multicultural policy such as that which has been established in Canada and Australia for many years. The issue has been raised publicly by a number of people and organisations in New Zealand over the past few years.

One of the strongest proponents is the moderate New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils (NZFMC), which has been advocating for such a policy since at least 2008, in 2009 and more recently in 2011. NZFMC is one of New Zealand’s oldest ethnic associations and is the largest pan-ethnic association with around 20 councils in New Zealand.

The United Future Party has been advocating for a multicultural policy since at least 2008 and it remains one of its policies.

Debate on the issue has also taken place in academic journals, newspapers and in blogs.

Examples include an article by Stephen May at Waikato University who wrote “Accommodating multiculturalism and biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand: Implications for language education” in 2002. Another example can be found here.

Blogs have included comments from David Farrar on Kiwiblog, who discusses international trends, as well as New Zealand sourced articles.

As New Zealand becomes more diverse this type of debate will become more common. We encourage people or communities who have issues they wish to raise with the government to do so through established channels such as making submissions to Select Committees.

Our role in the OEA includes encouraging ethnic people to participate in all aspects of public life equally alongside other New Zealanders. This year the Constitutional Review will be seeking feedback from the public about the shape of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. We are working with ethnic people to ensure they are aware they can participate in the process. It is during this process that ideas about multiculturalism may be raised.

We work with ethnic communities to help the Government be responsive to the issues of ethnic people in New Zealand and in this way help the Government meet the needs of all New Zealanders.

Mervin Singham
Director, Office of Ethnic Affairs

now i don't have much to quibble with there, other than the descriptor "moderate" in front of the nz federation of multicultural councils. i can't understand the need for that descriptor, because it tends to imply that other organisations aren't so moderate. and also the promotion of kiwiblog just annoys me as a leftie, though it may be an underhanded way of saying "see, even right-wingers have been talking about this stuff".

the piece in the waikato times yesterday talked about "the promotion of strictly halal tourism", which is a load of nonsense. the briefing doesn't use those words at all, no-one is suggesting that all of nz tourism move to a halal model. the office was merely pointing out that this was a business opportunity that some tourism operators might want to consider. here is a link to the actual briefing paper.

all in all, the media reporting of this has been horrendous. following on from the reporting of the young pakistani woman who was forced into marriage, which i covered at the hand mirror. the dom post has apparently printed an apology regarding that piece, which is not online so i haven't seen it. i'd really like to see it, because i'd like to know exactly what they are apologising for: the reporting of the facts which they got wrong or the reporting of comments from others which they misrepresented.

another thing the media have gotten wrong is about the switching of religious holidays, for those from minority religious groups. the EMA were busy saying this was a terrible idea, without realising that the provision was passed into law in 2010. employees and employers can negotiate to have religious holidays switched so that there is no need for the employees to use up annual leave to celebrate their holy days. but which media outlet has reported that? none that i've heard.

all in all, it's been a shoddy performance by nz media this week. and it's a performance that will have consequences for a community that is ill-equipped to counter all of this nonsense in the public arena. those who make the mistakes are not the ones who are going to face the consequences in terms of increased hostility from the wider community. and because they don't have to face the consequences, they will happily go about dishing out more of the same.

[ETA: i now have a copy of the dom post apology, thanx to deborah, and it reads as follows:

On January 30 we ran a story about a 17-year old Pakistani woman who claimed she had been forced into marriage and held hostage by her ex-husband and his family in Newtown, Wellington.

The story relied on a detailed account from the woman herself that was supported by ethnic women's support organisation Shakti. We subsequently received information, visual evidence and other material from the ex-husband and his family, which casts doubt over the woman's allegations.

The Dominion Post acknowledges that some basic principles of reporting were not adhered to and it retracts the woman's allegations.

The Dominion Post apologises to the ex-husband and his family for any embarassment and humiliation the story may have caused them.

so, i wonder if the herald and other papers who carried the story are also going to apologise.]

Sunday, 12 February 2012


i don't get the sunday start times, for good reason. i refused to take it even when i was offered a three-month free subscription. my main reason at the time was that i refused to boost their coffers, even via increased advertising garnered because of the resulting higher circulation, while they continued to publish michael lhaws.

well, they've outdone themselves again today. apparently (i get a lot of my news via facebook these days) they had a front page story about the aspirations of ethnic minorities in regards the current constitutional review. it comes complete with gratuitous photo of woman in burqa, though there is no mention of burqas in the story. there is mention of sharia law, which can apparently be represented only by burqas. because that's all that sharia law involves.

the whole tone of the article presents as scary the notion that ethnic minority groups might have something to say about the way the nz constitution is developed. and they might actually want some recognition by way of a policy of multi-culturalism or at least some recognition of multi-culturalism via any constitution that might be adopted in this country.

apparently that notion in itself was not scary enough. it needed to be made more scary by invoking sharia law, because don't you know that the scary muslims all want to take over this country and get special treatment to carry on their evil ways. and the scariness is further invoked by reference to polygamy, and oh goodness, what if the law started recognising more than one spouse.

regardless of the fact that multiple marriages are already happening in this country. it's just that they aren't recognised by law. which means that only the partner with the legal marriage document has any legal rights, particularly on break-up of the relationship when it comes to relationship property. and guess what, it isn't just us scary muslims who have multiple relationships. it used to common amongt europeans for a man to have a mistress as well as a wife. and the same problem existed - not only did the unmarried partner have no legal rights, neither did any children that resulted from the relationship. would it be such a terrible thing for the second partner to have all the legal rights of the first? or should she (and it's usually a she) and her children be punished for daring to enter into that relationship with someone already married, while the married person faces no negative consequences whatsover?

no, it would be a terrible thing to recognise such relationships apparently, and we must reinforce that point with the picture of the burqa-wearing woman. there is no doubt that this whole article paints muslims as the scary other of whom we must all beware. it's a bigoted, hate-filled piece and i don't know why but i'm really disappointed that it's been written by michael field. possibly because he's the pacific correspondent for radio nz, and as such, i would think he would have a good understanding of how different cultures can be deliberatedly misunderstood and misrepresented.

the gross misrepresentation here is that no-one, officially at least, is asking for sharia law to be implemented in this country. the office of ethnic affairs has no evidence of such, nor is there any statement from any muslim organisation giving any kind of statement of that nature. this is a pure beat-up, but to what end i'm not sure. what is the news value of this item? what is the point they are trying to get across? that we shouldn't allow any minority groups input into the constitutional review? or that any input they might give will lead to terrible results, even though they are minorities and have no way to force the majority to adopt their views?

it's an extremely cr*ppy piece of reporting, topped off with the ACT party "one-law-for-all" trope, most favoured by don brash as a way of denying the maori community access to justice or to any kind of action that might see them become equal to other nz'ers (eg equal in life expectancy, infant mortality, incarceration rates, and any other number of stats that show that equality has not been achieved in nz, not by a long shot). it's a way of denying that different people have different needs, that different solutions might work better for different groups, and does it really matter if the outcome is a healthier, wealthier society - one where the wealth is more evenly shared?

just a couple of links to finish off with: there's this piece by professor sherman jackson in the huffington post (via here). and on a different, but possibly related topic, this is an excellent piece from reading the maps regarding one mr holmes deciding he hates waitangi day. for a maori perspective, i'd recommend this from the maui street blog. i don't understand why our media is filled with hate all of a sudden - the cynical part of me would say it's a diversion so we won't pay so much attention to our assets being sold, the pathetically low rise in the minimum wage, the attempt to erode workers rights at ports of auckland, the abysmal failures in christchurch, the excessive salaries of chief executives, and a number of other issues. if we're too busy hating each other, we won't pay attention to the actual things that are causing us to be worse off as a society.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

we take care of our own

the latest from the boss:

yup, he's still got it.

Friday, 10 February 2012

this is also oppression

a reminder of how much we take for granted. via CAIR, i was directed to this piece about a woman in uzbekistan fined for wearing a headscarf:

Manzura Kattakhuzhaeva, from Bakht in the Syrdarya region, was prosecuted for wearing the traditional Muslim hijab, which covers the hair and forehead. The Syrdarya court fined Kattakhuzhaeva ten times the minimum wage (a total of 286,000 sums) on 7th October 2011, says Ezgulik’s leader Vasilya Inoyatova.

the hijab was apparently banned as a means to stop religious fundamentalism, but this seems to be a much more dangerous thing to me:

The amendments to the Administrative Code in 1998 were also enshrined in Uzbekistan’s criminal law.

They incorporate much more severe penalties for the crimes of engaging others in religious activity, creation and leadership of religious organizations, infringing rules on teaching religion, drafting or distributing materials which constitute a threat to public order.

i try to imagine a world where it would be illegal for me to cover my hair and neck when i go out in public. where it would be illegal to form a muslim women's organisation that advocated for the rights of muslim women, that organised conferences where muslim women could meet and discuss religious issues. it would be illegal to have a muslim youth group and organise camps which included a lot of physical activity and some religious content.

i don't want to imagine it. and yet it is a constant threat for muslim women, that we will be restricted in how we can dress in order to appease society's fears of harm. harm that hasn't been caused by women wearing headscarves. if anything, such women suffer harm rather cause it, and i can't see how restrictions on dress will solve the problem of political dissent. unless it is a way for the state to prove how much power it has over individuals, and that it is useless for individuals to even attempt to assert their rights.

we'd like to think that such a ban would never happen in nz. but then france also seemed a place where liberal notions of freedom and equality would protect the rights of citizens to choose how they dress. that didn't turn out so well. this news story is a reminder that we are just one hostile, unpopular government away from having our dress used as a political tool to stir up hatred, and to legislate that hatred in a form that restricts our ability to express our own faith.

i would like to think that i'd be prepared to go to jail for my right to cover my hair. but having to face a fine that is ten times the minimum wage? having to face the possibility of my own children living in poverty and being denied opportunities as a result? that is an incredibly difficult and really cruel choice for a woman to have to make.

we hear a lot about the lack of women's rights in countries like afghanistan, iran and saudi arabia. but stories like this one aren't told in our media. this kind of oppression isn't worthy of being reported, because it doesn't fit into the stereotypes that have been built around us. it spoils the narrative of the way in which muslim women are supposed to be oppressed.

but somewhere in uzbekistan is a woman who is going to have to try to find this money. maybe she's from a relatively wealthy family, maybe this won't be a very great hardship for her. but i doubt if this would have been the punishment unless it did cause hardship. this is a government and a judiciary that is trying to send a strong message to the women of their country. regardless of the burden placed on this one individual woman.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

food as metaphor

the weekend after next is the interfaith forum, here in hamilton. i really haven't been pulling my weight over the last week or so, because see yesterday's post. i'm feeling slightly better today, but i didn't get much sleep last night with the insomnia, so that's a bit of a set back.

so anyway, today i went out with our caterers - anglican action's "just food" which is a not-for-profit that puts any profits back into social services - to church college. this is the mormon college that is no longer being funded by however their international funding works, so is an empty shell of a school with accommodation and excellent facilities. the mormons still make as much use of it as they can, which is why the interfaith council is getting to use it for our forum, for which we are extremely grateful.

the mormon community have been extremely friendly and helpful, taking us around the facilities whenever we ask and providing whatever assistance they can.

the menu has been an interesting exercise. we have to cater for vegetarians and vegans. the meat has to be halal so purchased from the halal butchers (firdaus butchers at 5 cross roads in hamilton). it also means no pork, because of muslims and jews; and no beef because of hindus. the mormons don't take tea or coffee, so there will be none of that, including no coffee cake or coffee slices at tea breaks.

it sounds complicated, but we've come up with a great menu, and it's actually been a pleasure to be able to accommodate the needs of various groups of people. and it's been wonderful to be able to do it without anyone thinking it's wierd or troublesome. it's just a matter of respecting people's beliefs and caring enough about them to make the effort. the way we've organised the menu is really the essence of interfaith ie the ability to just get along and to accept without making a fuss about it.

so i'm standing there in the massive kitchen at the college, me a hijabi muslim woman, with some anglicans and a mormon. and i'm thinking how wonderful it is that there is so much positive energy in this room, so much of a desire to be helpful and to work together to get the best outcome. and i'm thinking that this is really what life should be like all the time, in all spheres. there's no reason that it couldn't be, except for all the barriers in our head. and when we choose to put those barriers aside because we believe in something bigger and better, then wonderful things happen.

i know i'm not going to participating in the programme of the forum too much. that's my own choice - i'd much rather be doing the behind-the-scenes stuff to ensure the thing runs smoothly. that's what being part of the host group is about. but even so, i'll be really enjoying being part of an event that's bringing people together, and allowing important conversations to happen.

if you can make it, even for a day, please do register. you'll find the details you need here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

a week of my life, lost

so it's been a week since i've posted. there has been a reason. the reason is that i have been unwell. my symptoms have been a severe headache, fever, constant nausea and tiredness. no runny nose, no cough, no tight chest or sore throat.

it started on monday 31st, auckland anniversary, with mostly the headache and tiredness. got worse on tuesday & i couldn't go to work. on wednesday morning i drag myself to work but by 11 o'clock, i realise i need to see make an appointment to see my GP. so i ring up the PHO where i'm registered, and they tell me there are no appointments available on that day, and the earliest appointment i can get is the afternoon of the following day.

i know the next thing they are going to say is that i can drop in and see their on-call doctor. but i don't wait for the receptionist to say that, i just tell her "why do you make out that you're providing a service, when you're not". because i am inordinately p*ssed off that i can not see my regular doctor when i need to see a doctor. in fact, i don't even have a regular doctor at that place other than in name only, because she is never available when i am sick. and it turns out that none of the other doctors are either.

the only thing that i can deduce from this situation is that the place does not have enough doctors to look after the patients on their books. or to put it another way, they have too many patients for the number of doctors. i can't understand why that should be allowed to happen. i can understand that the doctors do not want to be sitting around twiddling their thumbs, not earning money by seeing patients, so they take on more than they should. but they should not be taking on so many more that they can't give a same day appointment or at least one in under 24 hours, for goodness sake.

to me, that is just false advertising. you are not providing a health service if you are not able to provide a timely health service. and if i have to see an on-call male doctor, then i may as well go to the A&E clinic where i can find an on-call male doctor at any time. what is the point of PHOs and a personal GP, when a clinic can not provide regular contact with the same GP.

change clinics, you say? well guess what? i've already change clinics twice for exactly this same problem. and i can't think of where else i can go that is close to my home, and who will give me an appointment with the same female GP, within 24 hours of when i call to make an appointment. this is abjectly pathetic. it's not a health system, it's a joke.

where are all our GPs? we have the international ones driving taxis and running dairies. we have the local-made ones leaving the country. we clearly just don't have enough, and that situation can change if someone (namely the government and the medical council) put their minds to it.

so to continue with my experience, i go to the A&E clinic wednesday afternoon, after work. i get to see a doctor who, after all his questions and examinations, tells me to take panadol and rest, and that the thing i have (a stomach flu?) is going to last 7 days. after some prompting, he gives me a prescription for something to help with the nausea. yay. $73 to be told to rest & take panadol. hardly what i'd call my money's worth.

so thursday morning, i wake up feeling even worse, but i stay in bed and rest and take panadol. friday i drag myself to work, but it's a struggle. saturday, i'm feeling so bad that i sleep through most of the day. the nausea medicine doesn't work, the panadol deals with the fever but not the severe headache. saturday night i go back to the A&E clinic, where yay, i get a woman doctor.

after all the questions, and much less intrusive examination (probably cos the other doctor had already done most of that), she tells me i have a really bad sinus infection and gives me antibiotics. it's been 3 days since then, and i'm really not feeling too much better. still with the nausea, and the headache (though not so severe). the fever seems to be gone. i somehow have the feeling that, had i started the antibiotics last wednesday, my illness would not be quite so severe and i'd be mostly over it by now. of course, i'm not a doctor. but that doesn't mean i don't know my own body.

i know we have a pretty world-class health system. i know our doctors do want to cure us, and are generally caring people. but 9 times out of 10, going through that health systems feels like taking another battering on top the illness i already have. it makes me reluctant to see a doctor, because mostly i find it doesn't help. i've tried alternative medicine once, but aside from the fact that an appointment is twice as expensive as a GP and isn't covered by medical insurance (neither is the medicine), it just did not work for me. so i'm stuck with the standard health system, and it also is not really working for me.