Monday, 28 February 2011

standing out

i've had a very hectic weekend, with meetings on saturday and sunday. the sunday one involved a trip to mt maunganui. at lunch time, i had to go into the main shopping district to grab some food, and wow, did i stand out. i've rarely felt so many pairs of eyes staring at me, and when i looked around, there really wasn't anyone who wasn't, well, white. it was an uncomfortable feeling, and given the comparitive diversity of hamilton in the last decade, one that i had forgotten.

i've covered issues of race in a post at the hand mirror today, mainly in relation to media coverage. i did want to raise this in my last post here, but it didn't seem to be the right time. i hope it's not upsetting to people now, but i believe it's something that has to be considered.

for those of you who aren't my facebook friend, i'll also share my current status:

some religious types have blamed this earthquake on a lack of morality. yet, when giving examples of such a lack, not a single one of them has pointed to the WWG report, which is completely devoid of morality, humanity and compassion. funny that.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

fundraising - the quick & easy way

like most people, i've been glued to the radio or tv whenever i get a spare moment, trying to keep up-to-date on the coverage of the earthquake. there's not much more to say about that.

there is one i'll say about fundraising though. all sorts of options are coming up for fundraising, from people organising various events to suggestions that this week's gambling money from lotto be put towards helping those sufferting in christchurch. but i've only seen one commenter on a blog suggest that we put up taxes. it would be the most efficient and obvious solution to raise funds for the rebuild and the on-going support of people who have no job and no home.

there's no reason why we can't raise company tax back to 33%, and the top tax rate back to 39%, kicking in at around $80,000. that would raise a significant amount, without causing hardship. and it would be on-going funding, which plenty of people are going to need. as i've said many times before, raising the company tax rate won't harm small business owners, as they are able to transfer profits out to themselves via a shareholder salary, which then gets taxed at individual marginal tax rates.

on another note, i saw donald rumsfeld on letterman today. i could only bear a couple of minutes of it. i honestly can not believe that a war criminal who should be tried for his crimes is, instead being in a courtroom, is doing the round of talkshows promoting his book. just as george w bush did. not only that, but mr rumsfeld gets to continue to promote his awful politics and dismiss the protesters in wisconsin. there is no justice in this world.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

sleepless night

i put up something on the christchurch at the hand mirror tonight. i know the struggle is going on in the middle & also loss of life happening there. i'm feeling so incredibly sad tonight. time to go to bed.

ETA: i've just put up a couple of posts at the hand mirror, one on advice from the office of ethnic affairs giving information on language line (which helps those with little or no english to access public services); and another giving details for those who wish to offer accommodation to christchurch quake victims. please do forward this information to your networks.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

no, multiculturalism has not failed

i've had a pretty quiet weekend, which is good because i definitely needed one of those! just some links today: myself and a friend, aliya dansiezen, did an interview with sapna samant on the asian radio show (its show 107, season 4 episode 2 on that webpage). dr sapna was challenging, as ever, and one day i'm really going to have it with her regarding the use of the term PC!

the main purpose of the interview was to talk about the muslim women's conference last month, but one of the other issues she asked us about was angela merkel & david cameron deciding multiculturalism had failed. that kind of statement makes me really angry, which no doubt came across in the interview. i basically said that germany had never given multiculturalism any kind of serious try, so i didn't see how ms merkel could validly make that claim.

as for mr cameron, i think his making that claim was insulting to the good work done by hundreds of thousand of people across britain who are working to build a sense of community. if he thinks the current form of multiculturalism isn't working, then i suppose he'd rather go back to the race-based riots of the 70s or the riots through paris a couple of years ago, or the cronulla riots in sydney.

thanx to sahar, i found this letter responding to mr cameron, written by haitham al-haddad, a londoner with some leadership positions in the muslim community. it's pretty challenging, but exactly the kind of response needed to the kind of nonsense that mr cameron is spouting. an excerpt:

What we believe to be wrong and unjust, we will exercise our right to speak out against. You cannot speak of a belief in the freedom of speech and religion while in the same breath denying the Muslims the right to proclaim and preach their belief. You thus make ‘freedom of speech’ an empty slogan. You either accept that people – British Muslims included – have a right to believe in the values that their religion teaches, or that the state regulates our beliefs and our values as in a ‘thought police’ that incriminates and sanctions citizens for what they may believe even if they break no law. This, in essence, is what you propose. If so, then how different is that from communist dictatorships that repress those voices that oppose the state’s ‘values’? You are travelling down a road that will end with sanctions being placed on Muslims for simply believing in Islam and the Quran.

The Islamic faith does not teach extremism. But the Prime Minister, MPs and non-representative think-tanks with their own prejudices will not dictate to Muslims what constitutes a correct Islamic understanding and what does not. You would be ill-advised to be directed by any biased coterie of individuals with neo-conservative leanings or those who seek to undermine Muslims to forward the cause of other interest groups. The government has already, on the basis of such misinformation, branded mainstream Muslim individuals, events and organisations as extremist, reinforcing the perception that your government is unable to make an impartial judgement about its Muslim citizens. This reality makes your speech a cause for even greater concern among British Muslims.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

profit from hunger

i'm having a quiet day after a pretty hectic week. the human rights course was wonderful & challenging. but it did take up a lot of energy. in case you didn't catch up with it, i did a speech which i based around this post at the hand mirror, in support of exclusion. and yes, i did end up going over time, i didn't even hear the warning at 1 minute to go because i was so caught up in what i was saying. i really need to work on that!

last night was the start of the hamilton gardens art festival. i had a picnic dinner with friends & listened to reggae music by cornerstone roots. they were incredibly good, and it was a lovely atmosphere. at this point, i have to pay a tribute to the old white guy in the yellow shirt, who kept us highly entertained with his moves. he was dancing up front, in his own space, but so totally into the music and obviously enjoying himself. and pretty fit as well. to me, he embodied what festivals like this are about, and i loved his confidence & sense of fun.

i'm looking forward to the shakespeare performance next week, which has become a ritual in our family. dinner at the gardens, and watching a great performance while the sun sets. it's great. tonight there will be a lantern festival in the central city, the first one for hamilton i think. hope it goes well.

i've been watching the news from bahrain, and it comes as no surprise that measures against protesters in other countries become increasingly harsh. not only the middle east, but leaders all around the world don't actually want this to continue. it shows to them just how precarious their position is, and how their privileged position can be lost in a short space of time. again, i wish the protesters well in their struggle, and hope that there is some fundamental structural change which will actually improve their lot.

thanks to ruth, here is a report from aljazeera that highlights the source of the problem:

this is exactly the kind of structural change that needs to happen: some really tight regulation to prevent speculators driving up food prices. that firms can trade to benefit themselves from people's hunger is incredibly sad. we can and must put pressure here, on our government, to take action on this.

Monday, 14 February 2011

being a student again

a quick post today about the human rights facilitators course. i can't say much about what i'm actually doing as it would breach the confidentiality of other participants. but i can say we started the day with a powhiri which was attended by the participants, the head of wintec & staff from their social word department, the race relations commissioner & other HRC staff, a representative of the maori king, the participants of the course and others belonging to the organisations we represent. yes, it was quite a number, and i think it will be covered in the waikato times tomorrow.

it was really nice to see the strong support from wintec for this, as well as the commitment from HRC staff who travelled down from auckland just for the powhiri. to me, it underlined the importance of what we were doing, and the fact that we are receiving this training so that we can actually make some positive change within the community.

i again thought about why i am doing this course. for me, it's about getting the tools i need, not just to be a successful advocate, but to work on changing the culture. by that i mean changing a culture where caring about others is seen as being soft, PC, pinko-liberal commie, soft, and any number of other derogatory names. where people feel it's ok to tell people who care about the treatment of marginalised groups to harden up, get a life, or to just plain shut up and go away.

i know i've said this many times before, but it amazes me that having manners, respect, a careful attitude towards the language we use, thinking before speaking, doing no harm - all of these things are somehow seen as negative. it saddens me that some of the loudest voices in the media and on the internet are those who promote intolerance and insensitivity.

i think we all deserve a world that is so much better than that. i really hope to develop some skills so that i can better fight this stuff, and so that i can fight it from a position of strength rather than one borne out of anger, frustration and helplessness. not that the latter are unjustified nor are they always unhelpful, but i know that i could be more effective if i had better tools to do this work.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

more about courage

i've been suffering from a cold this week, and since i didn't take any time off work, was is no shape to be writing in the evenings. don't worry, i work in my own office so wasn't busy spreading germs. i drugged up with coldrex & strepsil, and tried to get through the day. it's just that i'm off work this week doing the human rights training (yay!) so wanted to make sure i'd tidied all the urgent stuff up before i left.

i saw "the king's speech" thursday night, and it was incredibly good. you know how sometimes you worry that a film won't live up to his hype, but this one totally did. incredible performances and very well done. ok, so not quite up there with the historical accuracy, but then i suppose it wouldn't have made such a good story.

yesterday i was a meeting all day, in a room of 24 men & 2 women (1 of whom was me). i was there in a representative & advocacy role, and it went reasonably well. nothing concrete to show for my efforts, but i'm certainly hopeful that there will be some positive results soon.

i also got contacted by the sunday star times, and ended up at the tail end of this story. they've quoted me accurately, but i do have some issues with the way shakti have dealt with this story. this is the comment i put up on facebook in response to someone else:

... and think the way shakti are approaching these issues aren't particularly helpful for the women who seek their help. it's one thing to want to empower women, and good on them for raising issues. but when they attack whole communities, i find that really problematic. they continually assert that everyone in the community knows this is happening, but i've talked to plenty of people, and have yet to find one is aware of a single case.

today, at a shama* board meeting, i asked our social worker/manager if she was aware of a single case of underage marriage that had come to the attention of the centre. shama is on the POL400 group & is advised of every case of domestic violence or abuse of ethnic women that is reported to the police in hamilton. we also get referrals from other social service agencies. and we've had not one single case.

a friend of mine also researched the teen pregnancy figures last year. if all these underage marriages are happening, then you would expect some teen pregnancies as well, but the data she found didn't support this. there were very few (if any - i can't recall clearly, but my best recollection is that there were none) MELAA's in the teen pregnancy figures. it's possible that 50 a year are getting married and not a single one of them get pregnant for the next 4-5 years, but that seems rather strange.

in any case, i agree with ruth that this is very sad, and that even 1 case is too many. i told the sunday star times quite clearly that if any cases came to our attention, we would immediately contact the authorities. the practice is condemned by every one that i know of in our community, and just once, it would be nice if shakti acknowledged that, instead of trying to act like we're all covering it up.

i really don't know what else to do with this.

on the subject of courage, i've written about one type of courage over at the hand mirror. there's another type of courage happening over at the facebook group set up to protest agains a stupid competition by an even more stupid radio station. plenty of people have been turning up on the site to troll and/or abuse. but the mods have been coping admirably.

finally, there is the spectacular courage of the egyptian people, which has finally seen the fall of mubarak. i was so happy to hear the news yesterday, the person who told me said "we're celebrating the removal of satan". of course, i'm realistic enough to know that troubled times are still ahead, but even so, it seems to be a great victory and an involved incredible courage by people who knew they were potentially facing death or torture.

some links: here's one commemorating those who died recently. and here's a photo-essay type thing. (thanx to sahar for linking me up to those)

Monday, 7 February 2011

in which i suggest tony blair should STFU

i've had a longer than expected break from blogging over the last week, because real life has taken over my available time. i have family visiting from overseas, so would much rather spend my time offline at the moment. i haven't been very good at keeping up with the news, though was sad to hear about the violence against protesters in egypt. despite this, the protesters are carrying on and i hope they are able to force through the change they seek.

i'm quite mindful of not using swear words on my blog, but i have been sorely tempted to tell tony blair exactly where to go after hearing about his support for hosni mubarak. as if this person hasn't caused enough misery in the world with his support of the invasion and occupation of iraq (along with a whole lot of other things), he now wants to tell us that we shouldn't allow the egyptian people to choose their preferred government because the wrong party might get in.

now why does that sound so familiar? oh yes, that's right, it was exactly the same response when the palestinians voted in the "wrong" party. in tony blair's world, democracy should only be allowed when the people choose what he thinks is the right group. fortunately he doesn't have much power at the moment, and certainly not a lot of goodwill, but i'm so sick of people who will criticise (and invade) arab states because they don't have democracy, but will also try to prevent democratic change from happening with every bit of strength they have. hypocrisy much?

in any case, mr blair needs a very strong dose of STFU and a reminder that he is now an irrelevancy. particularly in the face of millions of people willing to put their lives on the line in order to have the right to choose their own leaders.

in other news, i have a shiny new laptop & am now using firefox. as i've mentioned many times before, i'm very much a technophobe, so these are reasonable changes for me. it's wonderful to have an IT expert in the family to help me navigate it all. i should be used to it all by the end of the week.

also, next week i start four days of human rights training run by the human rights commission. i'v written about this previously at the hand mirror, and i'm really looking forward to it. it will be quite a change from accountancy, that's for sure.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

the middle east edition

well, i've had a nice quiet weekend, doing not much at all. i really needed it after the hectic 2 weeks that had gone before, and a busy week again this week. i'm not much in the mood for writing today either, so thought i'd put in some links to events happening in the middle east.

first this one from gwynne dyer on the palestinian papers:

What the leaked documents show is that the Palestinian negotiators were willing to make huge concessions on territory and other issues in return for Israeli recognition of an independent Palestinian state. They were well-meaning people playing a very bad hand as best they could, but the publication of these documents will destroy them politically.

The spirit in which they approached the talks is exemplified in the first document in the trove, a memo on Palestinian negotiating strategy dated September 1999. It urges the negotiators to heed the advice of the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find that you get what you need.”

According to the documents, in the past three years the Palestinians have offered to accept all of Israel’s illegal settlements around Jerusalem except one (Har Homa) as permanent parts of the Jewish state. Israel annexed all of East Jerusalem after it conquered it in the 1967 war, but international law forbids that and no other country sees the annexation as legal.

The negotiators also offered to restrict the “right of return” of the millions of Palestinians descended from those who were driven from their homes in what is now Israel in 1948 to a mere 100,000 returnees over 10 years. They even offered to put the most sacred site in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, under the control of a joint committee. (It is currently administered by an Islamic foundation.)

Even these concessions were not enough to persuade the Israelis to accept a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders of the West Bank (including those parts of East Jerusalem still inhabited by Palestinians) and the Gaza Strip. They were enough, however, to make the negotiators reviled in almost every Palestinian home if they were ever revealed—and now they have been.

scoop has extensive links to revelations from the released papers: here are the links from day 1, day 2, day 3 & day 4. i haven't had the time to go through these myself, but given that there are 16,000 papers, there is a wealth of information. at the least, these papers put paid to the claim that palestinians haven't been prepared to fully commit to a peaceful solution. the negotiators were willing to move on the most fundamental issues, but of course it was never enough.

mr dyer is right that the release of these papers will result in very negative outcomes for the palestinian authority. more than that, it will be the palestinian people that suffer now that the "peace process" has been revealed for the sham that it was. a solution that provides justice now seems further away than ever. there is more here, here, and here.

the release of the papers has been overshadowed by news about regime change in tunisia and continuing protests in egypt. i've watched some of the al-jazeera coverage from the live-streaming on their website. i don't have anything insightful to offer that hasn't been said anywhere else. i've just been watching in hope that there will be meaningful change in these countries that spreads across the middle east.

the protest have at their base issues of social justice - employment, better distribution of wealth, stamping out of corruption. these are difficult issues to solve in the current global environment, particularly when the economic problems are a result of factors outside of these countries. i'll be happy to see the current ruling elites in the middle east taken down, but the real culprits are those who created the financial crisis, who continue to receive their millions of dollars in bonuses and who have escaped any kind of accountability.

my real hope is that the wave of protests are successful in egypt, spread across other middle eastern countries, and then empower the peoples in the western world to demand the kind of accountability and reform that will bring about the global change that is required for a global solution to economic and social inequity. well, dreams are free aren't they.

finally, i wanted to link to these photographs of egyptian women protesters on my own blog as well. one of my greatest fears of regime change is that the new regime will try to restrict opportunities for these women. that would be an incredible tragedy when they have shown so much courage and put their own lives in danger to fight for a better country. i pray that things work out well for them, and for all the people in most troubled region of the world.