Wednesday, 27 April 2011

mon dieu!

i've just put up a post at the hand mirror responding to the notion that when in rome, we should be like romans. so nothing substantial here today, just a few links.

via facebook, this lovely 5-minute speech by a man who was on the plane which landed on the hudson river in new york:

then via email, this nice bit of satire on nigella lawson wearing a burkini:

But wanting to protect yourself from a disease that has killed your sister and your first husband isn’t enough for some. One tabloid wondered why she was going to the beach at all if she was so worried about sunburn. Ooh, I don’t know. Perhaps because she wanted to go for a swim and the bath in her hotel room wasn’t cutting it?

We are told to embrace our curves but had Nigella rocked up to Bondi in a bikini, a photo of her alongside some lithe surfer babe would no doubt have appeared the next day, complete with thinly veiled commentary about her weight. In that way, the pictures neatly show up the topsy-turvy world in which women exist, a world where you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t and judged by the way you look all the while. Can you imagine? A woman who cooks for a living being a bit curvy? Mon dieu!

Some argue that Nigella was drawing attention to herself by covering up. I find this quite funny, given that 10 years ago you had to take off all your clothes to get noticed. Is it possible we have gone full circle?

and finally via facebook again, for a bit of a laugh, read this (discretion is advised as the language may offend some people).

Monday, 25 April 2011

on not commemorating anzac day

i meant to do an anzac day post much earlier today, but have been too busy taking a break. which included a bit of a shopping splurge, and a fair amount of relaxation. i hate how anzac is becoming almost like a religious observance (& a not particularly inclusive one at that). i'm also not impressed with what we're remembering and how we're remembering it, at what is being deliberately hidden and put aside to maintain a particular narrative. it saddens me that our children are being encouraged to participate in an event that honours death through war, but only the death of soldiers. not the death of civilians, nor the destruction, nor the conscientious objectors, nor the social cost.

i don't really want to be a part of all that any more. and especially not after the revelations of what our current troops have been up to in afghanistan. i've read some really good posts on this today, including julie's. but i really recommend this one at reading the maps.

i can't remember who said in the last couple of days that anzac day has become our default national day, since waitangi day somehow "belongs" to maori. if this is our day to celebrate nationhood, then i would rather we did it by commemorating much more than the soldiers who died in various wars. there are so many valuable contributions nz'ers have made to our own country & the world, in so many fields. and let's start that commemoration from way before 1840, because nz history started well before that.

and when we do remember war, let's remember it in all it's horror and tragedy, in all its bloodiness and mutilation, let's remember the shell-shocked and the terrified, let's remember the cruelty as well as the courage. i may be influenced by the fact that i'm currently reading michael ondaatje's the english patient, not too longer after i'd read and captain correlli's mandolinthe blind assassin (which is set just prior to WWII). all books which do exactly that, the first 2 to a much greater extent.

to finish off, i''ll link to stuff i've been writing at the hand mirror over the last couple of weeks: a post about the funding cuts to a self-defence programme for girls; another that links to and quotes from a piece about giving value to women's work by paying wages for housework; and finally, one i wrote about appearing on tv1's q&a programme on sunday morning.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

kia ora gaza

yesterday i attended a kia ora gaza meeting in hamilton. there weren't a large group of people there, but we had two of the activists who were on the international convoy that broke the gaza seige last year come down from auckland. they took us through their experience via photographs, and it was quite moving.

the stories are particularly sad, as were the pictures of the devastation that is gaza. after the complete destruction of infrastructure a couple of years ago, as a result of israeli bombing a couple of years ago, the place still looks like a war zone. cement is not allowed into gaza, so the rebuilding is near to impossible. neither are any machine parts, so that machines which break down remain broken. the sole power station has not been repaired, and people can only get power from generators. fuel is extremely scarce & is generally brought in through tunnels, so it's difficult to even power those generators.

the infrastructure relating to water treatment & sewerage was destroyed and many of the drains remain blocked. sewerage is therefore going into the beaches without being treated and the beaches are not safe for swimming. what was a reasonable tourist industry centred on the beaches has been destroyed, along with many of the hotels. there is a 3km fishing limit for gaza citizens, and because of the water pollution, this means that there aren't so many fish to be had. the fish they have are pretty small in size.

the complicity of the egyptian regime in this siege is appalling, especially given the fact that the vast majority of egyptian citizens don't support. things have not improved with the fall of mr mubark, as the army continues to be extremely harsh in maintaing barriers. when trucks full of cement tried to cross the border after the fall of the regime, they were unable to get through.

the mosques were directly targetted and destroyed. living conditions in this, the most overcrowded piece of land in the world, are just heartbreaking. and yet these people continue on with an extraodinary resilience.

the convoy last year was restricted pretty much to medical supplies & equipment, as well as ambulances. things like clothing and blankets weren't allowed to go through.

what was really heartening was the positive response the convoy got as it travelled through europe. what would really be heartening though, is more international pressure from governments across the world, to achieve a resolution to this conflict. i was thinking back recently to the 3 areas of conflict that i used to feel so strongly about when i was a teenager: the situation in northern ireland, the apartheid regime of south africa, and the occupation of palestine. that 2 of these conflicts have been resolved shows that this third one can be as well. if there is enough popular pressure to force governments to act.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

cameron on immigration

david cameron has been making a lot of noise about immigration of late. in that it's all bad, of course, and the narrative is the usual stuff we hear from the right: that immigrants are parasites who are a drain on the nation and suck all the nation's resources or steal all "our" jobs while giving nothing back in return.

of course, he doesn't attack all immigrants, just the non-integrating kind who won't learn english. nice coded language, with the dog-whistling very thinly disguised. it seems mr cameron is following the john howard policy of out-pauline-hansening pauline hansen. in mr cameron's case, it's the BNP he's emulating, knowing that attacking a particular class of people will guarantee votes.

but it's more than that. mr cameron is using underlying racism and hatred as a cover for massive cuts in welfare. he's trying to soften the electorate for cuts by linking it to hatred of certain types of immigrants. UK wouldn't need these immigrants, if only the welfare system wasn't so generous. locals would be forced to do the work currently done by immigrants. more than that, people are apparently immigrating to UK because the welfare system is so good, therefore it should be made less good in order to remove that incentive.

as always, missing from the right-wing narrative is the real benefits that migrants bring to the country. given the way immigrations laws are in most countries, immigrants will be highly educated, but more than that, highly motivated to succeed. i doubt they migrate to end up on welfare. listening to the stories of migrants, and i've heard many, they have dreams of success for themselves and their children and a drive to achieve that success.

also missing is the realisation that these cuts to welfare translates into misery and hunger for a large number of people. people who have often landed up in that situation because of failed economic policies, because of the fraud and gambling of the finance sector, and because of the global recession which resulted. they are being asked to pay the price for the failure of others, and immigrants are to take the blame.

Monday, 18 April 2011


i had a pretty difficult weekend, and things have not gotten much better today. in fact it has been one of those days when everything has gone wrong, and i have continually failed to meet expectations. in some cases this is my fault, and in other cases i believe the expectations have been just a tad beyond my reach, in a permanent kind of way.

so yeah, i'm really relating to julie's post on tears just now, though i don't have anywhere near as valid a reason for them as she does. and wondering how it is that you say to a person "i can't be what you want me to be, i don't even want to be that person; can't you accept me as i am?" it's not a very easy message to give in some circumstances, and the constant sense of disappointment all round is very wearying.

in other news, the waikato times decided to offer its readers a free 3-month subscription to the sunday star times. i've rung them to cancel it, because i know one of the reasons they will be doing this is to increase circulation numbers, thereby being able to keep existing advertisers (i hear their circulation numbers are decreasing rapidly) or perhaps to charge them more. in any case, i'm not interested in being part of a campaign to boost the circulation of a paper that hosts the rantings of michael lhaws. i've rung up and told them so. if any of you are subscribers to the waikato times, i'd ask that you consider doing the same.

i only read two paragraphs of his column in last sunday's paper, a rant against teenagers that seems to take a page out of nigel latta's book and expand it in an exponential fashion. it saddens me that there are people out there so filled with hatred and bitterness. or maybe he's just playing to his crowd, which is what he's being paid for. in either case, i don't want to be a party to it, even if i don't have to pay a cent towards this campaign.

moving on again, here is a press release regarding a piece of research to come out of victoria university showing that young muslims are doing well here compared to those living in the UK. which is all very well (and yes, really good to hear), but it reminds me of the research & articles which show that women in nz are doing so well compared to their counterparts overseas. of course when you compare women in nz to men in nz, there continues to be disparity in wages, leadership positions, relative poverty etc etc. the overseas comparison just becomes a barrier to progress because actual disparities are disappeared in all the good news about well we're apparently doing. this is why i'd like to see a comparison between young muslims in nz and non-muslims in nz. the results may be positive there as well, which would be great. but i think it's an important piece of information that is missing from the current press release.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

some not so light reading

today i'm going to share some links i've been directed to by my facebook friends.

first is this piece, a little dated now in internet years, but extremely powerful by dr glenn colquhoun. it's quite long but well worth the read. here's an excerpt:

Perhaps all I am saying is that spirituality is hugely important in medicine and seems at times to be forgotten. At the end of the day I think ache is that point beyond which human beings need faith to function. Faith and doubt may be more important in our practice than we think. It seems a deep irony to me that my adult life has been spent in long retreat from organized religion and my shattered childhood dreams of the ministry and yet I find myself now in a profession where each day I sit and listen to people love, cry, praise, confess and ache – desperately hoping that one of them will have a sore ear or at the very least a disorder of their Wolffian ducts. But I shouldn’t be surprised. Biology comes and goes and we do what we can as health professionals but spirituality is at the core of being well because it can alter our story and give us the emotional ability to make sense of whatever befalls us. It also reassures us that whatever shape we end up in we are not just human beings. At the heart of medicine is compassion, not science, not politics nor policy, not commerce but the assorted wreckage of human beings, their frailty and the long slow unwinding of our bodies. It is a profession of skin and ache and spiritual by its very nature. The consultation is its holy place, a source of communion and a science lab for the physics we have not yet described that occurs between people.

then there is this piece which is quite hard to summarise, and not very easy to read, but quite interesting. it is basically about islamophobic discourse, and here is an extract:

Ferruh Yilmaz, a professor of communication studies at Tulane University, has made me aware of how these constant right-wing interventions over immigration and culture, particularly as manifested towards "the Muslim" minority, are forging a new national racialized social ontology between "our" culture and "their" culture, to the point where some liberal feminists, gay activists, and others mobilize a culturalized discourse of human rights, focusing specifically on the culture or religion or tradition of "Muslim" immigrants as the source of the human rights violation. This is why, particularly in Europe but also now starting to have traction in the US, a culturalized concept like honor killing is alive and well. By constructing the murder of a woman as the result of "their" traditions and customs, they desire to implicate an entire people in the violence. This is rarely done for whites; in those cases the violence is defined as an act of an individual and rarely ever generalized to American or European or Danish "culture." I should also say that the reason I am focusing on issues like honor killing is that it is precisely through these progressive-sounding issues that the Right interpellates liberals into its hegemonic project. I predict that we'll be seeing lots of these issues in the next few years discussed and debated in the American media. Burning the Koran kinds of hate do not go well with liberal sensibilities, but add in a few statements about "their" patriarchal culture-now that will have much more traction and pull in a larger number of folks who usually would not participate in explicitly racist discourse. This is indeed how the Right is forming the new racial hegemonic bloc.

and finally for today, bryan gould (of whom i'm a huge fan) making sense on the issue of appointing businessmen (& yes, it usually is men) to be diplomats. i strongly recommend reading the whole piece, but here's a taste:

From public service broadcasting to running prisons, from providing health care to protecting the environment, there is virtually no aspect of our national life that would not benefit, it seems, from being run as though it were a business. We scarcely have a public service any longer, so numerous are the highly paid consultants who now compete for the work.

Everything must be justified on purely business grounds. We are no longer citizens, but (if we're lucky) shareholders - no longer people, but units of production.

Workers in any case do not count. The business people we are invited to lionise do not include those who merely work for a living, since it is making money, not earning a living, that is held up as the pinnacle of achievement.

wonderful women

had 3 different meetings tonight, but finished with the waikato interfaith council AGM. great things will be happening in hamilton over the next year, with the diversity forum in august and the national interfaith forum in february next year.

in that spirit, i want to link to this video of karen armstrong, who is always wonderful, speaking on compassion, of which we have a great need:

once you've listened to that, head on over to the hand mirror for my post on another wonderful woman, helen kelly, and her detailing the hobbit dispute. and my post of yesterday about yet another wonderful woman who has given us the wonderful film "my wedding and other secrets".

Monday, 11 April 2011

well, since you asked...

frivolous post day today! i happen to have henna on both my hands at the moment, though from different occasions. the right hand i got done on thursday night at a gala organised by our local high school. it was a great occasion, themed around various cultures. there was spanish, japanese, thai, and indian cuisine on offer, and plenty of bollywood music. it was lovely to see the kids having a wonderful time and embracing what was on offer. there was also some pretty good fire dancing which looked very cool in the dark.

on saturday i got my other hand done at the indigo festival's final event, indigo show. this had been postponed from a couple of weeks ago, due to the weather. this saturday was bright & sunny, and there were a range of performances and stalls.

so of course, once people see my hands (and especially if they haven't heard of henna), the first question they ask is "what's the significance of that?" i always want to think of some bizarre explanation, just because i am a mean person who quite enjoys having fun with people. when it comes to things cultural and exotic, any explanation is likely be accepted - it's just too wonderful an opportunity to let pass! so henceforth, i'm going to try out an explanation involving a secret fertility ritual. of course i'll only try it with people who would be comfortable with a practical joke - my meanness only goes so far...

finally, my favourite song at the moment is paul simon's "under african skies", and here's a version featuring the wonderful miriam makeba:

Sunday, 10 April 2011

it's a critical loss

another weekend over, and i'm not sure that i'm ready to face the working week. time seems to be rushing by in a whirl, which is a good thing really.

i see the labour party list is out (oops, here is the real one), and it looks great. there are a few selections i'd disagree with, but then that's natural. no-one can have their perfect choice of candidates. i'm really happy to see michael wood, kate sutton, jerome mika & jordan carter get high places. all three of them are extremely hard workers, and they have been really strong advocates on various issues, as well as being genuinely decent and nice people.

the one real concern for me though is the loss of ashraf choudhary. i know that he's not popular with many people, but his being there has made a difference for the muslim community. he was there through all the diffcult years post 9/11 and i'm sure that has had an influence in the government response and rhetoric as regards the muslim community. i think it's critically important for us to have a voice in parliament, especially with a resurgence of the kind of hatred that we saw back in 2005.

and i'm not feeling any better about things having read this piece in the sunday star times. entrapment by the SIS is really going to make nz a better place? the iman of masjid-al-taqwa was actually the imam in hamilton for many years prior to his shift in auckland. during his time here, the NBR ran a story about him organising some kind of terrorist cell in hamilton. now that mosque has been indentified in the story.

i can honestly say that i didn't ever see eye-to-eye with this particular imam. he is extremely conservative and his views regarding women would literally make my blood boil. i've heard that he has shifted some way from that conservative position, but i was quite close to his family and would visit them regularly when they lived here. i have seen absolutely no evidence in all those years of any suspicious activity - nothing that need concern the SIS. i've lost touch with them now, so i can't speak to what's happening at the mosque in auckland, but i find it hard to believe that this so called training camp for jihad was anything more than a regular camp with religious teaching ie nothing sinister. there have been camps like this for more than 2 decades and there's certainly nothing sinister involved.

i've had the SIS visit my own home, many years ago now. they have regular contact with muslim community leaders, and if this report is true, i can only say that it sounds like real incompetence and rather bizarre.

so yes, in light of all of that, it feels pretty stink that we won't have a direct advocate in parliament after the election in november. if we end up with mr peters back in parliament, bringin his usual bunch of maladjusted morons with him, it can only get worse.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

no racism without race

woah, it's almost the end of the first week of april and i haven't had a post up this month. i do have good reasons though.

i spent friday & saturday in auckland at the ethnica conference (pdf) organised by the office of ethnic affairs. you'll notice that i don't appear on the programme, but i ended speaking twice. on the friday, i spoke immediately after representative farah pandith. i only spoke for 5 minutes, about multiculturalism in a nz context, particularly as it relates to the muslim community. if i get time later in the week, i'll write up the speech and post it.

later that day, there was a debate in which joris de bres, ali ikram & raybon kan shone in terms of their sense of humour & style. and they managed to make a few salient points - loved ali pointing out the lack of asian or middle eastern doctors & nurses on shortland street, proving that multiculturalism is not a reality in nz. and raybon with his observation that just like there would be no divorce if we didn't have marriage or no death if we didn't have life, so there would racism if we didn't have race. therefore racism was our fault for having different races (yeah, it was one of those "you had to be there" moments).

the next day, one of the more memorable sessions was the panel on domestic violence, which had the new CEO of the ministry of women's affairs rowena phair, district court judge ajit singh, CEO of women's refuge heather henare and ranjina patel of the manukau indian association. they gave good and detailed presentations, but wouldn't you know it, the question & answer session immediately turned into "what about the menz". a comment about the so-called severe psychological abuse suffered by men when their wives changed after coming to this country received a lot of laughter and a few men applauding.

as you can imagine, yours truly had smoke coming out of her ears, and when given the opportunity to ask a question, had to throw in the comment "it's a pity that any discussion on violence against women quickly gets turned into a discussion about men, and it's clear that more education is required on the subject of violence and abuse. if your wife is not cooking dinner for you when she gets home, that is not abuse. and if she doesn't pick up your socks or hang out your washing, that isn't abuse." needless to say, i got thanked for that by a couple of women, including ms phair!

there was one valid issue concerning men that was raised. in the case of protection orders, where they have to leave the house, many men have no place to go. particularly where there are issues of poverty, and the lack of a social support network (faced especially by many refugees and migrants), there needs to be some kind of emergency housing provided. maybe there are already places i don't know about, but none of the panellists enlightened us about any such places.

the session put me in a bad mood for my next speaking slot, which was a workshop on stereotyping in the media. i basically talked about the letter in the waikato times that i blogged about recently, and the impact that this kind of commentary on the targets of it. the panel discussion was a little frustrating, but gavin ellis (ex editor of the herald) was quite supportive & clearly stated that he would not have run that letter.

all in all, it was a tiring couple of days, though filled with yummy food and good company. i got back on sunday and had to finish my homework for the taku manawa programme (pdf) as well as getting the washing & shopping done & putting out the rubbish. i got it all done, and have been at the programme the last two days. the final day is tomorrow & i expect it's going to be a little sad. the group taking the programme are inspirational, dynamic and generally wonderful. the people who have taught us are pretty amazing too.

i have to say that it hasn't been easy to do the programme, in that some of the issues that come up can be triggering or upsetting. despite that, it has been hugely rewarding & i'm looking forward to doing some facilitating out in the community.

all of this activity has meant i'm pretty tired, especially when added to the fact that 7 april is a major tax date & i had to go into work last night after the course to get a few hours work done. i have felt enriched by the variety of experiences over the last week, but hopefully things will quiten down a little later this week & i can get back to writing.