Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Eleven out of twenty years

Over the last two decades, a woman has held the top political role in Aotearoa New Zealand for eleven of those 20 years. It would be nice to think that we have gender equality, but although it’s getting closer, we are by no means there yet.

Earlier this year, the UN Women National Committee Aotearoa brought together Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark for a recorded discussion on a number of feminist issues. This is part of their #Trailblazing125 series of advice from prominent Kiwi women in recognition of 125 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Helen (yes, we refer to our leaders by their first name) has had a big influence on the mindset of many people irrespective of whether or not you agreed with her politics. It was because of her, that people like Jacinda grew up not considering that gender might be a barrier to the top political job in this country.

It seems to me that what is holding women back (in the NZ context) is not the barriers imposed on them by others, but a lack of confidence in their own ability. There is still something in the way women are conditioned by society whereby they are less likely to put themselves forward for a role than is the case for men. Hopefully that attitude is no longer encouraged.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark talk gender equality
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Contrasting styles

I stumbled upon this Guardian video clip a short while ago, showing excerpts from speeches at the UN General Assembly by Donald Trump and Jacinda Ardern. It contrasts Trump’s America first with Ardern’s global cooperation and kindness. I think it neatly sums up the difference between the American and New Zealand styles of leadership:


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Māori Action songs

Way back in the 1950s, learning, and participating in aspects of Māori culture and history was part of the curriculum of the primary school I attended. At that time, this was not so common, so I feel blessed that from an early age I understood that Māori culture was a rich part of the cultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand instead of something belonging to a pre-European stone age people that no longer had any relevance.

Unfortunately, even today, we find some Kiwis of non-Māori descent who see no value in the indigenous culture of this land, and object to Te Reo (the Māori language) being part of the education curriculum, and Māori culture as something outside what they consider “New Zealand culture”. In other words it has no place in a modern society. I hope I am correct in observing a decline in this type of thinking.

As some 95% of my reader are not from Aotearoa New Zealand, I want to occasionally blog about the indigenous culture that makes this country special, and is having an increasing influence within our society. I have posted a few articles relating to aspects of Māori culture and values in the past, particularly where they have some influence on myself or the wider population, including:
I am a mono-linguist (12 September 2018)
A Creation Myth (17 March 2018)
River gains personhood (24 July, 2017)
Treaty of Waitangi 101 (20 October 2015)
Animism is the established religion of Aotearoa New Zealand. Really? (15 October, 2015)
Our new flag? (1 September 2015)
Farewell Haka (6 August 2015)
Songs that move me (20 March 2015)

Until a back injury forced a early retirement, my father was a physical education adviser for what was then the Department of Education. One of his roles was “on the job” physical education training for primary school teachers, which meant we often saw him only on weekends. He was very passionate about developing a love for activity that challenged both the mind and body. With this in mind, he encouraged both folk dancing and Māori action songs alongside team sports, swimming, athletics and playground games that did not require direct adult supervision.

Māori action songs were traditionally an art form and used to improve various skills. For example, poi action songs improved strength and suppleness of the wrists. For women, this improved skills in weaving and basket making, while for men, it improved their skills in wielding weapons used in hand to hand combat. Rākau games and action songs improved hand/eye coordination.

Rākau are wooden sticks, typically between 40 cm and 60 cm in length ( approximately1.5 ft to 2 ft), while a poi is a weight attached to a string that is then swung in rhythmic patterns. Traditionally poi were made from harakeke (flax) and raupō (bulrush), but today can be made of almost any material.

As a performing art today, both poi and rākau are performed mostly by women. In play, many schools encourage rākau games for both genders and for both Māori and Pākehā alike. To a large extent, my father was responsible for their popularity in the Taranaki and Whanganui regions during the second half of the 20th century.

As a child, I had less coordination than most of my peers, probably related to my undiagnosed autism, and while I found the poi and rākau challenging, I found them enjoyable. I’m convinced that I am not as clumsy as I would have been had it not been for these and similar activities.

Although the video clip below is relatively recent, the chaos is similar to how I remember the activity as a child. Notice the use of rolled up magazines instead of wooden sticks. When learning, they are less painful ! The second video clip illustrates a somewhat more polished performance, followed by the poi.

There are two forms of the poi: the long and the short. The string on the long poi is the distance from finger tip to shoulder, and for the short poi it’s the distance from finger tip to wrist. They are both just as difficult to master, and I never did get the hang of twirling contra-rotating long poi in one hand. The next clips illustrate the short and long forms respectively. Enjoy


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Trump’s nightmare

I just read a Washington Post article on Trump’s visit to France, and his foul mood with almost everyone. One of the comments on the article came from someone identifying themself as “Just me 2015”. They referred to a sentence within the article:

Trump told aides he thought he looked “terrible” and blamed his chief of staff’s office, and Fuentes in particular, for not counseling him that skipping the cemetery visit would be a public-relations nightmare.

To which Just me 2015 commented:

Wait a minute… President TV-Ratings-Genius didn’t realize that skipping out on the ceremony he’d come to attend, the ceremony honoring fallen soldiers from WWI, and blaming it on rain grounding a military-grade helicopter, was going to look bad? I’m shocked! /s

That comment neatly summarises Trumps abilities, not only in public relations, but in practically every endeavor he undertakes.


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As my own faith tradition reminds me, the Kingdom of God is not some “other” place that good Christians “retire” to at some time in the future. It is here and now, or at least can be if we, as a community, make an effort to bring it about. We are all capable of making this world a kinder, more caring and equitable place, not by praying or expecting others, even God, to make it so, but by getting stuck in yourself.

As Kiwis, we haven’t done too well in many respects in Aotearoa New Zealand. As Bill points out in his post shared below, childhood poverty in Aotearoa has increased from 11% in 1986 to 25% today. As many prophets have warned (and I’m not referring to those who claim Biblical authority) we are starting to see the consequences of our joint inaction.

As these to quotes remind us, don’t expect God or your deity of choice to bow to your requests through prayer. Choose wisely the prophets you listen to, and then act accordingly to make this world a better place.

There is little point in praying to be enabled to overcome some temptation, and then putting oneself in the very position in which the temptation can exert all its fascination. There is little point in praying that the sorrowing may be comforted and the lonely cheered, unless we ourselves set out to bring comfort and cheer to the sad and neglected in our own surroundings. There is little point in praying for our home and for our loved ones, and in going on being as selfish and inconsiderate as we have been. Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do. God does not do things for us – he enables us to do them for ourselves.” – Elisabeth Holmgaard, 1984
The sick and those caring for them have need of our prayers. But let us not imagine … that a few sentimental good wishes from a distance are all that is needed. Whenever we intercede in prayer we must be prepared for an answer which places a practical obligation upon us. A prayer is always a commitment.” – Thomas F Green, 1952

A few years back I recall a TV interview with a man who had survived 11 lightning strikes and lived to tell the tale. The lightning victim’s explanation was that God must therefore have some special purpose for him. I am afraid my cynical reaction was to assume that if whatever that man meant by […]

via Lectionary sermon for 18 November 2018 on Mark 13: 1-8 — Bill Peddie’s website


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Flowers

Flowers are a delight when they’re like this:20181104_143551x1200
But a real pain in the arse when they’re like this:20181104_141758x1200
Literally!

First it was the camellias, then it was the flowering cherries. Now it’s the rhododendrons. Traversing the pathway with its 4 metre (13 ft) rise from the car parking pad to the front door means taking one’s life in one’s hands. At this time of the year it sees no direct sun and after even a little rain becomes extremely slippery. It takes skill to manoeuvre one’s way through this pretty hazard without taking a tumble…

 


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Sex and Sin

Being religious in nature myself, I’m often surprised by the wide range of views  on the relationship between sex and sin that some people hold. In my view they have forgotten that religion is about relationships and is a mode of living. Instead, they seem to believe it is based on a prescribed set of rules narrowly interpreted from an ancient document created millennia ago when understanding of the human condition was not enlightened by the discoveries that we have the privilege of sharing today.

With regards to sex and sin, a fifty-five year old document published by the religious tradition that I call my religious home had this to say:

[W]e accept the definition of sin given by an Anglican broadcaster, as covering those actions that involve exploitation of the other person. This is a concept of wrong-doing that applies both to homosexual and heterosexual actions and to actions within marriage as well as outside it. It condemns as fundamentally immoral every sexual action that is not, as far as is humanly ascertainable, the result of a mutual decision. It condemns seduction and even persuasion, and every instance of coitus which, by reason of disparity of age or intelligence or emotional condition, cannot be a matter of mutual responsibility.

Although it has its defects – the document was created by a committee and it shows in places, and our scientific understanding of sexuality has progressed considerably since the early 1960s – there is little doubt in my mind that it has contributed to the acceptance today of a less rigid concept of what constitutes a relationship. It even had this to say:

We recognize that, while most examples of the “eternal triangle” are produced by boredom and primitive misconduct, others may arise from the fact that the very experience of loving one person with depth and perception may sensitize a man or woman to the lovable qualities in others.

Even today, so many people, religious or not, think of a relationship in terms of two people only. Sure, they might have replaced “man and woman” with “two people”, but why does it have to be only two? Isn’t it the nature of the relationship, and not the number that’s important?

In its introduction, the same document has this observation regarding why many Christians perceive sex as something sinful:

Throughout nearly all its history and in some sections of the Church today, the myth of Adam and Eve (called without justification the Fall of Man—This was never suggested by Jesus, but seems to have come from Paul; see Romans 5, v. 12-14) is treated as though it were historical fact on which logical arguments can be built. In this way, sexuality came to be regarded as necessarily polluted with sin in that event. Even when rejected as historical fact, this myth still has its effect upon the attitude of some Christians to sexuality; it will therefore be wise to think more about it. First, this, like other myths, had an earlier Babylonian origin and was used for religious purposes by the Jewish teachers. Further, like all myths, it is a poetic and symbolic representation of the condition and predicament of man. It is not exclusively or even primarily concerned with sexuality. It is a myth representing the transition of man, either in his racial history (phylogenesis) or his development from babyhood (ontogenesis) from an unreflective obedience to instinct to a condition in which he is responsible for his actions, in which he can reflect on them and make judgments and moral choices, weighing up possible courses of action in the light of a concept of good and evil.

It is a story, not of man’s fall, but of man’s growing up, and of the pain that growing up involves. It is significant that God is recorded as saying (Gen. 3, v. 22): “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” To recognize and love what is good is to know also what is evil, to fear it and to be tempted by it. To know the good is to know joy, but it is also to experience pain, to be tempted to pride and presumption.

It is unfortunate that sexual intercourse takes place between Adam and Eve only after the expulsion from the Garden; this perhaps provides an excuse for thinking that sexual intimacy is associated with a sinful and disobedient state. But this is not given in the text nor is it a necessary implication. Indeed Eve claims the help of God in the matter. The shame associated with nakedness immediately after the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge need not imply that sex became tainted there and then with sin: it may imply a recognition that our sexuality more than anything else in us can lift us to the heights of self-realization or plunge us into degradation; it is the focus of our self-awareness. The awareness of nakedness may further be a symbol of the awareness of vulnerability, of exposure to pain that must come with self-consciousness.

I acknowledge that the almost 400 year old traditions of my religious group are in conflict with the beliefs of Fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, but (at least, in my home nation) I find the majority of Christians hold values that do not conflict with mine.


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Just a little shake

45 minutes ago we experienced a mild earthquake (magnitude 6.2). It was enough to disturb the dog and cause ornaments to rattle and hung picture frames to bang against the wall, but this time only a single item fell over – a top heavy vase holding orchids. It’s funny how different people react. I find them exciting, whereas the wife finds them disturbing.

This one lasted around 45 seconds and came in two distinct waves. The first was a series of vigorous shakes, the second was more of a rolling motion.

Earthquakes are quite common here (around 14,000 each year), although only some 300 are noticeable. NZ lies on the collision zone between the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates. Visitors to the country often comment on the number of wooden buildings found here. The reason is simple. Wooden framed buildings suffer less damage than masonry and brick structures and are less likely to cause death or serious injury in an earthquake.


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Fellow Kiwi Blogger Bill Peddie provides another example of how Trump’s unilateralism has the potential to cause more harm than good.

And while Trump might have a point that Russia has not followed the letter of the INF nuclear treaty, it can also be argued that America has not followed the spirit of it by developing drone technology as an alternative nuclear weapons delivery system.

Although I follow what President Trump is trying to give as his real reason for pulling out of the current long-standing INF nuclear treaty with Russia, it is more than a little worry that we are left to puzzle why he comes across as one who talks as if he is unaware of some recent history of nuclear treaties. […]

via WHAT PRESIDENT TRUMP FORGOT TO MENTION — Bill Peddie’s website


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Why it’s curmudgeon day

Why the grumps? I have had two nights of fitful sleep, among other things. A little over three months ago I decided to try another regime of Migraine medication as I was finding I was down to less than 10 migraine free days each month. And even on those days I usually woke with migraine-like symptoms that would take two to three hours to pass.

My GP suggested we try Propranolol again as it has been more than 10 years since I last tried it. Unfortunately neither the doctor’s notes nor my own record why I stopped taking Propranolol all those years ago except that the side effects were unacceptable.

As many people on the autism spectrum will tell you, the effectiveness and side effects of many medications can be significantly different than would be the expected outcome for neurotypical people. In the case of migraine medication, I have found the effectiveness of most treatments have been negligible, and in every case, the negative side effects considerably outweigh any benefits gained.

This is proving to be true with Propranolol. I’m having up to 20 migraine free days each month, but the side effects are getting to me. I can put up with such minor inconveniences as feeling my body has aged 10 years in the last three months, or the return of Raynaud syndrome if it means I can halve the number of days where I can achieve little or nothing. I can even put up with the itching skin and distorted night vision at a pinch, but there are other symptoms that I’m unwilling to live with long term.

Perhaps the most unsettling side effect is a constant feeling of unease, but about what, I’m not sure. I’m also aware of having vague “memories” of events that I doubt very much happened, and I’m unable to tell if they’re recent dreams, distant dreams, hallucinations, or real events sometime in my recent or distant past. They are so fragmented and vague that they make no sense. However my “recollection” of them feels recent. When or if they happened, they don’t seem to be upsetting at the time. In fact I think some might be the opposite. But in the cold light of day, when I’m fully lucid, they make me uncomfortable, but I don’t know why.

Since starting Propranolol, I’ve found my concentration and short term memory has left me. This is a normal symptom for me during a migraine attack, but it’s worse with medication than without it, so what’s the point of taking it?

One of the less common symptoms associated with my migraines is that I sometimes suffer from depersonalisation or derealisation just before or during an attack. Sometime it can extend to dissociative amnesia. In hindsight I’m convinced that this is a much more frequent symptom during those times I have been taking preventative migraine medication.

That experience of sometimes watching myself from a distance and feeling I’m an observer and not an actor is something I seem to have more frequently since starting the medication, even when I’m not experiencing any other migraine symptom. I seem to be achieving less in my 20 migraine free days now than I was in my 10 migraine free days less than four months ago.

Propranolol is not a medication one can safely stop cold turkey. It’s time to arrange with my doctor a plan to wean myself off them.