Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Good on Ya, Mum

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

My mother will be 95 years young tomorrow. Physically she’s not as mobile as she once was. She still has her mental faculties, although by her own admission she does have “intellectual interludes”. Don’t scoff, I’m twenty-nine years her junior, and I have them as well.

Today one of my brothers and I travelled to Whanganui and took Mum and my sister out to lunch at their favourite café, where we chatted about everything from last week’s disastrous floods – the worst in in recorded history in the Whanganui region, to a recent case where the courts declined to give a cancer sufferer the right to seek assisted suicide, to the influence American churches have on US politics, to the anniversary of the Rainbow Warrior affair, to catching up on the affairs of our whānau (extended family).

Afterwards we returned to the home shared by my mother and sister, where we continued with our conversations while preparing for afternoon tea when a horde of grand children, great grand children, and friends and well wishers arrived.

As can be seen in the photo of Mum cutting the cake, she is still in good health, and thoroughly enjoyed the day. At the rate she’s going I won’t be surprised if we celebrate her 100th birthday in five years time.


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The Rainbow Warrior (almost) 30 years on

On the 10th of July 1985 a friendly nation committed an act of terrorism on New Zealand territory. No allies or friendly counties criticised France for the sinking of the Rainbow warrior in Auckland Harbour and the killing of a crew member. Even the United Kingdom sat on its hands as France forced an economic blockade on NZ products into Europe in an effort to gain the release of the convicted terrorists. New Zealand had no option but to capitulate or face economic disaster.

Was it any wonder that less than two years later, 92% of the population supported the anti-nuclear weapons legislation when it was enacted. Many non New Zealanders believe this country is Nuclear Free, It’s not. It’s nuclear weapons free.

The NZ herald has published an on-line feature article Rainbow Warrior – 30 years on that is worth a read if you are unfamiliar with the event.


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Anzac, General Freyberg and the Once Pristine Lake Horowhenua (Pt 1)

Aotearoa New Zealand likes to sell itself as “100% Pure”. Unfortunately it is far from that condition. I’m re-blogging this as firstly, I am concerned that even in this wonderful country of ours, money too often takes precedence over the welfare of its inhabitants (human and otherwise). Secondly it illustrates the egalitarian attitude to those in authority that is part of the Kiwi character.

Rangitikei Enviromental Health Watch

The iconic ANZAC poppy

Here is a story of pollution at its worst. ANZAC, unexpectedly this year (2015) became the avenue of discovery and the event that prompted me to write this post. A note first to non-Kiwis/Aussies, ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps … every 25th of April, we commemorate our brave soldiers … our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, who both risked and sacrificed their lives in the two World Wars.

Freyberg in his youth at Oriental Bay, Wellington (NZ) A young Freyberg at Oriental Bay in Wellington NZ

I hadn’t intended going to an ANZAC service and haven’t done since my father passed away in 2007. It brings back my deep sadness at losing him. An ad however, in the Horowhenua Chronicle, was brought to my attention by a family member about a special service to be held at Lake Horowhenua, Levin, honouring Lord General Freyberg for the centenary of  the

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Ownership Of The Christian Message: A response (part 1)

Over on Amusing Nonsense, siriusbizinus posted an article on the Ownership Of The Christian Message which posed the question of how are Christians collectively responsible for the extreme views expressed by some who claim to be Christians. To some extent the question is a  meaningful or as meaningless as posing the question of how responsible are RNZSPCA and Forest and Bird for the actions of militant anti vivisectionists  After all, they are all concerned to some extent about the welfare of animals.

While some may scoff at a comparison between holding a religious or spiritual belief with a concern for animal welfare, in a New Zealand context this, I believe, is valid. The first question that needs to be asked is what do we mean by “Christian”. Immediately I run into problems. Most of the readers of this blog are from North America (approximately 70%), while only only a small number are from Aotearoa New Zealand (15%). I follow a number of Websites on WordPress and elsewhere that discuss religion and spirituality. Of these the largest grouping would be those whose writers express atheist or anti-religious sentiment. Of these, most are former Christians. It is very clear to me that what is understood by religion, and Christianity in particular, varies considerably depending on the society one lives in.

There are similarities between America and NZ: Both are secular states with no official religion. Both value democracy and freedom of expression. English is the predominant language in both countries and most of the inhabitants have European ancestry. Both are nominally multicultural societies.

There are also significant differences also. The role the state plays in the lives of its citizens are very different, as are society’s concepts of nationhood and patriotism. In America, politicians appear to need to openly express their faith in order to gain office, whereas in NZ such a stand invites voter turn off. In relation this discussion, there are two important influences that need to be considered: That of the Church, and that of the indigenous culture.

At first glance, NZ is a Christian society. The 2013 census reports that slightly less than 5 out of 10 NZers acknowledge a Christian affiliation, while 4 out of 10 acknowledge no affiliation. However, this is somewhat misleading. Before 1986, NZers were required to write their religion in response to the question, “What is your religion?” which implied they were expected to have one. In 1986, the question was the same, but eight options were given including the option of “No religion”. The result was an increase of those who claimed no religion from 166 thousand in 1981 to 534 thousand in 1986. A three fold jump in five years! The number of those with no religion have been climbing ever since.

The census only asks religious affiliation, regardless of how tenuous that affiliation might be. It doesn’t ask the participants what they believe. For this, I have in large part relied on Spirituality and Religion in the Lives of New Zealanders released by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society (hereafter refereed to as the Journal). This paints a very different picture.

The Church has had little impact on the lives of Kiwis. In the early 1900s less than 1 in 5 attended church. Today that figure is around 1 in 10. As with census figures, church attendance doesn’t give an accurate picture of what we believe. The Journal surveys the religious beliefs of NZ every seven years, the most recent being in 2008. The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) questionnaire was used to capture the religious landscape.

Less than 1 in 12 Kiwis believe that the Bible is the Word of God, yet we have quite a high level of religious belief. For example, 6 out of 10  believe in the probability of life after death, 3 out of 10 in the probability of reincarnation, and 4 out of 10 in the possibility of some faith healers possessing supernatural abilities, that star signs can affect one’s future, and that some fortune tellers can predict the future. 1 in 8 Kiwis believe in the possibility of Nirvana, which is more than those who believe the Bible is the Word of God. Almost 1 in 3 believe in supernatural power of ancestors.

Aotearoa New Zealand is becoming a less Christian nation but has a growing sense of spirituality. Of those who follow a religion (Christian or otherwise), a little over half believe they are a spiritual person interested in the sacred or supernatural. What is significant, is that 3 out of 10 NZers don’t follow a religion yet claim to be a spiritual person interested in the sacred or supernatural.

When the question of being a spiritual person was asked in England, two thirds of respondents claimed to be spiritual. However this was in face to face questioning, where the interviewer was able to explain what was meant by spiritual. in response to the same questionnaire as put to NZers, the result was similar to the NZ response. It’s therefore safe to assume that a similar level of spirituality exists in New Zealand: 2 out of 3 NZers have some level of spirituality.

What I find significant is the few Kiwis have a negative attitude to religion or non-belief. 8 out of 10 believe there is some truth in many religions, while only than 1 in 14 believe there is truth in only one religion. Only 1 in 10 have a negative attitude towards Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism. 1 in five have a negative attitude towards Islam, and only 1 in 10 have a negative attitude towards atheism or non-belief.

I had intended this post to be a response to siriusbizinus in its entirety, but all I’ve managed to do is give a background from which I can formulate a response from a NZ context. I will conclude my response in a following post where I will cover what the Christian message is from a New Zealand perspective, and what significance “ownership” has.


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What terrorism?

I make the walk to a local supermarket two or three times every week. If I’m in good health, the return journey takes slightly less than an hour. If I have a migraine, the same journey can take an hour and a half or more, depending on what symptoms a particular attack displays. (Occasionally it results in me getting lost, but that’s a story for another day.)

One day last week, I was traipsing up and down the aisles trying to remember why I was there, when a young lady stopped me. I don’t know whether she chose me because I was the only other person in the aisle, or whether it was because I had wandered past her on several occasions without trolley or basket, and she assumed I was a staff member.

No matter. Stopped me she did. From her accent I assume she was either American or Canadian. She wanted to know where she could find the infant formula as it couldn’t be found in the baby isle where she thought it should be. I told her it’s not kept on the shelves, and she would need to ask for it when she went through the checkout. From her reaction, it was clear she doubted my honesty, so I felt the need to explain why baby and infant formula was not available off the shelf.

In hindsight, I was in the prodrome stage of a migraine, during which time my family have noticed I sometimes become “hyper” and tend to info dump (probably an Aspergers trait coming to the fore). On this particular occasion I went into considerable detail regarding the fact that due to a terrorism threat, all baby and infant formula products have been withdrawn from supermarket shelves, and are kept away from public access and are constantly monitored by CCTV to ensure the products are not tampered with.

I had got to the point where I was explaining that the police had yet to make an arrest, and were at the stage of investigating every known animal rights proponent, and not just activists, when she hurriedly thanked me and left.

I have no idea whether the young lady purchased any formula or not, but I wonder what affect I had in reinforcing or damaging our “clean green” reputation. Did my explanation convey the image that Aotearoa New Zealand was a dangerous place for infants, or did it give her assurance that NZ takes food safety seriously and that there was no risk to her child? I wish I knew.

I’ve been thinking about how the current state of affairs has affected Kiwis. Although I don’t frequent circles where feeding babies is likely to be a popular topic for conversation, I’ve seen little conversation on the topic since the first few weeks when the threat was made public.

Is this complacency, or confidence in the safety of our food chain, or a thumbing of our collective noses to terrorism? Hopefully it’s the latter two, and not complacency. However, knowing the kiwi “she’ll be right” mentality, I wonder how much thought we have put into why a product is hidden from public view. Retailers have reported no downturn in sales.

Further reading:

Annual NZ breastfeeding statistics
1080 usage in New Zealand
D-day for 1080 threat to infant formula
Evaluating the use of 1080: Predators, poisons and silent forests