Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Musical Monday (2202/09/26) – (I’m Glad) I’m Not A Kennedy

Shona Laing was inspired to write this song after watching Edward Kennedy on television. It was first released as a single in 1985 under the title “Not A Kennedy“, but received very little airplay. It was remixed and released again in 1987, this time peaking at number two on the NZ charts.

Shona Laing first came to prominence in 1973 when, at the age of sixteen, she won TVNZ’s talent show New Faces with her own composition “1905“.

I found this song hauntingly beautiful the first time I heard it, and still do – it remains in my head for days after each time I hear it. Enjoy!

(I’m Glad) I’m Not A Kennedy – Shona Laing
(I'm Glad) I'm Not A Kennedy

Living on through politics
Body-guarded, heart in bits
A blue-eyed honesty
Indigo injury
The family tree is felled
Bereavement worn so well
Giving up on certainty
Wilderness society

Wearing the fame like a loaded gun
Tied up with a rosary
Ooh, I'm glad I'm not a Kennedy

Imagine being a Kennedy
Rule without remedy
To watch your family die
The world loves a sacrifice
Prophets longing for the three
Honoring the tragedy
They hunger for the crime
The privilege to take a life

Wearing the fame like a loaded gun
Tied up with a rosary
Ooh, I'm glad I'm not a Kennedy
Glad I'm not a Kennedy

[JFK]
And is not peace basically
A matter of human rights?
The right to live out our lives
Without fear of devastation?
The right to breathe air
As nature provided it?
The right of future generations
To a healthy existence?
Let us, if we can step back from
The shadows of war and seek out
The way of peace

I love the look in your eyes
I can see your soul sometimes, and we laugh
When we try too hard we stop and start
Oh, imagine being a Kennedy
I'm glad I'm not a Kennedy

Wearing the fame like a loaded gun
Tied up with a rosary
I'm glad I'm not a Kennedy
Imagine being a Kennedy
Ooh, I'm glad I'm not a Kennedy

[JFK]
The cost of freedom is always high
Yet one path we shall never choose
That is the path of surrender or submission
When a man's way please the lord
The scriptures tell us
"He maketh even his enemies
To be at peace with him"
We will not prematurely or unnecessarily
Risk the course of worldwide nuclear war
In which even the fruits of victory
Would be ashes in our mouths
Ashes in our mouths
Ashes in our mouths
Ashes in our mouths


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What if it was us?

The title of this post is a question asked by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her speech presented to the United Nations General Assembly this morning (New Zealand time). I chose that title as it reflects how I see my position in the world. None of us live in isolation, what harms others harms each of us, no one has the right to impose their values on others, and we do have an obligation to ensure freedom is available to all.

Her speech covers a number of topics including the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, Reform of the UN, climate change, Nuclear weapons and the proliferation of disinformation and disinformation. It’s almost seventeen minutes in length, but I encourage all my readers to listen to it or read the transcription I have included below.

Jacinda Ardern’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly

E ngā Mana, e ngā Reo, Rau Rangatira mā kua huihui mai nei i tēnei Whare Nui o te Ao.
[To the authorities, leaders and representatives gathered in this Great Assembly of the World].

Ngā mihi maioha ki a koutou katoa, mai i tōku Whenua o Aotearoa.
[Warm greetings to you all from my home country of New Zealand].

Tuia ki runga, Tuia ki raro, ka Rongo to pō ka rongo te ao.
[Unite above, unite below, unite together and listen as we come together].

 Nō reira, tēnā koutou kātoa
[I acknowledge you all]

Mr President,
Mr Secretary-General,
Friends,

I greet you in te reo Māori, the language of the tangata whenua, or first people, of Aotearoa New Zealand. I acknowledge the leaders who are here, gathered in person after a long and difficult period.

And as is tradition, in my country, I also acknowledge those who have passed.

Loss brings with it a chance for reflection.

And as leaders, between us, we each represent countries and communities who have lost much in these past few years. Through famine, severe weather, natural disasters and a pandemic.

COVID-19 was devastating. It took millions of lives. 

It continues to impact on our economies and with that, the well-being of our people. It set us back in our fight against the crisis of climate change and progress on the sustainable development goals while we looked to the health crisis in front of us.

And while we enter a period now where the crisis is subsiding, the lessons cannot.

COVID schooled us.

It forced us to acknowledge how interconnected and therefore how reliant we are on one another.

We move between one another’s countries with increasing ease. We trade our goods and services. 

And when one link in our supply chain is impacted, we all are.

The lessons of COVID are in many ways the same as the lessons of climate change.

When crisis is upon us, we cannot and will not solve these issues on our own.

The next pandemic will not be prevented by one country’s efforts but by all of ours. Climate action will only ever be as successful as the least committed country, as they pull down the ambition of the collective.

I am not suggesting though that we rely on the goodwill of others to make progress. 

We need a dual strategy. One where we push for collective effort but we also use our multilateral tools to make progress.

That’s why on pandemic preparedness we support efforts to develop a new global health legal instrument, strengthened international health regulations and a strong and empowered World Health Organization.

It’s why we are such advocates of the World Trade Organization and its reform to ensure supply chains remain open and critical goods and services are not subjected to protectionism in times of need.

It’s why we have worked so hard within the Paris Agreement to see the action we need on climate, while also doing our bit at home including putting a 1.5C warming limit into law, increasing our NDC to 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and quadrupling our climate finance commitment.

Whether it’s climate, trade, health crisis or seeking peaceful solutions to war and conflict – New Zealand has always been a believer in multilateral tools.

We were amongst the founding members of the United Nations as governments of the day recognised that the perils of war would only be avoided through a greater sense of shared responsibility.

The basis on which this institution was formed, remains as relevant today as it was then.

But without reform, we risk irrelevancy.

There is perhaps no greater example of this than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Let us all be clear, Russia’s war is illegal. It is immoral.

It is a direct attack on the UN Charter and the international rules-based system and everything that this community should stand for.

Putin’s suggestion that it could at any point deploy further weapons that it has at their disposal reveals the false narrative that they have based their invasion on. What country who claims to be a liberator, threatens to annihilate the very civilians they claim to liberate?

This war is based on a lie.

But I recognise, that for the people of Ukraine who have lost loved ones, their sense of peace and security, their livelihoods – these are all just words. 

They need us, as a global community to ask one simple question: “What if it was us?”

Our ability to answer that question with any confidence that we have the tools as a global community to act swiftly and collectively has been severely undermined.

In March when we most needed the UN Security Council to act in the defence of international peace and security, it could not. It did not fulfil its mandate because of one permanent member who was willing to abuse its privileged position.

That was wrong.

We will not give up on the ability of our multilateral institutions to stand up against this illegal war or to take on the many challenges we face. 

These institutions are the ballast we need but it’s a ballast that requires modernisation, fit for the tumultuous waters we all face.

That is why New Zealand was pleased to champion the Veto Initiative. Not only does it provide an opportunity to scrutinise the actions of the permanent member who cast a veto, the Veto Initiative gives the whole UN membership a voice where the Security Council has been unable to act.  

But we continue to call for more than that.

For the United Nations to maintain its relevancy, and ensure that it truly is the voice of the breadth of countries it represents, the veto must be abolished and Permanent Members must exercise their responsibility for the benefit of international peace and security, rather than the pursuit of national interest.

There are other battles that we continue to wage as a nation, including our call for a global response to the use of nuclear weapons.

Our history of championing not just non-proliferation, but a prohibition on nuclear weapons is grounded in what we have witnessed, but also what we have experienced.

We are a nation that is both of the Pacific and within it. 

It was in our region that these weapons of war were tested. Those tests have left a mark on the people, lands and waters of our home.

The only way to guarantee our people that they will be safe from the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is for them not to exist.

That’s why Aotearoa New Zealand calls on all states that share this conviction to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Some will call such a position naive. Some believe that we are safer as a result of nuclear weapons. 

In New Zealand, we have never accepted the wisdom of mutually assured destruction.

It takes one country to believe that their cause is nobler, their might stronger, their people more willing to be sacrificed. None of us can stand on this platform and turn a blind eye to the fact that there are already leaders amongst us who believe this.

Nuclear weapons do not make us safer.

There will be those who agree but believe it is simply too hard to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons at this juncture. There is no question that nuclear disarmament is an enormous challenge. 

But if given the choice, and we are being given a choice, surely we would choose the challenge of disarmament than the consequences of a failed strategy of weapons-based deterrence.

And this is why we will continue to advocate for meaningful progress on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Progress and consensus that was recently blocked by Russia – and represented a backward step to the efforts of nearly every country in the world to make some even limited progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

None of this will stop New Zealand’s advocacy.

We will remain a strong and passionate advocate for efforts to address the weapons of old but, also, the weapons that are new.

The face of war has changed. And with that, the weapons used. The tools used to challenge the statehood of others are hidden and more complex.

Traditional combat, espionage and the threat of nuclear weapons are now accompanied by cyber-attacks, prolific disinformation and manipulation of whole communities and societies.

As leaders, we have never treated the weapons of old in the same way as those that have emerged. And that’s understandable. 

After all, a bullet takes a life. A bomb takes out a whole village. A lie online or from a podium does not.

But what if that lie, told repeatedly, and across many platforms, prompts, inspires, or motivates others to take up arms? To threaten the security of others. To turn a blind eye to atrocities, or worse, to become complicit in them. What then?

This is no longer a hypothetical. The weapons of war have changed, they are upon us and require the same level of action and activity that we put into the weapons of old.

We recognised the threats that the old weapons created. We came together as communities to minimise these threats. We created international rules, norms and expectations. We never saw that as a threat to our individual liberties – rather, it was a preservation of them.

The same must apply now as we take on these new challenges

In Aotearoa New Zealand, we deeply value our right to protest. Some of our major social progress has been brought about by hikoi or people power – becoming the first country in the world to recognise women’s right to vote, movement on major indigenous and human rights issues to name but a few. 

Upholding these values in a modern environment translates into protecting a free, secure and open internet. To realise all of the opportunities that it presents in the way we communicate, organise and gather.

But that does not mean the absence of transparency, expectations or even rules.  If we correctly identify what it is we are trying to prevent.

And surely we can start with violent extremism and terrorist content online.

On March 15, 2019, New Zealand experienced a horrific terrorist attack on its Muslim community. 

More than 50 people were killed as they prayed. The attack was live-streamed on a popular social media platform in an effort to gain notoriety, and to spread hate.

At that time, the ability to thwart those goals was limited. And the chances of Government alone being able to resolve this gap was equally challenging. 

That’s why, alongside President Emmanuel Macron, we created the Christchurch Call to Action.

The Call community has worked together to address terrorism and violent extremist content online. As this important work progresses, we have demonstrated the impact we can have by working together collaboratively.

We’ve improved crisis reactions, stymieing the ability to live stream attacks, we have crisis protocols that kick in to prevent proliferation.

We are also focused on prevention – understanding the interactions between online environment and the real world that can lead to radicalisation. 

This week we launched an initiative alongside companies and non-profits to help improve research and understanding of how a person’s online experiences are curated by automated processes. This will also be important in understanding more about mis and disinformation online. A challenge that we must as leaders address.

Sadly, I think it’s easy to dismiss this problem as one in the margins. I can certainly understand the desire to leave it to someone else. 

As leaders, we are rightly concerned that even those most light-touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech we value so highly.

But while I cannot tell you today what the answer is to this challenge, I can say with complete certainty that we cannot ignore it. To do so poses an equal threat to the norms we all value.

After all, how do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble? How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists? How do you ensure the human rights of others are upheld, when they are subjected to hateful and dangerous rhetoric and ideology?

The weapons may be different but the goals of those who perpetuate them are often the same. To cause chaos and reduce the ability of others to defend themselves. To disband communities. To collapse the collective strength of countries who work together.

But we have an opportunity here to ensure that these particular weapons of war do not become an established part of warfare.

And so, we once again come back to the primary tool we have. Diplomacy, dialogue, working together on solutions that do not undermine human rights but enhance them.

For those who have not sought out the Christchurch Call to Action, I ask that you consider it. As with so many of the challenges we face, we will only be as strong as those who do the least.

In these times, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to feel disheartened. We are facing many battles on many fronts.

But there is cause for optimism. Because for every new weapon we face, there is a new tool to overcome it.

For every attempt to push the world into chaos, is a collective conviction to bring us back to order.

We have the means; we just need the collective will.

Mai i tōku ukaipo Aotearoa, karahuihui mai tātou, nō reira, tēnā tātou kātoa.
[From my homeland, my source of sustenance, to yours, let us come together, all of us].

Nō reira, tēnā kotou, tēnā kotou tēnā tatou kātoa.


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Spirituality, is it “woo”

Over on Nan’s Notebook, Ark wrote in a comment[T]hey love to include bullshit terms such as spirituality and other ‘Woo’ words“. To Ark there’s no doubt that it’s woo. I’m not persuaded that spirituality is “woo”.

Twelve days ago I attended a pōwhiri at a marae about an hour’s drive from home. The experience, as has every other pōwhiri I have been part of, is indeed intensely spiritual. Before I continue, here’s a brief description of a pōwhiri:

A pōwhiri usually begins with manuhiri (guests) gathering outside the meeting grounds. An older woman from the host side performs a karanga (call) to the manuhiri. This is when the visitors start moving on to the marae. A woman from among the visitors will send a call of response and acknowledgement. The visitors walk onto the marae as a group, slowly and silently with the women in front of the men. They pause along the way to remember their ancestors who have passed on.

Once on the marae grounds, the guests and hosts sit down facing each other. When they are all seated, speeches are made and a song is sung following each speaker to support their address. Customarily, the final speaker for the visitors will present a koha (gift) to their hosts.

To finish the ceremony, visitors and hosts greet each other with a hongi (the ceremonial touching of noses). After the pōwhiri, kai (food) is shared, in keeping with the Māori tradition of manaakitanga (hospitality).

What is a pōwhiri? Understanding the traditional Māori welcome

In total there may have been fifty guests and hosts, perhaps a few less. All the speeches during the pōwhiri were in Te Reo Māori, as were many of the speeches during the sharing of kai. I struggle in crowds. I find them overwhelming and I mean in a negative way, even in large family gatherings. Yet when I move onto a marae I feel “at home”, in much the same manner as I feel when attending a Quaker Meeting. I feel embraced, becoming one with those present. It seldom happens elsewhere.

I cannot speak Te Reo, and the few words of Māori I do know did little to help me understand the speeches, but even so I could detect the speakers’ connectedness through their pepeha. More importantly I felt the connection. It’s the being connected, being one with something beyond self that makes one’s experience spiritual. That connection enabled me to stand and speak, and for the first time in a long while I didn’t need to rehearse what I wanted to say.

Morning rain

I felt the same type of connection this morning, not with people or a community, but with nature. I stood on our balcony while steady rain fell, hiding the Ruahine and Tararua ranges and the Manawatu Gorge that separates them. The rain muffled the sounds of Feilding traffic below As I stood I felt I became one with the environment. I noticed a slowing of my breathing and of my pulse. There was a sense of belonging, a calmness that I don’t usually experience.

I noticed too that I stopped scripting. For those who don’t know what scripting is, it’s a bit like learning lines of a script for a play. I’m not really able to create sentences on the fly so my head is always shuffling words around to make intelligible sentences, memorising them and then storing them away for moment when it might be useful to pull it out and recite. It’s a process that seldom stops while I’m awake, and at times it becomes so distracting that I lose concentration on whatever task I’m undertaking at that moment. But this morning it wasn’t there – silence, serenity, being one with nature, or perhaps the universe? It then hit me that in the ceremony of the pōwhiri I wasn’t scripting either.

If I had been living several centuries ago, I might have attributed the “being one” with some type of agency – a spirit or mystical force or energy, as that is certain how the experience feels. At a time when the existence of such agencies were taken for granted, I would have had no reason to suppose it was anything else. But I live in a “rational” secular world with a better understanding of how the mind functions, so I can attribute the experience of “oneness” to the marvel that our brain is. Knowing it’s caused by chemical and electrical circuitry in the brain doesn’t make it any less an awe inspiring experience.

Dismissing such experiences as “woo” diminishes what it is to be human. I don’t know if Ark has ever fallen in love, experienced the euphoria of a crowd of spectators when their team wins a sports event or the satisfaction that comes when a difficult task has been completed. I haven’t. I can’t even imagine what those experiences feel like. But I’m certainly not going to call them “woo” simply because I don’t understand or experience them. I’m not usually aware of emotions, mine or anyone else’s. I’m not able to predict what people might do in a second’s time let alone in a minute or an hour, so I’m always of an uncertainty when around people. But in the environment of a pōwhiri or a Quaker meeting everyone becomes part of a whole which is predictable. There’s a routine created by custom fashioned over centuries.

A similar predictability applies to nature. Seasons come and go regularly as does day and night. Clouds tell me when rain is likely and how much will fall. Wind changes direction over hours as does its intensity. In one sense nature and ritualised social occasions talk to me, informing me what will happen next. There is no need to rehearse what I might need to say in the next moment, minute, hour, nor predict what might happen.

Being autistic is a little like taking part in a play where you have been given the script to Sound of music (even though I can’t hold a single note in tune) while everyone else is working to the script of Hamlet. It’s disorientating, confusing and stressful. So spiritual experiences take on even more significance whenever they do occur. It’s a sense of calm, peace and euphoria all at once, and unless you’ve experienced it, you have no idea what it is like. It is, literally, indescribable.

Woo? I think not.


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Musical Monday (2022/09/19) – Kia Mau Ki Tō Ūkaipō / Don’t Forget Your Roots

Most of the music I choose for Musical Mondays are oldies – those that have been my favourites for decades, but I’m not so old (yet) that I can’t become fond of new music. Here’s one such song from the New Zealand band SIX60.

The band was formed in 2008 by four Otago University students sharing a flat (house) at 660 Castle Street in the city of Dunedin. The name of the band is derived from that address. Their first album (SIX60) was released under their own label of Massive Entertainment in 2011 and debuted at number one in the NZ album charts and achieved gold within its first week. They have become one of the most popular (if not the most popular) band in the country, playing to crowds of fans exceeding 50,000, which, when you consider the population of this country is around 5 million, spread over 2,000 Km (1,300 miles) north to south, isn’t half bad, especially when such crowds were achieved in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic.

In July 2021 the band purchased 660 Castle Street and established four $10,000 performing arts scholarships at the University of Otago. Winners of the scholarships reside, of course, at that address.

I’m not sure how you would describe their music genre. Audioculture describes it as “a soul and rock informed sound”, but whatever it is, it appeals to a wide audience from preteens to their parents and grandparents, and this is reflected in the mix of fans seen at their concerts. A level of their popularity can be measured by the fact that at time of writing the band had achieved 19 platinum and 5 gold singles, 3 platinum albums and one platinum EP.

Don’t Forget Your Roots single was released in July 2011. It peaked at number two in the Recorded Music NZ charts and number one on the RIANZ charts. At time of writing the song has certified sales of 8 x platinum. In 2019 the song was re-recorded in te Reo Māori for te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) and was retitled Kia Mau Ki Tō Ūkaipō / Don’t Forget Your Roots. I have included two versions. The first is taken from a 2020 live performance and is a mix of English and Māori lyrics. The second is the original from 2011. Enjoy!

SIX60 – Kia Mau Ki Tō Ūkaipō / Don’t Forget Your Roots (Live at Western Springs 2020)
SIX60 – Don’t Forget Your Roots (2011)
Don't Forget Your Roots

Whoa, whoa, yeah

Don't forget your roots, my friend
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend
The ones who made you
The ones who brought you here
Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Whoa, yeah

So Johnny was a good man
Armed with the power of his homeland
And with his boots laced tight and a ticket in his hand
Never to return home again
So he lost what he knows and what all is right
For a broken world and a world of lies
But the days were numbered, relationships suffered
He lost the faith of all those who mattered so

Don't forget your roots, my friend
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend
The ones who made you
The ones who brought you here
Don't forget your roots, my friend
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Whoa

So Jessie thought that she was all that
Thought she was heading on the right track
Left her mates at the gate as she walked away
Ooh, never to look back again
So she lost what she knows and what all is right
For a brand new image and a world of lies
But the days were numbered, relationships suffered
She lost the faith of all those who mattered so

Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend
The ones who made you
The ones who brought you here
Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Whoa, yeah
Whoa, whoa, yeah

Don't forget your roots, my friend
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend
The ones who made you
The ones who brought you here
Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Don't forget your family, yeah
Don't forget your roots, my friend, yeah
Whoa, yeah
Kia Mau Ki Tō Ūkaipō

Oooohhhh

Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki tō whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Ki tangata ai koe
I hari mai a koe
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki tō whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō āe

Tangata pai a Hone
Pakari ana te tū mai
Tū ana tariana te ao
Te hoki mai te auraki mai
Ngaro ana i a ia i te mana
He ao hurihuri he ao horihori
Tāweko ana te taura tangata
Motu ana te taura ka rawa āe

Kia Mau Ki Tō Ūkaipō
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki to whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipo
Ki tangata ai koe
I hari mai a koe
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki to whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō

Pōhehe ana a Heni (Heni)
I te huarahi tika ia (ia)
Mahue ngā hoa haere atu ana (e huri mai anō)
Ngaro ana i a ia te mana
Kimi tikanga hou i te ao horihori
Tāweko ana te taura tangata
Motu ana te taura ka rawa āe

Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki tō whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipo
Ki tangata ai koe
I hari mai a koe
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki tō whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō

Ringa pakia
Waewae takahia
Kia kino nei hoki

Ka mate, Ka mate! Ka ora, Ka ora!
Ka mate, Ka mate! Ka ora, Ka ora!
Tenei te tangata puhuruhuru
Nana i tiki mai whakawhiti te ra!
A hupane, a hupane
A hupane, kaupane whiti te ra!

Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki tō whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipo
Ki tangata ai koe
I hari mai a koe
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō
Kia mau hoki ki tō whānau
Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō


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Where/who/what is God?

When God is no longer a person up there in the sky, where is God? When God is no longer personified in ways which can be controlled and manipulated by the powerful, who is God? When we stop creating images of God which are mere projections of ourselves, what is God?

Rev. Dawn Hutchings, pastordawn Sunday 5 December 2021

The above paragraph is from the sermon NATIVITY – a parable born in the darkness of trauma given by Pastor Dawn. She is one of several Christian pastors/preachers I follow on WordPress. Pastor Dawn Identifies herself as a 21st Century Progressive Christian Pastor. I suspect most of the others would also identify in a similar vein, even if they haven’t identified specifically as such.

The sermon itself, places into perspective the minds of the gospel writers in light of the genocide being committed against the Jews by the Roman empire that started in the latter part of the first century AD, and continued for another fifty or so years. I agree with Pastor Dawn, that without understanding the circumstances of the writers, it’s not possible to understand their intent, nor the meaning of what they wrote.

Even though the Gospels were written nearly 2000 years ago, our modern understanding of the effects of social upheaval, and how people responded to tyranny and genocide at the end of the first century means that we should be able interpret their contents in a nonliteral way, which I suspect was the intent of the writers, and perhaps implicitly understood by the first generation Christians who were predominantly Jews facing extreme persecution by the Roman Empire – as Pastor Dawn describes it “the first Holocaust”.

Given the conditions of the time, why any thinking person today should believe that the Gospels must be read as factual history is beyond me. And while I can understand that fundamentalist indoctrination might be reason why some Christians conflate universal truths told in the form of storytelling, parables, metaphors and symbolism with historical facts, I struggle to understand why so many non Christians also hold a similar view – that the gospels are meant to be understood literally so are therefore a pack of lies. Neither perspective is accurate and both do an injustice to the works of art contained within the Bible.

Pastor Dawn offers a plausible explanation as to how early Christians came to deify Jesus. Although she doesn’t mention it in the sermon, Roman emperors of the day were deified and surprise, surprise, myths were created claiming some to be the offspring of a union between a mortal and a god. At least one of them had a star hovering in the sky to announce the birth. Under the circumstances, attaching a similar story to the birth of Jesus seems an obvious way of describing the significance of Jesus and his teachings to his early followers. The symbolism would have been very obvious to those of the day.

I’m a firm believer in what Quakers describe as “continuing revelation“. This can be understood in many ways, (old Quaker saying: Ask four Quakers, get five answers) but my take on it is that with new knowledge comes new understandings (of the world around us and of us as individuals and communities). While I vehemently disagree with Richard Dawkins’ view of religion, I can thank him for naming (but not originating) an evolutionary model to explain what Quakers have intuitively known for generations: that ideas, values, concepts of morality, or art, be they religious or otherwise do not stand still. They change over time.

Dawkins coined the term meme to describe the mechanism by which ideas and concepts are inherited from generation to generation, and in a way similar to how genes combine and mutate and subsequently succeed or die out, so do memes. An example might be the concept of slavery as it evolved in the West and culminated in the horrors associated with slavery in America. In its heyday, most people in southern USA considered slavery to be part of the natural order of the world. Today, remnants of that concept remain in the form of racism, it’s a meme that has mutated by not (yet) died out completely.

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Christian history should be aware how much Christianity has changed (evolved) over the centuries. Let’s face it, Jesus was a Jew, in both ethnicity and religion. His desire was reform, to place an emphasis on ethics and social justice rather than rigid ceremony and law. It was not to create a new religion. I have no doubt that he would find Reform Judaism closer to his goals than most (perhaps all) forms of Christianity.

Meanwhile Christianity evolved into a multiplicity of forms – some developing characteristics that expanded on the ideals of the first followers of Jesus and some that developed traits that Jesus strongly opposed. I see that as an inevitable and natural outcome of the evolutionary process. Just as organisms evolve, so do religions. If they don’t evolve to adapt to their environment then they either become restricted to a niche environment to which they are suited or they die out.

Evolution also applies to our concept(s) of God(s). One characteristic that most fundamentalist Christians and many atheists have in common, is that they have an almost identical notion of how God is defined. Both seem to be unable to grasp the fact the Christian God has been under constant evolutionary change from the moment Christianity became a movement – even before it moved from being a heresy of judaism to a movement followed by Gentiles.

Some Christian fundamentalist movements will insist that God hasn’t evolved. He (it’s always ‘He‘) has always been the same, only no one fully understood the scriptures until the founder/leader of that particular movement/sect discovered their “True” meaning. In extreme cases theirs is the only “Truth”, and any who believe otherwise are heretics, deservedly destined to whatever fate their God has reserved for non-believers.

Atheists can find no evidence to support the existence of any god as an entity, and I have no issue with that. In fact, I concur. But then some atheists make the assumption that every form of religion must, of necessity, include a conviction that at least one deity or supernatural entity lies at its heart, even if that means shoehorning their concept of a non-existing deity into faith traditions that have evolved different notions of what God is (or is not).

I belong to a 350 year old faith tradition commonly referred to as the Quakers, and to a particular branch that in the 20th and 21st centuries is often described as liberal Quakerism, although in many ways it is the most traditional branch when it comes to practising our faith. In the short history of Quakerism, there is ample evidence of Dawkins’ memes in action. What is now viewed as the liberal branch were the conservatives in the eighteenth century, holding true to the tradition that everyone has direct access to the divine without the need for any intermediaries such as clergy or scripture, whereas the progressives/liberals of the day embraced the new evangelism and biblical authority that was sweeping through Christianity at that time and adopted articles of faith, creeds, clergy, and much else that is found within the evangelical movement.

In evolutionary terms evangelical Quakerism has been the most successful branch within the Quaker movement with about 85% of Quakers worldwide belonging to one of the evangelical branches, whereas the then conservative, and now very liberal branch account for around 12% of all Quakers, and confined to Britain and former British settler colonies (such as Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Canada), Western Europe, and some parts of the USA.

My reason for the (extremely) truncated description of Quaker branches is that on many occasions in the blogosphere, I have been “corrected” for making claims about Quaker beliefs and practices that are true for Aotearoa, but incorrect when referring to Quakerism in many other parts of the world. In fact I’ve been told in no uncertain terms by one atheist blogger that I have no right to call myself a Quaker as I don’t profess to be a Christian. Whenever I refer to Quaker beliefs and practices, my only point of reference is the religious community I am connected to (Quakers Aotearoa, Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri). Please keep this in mind whenever I refer to Quaker beliefs and practices. I accept that Quakers in many parts of the world have different beliefs and practices, but I am less familiar with those.

So, back to the question of where/who/what is God. For atheists and Christian Fundamentalists, the Answer is simple. For the former, there is no such thing, end of story. For the latter there is no doubt of “His” existence, and they can (and do frequently) quote passage after passage from the Bible to support their claim. For the rest of us it’s not so simple. God has evolved and continues to evolve.


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Musical Monday (2022/09/12) The Bridge

The tune for this song is possibly familiar to many of my readers. It’s Il Silenzio, an instrumental composed by the Italian jazz trumpeter Nini Rosso, which is itself an adaptation of the opening to Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien. The Bridge is the first song in te reo Māori (the Māori language) to gain a number 1 spot on the NZ hit parade. This it achieved in April 1981, knocking John Lenon’s Woman from the top ranking. The Bridge ranked number 1 on April 5, 19 & 26.

The Bridge was sung by Deane Waretini and the lyrics were written Waretini’s cousin, George Tait. The bridge in question represents two ideas. One is the Māngere Bridge which was under construction at the time (completed in 1983), linking opposite sides of the Manukau Harbour and two distinctly different urban settings. The other refers to the linking together of Māori and Pākekā cultures.

Unusual for the period, the single was self-financed by Waretini and he was so cash strapped that he paid the backing group in KFC. He then used guerrilla marketing to get the record on air and into the hands of the public, even recruiting a newspaper boy to sell copies to passers by. The techniques succeeded in getting the attention of CBS, and as they say, the rest is history.

I’m not usually a fan of the trumpet as it often sounds harsh to my ears. But I find they are beautiful in this melody, perhaps because it was composed by a trumpet player? And they balance the rich voice of Deane Waretini perfectly. Enjoy!

The Bridge – Deane Waretini
Taku aroha – i aue, i aue
Ki nga pou1 o te piriti
Āki, pakia mai rau
E nga tai kaha ra e
Pukepuke, i aue

Nga roimata e aku kamo
I rite ki te ngaru
Whati mai, whati mai
I waho e, whati mai.

My concern is for the piles of the bridge, 
Constantly pounded by the strong tides.
The tears well up in my eyes
They are like the waves that break without

…e nga tai kaha ra e
Pukepuke, i aue

Nga roimata e aku kamo
I rite ki te ngaru
Whati mai, whati mai
I waho e, whati mai.


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Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022: My time under the monarchy — Nik Dirga

The Queen is dead, long live the King.

Like Nik I’m ambivalent about the monarchy. Well actually it’s the hereditary nature of the role rather than the institution of the monarchy itself. Certainly separating the head of state from the head of government, outside of politics draws me to prefer the continuation of an institution that functions in a similar way rather than a presidential form of government. So until a better way of transferring the institution of the monarchy (or an equivalent) from one person to another is devised, I’m prepared to live with with the hereditary model.

For those who do not understand how the monarchy works, the monarchy of Aotearoa New Zealand is not the same as the monarchy of the United Kingdom. They are separate institutions regulated by different laws.

Unlike Nik, I’ve been a subject of a monarch for all my life, and all but three of them under Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ. One of my earliest recollections is standing on a raised lawn in the city of Whanganui waving to the new Queen as her cavalcade passed by. That was in January of 1954 on her NZ tour.

Queen Elizabeth II poses for a portrait at home in Buckingham Palace in December 1958. For almost 16 years now, I’ve been a subject of the Queen.  It’s kind of weird whenever I think about it — that a kid who was born in Alaska, grew up in the hills of California and went to […]

Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022: My time under the monarchy — Nik Dirga


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Getting the facts right

(I have been going through the hundreds of unpublished articles that I had originally intended to post to this blog, but for many reasons I never completed. Most are being deleted as they are no longer relevant or have been said better elsewhere. A few are worthy of resuscitation, and while this article composed in August 2020 refers to a specific event, the message I intended to convey still holds true today.)


It’s really no wonder some people dream up some very imaginative scenarios based on so called reliable media sources. It only takes a minor error or oversight in reporting to give others a completely false idea.

Take for example this article from Reuters on 21 August 2020 which includes the statement “The attack led to a ban on firearms in New Zealand“. No it didn’t. This is a case of sloppy reporting by a reputable news organisation, and it’s the type of wildly inaccurate reporting that gets blown out of proportion by those living in other parts of the world, and in particular by the pro gun lobby in America.

I don’t intend this article to either an argument for or against the ownership of firearms, although I should state that I support strong gun control. I’m going to assume that the majority of those who believe in the right to bear arms are reasonable and rational beings. In the US, the courts have determined that the constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, and I have no intention to argue that.

Not only are our laws irrelevant to the situation in America, our laws do not not impinge on our freedom nor our personal safety. But first some myths that require correcting.

How many guns in New Zealand?

That question cannot be answered with any certainty. A firearms licence is required to own a gun or to use a gun without supervision, but up to now there has been no gun registration regime in this country. So what facts are known?

  • Best estimates of the number of guns legitimately in circulation in New Zealand is somewhere between 1,200,000 and 1,500,000 guns of all types.
  • There are approximately 250,000 licensed firearm owners.
  • The number of guns estimated to be affected by the law change was somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000. It was not possible to get a more accurate picture as guns are not registered.
  • Approximately 57,000 guns were handed in during the government buy-back scheme.
  • Not all licensed firearm owners own a gun. Many hold a license in order to be able to use a gun in the course of their employment (pest control, hunting tour guides for example) or for recreational hunting. In such case the guns may be owned by an employer or a recreational group.
  • The carrying of any weapon for the purpose of self defence is not lawful in this country. That applies to knives, pepper spray, bows and arrows, and baseball bats just as much as it does to guns. Even carrying a screwdriver for the purpose of self defence is illegal. The law change does not alter this.

The first mistake the pro gun lobby make is to assume that one in four Kiwis own a gun. This is patently false. They get this figure by dividing the population (5 million) by the estimated number of guns (1.25 million), completely ignoring the fact that there are only 250,000 registered gun owners. A more accurate figure is one in twenty Kiwis hold a firearms license and even fewer actually own a firearm. Those who do hold a firearms licence own many guns.

Inaccurate reporting has resulted in two distinct and contradictory perceptions by many Americans.

  1. All guns have been confiscated and Kiwis are “defenceless” against criminals and an authoritarian government
  2. Kiwis thumbed their noses at gun confiscation and the government’s ban has been a complete failure.

The myth that Kiwis have had their guns confiscated is widespread on the internet. Confiscation was never the intent – only specific types of guns, perhaps 5% of those in circulation were re-classified so that they could not be legally owned on a category A firearms licence, and the government offered a buy back scheme for those affected. In fact the estimated number of guns in circulation still remains about the same as before, as has been stated previously the estimated number of firearms in circulation vary by 300,000 or more.

The pro gun lobby also get the facts wrong when they refer to the “failure” of the government buyback scheme after those guns were reclassified. Remember that the number of firearms in circulation that were reclassified is unknown but estimates vary between 50,000 and 150,000.

Around 57,000 weapons were handed in during the buyback amnesty period. The reasons why the pro gun lobby argue it was a failure are based on erroneous calculations.

  • Few Kiwis handed in their guns: This argument assumes there was requirement for all gun owners to hand in all their guns. They compare their estimated (but wildly inaccurate) number of gun owners in the country (1.25 million) and the number of guns handed in (57 thousand). Using this calculation they claim that less than 5% of gun owners handed in their weapons and that 95% of NZ gun owners have thumbed their nose at the government. This is the stance taken by the NRA.
  • Few guns were handed in: Again an error based on the basis that all guns had to be handed in. They compare the estimated number of guns (1.25 million) and the number handed in (57 thousand) and conclude that less than 5% of all guns were handed in.

Their conclusion is that the citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand are openly defying draconian regulations imposed by a fascist/Marxist/authoritarian government hell bent on eliminating the last of our few remaining freedoms. This is just as false as the belief that all guns have been confiscated.

There is more than enough misinformation floating around to satisfy almost every nutcase and conspiracy theorists. When supposedly reputable sources provide “confirming” evidence through sloppy reporting we shouldn’t be very surprised.

As to the relative levels of freedom that Kiwis and Americans enjoy. Even though we don’t have guns to “protect” ourselves, I am admittedly biased and see Aotearoa as being significantly more free than America. Our gun ownership laws do not impinge on our freedoms, and in fact make this nation much safer and ensures we remain free. I do intend to look at the relative freedoms of our two nations at some time in the (hopefully not too distant) future.


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Musical Monday (2022/09/05) – Maxine

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a romantic. The typical love found, love betrayed, love lost content of oh so many popular songs seldom appeals to me. On the other hand songs that express pure emotion do get to me, and the same is true of songs that comment on (non-romantic) aspects of life. This applies particularly to this song by Kiwi singer songwriter Sharon O’Neil.

O’Neil moved to Australia in 1981 and took up residence in Kings Cross – the red light district of Sydney. She wrote the song after observing a sex worker regularly worked the neighbourhood in the small hours of the morning as O’Neil returned from her late night performances. The music video was recorded 39 years ago and it’s still just as relevant today as it was in 1983. Maxine chronicles life of a corner of 1980s society that most like to pretend never existed, and let’s be honest still exists in almost every city in almost every nation on this planet.

Maxine peaked at number 16 in both Australia and Aotearoa.

Maxine – Sharon O’Neil
Maxine

Creases in your white dress,
Bruises on your bare skin.
Looks like another fine mess
You've got yourself into.
What's the matter with you?
Has the cat got your tongue?
Well, if you don't like the beat,
Then don't play with the drum.

Maxine,
You're not the only one
To take the whole world on,
But no one's ever won.
Maxine, Case 1-3-5-2.
A red and green tattoo,
Eyes cold steel blue

On a rain-slicked avenue, (ooh-ooh)
Long shadows in the night. (ooh-ooh)
Take off your spike-heeled shoes, (ooh-ooh)
You've gotta run for your life.
(Run for your life)
Razor blade in your pocket (ooh-ooh)
From an ex-marine, (ooh-ooh)
Makes you speed like a rocket. (ooh-ooh)
Ooh, it cuts so clean.

Maxine, (who's that walking?)
You're not the only one (walking behind you)
(Who's that talking?)
To take the whole world on, (talking about you)
(Who's that walking?)
But no one's ever won. (walking with you Maxine)
Maxine (who's that walking?)
Case 1-3-5-2. (walking behind you)
(Who's that talking?)
A red and green tattoo, (talking about you)
(Who's that walking?)
Eyes cold steel blue. (walking with you Maxine)

How come you're paying for borrowed time, (Ooh-ooh)
Staring out into space. (ooh-ooh)
Bad boys and cold comfort (ooh-ooh)
And a smacked-up face.
Maxine, (who's that walking?)
You're not the only one (walking behind you)
(Who's that talking?)
To take the whole world on, (talking about you)
(Who's that walking?)
But no one's ever won. (walking with you Maxine)

Maxine (who's that walking?)
Case 1-3-5-2. (walking behind you)
(Who's that talking?)
A red and green tattoo, (talking about you)
(Who's that walking?)
Eyes cold steel blue. (walking with you Maxine)
Maxine, (who's that walking?)
You're not the only one (walking behind you)
(Who's that talking?)
To take the whole world on, (talking about you)
(Who's that walking?)
But no one's ever won. (walking with you Maxine)

Who's that walking, walking behind you?
Who's that talking, talking about you?
Who's that walking, walking with you, Maxine?
Who's that walking, walking behind you?
Who's that talking, talking about you?
Who's that walking, walking with you, Maxine?