Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Election outcome

If you haven’t already seen the preliminary results of the general election, the Labour Party (the senior partner in the previous 3-party government coalition) has won an outright victory, meaning they are able to form a government on their own. This is the first occasion over the last nine election cycles that a political party has been in this position.

To me, that is what is most disturbing about the election results – that one party can govern alone. One of the strengths (although some may call it a weakness) of the MMP voting system is that it’s rare for a single political party to gain an absolute majority within the legislature – in NZ’s case the Parliament.

Since the introduction of MMP either of the major political political parties (National or Labour) have had to negotiate support agreements with one or more minor parties in order to form a government.

After the 2017 general election, although National held the largest number of seats (56), it was unable to negotiate a coalition, whereas Labour (with only 46 seats) succeeded in negotiating separate agreements with each of NZ First (9 seats) and the Greens (8 seats) giving them a working government majority of six seats.

I’m hoping that the new government does include at least one minor party, even though it’s not necessary to govern. Jacinda Ardern has indicated that she wants the new government to be inclusive, and one way of ensuring minority voices are heard is to include them in the corridors of power.

As an aside, Aotearoa New Zealand continues to increase the diversity of its legislature. Both Labour and the Greens have more women than men in their caucuses. Both National and Labour have women leaders, while the Greens and the Māori Party each have a male and female co-leader. According to one political analyst, 10% of the new Parliament will now be from the LGBT+ community. And as in the previous Parliament, Māori will have a higher proportional representation in Parliament than they do in the general population. Unfortunately, neurodiversity is not only under represented, it’s not represented at all. I’d like to see this change during my lifetime, but I’m not holding out strong hopes.

I am thankful that American style politics has not won over the more empathetic and conciliatory style seen here. At what is perhaps a a oblique barb at the US elections, Jacinda had this to say:

We are living in an increasingly polarised world. A place where more and more people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view. I hope [at] this election, that New Zealand has shown, that this is not who we are – that as a nation we can listen, and we can debate. Afterall we are too small to lose sight of other people’s’ perspectives. Elections aren’t always great at bringing people together, but they also don’t need to tear one another apart.


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Done it!

The wife and I visited a nearby voting place to cast our votes in the General election and referendum. In and out in less than five minutes. I really feel for those in other jurisdictions (and America immediately comes to mind at this time) where the ability to vote is frustrated by gerrymandering, partisanship and regulations making the voting process difficult for those who are not of the “correct” political persuasion.

Advance voting is available in the fortnight before Election Day. However, at previous elections the wife and I have always left it to Election Day to cast our votes (by law it must be on a Saturday). Even though the nation is in COVID-19 alert level one (no restrictions domestically, but international borders closed to non-residents), we decided it was prudent to visit a voting place mid-week when there’s likely to be no or minimal queueing.

When we arrived, there was just one other person in the “queue”, and as it turned out, he wasn’t on the electoral roll. It took about a minute to determine he was eligible to enroll and was directed to the appropriate desk to register. As the wife and I had remembered to bring our EasyVote cards with us, it was a 15 second procedure to confirm we were on the roll and we were handed our voting papers.

This evening, three major TV networks carried an article on the difficulty that voters in Texas, USA were experiencing. Apparently there’s only one voting drop-off facility per county for absentee voting, which seems totally ridiculous. The county referred to in the news item has a population of 4.7 million – almost the entire population of Aotearoa New Zealand. I assume an absentee vote is similar to what we refer to as a special vote, which can be done at every voting place.

During the early voting period there’s around one voting place per 2,500 eligible voters, while on Election Day there’s one per 1,300 eligible voters. The result is zero or minimal queues, unlike those regularly depicted in news items of American voters queuing for hours. I wonder what the ratio of voting places to electors is in the various US states?

I don’t know how common it is to have to wait in line for five or more hours, but the frequency at which it’s depicted on our TV screens would indicate it’s not uncommon. What does seem alarming is that this seems more common in states and counties where Republicans are in control. Has partisanship in the US caused the democratic process to sink to this level?

If America was ever a model of democracy worthy of emulation (which I seriously doubt), it most certainly no longer is. It does help explain why Aotearoa New Zealand is listed in the Democracy Index as one of only twenty-two nations having full democracy, while the United States is listed as one of fifty-three nations having a flawed democracy.

It’s understandable that the American elections take up almost as much news time as our own elections due the the influence America has on world affairs. But I wonder whether the fact that this nation is ranked first on the Corruption Perceptions Index while the US is ranked twenty-third (behind Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates) affects the slant given to American politics and politicians by our news services.

It’s almost a given that humorous scorn pertaining to Trump will find its way into the evening news most days of the week, and while we can laugh at the situation knowing it couldn’t happen here as our system doesn’t give so much power to one person, I wonder how many of us cringe knowing conspiracists and science deniers have a growing number of followers even in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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Christianity without God

On several occasions on this blog I have attempted to describe my religious beliefs. I describe myself as being religious and as being a non-theist. I describe myself as a Quaker but not a Christian. However I still find “God language” useful and meaningful to me. For myself, God is a metaphor, or perhaps more accurately an envelope that holds those ideals I value highly – fairness, compassion, social justice, kindness all rank highly. However, someone else may value obedience, adherence to rules, an eye for an eye, conformity. Whatever values one holds as being most important, that is what is contained within the envelope I choose to call God.

As an aside, I would argue that in fact even those who wish to believe in God as a supernatural being, also do exactly what I do, except they have come to believe that the envelope is the all important bit, worthy of worship itself – something beyond themselves. By doing so, they see the contents contained within as characteristics of the container. The outcome is that the contents are no longer open to question or revision.

What many of my readers may not be aware of is that Christianity today is less liberal than it was a century ago or even in my youth. Theological Liberalism remained the driving force of Christianity in Aotearoa New Zealand until the last quarter of the twentieth century. Since then, Liberal Christianity, along with it’s younger relative Progressive Christianity have faced a greater challenge from conservatism, Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism..

Those same forces have had a 50 year advantage in the USA, having gained momentum in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It is presumably why some comments from Americans regarding my attempts at explaining a non-theistic approach to God are so antagonistic, especially from avowed atheists. Most seem to be unable to conceive of God in non-theistic terms.

Complicating matters, is that here in NZ only one in three people claim a christian affiliation, whereas in the US three out of four people claim to be Christian. So the context in which my beliefs developed are radically different from that which most Americans experience. The result is that that neither the American Christian nor American atheist has much in common with the Kiwi form of liberal religion that shaped my world view.

So rather than attempt to use my own words to explain what I believe, here is part a presentation made by Sir Lloyd Geering around 9 years ago (he’s 101 now, and he was 92 at the time of the presentation).

This particular part of the presentation was an afterthought. He was asked to explain the backgound behind his book Christianity Without God. It’s essentially “off the cuff” as he hadn’t made preparation for this part. I’ve included a Youtube clip. As often happens with the Kiwi accent, Youtube’s inbuilt transcript doesn’t do a particularly good job, so for those who find our accent a little difficult, I’ve transcribed it below keeping as close as I can to his actual words.

Well, Christianity Without God came about in a funny way, you know. I don”t know if you have heard anything of the Sea of Faith movement. It is associated with Don Cupitt, the radical theologian in Britain, and now it’s a movement in New Zealand as well. At one of the conferences, I offered a little workshop called Christianity Without God. I did it with a bit of tongue in check really, because it sounds a bit absurd – how can you have Christianity without God?

However, it aroused so much interest that somebody put it on the Internet. Then somebody in America found it on the Internet and drew attention to Polebridge Publishers about it. So Bob Funk who was at the head of Polebridge Publishers and the Westar Institute said “Couldn’t you write a book about it?” and I said “I don’t really know about it. I’ll have a go”. So I wrote Christianity without God.

Now, in the course of this it was really tracing to my own thinking about God, because when I came into the church, they all talked about God. I didn’t know quite what to make of God. I knew the image of an old man in the sky was just an image, and I was content, really, to feel I knew nothing about God – that God was the supreme mystery about life. And then I gradually came (as a result of reading a good deal of theology) to refine that.

So in this book, I have tried to show that in Christianity without God, I mean Christianity without a theistic view of God. Now, theism is the term which means you think of God as personal being – of course infinite compared with us, but nevertheless, one who thinks, and plans, and performs miracles, and answers prayers. That’s theism.

Well, all I want to say is that that view of God no longer gels for me – no longer gels for a lot of people. Now it doesn’t mean to say that I’m casting the word God away. No, If I use the word God at all, I’ve got to use it in a different way from that.

Indeed, one great Roman Catholic scholar said right back in the ’60s we have to learn to speak of God in a radically new way. So Christianity without God means Christianity without that old idea of God, but it leaves God language free.

Of course we don’t have to use God language. God language is a symbolic language, and theology has much more in common with poetry than it has with science because it has to do with that highest dimension of human experience – what sometimes we call the spiritual dimension, because we haven’t got adequate words to describe it otherwise.

That’s why it links it up with poetry and the arts – the visual arts, and the dramatic arts, the storytelling arts. There where we have mediums through which which we can use in order to reach out to that which is beyond us. So if I use the word God at all, though I’m more careful now because, you see it’s ceasing to be a word that you can use without explaining what you mean by it. Otherwise people assume you’re meaning the theistic God, so in some ways it’s better not to talk about God at all. But I do I do so in the way a theologian, Gordon Kaufman (from whom I’ve learned much), suggested.

The word God has played a very important role in the Western world. Not simply because of that image which has to go, but because of what it did. It was a central point. Now to illustrate this, let me say when our pioneering forebears came to Australia and New Zealand to what they thought was a sort of virgin land (forget about the Māori and the Aboriginies), and took it over and planned how to use it.

Their surveyors had to come in, and what did the surveyor do? He went to the nearest hill and put a trig station in, and from that trig station, he measured out the land and it was given out in plots. Now the trig station was on a chosen bit – that is, it was humans who decided where the trig station was to be. But having chosen it, it then became a central point to which they referred for the land.

Now the word God has played that role in the Western world. if you don’t know a thing, you’d say “Only God knows that”. Who made the world? “Don’t know. God made the world”. That’s how we answered all the difficult questions of our children as they were growing up. Use god as a reference point. So the use of the word God as a reference point is very good.

Now, what is my reference point? I was asked this recently when they did a television documentary about me. What was my reference point and I said “Well, they are values. The things I value most,” I said, “are Love and justice and compassion and goodwill and honesty and so it goes on,” and then I said, “and those are, for me, God.

In that sense I think God language has a very important role to play but in the traditional sense of that image, as John Robinson said in 1963, “That image of God has to go”.


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Week fourteen of six

One of the inevitable facts of life is that home renovation projects take longer than anticipated. The company managing the renovation had estimated the work would take five to six weeks, but here we are in week fourteen and there’s another one, possibly two, weeks still to go.

The project was supposed to have started way back in autumn, but COVID-19 put a stop to that. Then it was to be a early June start, and finally got under way in the first week of July – mid winter! As part of the project involved adding a large skylight in the expanded upstairs bathroom at one end of the house, and a light tube into the dining room at the other end, some delays were inevitable due to inclement winter weather.

On top of that there’s a total of 6 rooms involved to varying degrees, and the project manager has to organise tradies from his own company and the subcontracting businesses. It’s quite surprising how many subcontractors are involved: scaffolders; electricians; plumbers; plasterers; painters; vinyl floorers; light tube installer; double glazing installer. It only takes one subcontractor to fall behind schedule for some reason to have a flow on effect. And there’s been one flow on effect after the other…

However, we can now see light at the end of the tunnel. We have a working loo upstairs and downstairs at last. This might not seem a big deal to some, but at our age traipsing downstairs to the loo at the opposite end of the house to answer a call of nature in the small hours, and then traipsing back upstairs is no longer the trivial pursuit it once was.

For myself, I loathe turning on lights during the night. I’m hypersensitive to sudden changes in illumination. The experience borders on painful – probably an autism trait. To lessen the discomfort, we have a nightlight in the hallway that provides a soft illumination when there’s no other source of light.

While that’s perfect for getting from the bedroom to toilet, once the toilet door is closed, the problem of lighting raises its head. This is especially an issue for us males as we’re required to aim throughout the performance, so lighting is essential. In the past, its been a matter of gritting my teeth and bracing for the discomfort before switching in the light.

No longer. The new loo has built in lighting “under the rim” which makes hitting the target a simple task. No need to switch on that ceiling light any more. And the wife appreciates the heated seat and integrated bidet.

When it comes to “toilet technology” this country trails way behind the gadetry that can be found in the wife’s homeland of Japan. When I first visited Japan in 1971, heated toilet seats and integrated bidets were quite common. Now it’s not uncommon to find such gadgets as automatically opening lids, automatically raising or lowering the seat depending on which way round you approach the bowl, ultraviolet sanitising, automatic flushing, and integrated bidets that not only wash the privates but also gently air dry afterwards.

When I last visited Japan a couple of years ago, I found myself counting the number of controls in toilets and trying to figure out what each one was for as many only had Japanese script, which I can’t read. Some even had touch screens that as well as providing all the controls for the toilet, seemed to have the functionality that a smartphone or iPad would be proud of!

One commonality that both Japan and Aotearoa share is that it is rare to find the toilet in the bathroom. It’s in a room all by itself. In this country it’s always the case if there’s a single toilet in a home. It’s bad enough having a single toilet for a whole household, but the mind boggles to think of the complications that must arise in a typical family household when washing and toileting share a common space.

And how can anyone enjoy a long luxurious soak in the bath knowing that at any time someone might have an urgent call of nature? It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

And while on the subject of toilets, what is it with American toilets? Most American toilet bowls contain enough water to float the Titanic in! It took me a long time to get over the fact that they weren’t blocked and about to overflow. Ours are “minimalist” when it come to water. as you can see from this snapshot of our new installation.

High tide line

There’s a little over 30 cm (12 inches) from the water line to the top of the bowl whereas in the US the waterline in some toilets was so high, one is in danger of dunking one’s undercarriage.

Our new toilets are somewhat more water efficient than our old ones, being dual flush,and using either 3 litres (0.66 gallons) or 4.5 litres (0.99 gallons). I know President Trump has issues with water efficient loos. Apparently he finds it necessary to flush them up to ten times after use. May I suggest, Mr President, that the problem isn’t the loo, it’s you. Get yourself sorted.

But back to the renovation project. The largest part involved expanding the bathroom on the upper floor into unused roof space so that we could install a decent sized bath. The old one was narrow not very deep and very short. It was impossible to immerse the entire body at once, and no way could the wife and I share a bath. So we overcompensated.

The new bath is a whopper, being 1795 mm (70.7 inches) long by 1050 mm (41.3 inches) wide by 490 mm (19.3 inches) deep and holds 275 litres (around 70 gallons). Plenty big enough for the two of us. We would have liked to have installed a Japanese style bath but they’re not readily available in this country and due to the quantity of water they hold, considerable strengthening of the floor joists would have been involved. As it was, it was necessary to fix steel plates to the joists underneath the new bath.

The new bathroom is divided into in two zones, somewhat similar to a typical Japanese bathroom. A dry area that contains the vanity units, storage units heated towel rails etc, and a wet area that contains the bath, shower, and body jets. The two zones are separated by a glass door and glass side panel on which is printed a photograph of a Japanese autumn scene.

And that glass door is the last of oh so many delays. The manufacturers mistakenly made the glass door and panel to standard door height specifications instead of the size of the opening between the two zones, which extends to ceiling height. So now they have to manufacture a new door and side panel and reprint the image onto the glass. It’s supposed to take up to ten working days to complete which means it won’t be ready until Wednesday next week.

And when this project is complete, we start planning for the next one, which is painting the exterior of the house. Due to the height of the building and steep pitch of the roof, health and safety regulations requires safety scaffolding to be used. Unfortunately as the scaffolding will exceed six metres (19.7 ft) in height, it must be installed by a certified scaffolder. It’s going to be expensive – very expensive, both to hire and install.

Some might argue that as only the wife and I occupy our very large (by NZ standards), multifloor home at the top of a steep hill, we would be better off moving into a smaller single floor dwelling on the flat, especially as we’re now in our seventies.

But we’ve grown into the space available and the incredible view eastwards over the town to the Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges, and Manawatu Gorge in the distance is priceless. We’ve decided we’re staying until we’re carried out in a wooden box.


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Day three of fifteen

Our general Elections are to be “officially” held on Saturday, 17th of October. Vote counting will commence after polling places close at 7:00 PM that day. However it has now become standard for voters to be able to vote early. We have been able to cast our vote since Saturday, hence, today being Monday, is day three of the the 15 day period during which we can cast our vote(s).

Although we have nowhere near the voter turnout that Australia has (voting is compulsory there), participation rates of 75% or greater are the norm here. And this year with greater promotion and availability of early voting, it’s likely that the turnout this year will be up on the 2017 elections.

One anomaly that early voting has revealed is the regulation that bans political advertising of any sort on polling day. This necessitates the removing of billboards, party banners etc before midnight on the day before polling day. Considering that voting now extends over two weeks and it’s expected that around 60% of all votes will be cast before polling day, either all political advertising needs to be banned for the entire time the polls are open or the advertising ban needs to be done away with entirely. But banning advertising on only the final day of polling is ludicrous in my view.

On a lighter note, here’s a (highly selective) comparison of last week’s leaders’ debates in NZ and the US. Apart from the obvious gender differences, our political leaders think more highly of each other than do American leaders.

A contrast of styles


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Winter is not coming

It’s the time of the year when my inbox gets swamped by emails promoting fall sales and advice to prepare and stock up for winter. There seems to be an assumption by almost every advertiser that either:

  1. the seasons are the same world over, or
  2. there is nothing south of the equator.

I appreciate that around 57% of the world’s population live north of the Tropic of Cancer where it is indeed autumn (or fall if you prefer). I don’t begrudge you receiving promotional material reflecting the season.

However, there’s a little over 40% of the world’s population that live between the tropic of Cancer than the Tropic of Capricorn for whom there are no seasons. For them, seasonal advertising is more or less irrelevant.

That leaves a little under 3% of the world’s population who live south of the Tropic of Capricorn and for whom the seasons are the polar opposite of what it is for a majority of this planet’s human population. Seasonal advertising is always either six months too early or six months too late.

Consider this: There are approximately twice as many people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community as there are who live south of the Tropic of Capricorn. We have our rights too. And this includes appropriate seasonal advertising.


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MAGA: NZ style

There’s a section of the conservative right in America, mainly evangelical Christians (although I’m not convinced that the term “Christian” is appropriate) who are are willing to excuse Trump of almost any evil in order to accomplish his proclaimed goal of Make America Great Again, whatever that is supposed to mean. I’m sure that to Trump, MAGA really means Make America Go Autocratic.

The values and ideals held by those in the MAGA camp in the USA are also held by some in this country, although thankfully they make up a significantly smaller percentage of the population. So much are they endeared to the US MAGA brigade that they have lifted the acronym, the red baseball cap, and all, and applied it to themselves.

Unlike in the US, they don’t have a hero to champion their cause, so instead have targeted the person who is the antithesis – Jacinda Ardern. It’s very clear to me that the characteristics and values of our Prime Minister that endear her to the majority of Kiwis are not those of the NZ version of the MAGA brigade.

So what does what does the acronym MAGA stand for?

Make Ardern Go Away

Pathetic really.


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If only…

I’m a millionaire!

Of course it’s too good to be true.

This piece of junk got past the Spam filter this morning as it was sent from a compromised Finland hotmail account, and consisted of no more than the above image.


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Justice for Linden Cameron — NeuroClastic

There are many reasons why I’m grateful that police in Aotearoa New Zealand are not routinely armed and are trained in de-escalation techniques. The situation described in the linked article below is one. Linden was no danger to anyone other than possibly himself.

What I find unfathomable is how a description of a crying and yelling unarmed autistic became a “violent psych issue” involving the juvenile “having a mental episode” and “making threats to some folks with a weapon.” Is this another example of someone (or several people) in the communication chain confusing autism and a violent personality and expanding the situation to fit their narrative?

This very much looks like an example of “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail“. And it seems to be borne out by the police shooting Linden in the back as he attempted to flee in panic.

I can understand why the author advises against calling the police in a mental health crisis, and while that might be reasonable advice where police are armed, it’s not a situation we are confronted with in Aotearoa.

On September 4th, Linden Cameron was shot by police several times in Utah after a Crisis Intervention team was called, which was supposed to help him in a mental health crisis. The post Justice for Linden Cameron appeared first on NeuroClastic.

Justice for Linden Cameron — NeuroClastic


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Protesters gather outside The Home Office in London to demand they #FreeOsimeBrown — NeuroClastic

I have posted about Osime’s case previously : Osime Brown: A Life Sentence for Not Stealing a Mobile Phone — NeuroClastic. His crime was being both coloured and autistic.

On Friday, September 4, organizers gathered to demand justice for Osime Brown. Hear the impassioned speeches of Osime’s family and activists there in support. The post Protesters gather outside The Home Office in London to demand they #FreeOsimeBrown appeared first on NeuroClastic.

Protesters gather outside The Home Office in London to demand they #FreeOsimeBrown — NeuroClastic