Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Autism: How to be normal (and why not to be)

This being autism awareness month, you’ll probably see me posting more articles about autism than normal. I make no apologies for doing so.

The following heartfelt Youtube video is from a TEDx presentation by a fellow autistic, Jolene Stockman. Her experiences very much parallel my own, apart from learning to drive (I found it easy and enjoyable) and the age at which being autistic was discovered (60 in my case).


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We deserve better

In the unlikely event that you are unaware, April is Autism Awareness Month. You may see slogans such as “light it up blue” and others promoted by an organisation inappropriately named Autism Speaks. What it doesn’t do is speak for the autistic community, and in the eyes of most adult autistics it does more harm than good.

Below is a video clip created for Autism speaks in (I believe) 2016. While their rhetoric has been toned down in recent years, I see no evidence that their attitude towards autism has shifted one iota. It depicts people such as myself causing irrevocable damage to families and that we as autistics have very few prospects of living a rewarding life unless we are “treated” or unless a “cure” is found.

I’m not bothering with a transcription for this clip as the voices are American and consequently Youtube’s subtitling of the clip is quite accurate. So for those who wish to read read along, please turn on Subtitles/Closed captions.

The “I am autism” video by Austism Speaks that most adult autistics find offensive.

Here are some appalling statistics related to people who are autistic. These are statistics from Australia, but in all “developed” nations you’ll find the situation is similar. It’s important to understand these are not inherent in autism itself, but are entirely due to the way society treats those with autism. If you think racism is harmful, what do these statistics tell you about ableism?

  • About 60% of adult autistics are underemployed or unemployed
  • 87% of autistics have a mental illness
  • autistic people are nine times more likely to die by suicide than the general population
  • autistics have a life expencey of 54 years

We deserve better.

We don’t need to be cured. There’s nothing wrong with us. As suggested in the next video clip, perhaps neurodiversity is important in maintaining a healthy and sustainable cognitive environment in the same way as biodiversity is important in maintaining a healthy and sustainable physical environment. What is very clear to autistics is that current social attitudes towards autism is harmful. It’s not us as individuals that need curing. What is needed is a paradigm shift in how society views neurodiversity

A transcription has been prepared by Theresa Ranft and reviewed by David DeRuwe, so for those who find the Australian accent difficult or for those with hearing difficulties, please turn on Subtitles/Closed captions.

About the speaker Jac den Houting:

Being diagnosed with autism is often seen as a tragedy. But for Jac den Houting, it was the best thing that’s ever happened to them. As an autistic person, concepts like the Neurodiversity paradigm, the Social Model of Disability, and the Double Empathy Problem were life-changing for Jac. In this talk, Jac combines these ideas with their own personal story to explain why we need to rethink the way that we understand autism. Jac den Houting is a research psychologist and Autistic activist in pursuit of social justice. Jac currently holds the role of Postdoctoral Research Associate at Macquarie University in Sydney, working alongside Professor Liz Pellicano. In 2015, Jac was awarded an Autism CRC scholarship to complete their PhD through the Autism Centre of Excellence at Griffith University in Brisbane. Prior to this, they gained almost 10 years’ experience as a psychologist in the criminal justice system, with the Queensland Police Service and Queensland Corrective Services. Jac was identified as Autistic at the age of 25, and is proudly neurodivergent and queer. After participating in the inaugural Future Leaders Program at the 2013 Asia Pacific Autism Conference, Jac quickly became established as a strong advocate for the Autistic community. Jac is a current member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network of Australia and New Zealand (ASAN-AuNZ)’s Executive Committee, the Autism CRC’s Data Access Committee, Aspect’s LGBTQIA+ Autism Advisory Committee, and the Aspect Advisory Council.

source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1AUdaH-EPM
Why everything you know about autism is wrong – a TEDx talk by Jac den Houting


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Footsteps On My Mind

I’m not a person who feels down if things don’t go as intended. Melancholy is doesn’t seem to be part of my DNA. About the only time I feel “out of sorts” is during a prolonged migraine episodes when it feels like my “get up and go” has “got up and gone”.

Although I don’t consider I have reached my “twilight” years, I’m definitely in my “late afternoon” years. Despite being a chronic migraine sufferer, and living for sixty years not knowing I was autistic, but feeling like I was a square peg being forced through a round hole I view my life as being a wonderful experience. I can’t imagine an alternative life being any better.

Mostly, I recall the good things that have happened in my life, and whether or not it’s good to do so, I tend to sweep memories of negative experiences under the carpet. One reason for this state of affairs is due to having alexithymia, often referred to as “emotional blindness”. I suck at reading the emotions of others, but I’m even worse at reading my own. I know happiness and contentment are pleasurable experiences and I know deep sadness is is not. Most others I’m oblivious to, and it’s only since discovering I am autistic have I learnt to recognise some emotions by carefully thinking about the physical manifestations that frequently accompany emotions.

If it feels like my blood is about to bool it means I’m angry (or wearing to many clothes or in the early stage of another migraine). If I feel a churning motion in my stomach, it means I’m nervous (or some food has disagreed with me or Im hungry or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack). If my face feels hot, it means I’m embarrassed (or I need to remove a layer of clothing or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack). If I find my hands or jaw is clenched then I’m most likely very stressed out (or I could be in a state of rising anger or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack). If people ask me to repeat something I’ve said then it might be because I feel down and am talking too quietly (or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack and I’m slurring my speech, or we could be in a noisy environment). And so the list goes on.

Learning to recognise emotions this way is quite confusing. For example, If I feel my eyes start to water (and there’s no irritant present) does it mean I’m happy, or sad, or both or something else? If I feel a lump in my throat is this really nostalgia tinged with sadness? What else can it mean? And is it something else if I experience both the lump and the water? I really have no idea.

Over recent weeks I’ve been having moments where I recall my thoughts from my teen years many decades ago when I was beginning to understand that I was in some way different from everyone else and very different from my peers. I don’t recall having any feelings one way or the other as it dawned on me that everyone had a group of friends and I had none; that others seemed to revel in loud and noisy events where everyone talked very loudly, but I was unable to make out a single word and I’d be physically ill within five minutes of arriving; That I had no clue about the topics fellow teenagers were talking about and none of them seemed interested in why the Ab class locomotive was so ubiquitous in NZ or the nature of black holes or what technology driverless cars might employ in the future.

While I was very comfortable in my own company, I realised that having conversations with myself was not very profitable. I don’t recall feeling sad or angry or disappointed about my situation. I simply accepted that that was the way it was. But now when I look back at those moments when I began to realise that I was in some way very different from everyone else and would never fit into their world, I do feel a discomfort somewhere just below my diaphram. I’m not able to distinguish between mild indigestion and hunger, and I rarely have either sensation, but this sensation is something like that. If I’m sitting or lying I have to get up and do something, but I have no idea what or why.

I’m guessing the flashbacks and the uneasy feeling are associated but how and why? I’m confident I understand my teen self better now than I did back then. So are the sensations due to a reliving of emotions of the past that I wasn’t aware of at the time, or are they new emotions created out of hindsight and in the full knowledge of what was to come. Either way, what does this sensation represent? Regret? nostalgia? Sadness? Disappointment? Loss? Something else? I’m assuming it’s negative because it’s unpleasant.

I doubt very much that it’s happiness due to knowing how my life has turned out. For the most part I think I’ve been blessed: a best friend companion and lover for almost 50 years; two wonderful children and three amazing grandkids. What more could I desire? While there’s always a possibility that the discomfort and the flashbacks are unrelated and purely coincidental, I don’t think so. And that’s because after hearing a particular song this morning, the hunger or indigestion was much stronger and still lingers.

Popular songs have always been about the hopes and disappointments of romance, but scattered among them are a few that deal with the hopes, dreams and disappointments of every aspect of life. I find song lyrics fascinating because it is often very difficult to know what a song is really about. The song I heard this morning was one of my favourites at round the time I left school or perhaps shortly after and was about the time I realised that I was not a typical teenager by any stretch of the imagination and never would be.

As I listened to the track, I suddenly felt the discomfort rise as these words were sung:

People all around, they never seem to notice me
Maybe because my mind's behind a cloud that no-one sees the wood for trees
What's wrong with me?

Did those words speak to me then but I didn’t realise it, or are those words speaking to me now reminding me how much my life would have been different if I was not autistic? I don’t know. What I am sure of is that I’m unlikely to get a good night’s sleep thinking about it. Bugger emotions! (Is that frustration, irritation, anger, regret or something else?) They’re so confusing. It’s at moments like these that I wish I hadn’t had any mindfulness training, and I’d remain blissfully unaware of the connection between emotions and bodily sensations.

For anyone interested in hearing the source of my discomfort, here it is. I was into psychedelic music at that time which is why I might have found this piece attractive Perhaps all I’m feeling is nothing more than nostalgia for a music era that no longer exists. Oh I give up!.

Music Convention – Footsteps On My Mind


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Changing perspectives

It still comes as a surprise to me to realise my perspective on many aspects of life have changed over the years. I’m also reminded that much of what I comprehend about the society in which I live is viewed differently by others. Some nuances are so subtle that it is only now in hindsight and because they are topics of debate today that I realise I did not understand let alone appreciate some social norms I grew up with.

One of these is gender roles. I completely failed to recognise that society had different expectations of men and women. It even baffled me why certain types of attire were considered appropriate for one gender but not the other. But it was the more subtle expectations for both men and women that I failed to pick up on and was oblivious of their existence.

I grew up in an era where most families could live in moderate comfort on a single income and virtually every household had a stay at home parent while there were children in their care. It never occurred to me that the reason most households had a stay at home mother and not a stay at home father was primarily due to social expectations and not a matter of choice negotiated between the parents.

Prior to my teen years, I adopted whatever behaviour and role I felt suited me, and being unaware of social expectations, I simply took on aspects that today would be viewed as gender nonconforming or nonbinary. Starting in my early teens I had most of this adaptation knocked out of me as I became aware of the negative views many held about me, and especially by acts of violence that I thought I had provoked merely by being different from the norm. I wasn’t fully cognisant of the disapproval being gender biased. Instead I had an understanding that it was not acceptable for me, as an individual, to exhibit such behaviour without understanding why.

It wasn’t until my mid twenties when it dawned on me that there were oh so subtle ways that societies place different expectations on men an women. The first occurred on my honeymoon when my new mate prostrated herself in front of me promising to be a good and obedient wife. To say that I was surprised is an understatement. I was shocked and appalled. I made it very clear that I was expecting an equal partner, not a servant. I later learnt that she was just as shocked at my response, but pleasantly so. Admittedly her culture had (and still has) more clearly defined gender roles, but it’s only a matter of degree, not that it was absent in my own culture.

The second occurred after I grew a beard in the mid 1970s when they were far less common than now, but more often worn by men of privilege. I didn’t grow it as a sign of masculinity or as a fashion statement, but because I loathed shaving and having very wavy hair, ingrown hairs were an all too often painful fact of life. Overnight the way both men and women responded to me changed – especially those who did not know me personally. It was quite an eye opener.

Both genders tended to be more polite to me but in different ways. Men tended to treat me as an equal or as someone slightly more “knowledgeable” than themselves. I was also assumed to be older than I was. Women on the other hand tended to display a sightly more subservient role in my presence as if somehow the beard gave me more authority. I felt even more uncomfortable in the company of others than ever before – both men and women.

The reason I was prompted to write this post was that I heard a song this morning that was a favourite of mine in the late 1960s. It has always brought a lump to my throat and a little water to the eye. It reminded me so much of the relationship between my parents who had so much respect and love for each other, although rarely expressed in the presence of others. I’ve always viewed the words as an expression of love by an equal partner, but when I now hear the answer to “what should I want from life?” in the last verse, the answer makes me somewhat uneasy. There’s an implication that one’s worth as a woman is measured by having a loving spouse. Or am I reading too much into the lyrics?

Allison Durbin – I have loved me a man (1968)
I have loved me a man, like my momma did
I have loved me a man.
Tall and tender, his hands like my daddy's were
With a mind that understands

And the arms that held me when I would cry
The lips that kissed away my tears
They're a part of the man that my momma loved
And I have loved me a man

I have wed me a man, like my momma did
I have wed me a man
I can still feel the warmth of the words he said
He held my heart tied in his hands

And in the morning I would wake by his side
And wonder what I could have done
To be loved by a man like my momma loved
And I have loved me a man

I would bear him a child, like my momma did
I would bear him a child
She'd be gentle and sweet, like my momma was
I'd watch her grow and in a while

She'd ask me momma what should I want from life
And I would tell her with a smile
Just be loved by a man like your momma loved
And I have loved me a man

And I have loved me a man


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Manaakitanga – a Kiwi answer to Covid

One aspect of Pākehā (European) cultural dominance that we Kiwis have historically downplayed is the undervaluing and sometimes the suppression of Māori culture. Sometimes it has been the result of a misplaced belief that one culture is more advanced or otherwise better than another. Other times it resulted directly from a notion of entitlement – that settlers had a right to indigenous resources and if that necessitated the overriding of Māori customary law by British law, so be it.

A hundred and fifty years later, the courts are beginning to recognise that customary law has equal footing with common law, and not before time. In legislation we are seeing a start to the recognition of the Māori world view as a legitimate perspective on equal footing with the Western world view. One example of a change from the Western perspective has been the granting of personhood to forests, to rivers and their catchments, and to mountains. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next few decades much more of the landscape is also granted personhood.

I accept that such a concept is alien to most people immersed in Western monoculture where personhood can only be granted to individual humans, and to a limited extent, to corporate entities. In the West, two thousand years of Christian thought has separated humanity from nature and has placed mankind, collectively and individually, above and in control of nature. It hasn’t worked out too well in my view.

Since the revival of Māori culture, from the 1970s onwards, aspects of Māori culture have started to infiltrate our once Western culture. At first, it was merely the acceptance that aspects of Māori culture were “allowed”. In other words, Pākehā “granted” Māori the “right” to express their culture publicly – a form of tokenism. But over the decades something more profound has occurred.

Not only have Pākehā accepted, and more recently welcomed aspects of Māori culture, they are also embracing it. By this I mean that not only have Pākeha recognised that Māori culture has equal standing with their own, their world view is being coloured by it. Perhaps Pākehā have been influenced more by Māori for more than a hundred and fifty years, but it’s only very recently that they have acknowledged the fact.

I return now to the topic of this post: manaakitanga. If you look up the term in the Māori Dictionary, you’ll see that it is defined as “hospitality, kindness, generosity, support – the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others“. But it’s more than that. It’s also about recognising the collective – that one’s freedom as an individual is only as strong as one’s place in the community.

The importance of the “collective” has probably been an unconscious part of the Kiwi culture for more than a hundred years. Perhaps some on the right of the political spectrum will identify this with socialism, but I believe that is only partially correct. Socialism is “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole“. Manaakitanga is more about values than about process.

Concepts such as universal suffrage and welfarism that became part of the New Zealand landscape in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and more recently, a universal no fault accident compensation and recovery system, can I believe, be at least partially attributed to manaakitanga, although Pākehā have been slow to recognise the source. Today manaakitanga is a core part of the education system in Aotearoa New Zealand.

So what has manaakitanga to do with the current pandemic? It is, I believe, the reason why this nation has been successful in keeping Covid-19 out of our communities. While being an island nation has made the shutting of borders somewhat easier than most nations, given the will, any nation could do the same. And the argument that a nation can’t shut its border due to commerce doesn’t cut it either. This nation is more dependent on international trade and the steady inflow and outflow of travellers than most. For example, as a percentage of GDP, international trade in NZ is twice that of the US.

Manaakitanga can be seen in our willingness to forgo personal freedoms for the sake of the community as a whole. When this nation went into lockdown for six weeks from late March last year, they were the most restrictive anywhere, (with the possible exception of Wuhan.) If you believe Kiwis accepted the hardships and pain the lockdown caused because we’re “subservient to our overlords” (yes, I’ve seen that description used of Fox), then you really don’t know Kiwis at all.

We made our sacrifices in the interests of the the collective – what we have called a “team of 5 million“. And it worked. Our lives are for the most part like they were before Covid appeared on the scene. The experience has reinforced the idea that an individualistic approach is not enough and that it takes a team for us all to gain true freedom.

Perhaps the relative failure of many nations in the West compared to those in the East, is due to the notion that personal individual freedom, and “rights” are paramount and above the interests of the collective. I’m not sure that such a concept has ever been held in the high regard in this nation. It’s not part of the Māori world view, and when we consider the motives of many of the early settlers, it wasn’t high on their agenda either. A “fair go”, an escape from the excesses of unregulated capitalism, egalitarianism, equity and equality in equal measure, and fair sharing, were more on their minds than personal liberty and bettering their peers.

The influence of a Māori world view has, I think, lead us to better understand what it is that we have always, if unconsciously sought, and now Pākehā too have a name for it: manaakitanga.


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A Twitter violation revisited

Well, it seems there is at least one human at Twitter, or a good imitation of one. I have received a qualified apology. And my reason for “qualified” is as it seems to imply that my account exhibited automated behaviour. I’m still struggling to understand how expanding a very long conversation thread as I was reading it exhibited such behaviour. Perhaps I was reading too fast? But I’ll let it rest for now.

Hello,

We’re writing to let you know that your account is now unlocked. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.

A little background: We have systems that find and remove automated spam Twitter accounts, and it looks like yours was flagged as spam by mistake. This can happen if an account exhibits automated behavior in violation of our rules.

We apologize for the mixup, and hope to see back on Twitter soon. 

If you need to get in touch with us again, please file a report through your Twitter app or our forms page, as this account isn’t monitored for replies. 

Thanks,

Twitter


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Covid restrictions

Whenever media comment on the success the Aotearoa New Zealand has had in managing the pandemic, too often there is a mistaken belief that the citizens of this nation are living under some form of draconian authority that has made us prisoners in our own country.

In some cases it may be that messages to its residents from authorities or conversations between Kiwis is misinterpreted (either in ignorance or deliberately) to mean something sinister – for example the misconception that thousands of Kiwis are locked up in concentration camps indefinitely for refusing to take a covid test and by implication anyone who opposes the way the government is managing the crisis is also locked up. This myth is one actively promoted on Fox in shows such as The Ingraham Angle.

In most cases it’s a matter of making the “facts” fit a preconceived notion, one of which is that because they believe we are a socialist state (really?), we must have an authoritarian government that limits our freedoms and interferes in our daily lives. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

One only needs to see where this nation ranks on just about every freedom index known to see the fallacy of their beliefs. Whether it’s personal, economic, political, religious or any other freedom, Aotearoa New Zealand is ranked at the top or nearly at the top whereas their beloved America is seldom in the top twenty places. But specifically I want to illustrate that the approach to covid taken by our government has resulted in us having less stringent restrictions and more freedom than just about any other country.

Those who argue against restrictions often cite Sweden as a shining example of freedom during the pandemic. However Swedes do live under quite heavy restrictions – more so than the US. They also have suffered a heavy loss of life and the economy has slowed down significantly. Meanwhile NZ suffered a huge hit due to the lack of foreign visitors but the economy has bounced back to above pre-covid days and we go about our daily lives much as we did before the pandemic started. And while this country reports new cases almost on a daily basis, these are not cases in the community. They are new arrivals to this country who have tested positive while still in quarantine.

I’m going to present some information in the form of charts and tables that show that Aotearoa New Zealand is not a communist or fascist hellhole that many on the right claim it to be. I don’t intend to show whether or not the actions taken by our government are more effective than in other jurisdictions, only that they impacted on our freedom less than elsewhere. I’ve arbitrarily chosen four countries to compare with NZ: The United States because that is where the claims that we have lost our freedom are the loudest; The United Kingdom because their government seems to change their mind as often as most people change their underwear; Sweden because it has had no lockdowns and is looked upon by the the anti lockdown brigade as a shining example of how to manage a pandemic; and Japan because it’s the wife’s homeland, and like the UK and NZ is a group of islands.

First let’s look at the COVID-19 Stringency Index. The nine metrics used to calculate the Stringency Index are: school closures; workplace closures; cancellation of public events; restrictions on public gatherings; closures of public transport; stay-at-home requirements; public information campaigns; restrictions on internal movements; and international travel controls.

As can be seen from the chart below, the US, the UK and Sweden have had similar levels of stringency throughout 2020 and it’s only since the end of last year that measures in the UK have become more stringent.

Japan has had been significantly less stringent over all but still considerably more so than NZ. Note how New Zealand has responded. At any sign of an outbreak, the nation goes hard for a few weeks or days, but otherwise life is mostly “normal”.

The COVID-19 Containment and Health Index shows similar results. This index builds on the Stringency Index, using its nine indicators plus testing policy, the extent of contact tracing, requirements to wear face coverings, and policies around vaccine rollout. It’s therefore calculated on the basis of the following thirteen metrics: school closures; workplace closures; cancellation of public events; restrictions on public gatherings; closures of public transport; stay-at-home requirements; public information campaigns; restrictions on internal movements; international travel controls; testing policy; extent of contact tracing; face coverings; and vaccine policy.

Both the above charts clearly indicate when community transmission occurred in NZ and lockdowns were put in place. The first when around 1500 were infected, the second when around 100 were infected and the third where 4 people were infected. In each case, the restrictions were lifted only when health authorities were satisfied that the virus was had been eliminated from the community. And as can be seen, the containment measures taken during the last two outbreaks have still been less than the day to day containment measures in the US, the UK and Sweden.

If we look at some of the metrics used in the above charts we can see how these have worked out. Note that in some jurisdictions, management of the pandemic varies from region to region. So while the strongest measure indicated for a country may not apply everywhere, it applies to a significant section.

School closures

  1. No measures: NZ
  2. Recommended: Japan
  3. Required (only at some levels): US; Sweden
  4. Required (all levels): UK

Workplace closures

  1. No measures: NZ
  2. Recommended: Japan
  3. Required for some: US; Sweden
  4. Required for all but key workers: UK

Cancellation of public events

  1. No measures: NZ
  2. Recommended cancellations: Japan
  3. Required cancellations: US; UK; Sweden

Restrictions on public gatherings

  1. No restrictions: NZ
  2. Restrictions on large gatherings but above 1000 people: Japan
  3. Gatherings between 100 & 1000 people:
  4. Gatherings between 10 & 100 people:
  5. Gatherings of less than 10 people: US; UK; Sweden

Stay-at-home requirements

  1. No measures: NZ
  2. Recommended: US; Japan; Sweden
  3. Required (except essentials): UK
  4. Required (few exceptions):

Face covering policies

  1. No policy:
  2. Recommended: Japan
  3. Required in some public spaces: NZ; UK; Sweden
  4. Required in all public spaces:
  5. Required outside-the-home at all times: US

Public information campaigns

  1. None:
  2. Public officials urging caution:
  3. Coordinated information campaign: NZ; US; UK; Japan; Sweden

Public transport closures

  1. No measures: NZ
  2. Recommended closing (or reduce volume): US; UK; Japan; Sweden
  3. Required closing (or prohibit most using it):

Restrictions on internal movement

  1. No measures: NZ
  2. Recommend movement restriction: Japan; Sweden
  3. Restrict movement: US; UK

International travel controls

  1. No measures:
  2. Screening:
  3. Quarantine from high-risk regions:
  4. Ban on high-risk regions: US; UK; Sweden
  5. Total border closure: NZ; Japan

Testing policy

  1. No testing policy:
  2. Symptoms & key groups:
  3. Anyone with symptoms: NZ; UK; Japan; Sweden
  4. Open public testing (incl. asymptomatic): US

Contact tracing

  1. No tracing:
  2. Limited tracing (only some cases): US; UK; Japan; Sweden
  3. Comprehensive tracing (all cases): NZ

Vaccination Policy

  1. None:
  2. Availability for ONE of following: key workers/ clinically vulnerable groups / elderly groups: NZ; Japan
  3. Availability for TWO of following: key workers/ clinically vulnerable groups / elderly groups: US;
  4. Availability for ALL of following: key workers/ clinically vulnerable groups / elderly groups: Sweden
  5. Availability for all three plus partial additional availability: UK
  6. Universal availability:

Income support

  1. No income support:
  2. Covers less than 50% of lost salary: NZ
  3. Covers more than 50% of lost salary: US; UK; Japan; Sweden

Debt and contract relief

  1. No relief: Sweden
  2. Narrow relief: US
  3. Broad relief: NZ; UK; Japan

So please tell me how New Zealand is in the grips of a brutal authoritarian regime after first removing our guns (another myth), while the US (or Sweden) is a model of covid management that should be emulated across the planet.


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A Twitter violation?

I know Twitter is coming down hard on those who violate their terms of use, but this is ridiculous.

I haven’t had a personal Twitter account, up until today, and now I’m locked out due to some violation or other, but have absolutely no idea what.

I hadn’t been signed up for more than 3 minutes when I was locked out when a tweet and the comments I was reading disappeared and was replaced with a message stating that my account was disabled until I could verify my identity! On acknowledging the message, I was directed to a screen where I was to enter my phone number As usual in these situations I checked the URL before I did so just to make sure it was valid. It was.

Every attempt at unlocking the account resulted in a silent phone call from Alabama in the USA (I was expecting an SMS message) and an empty email message. Then this message arrived by email:

We’re writing to let you know that your account has been flagged for unusual behavior that violates the Twitter Rules, and has been locked until you take the following steps: 

  1. Log into your account, or open your Twitter app on iOS or Android. 
  2. You’ll see a message about your account, and a prompt to click “Start.”
  3. Select your country/region, and then enter your phone number. 
  4. Click “Send code.”
  5. You’ll receive a message from Twitter with a confirmation code. 
  6. Enter the code you receive on the prompt screen. You’ll receive a confirmation. Please note, it may take a few minutes for your account to be completely unlocked. 
  7. If you’re still experiencing a problem after confirming your identity, respond to this message and provide us with more details about what’s happening. 

Please note, repeat violations of the Twitter Rules can lead to a permanent suspension of your account. 

Thanks, 

Twitter

I have no idea whether the “violation” is in regards to reading tweets and associated comments or whether it’s to do with being unable to verify my account. Keep in mind the only activity I had performed was to view two or three tweets and expand the comments. That was all apart from trying to unlock the account.

I followed the instruction provided as far as step 4. The “message” I’m supposed to receive in step 5 consists of a silent telephone call and an empty email. Impass! I’m at a loss as to how I’m supposed to enter a nonexistent verification code in step 6. I’ve emailed them with the details of what happened but who knows if any action will be taken:

Dear Twitter,
I signed up for an account today and tried to use my mobile phone number to verify my account. I never received an SMS message. After several attempts to resend the verification code, I opted to set up the account using an email address. This worked as I received the 6-digit code and was able to sign in. I received the code at 16:50 NZDT.


I started reading some tweets and as I was expanding some of the comments, a message popped up informing me that Twitter was unable to verify my identity and I needed to enter a phone number. That I did: [Ph number provided]. Almost immediately my mobile phone rang, but on answering it, there was complete silence. I waited a few seconds until the call terminated. The call came from [Ph number provided]. I tried re-sending the code two more times with the same result. I also tried using my home phone number [Ph number provided], again with the same result. 

Shortly afterwards, I received four email messages from info@twitter.com. The sending mail server was [server name and IP address provided]. The emails were all sent sent at 16:55:29 NZDT and were devoid of content. I have included the source code of one of the messages below. A few minutes later, this email to which I am now responding arrived. It was sent earlier than the 4 empty messages at 17:53:34 NZDT.


So my questions are:

  1. In what way have I violated Twitter’s rules?
  2. How do I unlock my account in the absence of a verification code?

Kind regards

Barry

Perhaps I might receive a response in a day or three, but who knows? Has anyone else faced similar situations with the social media giants?


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Balmy Summer Days

As we head into late February and temperature climbing above 29°C (84°F), today, my thoughts had turned to enjoying a pleasant relaxed day accompanied by some equally relaxing music. Then the painters arrived.

We’ve contracted painter to give the exterior of the house a total going over – all three storeys. The next few days are going to be constant noise with water blasters and minor repairs taking place before the painting starts in earnest. Not precisely a relaxing atmosphere.

Normally on days like this, the ranchsliders (Kiwi name for aluminium framed glass panel sliding doors) and windows are fully open to allow any breeze to flow through the house keeping temperatures in the comfortable range. Not today. While I might just be able to tolerate the noise (perhaps), the jet and spray from the water blasters are a different matter altogether. So they are all closed for the moment.

Best I can do is suffer the heat – anything over 25°C (77°F) is above my comfort zone, hope that headphones played up loud will drown out the water blaster, and listen to music while pretending to sit under a tree in dappled shade listening to songs such as in the three video clips below. Not sure why, but I’m in the right frame of mind to listen to songs such as these.

Bic Runga – Something Good
Something Good

 Just wanna know ya
 Just wanna talk to ya
 I wanna hear about your day
 I'd never leave ya
 Never be mean to ya
 I'd always let you get your way

 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today

 If I were honest
 I'd tell you everything
 But it keeps coming out as lies
 Its' not a promise
 In case your wondering
 It's not some blessing in disguise
 
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today

 I know romance is not in fashion
 And my heart is on the line
 If you would be so kind
 To help me kill some time
 Then something good just might come crashing
 From the stars that light the sky
 If you would be so kind
 To help me kill some time

 Just wanna know ya
 Just wanna talk to ya
 I wanna hear about your day
 I'd never leave ya
 Never be mean to ya
 I'd always let you get your way

 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
TEEKS – Remember Me
Remember me

 I wish I had the strength
 To tell you how I feel
 I wish I was brave
 Like the soldier on the battlefield
 See, my heart it races
 Every time you're around
 And I try so hard to speak
 But I can't seem to make a sound
 
 I know that if I walk away
 I'll wonder what you would have said
 And if you felt the same
 But if you don't
 It's okay
 
 I'll be right here waiting if you change your mind
 I don't care how long it takes
 I don't care about my pride
 If it's a thousand years
 Or a thousand more
 I'll be waiting
 And darling all I ask
 Please remember me
 Please remеmber me
 
 I wish I had rhythm
 Maybe I'd ask you to dancе
 I wish I could hold you
 Like my father holds my mother's hand
 
 I know that if I walk away
 I'll wonder what you would have said
 And if you felt the same
 But if you don't
 It's okay
 
 I'll be right here waiting if you change your mind
 I don't care how long it takes
 I don't care about my pride
 If it's a thousand years
 Or a thousand more
 I'll be waiting
 And darling all I ask
 I'll be right here waiting if you change your mind
 I don't care how long it takes
 I don't care about my pride
 If it's a thousand years
 Or a thousand more
 I'll be waiting
 And darling all I ask
 Please remember me
 Please remember me
 Please remember me

 All I ask
 Please remember me
Goldenhorse – Maybe Tomorrow
Maybe Tomorrow

 There's a story I know
 We all leave and let go
 There is nothing to hold us

 In a moment of time
 When the fruit becomes wine
 And the thought becomes the memory

 All of your sorrow
 Maybe tomorrow
 Will fade away in the air

 Trying to please me
 Making it easy
 It won't be there
 It won't be there
 In your life
 In your life

 There's a story I know
 We all leave and let go
 There is nothing to hold us

 In a moment of time
 When the fruit becomes wine
 And the thought becomes the memory

 All of your sorrow
 Maybe tomorrow
 Will fade away in the air

 Trying to please me
 Making it easy
 It won't be there
 It won't be there
 In your life
 In your life

 All of your sorrow
 Maybe tomorrow
 Will fade away in the air

 Trying to please me
 Making it easy
 It won't be there
 It won't be there
 In your life
 In your life
 In your life
 Oh, In your life


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Institutional racism?

One of the difficult parts of being part of a minority group is having your group or aspects of your group defined by the majority group. As an autistic person, every time I leave home I am subjected to a world that pays little heed to the needs of neurodivergent folk. At best there is token allowances for which I’m expected to be grateful. For the most part, I’m expected to put on a mask of normalcy no matter what, and hide my true identity. But should I?

Ethnic minorities also face similar hurdles. Yesterday in Parliament an MP (Member of Parliament) was prevented from speaking by the Speaker, and was eventually ordered from the House when trying to raise a point of order over the matter. His crime was that, in the opinion of the Speaker, he was not dressed appropriately. Standing orders require that in Parliament MPs must be appropriately dressed, which is for men to wear a jacket and tie as part of “business attire”.

In an email sent from Speaker Trevor Mallard, to MP Rawiri Waititi, the Speaker said that a review of the Standing Orders supported members dressing in formal wear of the cultures they identify with. This lies at the heart of the matter and I will address this shortly.

Rawiri Waititi was wearing a business shirt and jacket, but instead of a tie he wore a hei-tiki. For many Māori, the wearing of a hei tiki is part of their cultural, spiritual and personal identity. The fact that he was prevented from speaking raises several issues in my mind. I’ll get the least controversial aspect out of the way first.

What is “business attire?

A quick search online revealed a range of “business attire”, including “casual“, “smart casual“, “business casual“, “business informal“, “business professional” and “business formal” just to name a few. And that’s only for Western dress. Whew!

In the New Zealand context, I would argue that typical business wear for men over recent decades is dress shirt, dress trousers, dress shoes, a jacket and for most occasions a tie is optional. Here, I use “typical” to refer to accepted Pākehā dress (around 70% of the population identify as Pākehā or NZ European).

The Speaker is of the view that ties should be optional and last year he sought the opinion of MPs about abandoning the rule on ties. Apparently there was little support for a change, so the standing order remains – a tie is mandatory. Fair enough, you might say. The majority have spoken, so that’s the end of the matter. To me that shouts out tyranny of the majority.

Racism

I’ve titled this article “institutional racism?” simply because it’s a term that will be most familiar to my readers. To my mind, the term race is a very blunt tool when it comes to understanding the oppression of and discrimination against minorities. I see race as being a set of physical characteristics that make one group distinctive from another. It says nothing about culture, cultural expectations or cultural values.

Regretfully, racism (judging a person or group by their physical appearance) does exist in this country. I have witnessed it although it has never been directed at me in Aotearoa New Zealand in a form that I am able to recognise. I have experienced “low level overt racism” while in Japan, especially in the ’70s and ’80s. In recent visits to Japan, it’s mostly limited to assumptions that I would prefer to use a knife and fork instead of chopsticks, or that I would be more comfortable shaking hands than bowing, neither of which are true. I have an intense dislike to shaking hands and avoid doing so as much as possible. My eating utensils of choice are chopsticks, even for some western style meals.

My children did experience overt racism as youngsters, principally from their peers, and if they are subjected to racism as adults it’s more likely to be covert in nature. If racism has been directed at the wife, she has been oblivious to it, although she has described incidents where I suspect racism has been a factor.

However the issue at the heart of the article is not about race but about custom and culture.

Cultural oppression

While in Japan, I knew it was inappropriate to blow my nose into a handkerchief or to eat an ice cream while walking along the street. Japan is very much a monocultural society, and while I attempted to adapt to the subtleties of Japanese culture, many I were oblivious to, and as a Gaijin visitor I was given much more leeway than I would be given if I had had a more permanent residence there.

Aotearoa New Zealand claims to be a “bicultural multi-ethnic” society. Our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, guaranteed Māori as Tangata whenua (literally “people of the land”) equal partnership with the British Crown and specifically protects land, customary rights and traditions. For most of this nation’s subsequent history the treaty has been ignored. Only in the past fifty years have the descendents of those settlers and more recent arrivals begun to recognise the significance of that founding document, and then, often grudgingly.

I don’t believe racial discrimination is a significant issue in this country although it does exist and can deeply affect those subjected to it. On the other hand cultural oppression is vey significant. Any law, regulation, requirement or expectation that diminishes, devalues or denies aspects of cultural identity is effectively cultural oppression. This particularly applies to Māori, given their status as tangata whenua, their rights under the Treaty, and as they constitute a significant minority within this country.

A hundred years ago, the accepted view, including by some Māori leaders was that the best hope for Māori was assimilation – effectively making Māori into brown Pākehā. The practice and teaching of Māori knowledge and wisdom was suppressed as was the use of Te Reo Māori (the Māori language). No room or recognition was given to Māori custom or values. Some Pākehā still hold the same view today.

It didn’t succeed. It created a downtrodden, demoralised subculture that has and continues to have serious repercussion for Māori and to a lesser extent for the rest of society. Thankfully the last fifty has seen an almost miraculous revival of Māori culture, and some of it is rubbing off on sections of the Non-Māori population. This is, in my opinion, healthy for our society.

With that background out of the way, let’s return to MP Rawiri Waititi and his “missing” tie. I believe the Speaker made the wrong call on several grounds. I’ll go through these in the order they come to mind, not in order of importance.

Letter of the law versus spirit of the law.

I’m a firm believer that the spirit/intent/purpose of of a law/regulation/rule is just as important at the letter of the law. Why was the law drafted in the first place? I would argue that the tie rule was not simply an arbitrary rule enforcing a culturally biased dress code, but part of package to maintain the dignity and respect that Parliament deserves as the highest court in the land. The tie rule should be applied in a descriptive manner, not in a prescriptive manner.

Clearly, the wearing into the House of a dirty singlet, a wrinkled pair of stubbies and worn out jandals (thongs to Australians and flip flops to the rest of the English speaking world) would lower the dignity of Parliament. But so too would the wearing of a weather beaten food stained tie and jacket retrieved off an old scarecrow that had been in a cornfield for several years. Yet it would meet the letter of the law as the standing order is currently worded.

Instead, Waititi wore a dress shirt, a business suit and replaced the tie with a culturally significant alternative adornment. I fail to see how this could possibly have negative effect on the dignity of Parliament and in fact I believe it enhances that reputation by not imposing the preferences of one culture onto another culture.

Freedom of expression

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (NZBORA) guarantees the right to freedom of expression in any form and this should not be restricted. An example of this that NZ law prohibits the desecration of the national flag of any nation. However the courts have have taken the view that the public desecration of a national flag is a legitimate way of expressing an opinion regarding the actions or stance of a country or its representatives and so is protected by the NZBORA. I think it would require that the only motive for the desecration was to cause offence before there was any likelihood of a prosecution being successful.

Waititi feels very strongly that Māori have been subjected to “colonial oppression”, and who can blame him. The evidence is there for anyone who cares to look. Outside Parliament, Waititi stated that his hei-tiki is his tie of choice. It ties him to his tīpuna (ancestors), whenua (the land where his ancestors have lived and where their placenta are buried), and his people. He went on to say that the political party he represents will not be subjugated nor assimilated to dated colonial rules. “I will not be forced to wear a tie.. this is about standing up against subjugation or assimilation”. Is not the wearing of a hei tiki an expression of his identity and also a stance against what he views as cultural oppression by Pākehā.

Who decides what is “culturally appropriate”?

Waititi has described his dress as “Māori business attire”. Is it the place of the (Pākehā) Speaker to determine what is Māori business attire, or is that the domain of Māori? From my observations, a great many Māori businessmen display a hei tiki or other traditional forms such as a hei matau (stylised fish hook) instead of, (or sometimes over) a tie.

Rawiri Waititi listens to the Speaker’s reprimand (photo: ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF)

Being culturally sensitive

Māori culture is going through a renaissance and there is growing sense of pride for their traditions and values and how those are expressed. What right have I as a Pākehā to say how Māori should express their culture? The Speaker suggested that Waititi take the tie issue to the Parliamentary business select committee for adjudication, but as Māori are a distinct minority on that committee, isn’t it still a case of Pākehā deciding whether or not a hei tiki is “appropriate”? I would consider it insulting if I were in Waititi’s position. Surely we’re all adult enough to listen to the aspirations of groups that are not our own.

Recognising the rights of others

We live in a pluralistic society with many cultures, religions, lifestyles, and outlooks. There’s more than enough room for them all. We all deserve to be able to live a life as we best see fit. There is no place however for one group to impose its values and practices on another, be it cultural, religious, political or economic.

Epilogue

I was going to rant on some more, but circumstances have changed. Today Rawiri Waititi returned to Parliament in the same attire as yesterday. When he rose to speak, there was an audible sigh from Speaker Mallard, but he did not prevent Waititi from speaking. I won’t speculate on why the Speaker had a change of heart, even if it appeared to be somewhat reluctantly. But I am pleased that he did. It was the correct decision. He should have made it yesterday.