Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Harvard University Commencement speech

I have a confession to make. Although I have a rather soft spot for our Prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, I have not voted for the party she represents since the 1970s, and I feel I’m unlikely to so for the foreseeable future. Our Jacinda has just about the right balance of optimism and pragmatism. She has been criticised by some for being too empathetic and kind and that leaders should be powerful and crush the opposition. But I disagree. Shouldn’t the very values we teach our children also be displayed in our leaders? I believe they should.

Earlier today (NZ time), Jacinda delivered the Harvard University Commencement speech for 2022. I have included two Youtube clips of her speech: the first being highlights selected by Guardian News (4:34), and the second being her entire speech (24:29). But first, here are the closing paragraphs of her speech as transcribed by yours truly:

You are, and will always be, surrounded by bias. You will continue to be exposed to disinformation, and over time the noise you are surrounded up by will probably only get worse. And perhaps that is why when your own constitution was adopted, benjamin franklin was asked what had been created and he replied [quote] “A republic if you can keep it”.

If you can keep it. Yes diversity of voice in mainstream media matters. The responsibility of social media matters. Teaching our kids to deal with disinformation; the role we play as leaders, it all matters. But so do you. How you choose to engage with information, deal with conflict; how you confront, debate; how you choose to address being baited or hated; it all matters. And in the overwhelming challenges that lay in front of us, and our constant efforts to reach into the systems, the structures, the power, don’t overlook the simple acts that are right in front of you: the impact that we each have as individuals to make a choice; to treat difference with empathy and with kindness – those values that exist in the space between difference and division, the very things we teach our children but then view as weakness in our leaders.

The issues we navigate as a society, after all, will only intensify. The disinformation will only increase. The pull into the comfort of our tribes will be magnified, but we have it within us to ensure that that doesn’t mean we fracture. We are richer for our difference, and poorer for our division. Through genuine debate and dialogue, through rebuilding trust in information and one another, through empathy, let us reclaim the space in between. After all, there are some things in this life that make the world feel small and connected. Let kindness be one of them.

Jacinda Ardern – Harvard University Commencement speech 2020
Jacinda Ardern receives standing ovation for Harvard speech on gun control and democracy | Guardian News
In full: Jacinda Ardern delivers Harvard University Commencement speech | nzherald.co.nz


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Vaccine resistance.

No, I’m not referring to the ability of pathogens to become resistant to vaccines. Rather, I’m referring to those people who are resistant or hesitant about being vaccinated – particularly regarding covid. Many who understand the wisdom/necessity of taking precautions to limit the spread and harmful outcomes of the current pandemic, take a dim view of those who hold a different view. In fact some comments by otherwise intelligent people indicates that they have little to no sympathy for the unvaxxed, even wishing the unvaxxed succumb to covid as such fools don’t deserve a place in society.

While I have at times felt frustration towards those who fail to understand the benefits of health measures such as vaccinations, masks and social distancing, I do understand that how people think about various aspects of their lives are not usually based on willful ignorance. There’s usually many aspects of one’s background and experience that goes into how we develop the perspectives and attitudes we hold. An obvious example is how I, and most autistics, perceive and think of autism compared to those who are not autistic.

When it comes to resistance and hesitance towards vaccinations, there does appear to be more at play than stupidity. The University of Otago’s Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Study – an ongoing longitudinal study of children born in the city of Dunedin in 1971-1972 indicates that adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are the most solid indicator of whether or not one is likely to be resistant or hesitant to vaccination.

At the extreme end they may have been sexually abused, been exposed to extreme violence, or psychological abuse. Others have been neglected, grown up in chaotic environments, left on their own or isolated in school. The study, now 50 years in the making, has shown that victims of ACE end up being slow learners at school, and by their early teens have concluded that their health outcomes are not under their own control.

By their late teens, it is apparent that they dropped out of education early, and have a below average reading ability. They are also suspicious of the motive of others, and tend to misunderstand information when under stress. By the age of 45 they are likely to have a lower socioeconomic status, be less verbally adept, be slow information processors, and have less practical health knowledge.

What perhaps is significant is that victims of ACE see themselves as nonconformists who value personal freedoms over social norms, whose distrust of authority figures runs high. And herein lies a problem. Measures to counter the pandemic, be they mandates or advisories are viewed with suspicion. The time for reasonable dialogue is long gone – by 30 or more years. When study participants were 15 years old, they were asked to complete a checklist of “things you want to know more about if you are going to be a parent”. 73% checked immunisation. That was when the discussion should have taken place.

Let me quote from the findings of the longitudinal study regarding vaccine resistance and hesitancy:

Today‘s Vaccine Hesitant and Resistant individuals are stuck in an uncertain situation where fast-incoming and complex information about vaccines generates extreme negative emotional reactions (and where pro-vaccination messaging must vie against anti-vaccination messaging that amplifies extreme emotions). Unfortunately, these individuals appear to have diminished capacity to process the information on their own. The results here suggest that, to prepare for future pandemics, education about viruses and vaccines before or during secondary schooling could reduce citizens‘ level of uncertainty in a future pandemic, prevent ensuing extreme emotional distress reactions, and provide people with a pre-existing knowledge framework and positive attitudes that enhance receptivity to future health messaging. Moreover, many of the factors in the backgrounds of Vaccine-Hesitant and -Resistant Dunedin participants are factors that could be tackled to improve population health in general, such as childhood adversity, low reading levels, mental health, and health knowledge.

Deep-seated psychological histories of COVID-19 vaccine hesitance and resistance (unedited version) – Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

As always, the Dunedin longitudinal study provides a unique insight into significant aspects of a cohort of individuals born in 1971 & 1972, and the findings pose as many, if not more questions than they answer. With regards to handling future pandemics (and there will be future pandemics), this particular survey points to what needs to be done. What it can’t do is provide leads into how it might be done. Any suggestions?

Sources for this blog post:
Deep-seated psychological histories of COVID-19 vaccine hesitance and resistance (.pdf file)
Covid-19: Vaccine resistance’s roots in negative childhood experiences (RNZ)
Dunedin Study sheds light on New Zealand’s successful vaccination rates (Otago University news)


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Legislative diversity

I started this post way back in November 2020 shortly after the General Election, but never quite got round to completing it. I wanted to make the point that some sections of society are still excluded from decision making processes that affect them, but as often happens for me, it morphed into something no quite as I intended. So it’s been sitting on the shelf until I decided what to do with it. I’m still not sure if it’s worth publishing, but it’s either that or bin it. I’ve chosen the former.


It’s a fact of life that most legislatures around the world are scarcely representative of the population they represent. For example, in most western democracies, wealthy males with sometimes tenuous connections to Christianity are over represented, while women, minority groups of all types and youth are underrepresented.

For some, this is the “natural order” and they see nothing wrong or untoward with this situation. Others keenly feel that in order to have all voices heard, it is necessary that diversity in the makeup of the legislature should approximate that of the community from which it is drawn. I lean towards the latter. But it would seem that most people here have no opinion one way or the other in this matter. Perhaps in this nation it might be understandable, but is it desirable?.

Disability

Aotearoa New Zealand does better than many other nations when it comes to diversity within its legislature, although we still have a long way to go. One example would be that approximately one on four or one in five Kiwis (depending on the measurements chosen) have some form of disability but no MPs (Members of Parliament) have publicly admitted to having a disability.

Neurodiversity

Of special interest to me is that although somewhere between 5% and 12% of the population is neurodiverse (depending on how you define neurodiversity), as far as I can discover, no MP is neurodiverse.

Ethnicity

People of asian ancestry, most of whom are of Chinese or Indian descent are also underrepresented. They make up 12% of the population but only 7% of the Parliament.

In the October Elections, fewer Māori were returned to the Parliament than in the previous two general elections. In the Previous Parliament, 23% of MPs were Māori. This has now dropped to 21%, but remains higher than the 17% of the general population who identify as Māori. Pasifika people (those from Pacific island nations) too, while making up 7% of the general population, make up 9% of MPs.

Gender

Women have almost reached parity with men. In this country females slightly outnumber males (100:97), and now make up 48% of all MPs. When compared to our neighbours (Australia 31%, Pacific nations averaging 6%) we are doing very well. When we look at gender representation by political party, we see that the parties of the left have more female representation than male, while for parties on the right, the opposite is true.

LGBTQI+

Approximately 4% of Kiwis are openly LGBTQI+ although the real number is most likely higher. Parliamentarians are more forthcoming in this regard as 11% of MPs are openly LGBTQI+. This lead to one British tabloid headlining an article with “NZ Parliament Gayest in World”. Although this nation was the first where an openly transgender person was elected to the national legislature, there are currently no openly trans MPs.

Religion and spirituality

I’m not going to attempt to define what religion or spirituality are as even academics in these fields cannot agree. In fact some definitions are mutually exclusive. In the NZ context it can be confusing. Around a third of the population claim a Christian affiliation, and only 45% of the population claim any religious affiliation according to the 2018 census.

Other surveys indicate that 25% have a firm belief in a deity or higher power and a further 45% believe in some form of higher power to some extent for at least some of the time. Within the Christian community the concept of God ranges from an omniscient omnipotent being to metaphor/personification/symbol representing our highest ideals, and the trend is towards greater polarisation of these opposing concepts.

The consensus among both the religious and non-religious alike is that New Zealand is one of the most secular nations on this planet. Whether one is religious or not, or is affiliated to a religious or spiritual group is usually a private matter, and that applies to politicians as much as it does to the general population.

This makes comparing the religion of the legislature and general population somewhat difficult as the religious beliefs of most MPs is not on public record. However, anecdotally it does appear that parties on the right have a slightly higher proportion of “religious” however that might be defined, than parties on the left. Based on the limited amount of information available, it appears that religion and spirituality amongst MPs is not significantly different from the general population.

Youth

While we do have some MPs in their twenties, and in the past a few have been in their late teens, I suspect this is one form of diversity where the “nature of the job” will means that the young and the old will always be underrepresented. There is a small movement calling for the voting age to be lowered from 18 to 16, and if it ever came to a referendum I’d support it, but for the time being only the Greens consider it a topic even worthwhile discussing.

Quotas

I’m not in favour of quotas to ensure all forms of diversity are proportionally represented, and yet our electoral system (MMP) is based on the premise that political parties should be represented in parliament proportionally based on their support in the voting population. Isn’t this a form of quota based on political affiliation? If we demand proportional representation across the political spectrum, why not across other spectrums of society?

I believe that legislatures should reflect the diversity of those who elect them, although not necessarily in exact proportion to the population. For society to be truly inclusive, everyone should feel that their voice can be heard. For those with a disability and for the neurodiverse, there’s clearly a long way to go. We should be proud of our success in achieving the diversity we have in the Parliament, but let’s not rest on our laurels just yet.


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Musical Monday (2021/03/14) Don’t Dream It’s Over

Composed and written by band member Neil Finn, Don’t Dream it’s Over was recorded in 1986 by Crowded House for their first studio album, and was released as a single the same year. I was first attracted to it by the musical effects – the Hammond organ and an almost R&B baseline and I didn’t take much notice the lyrics at all, assuming they were referring to a relationship under stress.

I didn’t see the official music video until several decades later, by which time I had become more familiar with the lyrics and saw them as an expression of hope and unity. I guess, like any great song, it is capable of being interpreted in many different ways depending on the needs of the listener.

Don’t Dream It’s Over topped the charts in Aotearoa and Canada and peaked in the top ten in Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Ireland, Poland, Belgium and the USA, and in the top 20 in Germany. In 2001 it was ranked second on the Top 100 New Zealand songs of all time.

Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House 1986

Don’t Dream It’s Over

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There's a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road
While you're traveling with me

Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win

Now I'm towing my car, there's a hole in the roof
My possessions are causing me suspicion but there's no proof
In the paper today tales of war and of waste
But you turn right over to the T.V. page

Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win

Now I'm walking again to the beat of a drum
And I'm counting the steps to the door of your heart
Only shadows ahead barely clearing the roof
Get to know the feeling of liberation and release

Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win

Don't let them win (hey now, hey now, hey now, hey now)
Hey now, hey now
Don't let them win (they come, they come)
Don't let them win (hey now, hey now, hey now, hey now)


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Guitars, not guns

In Afterword, following this morning’s Quaker Meeting for Worship, some attending expressed their frustration of feeling so powerless in the light of the Ukraine invasion, when another mentioned the part Aotearoa New Zealand and its military played in not only bringing a brutal war to an end but the bringing of long lasting peace. It was brought about without a shot being fired, not because they had overwhelming power but because they were powerless – no weapons whatsoever, even for self defence. Instead they armed themselves with guitars and the haka.

After Meeting, I located the documentary titled Soldiers Without Guns, a documentary thirteen years in the making, produced by TMI Pictures, directed by Will Watson, and narrated by Lucy Lawless. Strictly speaking most of the narration is by participants and victims of the conflict and those attempting to bring peace, principly New Zealand military personnel, and the women of Bougainville. Lawless helps tie it all together and informs the viewer of the history that led to the conflict.

The war in question was waged on the island of Bougainville, ran for ten long years, and cost the lives of one sixth of the population. It was as brutal as that currently waged by Russia in Ukraine and previously in Syria, with civilians being targets and victims. Sure it was not on the same scale as those wars, as the populations and resources of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville are tiny in comparison to those of Russia and Ukraine. But the methods were just as brutal. It seems to be that this pattern of warfare that is becoming only too common.

The 2019 documentary is long at 96 minutes but fortunately avoids the graphic gore and brutality of the conflict. It brings to the fore the pain and suffering experienced especially by the women and children, but also the hope, faith and strength of those who suffered the most. It show that there are alternatives to the use of violence to end violence.

At its heart I feel the documentary demonstrates how aroha (bringing together in peace, love, giving and forgiving) can be more effective than brute force in ending conflict that results in a genuine peace (not simply a lack of violence), the role women can play in bringing conflict to an end, and how forgiveness can be more effective than retribution.

On this last point, I believe that the decision not to prosecute war crimes, irrespective of who carried them out, was the correct decision and, in my opinion should be considered in the Ukrainian conflict. The reasoning was simple: Those who are guilty have nothing to lose and everything to gain by extending the war in order to avoid or delay punishment. Justice comes in many forms, and in my mind, retribution and punishment are poor forms of justice at best, and are outweighed by the process of restorative justice and the saving of lives that would have otherwise been lost by an extended conflict, not to mention the reduction of pain and suffering that could have continued for years, perhaps decades.

Some may say that forgiveness is not the Western way. Perhaps, but isn’t it a central tenet of Christianity? If Western history can teach us anything it’s that retribution is usually planting the seed of the next conflict. It hasn’t worked for the West in the past. There’s no evidence that it will work in the future. As is eloquently spoken in the documentary, “Human beings are only mistake makers. The only real mistake is the one we learn nothing from them”.

In some ways, the documentary emphasises the influence of Māori culture on NZ society and the NZ military as a significant factor in helping bring an ending to the conflict – that no other nation was capable of doing so. Perhaps in this specific example it might be true because of our awareness and valuing of non-Western culture, but I would like to think that other nations – including large, powerful and wealthy ones – are also capable of doing the same: bringing peace without the use of force. All that is required is a willingness to take the risk. I think it’s worth it. What’s your opinion?

I have located two sources of the documentary: NZ On Screen and Vimeo. WordPress will not allow me to embed the NZ On Screen video but did allow the Vimeo version. It is a powerful and moving documentary and illustrates an alternative non-violent method of resolving conflict – one that’s no less risky, but potentially with immeasurably better outcomes.

Soldiers Without Guns (2019)


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A personal response to the occupation of Parliament grounds

Yesterday Aotearoa saw a level of violence between protesters and police we haven’t seen for forty years. That was in 1981 during the South African Springbok rugby tour of this nation. The government of the day refused to ban the tour on the grounds that governments should not interfere in sporting events. Also many at that time had convinced themselves that by continuing sporting contacts with South Africa, that nation would see how a multicultural society can function and so abandon Apartheid. My father was of this opinion and I admit as an idealistic teen in the 1960s I was hopeful that by maintaining sporting and cultural links with South Africa, they would learn from our example. By the mid 1970s I had come to the conclusion that Apartheid ideology had so closed the minds of the South African authorities that reason, persuasion and showing by example would not work.

Riot squads were created for the specific purpose of ensuring the rugby tour went ahead. They were confronted by thousands of anti Apartheid protesters who were determined to prevent matches from being played. There was violence on both sides but the public perceived the police as being brutal and the worst offenders. It shook the public’s confidence in the police to act reasonably, with restraint and with respect. It took decades for that confidence to be restored and I believe within some communities, confidence is still tentative at best.

For the past three weeks there has been an occupation of Parliament grounds. Protests on Parliament ground are an established part of our political system. But this was different. The protesters chose to occupy the grounds instead. Encouraged by the protests in Canada, they blocked the roads in the vicinity of Parliament and the Beehive – the building that houses the executive branch of government.

However it was more than a protest. Elements hurled abuse at passersby wearing face masks. Even children on the way to and from school were verbally abused. Faeces was thrown at police. The original core were mostly those objecting to covid mandates especially those related to some sectors of the workforce where the mandates effectively mean “no jab, no job”. In an interview, one protester described his situation as grim. He had lost his job, and was about to lose his home, and all he wanted to was to return to the work he loved. When asked what that was, he informed the interviewer in all sincerity that he was a caregiver looking after the disabled and elderly, but he didn’t want to be vaccinated. It seemed he genuinely did not understand the harm he could cause to those he cared for.

The original protesters were soon joined by anti vaxxers, covid hoax believers, QAnon believers, 1080 objectors (a topic for another day), 5G protestors and more. Before the end of the first week, there, were up to 3000 people occupying Parliament grounds and some of those present were openly hostile calling for extremes such as the arrest and trial by “people’s courts” of politicians of all persuasions, leading health professionals and advisers, and senior government officials and administrators. Some called for the military to take over – a coup.

For the police the occupation was a case of damned if we do, damned of we don’t. The right to protest is an integral part of our system and had the police moved in early, there would have been public disapproval, even though the occupation was illegal. Confidence and trust in the police is an essential component in their ability to carry out their role. Also, as the police commissioner has noted, if they had moved in to remove the occupation in the first few days, the response from the three thousand occupiers could have been very nasty, and the public would more than likely have been highly critical of the police action. From the perspective of the police, they had to balance the harm that was being caused by the illegal occupation against the harm that could occur if the occupation turned into a crowd of 3000 rioters rampaging within metres of the seat of government. There are no fences or other barriers to prevent or limit access to Parliament building or the Beehive. Had a riot occurred and government buildings breached, we would have been looking at a situation not dissimilar to that in the US on 6 January 2021.

Instead, the police waited while sworn staff from across the country were being deployed to Wellington. There are less than 9000 police officers across the entire country, and there’s certainly not enough within the Wellington region to control an unruly mob of 3000 bent on harm and destruction. The last thing the police wanted was to prod an angry bear while they were unprepared for its response. They were also concerned for the wellbeing of the many children the occupiers had with them.

By yesterday, the occupation had dwindled to a core of several hundred, and that’s when the police moved in. Even so, the response by that hard core sector was quite shocking to most Kiwis as the events streamed live into offices and living rooms. For a few hours, Ukraine was forgotten. We’ve witnessed many riots over the decades, but only from a distance. Not within our own borders. Not for more than forty years.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, acknowledges the pain felt by many during the pandemic is real and many have fallen for misinformation and disinformation to such an extent, that not only is their belief strongly held, many are willing to act on it. As she pointed out, much of the false information comes by the way of social media. People are less trusting of authority world wide and countering it through traditional channels such as main stream media is less than fruitful. The disaffected have come to view such platforms as being complicit in causes they are fighting against.

Perhaps misinformation and disinformation are now the greatest threat to democracy and freedom. As it grows, the willingness of individuals and groups to act on strongly held but false beliefs will increase. Censorship or curbing platforms of expression is draconian, limits our freedom of expression and will ultimately fail. Suppressing protests and demonstrations is undemocratic and undermines our right to publicly disagree with authority. Placing those perceived as troublemakers under close surveillance reeks of a police state and makes us all fearful of possibly being spied upon.

I don’t know what the answer is. Perhaps there’s none. Perhaps the very freedoms enjoyed by liberal democracies will be the instrument of their own destruction. Perhaps, but for now I prefer to believe that social dissatisfaction is caused through an ever widening gap between those with power and those without, the haves and the have nots, the educated and the uneducated. These we mostly have solutions for. What we now need is the willingness to put those solutions into action.

The Youtube video below depicting the ending of the occupation of Parliament grounds may seem tame by international standards, but for many, perhaps most Kiwis, it has been very distressing. On a brighter note, in less than 24 hours, more than 5000 volunteers have signed up to help clean up and restore Parliament grounds to their original condition.

The ending of the occupation of Parliament grounds captured by a Stuff reporter.


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The Beehive and tinfoil hats

Well, since the 1940s it’s actually aluminium foil (or aluminum if you’re from North America), but it’s still referred to as tinfoil here. And for those who are unfamiliar the our political system, the Beehive refers to the building that houses the executive wing of government. It’s named so because, well, its architecture has a more than passing resemblance of a beehive and there’s a lot of buzzing and scurrying around going on inside.

So what, you may ask, is the connection between the beehive and tinfoil hats? Well, according to some of the protesters camping out on the lawns in front of the Parliament, everything. The protesters, now into their third week of occupying the lawns and blocking surrounding streets with all manner of vehicles are a motley lot consisting of covid deniers, anti vaxxers, anti maskers, anti covid mandates, opponents of 5G technology, 1080 opponents, QAnon theorists, and more. There’s even some who want the military to depose the government and ban all politicians irrespective of political party affiliation from ever being a part of any government in the future.

As you can imagine, after two weeks, with no running water and no proper sanitation, there’s a high risk of diseases such as dysentery breaking out, and indeed it has. Some protesters are suffering from nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, blisters and “flu-like symptoms” which the protesters deny is covid. To quote one protester, “Only a fool would take a covid test”. Instead they put it all down to high powered EMF radiation being beamed at them from the Beehive. They’re “protecting” themselves with tinfoil hats, foil thermal blankets, and “holistic natural remedies”. I kid you not.

While they may have loony ideas, I’m not convinced that they necessarily have mental health issues. Most, but not all, of the protesters appear to be from the lower socioeconomic rungs of society and lacking in the skills necessary to think critically. And while it’s easy to scoff at their beliefs, I think it’s reasonable to to hold the view that there but for fortune go you or I.

Joan Baez – There But For Fortune. Music & lyrics by Phil Ochs

More challenging is how we can assist them and even more importantly how to assist their offspring learn the skills necessary to be able to think critically. Education helps, but even in this nation that had been (note the past tense) the most egalitarian of nations for over a hundred years, education benefits the affluent and privileged much more than the poor and disadvantaged. We shouldn’t write them off, but does anyone know what could be done to make a difference?


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Conversion therapy: only partially banned

Last week, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill passed the final stage of becoming law in Aotearoa New Zealand It’s pleasing to note that only 7 parliamentarians (all who happen to be members of the centre-right National Party) voted against the passing of this legislation.

So why was the passing of this law a disappointment to many in the autistic and neurodiverse community? The autistic community has borne the brunt of conversion therapy for decades, well before it became a “treatment” for those in the LGBTQI+ community. The practices developed in the “treatment” of autistic people are the very practices prohibited by the new law, but only when it comes to the “treatment” of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Conversion therapy for other “conditions” remains lawful.

During the Select Committee stage of the process, over 100,000 public submissions were received and considered by the Justice Select Committee. I know many autistic, neurodiverse and other minorities made submissions asking for all forms of conversion therapy be banned. It seems we didn’t have the numbers or the persuasive powers necessary for the Select Committee to expand the ban beyond gender identity/expression and sexual orientation.

Reading a random selection of written submissions (78,416 are available on line), it’s pleasing to see that the vast majority of submitters professing a religion supported the ban. What is disappointing is that so few submitters (religious or not) considered how harmful conversion practices can be outside the confines of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. When you consider that 80% of autistic children who are given conversion therapy in an attempt to make them “appear normal” exhibit symptoms of PTSD as adults, there is urgent need to ban all forms of conversion therapy. Now.


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Musical Monday (2022/01/03) Kōauau

Creative Commons: Kete New Plymouth

Today’s music is somewhat different in that the title of this post refers not to a song but to a musical instrument – the kōauau. This a traditional Māori instrument usually made from wood or bone and often elaborately carved. It one of many types of flute used by Māori and produces, at least to my ear, a hauntingly beautiful sound.

To western ears, traditional Māori music (as opposed to modern forms of Māori music) does not use musical scales with specifically set notes or tones, but instead uses microtones that slide, instead of stepping, from one tone to the next. To the Western ear it may sound monotonous and somewhat mournful or melancholic, but then to those who are more familiar with forms of traditional Asian music, Western music sounds similarly monotonous and dull.

I frequently suffer migraines at which times many sounds become unpleasant and painful. This often includes music especially if percussion instruments are present or where the tune generates a beat or repetitive pattern. Usually the human voice is fine, but if accompanied by piano, guitar or similarly struck or picked instruments, the result is at best unpleasant during a migraine. Interestingly, during a migraine attack, most drum sounds are unpleasant, with the exception of taiko drums, which I actually enjoy. I have no idea why that might be.

I find the microtonal sliding shifts created by the koauau and many other traditional Māori wind instruments very soothing to the soul when a migraine interferes with my ability to feel human. At such times, the haunting sounds of the koauau and similar instruments provide an anchor to reality – the knowledge that I actually exist.

Here are a few Youtube video clips that convey the sound of the koauau. The first clip includes an accompanying guitar, which can be unpleasant depending on the nature of the migraine.

Traditional kōauau sound with accompanying guitar

I find this next clip absolutely beautiful. The koauau is accompanied unobtrusively by traditional percussion instruments, and if you listen carefully, you’ll also hear the purerehua (bullroarer).

koauau accompanied by purerehua and percussion instruments.

Finally, a video clip where taonga pūoro(taonga: Treasure, pūoro: sounds/vibrations of nature), Māori musical instruments, are combined through the magic of modern technology into my ideal “migraine music”. It’s doubtful that traditional musical instruments were played together as an ensemble. It seems to have been a single instrument played alone or accompanying the human voice.

Experience Jerome’s collection of around 40 unique and rare Māori musical instruments from Nguru (Whale tooth nose flute) to Pōrutu Pounamu (Greenstone long flute), Kōauau Toroa (albatross wing bone flute) to the unique Pūtōrino (a cocoon shaped bugle flute made from the mighty totara tree)


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Can’t wait for summer to end

I’ve written before about why I dislike summer and today only goes to reinforce that dislike. Firstly there’s hayfever. It starts gently in late September and reaches its peak in mid to late January when without medication the itch in the eyes, nose and ears becomes unbearable, the nose end eyes run constantly and the sneezing becomes painful. By March it has run its course and finally disappears…

Until the next spring.

Then there’s the heat and humidity. Take today for example. The humidity wasn’t too bad at 80% but it was very hot – 30.4℃ (86.7℉) outside in the shade and 29.1℃ (84.4℉) inside, and absolutely no breeze. My comfort zone is somewhere between 18℃ (64℉) and 22℃ (72℉). By 25℃ (77℉), I’m ready to step inside a refrigerator. When it got to around 28℃, I suggested to The Wife it might be time to turn on the heat pump in order bring the inside temperature down to 25℃ or less. She responded with a comment that approximated “over my dead body”. I was tempted, but the heat had drained all my energy.

So to all those bloggers who have posted about the atrocious winter weather they’re having, and think my comments about being in the height of the southern hemisphere summer is rubbing it in, well, it’s not – it’s envy on my part. I so much want the so called glorious weather to end. Tomorrow is going to be more of the same.