Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


4 Comments

Equality on the decline?

In 20o5 Aotearoa New Zealand became the first nation in the world where all top positions were held by women: the Monarch, the Governor General, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, and the Chief Justice.

There have been other firsts that at first glance give the appearance that women are more equal here than elsewhere, including being the first country to grant women the vote. The 1976 relationship act and its amendments grant equal rights to both members of a relationship irrespective of marital status or gender is another.

Just as America prides itself on its liberty and freedom, NZ has always prided itself on its egalitarianism – both between the sexes and the population as a whole. In fact, back in the 1940s a visiting academic suggested we should build a statue proclaiming our egalitarianism in the much the same manner as the Statue of Liberty proclaims freedom in America.

The myth persists in both countries. Sadly America has slid well down the freedom and liberty ladder, even though over half the population believe it is the most free nation on earth. Our claim to egalitarianism has take a huge tumble since the mid 1980s. Fewer Kiwis believe in our own myth. Approximately 75% of the population no longer believe that everyone in NZ receives a “fair go”. But that leaves a quarter of the population still believing that we are a nation of equals.

Why the sudden change in equality since the 1980s? In what was a sort of political revolution, the leftist Labour party adopted radical economic reforms much like “Thatchernomics” in the UK and “Reaganomics” in the US, only more extreme. Known here as “Rogernomics” (named after the Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas) it saw the halving of the top tax rate, the slashing of social welfare, the privatisation of much of the public sector (sold mostly to foreign investors) and a reduction in the bargaining power of workers. Tariffs and other trade protections were eliminated resulting in a massive transfer of unskilled jobs overseas.

The initial result was high levels of unemployment and the social conditions that typically accompany it. Today unemployment is more “acceptable” but we now have a class of “working poor” that struggle and frequently fail at keeping their family out of poverty. Today, about one in five children live in households where the income is below the poverty line. I believe this is totally unacceptable.

New Zealand has the unenviable reputation of now being the nation with the fastest growing disparity between rich and poor in the OECD. While we are far from reaching the level of disparity seen in the USA and some developing nations, we approaching the likes of the UK. While it’s true that displays of wealth are still frowned upon, there is a growing acceptance that poverty is a “natural” part of the social fabric. I don’t.

One outcome of the economic reforms has been an increase in the disparity of income between men and women. Prior to the reforms, and into the first few years afterwards, the difference in income between men and women had been declining and was well on the way to being eliminated. There were dreams of Aotearoa New Zealand being the first country to achieve true pay equality. This has been shattered over the last two decades as the gender pay gap has increased markedly to around 12% (based on hourly income, more so if based on actual income).

One of the measures of freedom I take seriously is socio-economic mobility. This is the ability for someone to move out of the socio-economic group of their parents. In America, the “Land of Opportunity” around half or slightly less move to a different group. By contrast, in NZ it was around 75%. This has declined and is now hovering around the 70% mark.

It has barely been a generation since the economic reforms, and as they become a permanent feature of of our society, I suspect that socio-economic mobility will decline further. That, along with the growing disparity between rich and poor is a recipe for social disharmony – perhaps on the levels we see in Britain, the USA, and elsewhere. The mind shudders.

Equally unnerving is that it brings the prospect of us growing our own Trump –  someone gaining enormous wealth through a largely unregulated economy, and at the cost of a low skilled workforce, and then gaining political influence by telling those worse affected by those very practices that he will make things right for them. Yeah, right.


4 Comments

Dear America

I make no bones of the fact that I believe Trump represents the worst of American values and “The American Way”. The fact that someone such as he could be freely elected to office at a time when the world requires inclusivism and pluralism, not exclusivism and exceptionalism (and I mean in a humanist and secular sense as well as in a religious sense), makes me wonder whether collectively America has lost its marbles.

Do values such as “love and warmth and sympathy” as expressed in my father’s last poem, and so important in my whanau (wider family) count for anything any more? Trump certainly fails on all counts from what I can see.

Professor Clements is the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association. I believe his post I have linked to below speaks for most Kiwis.

Dear America and Americans There are only 9 days before Donald J Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the USA. This is a prospect that appalls most New Zealanders as it does millions of others all around the world. We had no say and no vote in the election so can only watch […]

via Dear America — Kevin’s Peace Musings


10 Comments

Brexit a warning sign?

It seems that a significant factor in the minds of those who voted in favour of leaving the European Union was concern over the rate of immigration. Aotearoa New Zealand has three times the immigration rate per capita compared to the U.K. 

Does this mean that we Kiwis are more tolerant and accepting of immigrants? Or is the Brexit vote a warning sign that we too might become more xenophobic in the future? What should we do to ensure that dislike and even hatred of those who are in some way different does not raise its ugly head more than it does now? Does the leader of the New Zealand First party have a point when he says that our present rate of immigration is unsustainable? Or is he simply fear mongering? 


9 Comments

Will Trump ban Jews and Catholics too?

So the Trump wants to ban all Muslims (even US citizens) from entering America due to the “risk” they pose. Exactly how high is that risk?

Since 2001, a total of 45 Americans have been killed on American soil by Islamic extremists. While that’s 45 too many, it works out at 3.2 persons per year. Let’s put this in perspective. Over the same period 254 Americans were killed by home-grown right wing extremists.

While Islamic extremists have been responsible for 6% of terrorist related attacks, Jewish extremists have been responsible for 7% of the attacks. Just to be clear,  this is not based on the religion of the terrorist, but on the motive for the attack. On that basis it makes as much sense to prohibit the entry of all Jews into the USA.

According to FBI statistics, Latinos are responsible for 42% of all terrorist attacks. Perhaps Trump would like to ban them too? The predominant religion of Latinos is Roman Catholicism. While he’s at it, he might like to ban all Catholics as well.

How else could Trump make America a safer place? The communists and other left wingers are responsible for 21% of terrorist attacks, so a ban on all socialists and anyone favouring a public health system would be prudent. To be absolutely sure that no left wingers get by the ban, he might consider banning everyone who isn’t a registered republican.

Let’s not forget that the anti-abortion, animal rights and other single cause extremists are responsible for 16% of the terrorist attacks, so supporters of those movements should also be subject to the ban.

Now that the borders are closed to everyone who is not a card carrying republican with absolutely no axe to grind, America should be a much safer place.

Except we’ve forgotten:

More American women are killed by their husband or boyfriend each day than are Americans killed by Islamic extremists in a year.

For each American killed by an Islamic extremist, more than 100 American Children are killed by a parent.

For each American killed by an Islamic extremist, 2870 are murdered by someone they know, and a further 950 are murdered by a stranger.

Did you know that you are twice as likely to be killed by a Fourth of July firework as you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist?

The chances of being killed in an elevator accident verses being killed by an Islamic terrorist is greater than 8:1.

You are fifteen times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike – an act of God – than being killed by an act of an Islamic extremist.

Did you know that American police officers kill more than 300 times as many Americans each year as do Islamic extremists.

For each American that dies at the hands of an Islamic terrorist, almost 12,000 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes.

While the threat of terrorism can’t be dismissed, the fear of terrorism is way out of proportion to the danger it presents. The greatest danger lies in the political reaction to that irrational fear. We are likely to allow our politicians to impose curbs on our freedom that cannot be justified by the risks terrorism presents.


1 Comment

The Rainbow Warrior (almost) 30 years on

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

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

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


7 Comments

Don’t arm the police

I’m opposed the routine arming of police on philosophical and moral grounds. I will save my arguments for another day, but for now I will list three simple reasons:

  • Walter Scott
  • Michael Brown
  • Ernest Satterwhite

A note to non New Zealanders: NZ police are not routinely armed. They wear stab proof (not bullet proof) vests and are are issued with pepper spray. In some districts, some police may be issued with tasers. Police do have access to weapons if the need arises, but as they are kept in securely locked compartments and removal must be justified, they cannot be used “on the spur of the moment”.


1 Comment

Two people and a plant: What a begonia taught me about racism and pacifism

I try to live by “seeking that of God” in everyone, but I have on occasions caught myself making quick judgements about another person that they don’t deserve. “Pacifism is so much more than a belief. It’s a daily practice”. It’s not an easy practice, but to me it’s a worthwhile one.

MCC Ottawa Office Notebook

I’m from Winnipeg, which has a racism problem. It does. And, as much as I like to think that I’m some sort of exception to this racism, I’m not. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I have played a part in perpetuating that racism, and I’m not proud of it.

Since a Maclean’s article put this issue in the spotlight, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what role I play in this complex and messy problem, which has existed in Winnipeg since well before I was born, and sadly, will be an issue for the foreseeable future.

I moved to Winnipeg’s West End in 2010, which is known as a poorer area and has had a history of gang violence. As I moved from my family’s home in a cozy suburb in the north east of Winnipeg, I was well aware of the racism that exists in the city. However, I thought…

View original post 589 more words