Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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The Case for a Non-Commercial Public Broadcaster — Peter Davis NZ

Once again Peter Davis has reflected on a topic that has been on my mind for some time – public broadcasting in the online multimedia age. It’s a topic worthy of discussion particularly in light of the trend towards the polarisation of ideas and beliefs.

The Government recently established a working group to look at the possibility of establishing a new public broadcasting entity. At present Radio New Zealand (RNZ) is almost the only agency that adheres to a public broadcasting mandate largely free of commercial imperatives. Television New Zealand (TVNZ) is in public ownership, but in all but name […]

The Case for a Non-Commercial Public Broadcaster — Peter Davis NZ


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As for leaders …

The worst, the people hate,

The next best, the people fear,

The next best, the people honour and praise.

But for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.

When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, “We did it ourselves!

Lao Tzu, 4th century BC

The more I think about it, the more I think Lao Tzu is right


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Kindness is not enough – an open letter to the Prime Minister of New Zealand — Matthew Wright

While many of my readers might reasonably think that Aotearoa New Zealand is a paradise on Earth, given my favourable descriptions of this nation, it is far from it. I still consider it the “best little country in the world” but it has it’s flaws – too many for me to stay silent about. Our housing crisis is just one of them. This article By Matthew Wright highlights the failure of successive governments, including the current one, to tackle social issues in anything other than a neo-liberal monetarist framework established by the Labour Party in the 1980s.

Dear Jacinda, It’s nearly six months since your government came to power with the first clear majority any party has had since MMP began, on the public expectation that you would lead the country out of the neo-liberal framework that has driven so many social problems. Instead, all that’s happened is – nothing. And then, […]

Kindness is not enough – an open letter to the Prime Minister of New Zealand — Matthew Wright


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Is the violence over? I have my doubts

As much a I prefer not to “interfere” in the politics of other nations, the influence that America has on the world due to its wealth, size and power, persuades me that I cannot in good conscience ignore events in that nation. From time to time I will share posts written by others more skilful than I on the American situation. This post by Padre Steve is one such post. With apologies to the good padre I have given the post a new title that reflects my concern.

I fear that Padre Steve is may well be correct: The great trial facing America has just begun. The violence is not over.

Friends of Padre Steve’s World, I watched the second day of Donald Trump’s second Impeachment trial transfixed by the masterful way in which the House Impeachment Managers presented the documentary evidence and connecting the dots from the election night until 6 January. I struggled to think of a title for the article because the evidence […]

The Impeachment Prosecutors Open: The defendants denounce the law under which their accounting is asked. Their dislike for the law which condemns them is not original. It has been remarked before that: “No thief e’er felt the halter draw with good opinion of the law.” — The Inglorius Padre Steve’s World


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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.


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Why am I not surprised?

It came as no surprise to me that the Capitol siege occurred. Perhaps what I find more surprising is that it ended more quickly and with less violence than I would have predicted. Perhaps we have Trump to thank for that as he belatedly urged his supporters to disperse peacefully and return to their homes. According to news reports I heard this morning, New Zealand time, it was viewed by many insurrectionists as an order from the Commander in Chief that had to be followed.

Had the mob been larger and Trump remained silent, I shudder to think what the outcome might have been, and the four known deaths (at time of writing) would have paled into significance. My question is why did Trump, given his ongoing claim that the election result was fraudulent, decide to issue the “go home” directive?

Somehow I don’t think it was in the interests of democracy or the welfare of his supporters, so what was it? Did he come to the realisation that his supporters would follow him to hell and back if he so ordered, and that with a better organised command structure he could be the leader of a militia that the constitution clearly allows for in order to protect the people from a tyrannical government?

The irony of course would be that his followers have mistaken which part of the government is being tyrannical. While it may have been lost to his supporters, it’s clear from non-autocratic leaders around the globe that most of the free world views the Capitol siege as an attack on democracy.

I’m somewhat disappointed that our own Prime Minister was rather guarded in her comment avoiding any direct blame on Trump. I would have much preferred her to have spoken in terms similar to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who placed the blame clearly on trump’s shoulders: “I deeply regret that President Trump has not conceded his defeat, since November and again yesterday. Doubts about the election outcome were stoked and created the atmosphere that made the events of last night possible”.

Somehow I doubt that the number of Trump’s supporters who would be prepared to participate in an insurrection are not as small or insignificant as Biden and others are suggesting, and there may be not just tens of thousands but possibly hundreds of thousands who would be prepared to commit to a militia if such a call was made. Regardless of the final outcome over the next few weeks, the myth of a fraudulent election is not going to go away any time soon and suspicion of American authorities and particularly the federal government does not bode well for democracy in America in the short term.

While I have no doubts about Trump’s legacy, I suspect Biden’s will depend on how well he restores faith in America’s system of democracy.


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Politics – NZ style

“I hope that people, when they see us together, they realise that what they see about politics on the news isn’t actually the full story,” McAnulty added. “Chris and I are a good example of being on other sides of the House and having differing views, but it doesn’t stop you being people and it doesn’t stop you being mates.”

National’s Chris Bishop calls out Labour’s Kieran McAnulty over ‘big gas guzzler’ amid climate emergency


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New Zealand sets up mandatory quarantine ‘camps’ for COVID patients

Anyone who values freedom should take note because the Kiwis have a terrifying new response to rising covid case numbers. They are throwing people into quarantine camps.

Fox News ‘The Ingraham Angle

Please watch The Ingraham Angle video clip to ensure you have the full background of the facts before reading the rest of this post.


Pretty terrifying isn’t it? Just imagine being locked up just because you don’t want to take a test. What ever will they do next to take away our freedoms?

Except it’s hardly a new response. These so called quarantine ‘camps’ (some conservative right wing sources call them internment camps) have been around for the last six months. I don’t know why it has taken Fox and The Ingraham Angle so long to discover this story. As for Ardern’s ‘announcement’, it’s actually part of an interview that took place some time after the ‘camps’ were established – if I recall correctly, several weeks, perhaps a month, after the ‘camps’ were first announced. So it’s factually incorrect to describe Jacinda Ardern’s words as an announcement. Perhaps I’m being picky, but I do like to get the facts right.

Taking the story at face value, it would seem that New Zealand residents who refuse a COVID-19 test are being thrown into quarantine camps indefinitely until they submit to a test. It would also appear that in spite of the such draconian measures, infection rates are rising.

It would seem appropriate to seek more information on two important points:

  • are people being thrown into quarantine ‘camps’ for refusing a test?
  • are coronavirus cases really rising?

Number in ‘camps’

So how many people are in ‘camps’? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? The clip doesn’t provide that information. At any time there’s around five or six thousand people in quarantine ‘camps’, but the ‘camps’ or not filled by local residents whether or not they have refused a test, nor whether or not they might be infected with COVID-19. The “detainees” are travellers who have just arrived in New Zealand.

Anyone wishing to travel to Aotearoa New Zealand must pre-book accomodation in one of these ‘camps’ before they purchase a flight to this country. In other words it’s part of a package deal if one wishes to travel to these islands. Every country has measures at the border to reduce the possible harm that travellers might bring into the country. COVID-19 is simply another potential harm added to the list of harms.

Does that sound like “throwing people into quarantine camps” to you? Yes, it’s an inconvenience for anyone wishing to travel here, but it means those living here have complete freedom to do whatever they want, congregate wherever they want in crowds as large as they want – even in stadiums with 50,000 other individuals without being required to wear face masks or to socially distance.

It means that we as residents carry on much as we did before the pandemic and all businesses apart from those in the tourism sector operate as they always have. The pandemic as ensured that international tourism is buggered world wide for the time being irrespective of what restrictions this country imposes at the border.

There’s more than one type of ‘camp’

And let’s clarify what is meant by quarantine ‘camps’. This Foxnews term actually refers to two different types of facilities. Both types of facilities are located within hotels, almost all of which have a 4-star or 5-star rating.

  • Managed isolation facilities: these are for travellers to NZ who are well but have a risk of having COVID-19. In other words travellers who have been in or passed through a region where community transmission of the virus exists. At this point in time that means the rest of the world, but it’s likely that regions of Australia, and parts of south and east Asia will be deemed community transmission free before the end of the year or early in the New Year. My hunch is that America will possibly be one of the last places to go covid free.

    Tests are carried out on travellers on day three and day twelve of isolation. If both are negative, the traveller is free to leave on day fourteen. If either test is positive, the traveller is transferred to a quarantine facility. A refusal to have a test is, I believe, treated as if a test had been positive.
  • Quarantine facilities: These are for travellers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone with suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

    These facilities have additional medical staff to cater for non-critical COVID-19 cases. Critical cases are transferred to public hospitals. Once the traveller is deemed to be COVID-19 free they can leave. If a traveller refuses to have a test, then they will be required to remain in quarantine for an additional fourteen days and remain symptom free, after which they will be free to leave.

Clearly, if you’re symptom free, the normal time for isolation is 14 days, or 28 days if the traveller refuses testing. Unless you’re a COVID-19 denier or conspiracist, such measures are unlikely to be considered oppressive or unreasonable given the nature of the pandemic. The measures have a sound scientific footing for a community that wishes to enjoy the benefits of freedom as we have historically practised it and be coronavirus free at the same time. How many other places have that level of freedom?

Rising covid case numbers

As for the rising covid case numbers, it’s true that it has increased recently, but none of these are due to community transmitted cases. The Ingraham Angle makes the implication that it is rising within the community. It is not. All the cases involve travellers in managed isolation – they have caught the virus while overseas, on their way here, or less likely while in isolation. The biggest number of cases recently have been in travellers from Russia who are replacement crew for fishing vessels operating from New Zealand. at one stage they were responsible for around 12 cases in a single day – an astronomical number for this country. They will be quarantined until they are Covid free.

The simple truth is that that we in Aotearoa New Zealand are virus free, and enjoy freedoms that most other places, including America, can only dream about for the time being. There is no draconian authoritarian regime restricting our freedom nor throwing the sick or dissidents into camps. The video clip is no more that a selection of half truths cobbled together to tell a whopping lie. A perfect example of Fake News™.

As for why this fake news is created at all, this Daily Blog article seems to cover it


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Lessons from the Disunited States — Bill Peddie’s website

This thoughtful post by a Christian and fellow Kiwi reflect, I believe, the thinking of most reasonable people, not only in Aotearoa New Zealand but throughout much of the world.

The excruciating four year unfolding circus on the US political scene makes the New Zealand political scene seem very tame in comparison. Unfortunately, for good or ill, we are bound to the leading Western powers by historical ties of trade and defence. The mixed blessing of Vietnam and Iraq should still be relatively fresh in […]

Lessons from the Disunited States by Bill Peddie — Bill Peddie’s website


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The wife and Trump

At 2 PM today, local time, the wife sat down in front of her computer, put on her headphones and watched the live streaming of the Trump/Biden debate. Meanwhile I attempted to perform a variety of tasks on my computer – some business, some leisure.

I got little done.

What the wife lacks in stature, she makes up in volume. She may only be 147 cm (4’10”) tall but there’s no crowd on earth that can drown her out – even the roar of 50,000 Rugby fans at Eden Park witnessing the All Blacks scoring a winning try.

Every few seconds, the air would be disturbed (literally) by “AH, SHUT UP!“, “” “STUPID!“, “LIAR!“, “バカ!“, “YEAH YEAH!“, “THAT’S RIGHT!“, “嘘つき!” and quite a few unrepeatable phrases.

My gentle suggestion that she watch the debate on the TV at the other end of the house so that I would be less affected by her outbursts resulted in a few of the aforementioned phrases being directed at myself. I resigned to having an unproductive afternoon.

I suppose I could have mowed the lawns instead, but somehow being outside and knowing that what I hear above the lawnmower can also be heard by the neighbours is more uncomfortable than sharing the same space with her. Perhaps it’s that when I’m inside, whether or not the neighbours can hear her is hypothetical, whereas when I’m outside, it’s bloody obvious.

Four years ago, the wife’s relationship with Trump was one of disinterest. But over the intervening period, it’s grown in intensity. You could almost say she’s obsessed by him. She’ll spend an hour or more every day on Youtube watching clips of Trump or about Trump.

So what does the wife like about Trump? Absolutely nothing. She loathes the guy with passion. As to why, I can only say that having known her for fifty years, she never does anything by halves. It’s 120% effort or nothing. Trump qualifies for the former and then more.

Personally, I hope Trump loses the election and fades into oblivion – for my sanity as much as for the sanity of America. But I have a nagging fear that whether or not Trump loses the election, we will not have seen the last of him.