Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Sexism in politics

Having grown up in a family with very liberal ideas on gender roles, I sometimes forget that not everyone holds similar values.

This week a TV interviewer put his foot into it by asking a question he really should have known not to ask.

This is Aotearoa New Zealand and the twenty first century. If he has been an employer, he would have been in deep doo doo for asking the question to an employee or prospective employee.

Thankfully his question raised the ire of the interviewee and a significant proportion of the community.

The question was to the new leader of the Labour party, who has a remote chance of becoming the PM (Prime Minister) after the general elections in September.

So what was the question?

“Is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?”

The question and the anger it has raised seems to have been reported around the globe. See CNN and The Guardian as examples.

I’m disappointed that there are still men around who hold nineteenth century views of gender roles, but I am pleased that most Kiwi males have moved on.


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Trump’s ban on Trans in the military doesn’t go far enough

Trump is on the right track but banning Transgender people does not go far enough. Not by a long way. Hopefully tomorrow, he’ll correct the situation by banning Gays, Lesbians, Bi, Queer, Inter-sex and all forms of gender and sexual diversity.

But he shouldn’t leave it there. There’s two other groups that do even more harm and cost even more due to huge numbers in the military. They should be banned too. These are the Straight and the Cis-gendered people. Think of all the medical costs and veteran costs that would be saved, not to mention how little disruption would occur within the military with these two groups banned as well.


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The elections are nigh!

Aotearoa New Zealand goes to the polls on the 23rd of September this year to elect our 52nd Parliament. Up until today, it has been difficult to see any sign of the upcoming event apart from the occasional news item and advertisement reminding us that we must be enrolled in order to vote.

However today the campaign begins in earnest as this is the first day on which candidates are permitted to put up election hoardings (billboards), which can be up to 3 square metres (32 square feet) in size.

Election campaigns here are quite different from the spectacle we see on our television screens regarding the American elections. Even from 14,000 Km away, we find the US elections over the top and tiring. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in the midst of it. Thankfully, ours are short and sharp and we find the two months of campaigning more than enough.

One reason that our elections are quieter is that there are very strict controls on how much candidates and political parties are permitted to spend. From today up until the day before polling day spending is restricted to:

  • $26,200 for an electorate candidate
  • $1,115,000 for a registered political party plus $26,200 per electorate contested by the party
  • $12,600 for an unregistered third party promoter
  • $315,000 for a registered third party promoter

That covers all forms of spending: hoardings, newspapers, radio, television, pamphlets, rallies – in fact every expense related to the election campaign. And thankfully, all advertising must stop by the end of the day before election day.

Although most parties have determined who will stand for which electorate, and have sorted out their party lists, official nominations don’t open until the 24th of August and close on the 29th of the same month, so I’ll wait until then before starting my own selection process for my preferred candidate and party. And unlike in many parts of the world, we get two votes: one for the electorate candidate, and one for the party vote. (an electorate is an area containing approximately 60,000 people, plus or minus 5%. The total number of seats each party gets in the Parliament is determined by their share of the party vote nationwide.)

Best of all, radio and television advertising can’t commence until the 23rd of August, so if you can’t avoid listening to commercial stations, you’ll only have to put up with it for a month max. Thank goodness!


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“Trump might do some good for democracy”

Now before you conclude that I have lost my marbles, read on.

Throughout the world, voter turnout at national elections have been declining, mainly due to apathy of younger voters. This is also true in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our most recent General Elections were held in 2014 and the voter turnout was at an all time low of 77%. Voter turnout for those under 30 years of age was 62%, while 88% of people my age voted.

The main reason put forward for poor voter participation by younger people is that they feel that they can make very little difference to the results. While there is some degree of truth in that, especially in electoral systems where “winner takes all” such as with FFP (First Past the Post), the same can’t be said of systems with proportional representation such that used here in Parliamentary elections. If a party gains 5% of the votes, it gets 5% of the seats in the Parliament. in other words, every vote counts.

We next go to the polls on Saturday the 23rd of September 2017 to elect our 52nd Parliament. The head of the Electoral Commission (the body that oversees national and local elections in NZ) believes we may see a reversal in the decline in voter participation this year. She gave two reasons: Brexit and Trump.

The results of both Brexit and the US presidential elections were due largely to voter apathy. In both cases, younger voters were strongly against the final result, and had younger voters participated in numbers approaching the national average, the results would have been different. It seems that finally there is evidence that NOT taking part in the democratic process can have serious consequences.

The good news here is that the younger generations are talking about how and why results such as Brexit and Trump as president could possibly occur. Both results seem contrary to common sense. I do hope that the head of the Electoral Commission is correct and that such discussion will lead to greater voter participation, especially among the young.

So thank you Donald, you are the reason the next generation of Kiwis are beginning to take a greater interest in the democratic process. They don’t want to see our leaders behaving as you do.


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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.


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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


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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? 


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Go Helen!

The UN has begun the process of selecting a new Secretary-General. Among the candidates is Helen Clark, a Former Prime Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand. I’m not biased, but of course she’s the best candidate for the post.

During the past week candidates have been given the opportunity to give an “Informal dialogue for the position of the next UN Secretary-General”. By all accounts our Helen gave a good account of herself. If you’d like to watch her presentation I have provided two links below.

Opening remarks only (10 minutes)

Opening remarks and Q&A session (2 hours 15 minutes)

Why did the President General Assembly addressing Helen as Mrs Helen Clark, when, if she’s being addressed formally she prefers Ms Helen Clark? UN Protocol or ignorance?

I’ve been asked before why I show disrespect for some public figures by using their given name only. In case anyone hasn’t seen my explanation, here it is: In typical Kiwi fashion, we refer to public figures we admire or respect by their given name only, and we often address them this way to (depending on the circumstances). Those we dislike are usually given their full name, without title, or if we really dislike them, just their family name.


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On Being Kiwi: The results

This post follows on from On being Kiwi: A Survey

100,000 Kiwis have now completed the survey. That’s 1 in 45 or 2.2% of the population.

I didn’t study statistics, so I’ll leave the detailed analysis to the experts. The best I can do is look at the figures and gain a general impression of what we as a nation are.

Firstly, where do I fit in compared to other Kiwis? As most guessed, my closest fit is Egalitarian, followed by Globalist. I am least like a Traditionalist.

The results are broken down into several areas:

Ideology

  • Māori: assimilation vs biculturism
  • internationalism: inward vs outward
  • Immigration: pro vs anti
  • Politics: libertarian vs socialist
  • Imperialism: independentist vs loyalist
  • Nationalism: universalism vs exceptionalism
  • Sport: Apathetic vs enthusiastic
  • Religion: secular vs religious

 Pride

A sense of pride in our:

  • nuclear-free status
  • scientific and technological achievements
  • lifestyle; achievements in art and literature
  • political influence in the world
  • fair and equal treatment of all groups in society
  • economic achievements
  • history
  • achievements in sports
  • armed forces

Flag

Preference for our current flag or the proposed replacement:

old_flag1 vs new_flag1

Symbols

Icons that we most closely identify as national symbols of Aotearoa New Zealand. Some of the symbols may not be familiar to you if you are not a Kiwi: All blacks; Beach holidays; Great outdoors; Haka; Kiwi; Pounamu; Rugby; Silver fern; The Queen; Union Jack.

How I compare with the typical Kiwi.

I want to explore some aspects of being Kiwi over upcoming posts, especially as there are some results I didn’t expect. Differences in sense of national pride, the flag ,and symbols, while of interest, are not particularly important to me and how I differ from the “typical Kiwi” is of no significance. On the other hand, those aspects covered under ideology are important to me, and I believe should be important to all New Zealanders.

A number of statements were given to which one had to supply one’s level of agreement. The choices were:

Strongly agree -> Somewhat agree -> Slightly agree -> slightly disagree -> Somewhat disagree -> Strongly disagree

I noticed that there was no “neither agree nor disagree” option, for which I’m grateful. Otherwise that would have been my first choice with too many statements.

Very briefly, my position compared to the NZ average is as follows:

Māori

I am significantly more in favour of biculturalism than average based on the following propositions:

  • somewhat agree that a history of discrimination has created conditions that make it difficult for Māori to be successful.
  • slightly disagree that Māori should not receive any special treatment.
  • strongly agree that Māori culture is something that all New Zealanders can take pride in, no matter their background.

Internationalism

I have an extremely outward view compared with the average NZer based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that refugees should be welcomed in New Zealand.
  • strongly disagree that New Zealand should focus only on domestic, not international, issues.
  • strongly agree that New Zealand should participate in humanitarian intervention efforts abroad.

Immigration

I am significantly more pro-immigration than average based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that all immigrants can retain their cultural values without being any less of a New Zealander.
  • somewhat disagree that most immigrants these days don’t try hard enough to fit into New Zealand society.
  • somewhat disagree that immigration is a threat to New Zealand’s culture.

Perhaps the above are understandable considering the wife is an immigrant, as is a daughter-in-law. A little known fact is that almost one in four New Zealanders is an immigrant.

Politics

I have strong socialist leanings compared to the average Kiwi – much more than I thought. This is based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that in New Zealand, the gap between those with high incomes and those with low incomes is too large.
  • strongly agree that wealthy people have a greater obligation than everyone else to help those who are in need.
  • slightly disagree that no matter what circumstances you are born into, if you work hard enough you can be as successful as anyone else.

Imperialism

I am less of a loyalist than the typical Kiwi based on the following propositions:

  • somewhat agree that the British monarch should no longer be New Zealand’s head of state.
  • somewhat disagree that New Zealand’s British heritage should be central to its national identity.
  • somewhat agree that it is important for New Zealand to retain its ties to the British Commonwealth.

Nationalism

I lean towards universalism more the the average Kiwi based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that Kiwis have a unique set of values that distinguish New Zealand from the rest of the world.
  • somewhat agree that New Zealand is the best country in the world in which to live.
  • slightly agree that New Zealand is not perfect, but its values are superior to others.

Sport

I am only slightly more apathetic towards sport than average. T found this rather surprising, as the typical Kiwi is not as enthusiastic as I believed. This is based on the following propositions:

  • slightly disagree that sport is too much a part of New Zealand’s national psyche.
  • slightly agree that nothing brings New Zealanders together like a sporting event.
  • slightly agree that good sportsmanship sets New Zealanders apart from other people.

Religion

This is one result that did surprise me. Although I don’t believe in a deity, I am ranked slightly more religious than the average NZer based on the following propositions:

  • slightly disagree that society would be better off if people were more religious.
  • somewhat disagree that we rely too much on science and not enough on faith.
  • somewhat agree that religion should not have any influence in the affairs of government.

So there you have it. I have nailed my colours to the mast, warts and all. I’ll elaborate on what I consider the most important in future posts. If you have a particular interest in any aspect of the survey that you would my opinion on, please do ask.

Does any of what I have revealed surprise you or contradict what I have revealed about myself either here on Another Spectrum or in comments I have offered on other blogs?


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Trump and Jesus

Trump seems to be gathering support from a significant section of the American Christian community. I wonder why? His comments about many groups, including women, Mexicans and Muslims, and now advocating torture, is contrary to what the Christian message is supposed to be. Yet the more outrageous the comments, the more conservative Christians seem to be drawn to his form of intolerance and bigotry. I keep asking myself why?

Christians here in Aotearoa New Zealand clearly don’t see any part of Trump’s message as Christian, and a church in Auckland has expressed its opinion rather bluntly. It has put up a large billboard which depicts Jesus nailed to the cross, and Trump standing before him holding a hammer in his hand and saying “I don’t like losers”.

The minister of the church says Trump’s message directly contradicts the word of Jesus.

To the Trumps of his day, and to those who see winners as having money and power, the Jesus of the Bible was a loser who associated with those rejected by society. And he died broke. Jesus had an alternative vision of reality, however. He was a person who sided with minorities and those who were most vulnerable, and it was this that got him killed.

No-one will convince me that Jesus was anything other than a human being. I like much of his message, even though the Gospels distort some of it in an attempt to make him greater than he really was.

St Luke’s minister Glynn Cardy says that the billboard will stay up over Easter and as long as Trump’s candidacy is undecided.

Should religion keep out of politics, and if so is this billboard crossing that line? Personally I don’t think so, but then we Kiwis don’t have large numbers of those who believe in Bible literalism to contend with. Perhaps if I lived elsewhere, the US Bible belt or some east African nations for example, then I might think otherwise.