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? 


2 Comments

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.


10 Comments

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?


7 Comments

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.


5 Comments

Super Tuesday crashes Canadian Immigration Website

 

 

Thank goodness not all Americans think Trump is the next Messiah. Apparently, after the news that Trump had secured big wins from the Super Tuesday rounds, enquiries overwhelmed a Canadian Government immigration Website causing it to crash. If Trump does win the presidential race, will Canada be far enough away? Come to think of it, will Aotearoa New Zealand be far enough away? Antarctica, may find itself with its first permanent immigrants.

And Google reported a large spike in “move to Canada” searches. Of course his supporters are likely to blame both events of the success of Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primaries, but that’s the kind of nonsense they will fool themselves into believing.

Meanwhile the rest of the world wonders how so many Americans have fallen for Trump, hook, line and sinker. To gather in the conservative, and Christian fundamentalists, he now claims he’s a Christian – just like them. But is he? I guess it depends on what qualities one considers are necessary to justify the claim.

From my perspective, he lacks even the barest minimum qualities. Fellow Kiwi Bill Peddie is asking this question in his post Is Donald Trump a Christian? It’s worth a read irrespective of whether your are a believer or a non-believer.

Clare Flourish, in her post Drumpf raises many concerns about Trump and his rise and rise. Her last paragraph in that post says it all:

How authoritarian is the US? How despairing are its voters, to be shilled by this man?


12 Comments

The Mad World of Donald Trump

Last night while my wife was flicking through the schedules for the evening’s TV viewing, the title of a late night documentary caught my eye: The mad world of Donald Trump. My interest piqued, I decided to watch it instead of my usual habit of sitting in front of the computer.

It’s a British Documentary, and while I take all all “factual” programs with a grain of salt, the program does accurately portray how most of the western world outside the US perceives both Trump and the American political system.

One thing that has struck me over the years is how many Americans seem to be looking for some sort of “messiah” in their presidential candidates, only to turn against them when they are unable to perform the miracles that had been promised. From this distance it often seems cult-like.

The documentary is currently on Youtube, but if it disappears, a search using the string “The Mad World of Donald Trump” should provide a link that you can view. For those who find the Trump phenomenon incomprehensible, or simply wish to see how much of the world sees American Politics, I recommend watching.


5 Comments

Balance of power in the US Supreme Court

Over on Amusing Nonsense, Sirius Bizinus has written what I feel is a balanced and reasoned article regarding the appointment of a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court. His is one of the few that has neither expressed vindictive pleasure at the passing of Scalia, nor expressed outrage that Obama might have the opportunity to appoint a “liberal” to the position.

I find it fascinating that appointments to what should be non-political positions turn into party political circuses. Mind you, it does bring an element of entertainment from a distance that I find lacking in our own system here in NZ.

I don’t recall any judicial appointments here causing controversy, and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is that by convention, judicial appointments are isolated from politics, and second, unlike in the US, the courts do not have the final say on matters constitutional.

Constitutionally, judicial appointments are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General. For those not familiar with the constitution of the Realm of New Zealand, think of the Governor-General as the de facto head of state. The Attorney-General is a member of the Cabinet and as such must be an elected member of Parliament. By convention, the roles of Prime Minister and Attorney-General are not held by the same person, although the constitution does not prohibit it.

By convention, the Attorney-General accepts advice from the Chief Justice and the Solicitor-General for appointments to the higher courts and from the Chief District Court Judge and the Secretary for Justice with regards to District Courts.

They in turn accept advice from the Judicial Appointments Liaison Office (JALO), which is required to consult widely. JALO has no legal or constitutional standing, and like so much of our system is based on continuously evolving conventions.

To avoid possible political influence, the convention is for the Attorney-General to mention judicial appointments to Cabinet, but for the appointment not to be discussed.

One difference between NZ and the US is that here there is a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges.

Unlike the US, we don’t have a binding constitution. In fact our constitution is made up of multiple acts of Parliament, and ultimately parliament has supreme sovereignty. Therefore any bill passed into law cannot be unconstitutional.

It may seem strange to Americans that the majority of Kiwis prefer our existing constitutional arrangements and don’t want a binding constitution interpreted by the courts. While we perhaps don’t have the guarantees of freedom enshrined in the US constitution, in practice we have always had, and continue to enjoy greater levels of freedom than the good citizens of the USA do.