Autism isn’t on the rise, but there may be reasons people believe that myth. A look at how autistic people have been changing the world for centuries. Read More →
Source: There is No Autism Epidemic (2 minute read)
Autism isn’t on the rise, but there may be reasons people believe that myth. A look at how autistic people have been changing the world for centuries. Read More →
Source: There is No Autism Epidemic (2 minute read)
Ableism is still alive and well.
For the Bracken family, the agencies and institutions in place to protect and help them instead terrorized them. Read More →
I have been a regular participant in the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) for many years. Their website describes NZAVS as a
20-year longitudinal national study of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes of more than 60,000 New Zealanders. The study is broad-ranging and includes researchers from a number of New Zealand universities, including the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago, and Massey University. The NZAVS extends our understanding of how New Zealanders’ life circumstances, attitudes, values, and beliefs change over time. The study is university-based, not-for-profit and independent of political or corporate funding.
A recent NZAVS newsletter included the headline “Political leaders can change our opinions” which I found intriguing. My first thought was that politicians typically try to determine the opinions of potential voters, particularly in Aotearoa New Zealand, where the differences between the centre right and centre left are very small and there are very few issues that polarise public opinion.
But then I thought about Trump and wondered how much his opinions and those of his supporters influence each other. Research shows that the positions taken by political leaders and political parties can have an important impact on peoples’ preferences, even on issues that are supposed to reflect personal preferences. The newsletter reports:
How much can our own attitudes be affected by our political leaders?
In 2015, then-leaders of National and Labour publicly expressed their personal opinions on whether the New Zealand flag should be changed, with John Key (National) arguing New Zealanders should choose a new flag, and Andrew Little (Labour) arguing New Zealanders should keep the current flag. We measured public support for changing the flag both before and after these opinions were published in the media.
Overall, 30.5% of National party supporters and 27.5% of Labour party supporters changed their original opinion to match their party leaders. This research provides a rare real-time example of politicians’ influence on public opinion.
Although the research was conducted only on Kiwis, I wonder to what degree the same effect occurs in other countries. Anyone care to comment?
Just for the record, I’ve wanted a flag change since before I was old enough to vote, and I still hold that opinion. If Australia changes their’s before we do, then I might consider it a less pressing issue, but one still worth pursuing.
From time to time I browse through older posts of bloggers that were written before I started following them. Recently I came across Exploring Reasons Why “Atheists” Have Extreme Moral Prejudice Toward Atheists by Victoria NeuroNotes. What tweaked my interest in the post was that Victoria had put one of the words Atheists inside inverted commas. I read her article and the study link to an article about a global survey on which she based her article, but I failed to understand the purpose of the inverted commas. So then I read the articles in the following study and studies links, but was still none the wiser, and somewhat confused, as the latter two links were findings on morality itself, whereas the first link is to findings on the perception of morality. Not the same thing at all.
That discovery bothered me because in my experience it’s not like Victoria to make this sort of mistake. Just as puzzling was that she doubted the accuracy of the study because it was contrary to her personal anecdotal experience.
The findings of the study didn’t match my own experience either, but for a different reason. I have not seen any evidence that either theists or atheists regard atheists as less trustworthy. Then I read the notes link and part of it fell in place. That article refers to the same study, and this sentence jumped out at me:
Only in Finland and New Zealand, two secular countries, did the experiment not yield conclusive evidence of anti-atheist prejudice, said the team.
So that explains why my experience didn’t match the conclusion of the global study. Kiwis really don’t care about the religiosity of their fellow citizens. It’s also consistent with a 2009 NZ survey that gave atheism and all major religions (with the exception of Islam) a 90% approval rating. Islam lagged well behind with an 80% approval rating. A similar survey in the US at the same time gave atheists a 64% disapproval rating. This is also consistent with the study conclusion that one’s opinion of atheists is strongly influenced by the beliefs of society in which one lives, regardless of whether one is or is not religious.
It was only after I started reading the comments that the penny finally dropped and I understood why Victoria put inverted commas around Atheist: Perhaps many of the so called atheists weren’t really atheists at all. Now where have I heard similar types of statements before? One atheist even suggested that some Christians might have deliberately lied to distort the findings. There’s even the example of one atheist accusing another atheist of not being a “True Atheist”(TM) because the latter participates in the activities of a UU church. Sigh.
There was another thread to the criticism of the survey, and that was in regards to the motives of the researchers, but this wasn’t really pursued very far.
My curiosity aroused, I decided to investigate the findings a little further. I did locate the paper involved, but wasn’t prepared to fork out precious funds to purchase the right to view it, so I had to settle for this Supplementary Information PDF document. In it, in Supplementary Table 4. Religious demographics (%), I found what I was looking for.
The number of Christians, atheists and agnostics are similar to other surveys I’ve seen for young adults in Australia, the UK and the USA (the only ones other than NZ that I have any knowledge of). The number of Christians are 41%, 20%, and 79% respectively, and the number of NZ Christians is recorded as 22%. Again consistent with other surveys.
What I find interesting is how those who are not religious self identify. At first glance, the US has more atheists than NZ (UK: 22%; Australia:15%; US: 4%; NZ: 2%), and far more agnostics (UK: 15%; Australia: 15%; US: 5%; NZ: 0). It’s when considering those who identify as having no religion that there is a clear difference between NZ and all other countries (NZ: 71%; UK: 27%; Australia: 14%; US: 10%). Even in Finland, only 25% self identify as having no religion.
What I believe this shows is the relaxed attitude Kiwis have towards religion, and that includes those who self identify as being religious. Religion is a private matter, and it doesn’t intrude into the public domain. Neither believers nor non-believers feel threatened by the other. This is in stark contrast to the USA, where to me as an outsider, both sides seem to be in a state of siege.
As to whether some Christians lied about their beliefs to deliberately distort the findings, I very much doubt it. The supplementary document includes the questions presented to the students, and I think one would need inside information (or assistance from their God) to know the purpose of the questionnaire. That some atheists are willing to believe that Christians will deliberately lie to present their faith more favourably is so very similar to the belief some Christians have about atheists, and supports the last sentence in the previous paragraph – that a state of siege exists. To be honest, I find this very disappointing.
In a Medical Xpress article “Reminders of secular authority reduce believers’ distrust of atheists” we are informed that a majority of Americans would disapprove of their children marrying an atheist and would not vote for an atheist president. Compare that to NZ where we’ve had an atheist or agnostic government leader in 20 of the last 21 years and no one, including Christians are in the least bit bothered by it. I find the last paragraph in that article very compelling:
“There is evidence that gods and governments can fulfill similar roles,” Gervais says. People want the world to be orderly and controlled, but it seems like the authority that keeps people in line can be religious or secular. There’s some evidence that when people feel less confident in their government, they’re more likely to seek out religion. Norenzayan and Gervais find that in countries where the government is more effective and stronger, atheists are both more common and more trusted.
I think that the contrasting perspectives of Americans and Kiwis supports this hypothesis. So, what have I learnt from this exercise?
What I would like to know is why ideologues are a dime a dozen in America, but as scarce as hens’ teeth in Aotearoa New Zealand. Any suggestions?
What is it with a minority of Americans (it is a minority, right?) who genuinely believe the American constitution is as perfect and as flawless as they believe the Bible to be, and that everyone outside of its borders desire to live the “American Dream”, if not in America, then a close replica of it elsewhere.
One could be forgiven for thinking these Exceptionalists believed the constitution was conceived by God and that any criticism of it is tantamount to blasphemy and/or heresy. They believe that America is the greatest country on earth, and as a nation can do no wrong. I’ll concede that America is, for the time being, the most powerful country on earth, but as to being the greatest, I think not, and if it ever was, not for a long while.
What reminded me of all this is an opinion piece titled The True Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the article, KrisAnne Hall suggests that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could possibly be a singular point that can cause the destruction of America. Wow! I mean, WOW!
So, you may ask, what is it that makes Justice Ginsburg such a threat to America? Apparently she doesn’t bow down and worship the constitution in a manner that the writer believes is mandatory for all Americans and especially its jurists. Ginsburg stated on Egyptian TV in 2012 that if she were to write a new constitution for Egypt she would not model it on the American one. Oh the sacrilege! Oh the profanity! She actually suggested that it would be better to be aided by all the constitutional writings that have gone on since the end of World War II!
To the Exceptionists, the constitution is perfect and nothing can surpass it, even 200 years later. One could ask if it was perfect in every way, why has it had so many amendments over the years? But seriously, do they really think that in the 200 years since it was so brilliantly drafted, that other intellectuals, academics, and politicians could not come up with something that was as good, if not better? Acknowledging that probability is not to denigrate the American constitution, but simply to acknowledge that others can be just as wise as the American founding fathers were and build on what has been learnt in the past.
The writer questions Justice Ginsburg’s knowledge of the American constitution, but I wonder if the writer should question her own knowledge. She states that nation is founded upon the principles that “All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. That may or may not be true, but it’s not stated in the constitution.
The writer claims the the founding fathers wrote in set a “sunset” for the institution of slavery as evidence that they believed all men were equal. Actually they didn’t. They set in a sunset clause for the importation of slaves. Quite a different matter altogether. The writer also reminds Ginsburg that the Declaration of Independence states “ALL” men are created equal. True, but again that’s not in the original constitution. Even as late as 1896 the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was not unconstitutional. And Jim Crow laws were not successfully challenged in the courts until the 1960s.
As well as the sunset clause allowing the slave trade to continue for the time being, the acceptance of slavery can be seen in the Enumeration Clause and the The Fugitive Slave Clause. Did the founding father want an end to the institution of slavery? Some of them certainly did, but once again it’s not explicit in the constitution.
But hey, what do I know. I live in one of less than a handful of nations that do not have a codified constitution, and what laws we do have limiting and regulating the powers of government are most certainly not set in stone, yet we enjoy greater freedoms than Americans. What I won’t find is anyone declaring a jurist unpatriotic (I don’t think Kiwis ever use that term), unfit for office, or a traitor if their opinion of our constitution didn’t agree with theirs.
Hey Exceptionalists, be you American, national, religious, or otherwise, pull your heads out of the sand and look around. You might notice the world passing you by.
As my own faith tradition reminds me, the Kingdom of God is not some “other” place that good Christians “retire” to at some time in the future. It is here and now, or at least can be if we, as a community, make an effort to bring it about. We are all capable of making this world a kinder, more caring and equitable place, not by praying or expecting others, even God, to make it so, but by getting stuck in yourself.
As Kiwis, we haven’t done too well in many respects in Aotearoa New Zealand. As Bill points out in his post shared below, childhood poverty in Aotearoa has increased from 11% in 1986 to 25% today. As many prophets have warned (and I’m not referring to those who claim Biblical authority) we are starting to see the consequences of our joint inaction.
As these to quotes remind us, don’t expect God or your deity of choice to bow to your requests through prayer. Choose wisely the prophets you listen to, and then act accordingly to make this world a better place.
“There is little point in praying to be enabled to overcome some temptation, and then putting oneself in the very position in which the temptation can exert all its fascination. There is little point in praying that the sorrowing may be comforted and the lonely cheered, unless we ourselves set out to bring comfort and cheer to the sad and neglected in our own surroundings. There is little point in praying for our home and for our loved ones, and in going on being as selfish and inconsiderate as we have been. Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do. God does not do things for us – he enables us to do them for ourselves.” – Elisabeth Holmgaard, 1984
“The sick and those caring for them have need of our prayers. But let us not imagine … that a few sentimental good wishes from a distance are all that is needed. Whenever we intercede in prayer we must be prepared for an answer which places a practical obligation upon us. A prayer is always a commitment.” – Thomas F Green, 1952
A few years back I recall a TV interview with a man who had survived 11 lightning strikes and lived to tell the tale. The lightning victim’s explanation was that God must therefore have some special purpose for him. I am afraid my cynical reaction was to assume that if whatever that man meant by […]
Today I’m “officially” a curmudgeon. Opinions expressed here today may not necessarily be held by me tomorrow.
I’ve watched a number of video clips from American current affairs programs and talk shows related to our Prime Minister’s visit to the United States. I’m surprised that Clark Gayford was frequently referred to as her husband (and occasionally spouse). Only recently has it occurred to me that this occurred during daytime shows, while late shows referred to him as Prime Minister Ardern’s partner.
Just to make it clear America, Jacinda Ardern and Clark Gayford are not married, have never been married, nor are they in a civil union. And yes they have a daughter. Why haven’t they got married? Because they haven’t got round to discussing that. Will they get married? It’s nobody’s business but their own.
I’m sure such relationships are not that unusual in the USA these days, although perhaps not as common as here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Is there some unwritten rule, some remnant of nineteenth century religious fundamentalist morality that says that such arrangements are socially unacceptable for political leaders and cannot be openly mentioned in case it corrupts delicate minds, hence the need to refer to Clark as “husband”? I kid you not, that is how it appears from this distance.
And while we’re on the subject, Jacinda’s family name is Ardern, not Adern or Arden, or as in one case, Aden. I saw all those forms in online publication that should have known better. Yes, I’ll acknowledge that New Zealand English in non-rhotic, but that simply means we don’t pronounce the letter R at the ends of words or within words unless it’s followed by a vowel. It doesn’t mean we drop the R when writing.
Oh, and when spoken, the stress is on the second syllable of Ardern, not the first. It’s not supposed to rhyme with harden. And ease up on the formality will you! When addressing her directly, especially on talk shows, it’s Jacinda, just as with previous Prime Ministers it was Bill, John, and Helen. The job title is attached rarely and only if really necessary (or if you don’t like the person or their policies).
Anyone who reads the Bible as a literal work or thinks that is how it should be read is an idiot. This applies to both the religious on one side and the agnostic and atheist on the other. There is a much sense in attempting to prove the Bible is true by constructing implausible explanations as to why obvious inconsistencies are not inconsistent as there is in attempting to prove it false by finding its many inconsistencies – and let’s face it, there are many.
The Bible is no more than a collection of works by multiple authors, some dating back to when culture was preserved through oral history. It’s value today lies in the fact that it gives us a glimpse into the evolution of a very anthropomorphic tribal god of war into a perfect, all powerful, all knowing, all seeing deity. It consists of allegory, metaphors, oral history, lessons in morality, essays on the human condition, even erotica. It displays prejudice, bigotry, hatred, kindness, generosity, ignorance and wisdom. In fact it tells us a lot about ourselves as human beings, about the human experience. What it doesn’t do is tell us how to apply what we can learn from it (and the many other works from the many traditions that modern society has access to) to how we live today. That’s up to us, individually and collectively.
The fourth Monday in October is celebrated as Labour Day here in Aotearoa New Zealand. This year, it fell on Monday the 22nd. Legend has it that a carpenter by the name of Samuel Parnell fought for, and gained, the right of an eight hour working day way back in 1840. It became an official public holiday in 1900.
Essentially it recognises the right to have a healthy work/life balance. In light of modern technology, work can now intrude on one’s own life 24/7 and can seriously impact one’s life and health, is it time to re-evaluate what Labour Day represents?
It’s interesting to compare Trump’s “America First” stance to the Aotearoa New Zealand global stance as presented to the United Nations by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. To quote from a 1 News report:
In direct opposition to the isolationist and protectionist policies of the US President, Ms Ardern used her address to encourage global leaders to look outward and beyond themselves, to commit to “kindness and collectivism” and to rebuild multilateralism.
The Prime Minister also stated the importance of global leaders re-committing to gender equality and a global effort to combat climate change, describing “any undermining of climate related targets and agreements” as “catastrophic”.
Below is a transcript of her UN statement. In it she emphasises the importance of kindness and collectivism, fairness and inclusiveness. She points out that #MeToo needs to be become #WeToo. If you prefer to hear her speech rather than read it, I’ve included a Youtube clip under the transcript (22m 47s).
Madam President, Mr Secretary-General, friends in the global community.
My opening remarks were in te reo Māori, the language of the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. As is tradition, I acknowledged those who are here, why we are here, and the importance of our work.
It seems a fitting place to start.
I’m struck as a leader attending my first United Nations General Assembly by the power and potential that resides here.
But in New Zealand, we have always been acutely aware of that.
We are a remote nation at the bottom of the South Pacific. Our nearest neighbours take 3 hours to reach by plane, and anywhere that takes less than 12 hours is considered close. I have no doubt though, that our geographic isolation has contributed to our values.
We are a self-deprecating people. We’re not ones for status. We’ll celebrate the local person who volunteers at their sports club as much as we will the successful entrepreneur. Our empathy and strong sense of justice is matched only by our pragmatism. We are, after all, a country made up of two main islands – one simply named North and the other, South.
For all of that, our isolation has not made us insular.
In fact, our engagement with the world has helped shape who we are.
I am a child of the ’80s. A period in New Zealand’s history where we didn’t just observe international events, we challenged them. Whether it was apartheid in South Africa, or nuclear testing in the Pacific, I grew up learning about my country and who we were, by the way that we reacted to international events. Whether it was taking to the streets or changing our laws, we have seen ourselves as members of a community, and one that we have a duty to use our voice within.
I am an incredibly proud New Zealander, but much of that pride has come from being a strong and active member of our international community, not in spite of it.
And at the heart of that international community, has been this place.
Emerging from a catastrophic war, we have collectively established through convention, charters and rules a set of international norms and human rights. All of these are an acknowledgement that we are not isolated, governments do have obligations to their people and each other, and that our actions have a global effect.
In 1945, New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser said that the UN Charter offered perhaps a last opportunity to work in unison to realise the hope in the hearts of all of us, for a peace that would be real, lasting, and worthy of human dignity.
But none of these founding principles should be consigned to the history books. In fact, given the challenges we face today, and how truly global they are in their nature and impact, the need for collective action and multilateralism has never been clearer.
And yet, for all of that, the debate and dialogue we hear globally is not centred on the relevance and importance of our international institutions. Instead, we find ourselves having to defend their very existence.
That surely leaves us all with the question, how did we get here, and how do we get out?
If anything unites us politically in this place right now it is this – globalisation has had a massive impact on our nations and the people we serve.
While that impact has been positive for many, for others it has not. The transitions our economies have made have often been jarring, and the consequences harsh. And so amongst unprecedented global economic growth, we have still seen a growing sense of isolation, dislocation, and a sense of insecurity and the erosion of hope.
As politicians and governments, we all have choices in how we respond to these challenges.
We can use the environment to blame nameless, faceless ‘other’, to feed the sense of insecurity, to retreat into greater levels of isolationism. Or we can acknowledge the problems we have and seek to fix them.
In New Zealand, going it alone is not an option.
Aside from our history, we are also a trading nation. And proudly so. But even without those founding principles, there are not just questions of nationhood to consider. There are generational demands upon us too.
It should hardly come as a surprise that we have seen a global trend of young people showing dissatisfaction with our political systems, and calling on us to do things differently – why wouldn’t they when they themselves have had to adapt so rapidly to a changing world.
Within a few short decades we now have a generation who will grow up more connected than ever before. Digital transformation will determine whether the jobs they are training for will even exist in two decades. In education or the job market, they won’t just compete with their neighbour, but their neighbouring country.
This generation is a borderless one – at least in a virtual sense. One that increasingly see themselves as global citizens. And as their reality changes, they expect ours to as well – that we’ll see and understand our collective impact, and that we’ll change the way we use our power.
And if we’re looking for an example of where the next generation is calling on us to make that change, we need look no further than climate change.
World leaders queue to meet Jacinda Ardern after her speech. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister
Two weeks ago, Pacific Island leaders gathered together at the Pacific Islands Forum.
It was at this meeting, on the small island nation of Nauru, that climate change was declared the single biggest threat to the security of the Pacific. Please, just think about this for a moment.
Of all of the challenges we debate and discuss, rising sea levels present the single biggest threat to our region.
For those who live in the South Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not academic, or even arguable. They are watching the sea levels rise, the extreme weather events increase, and the impact on their water supply and food crops. We can talk all we like about the science and what it means, what temperature rises we need to limit in order to survive, but there is a grinding reality in hearing someone from a Pacific island talk about where the sea was when they were a child, and potential loss of their entire village as an adult.
Our action in the wake of this global challenge remains optional. But the impact of inaction does not. Nations like Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, or Kiribati – small countries who’ve contributed the least to global climate change – are and will suffer the full force of a warming planet.
If my Pacific neighbours do not have the option of opting out of the effects of climate change, why should we be able to opt out of taking action to stop it?
Any disintegration of multilateralism – any undermining of climate related targets and agreements – aren’t interesting footnotes in geopolitical history. They are catastrophic.
In New Zealand we are determined to play our part. We will not issue any further offshore oil and gas exploration permits. We have set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2035, established a green infrastructure fund to encourage innovation, and rolled out an initiative to plant one billion trees over the next 10 years.
These plans are unashamedly ambitious. The threat climate change poses demands it.
But we only represent less than 0.2 percent of global emissions.
That’s why, as a global community, not since the inception of the United Nations has there been a greater example of the importance of collective action and multilateralism, than climate change. It should be a rallying cry to all of us.
And yet there is a hesitance we can ill afford. A calculation of personal cost, of self-interest. But this is not the only challenge where domestic self-interest is the first response, and where an international or collective approach has been diluted at best, or rejected at worst.
But it would be both unfair and naive to argue that retreating to our own borders and interests has meant turning our backs on a perfect system. The international institutions we have committed ourselves to have not been perfect.
But they can be fixed.
And that is why the challenge I wish to issue today is this – together, we must rebuild and recommit to multilateralism.
We must redouble our efforts to work as a global community.
We must rediscover our shared belief in the value, rather than the harm, of connectedness.
We must demonstrate that collective international action not only works, but that it is in all of our best interests.
We must show the next generation that we are listening, and that we have heard them.
But if we’re truly going to take on a reform agenda, we need to acknowledge the failings that led us to this cross road.
International trade for instance, has helped bring millions of people out of poverty around the world. But some have felt their standard of living slide. In New Zealand, we ourselves have seen the hesitancy around trade agreements amongst our own population.
The correct response to this is not to repeat mistakes of the past and be seduced by the false promises of protectionism. Rather, we must all work to ensure that the benefits of trade are distributed fairly across our societies.
We can’t rely on international institutions to do this, in the same way as we cannot blame them if they haven’t delivered these benefits. It is incumbent on us to build productive, sustainable, inclusive economies, and demonstrate to our peoples that when done right, international economic integration can make us all better off.
And if we want to ensure anyone is better off, surely it should be the most vulnerable.
In New Zealand we have set ourselves an ambitious goal. We want to be the best place in the world to be a child. It’s hardly the stuff of hard and fast measures – after all, how do you measure play, a feeling of security, happiness?
But we can measure material deprivation, and we can measure poverty, and so we will. And not only that, we are making it law that we report on those numbers every single year alongside our budgets. What better way to hold ourselves to account, and what better group to do that for than children.
But if we are focused on nurturing that next generation, we have to equally worry about what it is we are handing down to them too – including our environment.
In the Māori language there is a word that captures the importance of that role – Kaitiakitanga. It means guardianship. The idea that we have been entrusted with our environment, and we have a duty of care. For us, that has meant taking action to address degradation, like setting standards to make our rivers swimmable, reducing waste and phasing out single-use plastic bags, right through to eradicating predators and protecting our biodiversity.
The race to grow our economies and increase wealth makes us all the poorer if it comes at the cost of our environment. In New Zealand, we are determined to prove that it doesn’t have to be this way.
But these are all actions and initiatives that we can take domestically that ease the blame and pressure on our international institutions. That doesn’t mean they don’t need fixing.
As the heart of the multilateral system, the United Nations must lead the way.
We strongly support the Secretary-General’s reform efforts to make the UN more responsive and effective, modernised so that it is capable of dealing with today’s challenges. We encourage him to be ambitious. And we stand with him in that ambition.
But ultimately it is up to us – the Member States – to drive change at the UN.
This includes reforming the Security Council. If we want the Council to fulfil its purpose of maintaining international peace and security, its practices need to be updated so it is not hamstrung by the use of the veto.
New thinking will also be needed if we are to achieve the vision encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. In New Zealand, we have sought to embed the principles behind the SDGs in a new living standards framework that is guiding policy making, and the management of our resources. And we remain committed to supporting the roll out of the SDGs alongside international partners through a significant increase in our Official Development Assistance budget.
But revitalising our international rules-based system isn’t just about the mechanics of how we work together. It also means renewing our commitment to our values.
The UN Charter recalls that the Organisation was formed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which through two World Wars had brought untold sorrow to humanity. If we forget this history and the principles which drove the creation of the UN we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
In an increasingly uncertain world it is more important than ever that we remember the core values on which the UN was built.
That all people are equal.
That everyone is entitled to have their dignity and human rights respected.
That we must strive to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
And we must consistently hold ourselves to account on each.
Amongst renewing this commitment though, we have to acknowledge where accountability must continue – and that is especially the case when it comes to equality.
So many gains have been made, each worthy of celebration. In New Zealand we have just marked the 125th year since women were granted the right to vote. We were the first in the world to do so. As a girl I never ever grew up believing that my gender would stand in the way of me achieving whatever I wanted to in life. I am, after all, not the first, but the third female Prime Minister of New Zealand.
But for all of that, we still have a gender pay gap, an over representation of women in low paid work, and domestic violence. And we are not alone.
It seems surprising that in this modern age we have to recommit ourselves to gender equality, but we do. And I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity.
Me Too must become We Too.
We are all in this together.
I accept that the list of demands on all of us is long. Be it domestic, or international, we are operating in challenging times. We face what we call in New Zealand ‘wicked problems’. Ones that are intertwined and interrelated.
Perhaps then it is time to step back from the chaos and ask what we want. It is in that space that we’ll find simplicity. The simplicity of peace, of prosperity, of fairness. If I could distil it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand it is simple and it is this. Kindness.
In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism – the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism, might just be as good a starting point as any. So let’s start here with the institutions that have served us well in times of need, and will do so again.
In the meantime, I can assure all of you, New Zealand remains committed to continue to do our part to building and sustaining international peace and security. To promoting and defending an open, inclusive, and rules-based international order based on universal values.
To being pragmatic, empathetic, strong and kind.
The next generation after all, deserves no less.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.
It really depends on who you ask. I recall reading somewhere that someone had collected 27 “authoritative” definitions , and among those, there wasn’t a single definition that had no mutually exclusive definition.
Simple dictionary definitions will tell you that religion includes a belief in the supernatural, and while it’s true that most religions do to some degree, not all religions do. Wikipedia takes several hundred lines of text to tell you that the experts can’t agree on a universal definition of religion, but does present a range of definitions.
It does include one definition that I thought came close to the mark:
According to the MacMillan Encyclopedia of Religions, there is an experiential aspect to religion which can be found in almost every culture:
[…] almost every known culture [has] a depth dimension in cultural experiences […] toward some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life. When more or less distinct patterns of behavior are built around this depth dimension in a culture, this structure constitutes religion in its historically recognizable form. Religion is the organization of life around the depth dimensions of experience—varied in form, completeness, and clarity in accordance with the environing culture.
I liked this definition because it doesn’t assume sacred tomes, deities, creeds, an afterlife or anything of a supernatural nature. For me its weakness is in the use of the phrase “historically recognizable form“. I’m not sure that all religions today would conform with a historically recognisable form of religion. And it makes no allowance for future forms that religion might take.
However, Sir Lloyd Geering has come up with a simple, short definition that, according to him, covers all religion, past, present and future. His definition is:
A total mode of the interpreting and living of life.
Sir Lloyd explains:
Everybody who takes life seriously, in my view, is taking the first steps in religion. And this definition of religion, fortunately, covers all the types of religions we’ve had or will have in the future, because it recognises that religion is a human product. Religion is what we humans have evolved in our culture to enable us to make meaning of life, and to live together in the most harmonious way.
The clip below is from a discussion with Sir Lloyd Geering at Auckland Museum’s LATE at the Museum Innovation series in 2010. It’s moderately long at 20m 13s. Sir Lloyd starts speaking at 3:14 if you’d like to skip the introduction. He discuses what is meant by “the divine”; the problem with the word “God”; what religion is; the rise of “popular atheism”; NZ secularism vs US fundamentalism; the Green movement as a type of religion; and much more:
It seems that corruption and abuse of and by the media is on the rise. No doubt, with Trump as a role model, politicians are fighting back ensuring that the public are not deceived by fake news and appalling journalism.
No continent seems to be free of this scourge, and that includes the continent of Zealandia. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have seen two appalling examples of the disclosure of unsavoury information about leading politicians and yet those involved have not fought back with fake news arguments or any criticism of the media at all! This is totally unacceptable and as electors we should expect those we put into office to use whatever means they have available to them to fight any “news” or source that might be harmful to their position.
First, there was Clare Curran who was stood down from her Open Government and Government Digital Services portfolios for failing to disclose a meeting with entrepreneur Derek Handley back in February. Unlike Trump’s staff who learn of happenings via twitter, Curran’s staff were kept totally in the dark. If she had tweeted, then at least her staff would have not been completely ignorant of the late night rendezvous. But no, she didn’t mention the meeting at all. In fact she failed to enter it into her official diary.
This is nothing short of incompetence. If the meeting was supposed to be secret, why disclose the event in answer to a parliamentary question many months later? Her excuse of “I forgot” is totally unacceptable, and as this is the second time that it’s been revealled that she has attended an unrecorded meeting, it’s clear that she is incapable of running her office.
If she had a private meeting, then she should make sure not to mention the event months later. And if she did simply forget, as she claims, she should have laid the blame squarely on the media for reporting the discrepancy, with accusations of fake news and dishonest reporting. At least that way she would not have had to admit responsibility. That’s where she she failed and why she was fired: for accepting responsibility. Can you imagine Trump doing that?
Now on to the second event. The Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri has been stood down over a “staffing matter”. Once again, incompetence. Why hasn’t the Minister come out and publicly criticised the ministerial staff member involved. Surely her position allows her to find or create information that would discredit anything this staffer might say, but it seems she has made no attempt to do so. Nor has she attempted to silence the staff member or colleagues by buying the silence of those involved. Surely the status of a Minister takes priority over the reputation of a staff member?
And now there’s rumours that the “staffing matter” involves an assault by Whaitiri on the staff member. Trump has claimed that he could actually kill someone in broad daylight and get away with it. And here we have a New Zealand Minister who is facing potential police involvement in what amounts to little more than a minor scuffle between two individuals. That fact that the Minister is likely to be considered the offender and not the victim speaks volumes about how ineffective she is, and inappropriate she is for the role. Can you ever imagine Trump being in that position?
I blame Prime Mister,Jacinda Ardern. The problem is she has taken a principled stand whereas truly capable leaders such as Trump would take a pragmatic stand to protect their power base. After all, politics isn’t about doing what is right, but about about what can be done.
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