Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The real reason for the BP oil spill

What can I say? Selfishness isn't bad. Neither is water. We need both to survive. When we have too much of either there starts to be big problems.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The importance of Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education(ECE) is set to get more out of reach for families. The government plans to shift the cost for ECE over to providers, who will pass it onto parents. Professional, qualified teachers agree that cutting Early Childhood Education will harm the future of children. "The Government spending on early childhood education may have trebled, but New Zealand still lags behind the OECD average per capita expenditure. If it is reduced further, then quality will suffer." The New Zealand Educational Institute puts it bluntly, "The funding shortfall can only be met by parent fees, or cuts to quality.".

ECE gives children the chance to expand their minds, gain independence, get parents back into work and let children socialise with other children. The brains neural pathways are developed during this stage, their own information super highway. But if this highway isn't built properly it can cause collisions and tears later on in life.  ECE provides an enviornment rich with diversity and information to help them build their world view. Parents are the first teachers and ECE is not there to replace parents. It is there to support the child in building their world and giving parents the time to restructure theres.

"I hate onions! Why does the earth need onions anyway?" - Little girl at the supermarket I went to the other day, building her world.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Michael Laws it's a two-way street

Michael Laws thinks we need the rich more than they need us. The Standard has a post too about his article.

These are the key things I'm going to peck at:
  1. There was no underclass in the 1970s.
  2. A flat tax is true equality.
  3. We need the rich more than we need them, so they deserve more respect.
 1. There was no underclass in the 1970s: Well actually there was. There were people who had little food, little clothes, dirty and uninsulated homes. There were also people dealing with medical issues that doctors couldn't recognise that made it impossible to work. Children were suffering due to a lack of child rights as well. Social problems of the past contribute to an underclass Mr Laws.

2. A flat tax is true equality:
Well yes and no. It will give everyone the same tax regardless of income. But it will take away government revenue. After that the government will either cut services or go into debt. If you cut services you cut stability, things like the welfare system, healthcare system and police. It will increase crime, lead to more suffering and discourage the rich from ever coming to New Zealand. It will cause more inequality in access to healthcare and social services than we have now. If you think the underclass is bad now, wait until you implement a flat tax Mr Laws.

3. We need the rich more than we need them, so they deserve more respect:
As human beings we all deserve respect as a inherited human right. Regardless of income, disability and any kind of status. The rich don't always get their money through hard work or by fairness. The rich don't always provide jobs that people need to work. They don't always pay their taxes and it's a two way street. You can't have a pyramid unless there's a bottom to support it Mr Laws.

On another note, good on you Maori communities up north for defending yourselves from Michael Laws.

Revised: 25 May, 2010, 8:13 PM

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Happy Biodiversity Day!

It's International Biodiversity day today! It's also the year of Biodiveristy. Of course everday is a biodiversity day. So what is it? The UNU university mentions that Biodiversity, "the earth's diversity of habitat and species — is vital for sustainable development, societies, and culture. Yet, like the climate, it is being lost more rapidly than ever before and this loss is most affecting the poor. Unlike climate change, the urgency, scale and impacts of biodiversity loss are poorly understood and the political will to tackle this issue is weak."You can't buy nature as a whole, just what it produces. Nature is not easily replacable.

Biodiversity is important to New Zealand too. As DOC mention: "New Zealand has a vast wealth of unique animals, plants and ecosystems, but we also have one of the highest percentages of threatened species in the world. We have much to lose so we need to do more to protect them."

Biodiversity is important for our food supply as well. It was one of the reasons for the Irish potato famine and it protected rice growers from the grassy stunt virus. 80% ofo ur food comes from 20 plant kinds, however we have 40,000 plants and animals we use as food. Diverse food gives diverse nutrition, which is important for our bodies to stay healthy. For instance Vitamin C that comes from kiwifruit, oranges or even other animals.

A report that's come out of the UN tells us that natures animals, trees and oceans are under threat. It's the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, which is produced by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The secretary general BAN Ki-Moon has a good summary(p. 3): "[T]he principal pressures leading to biodiversity loss are not just constant but are, in some cases, intensifying... In several important areas, national and international action to support biodiversity is moving in a positive direction. More land and sea areas are being protected, more countries are fighting the serious threat of invasive alien species, and more money is being set aside for implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, these efforts are too often undermined by conflicting policies. To tackle the root causes of biodiversity loss, we must give it higher priority in all areas of decision-making and in all economic sectors."

In the report has been a discussion of tipping points. A point where it's difficult or impossible to recover these ecosystems. They are:

A - The dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest, due to the interactions of climate change, deforestation and fires, with consequences for the global climate, regional rainfall and widespread species extinctions.

B - The shift of many freshwater lakes and other inland water bodies to eutrophic or algae-dominated states, caused by the buildup of nutrients and leading to widespread fish kills and loss of recreational amenities.

C - Multiple collapses of coral reef ecosystems, due to a combination of ocean acidification, warmer water leading to bleaching, overfishing and nutrient pollution; and threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of species directly dependent on coral reef resources.

Biodiversity is something you can get involved in .

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed” - Charles Darwin, father of evolution.

Scientists literally built a sarcasm detector

Wow what a wonderful invention to have.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fun story about doing business in New Zealand

Once upon a time there was a New Zealand psuedo-libertarian party called ACT. Their leader thought "dopey laws and red tape" were trying to make it impossible for businesses to "succeed and flourish" in New Zealand. New Zealand is the 2nd most easiest place in the world to do business. It's above China and the USA, two of the largest economic powers in the world.

The end.

Just got done playing Deus Ex for PC

Deus Ex is a PC game release in 2001. A shooter RPG the matrix hybrid. It's about a bionical man who finds out the United Nations in 2050 is corrupt. It's using a disease, the Gray Death to control people. The poor get shafted while the rich that can pay get the cure, Ambrosia. Pretty wicked and top-notch game. I loved the voice acting, which is funny because other people laugh at it. The endings are not black and white.

There is no evil or bad ending. All the endings are their own shades of gray, proving ethics in the world aren't as simple as some might like it to be. I know I link to the United Nations in this blog and their agencies. It doesn't mean I approve of everything they do. But I think the good in them generally outweighs whatever corruption there might be. I also think the corruptions fixable.

The story's not a novel, but it's not meant to be. It's interactive and interesting, giving a lot of thought to what freedom, justice and fairness actually are in society. The game's not easy to play and requires you to work your brain. I reccomend it to anybody looking for something challenging but thought provoking. It's an old game so if you want to get it, you'll either have to buy it online or try to pirate it.

"In a society with democratic institutions the struggle for power can be peaceful and constructive, a competition of ideologies. We just need to put our institutions back in order." - JC Denton (main character)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cutting lifelines in the name of efficiency

Let's say you're going on a long hazardous trek through the woods with your friends. You've bought some wheat bread, muesli bars and baked beans to last you all through the forest. But wait a second, your friend Alex has a wheat allergy and the things you bought all contain wheat, in some form. What would you do? Well you could bake some home-made wheat free muesli bars or bring bananas.

Unfortunately this government has gone bananas and thinks Alex should toughen up and eat the wheat like everybody else. Today in ths Sunday Star Times, one multiple rape victim speaks out against ACC funding cuts. She was told to go into therapy that would not suit her frame of mind. Though she had spent a while in counselling, everyone responds differently and she was infact recovering.

She is not alone in her protest. We deserve better than this from our government. David Wadsworth of Access Support Services is right about ACC corporate culture too: "If ACC can get out of any funding of sensitive claims claimants, they'll do it by hook or by crook, as I see it. And they're really the most vulnerable group." There are obvious cases of people ripping the system and ACC trying to prevent this. Unfortunately innocent people are caught in the crossfire. Like an insurance company wanting profit, they can end up rejecting a claimant the first time and make them go through hoops a second time. The time has passed for this hogwash to come to an end.

New Zealanders are people and ACC should act like they are.

What's Up, DOC? Conservation in the name of efficiency

NZ's Department of Conservation(DOC) plans to have more business on conservation land. They want to make reviews for businesses more "efficient" and monitor their progress on working with standards. They'd also release the progress report publicly. This seems to contrast with the last system where: "Large or small, all concessions are carefully vetted through regular reviews and public consultation. The environmental impact is a primary concern. But the department also assesses how appropriate activities are, the safety standards involved, how it impacts on other users, and the local community's view."

Well this doesn't really surprise me much since director-general Al Morrison wrote that "Conservation is good for the economy and DoC is focused on activity that is good for both." Al Morrison has been onboard DOC since 2002 and director general since 2006. But like the Auckland Supercity the public are getting less democracy in the name of efficiency. I think business and conservation can co-exist with democracy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stupid PC brigade, it's just a joke!

I can't believe how annoyed Tuhoe people are getting over a cannabalistic joke by our prime minister. I mean come on guys, the government only murdered your family, took your land and tried forcing you into poverty. What's so bad about calling you guys cannabals?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A sore truth in New Zealand dental care

I was watching 60 minutes about 60 minutes ago. The programme talked about problems with dental care in New Zealand. People were finding it hard to afford with one man dieing of an abcess. Dental problems don't occur just in New Zealand, they occur in Canada and Britain as well. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do something about them.

Southland District Healthboard Director Tim McKay was on the program. When asked why things are expensive he replied(but don't quote me on this) "We are perfectionists. And we like working to the gold standard." He also said "We could do better." and "It's difficult to learn how to provide cost effective dentistry." Of course 60 minutes wouldn't show what the full interview and I think they might of wanted Tim to look like a dork. But he's right, there are problems surrounding dentistry. A dentist studies hard for five years for their licence. They'd want it to be worth their while after working as a student and having a big loan. But should this worth be in money or satisfaction from helping others? These issues don't mean we shouldn't try to make dentistry affordable.

Jim Anderton thinks we need to invest 100 million each year for effective dentistry. That comes to around $25 per person in New Zealand to have affordable dental care. Jim Anderton's often thought of as a "bludging MP" who is a labour voter who wanted extra money by being in another party. I don't always agree with him and think he should rethink his stance on marijuana. Especially after saying "Alcohol is by far the most damaging drug in the country" but not pushing for a alcohol ban. But I think he's well-intentioned, smart and has good ideas. We need solutions if we want more accessible dental care, it wont be cheap but it'll have a great payoff. He also stated how because we don't subsidise adults, they end up in our hospitals costing millions. This is partly due to people not being able to afford it.

Access to healthcare is a human right, article 25. While many of us have access to emergency care, it is not all healthcare. Just because someone can get to the emergency room doesn't mean they will be ok. They could become injured severely or die.

The young adults 18+ and the elderly in this country both have problems accessing dental care. The head of AUT's school of oral health explains that “There is a gap [for them] but there is gap for a lot of adult patients including low income earners and beneficiaries – these people are all falling through the cracks". This was in 2006 and while some strides had been made to get better oral healthcare, they couldn't be rolled out completely before the new National government.

The New Zealand Medical Journal investigated the cost of oral healthcare for the elderly. The concluded that: "Problems exist in the provision of affordable oral health care for the older population in Aotearoa New Zealand. They struggle to afford dental care. They receive little financial support to access oral healthcare services and are dependent on developing their own strategies to enable such care. Health professionals and policy decisionmakers’ challenge is to bridge this gap."

This is not an easy issue but it's only going to get worse if it isn't addressed. While National have put some preventatitive strategies in place, it doesn't mean we should ignore problems we have now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So, have you got your procreation licence yet?

I hope I'll pass my procreation test!

"This is the short film we made for V48Hours 2010. Set in the future, the population of NZ has exploded out of control, so the government has imposed legislation meaning people must have certification before they can have sex. The next 7 minutes you will see is now set at the testing office."

It's a hilarious short film with plenty of innuendo. Good job people at my friend's church!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day!

Ah mothers day. A day where many people celebrate who has cared or looked after them. Or it's a day you think is a capitalist money making day. Or you don't care. As Stuff share: "The concept of celebrating motherhood dates to the ancient Greeks, who paid tribute to Rhea (the mother of the gods) and motherhood in springtime, which was considered the most fertile time of the year. We owe the modern celebratory day to an American woman called Anna Jarvis, who campaigned to make it official in remembrance of her mother. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother's Day a national holiday. Ironically, Jarvis later tried to stop Mother's Day after it became commercialised and more than just a day of sentiment."

This mothers day Statistics New Zealand have some excellent facts to share. In New Zealand the average baby weight over the pass decade was 3.5 kg. Considering a normal baby weight is 2.7-4 kg, this is excellent. In 2008, 87 percent of all women also thought their health was generally good, very good, or excellent.

Unfortunately many mothers still feel overworked. According to a independent AMP research report, while fathers are doing more house work than they use to mothers still feel they aren't doing their fair share. As for solo mothers who happen to be beneficiaries, they're facing discrimination from their own government. What's also startling is that they face it from someone who's been a beneficiary herself. Paula Bennett also plans to force mothers into work that may not be appropriate for them. Many mothers want to work and get good pay so they can provide for their families. Cutting the benefit to mothers who wont comply puts them and their childs lives in jeopardy.

There is still discrimination against gay couples who can't adopt. Considering there are already gay couples in New Zealand raising children and many who'd make great parents it's a shame they still face discrimination. Discrimination from groups like familyfirst who believe in only putting married heterosexual parent families first. We also have real problems with child poverty and child abuse in this country which are both interconnected.

The good thing is that these problems are solvable. As a society New Zealand does not have to be this way. It can support our parents, mothers, fathers, maori, european, gay, straight, disabled and everything in between. The children of Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world do not have to suffer the problems of our past.

I hope you'll have a good Mothers day, everyday.

"Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved." - Erich Fromm

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A hung parliament for Britain

Britain is going to have a hung parliament. Here are the results:

Here's what could happen:

First Past the Post is more of a racing game than a democracy. As we can see the Liberal Democrats got 23%. However that's bairly a fifth of the seats that Labour's 29.0% have. First Past the Post is pretty archaic. It seems that Clegg is talking to differnet parties and pushing for electorial reform. The Tories wont have it, in my view. They have a long history of taking democracy from smaller parties and enjoying it for too long. Labour pretty much has to if they want to keep having power. BBC's political editor Nick Robinson had some thoughts on this: "While [Robinson] doubted the Lib Dems would take up the offer of a formal coalition, they might be prepared to let Mr Cameron govern by not voting down the Queen's Speech or Budget. Taking that option would allow them not to be tainted by decisions they did not like."

Right now there is a pull between Britains finances and getting a much better democracy. They can have both. There is concern that a hung parliament will not address the UK government's debt. The pound fell quite a bit as some stock brokers didn't like the prospect of a hung parliament. International ratings agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's however say that the hung parliament verdict would not affect their top-level assessments. Moody's said the unclear outcome "does not directly threaten" Britain's coveted AAA rating. S&P said that the nation's AAA long-term sovereign rating with a negative outlook was unchanged. "The complexion of the new government is not, in itself, a factor for us," said S&P. "Instead, our focus is on whether the government's fiscal consolidation plan to be unveiled in due course is likely or not to put the UK government debt burden on a downward trajectory over the medium term."

However this opportunity for electorial reform does not come around once in a blue moon. It comes once in a blue eclipse. It's been over 35 years since Britain last had a hung parliament and it seems Labour will accept electorial reform if they get a coalition deal. The Conservatives have offered an "all party committee of inquiry on political and electoral reform", but no promise of reform. For Britain's sake I hope they can have the democratic freedom we have here.

The NZHistory website can share with us why New Zealand changed to MMP from FPP: "As critics pointed out, the FPP system tended to create Parliaments quite different in composition to those that the voters appeared to want. The answer, some people argued, was a system of proportional representation in which each party's share of the seats in Parliament would be close to its share of the overall vote." It's not rocket science. People want their vote to mean something and it usually hasn't in Britain for a long time, until today. As well as this:

"In the early 1990s Jim Bolger's National government found itself under increasing pressure to respond to public demands for electoral reform. It agreed to hold an indicative referendum (that is, one that was not binding on the government) on the issue on 19 September 1992. That date, incidentally, was the 99th anniversary of the signing into law of New Zealand's last great electoral reform – the women's suffrage legislation of 1893." New Zealand only got MMP after hard pressure in a small country with both parties still wanting to hold power. It was a power game and a hot issue. Labour or National in the next election could of used a binding referendum policy to win in the 1995 election. It was a political deadlock. For Britain's size, this reform opportunity is a chance they may not have again for many years.

As the UK's ex-prime minister Harold Wilson said, “A week is a long time in politics.” If we take that view, 35 years is nearly an eternity. That is why I doubt Nick Clegg will back down on reform. It would go against everything him, his party and other small parties fought for for years. If the Conservatives didn't sort out a electorial reform deal they would look irresponsible to the public and seem childish. They would be seen as not sucking up their pride and doing the deal. However for Cameron to promise reform it seems to me would seal his political death as the Tory leader. A Labour-Lib minority government maybe a possibility.

Here's a fancy chart from The Institute for Government (page 17) adapted for the UK elections:

The Institute for Government charity can give us some thought on how a minority Labour-Lib Coalition could work: "Our research suggests that minority governments can be successful if they do not seek to govern as if they were in a majority. In other words, it becomes necessary to develop good relationships with opposition parties, and to be prepared to debate, to negotiate and to compromise." Should a labour-liberal democrat minority coalition happen, they might spend the next six months trying to create electorial reform. Then they could hold another election based on a chosen system like Preferencial Vote or MMP. That'd be after this term however, Labour wanting to enjoying whatever amount of power they have now.

Happy to hear that Caroline, leader of the UK Green Party won in the Brighton Pavilion region.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Telling it like it is

In Social Work the Social Worker must make use of rapport. Rapport is about creating understanding and trust. It's the key to building relationships, which is what social work is all about. How can you help society if you can't build a connection with it? Rapport is a topic that people have written big books on. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Flirting For Success: The Art of Building Rapport, Talk to Anyone, blahblahblah General Self-Help book title about relationship building here.

Unfortunately Social Work is also about getting things done. This can mean upsetting the wonderful harmonious rapport you have with somebody. Or rocking the boat. How can you do this without tipping anyone or yourself overboard? How can you tell someone a fact that's hard for them to swallow but they need to hear it? It's a hard act and one even Social Workers on the job still learn about.

One way is to be upfront with them after you've shown to them that you have empathy. Being empathetic means being respectful, even if you disagree with them. It also means trying to understand where they're coming from, even if you think they've gone down the wrong path. But back to being upfront. You can tell the person that you have something important to say which could really bother them. Then lay it down and say why you think whatever you're thinking. Explain how it'll affect them and whatever or whoever they care about. You want to explain the truth clearly. You don't want it to be distorted by anybody's gossip.

This isn't counselling 101 and that method might not always work. But sometimes time is short and you might have something really impotant to say. I hope this post gave you some insight into dealing with tricky situations. Tricky situations sometimes require a trick themselves.

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you -- tripping on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as Leif the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and as I may say, the whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness." - William Shakespeare

Thursday, May 6, 2010

David Farrar LOL

There's a big protest against conservation land mining and Farrar asks why they were marching. "Everybody marched for different but similar reasons. Also some random woman out of the 1000s there compared John Key to Hitler. So the march was pointless!" You saw it here folks.

Peace, Tranquility and Total Harmony

Just felt like sharing some soothing trance with you readers. Trance music is one of my interests you know. =) Where ever you are it could pay to have a listen and let yourself relax. No I'm not on drugs. You don't have to take drugs to enjoy music.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Art and Science, can they solve the issues together?

I was watching TV3's The Nation after attending the dawn service in Christchurch the other week. It mentioned a enviornmental project called Dialogues with Tomorrow. I was interested so I did some digging.

Now Future is a partnership between Sophie Jerram and Dugal McKinnon. It's about projects lead by art that investigate core issues in sustainability and ecology. It also aims to create a greater partnership between humanity and the enviornment. One of these projects is Dialogues with Tomorrow. It brings together artists and scientists to develop and exchange ideas to help solve enviornmental problems.

In two days it will be the 51st anniversary of C.P. Snow's Two Cultures lecture. This served as inspiration for Now Future. C.P. Snow was concerned that Science and Art were become further apart and their cultures weren't working together anymore. This would have detrimental effects for both of them. Fortunately today these cultures are working more together than they use to. Now Future is an example of this as well as the inventions and insights that have occured in recent years.

Art and science don't work seperately, though it sometimes might seem that way. Just look at Galileo and Einstein. Einstein's book, The World as I See It has some beautiful writing and artistic thought. Galileo had hundreds of inventions and ideas. They have displayed that art and science work together to imagine logical ideas. Though art and science see the world in different ways, they help eachother to see things they normally wouldn't see. If we wanted to be general, we could say science deals with logic and art deals with imagination.

As humans we have two hemispheres in our brain. Our left hemisphere and our right hemisphere. These affect our learning and thinking in different ways. Our left hemisphere is logic or science-orienated and our right one is imagination or art-orienated. Jill Taylor can give us understanding into the full world of both these hemispheres. In 1996 she suffered a massive left brain hemmorage. As a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist her recovery was difficult but gave her keen, imaginative and logical insight into these hemispheres.

She has said that we have two parts and that our imagination is a method for peace on this earth. "I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be." Seeing as how she had to use her left brain for her explanation, it shows that she doesn't believe in abandoning logic. Logically understanding how we can use our imagination for peace is essential achieving peace.

"We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world." - Jill Taylor

B-Day 2010 (NZ Budget-Day)

New Zealand is coming up to the annual government budget on the 20th of May. It's where the government plans to put its money into. English has said the government would be cutting "low quality" spending. A pretty vague thing to say that could be used later to to describe anything that gets axed. They'd also be raising GST to 15%. This contrasts with what the Bill English said in 2008 about raising GST: "We won’t be doing that … it’s not our policy”

Last budget National did a u-turn on taxcuts, which they said would be essential in boosting the economy. It's interesting reading this from Brian Easton in 2009 and knowing what National decided to do in the last budget. He explained that in order for taxcuts to happen: "A 10% government expenses cut will almost certainly have to heavily target the big ticket items of education, health and welfare." This is pretty much what has happened. Except of course for no tax cuts. Not for the poor and middle class anyway.

It's been signaled that there will be tax cuts in this budget: "Prime Minister John Key pledged to give across-the-board tax cuts in his statement to Parliament yesterday on his plans for the year. There would be upfront increases in social welfare benefits, superannuation and working for family payments to compensate for the GST rise."

Can this country afford taxcuts to do what it's doing now? Healthwise, Educationwise and Welfarewise? Not to mention all the other wises out there such as Justicewise, Conservationwise and Defencewise.

These taxcuts will largely benefit wealthy people. As the Sunday Star Times shares with us: "The Sunday Star-Times understands the government has settled on lowering the tax rate for those earning between $14,000 to $48,000 – which represents the bulk of wage earners – from 21% to 19%. The May budget is also expected to lower the tax rate for those earning up to $14,000 from 12.5% to 10%.The Star-Times also understands the government will, in one hit, lower the top rate for those earning more than $70,000 from 38% to 33%, rather than doing it gradually."

Almost all benefit goes to the rich. We will lose out as a society. This tax cut discriminates against the poor whose tax is reduced by 2% compared to the 5% of the wealthy. While it could be argued the wealthier pay more in tax, they are more capable in handling it compared to poor. Also the wealthier generally achieve their wealth because of the poorer and their wealth has often been boosted by their ethnicity, sex and their own family's socio-economic status. As for New Zealand's middle-class, any hope of extra change is offset by GST. While it's good to reduce consumption, not everybody can. Especially for those in poverty who have to deal with the challenges of being poor. This means generally being less healthy, and being able to afford less nutritious food like fruit, meat or vegetables. It also means discrimination from people viewing living on the beneft as a "dream", like feeding your family on baked beans and sausages is a dream. GST will affect these families the most who cannot easily cut consumption, especially as food prices continue to change.

The poors tax contribution is miniscule compared to the rich, they are the ones affected more by poverty and that poverty discriminates against minorities. We know unemployment is a factor in the causes of crime and the government thinks the solution is to lock criminals up and throw away the key. There's no guarantee that higher growth = higher employment. While New Zealands economy may grow, there's only so many jobs to go around. For businesses jobs cost money. If you can get somebody more qualified to do more for the same amount of money they will do it. Considering the governments record on job cutting, there probably wont be many jobs for the unemployed to enter into. Especially if they've got a criminal record. And as Marty G at The Standard points out, this government hasn't exactly been keen on supporting New Zealand businesses.

Little will be done with these taxcuts to reduce the amount of inequality causing problems in our society. Nearly 14 years ago the social policy journal reported that unemployment was highest for people under 20 and over 55, males, Māori and Pacific Islanders. They reported the cause was partly due to a lack of education, qualification and lack of employment in rural areas. Unfortunately these facts are still relevant to New Zealand today.

Social Service Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand(2008, p. 14) explain that: "The level of inequality is uneven across New Zealand society... Inequality is also reflected in ethnicity – outcomes are poorer for Maori and Pacific Islanders than for Pakeha and Asian New Zealanders" These taxcuts will also do little to reduce child poverty. As the Child Poverty Action Group(p. 5) explain: "While work is very important for reducing poverty and increasing overall wellbeing, a “work first” policy is not sufficient to eliminate child poverty. Parental or child illness and disability, physical and social isolation including poor access to services, fewer employment opportunities and lack of support may all act to preclude parents from paid work.”

So while National would like to increase Working for Families, they haven't specified how much and the poorer children will be left out. While a Whanau Ora co-ordinator/provider who can work cross-culturally sounds nice, it will probably take away from what we already have. It's likely Peter will be robbed to pay Paul. Except the thief will say it was to stop Paul's "low quality" spending as Bill English likes to put it. "Ministers have agreed that Whanau Ora will be financially neutral - funded by reprioritising existing funding in votes Health, Social Development and Maori Affairs. Those details will be set out in the budget." Reprioritising is a vague word and doesn't give much understanding of what will be a priority. These Whanau Ora co-ordinators may want to co-ordinate with other agencies, but their may not be much left of them to co-ordinate with.

Brian Easton has some thoughts on this upcoming budget. He feels raising taxes is probably the most ethical thing we can do right now: "We have very high overseas debt, which we are not addressing, and the ongoing fiscal deficit is making it worse. If nothing is done, our credit rating will be downgraded and interest rates will rise[...] Even so, to avoid a credit downgrading we are also going to have to cut government spending. I don’t know what, and I don’t know when. But I do know that even if it is phased in, it will create difficulties for ordinary New Zealanders – which is why I favour raising taxes as part of the adjustment.

He has also shared insight from Peter Lindert into what raising taxes can do: "In his book Growing Public: Social Spending and Economic Growth Since the Eighteenth Century, Peter Lindert points out that European countries have much more efficient tax gathering systems. They are able to raise higher taxes to fund a more comprehensive welfare state than the US. On the basis of the evidence, he concludes that their “net social costs of transfers, and the taxes that finance them, are essentially zero. They do not bring the GDP costs that much of the Anglo-American literature has imagined.” He goes on: “High budget democracies show more care in choosing the design of taxes and transfers so as to avoid compromising growth … Broad universalism in taxes and entitlements fosters growth better than the low-budget countries’ preferences for strict means testing and complicated tax compromises.”

This country has problems with its health, education and welfare sector caused by cost cutting and other factors. It looks like this coming budget will probably worsen these. If our tax system was made more progressive one like Britain, Australia or Canada's it would likely help fix our problems.

"The welfare state, warts and all, is one of the more noble achievements of those people we call New Zealanders. A failure to develop that achievement would represent a failure of the nation... The Welfare State has been a community response to historical change. To go against this historical thrust would be to abandon New Zealand as a community." - Brian Easton, 1979, p. 177 in "Social Policy and the Welfare State in New Zealand"

Revised 6/5/10, 1:40 PM

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Protest against mining one of the biggest in New Zealand's history

Backstory: Recently in New Zealand, there's been controversey surrounding mining of national park conservation land, or schedule 4 land. This is land put aside for conservation. Not land used for building or mining. The current government wants to change this so the conservation land can be used to mine coal or other minerals. The head of the reserve bank has stated this is a fruitless thing to do. There has been plans to mine several areas.

Today New Zealand had one of the biggest protests in its history. Around 50,000 people marched against the mining of conservation land. Congratulations everybody, I wish I could of been there to feel the energy and contribute. It sends a strong message that this land is precious to our enviornment and the ancestors of this country. The government has tried to give the impression that anyone protesting mining of schedule 4 land is against all mining. People aren't falling for it. Many recognise we need minerals for things like cars or computers. But mining for the sake of mining is pretty useless. These are overseas companies that want to take nearly the whole cake and leave us with some crumbs.

Our Prime Minister, John Key has said: "National will be on the lookout for new and innovative solutions to environmental challenges." Mining our conservation land is not a innovate solution to our enviornmental challenges. He's also said: "Our environment isn’t just a bonus. It’s part of being a Kiwi. It underpins our enviable quality of life. It gives us an in-built edge over many of our economic rivals. I’m thinking, for example, of what Australia would do for our abundant water resources. And, increasingly, New Zealand’s environmental credentials will underpin our prosperity and our trade profile." Now this inbuilt edge is under threat for the sake of a few cents, in the bigger picture.

Many New Zealanders are disappointed with John Key's stance on the enviornment. General Manager of Forest and Bird explains this: "In the past six months, environmentalists have observed with increasing disquiet a range of announcements from the Government that threaten damaging consequences for the environment. For example, Mr Key's pre-election promises on climate change have not been followed through by his actions in Government."

Thank you to everyone who showed up or supports it. Mining for the sake of mining is not what this country needs. If you're wanting to get involved or more involved, check Forest and Bird for ideas.

Cantabrians, don't lose our trump card!

I'm proud of the people in my city who have stood up to the bullying of ECAN. Yesterday many met in protest against ECAN's disassembling. Rodney Hyde has spoken a lot about individuality and individual choices. But his authoritarian posistion makes him look hypocritical and ignorant. What these dictators fail to understand is that pure water is Canterbury's trump card. Regions and places around the world face water scarcity issues like I've discussed on this blog. It is not just in third-world countries. Britain, Australia and the United States are not immune to water scarcity. They do not have the same amount of clean, accessible water like we do. Our government has taken our water for granted.

Rodney Hyde seems to present himself as a calm and intelligent man who means well. But his statement on politicians reveals much about himself: "Politicians are vulnerable to interest group pressure, and at times invite that pressure by pandering to various interest groups in search of votes. It's unfortunate, but it's a fact of life in a democracy."

He has taken Canterbury's local democracy over an interest group while collaborating with David Carter. "I would have thought what happened recently with Environment Canterbury would be a signal to all regional councils to work a bit more constructively with their farmer stakeholders." - Agricultural Minister David Carter. He isn't for people having opinions if they don't suit his and the members of Rodney's party agree.

This government has been acting somewhat irrational. For instance in their report on why ECAN was getting the sack it's stated "[ECAN is] Science led rather than science informed." Science led is science informed. If I am a surgical doctor and you need surgery, you want me to be led by medicine. If you need your appendix out, you do not want me to be led by guesses by cutting your leg off and hoping for the best. So why would we do this to our enviornment? Why play dangerous guessing games that could destroy our ecosystems all for some profits?

The report uses vague and emotive words. "There is national risk of failure to act and get an effective framework for managing water." They don't fully define effective. Effective to who? Is this a risk of everybody dieing or just some businesses dieing because they can't sustain themselves? Our water is precious and shouldn't be handed to just anybody for anything.

But this appears to be what the governemnt is doing. "ECan has some economic capability in-house but appears to provide insufficient economic consideration in its RMA decision making in both a planning (including consideration of alternative policies through section 32 analyses) and resource consent context." Insufficient economic consideration? Just because a lot of money can be made by using one part of our enviornment, doesn't mean we should do it. We can replace money easily. We cannot replace the enviornment very easily.

There is conflicting information on what local councils think of ECAN as well in the report. "The [Territorial Authorities/]TA sector describes ECan as an organisation that is always right, arrogant, overzealous and litigious. The litigious claim is not supported by statistics as noted later in the report." The use of "TA sector" creates confusion, as if all councils thought alike. In the paragraph after that statement you quote one of these councils who has this to say: "We would like to record that we have found the environmental science and technical section of the Council to be helpful in providing information for our planning. Where we have dealt directly with these staff they have been knowledgeable and very good at being flexible and working in with our requirements. We have appreciated their efforts in providing an efficient service and quality information.”

We deserve an enviornment that will support us and our future Canterbury.

One normal and two weird dreams I had last night

First dream was about a place called Barrington House. It was on my street. 10 people lived in it and it had one carer. This carer also had a masters in art. The other nine people had a intellectual disability of some form, but were able to live together. They'd spend a lot of their day making and doing art activities together. Sometimes they'd work on art projects and sell them at auctions so they could get money for their house.

Second dream was about Croc 3 for playstation. If you don't know what Croc was it was a platforming 3D videogame with a cute crocodile for the videogame console called playstation. You might not understand much of this dream unless you were/are a playstation gamer so you could skip to the next dream. Anyway they made Croc 3 for playstation. They tried to rip off Zelda: Ocarina of Time and gave Croc a hammer to attack enemies with. It was on a island with four areas and a tall large tower in the middle. The tower and areas all had their own nameless levels too. It was going to have a psuedo free-roaming element. But instead of it being a big world, the levels would be connected by paths that were pretty much nameless less challenging levels. There was a deep lake area and this lake was also a well. There was a desert and volcano area. There was a large gigantic forest area with huge plants. So Croc 3 was pretty much a bunch of levels stuck together. In the game they made it very similar to Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Like the way you'd attack a enemy or the enemy sounds. There were hundreds of Gobbos in each area, it was like a collectathon. Each area also had native Gobbo inhabitants. Fisherman Gobbos, Indian Gobbos, Cave gobbos and Tribesman gobbos. It seemed like it wouldn't be big enough to fit on the PS1game disc. But it wasn't good enough to be on the PS2, graphically.

The third dream had superman making a life or death decision. He had what was called the spear of life. If he killed somebody now, in 1000 years they'd be ressurected. Or that's what was meant to happen. The world was in crisis and needed superman. But there was no guarantees there'd be any superheroes in the future. Almost all the heroes wanted one of them to be around in 1000 years. Superman was deciding between the flash and wonder woman. Batman refused to participate and said "I don't believe in fairytales."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Worrying, disturbing oil spill in America

On Earth day an oil rig sunk in the gulf of mexico. There are around 5000 barrels of oil being released into the ocean each day. From Stuff/Associate Press:

An oil spill that threatens to eclipse the Exxon Valdez disaster is spreading out of control and drifting inexorably toward[s and is already at] the Gulf Coast of the US, as fishermen rush to scoop up shrimp and crews spread floating barriers around marshes.

"It is of grave concern," said David Kennedy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "I am frightened. This is a very, very big thing. And the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just mind-boggling... The oil slick could become America's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world's richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life. "

The spill was both bigger and closer than imagined - five times larger than first estimated, with the leading edge just 5km from the Louisiana shore. Authorities said it could reach the Mississippi River delta by Thursday night (Friday NZT).

From The Wallstreet Journal:

The slick was expected to make landfall at any time. The spill could turn into one of the biggest in U.S. history. An estimated 5,000 barrels a day of oil are flowing from the well, and officials said it could take up to 90 days to cap it, making for volumes that could exceed the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska and a 1969 accident in Santa Barbara, Calif.

People along the Gulf Coast braced for environmental damage and disruption to businesses, such as the rich shrimp and oyster fisheries along southern Louisiana. President Obama said he will commit "every single resource" the federal government had available to combat the spill, as the military began mobilizing Thursday to help prevent environmental damage.

"Regulators will want to understand how this occurred and quite reasonably wish to introduce additional regulation, if that's appropriate, to prevent it happening again," Chief Executive Tony Hayward told The Wall Street Journal. "You certainly won't see BP standing in the way of that."

An eco system, a regions industry and source of employment practically destroyed overnight. Not to mention the lives lost on that rig. This is a terrible tragedy. BP is going to receive a huge backlash for this. The plane has crashed, we can find the fault but the damage is done. This is all the more reason to find cleaner alternative energy systems and make oil companies more accountable.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Origin of Paula Bennett

In light of the recent Paula Bennett scandal...
Update: TV3 was bullshitting everybody and based their story off facebook comments. Too bad the comic still applies.

Water Poverty: How to combat it (from the WHO)

DEVASTATION: This startling picture of the White House, by Saddington & Baynes for WaterAid and End Water Poverty, marks a meeting of 30 nations to discuss the problem of water poverty.

Four days after my last post discussing water and oil, the World Health Organisation released its annual sanitation and drinking water report.

"There is no doubt that if ministers and leaders had to endure these conditions in their own backyard they would take immediate action. Today they have the opportunity to do so and help bring an end to this scandalous crisis." - Barbara Frost (on Stuff)

The Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) (warning, 23.7 MB)

The report found that diarrhoeal disease in children has a greater impact than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. Improving sanitation and drinking water could reduce the death of 2.2 million children a year. Sanitation would save a lot of money for these developing countries. Money that could be spent on healthcare, food, protection and education. There is four reccomendations in it:

Recommendation 1 - Developing countries and external support agencies to demonstrate greater political commitment to sanitation and drinking-water, given their central role in human and economic development.

Reccomendation 2 - External support agencies and developing countries to consider how to better target resources to accelerate progress towards meeting the sanitation and drinking-water MDG(Millenium Development Goal) target

Reccomendation 3 - Developing countries and external support agencies to strengthen national and subnational systems to plan, implement and monitor the delivery of sanitation and drinking-water services, especially to unserved populations.

Reccomendation 4 - All stakeholders to work in partnership to support the development and implementation of national plans for sanitation and drinkingwater, using their particular skills and resources and aligning with national systems.

So what do these reccomendations mean? What are supporting agencies, stakeholders, subnational plans and the MDG target? Do these words really mean anything? Let's have a look. Specifically at page 70, where they expand on these reccomendations. However instead of writing in UN english, I'll be writing in plain english or at least trying to.

Recommendation 1 - There needs to be a bigger commitment to clean and drinkable water. Specifically from developing countries and any supporting agencies like the Red Cross or United Nations Development program. This is because water's essential for health and their businesses. Here's how you do it:
  • Increase money and effort into sanitation and getting more drinkable water. This is done through developing countries and external support agencies, like the ones mentioned. (R1a)
  • Find how much resources(eg. money, volunteers, vehicles) you need for drinking water and sanitation compared to other social services. This way you can use them more efficiently. For instance, if your village has two cars available, use one to pick clean water up early in the morning from the well. Then use it to do whatever the village needs done the rest of the day. Have the other one reserved as an ambulance. (R1b)
  • Convince the people affected by water poverty, mostly the government and citizens, that having more drinking water and sanitation will boost the economy. That it's worth working towards. (R1c)

Reccomendation 2 - Think of how to use resources more effectively. This is so a country can reduce by half people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation(Millenium Development Goal). This means:
  • Have your highest authorities discuss resources available for basic sanitation and drinking water for people without access to them. (R2a)
  • Measure your progress on reducing the people without clean water and basic sanitation by half. Have set goals per year. It's a bit like going on a diet. You're a 160 kg overweight man trying to get down to 80 kg. For your first year you aim to lose 10 kg, a year after that 15 kg etc until you're down to 80. (R2b)

Reccomendation 3 - Strengthen national and regional systems to plan, implement and monitor the delivery of clean drinking water and sanitation. Make sure this is done especially for people without access to clean water and sanitation.
  • In country development plans, make sure there are clear roles in institutes responsible for delivering sanitation and drinking water. The leading institutions and roles are accountable for delivery. This gives a clear frame work to work in and wont cause confusion. (R3a)
  • Make sure that accurate and reliable data is available for regions. This means nobody's slacking off or making up figures. (R3b)
  • Prepare and implement plans to use people available who will get sanitation and clean drinking water. This means who will be cleaners, water deliverers and who'll be responsible for maintaining certain facilities. (R3c)

Reccomendation 4 - A partnership of people with the needed skills and resources to implementing national clean drinking water plans.
  • Have external support agencies find ways to deliver clean water and sanitation. Let them partner with investors wanting economical benefits or organisations that have money to support them. Don't reveal who they are. Their role is to give money and follow their legal contract to give it. (R4a)
  • Have the countries and citizens work with external support agencies to lower by half people without clean water or sanitation. (R4b)

Of course these are only reccomendations. Some developing countries might try something completely different. But I hope these developing countries will get access to clean and safe drinking water. It will be a cornerstone for peace. For more information on Water Poverty, you can check out the WHO's booklet: The Right to Water

“Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” - Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weird dream I had, a beat'em up game with aliens and people

I was traveling to the top of a cliff on an airship with Bart Simpson. This cliff was on a medium sized mountain surrounded by the ocean. Bart was trying to get to Michael Jackson's funeral. Along this cliff are two unmarked ways you can go. Bart went into his limo and drove down the road. The limo driver asked him “Which way do you want to go?” Bart replied “I don't care. Just take any of them.” So the limo driver took the left one, which made them fall off the cliff and into the sea.

After seeing this I walked down the road and took the right road. It was getting to be a long walk so I thought to myself “This is taking too long. I'm not going to get anywhere this way.” So I did a Super Mario 64 leap off the cliff. If you don't know what that is, think a superhuman longjump. So I leapt off the cliff, across the ocean towards I island I had seen. When I landed I was greeted by some members of the US army fighting a alien queen monster. It looked like a giant caterpillar with two spider legs coming out of its mouth. It grabbed one of the men and swallowed him whole. She then said telepathically “You will now be a part of my eyes and brain.” Suddenly the dream camera zoomed into her eyes where all the olive-coloured alien fluid was. The soldiers eye sprouted inside of it. Then the camera shifted to her brain and the soldier's body appeared with a shocked expression on its eyeless face. The camera then zoomed back out to me.

The world turned into a beat'em up fighting game. I pulled out a laser sword and cut the caterpillar in half. I then started fighting other caterpillar aliens around the place with the US army. After moved through the island fighting caterpillars I came to a town, the next level. There was a red sky overhead. People were attacking me while laughing, trying to kill me. I wasn't using a sword this time. I smacked people over trying to attack me until their health bar became lower and they fell unconscious. The US army wasn't around anymore. Then a teenage girl who tried to stab me. I did a upper cut to her teeth and her health bar was exchanged for the words “FATALITY”. She keeled over. It was then that I woke up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Meritocracy: Whose reward?

Ah that Genghis, what will he do next?

On a serious note, finding a balance between being awarded for work and being able to live from it is an issue. Many people work in sweatshops to earn what a checkout person in New Zealand earns working for 15 minutes. Thats if your lucky. shares several facts about Sweatshops. Facts such as how many earn as little as 1/4th for their basic human needs. Most of their income is spent on food. The US government also selectively gives aid to countries that have sweatshops operated by US companies. The Anti-Slavery society gives more insight into sweatshops: "Many children in Asia are kidnapped or otherwise trapped in servitude, where they work in factories and workshops for no pay and receive constant beatings."

In highschool I remember a world vision volunteer visiting my class before New Zealand's yearly 40 hour famine. He discussed how the conditions in sweatshops were better than many alternatives. These alternatives included digging in the trash, trying to look for garbage to sell. If you were blind or disabled, you would dig in the garbage at night. I think he didn't want to break our young spirits by explaining other some of the other alternatives. Unfortunately I think some of us could already guess.

Harvard Business School doctoral student Neeru Paharia and Professor Rohit Deshpandé have several ideas to stop sweatshops. They include:
  • Stopping the desire for sweatshop products
  • Empowering consumers to drive the opinion on how products should be made
  • That shoppers become more self-aware about sweatshops themselves
Neeru Paharia also had this to add: "It's troubling that so much of our social and economic system is based on our moral judgment, especially if it's easy for us to justify our actions based on what we want." If you want it, it's yours as long as you can pay for it. You can be awarded for your work. No worries about the child's award for all their hard work. Their hard work can be your award.

This is a problem with Meritocracy in our system. Of course in New Zealand we aren't a pure meritocracy. We do have a mininum wage and a welfare system that is suppose to ensure people aren't in poverty in New Zealand. However problems do exist and so does poverty in New Zealand for that matter. Who receives an award can vary based on age, race and sex.

Individuality does have a link with Meritocracy. Humans have a long history of working towards their goals and being awarded for doing so. However some people forget that we don't all play on a level playing field. The work we can do is influenced by our DNA, the circumstances we were born under and the community. As well as this there are people who want to steal awards and claim them for themselves. Sweatshops are an example of this.

Dr. Joseph H. Saleh is Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also a technical consultant for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. When working for the Michigan Institute of Technology, he had some comments and suggestions for a fairer Meritocracy:

"Consistency and transparency on what constitutes merit are necessary conditions for a meritocracy to actually be one... Meritocracy requires that we first articulate what constitutes "merit," and what constitutes merit in turn should reflect 1) our values, 2) what kind of people we want to attract and retain, and 3) what kind of behaviors we want to promote and encourage. So while talking about meritocracy, perhaps even better while talking about a "caring meritocracy," we can also talk about our shared values at MIT."

With this combination of ethics and engineering, maybe we could use this to benefit New Zealand's social and economic system? We could make our system:
  1. Have more transperacy about how products are made and come from
  2. Reflect Aotearoa New Zealand's values
  3. Attract people to our country that appreciate these values
  4. Promote and encourage behaviours based on Aotearoa New Zealand's values
To some extent our system does these four things already. But not to a totally large extent. I'd say many some products sold in New Zealand have involved slave labour in some form unfortunately. I also think the Warehouse wouldn't be too pleased if people knew where their bargains were coming from. However recognising a problem is usually the first way to fixing it. As well as this, some people feel they are too small to change the system and may be blind to the benefit of working as a group.

As for Aotearoa New Zealand's values, they can be hard to pinpoint. Our national anthem doesn't give us much of a clue about what these values are. I'm all for saving the Queen but I'm also for saving other people as well. The well-regarded New Zealand historian Michael King does give us some suggestions about where New Zealand's values come from.

In his interview with Kim Hill Michael talked about the values within New Zealand which are from Maori and Pakeha(NZ Europeans): "Pakeha culture is largely derived from Europe, its more individually oriented whereas Maori culture is more communally oriented. Pakeha culture has all sorts of other values that New Zealanders think are precious, like protecting the underdog, not having great extremes of wealth and extremities of poor. There’s a whole list of these things." How do you define a underdog? What is extremely wealthy or poor? And how can you have a combination of collectivism and individuality? For instance in individuality you usually earn your respect. Generally though in Maori culture, you are already born with it due to your inherited mana. As Michael explains, the values New Zealanders share are many. Investigating some practical definitions would be helpful.

Dwight Furrow is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at San Diego Mesa College, USA. Furrow(2005, p.4) explains in his book Ethics that humans often base their ethical behaviour on beliefs and habits they've learned early in life. Infact Furrow(2005, p.1) also says teachers and parents are responsible for teaching ethical behaviour. We are all individuals with our own individual needs and thoughts. But there are things that must be taught by the collective in order for people to be in a safe society. A collective teaching and encouraging New Zealand's values would play a part in a fair New Zealand Meritocracy.

David Perry director of Vann Center for ethics at Davidson College gives some insight into preventing people being exploited by meritocracy. Within his review of Tobias Wolff's novel Old School, he states that "our ethical system [at Davidson] is opposed to the contemptuous, arrogant and cruel sort of meritocracy advocated by Ayn Rand (91-96). Our code of honor at Davidson, unlike hers, is joined at the hip with mercy and forgiveness." He acknowledges that problems and unfairness happen in the real world and meritocracy should make room for this.

Genghis Khan shows us some of meritocracys pros and pitfalls. We can earn rewards through hard work. But these rewards aren't always earned fairly, they can be stolen from others and we don't always get the same rewards for the same work. Rewards play a part in our individuality and can help us gain meaning to our lives. But exploiting others for rewards makes us earn them unfairly. This hurts society, which hurts us for being part of society.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ANZAC day: Red Poppies, White Poppies and the White Feather

There's been some controversy recently about Peace Movement Aotearoa selling white poppies before the Returned Services Association's red poppy day. The money sold from white poppies goes to peace scholarships. These peace scholarships were started by Professor Cynthia Enloe where the scholarship would go to students studying the effects of war on society. The money sold from red poppies goes to the RSA's welfare services. This is a controversial situation. There's been quite a bit of animosity from some war veterans and the RSA over what Peace Movement Aotearoa has been doing. The White Poppy has also been compared to the White Feather, often thought of as a symbol of cowardice. I want to prove that The White Poppy doesn't have to be gawked at. I also want to prove that the White Feather is the complete opposite of the coward's symbol it's been made out to be. But first let's look at the Red Poppy.

The Red Poppy

What is it?

It is an international symbol of rememberance.

Where is it from?

As the RSA explain to us: It was verses by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918), a Canadian Medical Officer, which began the intriguing process by which the Flanders Poppy became immortalised worldwide as the symbol of remembrance:

Moina Michael, moved by John McCrae replied to him after his death:

"We Shall Keep the Faith"

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet-to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With all who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valour led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms
above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy red
We wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fiel

Madame E. Guérin, conceived the idea of widows manufacturing artificial poppies in the devastated areas of Northern France which then could be sold by veterans' organisations worldwide for their own veterans and dependants as well as the benefit of destitute French children. Throughout 1920-21, Guérin and her representatives approached veteran organisations' in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and urged them to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

So what is the White Poppy?

The White Poppy

What is it?

It is an international symbol of peace.

Where is it from?

As the BBC's well-researched rememberance page explains: The White Poppy was first introduced by the Women's Co-operative Guild in 1933 and was intended as a lasting symbol for peace and an end to all wars.

Worn on Armistice Day, now Remembrance Sunday, the White Poppy was produced by the Co-operative Wholesale Society because the Royal British Legion had refused to be associated with its manufacture.

While the White Poppy was never intended to offend the memory of those who died in the Great War, many veterans felt that its significance undermined their contribution and the lasting meaning of the red poppy. Such was the seriousness of this issue that some women lost their jobs in the 1930s for wearing white poppies. The White Poppy Appeal is now run by the Peace Pledge Union.

Professor Paul Gough, Dean of the Faculty of Art, Media and Design in Bristol has this to say about the white poppy. "There is, of course, a fundamental difference between a war monument that purports to encapsulate and define memory, and a peace monument that aims to extend a process, or to further a cause. Inevitably, the issue of political legitimacy is central to the issue of peace, as its pursuit has never served the state’s monopoly on violence. Being associated with internationalism, organisations such as the Peace Pledge Union, the white poppy movement and such like, represent a threat to the nation-state which regards an anti-war stance as anti-nation."

Of course, the white poppy isn't as internationally recognised as the red poppy. However it still features internationally. There has been controversy around its presence as well. It disappoints me that the white poppy has existed for over 70 years and many people are still worried about it.

Well-known New Zealand blogger David Farrar has accused the Peace Movement of Aotearoa of "[effectively] stealing money from the RSA". The thing is however, you're kind of playing with semantics when you wonder if money's being stolen or not. It's like being asked to give money for food or give money to research diseases. You can do both. Multiple charities can co-exist together and work together. This isn't a news paper advert asking for $500 so you can win at race horses. These donations fund scholarships given by a professional long-standing academic so people who have been affected by war can study it and learn how to help prevent it. You don't have to buy a red or white poppy. That's why it's called a donation. They are both valid and nobody's disrespecting anybody. It's been around for over 70 years. This isn't Cola vs Pepsi. They are both legitamite symbols. Everyone has there own interpretation of them and that's fine, this is a democracy after all.

There has also been associations with the white poppy and the white feather. The White feather has been known as the coward's symbol. However I think it's a symbol of courage and I'll explain why.

The White Feather

What is it?

In the Online Etymologhy dictionary, they describe the White Feather "as a symbol of cowardice, 1785, supposedly from game-cocks, "where having a white feather, is proof he is not of the true game breed" [Grose].

However, Margaret Orbell(as cited by Ana Pallesen, page 4) gives us another explanation in her book, Seabirds and people: the cultural importacne of seabirds, the illustrateed Encyclopedia of Maori Myth and Legend. The albatross(white) feathers were a spiritual symbol of peace to those affiliated with Taranaki iwi, “Let this be clearly understood by all Maoris, pakehas and all other nations. The white feather is a sign that all nations through the world will be one, black, red and all others who are called human beings. This feather will be the sign of unity, prosperity, peace and goodwill.” Te Whiti o Rongomai(Parihaka's founder) and Tohu Kakahi(Pariahaka's prophet) used the white feather as a symbol of Parihaka's non-violent resistance movement.

Where is it from?

The first explanation is from eugenics. It states if you have a white feather, you are not "true game breed" or of "good stock". This means you aren't built to fight and you aren't strong or desirable. Personally, war is not desirable. World Vision explains about war's causes to us: "Conflict is more likely to happen in poor countries, partly because people are more desperate for land, rights, water or even food. Of the 150 or more major conflicts since the Second World War, 130 of these have been in poor countries." The more we can reach solutions with peace the better. Peace is an ideal, but it's an ideal worth striving for and it can be a reality. It's an ideal the ANZACs and the people at Parihaka died for. It was a symbol of Parihaka's non-violent resistance movement and this is why I consider it a symbol of courage, as well as peace.

It will be 94 years since the ANZACs arrived at Gallipoli. While we remember our soldiers, it seems many countries have forgotten about peace.

I hope this post has given you some food for thought. Please enjoy your ANZAC day. People of Australia and New Zealand, remember the victims of war, remember our soldiers and remember what they fought for.