Sunday, 19 February 2012

Earthquake poem

I shrugged and flexed my spine
And your future and your past
Fell like ninepins in a cloud of choking dust
At first you ran cowered and hid
Joined your forebears in their terror
Then resentment joined the fear
And you raged and railed
Labelled me capricious and cruel
As if I shared your small momentary passions
I yawned and stretched and flexed some more
And kept on
Not because I want to teach you a lesson
Remind you
Of your often graceless impertinence
Or your soft and short term impermanence
Simply because it is what I do
Periodically
That my upheavals trace your vulnerabilities
And place them in a vast universal frame
Should serve simply to remind you
That your rhymes and your reasons
Are no match for my times and my seasons
I was I am I will be
Well after your days are no longer numbered

Thursday, 16 February 2012

And still in the Ureweras.....

I wrote this back in 2007 and tucked it away in a file. With the trial of the Urewera Four going on I thought it deserved an airing.

Masked, heavily-armed paramilitaries patrolling the Ureweras - it's enough to give one nightmares. In the last couple of decades, similar groups have appeared in almost every country around the world. They're extremely powerful, well-resourced and able to operate at every level of society. They're equipped with the latest in high-tech automatic weaponry, personal armour and communications devices. In appearance, equipment, training methods and ethos they owe more to foreign than to domestic influences.

They are the paramilitary branch of the New Zealand police service.

I don't doubt that a small group of people, fired up by real and imagined grievances, had been dressing up as guerrillas and plotting the downfall of those they see as their oppressors. Very likely it was a good thing they were stopped - for their own good at least.

But, in the political nightmare stakes, those black-clad, anonymous, heavily-armed computer game look-alikes win - hands down.

I recall the images of the police at Orgreave during the UK Miners Strike in the 1980s. Masked, minus their police numbers, brought in from outside the communities they were policing, earning vast amounts of overtime, mocking the striking miners by waving their pay slips at them, they lined up in formation, banging their batons on riot shields before parting to allow the police horses to charge the strikers. Prior to Orgreave, horses were usually used for crowd control and never aggressively and that was not the only seminal change in police tactics.

This was not in response to an external threat, to the spectres of communism or terrorism. It was a calculated use of one part of the armed wing of the State against citizens who were simply fighting for their jobs. Looking back at footage of that time it still seems unreal and it marked a turning point in the way the UK police organised, equipped and trained.

These days the armed units of the police in democracies like ours look exactly like the police always looked in the worst dictatorships. We've got so used to these faceless, black-clad paramilitaries on American TV shows, we've accepted the importation of their style, ethos and methodology without question.

No-one is seriously going to argue that there is a real terrorist threat here but, there are people who want us to believe there could be and they need to nip any emergent threat in the bud. Actually, they want to use political fringe groups to justify the existing hardware, to practise using it and to argue for the funding for more.

Sensible people in the UK have looked on in horror as a Labour government has presided over an erosion of seemingly inviolable rights. Some Americans are slowly waking up to how much of their constitutional rights have been removed. We are seeing a shift in legislative powers and the way the police operate here in NZ.

We have become inured to the fact that we live in a virtual panopticon – which allows the domestic State and its apparatus to intrude into our lives to an unprecedented degree. This comes perilously close to being the stuff of conspiracy theorists but, anyone who thinks that the forces which control the world's economy and the political structures which support that control are benign and have the best interests of ordinary people at heart, is deluded.

The power of even the NZ State, relative to the power of a tiny disparate group of citzens, is immeasurable. Tame Iti may behave histrionically; spitting and snotting at people nd shooting flags are not the actions of a man of intellect, but at least he shows his utterly distinctive face. He's open and honest about his intentions, we all know exactly what his agenda is – and we we all know that his ability to impose it on the rest of us is limited – at best.

Can we say that about the paramilitary wing of the Police? How much do we know about its organisation, its ideology and agenda? A lot less than we know about Tame Iti.

The Ureweras are symbolic in many ways. They were the last stronghold of Maori resistance; Maori who lived there were punished for that resistance. This police action will create martyrs to an old cause.

It is interesting that this has happened in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a disturbed man in Christchurch, which has resurrected the debates about the shooting of Stephen Wallace, and the keystone cops effort in Rotorua. And of course it comes at a time of changes in legislation to grant increased state power in the name of countering terrorism. How convenient that the police should find an armed group with alleged terrorist links. What better way to justify the laws and have a practise with their new toys?

A day in the Ureweras....

The trial of the Urewera Four is made all the more fascinating by the on/off appearances in the saga of one Jamie Beattie Lockett who was described in the Herald on Sunday on Oct 21st 2007 as a ‘self-styled activist’ when he was arrested on fire arms charges after the Urewera raids.

This is the same Jamie Lockett whose fire arms charged were dropped in October 2008 and who was arrested again last October for trying to take a weapon into court. And the same Jamie Lockett who the NZ Herald in October 2003 described as a 'self-described hard man' and as the 'former "minder"' of one Mark Lyons.

Seems that you just can’t keep a good activist/hardman/minder down.

Lockett the hard man claimed to have been beaten up while in prison in 2003 and interestingly Lockett the activist also claimed to have been beaten up in Mount Eden after his firearms arrest. We await to hear if he gets beaten up again while on remand for trying to sneak a bit of rope with a metal ball on one end into court.

Photos of Lockett the activist in court after the Urewera arrest, peering over the top of his reading glasses made him look rather more like a slightly bemused school teacher, than a hard nosed minder/mercenary.

Police allegations that Lockett the activist claimed to be 'a vicious, dangerous commando' who is 'declaring war on this country', and who said that 'white men are going to die in this country' were used to justify denying him bail.

Those statements seemed highly dramatic at the time and in light of his subsequent discharge on the firearms charges, they clearly entered the realms of the wildly melodramatic.

A Melbourne acquaintance, in an e-mail to ACT party member's Trevor Loudon's blog, said of Lockett, "Over the years Jamie has used his size and body strength as a business tool for many business ventures which a vast number of society dont know or understand. Including that of debt collecting and tracing people who "skip out" of making financial payments for debts owed. He later beacame a body guard and "minder" as is referred too for high profile business people who for reasons of there own find the need for personal protection." (Original spelling and grammar)

The question that fascinates me is, why was Lockett the activitst / hard man / minder in the Ureweras? Was it for ideological, personal or financial reasons - or a mixture of all three?

How someone like Lockett ended up in the mists of the Ureweras with someone like Tame Iti, is as compelling an area of speculation as how such a vicious, dangerous commando kept getting duffed up in prison.

So, is he a real and serious threat to NZ's internal security, or a Walter Mittyish man approaching late middle age who was variously a body guard, debt collector and self-styled enforcer who found a niche for himself in indigenous politics? Or his just an anti-police exhibitionist - and do I really care?

I must say, it does rather spice up the Urewera affair, especially if we bring Lockett's former boss into the picture.

NOT that I'm suggesting Mark Lyon, bless his silk socks, had anything to do with the Urewera affair but, when researching Lockett the activist/debt collector/minder, I was reminded of this playboy, drug user and general all-round waste of space.

This product of privilege in 2003 pleaded not guilty in the Auckland District Court on explosives, arms and drugs offences. He also denied assaulting a policeman, threatening to kill a policeman, theft, dangerous driving and assault.

In February 2004, Justice Phil Recordon warned Lyon it was his last chance to avoid jail when sentencing him for unlawfully possessing weapons. Despite Lyon's history and the prosecution's request for a jail term, the Judge refused to send him to prison and instead sentenced him to 280 hours of community service.

If the community service was as arduous as the time he spent in the Cook Islands 'resting' while on bail, Lyon wouldn’t have had a hard time of it.

Lyon had previously been fined for exporting drugs, using threatening language, possessing drugs utensils, driving offences and refusing to supply a blood sample. He'd been supported in previous legal battles by his father, prominent retired businessman and former Watties chief, Cliff Lyon.

You could be forgiven for asking what more Lyon Jnr needed to do to get jail time. If I was a cynic I'd think that being poor and / or brown would probably have done the trick.

Meanwhile back in 2012 I hope that we are all watching the trial of the ‘enemies within’ with great interest.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Yahoos on Yahoo!

I often wonder to what extent the public’s comments on news portals represent the views of New Zealanders. The old Telecom Xtra website used to have message boards which crawled with bigots happily disgorging their creepy views. The boards became so extreme that they were closed, but not before the lead up to the 2008 election when many of the anti-Helen Clark posts plumbed the depths of personalised viciousness.

Now named Yahoo! NZ, the site allows people to make brief comments under certain news items. I recently had a dig at the editorial staff for publishing a story they had dug up out of the Daily Mail about a young UK mother who'd been jailed for leaving her 6 year daughter alone for 5 days. They also published her photo and permitted comments on the story. On cue, the racists shuffled out to post their vile views.

Granted, this was an appalling thing for a parent to do, but why did YahooNZ choose to run and headline that particular story? Of all the stories in the world about child abuse, why print that one? Why print the photo and why allow comments on it? Seems to me they are either remarkably slack or there's a more sinister political motivation. Either way - it's crap journalism.

But what do I expect - I read a story in which the churno wrote ' I would of done....'

Because I'm a tad obsessive I’ve been collecting some of the kiwi Yahooisms – for posterity. I thought long and hard about giving bigots any further opportunities to air their disagreeable views but I decided that decent Kiwis need to know what’s lurking in their midst. So here’s a small sample of some of the more objectionable - the spelling and grammar are original.

One person, who I shall assume is male, gave himself the moniker ‘Paul henry 4 primeminista’. He eptitomises the really creepy, slightly unhinged element. Evidence of the intellect driving this voice of extreme rightwing battiness was his question -‘does Russia even exist anymoe?
Goaded into completely releasing his tenuous grip on reason by another poster, he wrote “ clearly you are a fat communist pig. no I'm not english you idiot. have you considered hanging yourself clearly overdosing yourself on cream buns isn't working.”
This was followed by, “I'd put my fist in your fat communist face if the cream bun wasn't in the way hahahahaha”
When the target of his splenetic fury asked what made him think s/he was fat he delivered what he clearly thought was the coup de grace, “skinny, hairy armpitted, goggle eyed commie scum with a smelly minge perhaps??? one or the other. thats the usual trait of red scum.”

The fact that there is no real editorial control and that people are allowed to hide behind pseudonyms, encourages these gonzos to dispense with all normal social conventions. Commonsense and eloquence drive them into a frenzy, but the vitriol that’s unleashed on any one suspected of being left wing and/or a person of colour is sometimes disturbing.

Paul henry 4 primeminista clearly has a thing about leftwingers–and Jews. Not even the PM was exempt. “John Key is just another lying jew.”...”Adolf Hitler wouldn't trade with john key.. jk is jewish. jk would be off to the showers and our country would be sweet. too bad the holocaust was just another jewish lie.”

Now this would be bad enough if it was just one sad cyberonanist but the ugly underbelly was on full display in reaction to the story about Maori academic Margaret Mutu's observations on a study about Maori views on immigration. Again, spelling and grammar are original:

“… Maori (part Maori) are the most pathetic incapable people on the whole earth - propped up by others and complaining every step of the way - would the world even notice if every last one was to dissapear.”
“Mutu should be thankfull for white immigants. 200 years of white inbreeding with her race has at least raised maori IQ to a now measurable level”
“This racist cow has got it all wrong. Has she never heard of Hone Harawira? Also, she is wrong to say that whites bring with them racist attitudes. They don't. Any move towards being racist by an immigrant comes about because of pronouncements like this nutter's and after being met almost daily with Maori overt racism, physical aggression, intimidation, theiving, work shy attitudes and general anti social feral behaviour together.”
“What sickens me is that "it" will get away with the comment only because "it" is not European. The most destructive immigrants are those third-world races, the whites will build and innovate but sadly the others remain backward - ever seen a black invent a car. aeroplane, fly to the moon? When will these halfbreeds admit that the human blood we put into their gene pool has benefited them more than they have benefited us. Tell me what stone age, illiterate, cannibal Maori have given the civilised world. I expect a deathly hush!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Give these malcontents parts of northland in proportion to their numbers, fence off their portion and remove ALL human artifacts including clothing...”
“To all the white people, please spare a thought for moari people, They come home and look into a mirror and all the see is an ugly black face, and same the next day , and the same next day the same, etc Shame it must be terrible”
“mutu wanabanana - she da smart monkey learn to take the skin off - but want to keep NZ dumb for the interest of her race = racist little mutu maori”
“YES she should be sacked just another Maori racist bludger.”

If these comments were atypical it would be bad enough, but on that particular thread they were in the majority. Is it just the case that a disproportionate number of unhinged bigots have the time and opportunity to post this sort of vileness on the internet? Or does NZ have an especially large number of sufferers of that increasingly common condition, spina erectus - popularly known as ‘getting your back up’?

Anyone who has studied this condition – as I have - will know that SE results in a reduction of blood flow to the prefrontal cortex and a rush of blood to the amygdala. As a result, those in its grip cannot be reasoned with nor can they exercise normal social control. (The fact that this primitive behaviour is being given expression via the internet is a wonderful irony.)

Whilst some leftist or brown people get drawn into a mud-slinging contest with the bigots, it’s almost always defensive. Put simply, they seldom start it.

No matter how extreme and vile the comments become, the people expressing them seem to have convinced themselves that they are justified because of the ‘racism’ of Maori like Mutu and Harawira. Underlying this is the belief that racism is a natural human characteristic – ie life really is nasty and brutish, albeit no longer as short, well, not for the affluent of the world at least.

That some Maori demonstrate ‘racial’ prejudice cannot be disputed and no-one can seriously claim that only white people have the capacity to be prejudiced. But, if we apply the term racism to any and all prejudiced conduct we risk emptying it of political meaning. And if we don’t engage with that political meaning – we will never learn the lessons of history and will be doomed to repeating its mistakes.

To understand ‘racism’ you have to understand the power that gave rise to it, legitimated and perpetuated it. It was Europeans who attempted to scientifically classify humans into sub-races. This became entangled with beliefs about innate predispositions of the different groups with the most desirable characteristics being attributed to white people - and the least desirable to black people. The ideology of race was developed and fine-tuned by Europeans and it was used to justify the gross exploitation of people of colour – most brutally through the mechanisms of the Atlantic slave trade and early colonisation.

Anyone who fails to acknowledge that there is such a thing as ‘white flight’ from countries like the US, UK, SA and Zimbabwe and that NZ receives a significant number of such migrants, is either being disingenuous or has a political agenda.

Why on earth would anyone be surprised that Maori would be concerned or that a Maori academic would comment on it? I'm not Maori and I am concerned about it.

Margaret Mutu responded to her critics by pointing out that racism is not just being prejudiced against others because of their ethnicity, it’s having the political, economic and martial authority and power to act on those prejudices to the others’ detriment.

Those who vilify Maori need to face the simple and incontestable fact that the tangata whenua suffered grave injustices as a result of European colonization. If we use the more evolved parts of our brain to analyse the current demographics of the Maori population, we have to acknowledge that they still do.

It’s true that Maori have also benefited from colonisation but Pakeha on the whole still get the bigger share of the benefits, and they remain in the great majority. There is no credible threat to Pakeha historical or contemporary hegemony.

NZ is happy to trundle Maori culture out when it suits but let Maori refuse to go back into the cupboard, let them assert actual sovereignty or express concern about the threat which white immigration might pose to it and the voice of reason is drowned by the howls of outrage.

The fact is that we live with a huge shame – which is not solely of Pakeha’s making, Maori leaders also carry some responsibility - the grossly disproportionate rates of Maori incarceration, infant mortality, unemployment, child poverty, child abuse and a significantly lower life expectancy.

Those in the grip of full-blown spina erectus are unlikely to accept there is any explanation for this other than most Maori being self-inducted members of a feckless or feral underclass.
So it falls to those of us with fully functioning prefrontal cortexes to do something about it.

Perhaps Yahoo NZ could set an example and take responsibility for the means by which their namesakes are able to give expression to their boorishness.

Making it obligatory for people to use their real names might be a good starting point.

So come on Telecom – not only is your service pretty poor and your prices too high – your news portal is embarrassing.

Bring back corporal punishment ....

Minutes of the Working Party on Defining Smacking as Part of Good Parenting

The following propositions were agreed almost unanimously.

1. Smacking is a vital part of the good parenting repertoire.

2. The Working Party deplores emotive terms such as walloping, thrashing, belting and beating which have been used by the liberal-left elite who oppose good parenting and are contributing to the demise of the nuclear family and western civilization as we know it.

3. Interference by the State in how parents raise their children is unwarranted except where there is harm to the child at which point the full force of the law should be brought to bear.

No agreement was reached on an amendment to Proposition 3 which sought to define and quantify 'harm'.

Ms LL wanted it minuted that judgments about 'harm' are made after the harm has been committed and, all too often, post mortem.

Mr SM wanted it minuted that he had no idea what that minute meant.

To help focus discussion, the Chairman tabled the following questions.

1. At what age is it acceptable for parents to start smacking their children?

It was agreed unanimously that it's unacceptable to smack an infant -which raised the issue of when a child ceases to be an infant.

A majority agreed that a child ceases to be an infant when it becomes a toddler so smacking should not be used until the child starts to walk.

There was a lively discussion about the differential robustness and physical coordination of toddlers and of gender differences.

Ms LL wanted it minuted that it is unacceptable to smack a child younger than 3.

Mr SM wanted it minuted that, as a child's character is formed by the age of 7, the earlier smacking is used, the better.

2. What age does it become unacceptable to smack?

This question resulted in another spirited debate. A consensus was hard to reach because the law is so inconsistent in defining where childhood ends.

Ms LL wanted it minuted that a child should not be smacked after reaching biological adulthood.

Mr SM wanted it minuted that children are reaching puberty earlier these days due to hormones in chicken and if they can't be smacked until they are 3 and their characters are formed by 7 and they reach puberty at 10 it's no wonder the world is going to hell in hand basket.

3. Is it acceptable to smack a disabled child?

As the group was unable to reach any sort of consensus on this, a Disability Sub-Group was formed to examine the question further.

4. Where on the body may a child be smacked?

It was agreed that it is acceptable to smack on the buttocks, the palm or back of the hand and the fleshy parts of the legs.

It is unacceptable to smack in the stomach or abdomen, the kidney region, genitals, head, soles of feet, toes, fingers, or on or near the spine.

Mr SM felt that a poster showing the acceptable and unacceptable smacking areas would be useful.

5. What may a child be smacked with?

It was initially agreed that only an open hand is acceptable. But the question was raised about corporal punishment in schools which some of the group want to see reintroduced.

Some felt that it was unacceptable for a teacher's bare hand to contact a child's skin so corporal punishment in schools would need to be administered by an implement. Mr SB suggested teachers could wear leather gloves.

Questions were raised about the sort of implement, the degree of force and where on the body. Some felt that this ceased to be a smack; others became agitated by the sexual connotations of adults applying straps and canes to children's bottoms so the subject was referred to the Reinstate Corporal Punishment in Schools Working Group.

6. How hard may a child be smacked?

It was agreed unanimously that too hard is unacceptable but not hard enough is ineffective.

Mr SM said he could see a need for a device that allows parents to measure the force of their smacks. This 'smackometer' would measure such things as angle and speed, the size of the hand, the adult's height and weight and the corresponding height and weight of child. He was asked to report back with more details.

7. Should the smack be administered at the point of the transgression or later?

This also resulted in a lengthy debate. Mr SM said that a mother dog would nip a pup immediately if it misbehaved. Ms LL retorted that she was not a bitch and it was wrong to smack in anger. Mr SM cited other examples from the natural world in support of his view. Ms LL responded with examples of animal behaviours which are not used as justification for human conduct.

It was agreed that a consensus would not be reached on this question and it was a matter for the individual to decide.

8. With what frequency may a child be smacked?

It was agreed that too frequent smacking was unacceptable but the group was unable to agree what constituted too frequent.

Mr SM wanted it minuted that there is doctrinal support for the regular use of corporal punishment especially before the age of 7.

9. Should children be smacked in public?

Some were of the opinion that as errant behaviour should be punished immediately, if the behaviour occurred in public the punishment would also be in public. This raised the issue of smacking when angry again. At this point Mr SM stormed out and the meeting was adjourned.

I'm all for capitalism ...

This article and a letter to the Editor were submitted to the Press but neither were published. I can't imagine why.


I have always assumed that the Christchurch Press Letter of the Week award went to a letter that impressed the editor with its insight, clarity, wit, pertinence etc. In other words one that was well written – as judged by quality journalistic standards.

I am therefore at a complete loss to explain the reasoning behind awarding Letter of the Week to an ahistorical, illogical, racist and foolish rant.  (http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/6073917/I-m-all-for-capitalism)

If a letter purports to refute the arguments in an article The Press has published, surely one of the criteria for being well written is that it actually addresses the article. But the writer just used it as a peg on which to hang his ignorant and offensive views.

To illustrate the benefits of the ‘flow down’ of industrial capitalism, the writer concocted the most polar opposite societies he could think of. Against the ‘sky scrapers of New York’, his washing machine, car and cell phone, organic salad and lattes, he painted a picture of 'primitive creatures' who live in mud huts on the Niger Delta ‘raping and pillaging each other’ and mutilating women and little girls.

It’s hard to know where to begin responding to such a daft letter and the notions that gave rise to it (I hesitate to grant them the status of beliefs) but – let me at least comment on what offended me the most - its ahistoricism and racial stereotyping.

The writer, D McFarland, declared himself a supporter of laissez-faire capitalism but avoided the fact that laissez-faire capitalism has never actually existed, and the closer a country (or the world) gets to it, the more chaotic the system becomes.

Pure laissez-faire capitalism has never existed for the very simple reason that it doesn’t work. Like the notion of the ‘invisible hand of the market ‘– it’s just bafflegab – an ideological justification of the notion that efficient and effective economic self-organization will automatically flow from unfettered economic self-interest.

We’ve seen recently where partly fettered economic self-interest leads – and we are now all paying for it – literally and figuratively.

As a fan of laissez-faire capitalism I’m sure McFarland would agree with The Economist, which, as the mouthpiece for laissez-faire capitalism in the mid 19th century, argued against the government food aid to the starving Irish during the famine of 1846-49 on the grounds that it would ‘violate natural law’.

I can pretty much guarantee he wouldn’t acknowledge the historical fact of the tens of millions of others who died as a result of the disease, famines and droughts that were directly caused or exacerbated by the free market ideology of the late 19th century. I doubt he’d be concerned about the 45 million Americans who currently live in poverty, or the 100,000 New Yorkers who are homeless in the shadows of those skyscrapers, including almost 20,000 children. Or the fact that an estimated 1 in 3 British kids and 1 in 5 Kiwi kids lives in poverty. I think it’s safe to assume that he hasn’t even thought about the role that the 21st century’s stinking slums and sweatshops play in underpinning his relative prosperity. And I’m certain he has not faced up to that fact that the lifestyle he currently enjoys could slip from his grasp as quickly as the fishing and agricultural lifestyle of the peoples of the 9 states of the Niger Delta was ripped from their grasp by – oh, yes - those protectors of the people and the environment, the oil companies Shell and Chevron - aided and abetted by local sociopaths, as is always the case.

For anyone interested in the planet, the gas flares in the Niger Delta are reckoned to be the world’s single biggest contributor to greenhouse gases – which is a ‘flow down’ that affects us all and may put McFarland’s concerns about cell phones, salads and washing machines firmly in their place.

History tells us that neither ethics nor equity will enter the capitalist market equation unless people wrest the means, both to achieve them and to protect them, out of capitalism’s tight fist.

McFarland and people like him clearly don’t realize it – but they owe most of what they value as much – and arguably more – to the people who fought for individual and collective freedoms and for fetters on the type of economic self-interest which leads to the sort of desperate situation that exists in places like the Niger Delta.

But it’s convenient to ignore or deny the role that Africa, via the slave trade and colonialism, played in the emergence and growth of capitalism. It’s acceptable to write out of history the ‘flow down from the Industrial revolution’ that Africa got which, for the most part was the other face of industrial capitalism – the extreme poverty, brutality and political instability that accompany the affluence and relative freedoms we (still) enjoy in the developed world.

I respect his right to his opinion but I have to say that I found McFarland’s particular opinion quite profoundly offensive and deeply depressing.