Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Free Lunches Cause Delinquency

A recent Campbell Live investigation showed kids at schools in poorer areas went without lunch far more often than those in wealthier suburbs.

Research by the Ministry of Health shows roughly 20 percent of Kiwi households with children run out of money for food.

BUT Aotearoa New Zealand's Conservative Party leader, the christian millionaire Colin Craig , has now been reported on TV3 News saying that there should be "no free lunches" for children sent to school without any lunch of their own.

He would clearly prefer they starve, I suppose.

What our mean, nasty Mr Craig reckons is that the research showing children that go without lunch don't learn as well is "missing the point". He would prefer the "delinquent" parents be charged the "cost of rectifying their bad behaviour" (thereby adding to the income stress I guess).

"The issue is not whether lunchlessness is detrimental to learning," he says. "Rather the issue is a parents’ duty to provide for their children." Goodoh.

Furthermore the very rich Mr Colin Craig believes providing lunches in schools will encourage "delinquent behaviour"! Really! Oh I see, he means the evil, poor parents' delinquent behaviour, not the children.

"While free lunches sound appealing," he says, "they are actually a way by which the Government enables the continuation of delinquent parenting. Such proposals are an unwitting, well meaning, but destructive response."

Twenty percent of our nation's households are, therefore, according to him delinquent. I don't think so, Mr Craig. Rather they just don't have enough money. By the time they attempt to pay their skyrocketing rents and drip-feed the skyrocketing powerbills from their ever-diminishing wage packets and under-subsistence benefits, what happens is that there just isn't enough money for food.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What I Did on Saturday

I didn't know these pictures were being taken. It was John Kelcher who was taking them; he is our Waimakariri spokesperson for the Green Party and stood as a candidate in the last election.

We (me with the old lady white hair) are at the Agricultural & Pastoral (A&P) Show at Rangiora on Saturday just gone with Keep Our Assets petitions, anti-fracking postcards (for people to take and post to politicians), Green Party and Anti-Fracking merchandise, and Green Party bookmarks and Green Party balloons to give away. Everything was being held down by wee rocks because there was a bit of a gusty nor-wester blowing.

I'm in exalted company right now chatting with Eugenie Sage, Christchurch-based Green Party MP, who had come out with us and was walking amongst the crowds helping getting petitions signed. This is the second time now, that she has come out with us and it is lovely having her because she is such a genuinely nice person and so very knowledgeable. I was very impressed watching her field from a variety of people on anything from decriminalising marijuana to (unsurprisingly) the Asset Sales programme and what the Green Party think are better economic alternatives.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Working Class Heritage

This is a repost from Multiply. It was originally an album post so I've had to edit the pictures pretty drastically. 

Lane Walker Rudkin

Yesterday, while in Christchurch for appointments, we found ourselves in the Sydenham/Addington area near to Lane Walker Rudkin (LWR). LWR is/was a very old clothing manufactory in Christchurch. In days past, while more educated girls were funneled into becoming teachers or nurses (suitable occupations for young girls before they married and had children of course), working class girls were funneled into shop work or became machinists in clothing factories. LWR was probably one of the largest employers of young girls and women in Christchurch.

I left school at 15 and went the shop girl route at Beaths Department store in the city centre but years later, from around 1989 to 1992, I did my stint at LWR. In the time I was there LWR was making the Canterbury brands, Adidas, Jockey etc among many other things. I worked in the Jockey part, sewing on crutches on jockeys for about 6 months and then attaching neckbands to T-shirts for the rest of my time there.

I was working here when the Employment Contracts Act (1990) was brought in by the far right wing National government who (having pledged to be nicer than the last lot) went to even further extremes to make low income working peoples' lives a nightmare. The Employment Contracts Act effectively broke unions and took away national awards, thereby driving down people's wages. This was made easier by the fact that the National Government had already cut benefit rates.

Our Jockey department was called to a meeting by our flash manager who had never ever bothered to learn any of our names - in fact he normally never spoke to us at all. He passed by us with his nose in the air. However this day, he was all affable. This day he was all set to explain to us the greatness of the new Employment Contracts Act (1990) legislation, which he said was the most far-reaching legislation since Richard John Seddon's (King Dick) employment laws of 1894. We are apparently supposed to be awed by this, I think, he clearly was as he stood there before us in his flash designer suit. The tie he was wearing probably cost a fortnight's wages for a machinist.

Richard Seddon's 1894 legislation, for those who care, outlawed all strike action by workers, their only form of power, instead allowing all boss/worker disputes to be settled by an Arbitration Court. Sounds okay until you realise that the Arbitration Court almost never ruled in favour of the workers. Well heck, they were all bosses too, weren't they.

The LWR group was bought by businessman Ken Anderson in 2001. LWR was placed into receivership in April of 2009 and the Christchurch operation was closed in November of 2009. I am not sure what the extensive old buildings have been used for since but on the 22nd of February 2011 they were clearly hit hard.

Don't be misled into thinking I am feeling particularly sad about this. LWR was not a nice place to work and I was very glad to leave.

Someone said that nature clearly doesn't like red bricks and is determinedly working hard to rid Christchurch of all the offending bricks. Many old red brick buildings (like LWR) have had their red bricks painted over but nature/earthquakes will still find them out.

Note: 18/10/2012 LWR has since been totally demolished.

Burke Street/Ruskin Street

We turned the corner from Montreal Street into Burke Street and entered a different world. No obvious major 'quake damage here although there were some windows with cracked glass. Forget the big buildings everyone is discussing - should they be demolished or not - what about the Christchurch historic heritage - here is workers historic heritage - still here and still dynamic and beautiful as well - a juxtaposition of miniature housing dating from the Victorian Age (one imagines thin bowed women in rollers and raincoats heading to the factory to work long hours on the sewing machines) side by side with newer housing dating up to the present day. All small, all with a tale to tell.

Under the towering eucalyptus tree we found this wee cottage (you can only see the roof) with an equally tiny "caravansei" in the front garden. It has to be an artist who lives here. Whoever it is they seem to be following an African/Arabian theme - the custom-made gate has centered on it and a window of the cottage features camels (not showing on pic, sorry). Note also the birds (flamingos?) cut out from the corrugated iron fence.

Remember that song, "Little Boxes". It must have been written for this wee house which hopefully has seen better days.

Over the road, this sweet little cottage, like something out of a story book I think. Still small in scale like the other cottages on the street but seems to have captured a bit more land, and a clever gardener has made the most of this, giving the impression of sweeping lawns within mature trees and shrubbery.

Pure Kiwi Victoriana. The car and trailer show clearly the small size of this wee cottage, the colour of which made me think of sunshine and apricots and oranges.

We came to a public space with a pathway leading from Burke Street through to Ruskin Street, a street of similar scale. Native grasses, dry creek bed which probably acts as a drain/soak pit when it rains and very solid wooden seating. Plus kiddies play area. Nice.

 A stone tablet informed us that we had stumbled onto something called the Literary Streets Heritage Trail (we later discovered that this had been in development prior to the earthquakes). Passionflowers featured on the tablet were to be a theme of the walk and are a link back to the old Addington Cemetery.

 Not a very good picture, really I just took it to remind me of the information. (As you do). And until this moment I hadn't heard of John Ruskin. There was a statue of John Ruskin but I didn't get a picture of that, just this old plaque. Anyway the plaque tells (because I am not sure if you will be able to read it on the picture) that John Ruskin was a pre-eminent critic of Victorian art and society. His philosophy expressed an extreme love of truth which prevailed over beauty, and through which, he saw, the decline of art as part of a general cultural crisis.

Therefore, in the face of the Industrial Revolution (I'm finding all this quite relevant on a small working class working street) his book, "Stones of Venice", (1853), was a warning to modern Britain. To Ruskin, the Gothic style (how fitting for Christchurch which, until now, has had so much Gothic-style architecture) possessed an inner moral quality that represented a finer, more upright society and means of production. It permitted freedom, individuality and spontaneity among workers, exposing the beauty of beauty and truth withing Nature and God. He compared the Gothic style to the Renaissance style of soulless factories (where we started from with LWR) of mechanical production and division of labour. These denied workers the spiritual element of creation by estranging the producer from the products of their hands, thereby enslaving the worker.

After all that, something pretty down Ruskin Street.

 We met this nice old bloke who was raking up leaves from his front lawn. He told me a friend had made him this butterfly one time. His house had just a few cracks (note the masking tape on the window pane) and of course he had lost his chimney but the powers that be were bringing him a heatpump sometime soon.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Being Poor in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs. 
Being poor is getting angry at your children for asking for all the crap they see on TV. 
Being poor is buying an $800 car because it’s what you can afford, and then having the car break down on you, because there is not an $800 car in New Zealand that is worth a damn. 
Being poor is hoping your toothache goes away. 
Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours. 
Being poor is going to the toilet at school so you’re last to go get your lunch box and no-one wants to swap their lunch food with you anyway. 
Being poor is living next to the motorway. 
Being poor is living under power pylons. 
Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last. 
Being poor is wondering if your well-off brother is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help. Being poor is pre-owned toys. 
Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house. 
Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt. 
Being poor is stealing meat from the shops, frying it up before your Mum gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway. 
Being poor is Salvation Army underwear. 
Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you. Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your Salvation Army bought shoes when you run around the playground. 
Being poor is your kid’s school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning. 
Being poor is thinking $10.80 an hour is a really good wage. 
Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you. 
Being poor is working an overnight shift under florescent lights. 
Being poor is finding the letter your Mum wrote to your Dad begging him for the child support. 
Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw. 
Being poor is believing passing a WINZ Training Course actually makes a bit of difference. 
Being poor is people being angry at you just for walking around in the local shopping mall. 
Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your pre-school children. Being poor is the police bursting into the house right next to yours. 
Being poor is not talking to that girl because she’ll probably just laugh at your clothes. 
Being poor is hoping you’ll be invited to someone’s home for dinner. 
Being poor is a footpath with lots of brown glass on it. 
Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk. 
Being poor is needing that 35cent raise. 
Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home. 
Being poor is six dollars short on the power bill and no way to close the gap. 
Being poor is crying when you drop the MacDonald’s Cheeseburger on the floor. 
Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone anywhere and people still call you a bludger. 
Being poor is people being surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid. 
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy. 
Being poor is a six-hour wait in the hospital emergency waiting room with a sick child asleep on your lap. Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t already owned. 
Being poor is picking the 10xpack of two minute noodles instead of the single pack because there is two free packages in the 10xpack. 
Being poor is having to live your life with choices you didn’t realise you’d made when you were 14 years old. 
Being poor is getting tired of people expecting you to be grateful. 
Being poor is knowing you’re being judged. 
Being poor getting is a box of crayons and a $1 colouring book from a community centre Santa. 
Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every drink machine as you walk by. 
Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on a roof over your head. 
Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won’t listen to you begging them against doing so. 
Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away. 
Being poor is getting a $200 pay cheque advance from a company that then takes $250 when the pay cheque comes in. 
Being poor is a lumpy futon bed. 
Being poor is knowing where the nearest shelter is. 
Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you would choose to live like that. 
Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor. 
Being poor is seeing how few life options you really have. 
Being poor is running in place. 
Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.

Polynesian Navigators

This book was one of my main resources when I first wrote about Polynesian navigation on the now-defunct Multiply site. The information about the picture of the coconut sextant and description of how it was used came directly from this book. I was, and remain, absolutely fascinated by the navigational and exploration skills of the people we now know as Polynesian, and the tools they used. On Multiply this all became a three part blog plus the book review; what is posted here is severely edited, selected highlights.

In the above book Tom Davis tells of his childhood in Rarotonga, about his education in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and how he became the first Cook Islander to qualify as a doctor; how he then returned as a "Doctor to the Islands" (the title of his first book) in 1945; and how he became the first Cook Islander to attend Harvard University, arriving there in a typically Tom Davis way - by sailing his small yacht from New Zealand to the USA. He headed medical programmes in Alaska and the Himalayas, managed medical research for a US consulting firm, qualified as a space surgeon and had a leading role in developing the US space programme.

In 1971 he returned to the Cook Islands where he became involved in politics and was Prime Minister there from 1978 - 1987. He was awarded the Order of Merit of Germany in 1979 and knighted by the Queen of England in 1980. Sir Tom expresses his views clearly, and admits what he failed to achieve or wished he had done differently. His power of description, as in handling a ship in a storm, is tremendous. In later life he also wrote a couple of books (including the one pictured above, obviously), coached a Cook Islands boxing team, and built an ocean-going canoe/waka.

"A navigator," said Tom Davis (Pa Tuterangi Ariki), "is travelling in an upside-down bowl of the sky sitting on the sea. It is full of clues as to the direction and the maintenance of that direction. The (modern) compass has blinded most of us to their existence and how they may be used."

 Polynesian Navigating Tohunga often would use a a sextant (titiro etu) made from a coconut shell cut across at a slanting angle with a hole at the low end, and a notch at the top end, and a number of holes encircling it. These sat above a wavy line representing the ocean and underneath an arch of ten stars evenly spaced. The coconut shell was filled with seawater to the ring of the holes. Coconut oil was used to preserve the surface tension of the seawater and, (within reason), to prevent leakage from the ring of holes.

Tom Davis spent some time in working out just how one of these was actually used. It turned out that the gourd instrument performed as a "Star Latitude Sailing method to "run down" one's destination, which is the same as a Sun Latitude Sailing method. One did not need a chronometer, nor did one need a declination table because all star declinations are fixed... All one has to know is that a particular altitude of star obtained by the titiro etu put's one's canoe on the same east west track as one's destination. Keep the canoe on that track and one will run into one's destination" (Tom Davis).

So "what we have" (writes Sir Tom), "is an artificial horizon built into the instrument, just like a bubble sextant. Now peek through the eye hole to the object hole or notch higher up and on the other side of the instrument. Wiggle the instrument around until one sees the star in the object hole. Follow it by intermittent sightings as it ascends until it reaches it's highest point...

Now look at the status of the artificial horizon. In this example, both the the destination and the reference star are to the north. If the seawater of the artificial horizon is above that of the ring of holes directly under the object hole, the canoe has not yet reached a point directly east (or west as the case may be) and one must continue one's course. Alternatively, if the star is below the object hole when the sea water is in line with all the holes, we also have not reached the latitude of our destination.

When the star is in the object aperture and the water of the artificial horizon is in line with all the holes of the ring of holes, one has reached that point where the canoe can be aimed directly east (or west...) and the destination can be 'run down

Europeans are used to text and to drawings, such as those that are used in our own maps and navigation charts, thus most people influenced by European symbols and a pen-on-paper written tradition, would probably fail to recognise the object pictured as a navigation chart.

This particular navigation chart is a replica from the Marshall Islands. Cowrie shells represented the relative positions of islands, while curved and diagonal sticks showed swell and wave patterns. Today, these objects are mainly sold as tourist souvenirs, but these ancient navigation aids were once vital for island hopping between the one thousand and more islands that make up the Marshalls group. The charts were not carried on board, but were meant to be memorised. They were also used to record collective knowledge and were useful in training young navigators.

The origins of the peoples of the Pacific can be traced back to the landmass we now know as mainland Asia. The migrations of Polynesian peoples are particularly impressive considering that the islands that were settled by them are spread out over great distances. The Pacific Ocean covers nearly a half of the Earth's surface area. Within a few centuries between about 1500 and 900 BC, the Lapita culture spread 6000km further to the east from the Bismarck Archipelago, until it reached as far as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. It is in this region that the distinctive Polynesian culture was developed.

Then from about 300 CE, this developing and restlessly moving Polynesian people spread out from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to the Cook Islands, Tahiti, the Tuamotus and the Marquesas Islands. Sometime between 300 and 1200 CE the Polynesians then discovered and settled on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). This is supported by archaeological evidence as well as the introduction of flora and fauna consistent with the Polynesian culture and characteristic of the tropics to this subtropical island. Around 500 CE Hawai’i was settled by the Polynesians and around 800 - 1000 CE Polynesian people travelled to and settled in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Polynesian double-hulled Waka: The addition of sails to Polynesian vessels gave more power and allowed them to travel faster and further than with paddles. Two hulls gave stability and seaworthiness. This sketch of a double-hulled vessel was made by Abel Tasman in his journal while at Tongatapu in 1643.

In fact Polynesian sailors could sail rings around the sailing ships of exploring captains, Tasman and Cook. Waka were just so much faster and more efficient. In Anne Salmond's "The Trial of The Cannibal Dog" she describes how waka guiding Cook's vessels had to keep slowing down so that Cook and crew wouldn't get left behind.  Ocean-going waka could be stocked with provisions, laden with cargo, and carry up to one hundred passengers: they were ships in their own right.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Keep Him Out

I've been watching this issue unfold since it was first announced by the publicity and promotions company Markson Sparks! that they were bringing World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Mike Tyson, to Australia and New Zealand in November 2012 to speak about his life. Tyson is reported to have said, "I'm so excited to be visiting Australia and New Zealand for the first time. I have lots of friends there and look forward to meeting all my fans."

Sorry Mr Tyson but lots of people don't like you. Or what you stand for.

Normally convicted rapists wouldn't get a visa into Aotearoa/New Zealand but National MP for Waimakariri, Kate Wilkinson, had decided to allow for a dispensation for Tyson, but this dispensation was revoked on the 3rd of October after the youth charity which originally backed his appearance at the Auckland event no longer wanted to have anything to do with the visit. The promoters [apparently determined to inflict us with this unrepentant rapist] applied for a new visa after a second community group, the Manakau Urban Authority, said it would support the application in exchange for him talking to at-risk youth.

I'm fascinated (in a horrified way) with this take on Mike Tyson by one Michael Woods who writes, "he has done the emotional and spiritual reconstruction to the extent that his misdeeds are now seen as the missteps of wayward youth ... a time period which perhaps lasted a decade or two longer than the average tenure as a teen troublemaker."

Rape described as a misstep of wayward youth? Really? I would think describing rape as an act of brutal violence a more realistic appraisal.

I think Metiria Turei (co-leader of the Greens Party) states the position perfectly for New Zealand women. She says, "When Maori men endorse an unrepentant rapist like Mike Tyson, it hurts women. [Former Labour MP] John [Tamihere] and [Urban Maori Authority] Willie [Jackson] should be standing up for their sisters, mothers, and daughters and fighting to keep Tyson out. Tyson has repeatedly denied the rape he was convicted of in 1992 and continued to reveal hateful, misogynistic views about women. As recently as two months ago Tyson spoke about calling his one man show, which supposedly details how he has turned his life around, Boxing, Bitches and Lawsuits. He has joked about Sarah Palin being raped." Turei further argues, "When Maori male leaders tell young Maori that men like Tyson are role models it puts young Maori men, and the women they care about at risk. One in four women suffer sexual abuse and Maori women are even more at risk. John and Willie should be standing up for their sisters, mothers, and daughters and fighting to keep Tyson out. The Green Party believes in restorative justice, the ability for offenders to acknowledge the harm they have done and turn their lives around [but] Tyson has repeatedly denied the rape he was convicted of and reveals himself as an angry, violent man."

I'd like to make these points.

There are a lot of people out there in the world who do bad things to to other people, get convicted, and then get rehabilitated. I get that. I believe in rehabilitation. Most of the time I don't think enough is done to rehabilitate prisoners. But let's get just the rules clear. Mike Tyson got a dispensation purely because he is famous. Metiria Turei's statement makes it very clear that the jury should still be out on whether Mike Tyson is truly rehabilitated and repentant. It doesn't sound like it.

Another thing. I am quite sure we have plenty of rehabilitated criminals in our own country without bring some other country's rapist in. To motivate our youth. Words fail ...

Oh and by the way, Tickets to attend this awesome motivational speechifying from Mike Tyson were going to cos $69NZ. So our wayward Kiwi youth were going to have to have plenty of dollars to spare had this ridiculous charade gone ahead. Which it isn't, thank goodness. The second visa application has been denied.