Saturday, 21 October 2017

Sunday Morning Sermon

Life has never been a place of continuous happiness or continuous joy. Anybody who expects that is a fool. But we cannot ask our babies before they are conceived if they wish to live or not. Therefore any decision made can only be the decision of the parents, or made without choice if there is no access to contraception. 

To force children to live in a world of starvation and misery, war, and horror is not the choice of most parents, rather political decisions made by evil leaders of theirs or another country, or by the evil, unequal, capitalist based distribution systems in place globally. Even if your country is as socialist as is possible, it will still be affected by the global greeds and corruptions of the rest of the world. 

So parents bring, or not bring their children into the world due to their own desires. I desired children, and in the end I gave birth to five. Each one of them brought me so much joy, and I tried to give them the happiest lives within my power. I did not always succeed, things went wrong , like the breakup of my relationship, him using my children as pawns against me, never quite having enough money, stuff like that. But I always felt responsible, that having chosen to have these children, that I must give them the best start I could and teach them well. I believe I have succeeded in that to the best of my ability.

But I do have regrets. It first hit me, at the time of the Twin Towers, that I had brought my children into a human world that is inherently violent, against each other, against the planet, against the very earth that sustains us. For some years I struggled with the deepest depression, I still do. And my only way out from that, to find any hope at all, turned out to be joining the Green Party of Aotearoa, a political party which abhors war, embraces pacifism, cares for the earth and the people on it. Environment and social care are entertwined, a system that exploits one has the same attitude to the other. I and each of us, must bear responsiblity for the world we bring our children into. 

I also deeply believe that each one of us, now that we are here, are entitled to make our own decision about whether we wish to continue with our life. If our life is too much to bear, for whatever reason, we should be entitled to leave it. But only I can make that decision for me, only you can make that decision for you. Just because a person has disabilities does not mean their lives are too much to bear; a perfectly physically able person may have no joy in their life. It is arrogance that decides for another that their life is a nothing, Malthusianism at its most dangerous, it is this perspective that is morally wrong. 

I insist on everyone's right to live. I insist on everyone's right to choose the time of their death for whatever reason. And their right to bear or not bear children. But with every right comes responsibility. We are all responsible for the world we live in, and the children that live within it.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Speaking ill of Hugh Hefner.

You call us shallow. But I and so many other women lived through your so-called sexual revolution.

We are the women who were girls in the seventies.

We are the girls who were told that if we didn't "put out" this bloke we thought was so cool would move on to the next girls.

We are the girls who were told we were sluts after we put out and that bloke had moved onto the next girl anyway.

And he told all his slaggy mates we weren't that great at sex.

More of a wash-out.

Or, he said, she will put out for anyone and they all came calling, all singing the same tune.

And you were still a slut, eh.

Or, after the first two or three your stomach churned and you said no,

And then they said, but you put out for him and then him, so now do it for me.


That is what was gifted to the boys by Hugh Hefner.

Or what if that first time you said no, and you stuck to your guns,

Then you weren't a slut after all, you were a frigid bitch instead.

Don't go out with her because she won't put out and so you were left lonely and confused.

Or maybe when you said no that first time.
No, you said, no, no, no.

And he said, I know you really want it, and he got on top of you

Ramming himself against you, bang bang bang,

Under the pine trees.

In the dark.

Under those pine trees, stinking of pine and afterwards, when you pull your pants up,
you get scratched by the pine needles in your pants.

I knew you had done it before, he says, you are no virgin.

I knew you had put out before.

Under the pine trees.

And you had only met him that afternoon. He was in the back seat of a Vauxhall where
Playboy magazines were scattered about. On the floor.

You were Thirteen. When you finally got home there was blood in your pants.
And pine needles.

And you know he told all his mates you were a slut and no virgin and you put out,
They should have a turn with you.

Under the pine trees.

When you were Thirteen.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Dirty Filthy Politics and Dead Cats on the Table.

Once again all the National voters, and all those swinging voters who voted for the National Party, know that you have all been totally manipulated by The National Party political advisory consultants, Crosby Textor, that Australian political advisory firm who manipulated the first National/Key election, possibly the second, don't know about the third but by golly they are alive and kicking in this campaign.
The antics of Crosby Textor were first let out of the bag in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in Nicky Hagar's "Hollow Men" and  "Dirty Politics" books. It is the 'dead cat on the table' ploy, in this case the lie about the so-called billion dollar hole that Steven Joyce (National Party campaign chairman) and Bill English (National Party leader and current Prime Minister) knew was a lie the whole way through because it was a lie thought up by Crosby Textor.
Crosby Textor were also campaign managers for the Tories in the UK, Theresa May used them, David Cameron and Boris Johnson to become Mayor of London. Tony Abbbot and Malcolm Turnbull have also employed them. Clearly the right wing parties just love them. No worries about deceit and lies are troubling any of these people, and their parties.
So, did you think Bill English was a decent bloke? Honest? Straight forward? Well think again because he and Joyce have lied, and lied, and lied, to everyone in this country all the way to the box office. Read the article linked at the end of this blog and realise that the Nats are laughing at you all every one of you, all the way to the bank. Again. Michael Wright on the Stuff article (25th September, 2017) explains in the first paragraph, 
"It worked so well it looked like it didn't work. It looked like National copped a hiding in the media and from the experts over its claim that Labours fiscal plan had an $11.7b hole in it but somehow managed to escape with 46% of the vote on Election Night. In fact, it was perhaps the single biggest factor in why National did as well as it did."
I read the article first of all on a newspaper copy of The Christchurch Press. It was on the bottom half of the front page, continued on page two wrapped around articles about Jacinda Ardern (leader of the Labour Party where she is described as being naive. "Substance trumped style, wrote Mike Yardley. "Play nice idealism is all very well, but you also need mongrel and a killer instinct in your arsenal ..." Translate this into, you need to be a liar and deceitful, you need to be corrupt. You need to stare into a camera with bland face and lie like the devil. Like the National Party.

Apart from the National Party getting the highest percentage in our election this weekend entirely through their lies, which in another country with a First Past the Post (FFP) voting system, would have won them the election; the saddest thing about all this, is the people who might read this post and/or the Michael Wright article and blithely say, 'oh well all politicians are corrupt', but actually they are not. And the people who believe these things about corruption and politicians are most often the people who do not turn out to vote because they say, what's the point they are all the same.

But I will argue that they are not all corrupt. Not in Aotearoa. The politicians who have not used the lies (advice) of Crosby Textor. The NZ Labour Party. The Green Party of Aotearoa. New Zealand First even. But what do we all do against this evil. How do we fight this? Do these other parties find their own Cosby Textor Political Advisory firms? Are the biggest liars with the biggest budgets always going to win now just like in the USA? Is this the Aotearoa/New Zealand that we want?

I have even more questions. Were Cosby Textor behind the vitriol aimed at Metiria Turei by John Armstrong, David Seymour of Act Party, Mike Hosking over and over on TV Ones Seven Sharp, Patrick Gower on Three. et al? I would not be surprised. When Metiria Turei first announced the Green Policy of Ending Poverty the Green Party went up to 15% on the polls. It was following that that all hell broke loose, as those privileged white men in suits unleashed the viciousness onto Metiria Turei and her "benefit fraud" after which the Green Party plummeted in the polls, even going under the 5% threshold. Did that all happen because of a nod from Cosby Textor?

Another question still. Was the leak about Winston Peters (Leader NZ First) superannuation overpayment also a Cosby Textor ploy, this time to undermine Winston Peters as National was fighting to win back the Northland Electorate from him? If the leak did not come from the Inland Revenue (IRD) or the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) then the only other place was the National Party itself, perhaps Steven Joyce in his capacity as National's campaign Manager? Perhaps we will never know.

So, at this time of writing, the negotiations start between National and New Zealand First, between Labour, Greens, and New Zealand First. Will Winston Peters swallow the overpayment leak and the losing of Northland? Watch the space,

The 'Dead Cat' Masterstroke that just may win National the Election (the article)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Honesty in Politics

(This post has started life as a comment on Doug Noakes post on Facebook, in answer to Benni Jones, in the US.)

As a financial member of The Green Party Of Āotearoa, I am privileged to have met several honest MPs, all people who are honest, intelligent, and who all have integrity. I am proud to know them. Honesty and Integrity can get in the way sometimes as we are finding out especially, in this Election Campaign 2017. I wish it were over. I am scared of the result when it is over. Apologies up front, this "comment" may turn into a bit of a dissertation.

The Green Party in New Zealand started life as the Values Party on the seventies. It became the Green Party Of Āotearoa in the nineteen nineties. This last Election Cycle we have had fourteen MPs in Parliament. It is a part of our kaupapa that we always have two co-leaders, this last cycle they have been Metiria Turei and James Shaw. James became a co-leader during the cycle when Russell Norman stood down to become CEO of Greenpeace NZ.

In August Metiria Turei and James Shaw, (during the Greens AGM) launched two major policy platforms for the Greens Campaign. James launched policy over the environment, Metiria's policy platform was on Ending Poverty in New Zealand, a policy from her heart, because unlike many other people, she understands what it is to be a single mother on a benefit in New Zealand, especially during the nineteen-nineties after the then National Party government had cut benefits to 20% below what was needed to live on. I was on the same journey back then, so you get that I have strong empathy with this story. Since then poverty has become more and more obvious in New Zealand, we now have families living in cars, people living under bridges or sleeping under shop verandahs, children lacking shoes, coats, or school lunches, people in despair. This was not part of the Āotearoa/NZ that I grew up in, where we believed in community or equality of opportunity. Today's New Zealand is driven by classism, racism, and money, and sheer nastiness, it seems to me, and Metiria's story has become the graphic example of that nastiness, that wilful ignorance aimed at keeping the status quo.

Because, as a part of that Ending Poverty launch, Metiria revealed how she had 'lied' to Work and Income (WINZ) about flatmates in her home which would have effected her accommodation supplement on her single parent benefit. Filling out her annual forms to WINZ, she had neglected to mention that she had two flatmates in her home at he time; this because she didn't want to lose money, back then this was about survival, this was about putting food in her baby's mouth, and keeping a roof over her and the baby's heads. Remember, the benefits had had that major cut. In fact, pedantically, I would say she withheld information rather than outright lying, and further, had her flatmates been framed as boarders, people on the Domestic Purpose Benefit were allowed two boarders in their home. Boarders were not seen as income in the same way. Metiria told this story in an effort to get people to understand how bad poverty is in New Zealand, to get them to understand how difficult poverty is, that people are forced to scrimp and to lie in order to survive. which is true. I know this also. Incidentally the amount of money would be miniscule, but every little bit counts when you simply do not have enough money.

Anyhow, when I saw that launch on the TV, that Sunday night my heart dropped into my stomach. I was terrified. I was so afraid at what might happen, in fact what did happen.

Because all the nasties came out. Those well-off, sleek, white men, in designer suits with designer shirts and designer ties, the Mike Hoskings, the Patrick Gowers, the David Seymours, et al., the men (and some women) who are milking it from today's classism and racism, today's inequalities, today's housing market, where investors make millions, and low-waged people struggle to put food on the table or pay rents, even if they are working 2 or 3 jobs. Those media men led by ACT Party's David Seymour, they came out guns blazing, screeching about Benefit Fraud, the word fraud probably never having crossed their lips, nor their pens, nor their keyboards a few months earlier when the now Prime Minister, Bill English, ex-farmer, had been found out to have lied (oops, sorry dear, just made a wee mistake even) when he had claimed for accommodation supplements he was not entitled too, as part of his being an MP, to the tune of some $33,000! And I see little of that nasty, scathing rhetoric from those white men in suits over Winston Peter's (NZ First party leader) little mistake in claiming for more superannuation than he was entitled to, to the tune of some $18,000. Neither of those men had owned up as Metiria had done, both had been found out. But oddly, these little, maybe even deliberate mistakes are considered not fraud, rather they are technically legal? Really?

See, I think, that when Metiria told her story, the whole juggernaut of class, of gender, of racism, of the hatred that rich and well-off Pākēhā have for the unemployed, and the poor, and single mothers not kowtowing to some man somewhere, all that hatred and viciousness was brought out, and we in New Zealand got to see the true ugliness that surges underneath. The Green Party and Metiria lost control of the message which was, of course, to highlight poverty and the shifts that people have to go to in order to survive, and to launch this grand and wonderful policy to END POVERTY and Mending The Safety Net in New Zealand.

For the record, the policy was and still is :The Green Party will repair the holes in the social safety net by Increasing all benefits by 20%. They will increase the amount people can earn before their benefit is cut. Increase the value of Working for Families for All Families. Create a Working for Families Children's Credit of $72 per week. Introduce a new Top Tax Rate of 40% on income over $150,000 per annum, and Raise the Minimum Wage to $17.75 per hour in the first year and keep raising it until it reaches 66% of the average wage. These changes are to bring people out of poverty and provide independence, dignity and real choices.

Now, as we still carry on through the Election campaigning (till 23rd September), I wish that Metiria had not told that story. I understand why she did. She explained that she had been trying for 15 years in politics to get the message about poverty across, to get the message across about how it stunts growth, how it traumatises people, and how it turns good people into liars despite their normal inclinations. Because nobody can sit and look at an empty table at dinner time and their hungry kids if there is something they can do about it, especially when it is, to all intent and purpose, a victimless crime. Nobody is saying its ok to hold up the nearest dairy or bank here, ok. But in all these years nobody had listened, media had not given a jot, and Paula Bennett, Anne Tolley, and the National Party government have continued to reduce beneficiaries into frightened, ground-down people. At least that is the intent. So she used her own story in order to explain. While she knew that some would villify, I believe she thought that most of us would get it, that people would get on board and vote for this policy. We see stories about the homeless so frequently on TV now, that we would respond to this new Green Policy with open arms. It is what you would think if you still believe that most people care.

Even two of our own MPs did not understand, Kennedy Graham and David Clendon; they were so focused on the Fraud, that they wound up resigning from the party.

The trouble is, that in telling the story, Metiria Turei, instead of the Mana of being an MP and leading the Green Party, was put down and villified as a single Māori mother, a beneficiary like myself and many others, seen as a drag on the economy, shiftless, scum, all those things that are said to reflect the so-called underclass who live precarious lives, hoping like hell that the washing machine won't break down, that the school won't decide to take the kids on an unaffordable field trip that your kids can't go to. I remember one of my sons wouldn't even tell me about field trips, you know, because he knew I couldn't afford it, or would do without myself in order for him to go. And If I did find our, he would just insist that he really didn't want to go anyway. Anyway that nasty upperclass set went on and on about Benefit Fraud, night after night on the TV news, in all the papers, in articles online, on The Project and Seven Sharp, night after night and day after day of relentless shitraising about Benefit Fraud, and they sent out teams of people to Investigate Metiria Turei and her life in the nineteen-nineties to see if they could find more evidence of Bad Things she might have done back then when she was a Solo Mother on The Benefit. And any little scrap they found they published with glee. What do you think, New Zealand, do you think this woman ought to be an MP, they would sneer and they dragged in whanau (family) so that in the end Metiria had enough and resigned from being our Leader, and being on our party list.

And now the Green Party who were polling at 15% at the outset of the campaign are now polling at 5,2%, 5%, 4.9%. If we don't win an electorate or cross that 5% threshold, The Green Party will not be in Parliament at all.

Note: Metiria Stanton Turei is still standing as an Electorate Candidate in the Te Tai Tonga Electorate. Voters can get her back into Parliament by electorate voting in Te Tai Tonga.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Losing Metiria Turei

I am devastated over the loss of Metiria from the co-leadership of our Green Party and from Parliament. I had such hopes that there was finally someone in Parliament that understood the plight of people in poverty and what's more, had a vision for what needed to be done. In all the years since the eighties when Rogernomics /neo liberalism took control, there has been absolutely nobody who cared enough to stand up like Metiria had. Nobody. Nobody gave a damn. 

I brought up my children n on a benefit and it has marked them. Not always for bad, there are skills they have learnt because of poverty. But that is because, I as their mother, also had good skills. One skill that is incredibly important while in poverty is the ability to get hold of any money you can from wherever. As Metiria has been telling the country in her own example. We lie, if you like, or stretch the truth, or withhold information. We now people's lawns under the table, babysit other people's kids, clean other people's houses, the list goes on. These are things we can do while our kids are at kindy or school. I think that over the years I have done all of those things, probably every other beneficiary as well. I did not write #IamMetiria lightly. So if Metiria has committed fraud, so have I, and so have thousands of others. We do this to feed our kids, to put food on the table, to buy them shoes and coats. We do it because, as Metiria has been telling the country, the benefits were set at 20% below the breadline in the early nineties and never altered since. 

So with my teenage twins still at home around 2009, I received $340pw approx. From that $210 was rent. Old cold uninsulated house was $60pw at least to heat. Leaving $70 to live on, food, clothing, transport, school fee, school trips, etc for 3 people.

For all those people who say those of us struggling are immoral, let me ask you about the immorality of allowing people to live like this, of turning your backs on us. The immorality of expecting people to live on such low amounts of money. And then hitting them while they are down.

I am alright now, I only have to look after me. My children are grown and they all have good jobs. But so many other people are still struggling and it is even worse for them than it was for me and mine and it breaks my heart. And I am heartbroken now that Metiria has gone. And I see Kennedy as one contributory factor to Metiria giving up finally, and therefore, I for one, do not welcome him back.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Let He Who Is Without Sin ...

Cartoon by Toby Morris

"We do not believe that lying to a public agency ... can ever be condoned." K Graham & D Clendon

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I am extremely disappointed in the attitudes and actions of Kennedy Graham and David Clendon. For years I and many others like me have wished that someone in Parliament would actually get it - would actually stand up and say that all mothers matter, that all children matter, that families matter, that decent homes for all matter. That some kind of equality matters even.
And finally, after around thirty years of beneficiary bashing, ever-widening income gaps, house prices and rents rising out of control while benefits are cut and unions are smashed, etc., finally Metiria Turei stands up and says, enough! And as part of a rollout of social justice policy, she tells everyone how it was/is to be on the bottom of the ladder and why change needs to happen. She tells the truth.
And oh man, what vitriol has come out, much of it expected of course, from the right wing assholes like Hosking and Gower and co. But omg, I did not expect two of our own to turn their noses up, as well.
Many years ago when I was in labour with my first daughter, I turned my back for an instant, and the father of that child walked out on me, and left me to cope on my own. And ever after I have always had it in my mind, that men will never be around when you need them. Right now Metiria Turei needs all of us to have her back, but David Clendon MP and Kennedy Graham MP have shown themselves, like that man who shafted me, to have feet of clay.
When the chips are down, people show their true character.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

I Got Plenty Of Nothing

If we are lucky when we are at school, we get to have at least one stand-out teacher who inspires imagination, who teaches us to think, who adds to our cultural experience, the teacher we remember most of our lives.

I was in Standard Four at Picton Primary School, aged ten, and my teacher was Mr Curtis. He seemed an innocuous man, not very tall, wearing a suit, white shirt and tie. He set our desks in straight lines facing the the blackboard. He thought our drawing was terrible so he taught us how to draw in 3D, a suitcase, then a train curving towards us straight off the blackboard. Once he had us drawing Māori people. Coming from mostly Pākēhā Blackball, no telly back then, my knowledge of traditional Māori culture and dress was negligible, but I drew a brown lady in flax skirt, but then what did she wear on top? My mind was a blank so I left her topless, drew her breasts in. The other kids were like, haha, that's rude, but Mr Curtis put my drawing up on his display board just outside the classroom with all the best drawings, not because mine was especially good (it wasn't) but because it was outside the norm. Honest. Brave even.

Mr Curtis was an artist, into music, and a storyteller. He would set us a task, maths problems generally, and while we were working away, he would rub everything of the blackboard, and start to draw. We'd be peeping, what's the story going to be about? We would finish our work, he would finish his drawing, and then he would sit on his desk and just start the story telling. Sometimes it was a story from Greek Mythology, sometimes it was an old classic, Charles Dickens, maybe. Today it was the musical, Porgy and Bess.

I remember very imperfectly, as the story of a lovely man, a cripple who wheeled himself around on a wooden cart and lived in a shack.  He meets Bess, she moves in with him, but then, from her past comes the bad man, the criminal, who takes her away with him. I didn't understand back then why she had to choose to leave Porgy (not sure I do even now, I might need to try and track down the book or something). Porgy is heartbroken and leaves his home to find her. As I said, that's how I remember it. I doubt Mr Curtis played us the whole record; it would have taken far too long but the song he definitely did play was "I got plenty of nothing", which I have remembered all these years, a refrain in my head even though I don't recall hearing the song since. However, I have always held this idea that material goods were less important than other things, that it is "he tangata, he tangata, he tangata, he aha te mea nui o te ao", it is people who are the most important in the world. It's all only stuff, eh.

So many influences in our lives inform the person we become, the beliefs our parents role model to us, the culture of our country, the stories and music in our lives, our teachers. Porgy and Bess looms large in my life thanks to Mr Curtis, even though I never heard the whole thing then nor since. My ideas about how we should be living in this world, ideas about social justice and fairness in this world.

Because of Mr Curtis, I first heard the music of Gershwin, soul and jazz styles at age 10, after a childhood of pop music, Shirley Temple and Julie Andrews musicals.

Today, fifty years later, I find Porgy and Bess on Spotify, sung by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald and it is as fresh as it was, all those years ago. Loving it.

A Bit of Extra Info

DuBose Heyward wrote his novel, Porgy, in 1925. In 1927 he and his wife, playwright Dorothy Heyward, adapted the novel as a play. Composer George Gerswhin made the play into a musical which was produced as Porgy and Bess in 1935. Porgy and Bess was first performed on the 30th of September, 1935 featuring a cast of classically-trained, African American singers. No Blackface.
Following the performance in Boston, then from the 10th October in Broadway for 124 performances, then on tour in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Washington DC. In Washington the cast successfully protested segregation in the National Theatre, eventually resulting in the first integrated performance in that theatre.

In 1942 the show was revived for Broadway. On the 23rd of March 1943, the show was premiered in Copenhagen, this time with white actors/singers in Blackface, presumably so as not to offend the sensibilities of Hitler and his gang as the Nazis were occupying the country at this time. However after 22 performances the Nazis closed down the production anyway. The show was also performed in Gothenburg and Zurich, Sweden, and Zurich, Switzerland. still with white actors in Blackface in 1948.

Over the years the show has been successfully revived.