If a tree falls in a forest, or a woman is harassed, will anybody hear?


IMG_0750-0 Philosopher George Berkeley, in his work A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge proposed the idea in 1710, followed by William Fossett twenty years later in a consideration of the emergence of meaning: “To say something is meaningful is to say that that is how we arrange it so; how we comprehend it to be, and what is comprehended by you or I may not be by a cat, for example. If a tree falls in a park and there is no-one to hand, it is silent and invisible and nameless. And if we were to vanish, there would be no tree at all; any meaning would vanish along with us.” http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_a_tree_falls_in_a_forest

 In 1987 a Canadian singer song writer and environmentalist, Bruce Coburn, released a song called “If a tree falls in the forest”.

Here is the released version: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ErS9HCh8GfE#
Here is the acoustic version with lyrics, they are well worth contemplating: http://youtu.be/13KUZ53NWq0 

 In 2011 Marshall Curry made a documentary investigating the darker side of the fight  for our environment, chronicling the actions of the Earth Liberation Front, which led to prison charges for Eco-terrorist Daniel McGowan. If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.  http://www.ifatreefallsfilm.com

The full phrase is ‘If a tree falls in the forest but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ According to Urban Dictionary, it symbolizes the ineffectiveness of unheard opinions/thoughts.

IMG_0751 started this post contemplating recent reports that in New Zealand deforestation is occurring faster than reforestation, and our national rail company that is contemplating divesting itself of its electric units to be replaced with cheap Chinese diesel powered engines.

But there is more to be concerned about than literal trees being destroyed, and the stupidity of continuing to support fossil fuel based transportation options, vitally important though that is.

I’m also concerned about the metaphorical trees falling, and the unheard voices crying out in the wilderness.

With the declaration of Hilary Clinton to run for president, we have seen and heard the commentators raising the issue of whether  feminism is still necessary, and that playing the gender card is so last century.

Yet the last 24 hours have shown why we need to keep feminism active with the revealed behaviour of our prime minister repeatedly and unwelcomely handling the hair of a young waitress over several months. A belated and modified apology, not accepted but lied about by perpetrator and reported by tame media has resulted in a global story, international opprobrium and national humiliation. http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2015/04/22/exclusive-the-prime-minister-and-the-waitress/

sb10062916kk-001It is not ok to treat women as a toy, no matter how “playful” or just “horsing” around the intention.  

A cursory look on the Internet for images of hair pulling shows that it is anything but playful.                   

IMG_0755-0When it is by a relative or close familiar, maybe by mutual consent; but by the most powerful person on the country, NO, not under any circumstances.

When an action is not right it needs to brought out into the light and the suffering of the victim not hidden away in a forest of spin.

Whether it is environmental destruction or sexual harassment, at its core is rape and pillage.

Don’t let another tree fall, with no one hearing. Get involved, speak out, lest your opinion becomes ineffective.

Molehills and mountains

The Sophistes of Grece coulde through their copiousness make an Elephant of a flye, and a mountaine of a mollehill. (Erasmus)


I’ve been surprised at the public reaction and vitriol that has been unleashed towards the perpetrators of what, in the scale of actions deserving mass public opprobrium, is a relatively minor misdemeanour.

Two teenage boys in transit to the finale of a season of gruelling training and rowing competitions, facing what potentially could be the pinnacle of their schoolboy sporting prowess.

Two boys surrounded by their team mates, young men seething with testosterone, nerves, excitement, the teacher supervisor away securing transport.  A luggage carousel snaking its way round the concourse while weary travellers await their bags. Joshing, goading, challenging, who dares?

They know they shouldn’t, the signs make that clear; but what’s the point of a dare if it doesn’t involve forbidden deeds and rule breaking. Did they think about the consequences? Probably not, spur of the moment actions rarely follow considered thought. Did they have malicious intent? Of course not, it was an act of bravado, like streaking at a rugby match, good for a laugh and a touch of exhibitionism.

So they rode the carousel, breaching airport security and incurred a severe reprimand from the aviation authorities and police. End of the matter.

Hell no!

There are principles and principals, and their principal decided that his principles had been challenged and therefore his authority undermined and that would never do. The miscreants must forfeit their places in the rowing squad.

At this point, there is a disconnect between the principal’s understanding and the purpose of participating in a team sport that more than others depends on every single member of the squad. To remove two key players from the top eight not only decimates the crew, but totally undermines the morale of the whole squad.

The coaches said they would not stand the boys down. The principal figuratively stamped his foot and engaged a lawyer. Gauntlets were thrown.

Now, It is well known that parents of rowers are immensely proud of their offspring and participate with commitment and enthusiasm throughout the season and especially for the final – the Maadi Cup, the largest school sports event in the Southern Hemisphere with 125 schools and over 2000 rowers. Do you have an idea of the scale of organisation that is needed, and mostly performed and manned by parents? 

So when the parent of these two boys learned of the principal’s intent to deny their sons the opportunity to compete without fair hearing of the accounts of all sides, they did everything they could as good parents to move the immovable object from their path. Since there was no no reasoning that could be made, they contacted a judge and sought an injunction, which was granted in the interim; their sons were able to compete.

And this is where the molehill becomes a mountain.

Somehow the story made the mainstream media sit up. The details were reported, commentators started commenting, op-ed writers formed their opinions and universally the parents were excoriated. There followed a week of what can only be called pack attack.

Headmasters across the country rallied behind their colleague and together with legal eagles stated direly that a dangerous precedent had been set. Authority must be preserved or else the whole fabric of society will break down

School rules.

But authority without respect is worthless. Respect is earned by fairness. So a principal can demand that his principles be observed, but sometimes the law is an ass and as such deserves to be challenged.