TPP is the new Imperialism

If cooperation is a duty, I hold that non-cooperation also under certain conditions is equally a duty.’ Mahatma Gandhi

I’m a colonial gal, more correctly I’m a wild colonial gal, in fact I’m downright angry. It takes a lot to madden me these days, but the whole episode around the signing of the TPPA has hit the button. 

Not only is the secrecy around the negotiations deplorable, but for the negotiating parties to turn on those who question both the process and the outcome, and claim they don’t understand, or are misrepresenting, is doubly despicable.

But what has really taken the biscuit has been the paucity of our mainstream media and their mockery, scorn, and downright racism towards many of the protesters to Thursday’s signing.

I want to make it plain that I am the daughter of a colonial “master”. My father served as a reasonably highly placed officer in the Nigerian Colonial Police Force during the 1950s until Independence in 1963.  My parents met and married there. Nigeria wedding

MimiNigerianChildrenI was raised with black servants.

Colonialism is the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colony in one territory by a political power from another territory. It is a set of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony and often between the colonists and the indigenous population.

Colonialism caused the loss of sovereignty, which is the loss of the right of a state to control its own destiny, to play in its own development, to conduct its own diplomacy and internal relations, to decide which outside nations to associate with or to emulate, and above all to manage or even mismanage its own affairs, derive pride and pleasure from its success and derive lessons, frustration and experience from its failures. Biafran-Children-13

Africa not only provided Europeans with a source of raw materials, but it also provided them with what they viewed as raw, uncivilized people, on whom they could impose their views and whom they could exploit at the same time they exploited the land.

I have vivid memories of my father raging against black people and his support for Enoch Powell later when we were back in the motherland.

The colonial rule of the territories around the river Niger, defined by arbitrarily imposed borders, was maintained and controlled by playing the different races and tribes against one another. When the English left, all hell broke out and the atrocities of the Biafran War in 1967 shocked the world.

Fast forward a few decades, and I have now been a citizen of New Zealand for over 40 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love this country, it is my home. I’m married to a fifth generation Kiwi, and have 3 Kiwi kids. I have read Michael King’s History of New Zealand, I have attended Treaty of Waitangi workshops and I believe that in Te Tiriti, we have something that is unique in the British Empire.

But despite that, I see all too clearly that the same attitudes that dominated colonial life in Africa, are still at work in New Zealand, albeit in a muted and covert way. It is never more apparent than when the indigenous people, Maori, get a bit “uppity” and claim their rights under the historic treaty signed 175 years ago.20192-PUBL-0151-1-014.tif

At the heart of the Treaty of Waitangi is the issue of sovereignty as the British understood it, and governance as the Maori understood it. This has been an ongoing source of discussion and debate. But one thing has been constant throughout the history of this nation, and that is the repeated breach of faith by the governments of the day towards the Maori.

The signing of the TPPA is just the latest manifestation. Maori have experienced for generations the treachery of governmental assurances. This time however, it is not just the Maori people, Tangata Whenua, whose trust has been betrayed, but also those of us who have been later arrivals in this land, the Tau Iwi.

At the heart of TPP is the concept of Imperialism, which refers to economic, military, political domination that is achieved without settlement. Imperialism is aimed exclusively at maximizing self-interest rather than promoting good government and economic development in the colonies. Imperialism is not only the desire to open up more markets for finished goods and get raw materials, but is also to invest surplus capital and monopolize natural resources. 3.1-NOT-SO-EVIL-EMPIRES_9-1200x791

There is a hangover from Colonialism that we can still see in the new Imperialism. Colonialism saddled the most colonies with monocrop economies. During the colonial period, each colony was made to produce a single cash crop or two and no attempts were made to diversify the agricultural economy. Africans were encouraged to produce what they didn’t consume and to consume what they didn’t produce.

In New Zealand, what we produce as a trading nation is no longer just what we as a people need. Market driven forces determine what we produce. More and more of our family run farms are being converted to corporate owned and managed dairy economic units. So we export dairy and we import items that we used to produce ourselves, but others can produce more cheaply because of poor working conditions and wages for their workers.

Specialisation not diversification, all for the sake of trade, so our new masters can make profits.

To achieve this end the ISDS, Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism is the Trojan horse, if you like, the logical conclusion of which is to “take the legal system and turn it into a stock market”. tumblr_lfymxdtkcv1qzwd5oo1_500-copy

Under TPPA (and its northern hemisphere counterpart TTIP), we cannot interfere with that profit process without the risk of being taken, as a nation, to arbitration before an unelected, unaccountable tribunal of corporate appointees. If we were to democratically legislate to protect our environment against the adverse effects of intensive dairying, for example, we risk being taken to arbitration by a foreign owned corporate for future loss of profit. The arbitration decision is over and beyond our legal and parliamentary system and may impose crippling financial penalties, especially on smaller nations, all in the name of corporate loss of profit.

There is no appeal.

That is injustice. world-corporate-imperialist-getting-richer-every-day

Marx predicted that the bourgeoisie would continue to create a global market and undermine both local and national barriers to its own expansion.  A November 2014 report showed that 0.004% of the world’s adult population controls nearly $30 trillion in assets, 13pc of the world’s total wealth,

Such loss of sovereignty to a new treaty, which we are assured is for our good, does not bode well with the hindsight of colonial history.

Which brings me to the protest movement.

Thursday 4 February saw a rising up, and a coming together of Maori and Pakeha, young and old to say “No” to the steamroller that is TPP. It was a festive, passionate, peaceful march, well coordinated, well publicised and absolutely splendid.

The Maori warriors who led the march were fierce and showed how awesome their culture is. The father of protest movements, Gandhi said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” We saw the hearts and souls of our nation that day.

Courtesy Taiao Photography
I was disappointed to see the reaction of many of the media commentators, and government politicians. They are happy for Maori to win Rugby World Cups for them, proud of the haka performed at the beginning of games – a bit of spectacle on the side. But when performed with power, with anger, with passion and with real challenge, the comments were disparaging. The colonialists were quick to put the natives down, “rent-a-mob”. The ordinary folk in the march, not all of whom were good at articulating why they were there, were quickly mocked, put in their place, basically told “how dare you disobey!

Civil disobedience has a noble history in colonial history. The art of Satyagraha, passive resistance or non-cooperation, was formulated by Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian struggle for independence from British rule.

In his fight for justice, Gandhi accepted two ‘tools’ or methods which were based on complete non-violence: non-cooperation was passive, civil disobedience was active and almost revolutionary. gandhi-saltmarch01

The non-cooperation movement aimed at bringing the government to a stand still, by undertaking acts which the British government considered illegal, but were protests against exploitative and suppressive measures.

In 1930 the Dandi 24 day march (Salt Satyagraha) took place in protest against the repressive British Salt monopoly. Gandhi was arrested along with 80,000 of his followers. It stirred the whole nation.

It was the beginning of the end of colonial rule in India, and the crumbling of the British Empire.

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in
their mission can alter the course of history.” Mahatma Gandhi

Flags, emblems, and revolutions

White collar conservative flashin down the street, pointing that plastic finger at me, they all assume my kind will drop and die, but I’m gonna wave my freak flag high.

Jimi Hendrix (If 6 was 9 )

I’ve never been a flag waver, or at least not in the literal sense, as someone who is conspicuously patriotic. Put down to being a bit of a gypsy, born in one land, raised in another, then moving to a third. So while I consider my current land to be my home, the land of my birth still tugs at my heart, and where I spent my early childhood holds a mysterious allure.

New Zealand – where I reside

England – where I was born


Nigeria – where I was raised


which used to have this flag   200px-Flag_of_British_Colonial_Nigeria.svg

One country so different from the other two, and yet even the two that are similar and familiar are different, and half a life time away makes the differences even keener. So, no extreme nationalist am I.

But give me a cause that heats my blood, and I will stand on the battlements and wave a flag of righteous indignation with vigour.

I was less than enthusiastic about the proposal by our prime minister to replace our national flag. In my mind there needed to be a valid reason to do so, such as cutting the apron strings of mother England and becoming an independent nation, no longer under another nation’s queen.

But no, we have a prime minister who is still in the thrall of royalty, who reveres lords and ladies, and who on a whim has decided that we need a national brand, which will be depicted on our flag for marketing purposes, not for nationhood.

Enough has been written about the process and the disappointing outcome of the final 4 options we were to vote on. I was contemplating registering my protest by choosing the worst option or spoiling my ballot paper. 12049616_1037176282981730_248669186624422444_n

Then a quiet revolution started,  and a cause that stirred my apathetic bones was born. The narrative around the “First to the Light” (now popularly nicknamed Red Peak“) design has both charmed my sensitivities and strengthened my determination to make a stand against banality and wrong-mindedness.

I say wrong-minded because much of the debate has centred around the idea of the silver fern representing our national identity.

images-1 It is the brand of our great sportsmen and women (Rugby and Netball).

It is used by our military forces in various ways. And as such it is an emblem.

Historically emblems were often used on coats of arms, painted on shields and representing an abstract symbol of the person to whom it belonged or was affiliated. slide_432176_5625324_free

An emblem is a pattern that is used to represent an idea or an individual and is usually worn as an identifying mark or patch (consider biker gangs)

It is interesting that the panel that chose our flag options decided that as a nation, New Zealanders find abstract concepts difficult and that was why the final 4 were stylised depictions of a fern.

The question is, what does a fern represent? What are the qualities of a fern that reflects our national identity?

Fern species, numbering several thousand, are found throughout the world, and are especially abundant in tropical rain forests. They are considered largely as being specialists in marginal habitats, often succeeding in places where other plants don’t.

So, not unique, but common, and survivors – I guess that is quite a good quality for an individual, but is it inspiring for a nation?

The history of heraldry is complex and the evolution of emblems and coats of arms to pennants and flags is a study beyond my blog capability. For my purposes, it is enough to know that, in a discussion about nationhood, we need more than just stylised emblems to represent our multi-cultural diversity. That is why even an elementary knowledge of the symbolism of heraldic colour is helpful.

redGules: Old French word for “throats” (English gullet).  Symbolic of nobility, boldness and ferocity and has strong military connotations.

blue      Azure: From Old French, signifies piety, sincerity, loyalty and chastity.

green     Vert: From the Latin ‘viridis’, symbolic of joy, youth, beauty, and loyalty in love.

black     Sable: Signifies knowledge, piety, constancy, serenity and work.

silvershield    Argent (silver): Represented by white, signifies peace, sincerity, innocence and purity.

purple    Purpure: Signifies justice, temperance and sovereignity.

goldshield Or (gold): Signifies glory, generosity, constancy and elevation of the mind.

First to the Light (Red Peak) is made up of: 11951393_1026136120752413_3264179686129089035_n
A Red ground symbolising boldness
A Black ground symbolising constancy
A Blue ground symbolising sincerity and loyalty
A Silver chevron symbolising peace

Those are the qualities of a nation I would be proud to call mine.

emblemsA country may have both a national flag and a national coat of arms, and the two may not look alike at all. Many nations have a seal or emblem in addition to a national flag and a national coat of arms. There is no reason why we cannot have the fern as our seal, coat of arms or emblem and have a different flag with colours symbolising the nobler qualities of our country as peace-makers, conquerors of mountains, and down to earth good sense.

The problem with having a national debate on changing the flag is that the tendency is toward simplistic side taking, whereas there is so much more to be considered. Flags are more than just pieces of coloured cloth used to create division amongst people, or to be waved at sporting events or commemorations

Flags were useful in wars, so you knew which side to kill. Sometimes flags are used as a form of protest against or in favour of a political idea. There are great revolutionary flags.

I have a family history of revolution.AxCoatBig My ancestors were Roundheads, three of whom were regicides involved in the execution of Charles I of England. My 9th great grandfather Daniel Axtell, who was hung, drawn and quartered for his actions, had a coat of arms which depicted 3 axes on an azure ground with the motto “Sub cruce gloriore” – “I glory in the cross”.

Standard_of_Oliver_Cromwell_(1653–1659).svgOliver Cromwell my 10th great uncle seemed to hedge his bets with his standard incorporating several symbolic concepts.

A flag can rally or it can divide, it can inspire or terrorise. When we vote on our nation’s flag, let us do so thoughtfully, carefully considering what we want it to say about us a people. Resist the temptation to settle for a gimmick, a marketing logo or a ‘patch’. Let the choice be for enduring qualities that speak of noble aspirations.

Here are some thoughts to bear in mind:

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people” Howard Zinn

“We have two … flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it means danger, revolution, anarchy.” Henry Miller

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” Paul Cezanne

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” John F. Kennedy

I will let Jimi Hendrix have the last word, his interpretation his nation’s flag.“>

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.”

 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:
Here is the acoustic version with lyrics, they are well worth contemplating: 

 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.

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.

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.



Smoke billows and dissipates above the pine trees
No breath of wind diverts the plumed ascent
Mountain backdrop impervious to transcendant haze
Imperturbable harmony reflected in a lake of glass
A shimmer of undulating ripples
Sky blue echoes in a bed of the grey green brown black pebbles
Lazy ducks meander and dive through crystal
Distant plane thrums bass
To avian chirp and chatter songs with cicada clicks and the passing buzz of flies
Driftless vapour merges into tranquility