A Gentle Revolution – Pt 2

We are not doing celebrity, personality, abusive politics – we are doing ideas. This is about hope. Jeremy Corbyn

The funny thing about hope is that it doesn’t take much of it to make a difference to your day, to a generation, to a nation. Hope is what happened yesterday in the British elections.

I was at work on the other side of the world, it was my day time as the UK results started trickling in at 10am/pm depending on one’s antipodean situation. I’m an ex-pat Brit living in New Zealand and I have taken very little interest in British elections because they still embrace first past the post instead of proportional representation, and consequently have an inherently unfair system that inevitably results in maintaining the status quo for the privileged. To add insult to injury, I had been disgusted with the result of the Brexit vote, so had pretty much written off the island kingdom.

This time felt different however, as the British Labour Party has been going through a process, either rebirth or death throes. The media and political punditry (both right and left of the spectrum) have for months claimed it to be the latter.

Throughout the day I sneakily watched online updates on the Guardian website with trepidation, fearing that my homeland would once again be swayed by the stale message of ‘strong and stable leadership’. But from the moment the exit polls indicated something else might be afoot, I was transfixed and a small flame flared up in my heart.

6720It had already been obvious that the Labour Party leader had tapped into a yearning in members of the voting public, not the wealthy ones of course, but the ordinary Joes, a bit like the folk left behind in the US who upturned that nation’s political world back in November. You’d have thought the chattering elite would have learned a lesson by now. But no, the message of austerity and gloom continued to be spread as one of no alternative.

Trouble is people cannot live with doom and gloom. A wise man in biblical times wrote: ‘where there is not vision, the people perish’,  and a truer word could not apply more to modern times. Of course the message that Jeremy Corbyn has to offer was very different from Donald Trump’s, based as it is on a lifetime of service to others (as opposed to self-serving), and a philosophy that puts the welfare of all above the benefit of a small elite (compared with the wheeler-dealing trader of tinsel).

Young and old, poor and some middle-classed responded and made it patently clear to all the pundits who had rubbished, scorned, denigrated, and insulted Corbyn for many months, that they liked to have a bit of hope.


Even if the reins of power were not quite achieved yesterday, something has changed,
and it felt like a victory.

The calvinistic work ethic, that some have to do it hard, that’s just their lot in life, accept it and knuckle down, has been rejected. Instead, we can work together to make a fairer society, doesn’t seem such a wishy washy dreamer’s plaint.

The multitudes that got out, attended rallies, door knocked, spoke to unbelieving family and friends, have shown that there are indeed many of us who share a common goal. We are legion, and there are many more, who maybe did not have the courage to act on what they hoped for, but now have seen what can be achieved with a concerted effort.

Some might say a gentle revolution has taken place. Some of those monied, and powerful elites might be shaken by what they have seen. Despite the overwhelming odds of a negative and biased media, a popular movement has begun, bypassing the traditional or expected behaviours. My hope is that it will spread, because we all need hope, as we all need food, water and air. It is the essence of life as a human being.

Hope springs eternal is a tired and at times meaningless proverb, nonetheless it is true. Hope is what religion is based on, and every society has been built around it. People can endure horrendous suffering if they believe it will come to an end and a better future awaits. Hope is built into our psyche, even the most despicable depots and torturers rely on it to break their prisoners.

By the same token, it will be important to build on that hope, to feed it, to make sure it comes to pass, because ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life’; without it, there is death, both literal and metaphorical.

My hope is that my country, which is facing an election in September will learn from the UK, that our media will start to balance its coverage of the various parties and critically examine the policies without bias. I hope that the left of centre parties who have, for some time, thought their only path was to move rightwards to attract the voters, will now understand that is not the way to woo. There has to be something very different on offer, not more of the same wrapped up with a different coloured bow.

A warning has been sounded to all complacent governments, your days are numbered if you do not fulfill your obligation and duty to care for your people. If you continue to tread down the down-trodden, they will rise up when a suitable leader speaks the words they long to hear, and offers a different path. We all basically want the same things, home, warmth, food, safety, love, fulfilment, purpose. It’s just that some people have those, without seeming to understand that everyone needs them, and are unwilling to share.

John Lennon sang in 1971:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

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

A pain in the neck


Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world. Arthur Schopenhauer

New glasses, I lost my old ones somewhere in the garden, or at least that’s where I narrowed down the potential field to.

The garden, why on earth the garden? I’m one of those folk who pushes her specs on to the top of her head when not needing them, because that’s a convenient place to keep them, easily accessible, I know where they are and I don’t need to worry about carrying a case with me.

It turns out that, according to my insurer, the garden is quite a common place to lose glasses and not an easy place to find them. Glasses, bright and shiny, are popular with magpies and even an occasional cat is not averse to stealing them.

It had been a couple of years since my last eye test, so I was due for a check anyway. Two weeks later and my new specs were ready, I went for a final fitting and collected them. I knew it takes a while for eyes to adjust to new vision, so I expected a bit of discomfort, but the last two weeks have literally been a pain in the neck. I’ve had headaches, puffy eyes and pain down the right side of my neck down into my shoulder. The sore eyes, I can understand as wearing occupational/ progressive lenses feels rather as if I’m peering through a pair of binoculars, which for eight hours staring at a computer screen is is likely to lead to ocular discomfort.

I’ve come to realise that I move my eyes constantly, scanning words, paragraphs, pages and screens. Unlike my partner who reads every word and is consequently a painfully slow reader, I’m a speedster, and herein lies the problem.

To effectively use graduated lenses, you have to move your head more than is natural, and for me tipping it at times to unnatural angles to see text in focus. Although in latter days, I’ve resorted to tolerating out of focus in order to to relieve the neck strain. To add to my annoyance, the new glasses have a limited range so that for reading tasks beyond the computer screen, looking at a calendar on the wall behind, for example, the vision is again out of focus. The result of being mostly out of focus is mild nausea.

I gave them two weeks and then cracked. I was surprised at how tearful I was when I went back to the optometrist, realising how important sight is and how limiting poor vision is I suppose, while feeling pathetic at the same time. Half an hour later I have a solution: two new pairs of single lens glasses, one for computer work and one for closer reading.

I know it’s going to be a juggling act most of the time, swapping between pairs for different tasks, but to prove to myself I’ve made the right decision, I’ve spent today on the computer wearing a pair of single lens specs I wore three years ago. They’re no good for close reading, but at the end of the day, my eyes don’t feel swollen, and I don’t have a sore neck and it’s been so good to see the whole picture instead of the narrow focus.

The vision professionals’ claims are that around there is around 90% uptake of progressive/occupational lenses , so I’m in a small minority of folk who can’t tolerate them. So be it. My life revolves around reading in some form or another, so I need the right tools for the job.

I can’t help feeling there is a moral to this tale. So much of modern life is centred on specialisation, narrow focus; problem solving by zooming in on incidentals and minutiae instead of seeing the big picture and the wider implications; concentrating on a current issue, without understanding the historical context.

 If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence. George Eliot

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.

Job hunting


It’s been a year now that I have been seeking the ideal work situation and my enthusiasm for the process is definitely jaded. I go through a gamut of feelings: starting with the dissatisfaction with the status quo; then the hopeful trawling through the ads; quickly replaced by disgust at the paucity of opportunities to suit my unique set of skills – and be under no illusion, although I’m a quiet, retiring sort, personality wise, I do have a well adjusted sense of my own abilities.

Eventually a vacancy will attract my attention, followed by a flurry of days of research, updating my CV, submitting my application to meet the deadline. The days waiting for notification of making the short list are days of suspended peace, knowing I’ve done what I can and nice though a new opportunity would be, at least I have a job, so i’m not a state of desperation. 

The phone call, answered with measured eagerness, I want to appear bright and enthusiastic without losing my sense of self preservation. Another flurry of activity days, mentally preparing for the inevitable questions about what motivated me to apply; how do I deal with stress; how do I cope in conflict; what are my strengths and or weaknesses. 

I well know the answers they are looking for, the trick is to provide a personal anecdote illustrating an appropriate scenario. I know they’re looking for team players with just the right amount of initiative to fit in, progress their enterprise, but not rock the boat. It’s a bit like a complicated dance: step together, step back, twirl, and hop; the knack is to not trip over one’s own feet.

“We hope to make a decision by the end of the week.”

How long is a week, what decision takes so long? But I know in these security conscious days, referee checks and police checks are standard. So I wait, each day heart stopping for every sound alert on my phone, knowing that if it is an email it will be a reject, so hoping for the call that hasn’t come yet. Two days down.

By day three, my referees haven’t yet been contacted and my hopes are starting to wilt. Friends endeavour to allay my self doubt by recounting how long they waited to hear about their jobs. It’s these days of limbo, neither accepted or rejected, that I find the hardest.

Day five and I’m reconciled with knowing that I’m not the chosen one, but my heart still gives a leap of hope when the phone rings and the voice on the either end pronounces the outcome. Regretfully, kindly, but still a no; they were very impressed with my presentation and enthusiasm and if they had two vacancies they would definitely have offered me one, but….

I thank them, say goodbye, take a deep breath. Some rejects hurt more than others, especially when I’ve felt that it really was the job I’ve been looking for. 

A day of licking my wounds, raging, despairing, then I throw myself into some hard physical work – the house might receive major clean, or the weeds in garden may be brutally torn from the ground. Exhausted, I feel better about myself again. 

Back to the daily task of scanning the situations vacant, maybe next time.

Barbarians still


Lo, it is nearly 350 years that we and our fathers have inhabited this most lovely land, and never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could be made. Behold the church of St Cuthbert spattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments; a place more venerable than all in Britain is given as a prey to pagan peoples …’. Letter from Alcuin of York to Ethelred, king of Northumbria, 8 June, 793.

I’ve been catching up with the TV series, Vikings, watching series 1 and 2 all in one week. Like many others, I had been brought up to consider the Vikings as the epitome of barbarism. My Anglo-Saxon ancestors, no doubt, having some sway in that prejudice.

As a child I loved the Norse myths as expounded by Roger Lancelyn Green, and have fond memories of my father reading to me the exploits of the gods, Thor, Odin, Freya, dwarves, dragons and heroes; and to complete my initiation into the romance of the Norsemen, I would sit on my father’s knee when he was listening to Wagner’s Ring Cycle and follow the words of the libretto. Heady stuff for a six year old.

MGM and the History channel’s version certainly perpetuates the myth, while adding some human love interest and gentle family interactions in between the betrayals and factions; and of course the brutality is not spared as the actors seem to relish the fight scenes. It’s well done with a convincing authenticity.

The Viking invasion of Britain took place from 793–1284, the last of several waves of invaders, over a thousand years ago, and I asked myself how has the human race progressed in that time. I wondered how many lives have been lost in battles for land, for religion, and tribal internecine strife.

I started thinking about barbarity as this is a word that has been bandied around in recent times with regard to the Daesh in the Middle East and their vicious struggle  to establish a caliphate and the battle to stop them. Even the Prime Minister of our country, John Key, has used the concept of standing up against barbarism to justify taking our troops into the battle zone, only to “train” Iraqi troops, of course.

My concern is that our government is buying into a lie and leading our nation into defending actions that are as barbarous as those it decries.

There are no good guys in war, only aggressors and victims. What difference does it make if the violence is a beheading or obliteration by a remotely controlled drone? Lives are lost for no purpose that can be justified.

The Vikings may have been barbarians, but modern man is no better, and at heart has not changed at all.

“They bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. …They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missiles, like the bristles of a hedgehog…When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so” Abbo of Fleury, Martyrdom of St Edmund, King of East Anglia.

There’s a whole web page that has compiled the numbers who have been killed in strife over the centuries, it doesn’t make pretty reading, nor does it inspire hope that man learns from the mistakes of history.

Just a few facts to ponder from our more recent history:

“In its report, the UN mission to Iraq says at least 5,576 civilians were killed and another 11,665 wounded from 1 January until the end of June. Another 1.2 million have been driven from their homes by the violence, it adds.

The pace of civilian deaths over the first six months marked a sharp increase over the previous year. In all of 2013, the UN reported just over 7,800 civilians killed, which was the highest annual death toll in years.

The fighting “has inflicted untold hardship and suffering on the civilian population with large-scale killings, injuries, and destruction and damage of livelihoods and property”, the UN report says.

It also documents human rights abuses by both sides of the conflict that may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes.

The UN said Isis and its allies had committed “systematic and egregious violations” against civilians, including killings, sexual violence, kidnappings, destruction of property and attacks on places of religious worship.”

‘Why the Rise of Fascism is Again the Issue’
John Pilger wrote:
“Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America’s modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as “sanctions”. The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.”

Iraq war
“Nearly half a million people have died from war-related causes in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to an academic study published in the United States on Tuesday.”

Total military casualties from both sides 1.475 million
Total wounded from both sides 2.094 million
Total civilian casualties from both sides 4 million

Over 60 million people were killed, which was over 3% of the 1939 world population (est. 2 billion)

The total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians.

List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll