Guest Post: Love Matters

It’s second vote day for the Marriage Equality Bill, & an old friend of mine has a few thoughts about that. The video Craig and his husband Marcel made, at the bottom of the post, is worth watching and sharing. Tell your elected representatives that love matters!

In the past I could not relate the idea of being gay to pride. I remember seeing gay pride campaigns and not understanding the connection between being gay and pride. I no more felt proud being a Kiwi or Pakeha or gay or having blue eyes for that matter. They are all simply ways of describing the attributes of who I am, they weren’t something I had earned, and therefore there was no way to be proud of them.

Today I have a better sense of what pride means. It’s not pride at what I’ve accomplished. It’s pride that I am entitled to and should be given the same respect as everyone else. It’s as simple as this: everyone is entitled to be respected for who they are and treated the same under the law. Some call it pride. I call it respect and civility.

Discrimination is a form of cancer in society. It causes people to feel disenfranchised and isolated, and reinforces ill-treatment of the target group. In my opinion, this prevents a society from ever reaching its full potential.

I know first hand what it was like to be bullied…relentlessly for being gay, and laws that discriminate against gay people indirectly and implicitly reinforce this behaviour. Young LGBT suicides are an absolute tragedy, as are any youth suicides. A society built on acceptance and respect instead of fear and discrimination nurtures and fosters our youth. We owe it to them. We owe it to ourselves.

We have been together now for 15 years, and I look forward to the day when the most interesting thing about that is not the fact we are a same-sex couple, but how it is that he has put up with me for this long.

I’m looking forward to the next 15 years, but this time being your NZ husband.

P.s. No Winston Peters, human rights are not a question of popular vote. Human rights are a question of entitlement and respect. Same-sex marriage is not impinging on the human rights of any other section of society and your job as an elected representative is to protect human rights, not to deflect attention away from the real point of the discussion: State-endorsed discrimination. Tsk tsk.

However, you know what? Even if it came to a popular vote, I have confidence Kiwis would support it.

Thanks Craig!

Good for the Greens

Three years ago, I was disillusioned about the low % of votes cast for the Green party, despite what I thought was a perfect set of conditions for them to thrive. “Is 7% as high as it’s ever going to get? Will the Green party always be this small?”

Turns out the people in the comments who said, nope, it can go bigger – they were right. The Green vote is sitting around 11% this time around.

It’s a marvellous result for them, even if it sits in the context of an election result that doesn’t give much to celebrate – very low turnout, a savage defeat for the main opposition Labour party, key losses for the left in almost every close electorate contest, and (most galling) the ridiculous spectacle of consummate politician (and political opportunist) Winston Peters riding in at the last moment and polling nearly 7% in doing so.

It’s a clear success for the new approach taken by the Greens, a careful don’t-scare-the-horses, friendlier-to-business model that has drawn a lot of criticism from their base. Ultimately I’m comfortable with this; given the failure of the big parties to engage with urgent environmental problems, the Greens need to be a party of influence, and if they have to sell some of their soul to get there then that seems like a political calculation they need to make.

A less-scary Green party also opens up space on the left for a true social justice party to come in and be vocal about those causes. The Mana party is the first shot at this, but I’m not yet confident it can hold together under the strain of the big personalities at its core; only winning one seat might be a blessing for the longer game.

Anyway. The country voted John Key back into power, despite polls showing they don’t really like his policies and don’t really know much about the rest of his party. That’s not a great endorsement for the NZ version of democracy, I guess.

Gonna be a tough three years.

(I also predicted “Many inside the Nats are eager to get on with their 90s-era project while they have their hands on the tiller. Expect big battles inside the National party as the ideologues take on the pragmatists.” – and the view from the outside is that I was wrong about that. There might be battles inside the party but almost nothing has leaked out into public view, it’s all a united front behind that nice Mr Keys. Anyway, with a second term won while openly campaigning on asset sales and welfare reform, the pragmatists and ideologues now find themselves happily in alignment. The waiting game has worked out beautifully for them.)

Election ’11: Something you can do

In our MMP electoral system, every vote matters.

Social psychology tells us that the biggest influence on our behaviour is the behaviour of people we know.

Our day-to-day social groups usually share our opinions on political matters, but Facebook (and, to a lesser extent, other social media tools) connects many of us to people beyond this.

So here’s a simple thing you can do before the election: announce on social media how you’re going to vote. Perhaps also say why if you can sum it up in a sentence. No big song and dance required, no need to engage in arguments if people reply. Just speak up.

It will count.

Quick Shots

I miss being able to blog about things in the world. Writing here helps me process and understand things. My comprehension of reality has reduced while I’ve been busy. Anyway, to spare you lengthy tortured posts, here’s some quick thoughts.

Shipwreck: A ship on a reef leaking oil, and the election just changed again. Our PM is under pressure from the media for a change, and he’s not coping. Key has been protected from tough questions his entire premiership for this reason – he can’t handle the pressure while keeping his smiling “nice Mr Keys” persona going. It won’t cause a huge desertion of the National party by voters, but expect Key’s preferred PM #s to drop and the Greens to continue to gather up votes.

OvalBall: I’ve never seen our country like this. The Rugby World Cup really has become a national celebration (even as the promised economic benefits fail to appear, SURPRISE). When we roadtripped up to Hastings and back a few weeks ago, the whole route was lined with festive signs. All Blacks flags in so many windows, flying from so many cars. And so many other flags! And every little town dressing up in global-village finery for the visiting rugby teams. A genuine spirit of love for the game, huge applause for the little-guy teams when they play well. It’s quite a wonderful atmosphere. I’m genuinely delighted. (Of course, if the All Blacks lose to Australia this weekend, there’ll be… well, not riots. But it will be rough. And hard to avoid even if you care not one tiny fig about rugby.)

Occupy: Yes yes, the Occupy Wall St movement has a vast overrepresentation of university-educated hipsters, and elides differences between middle class and working class, and hasn’t articulated unifying principles, and harbours madness on its fringes. It is important to note all of these things. But for heaven’s sake, don’t mistake these concerns for justifications not to celebrate the appearance of a genuine grass-roots societal justice movement that is driving the conversation in the US. (The US being the society whose abject brokenness all other Western societies are striving so hard to match.) There isn’t a completely different movement that does a better job waiting in the wings. This is the shot we get. Wish it well.

Who: loved Matt Smith’s performance this season of Doctor Who, but my enthusiasm for the show as a whole is at a very low ebb. Moffat as showrunner has lost me completely. His big villains are a complete failure of storytelling craft, and the more you try to forgive that, the more holes show up elsewhere. I stand by my earlier call: Torchwood season 4 > Doctor Who season 6.

Power and Periods

Those who are at the top of unequal power structures always develop a mythology to rationalise the inequality. Kings were Kings because of Divine Right, etc etc.

In the modern world of business-oriented hypercapitalism, the mythology is that of productivity. You will be rewarded in accordance with your productivity – what you contribute determines your compensation.

This is a mythology. Who determines productivity? By what metric? What opportunities are given to display productivity? What else is going on in an employment relationship besides productive labour?

Alasdair Thompson has been mocked and chastised for saying a small portion of women’s lower pay is because of menstruation-related sick days. The mockery shouldn’t obscure the fact that this has revealed how the mythology is maintained. Women across all employment are paid less; therefore, they must be less productive; therefore, reasons for their lesser productivity must be found.

Thompson should be given the boot, but more urgently, his ideology – shared in toto with our current government – should be exposed to sunlight and revealed as the mirage it is. Because even after everyone agrees that, no, menstruation does not limit productivity – well, the ideology will remain in place. It was never founded on facts, and it will shift to new ground. It isn’t menstruation, then. Well, it must be because women are more emotional and not hard-nosed enough to pursue their economic self-interest. I just invented that now.

Rationalisations are easy. Shifting an ideology is bloody hard. This is an opportunity.


I am angry.

Last night under urgency Parliament got a new law about internet and copyright almost all the way through. Three things about this make me angry:

(1) The law specifies that if you are accused of downloading illegally, you are presumed guilty (more info)

(2) The law gives government the power to punish a person by removing access to the internet entirely

(3) A controversial law such as this should not be put through under Parliamentary urgency.

More info about the bill is here.

This is a shameful episode in NZ politics. Bad law, and indefensible process. You cannot legislate morality, and you cannot legislate to fix technological failure.

Both major parties voted for this law. Only the Greens opposed (with two independent MPs). Remember that at election time.

Māori are confused

Duncan Garner on TV3’s morning news show Firstline just now: “Māori are confused. You’ve got Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples saying this is good legislation… and on the other hand you’ve got the last of the activist Māori saying we don’t want this.” (Starts at 4’41 into the clip, although he says “Māori are confused” at other times as well.)

Y’know, it’s good that Pākehā don’t get confused when John Key and Phil Goff say different things, or the country really would be in a pickle!

On reptiles and taking action

Stephen Judd has commented a few times here in reference to his decision to get involved in an NZ political party. His experiences have been interesting and extremely encouraging. This may not be as much the case internationally, but in NZ at least access to political decisionmaking is there for the taking.

Now he has blogged about it, and there’s a lengthy digression involving secret lizardpeople.

Go read.

Welfare Working Group Logic

The WWG report was released today and it was much as expected (full report here in PDF).

NZers will hear heaps about it in coming weeks, particularly the already-infamous “solo parents: when your baby is 14 weeks old you must start looking for work” recommendation. I want to look a bit closer at this, because I think it exposes the thinking behind this whole report quite clearly.

It’s section 3.7, starting on page 76. The last paragraph says this:
“The Working Group suggests that if the changes to the work test requirements do not address the incentives to have additional children while receiving welfare assistance, then the Government may need to consider financial disincentives, say by withholding part or all of the extra payments that come with having an additional child.”

The Executive Summary (PDF) describes this a bit more clearly:
“Government monitors the effect of this policy. If it is not effective, Government should consider whether further financial disincentives are necessary, including that parents not qualify for any additional financial assistance through the welfare system for any additional children born whilst in receipt of welfare, other than access to emergency assistance.”

Rephrased: if financial disincentives don’t change human reproductive behaviour, try harsher financial disincentives.

No consideration whatsoever for the view that having children has a range of causative factors, and despite popular mythology, continued access to welfare is not a strong one.

The ideology is taken as fundamental premise. There is no room for corrective measures. Failure is not a sign that the premise is wrong, rather that it hasn’t been applied fiercely enough.

The only comforting thing about this document is that it is mostly political theatre, and Key and company will distance themselves from extreme points like these. But remember who appointed this group, and know that this was always expected. John Key and company need to wear this report, for it is exactly what they asked for.