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New Zealand General Election: A Victory for… What?

In civics, ideology, philosophy, politics, psychology/psychiatry, sociology on September 23, 2014 at 1:07 am

There are some measurable reversals in the state of this nation. So, instead it is simpler to talk about —

A LIST OF DEFEATS:

* Democracy defeated: The winning party received 48.1% of the votes cast and has 100% of the power in what purports to be a proportional representation system. Under NZ’s one-house parliamentary system there are no checks and balances on the ruling party’s ideology, freed to pass legislation at will.

* Open and fair government defeated: The ruling party has over the past three elections bedded in two sleeping partners — single candidates in electorate seats — giving them strategic “accommodations”, which works to cement its place in untrammelled power though together the allies receive less than 1% of the vote nationally. One ally is regularly rewarded with a seat in Cabinet, his “mandate” from a total of 4,500 party votes nationwide (approximately one out of every 600 votes cast by electors).

MAXIMISING THE CHARM OFFENSIVE: maybe a Sarah Palin lookalike candidate for NZ's next election (by Spauldron)

MAXIMISING THE CHARM OFFENSIVE: maybe a Sarah Palin lookalike candidate for NZ’s next election (by Spauldron)

* Parliamentary government defeated: The election every three years has more and more become NZ’s presidential race, with media coverage of actual policies shrunk to almost zero this time. The question of who is the more photogenic candidate is at a premium. This might be fine if NZ had a president, which it now has in all but name — exercising power by casual consensus of his cronies. The issue of the challenger’s “double chin” is right up there in public debate with Joan Rivers’ enlightened comments on Obama’s ears. Though slightly the worst off in tv debates to his challenger, the encumbent undoubtedly won in the charm/smarm stakes.

Homes and work? Two issues that might have been discussed but weren't.

Homes and work? Two issues that might have been discussed but weren’t.

* People Power defeated: The Silent Majority rules in New Zealand. It is a truism that many Kiwis only under duress will admit to voting for the National Party — as in “I have a confession to make”, obviously realising they have something to feel ashamed about. It is a question how many individuals do vote for National openly and for motives other than perceived (though usually mistaken) naked self-interest. The vote of the Left Wing — usually held to be the conscience of a country — collapsed, the Labour Party receiving 24.7% of the vote, half that of their Right Wing rivals. Its mistake was apparently to put forward a cogent, well argued, academically rigorous platform of policies to address a number of increasingly urgent problems and inequities that are overripening, just begging for a backlash by the aggrieved. The “Trickle Down” theory — itself a cynical lie — continues unabated after thirty years in place so far. The Internet-Mana Party coalition, supposedly the vanguard of a legitimate left wing, was left to languish on 1.3%, irredeemably tainted by teaming up with an opportunistic internet criminal who bought it off to the tune of $3.5 million in campaign funding (only equalled by the personally wealthy Conservative Party leader), effectively ejecting a strong voice for young, poverty-stricken Maoridom out of Parliament. Ultimately symptomatic of an old British colony, it is extremely bad form to set yourself up as a judge in any field at all no matter how well informed (“experts” are absolutely taboo). So, high-profile activists such as tv actresses Lucy Lawless and Robyn Malcolm protesting against dodgy environmental practices are likely to have contributed to a reaction against what was expected to be a record Green Party vote this election, resulting in an actual decline to 10%. (This is in marked contrast to the public fawning directed at fat-cat movie producer Peter Jackson, instrumental in capping pay and conditions for local performers and accruing massive tax concessions for himself — banking another couple hundred million for him and his screenwriter-wife after every new movie.)

* Idealism defeated: This is a debatable one, since the word idealism has been a dirty one in the ruling Kiwi mythology for generations now. The Kiwi worldview comes from a combination of white Anglo Saxon pioneering stock and hunter-warrior Maori ideology. Both founding cultures are pragmatic to the ultimate, with grand gestures to selflessness today seemingly reserved for sports heroes on the rugby field and netball court. The thought that if you don’t aim for an ideal in government then you’re not likely to come anywhere near it doesn’t even occur. Politicians are known to be untrustworthy, so it is best to pick the one that is most successful at pure politics; i.e. manoeuvring, manipulatiing, spinning, twisting, evading… the whole skill set for running a country. A few years ago a 50,000-strong Maori march on Wellington (equivalent to a million in New York City) was greeted with the rejoinder from the prime minister that the other four and a half million people in the country must be on his side: a cynical rationalisation trotted out regularly now, accepted by a bulk of the population — to the point of discouraging any initiative to protest at all.

* Resistance to unbridled capitalism defeated: Public opinion surveys have for many years rejected more sales of public assets, to the degree of a 90%-plus “No”. While the wider public knows very well it is being sold down the river to those cronies of a right-wing government who can afford to invest in shares, they will not vote accordingly — resulting in inevitable crowing from the government that opponents of wholesale private enterprise would have if they really cared, and encouraging them further in their hubris to sell more. The prime minister, probably the most popular man, woman or beast in the country, has become a role model across classes and age groups — especially for the effortless way he accumulated his fortune estimated at between $50 and $80 million (it’s just vulgar to count the zeroes once you get past a certain point): by using his position as a stock broker to trade internationally in currencies and share manipulations. He’s looking forward to hosting Obama and other world leaders in a nice round of golf here in NZ, and his supporters are thrilling to the status this will bring the country — confirming his people as slobbering, salivating lickspittle pawns in the globalism game waiting for crumbs from the table.

* Environmentalism and Public Transport defeated: While billions of dollars continue to be spent annually on expanding the motorway networks of Auckland and Wellington — two very minor cities by world standards — a relatively cheaper plan for public transport languishes at barely embryonic stage, underfunded and years behind schedule. (No sooner are these “improvements” completed than the roads are filled up and gridlocked again.) The majority of NZ rivers being polluted beyond public use by agricultural runoff, farmers have been left to regulate themselves in the time-honoured fashion of laissez faire private enterprise — an approach two or so centuries out of date.

* Objections to government corruption defeated: Undisguised and unrepentant favoritism for her own husband’s export business in China resulted in just a stand-down period for a senior Cabinet Minister until after the election. Transparent obfuscation on her behalf by her government colleagues was a cause celebre in the media for a while, but have been effectively silenced for the duration. Token scalps of government members of Parliament using public funds for personal purposes have been just that — underwhelming.

* Sane judgment defeated: Reelected with a record majority is a stand-alone government that has taken six years (two terms) to balance the budget, taking the books, just, into the black — and so temporarily as an election trick of the light; that in the face of this, a week before the election, proposed tax cuts after; rejected a capital gains tax on the wealthy, which virtually every other country has; has an ongoing 20% child poverty rate with permanently hungry children in a primary-produce exporting country (the government having pointedly refused to enter a coalition against child poverty); has produced no plan to diversify exports in an era of rapidly dropping produce prices overseas; that presides over an unemployment rate as high as the United States. The proposed budget of spending put forward for the Labour Party, independently costed and steadfast under queries from the incumbent government and media commentators, was a nonissue and seemingly disregarded by the public at large — who went with no costings and baseless assurances from the government. Indeed, the prime minister received a tangible sympathy vote, one supporter saying that he’d had a “tough run” with the Pike River coal mine disaster (four years later the government still has punished none of the negligent management, let alone investigated the miners’ remains) and the Christchurch earthquake(s) — four years later still with tens of thousands of insurance disputes over destroyed homes unresolved.

Intestinal Fortitude failed: It’s difficult to imagine a situation where Kiwis get worked up about anything at all these days, apart from international rugby, netball, the America’s Cup and other bread-and-circuses distractions with a quick payoff in adrenaline and pheromones. The younger generation — and I’m talking about teens here, who used to be full of youthful support for their peers — are far more likely to fantasise about and cheer on the legend of Kiwi “heroes” of Gallipoli a century ago than spare a thought for their fellow kids who go to school hungry every day. Once upon a time, Kiwis set out on great crusades supporting each other through the Great Depression, through World War II when world civilisation itself was threatened; in the Seventies when the anti-nuclear cause burned hot and NZ took the lead. I would relate the public outlook today as much closer to the era of the 1951 Waterfront Lockout, when poor people — at least demonstrating solidarity in unions — were vilified to the point of not finding the guts to stand up for themselves, and anyone who supported or even sympathised with them (through newspapers or providing food) was penalised. Or the late Eighties and Nineties, when politicians in this country across the board — Labour and National — strove to create a chasm between rich and poor, and have succeeded to this day.

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PEOPLE POWER?

In economics, ideology, morality, philosophy, politics on September 19, 2014 at 11:38 pm

I suppose my first recollection of the phrase “People Power” was around 1986 when ingoing President Corazon Aquino quoted it in raising a groundswell of support promising to free the people of The Philippines from the dynasty of the Marcos family. It seemed like a good idea, and probably still is when carried out by idealists with a real sense of selflessness and self-empowerment and in the cause of the greater good — as it was also in most cases of “The Arab Spring” of a couple of years ago, beginning in Tunisia, taking in Lybia, failing in Syria and Yemen, and culminating in Egypt — where it appeared to have succeeded according to the people’s wishes; that is, before the army took over.

Aye, and there’s the rub, said the inspired Robbie Burns. Closer to this part of the world, in Fiji, Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka took over its Parliament “at the point of a gun” in 1987. And things have never been the same since. Even the most superficial onlookers — tourists — were put off for a few years after repeated coups, setting the Islands’ economy back a millennium. The first general election here in eight years, begun a couple of days ago at the pleasure of the incumbent Generalissimo, Commodore Bainimarama, is poised at a 57 percent “pro” vote for him halfway through the count; the nearest challenging party on a little over half that. Of course, since he instituted physical coercion of political opponents by his army and police force at first opportunity, and under ongoing enforced censorship of the press, it is difficult to tell whether this result is a resounding endorsement of the Bainimarama regime or just symptomatic of a people who have had the spirit kicked out of them.

Ah! What combination do we deserve and/or will we get this time?

Ah! What combination do we deserve and/or will we get this time?

Some eighteen hours ago news came through that the referendum on Scottish independence, open to all current residents of Scotland aged 16 and above, had come down on the side of staying within the United Kingdom, the vote 55% to 45%. Leader of the Scottish nationalists, veteran politician Alex Salmond, has resigned but not before gaining almost the bulk of what he was seeking in the beginning: what should be important concessions from London made on the eve of the election to swing the vote in favor of the 307-year-old partnership, which until recent years had seen Scotland become increasingly the junior partner. Whether these promises will be kept, and/or on whose timetable now there’s no urgent need, remains to be seen. Apart from national pride — apparently never quite as strong as that of Ireland, which won a hard-fought freedom from London a century ago — from this distance it’s difficult to say whether Scotland has more than the legitimate economic gripe that also pertains to the English North, the Midlands and the West Country: in fact anywhere that the 50 million majority of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland is effectively outvoted by the 12 million of Swinging Greater London, which retains more loyalty to its status as a world stock market capital and centre of big business — like, hypothetically, the foreign policy of Mexico or Canada being ruled from Wall Street, New York City.

A little over an hour ago the polling booths opened all over New Zealand for its three-yearly general election. There is so little faith in politicians here that three years is deemed to be the ideal term of government: one year getting settled in (including allowing two months or so for negotiations with minor parties in accordance with the MMP proportional system), one year to undo the “worst” of what the previous government did and rush through its own legislative program with dead-of-night rubber-stamp votes in the unicameral Parliament, and one year effectively campaigning for the next election with tax bribes or other major tweaks that seem expedient. The hope for most people is that they will at least have a show of ousting them in relatively short order before they can do irretrievable damage: probably a forlorn hope given the way the country has gone in all-out capitalism without a working safety net over the past thirty years. The ruling conservative National Party is odds on to win a third consecutive term on the trot, leading with 45-47% in opinion polls and apparently only needing one minor party to side with it to rule again.

Seriously, should inability to recognise your own best economic interests in a simple face-to-face quiz be a disqualifier to voting, like intellectual incapacity or insanity in court? I personally know poor, poor people who are intent on voting conservative, as if the status quo hasn’t screwed them enough. Admittedly, they are in the mental health system and vote counter-intuitively — to put it politely — but that doesn’t account for the other close-to-two-million votes the right wing is set to receive. As one wise person said, “Democracy is a form of government where the people vote for want they want and the politicians give it to them good and hard.”

The Labour Party, in proposing instant action on the 285,000 NZ kids existing under the poverty line (a 20 percent rate nationally), an immediate hike in the minimum wage of two dollars per hour, concrete moves to lower the increasingly out-of-reach average price of new houses by some $100,000 to just under $400,000, introducing a moderate capital gains tax affecting rich people (no more than virtually every other country has) and a small lift in the highest income tax rate to 36% on any earnings over $150,000 p.a. — obviously also on the wealthiest earners — has apparently shrivelled the scrotes of a great many people you wouldn’t expect: maybe in moronic positive-thinking mode that “Anything Oprah can do I can do too.” Traditionally the left-wing alternative, the Labour Party has amassed an unimpressive 24-26% support according to the latest surveys, and will need at least two (and probably more) minor parties to side with it to even approach the required half of the electorate.

Labour’s only guaranteed allies are the Green Party (on 11-14% support), proposing up to a 40% tax maximum, and the Internet-Mana Party (steady on 2%), a queer mix of a poverty-driven Maori initiative funded by international copyright crim Kim Dotcom, wanted by the FBI and Interpol. The third most popular party, NZ First, invented some twenty years ago and still led by Scottish-Maori compassionate conservative Winston Peters (named after you-know-who), has 6-8%, and is, on principle, a wild card, always refusing to say who he will support until one-man-band Winston sees his main chance after the election. The new Conservative Party — speaking for the Tea Party fundamentalist christian element in ths country — out of the blue is now on a surveyed 4.9% (just that smidgeon below the 5% threshold that will qualify it for 6-7 members of Parliament), could conceivably be in a decision-making role after the election, maybe wrecking the country once and for all. Look for binding referendums on everything from smacking of kids — currently against the law but allowed by the police — to creative evolution. Compulsory smacking by parents — under pain of having kids otherwise removed by smacking social agencies — hasn’t been ruled in or out of policy.

In the end, all might depend on the weather — left wing supporters here being notoriously fragile on such things as rainy trips in the car to polling booths all of a few hundred yards away, with nothing between you and the threat of raindrops but a layer of cast iron. They can look mighty scary beating on the windshield — and then there’s the possibility of wind itself that I haven’t mentioned. To mitigate this comfort factor for this election a three-week lead-in period has been introduced, taking special votes at one’s convenience. Some 770,000 early votes were cast, so almost another two million voters (of 3,096,000 registered) will have to turn up today to make a high turnout of over 80% altogether — a tall order. With the weather forecast crummy today for most parts of the country for most of the time, things don’t look good — the truism being that only an abnormally big turnout swings against the status quo.

A friend of mine who is acting as a Labour Party volunteer today has been instructed to knock on random front doors and simply remind people to vote, however — the hope apparently being that most of those ruled by inertia will tend towards social equality, in rudimentary impulse if not in action. I guess there’s always hope. But when I was a canvasser for the left-wing Alliance twenty years ago, we had written lists of actual supporters and their addresses so we could arrange to have them transported to polling booths and vote in a good cause. Strange how times change. I have noticed elsewhere too this tendency from officialdom to encouarge random voting as if it’s a good thing to simply plunk one’s vote in a box and the extent of what can be expected from most people.

I’m afraid the overwhelming probability of my well-informed vote being cancelled out by someone in the booth next to me who has given it just a passing thought or no thought at all leaves me cold — if this is what the World Wars have come down to in winning and exercising the highest principles in a perfunctory democratic process.

Roll on 7pm, now just eight hours away. Stand by for a post script sometime in the next day or two.

HERO OF THE CAVE or BOTTOMLESS PIT? — Just Askin’

In morality, philosophy, psychology/psychiatry on June 20, 2014 at 3:16 am

Having caught some of a news item this morning, apparently set in a Germanic-speaking, alpine region of Europe, I learnt enough of the pertinent facts to be able to write about it from a philosophical angle.

It seems eighteen years ago a famous caver (they’re people who climb down a cave because it’s there) in Europe discovered this spectacularly “challenging” cave that goes down a thousand metres deep with numerous twists and turns vertically and horizontally that make recovery of a body, never mind actual rescue, virtually impossible. Now this caver knew this cave and its above-the-odds risks to himself and others better than anyone alive, and decided to go down there again to its full extent — I guess because it’s still there.

According to the report, some seven hundred men (and/or women) from six different countries were recruited and persisted at the rescue attempt for two weeks at a cost of… Well, no one knows because it’s such bad taste to bring money into it when it’s being thrown down a bottomless pit in such a heroic scenario — when the sanctity of ONE human life is involved, but drawing into this circus the risk of countless other lives. If we were talking about the actions of a man who had better things to do with his time than climb down holes, in fact a man who had no such heroic yearnings at all — a lot more common, everyday circumstance numbering in the hundreds of millions around the world such as a poor man working hard to support his family who now finds himself even poorer through no fault of his own — then economists would be lining up from here to the moon and back to measure every bit of monetary loss, plus pain and suffering, plus attaching a sizable profit due his ‘rescuers’ at market rates.

Because these poor men are the exact opposite of heroes — actually, “deadbeat” being the most common term applied — loitering, indigent vagrants to be polite in officialese — they haven’t the means or unmitigated gall to buy themselves a pristine image: unlike, say, the constantly-in-debt Donald Trump, affectionately known as “The Donald”, a lovable rogue who has garnered respect, admiration and television superstardom far and wide for grinding down people less fortunate.

Now that he is rescued, does anyone have the foresight to tie a bell on this compulsive caver so he doesn’t wander off again where he’s not supposed to be? Or put him in a rubber room for the meantime until he can demonstrate he’s not going to hurt himself and put hundreds of others in jeopardy again? No, in the time-honored tradition of a world where things are run and rules are determined to the ability of the dumbest guy around, they have to effectively destroy this wonder of nature for all time by cementing it up, spoiling everyone else‘s fun and any future investigation of value by scientists.

Has this exercise been a total waste? No, once again the most humane or well-paid of us have demonstrated self-sacrifice in the cause of a thoroughly self-absorbed person. Of course, the caver can either say “Thank you” for whatever good that does, or “All this waste is not my fault because I didn’t ask to be rescued” — or probably a bit of both, showing the total lack of moral integrity humans are capable of even when they’re supposedly at their best.

Of course, this phenomenon of “Let’s all rush off to channel all available resources into one barely viable human being” calls into question mass international searches for idle adventurers that have become routine in recent times. For years commentators have questioned whether it wouldn’t be right to send these heroes a bill after they’re with the consensus so far coming down on “That wouldn’t be right.” And this while people who pay stiff taxes and exorbitant upfront charges at hospitals (not counting those with insurance) for simple attention for everyday wear-and-tear not their fault are duped by small print or fobbed off with excuses — and the billions around the world with fewer resources are told to go fly a kite.

NEWTOWN MASS MURDER INVESTIGATION: An Exercise in Futility

In civics, ideology, morality, philosophy, politics, psychology/psychiatry, sociology on December 17, 2012 at 6:04 am

second_amendment_by_roscoso-d5ofa7xThe chief of police stands there looking and speaking authoritatively — a cowboy hat in Connecticut? What is he trying to prove? He reassures us that the force will leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this, forensics, good solid police work, the perpetrator’s motive, and the rest… You expect him to call for a posse, head him off at the pass, and hang this varmint from the highest limb, or maybe deal out Colt .45 justice. Oh, that’s right, consarn it…

We already know who dunnit. It’s the varmint holding the gun, leading to him a trail of blood from 20 kids and six teachers. And we know as sure as shootin’, just as we know from all the other massacres (was Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas the model?) THERE IS NO VALID MOTIVE… Aside from, the guns were there, my mommy/daddy taught me how to use them, they’re designed for killing humans, so I did, when I was in a bad mood, because I could.

Yes, there were warning signs — the guy was “strange” from a young age, and lately his mommy, a gun nut (but a nice lady — aren’t they always?) who taught him how to fire guns, found him increasingly difficult to handle. Left to her own devices with a strange, picked-on kid, did she unconsciously hope that he could ‘defend’ himself with her own personal arsenal? These are anti-PERSONNEL weapons, not hunting equipment (psycho as that is in itself).

The president says he’s going to do all he can to prevent this ever happening again. I don’t suppose he meant these as futile words, but we all know one man can’t stand against an entire nation bent on abusing firepower and defying their own Constitution when they do so outside of an official “militia” context. But the perp had studied American history and philosophy, so found his justification for such a ‘solution’ quite easily.

So I guess we’ll all go on wanking with fine words until the next one happens. Then the same Christian right will come forward mouthing sorrowful platitudes and with the next breath insisting on their right to have the power to kill people on a whim.

MEDICAL REVIEW — Being Psycho in New Zealand: Part Deux

In morality, philosophy, psychology/psychiatry, sociology on August 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Intro: One of the great things about New Zealand for a creative writer is that anyone who is alternately chronically depressed and anxious about the state of the world, and having to live in it — as any artist worth his salt is — can collect a social welfare benefit. One of the crap things about New Zealand is that the British class system still shows through, health insurance can only be afforded by the wealthy and real Accident Compensation is most readily accessed by the lawyers of the wealthy. The rest of us so-called disabled or health-disadvantaged who don’t fit into society try to exist on tiny ‘benefits’. My particular disadvantage that makes me virtually unemployable is also my vocation: telling the absolute truth, unvarnished. Below there follows an article that was rejected by the director of my own ‘caregiver’ organization, Crossroads, an associate member in Auckland of the international Clubhouse movement. It was said to be ‘caustic’ — and this is a disqualifier for censorship? — but more to the point contains some home truths about Crossroads’ funder, the Auckland District Health Board. Intended for its bi-monthly Chatters magazine, it has been lightly edited for purposes of comprehension outside New Zealand.

 

 

MIND MAZE

It’s  a great idea that people who have had breakdowns be encouraged to work — if they are able. At something stimulating, not work a machine can do. A longtime friend of mine who qualified as a fine artist in the ultra-demanding degree course at Elam Art School, disowned for many years by his family, has worked forever at the so-called welfare organisation Wrap’n’Pak, $3/hour drudgery. This is a criminal waste, even diabolical punishment given his high ability, high standards of excellence he places on himself and concomitant low threshold of frustration.<p>    

Global capitalism deems 15% of people expendable from the workforce. A job could be a lifesaver if: 1) the pay is reasonable; 2) hours aren’t split so pay goes on travel expenses; 3) you don’t get fired for no particular reason a day short of your three-months probation (an employer-friendly law passed by the National Government last year). Problem is there are precious few jobs in New Zealand today where even one of these criteria holds true.<p> And applicants deemed subject to mental defect will find few employers rushing to shoulder-tap them for their lack of experience over recent years. The job market for us has become a constant grind of proving yourself again and again, like touting for a mega appearance fee in showbiz: “Yeah, but what have you done lately?” And we have virtually no prospect of gaining experience that means anything in the demanding job market.

Government says  it wants us to work but, coming from the moral high ground of conservatives maybe it just wants someone to hound. Some people’s lives aren’t worth living unless they have others around whom they can grind down through biased policies, then tell to pull their socks up and buy some shares in assets the public already owns by paying taxes.<p>

The Mainstream Employment program numbers just 200 lucky souls throughout the country and I now see why. I was approved for the program May 2011, did an employment course and was given a job agent to help with my c.v. (resumee) and find work for me. My agent is very conscientious — thanks Cherie of Elevator! She is a stick-to-it American go-getter from Gainesville, Florida settled here for the past two years after a period living in Ireland. Me? — I’m okay, actually thinking of trying another agency called Workshy, where, knowing the situation, they just put their feet up and collect a steady salary. It’s part of my makeup that when people tell me to “Hurry up and wait” — and nothing appears after a year or so — I tend to hibernate to keep from breaking out in stress-induced blistering face shingles. Yet, I know if a job does come in I’ll have to rev up and hit the ground running: one more stress. My g.p. insists I am not capable of open employment, and should only work up to 15 hours a week at a suitable job in a suitable environment. Of course, I do much more than that weekly, writing and editing various projects on the go.<p>

Three employers had my c.v. for five months before giving me thumbs down. A Head of Department at my old university (Auckland) finally said she didn’t have time to support me on the job. Support? — I’m a self-starter. What was looking the likeliest prospect — a job with the ADHB (Auckland District Health Board) — has been put on indefinite hold. The particular workplace, Starship Children’s Hospital, started just two other people with disabilities in jobs until the DHB sees how they  do. My suitability is judged on the work of others. This is wrong under UN Human Rights resolutions, plain commonsense and the Cub Scouts Code for all I know. Is this to save on diagnosing, assuming we all have the same shortcomings? One scrapheap fits all? If one of the two lucky ones given jobs goes berserk and starts shooting, are we in the queue automatically arrested, or just given the boot from any job prospects? I can’t help reflecting that this isn’t the future my mother planned for me when she carried me for nine months, raised me 18 years solo and made untold sacrifices. Just to be shot down on the whim of a bureaucrat?<p>

This is all part of the stigma, isn’t it, from the government down — no matter what they say. It’s a widespread government policy ghettoing people deemed mentally suspect for being different, unable to be boxed in as a specific economic cog in the scheme of things as they visualize it. You can’t claim ACC (Accident Compensation Commission) — Your destiny is a bennie. This is a discriminatory practice that seems to be just accepted, just because. That is, unless you can tell the doctors the precise single incident that caused your breakdown, or the proximate cause, maybe the remote causes going back to childhood, beyond to genetics, likely the largest component. We human sacrifices are left struggling on inadequate pay, facing condemning social stigma, unfit and undeserving of work  — a lifelong sentence for some. In the past year I have lost five friends — not just fellow ‘clients’ but people I socialized with in my own time — including two who chose not to live out their full sentence; one aged 34, the other 46; both so intelligent and functionally capable, with so much individual initiative that was left unrecognized or simply neglected.<p>

No lowlife bennie for a certain Ms in the news recently. Lent the ears of ministers and prime ministers for 10 years, she just wants more — compo, that is, on top of her “very large” insurance payout to sweeten the pot. Her ACC windfall needs to be much more to maintain her in the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed. After all, it’s not like the rest of us had lifestyles to lose.<p>

Is this the luck of the draw? Hardly. Are some people more deserving? — Nope. So in the words of Hal David, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” I suspect just old-fashioned greed. Thems that haves, gets.    — Gaz De Forest

Being Psycho in New Zealand: Part Deux

In morality, philosophy, psychology/psychiatry, sociology on August 13, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Intro: One of the great things about New Zealand for a creative writer is that anyone who is alternately chronically depressed and anxious about the state of the world, and having to live in it — as any artist worth his salt is — can collect a social welfare benefit. One of the crap things about New Zealand is that the British class system still shows through, health insurance can only be afforded by the wealthy and real Accident Compensation can only be accessed by the lawyers of the wealthy. The rest of us so-called disabled who don’t fit into society try to exist on tiny ‘benefits’. My particular disadvantage that makes me virtually unemployable is also my vocation: telling the absolute truth, unvarnished. Below there follows an article that was rejected by the director of my own ‘caregiver’ organization, Crossroads, an associate member in Auckland of the international Clubhouse movement. Intended for its bi-monthly Chatters magazine, it has been lightly edited for purposes of comprehension outside New Zealand.

MIND MAZE

It’s  a great idea that people who have had breakdowns be encouraged to work — if they are able. At something stimulating, not work a machine can do. A longtime friend of mine who qualified as a fine artist in the ultra-demanding degree course at Elam Art School, disowned for many years by his family, has worked forever at the so-called welfare organisation Wrap’n’Pak, $3/hour drudgery. This is a criminal waste, even diabolical punishment given his high ability, high standards of excellence he places on himself and concomitant low threshold of frustration.<p>     Global capitalism deems 15% of people expendable from the workforce. A job could be a lifesaver if: 1) the pay is reasonable; 2) hours aren’t split so pay goes on travel expenses; 3) you don’t get fired for no particular reason a day short of your three-months probation (a employer-friendly law passed by the National Government last year). Problem is there are precious few jobs in New Zealand today where even one of these criteria holds true.<p>

Government says  it wants us to work but, coming from the moral high ground of conservatives maybe it just wants someone to hound. Some people’s lives aren’t worth living unless they have others around whom they can grind down through biased policies, then tell to pull their socks up and buy some shares in assets the public already owns by paying taxes.<p>

The Mainstream Employment program numbers just 200 lucky souls throughout the country and I now see why. I was approved for the program May 2011, did an employment course and was given a job agent to help with my c.v. (resumee) and find work for me. My agent is very conscientious — thanks Cherie of Elevator! She is a stick-to-it American go-getter. Me?— I’m okay, actually thinking of trying another agency called Workshy, where, knowing the situation, they just put their feet up and collect a steady salary. It’s part of my makeup that when people tell me to “Hurry up and wait” — and nothing appears after a year or so — I tend to hibernate to keep from breaking out in stress-induced blistering face shingles. Yet, I know if a job does come in I’ll have to rev up and hit the ground running: one more stress. My g.p. insists I am not capable of open employment, and should only work up to 15 hours a week at a suitable job in a suitable environment. Of course, I do much more than that weekly, writing and editing various projects on the go.<p>

Three employers had my c.v. for five months before giving me thumbs down. A Head of Department at my old university (Auckland) finally said she didn’t have time to support me on the job. Support? — I’m a self-starter. What was looking the likeliest prospect — a job with the ADHB (Auckland District Health Board) — has been put on indefinite hold. The particular workplace, Starship Children’s Hospital, started just two other people with disabilities in jobs until the DHB sees how they  do. My suitability is judged on the work of others. This is wrong under UN Human Rights resolutions, plain commonsense and the Cub Scouts Code for all I know. Is this to save on diagnosing, assuming we all have the same shortcomings? One scrapheap fits all? If one of the two lucky ones given jobs goes berserk and starts shooting, are we in the queue automatically arrested, or just given the boot from any job prospects? I can’t help reflecting that this isn’t the future my mother planned for me when she carried me for nine months, raised me 18 years solo and made untold sacrifices. Just to be shot down on the whim of a bureaucrat?<p>

This is all part of the stigma, isn’t it, from the government down — no matter what they say. It’s a widespread government policy ghettoing people deemed mentally suspect for being different, unable to be boxed in as a specific economic cog in the scheme of things as they visualize it. You can’t claim ACC (Accident Compensation Commission) — Your destiny is a bennie. This is a discriminatory practice that seems to be just accepted, just because. That is, unless you can tell the doctors the precise single incident that caused your breakdown, or the proximate cause, maybe the remote causes going back to childhood, beyond to genetics, likely the largest component. We human sacrifices are left struggling on inadequate pay, facing condemning social stigma, unfit and undeserving of work  — a lifelong sentence for some. In the past year I have lost five friends — not just fellow ‘clients’ but people I socialized with in my own time — including two who chose not to live out their full sentence; one aged 34, the other 46; both so intelligent and functionally capable, with so much individual initiative that was left unrecognized or simply neglected.<p>

No lowlife bennie for a certain Ms in the news recently. Lent the ears of ministers and prime ministers for 10 years, she just wants more — compo, that is, on top of her “very large” insurance payout to sweeten the pot. Her ACC windfall needs to be much more to maintain her in the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed. After all, it’s not like the rest of us had lifestyles to lose.<p>

Is this the luck of the draw? Hardly. Are some people more deserving? — Nope. So in the words of Hal David, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” I suspect just old-fashioned greed. Thems that haves, gets.    — Gaz De Forest

PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW: Metaphysical Observations on the Value of a Human Body (Deceased)

In anthropology, morality, philosophy on March 19, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Price-of-Life-by-Linda-Cai

“Price of Life” by Linda Cai

This article is not one of those grossly scientific assessments of how many cents the chemicals inherent in a human body are worth — that arcane knowledge that scientists used to be fond of bragging, accidentally showing how much they didn’t know about the value of a human being. Nor is it that equally sociopathic assessment beloved of life insurance assessors that sizes a person’s ultimate worth up in dollars and cents by age and theoretical future earning potential had they lived. But I fear high-earning basketball players, for example, who might be a drain on society in every way as individuals, are valued much more by society today than, say, a poor parent who devotes his or her life to kids and other deserving.

Every now and again you catch something in the news (or on the tv crime shows) that just doesn’t sit right, in fact seems very, very wrong. So wrong that you wonder if you haven’t missed something in your upbringing, some essential moral or cultural message you failed to read between the lines. A message apparently so central to the human condition that you wonder if you’re not irretrievably divorced from the rest of humankind. One of these is the fact of how very much value the Judeo-Christian ethic places on the physical remains of deceased persons.

In christian metaphysics people are taught that the human spirit — all that which is of value in a person — flees the body at the point of death. All that is left is the worthless husk, the vessel in which a person’s being was carried. So what great lengths people will go to recover a body that is lost has always been a total mystery to me. The concept of “closure” seems inadequate to explain why a believer in afterlife should need physical remains to grieve over. Yet, serial murderers have been set virtually scot-free just for telling the locations of their victims — risking the possibility that they might destroy more actual lives. The value of a cadaver — a gruesome abomination of a remnant that carries no hint of the worth of the person when he or she was alive — to grieve over, if even that much is left of the beloved’s corporeal remains, is set higher than viable lives.

Strangely, the third apex of the original European-Arabic-Jewish religious-cultural triangle, Islam, holds comparatively very little sacred value in human remains. Indignities and atrocities are meted out by Muslim tribesmen to the remains (and live bodies) of enemies that even brutal modern Westerners might wince at. The imbalance in values has never been shown better than when, first, a few years ago, the dead bodies of two Israeli soldiers were traded by Palestinians back to the state of Israel in return for setting 300 to 400 prisoners free. Last year (2011) when 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were set free in exchange for one live Israeli soldier, this highlighted a large disparity in the value different cultures set on life. You have to wonder at the sanity of a government of an independent state — Palestine — that would place so little value on its live citizens, officially in the ratio of one thousand to one Israeli, for the whole world to see its priorities.

Admittedly in Western culture cremation is increasingly recognised as an option in which there is no mourning place where remains of the loved one “rest in peace”. This is becoming a logistical necessity where dead people in often lavishly decorated graves meant as permanent monuments are taking up vast tracts of lebensraum which could be used by the living or preferably left to revert to nature; seven billion specimens of humankind currently overpopulating the planet seems like more than plenty.

At the same time in the West, I think mere existence of our bodies in a breathing, pulsing state tends to be vastly overrated. We all die, but except in the case of people who can’t afford health care every possible resource is brought to bear in prolonging what is often a torturous clinging to vital signs that show that life still lingers, technically. Trendy people spend cumulative years of their lives ensuring that they have every chance of existing what statistically might be just a fraction of a year extra, and not even guaranteed that. Given the fragility of existence, a previously undetected condition or a thoughtless moment crossing the street or at the wheel is likely to cancel out all well laid plans for the future. Such absurdities, sometimes bordering on obscenity, as preserving as a right the existences of confessed, proven-beyond-any-doubt serial murderers, convolutes morality to the point of turning it on its head. The attention span of many humans being what it is, the mass murderer is fast switched to the poor downtrodden underdog in prison, and is wept over and proposed to by seriously irrational women awash in protective hormones. And, just as likely, convinced in their girl power to change him; at least, dress him better.

In cases where rehabilitation/born-again appeal doesn’t work the value of a human body (deceased) tends to rise beyond all reasonable expectations of inflation. As a symbol of martyrdom to the cause against unfeeling officialdom it is carried like that of a saint from one generation to the next of Dead Man Walking fans.

Sociopaths: Hunting for ‘Sport’

In anthropology, morality, philosophy on January 13, 2008 at 9:23 am

The modern man who hunts for enjoyment (a woman who does it must be even more warped so I’d rather not think about it) has so little function in the empathy centres of his brain that he must surely qualify as an undiagnosed sociopath — a psychopath in less polite language. The fact that he stacks the deck so far in his own favor against his quarry — arming himself to the teeth with the latest technology, and cheating by the fact that he hasn’t made his weapon himself — means that he doesn’t trust his own wits to be able to outfox a ‘dumb’ animal. Typical of humanity’s total lack of insight into itself, this definition of ‘sport’ is symptomatic of the win-at-all costs mentality prevailing today, and could just be the very definition of crass stupidity.

When I was young and saw hunting on nature study tv I felt sorry for men living in primitive circumstances who were still forced to do this in the mid 20th Century to survive — there being precious little protein in what scant vegetation there often is in marginal environments to sustain human habitation. When I reached an enquiring age, say early adolescence, I realised there must be something fundamentally disconnected about people who still employ hunting as a meaningless rite of passage for males, and acutely antisocial about those who do it for fun. To date I have managed to steer clear of them for fear of contamination. And I’m sure I thought that one day hunting would be banned by thinking people, maybe phased out so that those addicted to their own bloodlust might be helped by diversion programs. Instead, some forty years later in the year of Our Lord (you know, the one who said Thou Shalt Not Kill, and he might have added especially not for the Hell of it) 2008 it seems to be a PR imperative for anyone wishing to be President of the United States, supposedly the most advanced culture on earth, to conduct themselves for a media event as an unthinking, wanton destroyer of lives.

One of my uncles, who had suffered serious brain damage as an infant, had somewhat limited social skills and was reviled by sensitive people who witnessed his habitual callousness to tiny creatures — squashing bugs on table tops and the like. He was also an avid killer of larger game by shooting them in the forest at will. That is, until he shot a fawn and then saw her young tagging along, now motherless. The penny dropped, and it wasn’t so much fun anymore.

It was probably not so much a change on principle as one of crass sentimentality in the American-Hollywood tradition, this episode recalling a scene from ‘Bambi’. I don’t believe that the truly calloused can be truly rehabilitated. Something rudimentary is missing from their systems that simply can’t be manufactured or restored. I believe it has been proven, though, that mindless killers can be created. Comprehensive case studies have been examined longitudinally to show that men who engage in dehumanising work such as on the slaughter chain at an abattoir (such an elegant word for what it is) are more likely to kill supposedly more intelligent animals like humans. So desensitised, these are unfortunately precisely the kind of men women craving excitement in their love lives go for, and find themselves on the receiving end of a lot more excitement than they bargained for. Even otherwise intelligent women tend to right off these shortcomings in their men as something unfathomably ‘manly’ and fail to connect the dots. “Yes, he likes to go out and kill things randomly, but what’s that got to do with him being a poor communicator? I just want him to get in touch with his feelings…” No, you don’t lady. There’s a good reason why sensitive men who don’t make good soldiers, simply clam up or break down mentally after serving in a war. Men who start off killing humans, like soldiers and ‘security guards’ in Iraq, are much readier to one day run amok and commit mindless mass killings. Everyone from the president up knows this, yet politicians try to justify the thousands of lives needlessly lost in Iraq as “the price of freedom” while mass murders at home are characterised in contrast as “terrible tragedies”. The great American myth of the macho rugged individualist marches on, unexamined, through the generations. Unchecked, on a massive scale, it results in ‘preemptive’ wars.

Today, hunting is wrong on so many levels — including the simple urge to protect what might be the last wild examples of any given species — that to view a hunter objectively in modern society is to see an unreformed Neanderthal; as the common form of opprobrium — a genuine Neanderthal probably saw killing as a very regrettable necessity, one he had to apologize to the gods for. How far is this from the back-slapping, mutually congratulatory ‘fun’ atmosphere of a hunting party in Western ‘civilization’? Probably the only upside of such a ‘party’ is that occasionally the humans bump each other off — by accident, it is insisted — leaving at least one less psychopath to bother the world. Ironically, the hunting prowess of the current U.S Vice President might have saved the administration from unavoidable impeachment. Imagine the implications for the current US administration had Cheney’s aim been one centimetre worse than it is…

P.S. A week ago (October 2010) in a small New Zealand town a delightful 25-year-old female teacher at a tiny rural school, with so much to give so many kids, was shot down at a holiday camp while brushing her teeth at an outdoor faucet — mistaken for a deer by a 25-year-old hunter shooting from the road in his vehicle at night with aid of a flashlight. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision for him to hunting. He had been told there were deer in the area that evening, and assumed that the eyes shining at him from out of the dark must be…<p>

This perpetrator was freed recently, having served 10 months of a two year sentence. This proves to my mind that there is not even any thought of deterrence in sentencing these days. “Oh well, what’s done is done. If you were punished for taking a human life while committing a crime wit would only be revenge… And we’re above that.” Of course, there’s no justice either, and what is to prevent similar crims from doing the same?

When Reality Strikes: One More Midlife Crisis

In celebrity, Humor, literature, philosophy on December 3, 2007 at 11:00 pm
G. A. De Forest in his study/junk room, January 2009

G. A. De Forest in his study/junk room, January 2009

When I reach a certain age, I keep telling myself, I will be able to accept all that life sends me with equanimity — that is, with a balanced attitude, in a state of zen-like indifference. My spirit will be whole, highly developed and impervious to any petty slights of this material world. Doesn’t seem to work that way. My experience in having my first real book published has delivered me more ups and downs in a few weeks than any other single year of my life.

There is nothing to compare with the sheer exhilaration of being accepted by a publishing company — in this case an e-publisher — who tells you they reject more than 90% of submissions. It was the first time since leaving school and doing particularly well in a few university papers and assignments — and that was thirty years ago — that I was told I was in the top 10-percentile in ANYTHING. Former lovers please note. This was acceptance, even praise, in the grown-up world, which — maybe because so long coming — has to count for more than a teacher’s opinion/encouragement of a student.

Quickly following this was great support from friends; the usual misunderstanding/ misinterpretation by family members; then the welcome distraction of getting the cover designed; tweaking the text until it’s just right; finding out the 15-page index I’d just compiled painstakingly has to be ‘automated’ (still don’t know what that is and don’t think I ever will) and so is left out, with an appendix too I thought was rather key.

But proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating — which might have been relevant if I wasn’t doing a book, because not many people want to taste my pudding. Of a potential readership of around six and a half billion on the planet — most of whom seem to have been captured by J K Rowling with seemingly very little effort or signs of outstanding skill or originality — it is amazing the near unanimous consensus they seem to have come to in staying away from my book.

I’ve come to the realisation that when ego is involved — and I do have one — and as long as one considers oneself even marginally a social being and is therefore striving for and dependent upon positive feedback and reinforcement of your efforts from fellow beings, then one is always somewhat at the mercy of likeminded people and market forces: likeminded people for that essential reinforcement of spirit and purpose; the market for some reassurance that one’s book isn’t being bought just by friends. Always in the knowledge that the market for ebooks tends to be hogged by bestsellers with names like ‘Boys Have Penises; Girls Have Vaginas’ and ‘Your Parchese Evening: 101 Ways to Success ‘.

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