Saturday, 22 August 2015

Disagreement is sedition

A woman I know was recently served a trespass warning notice by mail from WINZ-Work and Income New Zealand. The reason? Disagreeing with something she was asked to do. No threats no abuse, just saying I don't want to do that. This worries me. I hear it all over the place-dissent or disagreement is being viewed as hostile or dangerous by authorities-including parliament. Couple that with peoples fear over job security where if they speak up they may be sacked or 'sidelined' and you have a a nasty little recipe brewing. You have an environment where crap can continue when it no longer serves. The proponents have been warming the oven slowly and now see it as a way to make their road-sic Bill, law, preference, status-smooth.
In another sense it merely echoes the compulsory school setup-as an ex teacher I can give you many examples of where I have seen this same behaviour.
We used to call that bullying. Now its seen as legitimate behaviour.
What to do? Speak your mind. It will take courage. Do it with courtesy and use language which conveys your values, your wants and your feelings.Listen to what it is that they are wanting and why they want you to do what they say. You may lose your job, your friends, your position. But you will gain the world so to speak; and if we all do it we will institute change. You may get what you want and that may be surprising for most of us used to not getting what we want; thinking that to be somehow selfish. At the very least you will sleep with integrity as your pillow instead of fear and resentment. Learning to live with ourselves is the first step as it is often our own judgements of which we are afraid.
Let us see disagreement as healthy, conflict as unavoidable and a means to hearing people and what they need for life to be good. Let us embrace our differences around the respectful table of disagreement and dissent, and strive toward mutually beneficial outcomes.

Monday, 20 April 2015

You are to blame

I'm feeling a bit reluctant to write- but I have to say something about Blame. I was travelling back from work and was listening to the news on the radio. There were three reported incidents involving unexpected deaths. In every case, someone was saying that "this shouldn't have happened" and "I'd still have my son/daughter if only they had........." etc. And then the poor staff, nurses, mid wives doctors are the subject of a search and destroy mission. Its someone's fault.
How did we get here? Life is precarious, people are inattentive once in a while, people die all the time and in inappropriate places; crises arrive when you least expect them and even when you have every base covered for safety and security. Its as if we can stop this from happening by blame. I'm not excusing poor care or disregard for safety and so on, its that we need to take some responsibility for being human, for going to the surgery, for bungy jumping, for having a baby (kiddin' ya)
Blame will hurt the one who is pointing the finger and very likely the targets will suffer all kinds of heinous punishments. Blame will keep you from grief, it will keep you angry; it may keep your loved one 'alive' so to speak. But you will pay a dear price with your physical and mental health.
Blame comes from our need to be right. It comes from a culture that believes its wrong to suffer and you shouldn't have to suffer in your life. Where death is seen as a failure, a waste, a mistake.It comes from a culture where punishment is considered necessary even when people have been acting in good faith and with good intentions. Blame believes in punishment.
I ask myself, what punishment would the nurses and doctors need when a child is lost in child birth. Do we really think they are having a party after that event? Do we believe that the infliction of pain on the people involved teaches a lesson? What if the lesson has been 'learnt'. I remember Celia Lashlie, the outspoken writer and one time prison superintendant talking about prisoners in Paremoremo, there for murder. She said every day they are living with the magnitude and the memory of their crime. That is the punishment.
An antidote to blame: Know what you are feeling; this will lead to genuine response ability-you have the feelings and no one else- and will let you know what you want and what you value. This will stop placing yourself at the mercy of another and making them responsible for your feelings. Ask yourself what do I need right now. It may be support, it may be a conversation; it could be anything. It may be qualities like patience, or peace that you desire and that only you can give yourself. It may be something from someone else. Try not to interpret whether you are likely to get it or not.

Friday, 27 March 2015


'Collapse' charcoal on paper by Duncan Hill 1800X1000mm 

The Voyage of the Tangaroa

The Voyage of the Tangaroa*

If you scientists had gotton on deck
You may have noticed the Wilkins Ice Shelf, bigger than Aussie,
Instead you got seasick down below
Wading through incoming data slopping about in the bilges

And then teams of seamount, cephalopod, benthic fauna scientists
got together for tea
We mostly miss the inner invitation to leave behind your mind

In Island Bay and Berhampore
They feel the southerly presence of You
A white cold front making windows untouchable
Bergs of cloud up from Kaikoura
Like the cold cultural fear that blows from the shivering continent of the Capital’s transactions
Walling itself up or hiding behind hills and corridors

The soul is a vast and quiet land
Few go there
The occasional visitors are mystics and psychos
They are incarcerated, like Scott, in frozen beauty
No wonder they die young

Yesterday I woke up and felt the cold
I packed my bags and scientific gear,
Probes and prayerbeads
And headed south

* Antarctic research ship

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The God Delusion

I really like Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion. Its one of my faves. Reason being it takes the spiritual realm and its experiences away from the mulahs, the priests and the chiefs of religion and hands it back to the people. It effectively removes the power base of religion-who's in who's out, who's right , who's wrong, what book you should read etc etc.
The experience of the underlying unity of all things, the experience of one's essence, is the heart of the 'spiritual' experience. That includes feelings of great joy, even ecstacy, even trance states. The book is therefore one of my spiritual tomes. I have never met anyone, even my atheist and agnostic ones, who like Richard Dawkins. I think my son Ben also likes the book; he's the only one I can think of who doesn't groan when you mention his name. He is universally hated. Dawkins suggests that atheists are the most persecuted group in the USA.
Below is a funny clip of the hate mail sent to Dawkins read by the man himself. Very funny.
We have made God in our own image, not the other way around as I was forced to remember and recite as a child. Its interesting to notice the type of projection we choose, and the cultural historical and geo political milieu from which it springs. Think of jesus the fighter of social justice from South America from which came a theology popularly known as Liberation theology. Think of the style of God that comes out of a powerful, wealthy country. What' your God projection?
Just as the internet has it's aberrations and its wonderful side,there is another 'God' which is experiential and not animated into a human likeness. This B side of the god experience, what I call 'the Field' is the one I'm used to nowadays.
Hopefully it will leave my humanity intact, and I wont be drawn into factions and telabans and difference. But then again maybe not. Thank you God for not existing.Thank you for allowing me to experience the Field, the as is nature of all energy and form,

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Get a job and a haircut

I'm having fun with job interviews lately. I have this sense of power, focus and happiness which very little seems to diminish. So, I go for a job which is 'mentoring' young rangatahi (Maori youth). It is an excellent conversation- the two interviewing guys (working in HR which I'm guessing stands for Human Resources) in true and wonderful style tell me of themselves, where they are from, their family, tribal links etc and I reciprocate. They make me feel very welcome as  the Polynesian cultures do so well.
The job, ostensibly, is to hang around with young maori at a school and help get them through the NCEA hoops Level 1 2 and 3. I hadnt realised it was so tightly reined in, the application form stating that, among other options, school was to be considered. So I thought that it may be looking at the world and its myriad facets of 'education' and fitting the person in there or creating something with them.And I wasn't going to encourage them readily to go into the lion's mouth of Hunger Games High School. Quite excited was I at the prospect.  No, it turns out its very prescribed. Getting people to fit the system.
Over the weekend I had time to think, and I realised I didn't want the job- not working in a system which is failing not only Maori; a system which has not responded to the new climate of today. Anyway I was upfront about my reasons why I wouldn't be interested, and suggested I would be available for something which truly may have an impact.No thanks, came the reply; we are focussing on NCEA. Its disappointing in one sense, but I also felt jubilant. It's change in the making. Saying what we value and how we would like things to be. I contrast this to the me of yore-struggling to even identify what  I wanted and full of suppressed needs and desires.
The downside? 2 jobs I have rejected and the scraping by but excited by the prospects which lay before me.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Prize giving at Awatapu College, December 2014

It wasn't just the trumpet fanfare and the odd Oxford Don getup from the staff; it wasn't just the pomposity of the way they walked somberly onto the stage, it was our feelings of disconnection at going to an event celebrating our daughter with a large group of people(including the teachers) we did not know.My local people call this 'normal'. It felt abnormal. And weird because we were celebrating our daughter's honours at this prize giving-which conspired to make it a mixture of happiness, sadness, loneliness, frustration and confusion,
The upside is that it was like watching vaudeville. Every minute or so I could perceive the seat shaking-either me or Alice suppressing guffaws. A few tidbits for voyeurisms sake.
The 'head boy' gives the Wikipedia head boy's speech. His grandest moments were 3 years in the first fifteen and a camp somewhere. Nothing mentioned of the core purpose of schools-educational achievement.Switch to my memories of the Waiopehu College principal Barry Petherick saying, at the end of year prize giving, the yearly camp-(which as I have mentioned before, sorted out the privileged from the not) was likely to be the biggest event and memory of your school experience! I'm sure the head boy's a nice guy- but more than likely a puppet and a product of the system. Sadness as I know he will more than likely have a family and succumb and subject them to this same system.
Then the awards: Now I'm not cynical about showing appreciation, being acknowledged for your effort, talent and so on but.............Excellence in rugby? Merit in rugby? I spose, why not? Everyone wins a prize at this prize giving. Here was I thinking that it was NCEA and these students got Merit in rugby! No, it was the school's prize-giving, I found out later.They had just borrowed the Eduspeak vernacular.
And the singing of the National Anthem, crap lyrics and all! Why are schools singing the National Anthem? Are we kind of grouping ourselves here, identifying with 'National Pride' and equating doing well at school to being a good patriot? And if you don't do well, or you abhor the fervour of flag waving? What then? You aren't a good citizen, dummy! As always, I sat in my seat; refusing to kowtow to pressure or shame. I'll not call anyone sir (except by choice) and I'll not join any Nationalistic or Religious sentiment, lest I wind up thinking I'm right and good and you're wrong and bad.