Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Zealand democracy for auction- chairs have been sold.

Last weekend, 18 years ago, Nelson Mandela was able to vote in an election that would turn the South African establishment upside-down. Mandela suffered for democracy and for human rights, and many of his supporters and fellow ANC members ended up dead- tortured by Apartheid. South Africa has not improved much as a nation though, even if it is more united... There are still shanty towns -sponsored by Coca Cola-; poverty runs amok chased by AIDS; the government is corrupt; education is not universal.

The ANC only filled the framework of Apartheid and made some corrections to the script. South Africa is not free, oppression of any kind is the antithesis of freedom. When people cannot find jobs because of a sub-par education, and then they cannot find education because of the underlying meritocracy inherent in capitalism, they are not free. People do not choose to be born in white, male, middle-class bodies. A child in 2008 had a 34% chance of being born in an oppressed nation, according to Gene Sharp, and a 99% chance of being born without a true chance to succeed.
Success in capitalism is a myth: one does not make himself, one does not push out of the environmental boundaries that limit us. Unless one fights, with the rest of the unfree to succeed.

Where does this leave us, here in the 'free', 'neutral' New Zealand?
Over the past few weeks we have witnessed New Zealand's democracy expire in our hands. Don't think I am being melodramatic. This is not fake rhetoric. It turns out you do not have to wait for months or even years for ACC, you just have to be best mates with ministers and the Prime Minister. Bromwyn Pullar already got 1m$ in insurance payments for a bike accident back in 2002. She just has to send a quick letter to the minister for more. She was found out, and she leaked 6500 ACC files into the public sphere, so it seems it may go downhill for her from here. John Key knew Ms Pullar, as did the rest of the main National caucus. She was trying to "Skip the queue"- which John Banks says one should never do.

Another scandal is Sky City. It is the bed National and ACT use to get intimate with international visitors. The deal to award a conference centre to Sky City was awarded before other companies could show their proposals. Both John Key and John Banks had talked to SkyCity- in fact they are best mates with the SkyCity owners! Banks, who got given a free seat in Parliament in exchange for a cup of tea while the rest of us have to fight for jobs, probably paid for it with some of the 15,000$ SkyCity gave him in support of his Auckland mayoral campaign. Both Johns believe the pokies SkyCity is receiving in exchange for the 'free' convention centre are a harmless passtime and that they will not create more addicts. They are not. They'd like you to believe this while your coins are swallowed up into their pockets. Banks also got 50,000$ from Kim Dotcom. Banks knew about these deals. He had seen the internet tycoon just a couple of days beforehand. Despite this he called them anonymous. This goes to show money buys politics, but politics a) has no commitments or scruples (Banks made no effort to protect Dotcom when he was being detained) and b) is run by a group of crony and wealthy capitalists who will do all they can to keep their interests at heart. Politics in this country is being sold by 'our' politicians. They will tell us they've earned it or that it's our fault if we've voted them in. Bullshit. They took advantage of New Zealand's welfare system- and now they are denying it to us. Indeed, scandal number 3, they are getting rid of many of our public companies to earn short-term profit. On Sunday Asset Sales was on the news again as representatives of more than 80% of New Zealanders were out on the streets. Does the National government care? No, despite 100% of public submissions riling against the Asset Sales proposal. Did the National government care that 97% of public submissions were against Voluntary Student Membership? No. Does Key care that polls say we do not want the SkyCity deal? No.

You are very wrong if we think we live in a democracy. Democracy has no barcode, but here it bars our access. Democracy isn't a casual affair that takes place everyday, it is an everyday event. Everyday we are being told what is happening with our money, our education and our rights. Even if we were interested, however, that doesn't mean we can decide what happens. A public submission has no power, our representatives will not pick up the phone to hear our worries, a petition of almost 300,000 to raise the minimum wage will end up heating the offices of the parliamentary castle. Or this is what they'd like us to think. We cannot abide this.
Did you know our internet freedoms are under attack? My right to speak, to learn and to become informed are a "terrorist threat" now in the United States since the CISPA Bill passed on the 24th of April.

I think our politicians are confused with the meaning of democracy. Money does not buy it. It should not shut you up. It can not make you stupid. Foremost, it is meant to be the rule of the majority. A parliament cannot simply veto women's rights on an ideological crusade, or pretend domestic abuse doesn't happen.
This ideological crusade is achieving growth- in poverty. This is the true abuse. Here in Dunedin we witness the 15% poverty amongst students (an NZUSA report). In fact I'm one of them. My student allowance could be declined next year, meanwhile flats are becoming colder. Rich get richer, poor get poorer. The poor also don't vote, they have become apathetic, they, we, no longer vote -National achievement unlocked.

It is time to show Key he has to leave. We must burn his golden crown.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Food Bill, a conspiracy theory or a true threat?

In Critic issue 3.

The vans arrive next to the railway station early; before dawn farmers are already setting up the tables in their usual spots. They chat to their neighbours before the first customers arrive. Vegetables, cakes, Grandma's jam, cheese; a variety of products can be found across the stalls. The hustle and bustle of the next few hours will bring the station back to its heyday, when Dunedin was the gold-plated gem of New Zealand. Now the only trains that run are scarce and touristy. New Zealand's transport system could get a whole other article, but at least the rise in popularity of Farmers' Markets across the country is giving something back to the local economy. The Kiwi trend of buying local could be under threat though. Farmers' Markets, sausage sizzles and community gardens could suffer under the new Food Bill. One lady selling vegetables says she is “concerned”, the vendor next to her fears “the cost of maintenance will go up the roof”. The management of the Market say the 5000-odd buyers shouldn't feel worried, “it won't affect individual vendors”.
Farmers and small-scale traders across the country hardly have time to read a 365-page bill in legalese that even politicians call vague. They feel the sudden bill hasn't been exposed to them enough, and in a matter of months the bill has spurred many critics. So dubbed conspiracy theorists claim the Food Bill has an Orwellian tinge. Under the guise of safety, they say it will actually lead to a degradation of our freedoms and increased control.
Early December the ODT ran the headline “Police Arrest Pensioner Found Supplying Carrots”. The article claimed the bill would revoke our right to grow food, becoming “a government-authorised privilege”. Other media outlets also demonstrated the growing concern citizens had. In a Campbell Live interview, former Green MP Sue Kedgley stated that exchanges with neighbours would also have to comply with the vague provisions of the bill. She also said the bill “could end up discouraging healthy food choice”. A more recent headline from, from the 11th of February 2012, asks whether the food bill will make food safer or be a form of control.
All in all though, concerned citizens say the bill has been hiding from the public eye and that the media is still just giving a slant. The Minister of Food Safety, Kate Wilkinson, disagrees. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry held public consultations from 2007-2010 through submissions, forums and consumer groups. Why then do farmers feel they haven't been consulted? A spokesperson for Federated Farmers says they haven't been paying much attention to the bill.
The bill “seeks to provide an efficient, risk-based regulator regime that places a primary duty on persons trading in food to ensure that what is sold is safe and suitable”. According to the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, food-borne illnesses cost $162 million a year to the economy.
Breakdown of the NZFSA illness costs:

Cost of Treatment- $6 million
Cost of Food Industry Regulation- $17 million
Cost of Business Compliance- $12 million
Loss of Work Output due to Illnes- $27 million
*Residual Private Cost- $100 million

The residual private cost is an estimate of how much Kiwis spend preventing illnesses.
Farmers’ Marketeers though believe it will increase costs, some people think it would lead to an end of small-scale trade altogether and others are more concerned with an ulterior motive: the bill gives unnecessary rights to Food Safety Officers (FSO’s), who will be able to search private properties and get rid of small-scale competition.
Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Food Safety, rubbishes the claims: it won’t “in any way affect people’s right to grow food and to then exchange sell or trade it”. She accuses the denouncers as either misinformed or scaremongers. The Bill will simplify 30-year-old legislation, according to the Minister. It will also minimise the risk to public health. During the first reading in Parliament the majority of parties supported the bill, but just a few months later National could be in a minority. Maybe there is something deeper to it.
David Clark, Dunedin North Labour MP says his party “won’t give final support to the bill”. Though the old bill “needs updating”, the Labour party wants to avoid “unnecessary red tape” and “protect local growers and small businesses”. The same goes for sausage sizzle and cake stands, he doesn’t want to see them jeopardized by new legislation. Steffan Browning, Safe Food spokesperson for the Green party, fears the new regulations could increase costs. The Green Party is keen for geographical exemptions, which would be more environmentally friendly and in turn encourage local food consumption. Browning doesn’t believe the “issues” arise from local growers; instead the spread of diseases such as E-coli or campylobacter originate in bigger industries that manufacture more elaborate products- especially the meat industry. Damien O'Connor, Labour spokesperson for Food Safety, says Parliament agrees that the commercial storage of chicken in particular has to be improved.
The Food Bill could potentially affect local producers much worse than large conglomerates, despite the latter being more at fault. Phil Bremer, professor at the University of Otago's Food Science department, says larger industries already self-regulate. In order to compete, big companies such as Tesco or Walmart hire 3rd party auditors.
The International Socialist Organisation (ISO) in Dunedin points out the bill won't do anything about the fat, sugar or additive levels in food. Browning also warns that under the Bill in its current form, OUSA as a student union would not be allowed to hold sausage sizzles without red tape being fried in the process.
Mana and NZ First are also set to vote against the bill.
A Bill for trade.
The Government was quick to take out a clause that said seed-sharing would become illegal. Facebook groups and the New Zealand Food Security website soon pick up on the 'slip-up' that would have benefited giant agribusiness and fertiliser corporations. The Bill is not just a new version of an old bill, it follows the guidelines of the Codex Alimentarius. A set of food regulations pushed by the World Trade Organisation. According to Winsome Parnell, nutrition policy expert at the University of Otago, the Codex aims to create better environments for trade by setting equal regulations across the world. Both Clarke and O'Connor of the Labour party mention export markets when talking about the Food Bill. The Bill seems to be set up for large producers trading by international standards, so the measures will push local traders to stand by hitherto unprecedented regulations. Steffan Browning says there should be geographical exemptions to encourage local producers in their own markets.
FSO's the new police.
Added to the ambiguity of the Bill, Under section 243 the Food Bill states the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will be able to appoint Food Safety Officers who don't work for the State. A spokesman from the Federated Farmers says the “powers of FSO’s will be no different now than before”, however the fact that the private sector can contract them as well, could lead to “conflicts of interest”. FSO’s contracted for private interests will have the same functions as those employed by the state. They will have the right to search a premise without a search warrant and seize and dispose of food if they “reasonably believe” somebody may not be complying with the act. This goes against New Zealand's Bill of Rights. David Clarke points out that private FSO's are an example of the ongoing heed for privatisation by the National government. This will cut hundreds of jobs and also put food safety in the hands of private companies. The Government says FSO's shall act in “good faith”, otherwise they can be sued. What is good faith though? At the end of the day it is subjective, so it could end up as your word against theirs in court. For the ISO, the best FSOs would be the workers themselves. They say enpowered and educated workers will know the best working-conditions, as a democratically-owned production system would be able to choose better than police enforcements.
How will the Food Bill impact you?
First off, OUSA's sausage sizzles will only be accepted after piles of bureaucracy. The fact that non-charitable organisations will be subject to this is a type of censorship, especially for the less powerful organisations. But to make it worse, the Bill gives the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry rights to create particular exemptions and change whole clauses altogether, once it is approved. So while it is possible to foresee an exemption to OUSA's wedge of paperwork, we are much more likely to see the Food Bill taking away rights from such organisations. We all know the National Government isn't that keen on student associations!
For our 'security', the government will be able to strip rights from small-scale farmers as soon as one accident occurs. Potentially, they will also be able to barge into student flats to seize homebrew, or barbeques.
These unprecedented rights given to the ministry allow it to change the whole bill to suit some interests, whenever it feels like it. Agribusiness, with their massive lobbying budgets could gain rights to work more effectively in New Zealand, and then use FSO's to further their own goals. Indeed if the bill passed, in New Zealand we'd soon start hearing debates about Genetically Engineered products, but certainly not in the Farmers' Markets.
Though the government calls them loonies, when it comes to this bill, conspiracy-theorists could be right. It is the combination of the Food Bill's vague premises and overarching powers that make it dangerous in the first place.
As of the 1st of March an online petition against the current Food Bill has received almost 42,000 signatures out of 50,000. If you disagree with the Food Bill, sign the petition at

from the Nelson Mail by Mike Moreu. 14th of Feb 2012.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I have been meaning to write this post for ages, seriously. Before I decided to sprint for President of Ousa (and I'm rather bad at short bursts- I have more endurance) I was going to write an article for Critic. I could still write it someday. I ended up failing to write the article, however in the process I learnt a very important lesson. I wanted to write about O.I.L. It's a big word and we all know what it means and its implications. I've been thinking of an acronym: Oligarchic Investments Ltd.? Oops, Includes Leaks?
The government is interested in oil exploration, coal extraction and maybe one day sawing off half the alps- the Denniston Plateau is step 1 of the process (Help stop it!). The process of extraction in large parts of the country, including Canterbury, is a fracking lot! Fracking, aka hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extraction that practically bombs the oil or gas out of the ground with a jutting mix of water and chemicals. Add to that tastiness, the methane or black debris that it is known to contaminate the water supplies and explode houses- You should check out the documentary Gasland.
Due to this, and that fracking causes earthquakes- as have happened in Lancashire and Oklahoma- I was going to write an article concerning oil drilling off the coast here. I talked to activists, Maori friends from Kai Tahu, a DCC councilor and an energy studies academic. The way I saw it, the DCC had no power, and this was confirmed to me (I have the interview if you want). It was a central government decision, so the only way to stop it was through Kai Tahu central. Why? Well Kai Tahu is one of the Iwi with most mana in the country, with a massive influence. Its decision could be detrimental to governmental policy as it would enpower activist groups, smaller Iwi and foremost have a massive media coverage. It was confirmed to/by Radio New Zealand that the Iwi takes each decision case by case, however they feign concern. When I tried to contact them, on a regular basis for a month, I got no response. The Maori friends I talked to only wanted to be anonymous, as they didn't want to be seen as making a judgement before the board did. These friends of mine gave me details about meetings, and they told me they disagree with the profit-oriented leadership of the Iwi. However as I failed to get the higher echelons of Kai Tahu on tape, I decided I couldn't make the article. This was a failure. Now I realise that the fact that the Iwi didn't talk, that it's members feel slightly disenfrachised and that they disagreed should have made it to the news in  itself.

Today the surveying ship arrives in Otago, in fact it's here below our noses. It's a shame I am leaving to Auckland in about half an hour. However I will get to see Oil on Canvas, made by Greenpeace from Rena disaster crude.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chile's Student Protests.

After Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship ended around twenty years ago, it left a legacy of neo-liberalism controlled, at first, by the US. Chile was in fact the testing grounds for neo-liberalism. Chile's education system is thus now the second most expensive in the world after the US. Many students cannot get an education and many others cannot afford to finish.

Following the example of Argentina a few years back, where the country eventually achieved free tertiary education; the Confederation of Students of Chile has been at the forefront of student protests and occupations since the breakdown of negotiations with Pinera's government. Since April this year, but with more emphasis this semester, 100 high schools and a dozen universities have been shut down by protests. There have been 132 protests this year in Santiago alone. Since, the government has proposed a bill that would criminalise student protests, which sparked a 48 hour general strike shutting down the country. Reports say 70% of Chileans agree with the aims of the student movement.

Protesters according to a friend of mine are “prepared to give up as many months of study as it takes to see real change happen” in the country. Some universities have been in 'lock-in/out' for up to 80 days, other groups of students have taken part in hunger strikes. Marches take place weekly across the country, in the capital Santiago marching to the presidential house.

The opposition have raised three points aiming for a “new agenda”, these include equality, “inclusive development" and a new constitution. However in the past the main party of the opposition the “”Socialist”” party has said they “did not have the support of all political sectors to advance from profit-based education, to education that is free […] and for all”. The student bodies are aware of this as the largest strikes that hit the country went against the socialist government in 2006. The socialist government, moreover, was in power from 1990 to 2010, without achieving any change in the education system.

The protests have in many cases been non-violent, but not predominantly. The only protests the government allows are the ones tagged non-violent, but these often break down into rock throwing form the students and charges, rubber bullets and teargas from the police. Journalists and civilians are routinely beaten up in the process. 

Interestingly Pinera became a billionaire while Pinochet was repressing Chile's working classes.

Unlike New Zealand, education is not a given in a country that's already poorer than most. Chile according to the GINI index is one of the most unequal in the world. This is due to Free Market Rule. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The sky was darkening and there had been a layer of high fog over the city all day. I walked past the Octagon again this evening. Last night I was there roundabout the same time, with hundreds of others in expectation of the eviction of the local Occupy. Rumour goes the police wasn't even aware of an eviction until the rag had told them, which strengthened the occupiers belief that the media was forcing the event -in hope of tomorrow's fresh splash. That is possibly all it was, though a trespass notice had been given to the group, the bells eerily chimed eight resonating in an air crisp with electrifying anticipation. In contrast with a few minutes beforehand, when the 300 or so protesters had been chanting and marching around the Octagon; everyone was now quiet, prepared media crew were in their vehicles and the speakers' words rang hollow. For minutes at a time the sound of sirens forced people to instinctively turn. False alarm, nothing. I stayed til two philosophizing and talking politics, and helping to protect tents and protesters from a relatively paced onslaught of negative public feedback, including a headbutt which has since gone viral.

Today the tents were still there, though typical of midweek at the site, the new public forum of the square held few people after dinner. Instead of staying I thought I'd make my way to the uni library.
"Talking about foreign policy... Dan! how are you?"
I quickly dived into the depths of memory to remember him -"uh, wasup bro, having a good night?"; ah yes, from uni.
"Good mate, just come from the Octagon? Going to uni, exams? Good night?"
What a barrage of questions, I noticed he was slightly intoxicated. "Yeah, finished though. Just off to write some e-mails to the family. It's the only place I can do it, the library..."
"Oh, you must've been one of the first! I've been celebrating uhm ah Malbas we.."
"So you've finished too! For good"
"Yeah, na na. Just a coup hoping for a better place"
A coup!? Celebrating..? I couldn't quite understand what he was talking about. His demeanor was confusing, his words came flustered but also mumbled. I felt quite alarmed.
"Wait, a coup where?"
"... enough lack of equality, corporate greed..."
"Where has this coup been" And why the hell was he talking about it so personally!? I was becoming impatient.
"Look man, where..."
"These politicians have blood on their hands and... Here."
My mouth hung gaping, by the second I was becoming more confused. I looked around, was this a joke? Who's in that car behind me? I looked up the street quickly before looking at the man. The whites of his eyes had light red cracks and his gaze was glassy.
"Wait, what?"
"In Invercargill, come down to the quarters and... so many murders in their hands these politicians it is really quite a scary thing. So enough, equality all. From Invercargill, South Island going up from here, or down because Invercargill is up and it's all good". 

I stood staring at him still while he talked. I felt like a train had hit me, but equality and military... but New Zealand? We are in New Zealand. My thoughts rushed as fast as the adrenalin through my veins. I just realized I had seen an army truck, with its massive wheels and high motor, driving quickly not even five minutes ago. From the Naval HQ just down the road. It's benches were empty.
I was still in disbelief, I felt like this was an incredibly transcendental moment. How do I stop this.
"But it's all good" he repeated. "I'm off down now, maybe you should check the news more often". 
"Yeah... I'll uh, cool." I turned around and started walking to the library.

I was feeling incredibly paranoid. Everything around me was a sign, I felt like a hawk ready to dive on the smallest piece of evidence. I couldn't believe him, but was it true? There weren't many cars around, bars and restaurants were open, but empty. I took notice of my phone, nothing. For a second I told myself it was all normal, then I decided to look into Malbas.

It was also empty. Though nothing pointed to the drunk words of my friend, I still felt hawkish. When my phone went I jumped, thinking it may be a more political friend- it was just work. I now heard someone shout and round the corner someone looked to be superstitiously texting. My ears turned to any conversation i could pick up on and walking I stared into restaurants hoping to catch a glimpse of a news report.
At last I arrived to Uni, busy with exam study as usual at this time of the year. I was called to by a political friend to participate in my usual political conversations. This was ridiculous, but I checked up the news as quickly as possible, with nothing new.

This post has been cross-posted to

Thursday, October 27, 2011

1% vs. 1%: Dunedin occupiers lack cohesion, ignored by majority.

For almost two weeks the Octagon has been occupied by a group of citizens, pitching up a colourful display of tents. The occupation is in “solidarity” with New York- also demanding cuts to corporate greed, a change in the financial system and a more representative and accountable democracy.

The move had been heavily planned in the preceding weeks, with people from all sorts of organisations chipping in in the logistics and organisation. I helped contact a few groups. Possibly unbeknownst to the occupiers, October 15th was also the day Anonymous called for as part of a nation-wide strike in the UK, it was also the 4th anniversary of Te Urewera Terror Raids.

On D-day more than 200 people passed through the Octagon supporting the protest against the current economic system, that night 18 tents were set up. A week later the number had swollen to 42, but the movement lay in disarray.

While the protests in Wellington and Auckland continued to grow, with increased support from the general public, the universities, etc. In Dunedin it seemed unclear to many why people were protesting. Little information had been given out.

Enough of a birds’ eye view, within there is little cooperation and cohesion. I have spent a couple of nights there and, aided by reports from others, I don’t think much talk of policy is going on. I certainly didn’t witness any. I understand they don’t even know how they will respond to the police, which means they could respond negatively. A large section of the group believes in non-violence and civil disobedience. I personally talked to others who fantasize with how the London riots went.

Certain elements of the protest have also distanced it from the Dunedin public. It is a hotbed for “radicals”. While this response is to be expected by the media, it isn’t one the protesters have tried to counter. Indeed bringing dogs into council meetings, shouting at the mayor and passers-by, a lack of information and an inability to work as a group have electrified a sense of tension amongst tent city. I know people who don’t feel they can bring their kids to the protest, a friend of mine was almost hit by a fellow occupier who wasn’t stopped by others. This isn’t a place for kids. It is also a place Rape Crisis don’t feel welcome to, and Norml have hardly made a presence. Many other groups and political individuals have shied away too.
In Wellington and Auckland the occupiers organise daily workshops open to everyone. Here only one leaflet has come out, made by the member almost punched (because he expressed his views to his comrades on the protest). The point of the protest was to unite individuals who feel change is possible, people who are ready to discuss ideas and tactics, to plan and organise. Many of these individuals, and the groups whom they’re part of, are denouncing Occupy.


People see radicals who don’t do much. This is the idea we have to correct (note I haven’t used ‘shatter’, ‘destroy’…). While “radicals” are an essential part in a democracy, people aren’t moved by their rhetoric- this talk of ‘workers’ has become outdated to many. ‘Workers’ still exist, just not in factories. They –we- are still manipulated by the system and we slave for it- damn that rhetoric!
Na, our taxes still pay for their, our, environmental destruction. Current hegemony is chosen by us, we choose it in its cultural form and abide its ideology as if it were ours. Every strand of current political theory is of course affected by this hegemony- through media, through ‘choice’. We choose of the range of choice put down onto our plates, this range makes us believe there is diversity and plurality in society. It is our pseudo democracy.
Whether representative democracy (or any other system (I have lately been taking a train trip into the prairies of postmodernism))can change the way we think or told to think is a debate well worth having, maybe even at the octagon. First of all though the Octagon has to be open to everyone, isn't it a public square? People should be able to debate in general. Particularly we should be able to debate a way forward.

There is no point in saying what is wrong with the system if we cannot pin down alternatives. These alternatives need objectives and end-goals. The mayor is more than ready to listen, in fact he has conceded to the protesters' demand for a portaloo. Plus the ODT loves this shit! If the occupiers can accommodate a range of views and if it can figure out ways forward (whether through consensus or through vote), it will be a force to be reckoned with. We need it to either open up or close and start again.
For now it is occupied spelled with an "A". The initial momentum of the first day gave way to a lack of cohesion and cooperation that will be gleefully seen whither away from the council chambers. The bells are chiming. Let's not hear their toll, it will then be business as usual.

P.S. I doubt the police will evict the occupiers, but watch out for Melbourne and Oakham.
Other links: why we are important.

Monday, September 12, 2011

When we stop eating with people. When we start shooting strangers.

Nicky Hager recently published a book, Other People's Wars, in which he demonstrates New Zealand's true war "aid". With stats from the Ministry of Defence, private testimony and other sources, he shows the SAS are not there to reconstruct. Instead they take an active part in the war in Afghanistan. This is known to many left wing activists, but to some it has always had the ring of a conspiracy theory. Now they could be proven wrong.
As Nicky says, very few people know what is actually going on in Afghanistan. All we get is "candy-flossed" media coverage, always showing the New Zealand troops as didactic peace-keepers. Why then do they die "in combat"? We all thought they weren't combating? You see the media does not lie, but it may often hide the truth. Peace-keepers are sometimes described under the term "peace enforcers", this would be a much more accurate representation of their role. NATO is enforcing our defenition of peace, our defintion of society and to our economical or political benefit. This is New Zealand's longest war, yet we have nothing to do there. The war on terror, whatever that is, finished 4 months ago with the death of Osama.
Nicky tells us that the SAS are not just in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have a presence in Oman and Yemen too as well as other regions of the world. We are lied to in this case, but mainly it is because of politicians and a corrupt media system, no longer a watchdog of public interests but a lapdog of private greed.
Here is a Press interview with Nicky about his book.

Politicians also lie to us about the policy that gets passed in parliament, or that which is still on the books. A food bill will go through soon, it is vague and weighs a ton and a half and we wouldn't be wrong to see it as our own food bible. It tells us what we will and will not be able to do, for our health and security. There is the potential that food stalls, sausage sizzles, lemonade stands, community gardens etc., will be closed or restricted to only a few sellers and users. If not it will definetly be covered and wrapped with thick red tape.
In the US people have already been arrested for sharing food, bartering and growing it in their own gardens/manufacturing it. We do not want a law like this to pass,  even especially if it has been created by the WTO.

Last, New Zealanders will soon have to vote in a referendum. Many of us do not know, but we are going to have to vote on our system of vote. According to Metiria Turei, the referendum is being pushed by National because FPP (First past the post) would give it an absolute majority in parliament. ACT is also behind it, even though FPP would destroy its presence in parliament, just like it will destroy the presence of all minor New Zealand parties, possibly even the Greens. A voting system that does not allow a party with 8% of the vote to get in is far from representative.
In the referendum we will be asked whether we want to keep MMP or not. MMP is the current system. It is much more representative as it allows the presence of minor parties. While it could become more representative, even if we decide to keep it it will be reviewed in order to improve it.
Become informed, you will be asked to vote in a month's time. The campaign has been shortened because of the rugby so you should inform yourselves, it is to National's interests to keep you apathetic.
Here are some short youtube vids on the referendum, MMP anf FPP.

These issues and a couple of others were talked about on the Social Justice League, on radio 1 10-12 Fridays.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

World Cup Flu.

The World Cup (W/C, cz it's shit) is starting tomorrow, to most of our collective national horror. I'm not sure how many people give a damn, but the hegemony imposed by the media has forced us to believe that this is the only thing that is actually happening! Far from it, New Zealand and half the countries involved in the W/C are involved in a geo-strategic war that has displaced millions and killed a majority of civilians and a minority of freedom fighters- those are my words, not Hone's. I'll be talking about that in my next post.

We don't have to go that far though to see a reality we should have been more aware of, and more considerate of. New Zealand is brewing a 'brown underclass', mainly in suburbs of South Auckland as well as very rural Maori areas. In Dunedin, while industry flees off-shore, the southern suburbs are left increasingly poor as well. I find it very hypocritical that we invest millions into a game and a couple of stadia while we leave more and more people to fight of desperation, frustration and depression on the dole. As the parents have no money, 200,000 kiwi kids live under the poverty line. In other words around 6% of the country.

Instead of investing in better infrastructure, more opportunities, better social services- such as the South D library that has been on the books for a good decade- we waste it on infrastructure that fosters an unnecessary sense of nationalism. In Auckland we've built the Cloud, in Dunedin Forsyth Barr; thus wasting millions of dollars just to give us a fleeting grasp of happiness!

I guess though, as we slowly starve, belief in a [g]od, nation, culture or all is a mild anasthetic. Mild, but flamable. Why should we forget the duty of the state to its people? While we continue our transition from an example of a functioning welfare state to a business sweatshop, our underclasses will increase and grow more unstable by the day.

In the time being I will not support New Zealand, no matter how much I am forced to do so by the profit-driven media bodies around.

Monday, August 15, 2011

End of poverty? Think again.

This is an awesome movie everyone should watch. It looks at how illogical this obsession with growth is, looking at historical and current situations from Bolivia to Kenya. Featuring top grade economists. Watch it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London's Burning, Police Found Guilty.

On Saturday in Hackney an individual was stopped and searched by police, on the same day as a peaceful vigil was held commemorating the fatal shooting of a civilian again by the police. Later, police in riot gear were attacked.

What connections do we see? Police, Pigs, PoPo. Though titles on the BBC read: 'Police Attacked', 'Mobs in London', 'Violence hits new parts of London'; they should read 'Police behind it'. Can we actually believe the sensationalist reports saying it's 'an absolute war-zone'? or misleading ideas saying shop-owners are losing their livelihoods? were police just walking around, casually on a weekend stroll, in their riot gear when they were attacked?

I've been following the reporting by the BBC. It says who: criminals/youths; when: Saturday, yesterday, today; where: London; what: rioting; how: through violence... But why? Journalism follows a series of conventions, as a to-be journalist I will not follow them. Objectivity benefits the right, the status quo and authority. Moreover it is a myth. Foucault would say it is part of a media discourse, itself a product of the discourses of capitalism and government. Reality is subjective, I see things personally, I project my experiences and ideas to every news story I read. The events in London are done by people.. angry at the way they are constantly mishandled by police.
The Met Deputy Assistant Comissioner says: "When we have large numbers of criminals intent on that type of violence [i.e. burning, looting, protesting], we can only do that, get lots of officers there quickly and try to protect local businesses and local people."
A misconstrued reality, the people are on the street. Business will be payed back by insurers.

We have to look at the reasons why the police are being attacked. Last week an individual was shot, this week someone was being searched. What authority do they have? I have often seen police speed, I have been stopped and photos have been taken of me. I never did anything wrong but go to protests. London has been protesting for much more than just three days. Last year there were 50.000 on the street, the year before as well. It's always youth. What are they unhappy about? Is generation Z anarchic and ungrateful? Or are we having to push the boundaries to express a systematic reality. Climate change, education and the economy are all constructed in a certain way. Neo-liberalism runs wilder and burns faster than and doubledecker bus in London. It's in our food, we spoon it for breakfast, at school, on the couch watching TV. 
The markets are currently crashing, this double-dip has been predicted but the brunt of the hit will again go to beneficiaries and workers, while corporations will receive yet another budget bail-out like the one recently approved by "Left-wing" Obama.

I don't agree with attacking the police, there should be a clear differentiation between attacking property and people. Property is inanimate, it represents the state's authority. People act knowing these institutions exist. I don't think the police should have as much power as they do, but this is not their fault as individuals, the police body stands in front of the government in its protection. Any individual policeman is innocent of the way the system works, so they should not become targets. What if they attack Tottenham blacks and jews? London has not fully integrated these populations, nor has the rest of Europe. From here we see the violence these groups of the population suffer from, like in Sweden. Jews were once scapegoats, now Islam is.

Attacking property though only gives the state an excuse to repress and create culprits. On the other hand it brings the point across. The media love a class-based conflict with burning stores.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Refugees are the future. Ours or theirs?

I have written in a fair while, I've been way too busy. It'd be more correct, actually, to say I haven't blogged in a fair while. I have been doing a lot of work for Critic and a lot of planning tends to go in to the political Radio shows -I could fit two or three entries worth a week- you can listen to it on Radio1 from 10 to 12 on Fridays, internationally if you want! Last but definetly not least, the set-up of our political organisation, OGNA, is going well. Although we are all busy, we now have a magazine, to which I contributed many articles. All the mag articles are on the blog linked above.

Right, that out of the way, is it any wonder I have lately been looking into space unintentionally, much more often than usual. Thoughts blank, I stare until I notice my eyes are getting dry. In other words, I'm exhausted! A word I argue is quite onomatopeic. Uni, work, Critic, Radio, seeing people... 15+15+6+6+20=no sleep. Enough of that though, though I'd love to rant, I only have so much time before I'm hungry!

What I really want to talk about is the New Zealand respose to refugees. A couple of weeks ago, the media, which tends to be rather story-less in NZ, reported that Sri Lankans were planning on coming to New Zealand. Normally this wouldn't be a problem. As long as they spend money, they can take over the country for all John Key cares. However these were refugees, economic migrants. There are clear distinctions between the two words, but both imply they will need the support of the New Zealand welfare system. May I add, at one point enviable, now deplorable. John Key is already on a crusade to steal the gold off the Afghanis poorer kiwis. The burden of education, necessary to keep democracy running and society efficient is every day more obviously being thrown onto the backs of parents or students. Medical services are being cut, the dole isn't rising, sometimes I wonder why my taxes increase. What do I get from paying them but an increase in debt and a reduction in pay? I digress. These Sri Lankans, first may not have been coming to New Zealand at all. For all we know, they were escaping their country and we have to ask why... Is it because the Tamil population has been subject to a government aided campaign of ethnic cleansing? Aimed at destroying language, culture and race? This is the treatment the Tamil population has received in the last almost 30 years. Is it then irrational that they want to leave in the most insecure of boats, often paying years-worth of salaries, in search of a better education and a better future?
I think not.

John Key, calling on metaphores of war and behind a wall clearly saying 'fuck off you foreigners' is saying this not just to Sri Lankans or any other group of refugees, he is saying it to anyone foreign to his own mansion. It is a lie to say Sri Lankans would divide society, it already is: rich and poor. I'm part pf the poor, you reading this blog are too. We are part of an economic class that keeps this country afloat. Meanwhile we are forced to agree with the media's portrayal of refugees. It's an us vs. them situation.

In terms of media analysis, at my disposal only TV news, John Key was presented as an individual, standing before the Kiwi flag- holding all our opinions. No Sri Lankan was interviewed. Instead TV3 showed images of an unrelated refugee boat crashing into the rocks years ago (2006, Christmas Island FYI). We see all the refugees crammed, an intent to make a metaphor for the future of the country? Maybe, they are certainly portayed in a negative light. Crowded, loud, crying, different. We are not given insights into the situation, we are abstracted from any possible feelings of sympathy. John Key on the other hand is smiling, he looks honest, he is well-dressed. We are certainly two worlds apart.

The future will only bring us more threatening invasions of refugees. Dhaka's floods, swelling already; or Somailia's future wars. But remember their cries, their hunger, their desperation. They desire a future too. I believe future is based on past experiences. The past is what makes us hopeful. What do they have to hope for if we shut off our sympathy. Are we not all human? Or is it better to ask, are we all not human? Not all no.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A protest scam.

Yesterday there was a protest to keep Hillside jobs and work in Dunedin. It was a failure. I arrived and the Octagon was full, I'd say with around 500 people although the media has said 1000. Talking to socialist comrades, we noticed that the majority of protesters looked as if it had been their first protest ever. There were families and kids, grandparents sitting on benches and then of course hillsiders in their suits and a multitude of unions. This is good and bad. Good because it looks as if solidarity amongst unions is increasing also because many have reached a point which they can no longer stand, and they have become aware that protesting is an effective way of standing up. It is bad though because many protesters had never protested before. The protest was rigged and the wind was blowing wind into the sails of the labour party. It was not democratic and people did not have a voice- their representatives did. There were three Labour speakers, a Green, for some reason someone from Greenpeace and then about three Hillsiders. No open mic, it was electoral propaganda for Labour. It was hardly even against the National party, it was just Labour saying we would not do this. Notice the would not, it is always followed by an if. Labour's trajectory says that Labour would in fact have done the same. And they never stopped the privatisation of KiwiRail, even though they said they would have if they could to the masses.

I have to say I left early, the speeches were seriously boring- going on for 5 or 10 minutes. Chants were worse: "Jobkiller Joyce, Give us a choice". Cringeworthy.
No one else was allowed to speak, all the protesters got was an event prepared for the news, with the last full stop included. On the meanwhile though, the protesters were slowly escaping yawning. It was bad, seriously bad. And bad because people who seemingly have never protested before took part in it. They left probably not ever wanting to participate again, disapointed maybe. I almost did. This event was not democratic. It simply relayed the story we have heard again and again, give your power to representatives and every now and then they will pretend to listen, they will come down or maybe just send down a letter, and they will bore you to death. Politics you see is not a thing for you and I. We shouldn't have to know what's going on. An example of this is the speeches themselves, which sometimes got quite technical. They want us to leave it to them, ransack the countries not on our behalf but to our loss. Protesting and striking shows who has the real power, you and I can stop this groth-focussed profit-driven economy. We are the ones who get to choose when machines start and stop and we too can block the roads and demand a true democracy.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beating the pans.

How's it going? -"Oh, alright for a Friday"...

It wasn't any Friday. And he wasn't alright. The mood in the radio this morning was down, very down. Someone didn't turn up for work, there were few jokes, coffee wasn't being brewed. Coffee in Radio 1 is like a pair of scissors that quickly snip the wick just before it defuses the bomb. Today there was no bomb, nor scissors or wick. It was an odd day. Conversations were muffled, in low voices or seemingly unspecific. When I got added to a conversation I became aware why and I became aware that this wasn't Friday. No one was expecting the weekend, there was no excitement. A financial review of OUSA has ordered Radio 1 to be closed.

In Spain they beat pans and pots in protest. Shall we beat and pluck and dance instead? On the street?

It is not quite an order just yet, VSM may not go through and if it doesn't, OUSA will still have funding next year and thereafter. There doesn't seem to be a plan B though. Even though Radio 1 is the heart of the Dunedin music scene, even though it offers opportunities to anyone, is involved in the community and props up stations across New Zealand, it has no value- financially at least. It is up for sale and the buyer will do what? Cut the ties with the community? Are we hearing dead air?

Next week Radio 1 will run a full week of main steam shite, in protest. Without Radio 1, Dunedin has lost its soul, its rock is gone- swallowed by popular culture, mainstream capitalism.
Money is full of value... I do not value it.

Youth Rates Speech.

Last Saturday I was at the youth rates protest in Dunedin. There were about 50 other people so it was good to see such a turn-out in such a small amount of time. At the same time there were two other protests going on in Dunedin, one against oil drilling and the other to save jobs at the Hillside train factory in South Dunedin. Funny how nothing goes on for weeks and then three separate protests are organised for the same day! At the protest I was shouted at by the ISO. I'm sure you know I'm not part of the ISO anymore. I have co-founded the organisation OGNA- Organisation for Global Non-Violent Action, thus splitting from the ISO. We still aim for socialism but for us the only way we can truly achieve socialism is through non-violence. The revolution to overthrow capitalism has to be non-violent. If not you are empowering a select few, better and probably male individuals to mow down those filthy capitalists. We are against killing, animals included (I've got some improvement to do on that one!), you only live once but most importantly, who is to decide who shall and shall not live? That in itself is unjust. Even that filthy capitalist has a right to live, with dignity. He is as much a product of the system as we all are. We are taught to behave as individuals in a competitive world. I think this is against human nature and so does Aristotle and Plato and Marx and all those current revolutionaries in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain and beyond. Proof that refutes this capitalist notion happens every time there is a natural disaster, or when communities start to face the worst. We all go back to those who we can trust- we belong in communities. The only reason these communities are divided is because of the system.

The ISO shouted at me because I publicly advertised our group- as well as the protest- on the radio. They say we have not given a letter of resignation, "that's what political groups do". Well we thought we'd made it clear enough, not attending meetings and anouncing the creation of our new group.. to them... But some people are just too keen to read upto that last full stop, which is redundant

Here is my speech:
I worked a graveyard shift last night, I've only had three hours sleep but I'm still here. I and we shall not remain passive before these laws, we will not buy into these neo-liberal theories of trickle down effects or recessions.
While production rises, while we are forced to work more hours our wages effectively decrease due to gst and inflation.
I'm here as a student, a socialist, a worker and I find it hard to pay my bills. It doesn't matter if I'm young or about to retire, where I work or where I'm from I find it hard.
The truth of the matter is this [youth rates bill] fits into the system. It's here to divide us into age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. But we shall remain united... Only throughh unity can we achieve justice. Through union cooperation and worker's protests.
I do not want 30% less pay.I'm worth more than that and I earn more than I pay already!

Obama's lost wars.

Obama came into office saying he would get the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. I think I remember him saying he wanted justice for all the dead troops. I think, I'm not too sure. I too heard him say things he didn't do. Guantanamo ticked the first box. I though did not think he would change the world, by then socialism had already seeped into my brain and I knew well parliament would get us nowhere. Behind those smiling faces are hands that prop up those arched backs. Politicians are skeletons with no spirit, no muscle, no feeling behind that smile. Yes, I too recur to puppet imagery when it comes to talking about politicians, surely we can find another metaphor? How does Legomen sound? Always anchored in place for the right photo, always smiling and always looking ever-so-smart! But hollow.

Anyhow, the case is Obama is pulling the troops out of Afghanistan. They won't come out straight away, 10.000 by the end of this year, an extra 33.000 next year and then there are another 57.000 who will come out later. Later, unspecified. I'm in favour of the withdrawal of course, Obama though says it is now time for "nation-building" and is calling it a victory. Don't be dumbfounded, the US has gained nothing from this conflict but blood stained hands- and lets not forget, helped find some precious minerals (the rights to mine have probably landed on American tables). And I am seriously concerned to know what anyone can mean when calling armed soldiers "nation builders". Who's nation? What colour?
Karzai, a puppet alas with strings still visible, showed himself grateful to the US and concluded saying Afghans have gained "control of their own land". Afghans though fear the status quo in Afghanistan and say the US is leaving a country not only torn by but still at war. Afghanistan is in a worse state than what it was; there is now more corruption, less democracy and women can be sprayed with acid if they are brave enough to show their faces. The allied powers went into Afghanistan and excused the war by telling us they were going to improve these three issues. They haven't. It's a black hole in to which green notes are still being dropped. Brown University pronosticates a total expenditure of $4.400.000.000.000.

The taliban aren't being kind enough when they say there has been no progress. The taliban now effectively control almost all of Afganistan but Kabul and the American public believes that the Taliban will end up usurping power. But that doesn't matter, the US has won! They are in a "position of strength" according to Obama. Since Obama took office, more than 800 Americans have died in Afghanistan, the total number of coalition deaths in ten years amounts to almost 2600. The number of dead women, children and men are unaccounted for. The poverty on the streets, the empty fields, burnt books, burnt classrooms... All these will take longer to measure. Obama has left a war-ravaged country already, ravaged by more war, torn with inequality and with more corruption than ever before. If this is a victory, I must have my priorities wrong.

The only reason he is leaving is because he promised he'd get the troops out. He has now brushed his hands and is off to the White House again. As a side point, the White House has 132 rooms, if an Afghani family of say 8 was to fit into each of these rooms, we could house more than a thousand Afghanis, right next to Barrack and his dog! Obama no longer has time for Afganis, let alone poor ones! He has the elections coming up. Technically he is getting the troops out, after a long two-year killing spree, they are returning just on time to fulfil his promise. This is all it is, an electoral promise to apease enough voters to vote for him. From here he will have another 4 years, where to next? Where is the next oil-drunken spree?