Thursday, 11 February 2021

On Slogans, Synonyms and Euphemisms

We should all know the dangers of obscuring essentials and by so doing, allowing the powerful to carry on their business unchallenged. 

We all ought to know the dangers of division amongst social forces which, in combination, could feasibly challenge entrenched power; and of diversion away from the essentials into a focus on appearance, but way too many people, many of whom ought to know better, glue their noses to the ground and follow the scent-trail of their particular doctrinal line, or turn on each other, argue and obsess about ephemera, side-line much more pressing issues, and in lieu of sensible debate,  develop and deploy slogans, synonyms and euphemisms. 

Slogans often serve to ensure a doctrinal line is followed and they can also relieve the parroters of slogans of the burden of needing to think for themselves. 

Euphemisms are not harmless evasions where they serve to obscure things people need to know in order to be able to safely navigate increasingly dangerous waters - especially those waters which may look very calm and inviting on the surface, but which have deep and dangerous undercurrents.

Here's one to ponder. Breath play is a euphemism for partial asphyxiation, which induces hypoxia, ie starving the brain of oxygen, a practice that carries a very real risk of death or brain damage. 

Such a euphemism acts as an obfuscation of the dynamics and physical realities of the use of choking in sexual relationships in which there is a power imbalance and /or an imbalance in physical strength. It also masks the added dangers of the effects on such relationships of a resurgent misogyny fuelled by the global market in easily accessible porn involving violent, debasing, dehumanising sex enacted, for the most part, on vulnerable female bodies. 


Practices like choking, along with some others marketed in brightly hued “sex positivity” packaging - carry a very real risk of immediate harm - even death - and there is a wider and longer term harm that may be done to the glue that holds our increasingly fragmented social world together. 

Synonyms usually have subtle differences in meaning, which may alter according to context and which can greatly increase clarity and nuance in the written and spoken word. They can also serve a powerful ideological function such as can be seen in the current proliferation of essential-denying, appearance-elevating synonyms for woman.

Menstruators. Menopausal people. Individuals with a cervix. Pregnant people. Birthing bodies. Chest feeders. Uterus holders. People with vaginas. Vagina owners. Vulva owners. Surrogate hosts. Carriers. 

Every one of these has been used in a serious newspaper or journal and/or by governments and NGOs involved in such matters as reproductive health and wellbeing.


We do not see a similar proliferation of such terms for that which is male, eg. Ejaculators. Individuals with a prostate. Impregnators. Testicle havers. People with a penis. Scrotum owners. 


It is the very idea of woman that is being challenged by these linguistic developments. Women as a class. A sex class. A class whose historic and contemporary economic hyper-exploitation and oppression - especially when viewed from outside the blurring effects of middle class life inside the imperial bubble - was, and still is rooted in potential, presumed, current, or prior reproductive capacities. 

This is not reducing women to those capacities; it is acknowledging their historical and contemporary material reality and it challenges society to change its phallocratic ways in relation to them - to acknowledge, celebrate, and materially support that which is female - not blur, deny, or subvert it.

To those who think the protection and advancement of trans people's rights lies in a nose-down, arse-up pursuit of the current transgender doctrine - I'd say, who do you think has laid the ideological scent you are following, and where do you think it will lead? I'd say much the same thing to the die-hard scent-followers on the other side of this most vexed and vexing issue. 


Sunday, 7 February 2021

Ruminations on an equine theme

Often, when I am feeding animals, watering plants, attacking the evil cocksfoot clumps that are intent upon strangling my young native trees – I talk to myself - sometimes I even talk aloud. Yes, crazy old lady territory but a major advantage of getting older is, I no longer give a damn what people think of me.

Whilst watering young trees the other day, I was thinking about all the crazy shit that's going on inside the neo-liberal bubble and I looked up to see the three mares who live here with me - Sally, Molly and Mandy (I kid you not)  peering over the fence at me as if concerned for my mental well-being. 

Are you all right, crazy but kind person, they seemed to be asking.

Always pleased to have an audience I began to explain to them just how crazy humans are.

Like them, I said, we humans are social creatures, profoundly so. And hierarchical. We probably didn't start out hierarchical but we have become status-crazy, and like horses we engage in all sorts of behaviours and practices to establish and reinforce hierarchy.

Often the most extreme hierarchy-reinforcing or challenging behaviours among horses (stallion behaviour aside) occur among the younger horses which may jostle for a step up the status ladder. But in every herd there are the stabilisers, the peace-keepers, those whose calm, measured approach to the business of living serves to ensure peace and order. Sometimes there's an alpha mare but usually the natural equine herd – which is fairly small in number – is managed by a coalition of the mature and sensible.

Like horses, many humans are forced to live in ways that are demonstrably harmful, such as being socially isolated and/or confined in species-inappropriate spaces, and/or forced into species-inappropriate behaviours. As a result, some become damaged and behave in anti-social ways. Sometimes the anti-social behaviour is so harmful to the group, the damaged one is driven out, but sometimes where circumstances result in them remaining in the group, a damaged one becomes dominant and adversely affects others by its pathological conduct. 

Also like horses, we humans are suffering from the ill-effects of unnatural lifestyle and exposure to a mass of chemicals in our food and wider environment which leads to metabolic (and possibly reproductive) disequilibrium.

It has been established that what is called metabolic syndrome in horses (obesity, accumulation of visceral fat, hindgut disturbances and laminitis) has been linked to endocrine disrupting chemicals in forage and grain. It's probable there's also an increase in the equine equivalent of polycystic ovary syndrome in mares which results in increased testosterone, reduced fertility, and stallion like behaviours. If male horses were left entire, it's also possible we would see a similar reduction in sperm quality as has been charted in human males globally over the past half century.

In the equine world, as in the human one, it is the females which are the most important to, and heavily invested in species reproduction - the driving force behind all life. Unlike humans in the modern world, among equines it is the females which are socially most dominant. The stallion parades around protecting his mares from other stallions, but it is the mares which run the show.

Horses, like all mammals, are sexually dimorphic ie there are observable physical differences between females and males other than genitalia. Unlike some of our primate cousins, we humans exhibit moderate sexual dimorphism, while equines are further towards the less side of the sexual dimorphism spectrum.  In both species, the easily observable differences between the extremes of each sex are greater than the average differences between the two sexes. 

The visible differences in the size and appearance of a mare and a stallion are slight; the mare may have a slightly longer back and the stallion may have a neck crest. Athletically there is no difference – although there may be a human prejudice against mares -  the world record for the fastest gallop over a mile is held by a  thoroughbred mare.

This athletic equivalency is because the horse was a steppe and prairie dwelling herbivore which lived in small herds and whose defence mechanisms against predators were (still are)  – growing fast, sleeping mostly upright once mature, having acute hearing, sense of smell and almost 360 degree vision, having hair-trigger reactions and being able to sprint very fast over short distances and run at moderate speed over much longer distances. Like us, the horse has a long gestation, but the foal is up and walking quickly, and because of its small body and long legs, it is quickly able to run very fast and is highly manoeuvrable. 

For the mare to be smaller and slower - to have muscular and biomechanical differences which made them less efficient runners than the males – would make no evolutionary sense.

We differ from equines in being continuous breeders and in terms of ovulation signalling. When mares come into oestrus they signal that state by copious amounts of hormone laced pee, vulva eversion (winking), posturing, and squealing. Human ovulation signals are hidden or perhaps so subtle our dulled senses no longer register them.

The reasons for this are the subject of scholarly interest and as with all things reproductive, that interest may be heavily influenced by an ideological agenda. More on that later perhaps.

Our 'success' as a species is rooted in our high sociability and extreme adaptability. Horses are just as social as us and moderately adaptable and it is those qualities that both motivated and enabled us to exploit the horse - an exploitation which arguably shaped the modern world as we know it as much as the development of agriculture.

In zoological terms, we humans are highly adaptable, omnivorous generalists which moved from living within and as part of the natural world, to acting upon it, altering it, and exploiting it. By so doing we have also irreparably harmed it.

This state of human affairs was enabled by a complex interaction of abilities and attributes flowing from those high levels of adaptability and sociability, being bi-pedal and having an opposing thumb, and having a big, energy-demanding brain.

The ability to reflect, to develop complex language, not being tied to a seasonal cycle of oestrus, and having weaker instinctual drives to mate led us to wrap up the foundational biological facts of species reproduction - ie both the fact of having a sex and the act of having sex – in a mass of often obfuscating myth and ritual.

Within phallocratic societies, that mass of myth and ritual was - and still is -  tied tightly with ideological ribbons which look pretty in their heavily gendered colours but serve as a sex-role straitjacket.

By this stage in the lecture the mares were getting a bit restless so I thought I'd keep their attention by pointing out a consequence - to them - of what became the dominant human view of reproduction in androcentric/phallocratic societies, ie the way that male humans placed the stallion at the centre of horse breeding.

In earlier eras these myopic chaps had the excuse of not knowing the female contributes 50% of the genes but they had no excuse for ignoring the easily observable fact that the mare contributes 100% of the gestational, ante-natal nutritional, protection and social needs of the foal - within a mildly hierarchical but essentially cooperative and female-dominated social structure.  

But such was - and still is - the dumbing and numbing effect of phallocentric ideology, men determined that all the desirable characteristics of a foal lay in the stallion's sperm. The mare was merely a vessel.

My mares did not look impressed.

Of course powerful men did not apply this idiotic notion fully to their own situations. For the rich and powerful throughout stratified history, marriage and child bearing/rearing was primarily strategic and aimed at merging fortunes, forming and strengthening alliances and dynasties, but they were also well aware of the genetic need for reproductive and wider heath and good looks in their spouses to off-set the ill-effects of generations of in-breeding.

By now the mares were getting bored with the crazy lady and they began to think about eating.

And that's another thing, I said, being a herbivore means eating loads of vegetation (for the horse a wide range of grasses and leafy material for 16+ hours a day) and having a huge gut to be able to extract sufficient nutrition, while we omnivorous, bi-pedal, big-headed (literally and metaphorically) primates have developed ways of producing not just the means of day-to-day subsistence, but vast surpluses of energy-rich foods and the means to store and to trade those surpluses which all adds up to allowing humans way too much time and spare energy to think up a host of daft notions such as, we as a species are somehow separate from, and superior to the natural world we inhabit. 

And the even dafter notion that our bodies are somehow separate from, and inferior to a disembodied internal essence, or soul, or gendered self.... 

By this time Sally, Molly and Mandy had decided I was a lost cause and wandered off to rest and discuss matters-equine in the shade. 

I was left to ponder what makes a happy horse. Food security. Fresh air and cool, clean water. Space to roam and to run on healthy, well-formed feet. Shade and shelter. The company of others of its own kind.

We should learn from them.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Layers of Culpability

The huge tyre fire near Amberley in North Canterbury last Friday is in an area with a high water table, extreme fire risk in summer, two kilometres from a town of 2000 residents, and on the edge of one of NZ’s premier wine regions.


The extreme risks to immediate and long-term health, from smoke and leachates from a tyre fire are well known. Some of the large number of particulates and gases released are highly toxic and can cause both acute and chronic health problems. A tyre burns as hot as coal and emits almost as much carbon dioxide. Because of the extreme heat generated the smoke plume rises high and the toxins can be carried many kilometres, polluting air, plants, soil, and water and harming humans, stock, and wildlife. The soil under the fire will be heavily contaminated, with the potential for toxins to be easily leached into surface and subterranean water systems.  (1)


The owner of the block of land where the tyres were dumped, Warren Hislop, was permitted by Hurunui District Council’s ten-year plan to lease his land to a tyre disposal firm to store waste tyres before permanent disposal. That latter stage never happened, and the pile grew until it contained somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 tyres. 


It was the subject of constant complaints locally for its potential impact on the health and the safety of people who lived close by - from the threat of potential fires and contamination of ground water – and the adverse impact on the value of property. 


After a deliberate fire in a smaller pile of about 20,000 tyres was started two years ago, local people decided to take matters into their own hands. Julia McLean, then a Hurunui District councillor, formed Accountability Action (AA) and with a waste management consultant, Bruce Gledhill, put together a viable plan for disposal (chipping, transport, and use in cement production), raised pledges of money locally, and applied for grants from the Canterbury Waste Joint Committee and The Waste Minimisation Fund. The group had wide-ranging support including FENZ, HDC, the Chair of ECAN, all the Canterbury Mayors, local schools and the grape growers’ association. (2)


AA’s plan would have cleared the pile within three months from getting funding approved and established an important template for dealing with the problem of waste tyres across NZ. 


However what they did not have was the support of the landowner and his lawyer who in May last year approached ECAN to submit another application for funding, in competition with AA’s application.


When approached by Hislop and his lawyer, Instead of acting as an honest broker to support the community group which had done all the work, and assuaging any legitimate concerns the landowner and his lawyer had (3), officers decided to submit a second application for funding.  By so doing they effectively undermined their own Chair’s support for the project, shafted AA and then reinforced the impression of bad faith by refusing to confirm that was what they were doing when asked by the media. 


AA eventually agreed to withdraw its application in order to move matters forward, and to support ECAN’s application which was based on AA’s plan.


Then, nothing much happened except lots of meetings, until someone set fire to the entire pile last Friday.


The resulting fire, whilst contained, may burn for weeks and when it can be handled, it seems the landowner has undertaken to clear the remaining heavily contaminated material and arrange for its disposal in the Kate Valley landfill - if KV will take that much heat damaged tyre waste. How he will do this and meet the very considerable cost (4) is anyone’s guess. 


Perhaps ECAN has a plan.


The CEO of ECAN was quick to point the finger of blame in the direction of the arsonist, and claimed they were just “weeks away from a solution”. A day later, at a local meeting, ECAN officers blamed the inaction on the limitations of the organisation’s legal powers.


The questions I want an answer to, and which were sidestepped at that meeting, is why ECAN was not more proactive at an earlier stage and why, when approached by the landowner – who was complicit in creating the toxic mess and who had made money from it – officers chose to collaborate with him and to blindside the community group which had done all the work.


The Mayor of Hurunui District Council was quick to tell people now is not the time to apportion blame. Whilst HDC had been prepared to work with AA, the council would do well to reflect on how much effort it had put in to resolving an issue that was caused because its district plan permits people to use their land for such purposes. It might also consider how much support it really gave to the one councillor who took the threat seriously. 


Central government should reflect on its failure to deal with this growing environmental threat. This tyre fire will dump a cocktail of toxins onto vineyards, olive groves, and farms where stock will eat polluted grass. NZ’s clean green image is already tarnished. Japan has already rejected NZ honey because of glyphosate residues, what effects will the toxic fallout from this fire have on local honey production, agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture?  


It might also reflect on how much responsibility it holds for forcing local government into a largely toothless revenue gathering entity administering centrally imposed laws and as a result often incapable of mounting effective responses to pressing local issues.


How insane is it, that a local council has the powers to seize a person’s property for non-payment of rates, and calling for a rate strike is an illegal act, but when it comes to controlling a highly dangerous activity with obvious potential ill-effects and massive social costs, nothing can be done?


The District Health Board ought to reflect on whether it should have been more proactive in warning the public and relevant agencies of the considerable health risks in the event of a large tyre fire. It might also reflect on how effective its immediate response to anyone directly affected by the smoke has been – stay indoors, put your air con on recycling, try to avoid breathing in the smoke and if you feel unwell see your doctor. I’m pretty sure people could work that much out for themselves.


FENZ – the organization on the front-line - should have added its institutional voice more loudly to the call for this mess to be sorted out quickly, if only to protect its personnel and been more proactive in respect of fire prevention.


The heat generated by a mass tyre fire is enormous, the smoke is thick and oily and contains a vast range of toxic gases and particulates which no one should be anywhere near without full protection equipment, including BA. FENZ top brass acknowledged they have never had to deal with such a fire; all they can do is let it burn and eventually try to separate any unburned material – using local contractors with diggers. 


This decision is not solely because the land where the dump is has a high-water table and is where Amberley’s best well is located so contaminated water runoff would be an immediate and long-term ecological disaster - it’s also because using water to fight a large tyre fire demands vast amounts delivered via special nozzles from huge pumps – none of which are available to the volunteer firefighters in rural fire services with their standard pumps and severely limited access to water.


The firefighters also encountered access issues because old machinery had been dumped on the site which begs the question – why weren’t all those hazards assessed, mapped, and a plan quickly put in place to deal with them? 


And what did happen to good old fire prevention? North Canterbury had just had the highest temperatures, lowest humidity, and strongest, hottest winds seen in decades. A perfect storm of adverse conditions for a dump of anywhere up to 200,000 waste tyres, haphazardly stored in an area surrounded by pine trees, tinder-dry grass, and old machinery. Even if someone hadn’t set fire to it, a grass fire upwind of it could easily have ignited it.


BUT - the true villains in this tale of multiple layers of culpability, incompetence, or failure to be proactive, are the dumpers. Michael Le Roy and Peter George Benden failed to arrange for proper disposal and hid behind company law to avoid their legal and ethical responsibilities. Le Roy has slid out from under any responsibility by declaring bankruptcy, and the fines and compensation costs levied against Benden are risible when the actual harm and social costs are added up.


A great many officials and officers have presided over this poorly coordinated response to an inappropriate land use permitted by the local council, and as a result have failed to protect both residents’ health and well-being, and an already under threat wider environment. 


Officers and officials alike should remember that citing reasons why they could not act at all or act any faster, is to add insult to what may prove to be a terrible injury.



(1) Open tyre fire emissions include "criteria" pollutants, such as particulates, carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. They also include "non-criteria" hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), such as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, furans, hydrogen chloride, benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls; and metals such as arsenic, cadmium, nickel, zinc, mercury, chromium, and vanadium. Both criteria and HAP emissions from an open tyre fire can represent significant acute and chronic health hazards. Depending on the length and degree of exposure, these health effects could include irritation of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, respiratory effects, central nervous system depression, and cancer. 

(2) Not one of the 42 tyre firms which had used the services of Le Roy and Benden contributed to the AA project when asked to. 

(3) These concerns included the completely incorrect assertion that McLean and Gledhill wanted to make money out of the project.

(4) Dumping the material from the first fire involving 20,000 tyres cost $160k.





Monday, 11 January 2021

God's Waiting Room

Over the eight years before her death my mother survived a stroke which caused major brain damage and loss of right side mobility; a broken hip; a broken shoulder; several serious gastric bleeds, and more drugs than my system would be able to tolerate. 


She lived with me after her stroke but her - largely iatrogenic - medical needs became more complex and we moved her into a rest home, a studio where she lived for three years until she fell and broke her arm and ended up in hospital level care - where she rapidly declined.

In the months before her death she suffered from episodes of extreme confusion and anxiety. She repeated over and over that she was 'terribly, terribly frightened' - or various garbled versions of that. It was distressing for her and for those of us who visited her, as nothing calmed her - except the chemical cudgel wielded by the medical staff - with the very best of intentions of course.


Whilst I respect the front line workers who keep elder care facilities functioning, I cannot say the same for the industry as a whole. It sucks vast sums of money out of the public purse and makes huge profits for owners and shareholders while paying its front line staff low wages and often feeding its residents a diet that is low in essential nutrients, and treating them like children. 


It pays lip service to patients' rights and it purports to care deeply about their welfare - but strip away the patina of political correctness and there is the cold, hard commercial reality of the making of big profits - mostly, these days, for a large corporate entity.


It is almost impossible to find an aged care facility that doesn't charge a premium per a week in addition to the c$900 a week government set maximum charge - which is the state subsidy payable for people with less than $220k in assets.  


This 'premium’ is charged for an en suite, or shared shower room, a room with a view, one that is larger than average or one that is sunny - or any other attribute the owners can dream up to justify whacking on an extra charge. Hospital level care is further subsidised by the government.


An en suite is more of a convenience and time saver for staff than a benefit for residents who are immobile but the industry still charges a hefty premium for them. A room of a good size, one that gets some sun, that is pleasantly decorated - these should be standard for all rooms.


In rest homes, the rooms typically are very small as residents are expected to spend time in the communal lounges. Rooms tend to be larger in the hospital facilities, not as a benefit to the residents, but because the staff have to be able to use hoists to manoeuvre fully or partially immobile people in and out of bed. 


The institutionalised care of old, frail, disabled, sick people is big business. It is why sporting icons like the All Blacks are advised to invest in it. The returns are very high and there's a huge and growing demand in an ageing population in a society that no longer cares for its old within the family - or cares very much at all.

I hate it. And all the more because it operates behind a facade of 'caring' while it exploits - mainly women – workers, and perpetuates a model of elder care that can turn end of life into a kind of nightmare.


I want to be able to end my life on my terms, to my time frame, with those I care about around me - I do not ever want to end my life like that. It's cruel and it's based on a massive hypocrisy that is a combination of religious dogma and corporate greed.  


Only god can take a life say the fundamentalists but it's ok for us to go to extraordinary lengths to prolong a life of fear, misery and hopelessness, or to hide behind the administration of drugs given purportedly to ensure quality of life but which effectively shorten it.


Hospital level care homes may leave a person in a bed 20 hours out of 24 - mostly for their convenience. When not in a bed, the person is in an armchair on wheels - parked in a group of other helpless old people in front of a TV or radio invariably spouting utter garbage. If the person is disruptive, they are put back in their room - on their own - possibly with their TV tuned into some other utter garbage - or they are put back to bed. 


They are turned regularly to avoid pressure sores - and their incontinence pads are changed regularly to avoid skin damage and infection - because these may all be interpreted as signs of 'neglect' if they occur.

If the person makes too much noise or gets distressed in the morning by being moved, washed and dressed - which is highly likely because of muscle stiffness and joint pain - they are drugged. 

The worst is fentanyl - used because the slow release skin patches are convenient and the drug is so terrifyingly powerful that tiny amounts give the same narcotic effects as other opioids thus reducing the adverse side effects. The amount may be tiny but when so is the person's body and the brain and / or liver are damaged, the effects will be more powerful and unpredictable.

But these businesses don't employ enough staff to allow time to be taken with individuals - and the patients are triaged and some are deemed to no longer benefit from physio. So they are shunted from bed to chair to bed and some, like my mother - spend most of their last days in a haze of pain and fear.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

"I'm sick of - everything!!!!!"

A response to one of those really annoying homespun,“white is right” memes that circulate on FB.

It started with :

“I don’t know who wrote this but SOMEONE FINALLY put into words what I’ve been thinking and I couldn't agree more!”

It was obviously written by an angry Australian with a heavy finger on the exclamation mark and shift keys who I shall assume is a man.

“I’m sick of covid-19!!”

Probably blissfully unaware of how much at risk he is of becoming literally sick of Covid-19.

I’m sick of black vs. white!!”

If he's a white person and is sick of black vs white, I wonder if he can imagine what it feels like to have been placed at the bottom of the hierarchy of 'race' that was developed by white people to justify their exploitation and oppression of black people? Yeah, I also doubt his imagination could stretch that far.

“I’m sick of Labor Vs Liberals”

Unfortunately for Angry Man, he lives in a country in which party politics is pretty much the mirror image of the “two faces of the same coin” model as the US.  My advice - don''t like it? Get off your arse, get involved and change it.

“I’m sick of gay vs. straight!!”

 Really? He needs to ponder who put the versus into that relationship – and why?

“I’m REALLY sick of the media!!!!”

Just as it might be said that you get the government you deserve, you also get the media you deserve. If he doesn't like it – I suggest he stops buying it, and buying into it. Support quality journalism and show good intentions by not polluting social media with ranty, rightwing homilies.

“I’m sick of the language being used and plastered all over the media!”

God forbid the media uses language. If he means a particular sort of language - why not say so, and avoid coming across as a bit of a cabbage.

“I’m sick of no one being allowed to think what they want & feel what they do without offending someone!!”

No-one can stop someone thinking what they want. What an utter plank - even conspiracy nutjobs don't actually believe the mysterious “THEY” can read our thoughts. There have always been constraints on what people can say and do – and a foundational element of the social contract is trying to avoid offending other people - you know, in the way you'd expect them to avoid offending you.

“I am sick of the people who are out there jumping on the bandwagon to protest just to cause mass confusion and more hatred and to riot, loot, and destroy!!!!!!”

 As this was written by an angry Aussie - and given the “riot, loot and destroy” is clearly aimed at BLM protests in the US - the attack on bandwagon jumpers is a tad hypocritical.  And he really needs to go easy on the exclamation marks; he's starting to look unhinged.

“I am sick of blaming the world for the sins of a few!!”

 I'm sure he didn't actually mean to say this, but if he did, the answer's simple, stop doing it.

“We’re one race—the human race. We ALL Matter!!”

This eejit needs to stop the self-righteous ranting for a moment and consider who developed the idea of different races, and to what end? And clearly we do not ALL matter - equally or even at all – or 5 million mainly black and brown kids under 5 wouldn’t die every year from easily preventable causes. 

“You want to support PM Scott Morrisson?(sic) You do it! It’s your choice. You want to support Anthony Albanese? Fine... also your choice!”

Who's saying people shouldn’t? Of course it’s their choice, it’s a democracy, a fucked-up, dumbed-down one, but still a democracy. What is his problem?

“You want to believe in God? Okay, believe in God. You want to believe in magical creatures that fly around & sprinkle fairy dust to make life better? Awesome... you do it!!”

Oy vey.

“BUT how about being mature enough to be able to deal with the fact that everyone doesn’t have the same exact mind-set as you. Having our own minds is what makes us all individuals and beautiful.”

We have a mind that allows us to conceive of ourself as an individual person only because of the existence of other persons. The problem for those of us inside the imperial bubble, is that the concept of the individual as we frame it is arguably undermining the very social structures that enable us to become human. We are becoming so isolated, alienated, and fragmented, the very bonds that hold us together as social beings are eroding. This plank needs to ask himself, who’s driving that, and why?

 “If you can’t handle that fact....I’m sorry!! I don’t have to agree with everything you believe in.”

 Why does he think anyone is asking him to? He needs to calm down. 

“So be a decent human being.”

Back at you bud.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Yet More Identity Politics

While I’m musing about things political in NZ – here’s a few thoughts about the Left and Identity politics.

The issue of "hate speech" comes up in relation to that all the time. Take transgenderism - I call it that because it is a political movement with a political goals and an ideology - pretty much anything which counters the current TG orthodoxy is deemed to be "hate speech". 

Now I take my politics seriously and one thing I have learned is this - you do no one any favours by applying important political concepts to any and all behaviour, thereby emptying those concepts of critical and political meaning. 

If all people, who as much as question any aspect of transgenderism, are transphobes, and transphobes are Nazis, where do you go when you need to identity a real Nazi? 

It is ludicrous. Infantile. Dangerous. Divisive. 

And the attacks on the socially cautious Left by a bunch of largely middle class, affluent, comfortable, well-educated, socially and geographically mobile people – well, the Aranui girl in me wants to say, fuck you. Actually she’d say – listen mates, the old organising principle of the Left - strength through unity - remains the only way we can possibly hope to counter the destructive might of corporate capitalism and the coercive state machinery it can command. 

Of course the working class has to fight for the rights of people who are oppressed on grounds other than class - women and people of colour, and especially black people - and those who face social disadvantage by being denied formal rights. And it has done so, although at times not nearly as well or as full-heartedly as it needed to. 

But, keep on dividing into smaller and smaller categories – competing for rights and choices that are made meaningless unless people have the means to exercise them - and we’re in neoliberalism’s ball park, playing its game and by its rules but blindfolded and with our hands and feet bound.

If the working class is reduced to just another interest group and economic exploitation and the accompanying forms of oppression reduced to another ism - what common cause is there to bind people together? What's the political and social glue that will stop the identity politics movement exploding into a thousand pieces? 

Sunday, 25 October 2020

A running leap into political quicksand...

Sands UK - a UK charity that exists to support bereaved mothers, tweeted a message of support for "all birthing parents" - presumably a well-intentioned attempt by whoever was running their social media account to be "inclusive" of transgender and non-binary people who give birth. In the context of the ideological battles being waged around these issues, this was arguably not a good decision.   


Freddy Connell – a UK journalist  and transman who made headlines by giving birth and trying (unsuccessfully) to argue for his name being listed on the child's birth certificate as its "father" – tweeted that the people objecting to Sands' message were "transphobes" and "bullies".

By so doing, Freddy managed to offend and upset the loads of women who feel they have also a right to a say in how a charity they support and use, refers to them.

This encapsulates the essence of this increasingly ludicrous debate and highlights how dangerously divisive and polarising it can be. 

I tweeted a thread in response. No doubt like most of my tweets it will go unnoticed, as will this post, but every little helps.  If Fred reads it I hope he knows it's written in good faith and that when the chips are down it'll be people like me who will have his back - whilst I'd hazard a guess that a quite a few of his erstwhile allies will do what they did when neoliberalism was busy dismantling working class collectives – and are doing as it tightens the austerity screws on the poor - be otherwise engaged in protecting their well-padded backsides.

So here's the meat of the thread. For what it's worth.

"Look at the world, the child you gestated and gave birth to, stands to inherit and tell me Fred – is this is the hill you want to make a stand on?  Calling people – including loads of bereaved mothers – “transphobes” because they objected to the erasure of the word “mother” by a charity that was founded by bereaved mothers, to support bereaved mothers? 

At least SandsUK had the good grace and common sense to backtrack.

“Mothers and other birthing parents” would have been inclusive – erasing the word mother is not just a step too far – it's a  running jump into political quicksand. 


There’s an old pre-DNA saying: "maternity's a certainty; paternity's an opinion". 


There's a powerful material reality underpinning that – the same reality that’s the foundation of people’s deep-rooted attachment to words like mother, woman, female. 


It's arguably the most ancient of all human realities with roots that run far too deep and wide to be removed as a result of sometimes petulant, sometimes bullying demands from a tiny minority mostly living, not just inside the imperial bubble, but within the well-buffered coordinator class that helps keep the bubble intact and inflated.


Outside the bubble and that strata, most of human and all of other life still moves to more ancient and foundational rhythms  – I suggest you take the literal or figurative ear buds out and have a listen.  


You won’t succeed in undermining the deep beliefs in the material realities that underpin the word mother with this sort of foot-stamping in the name of inclusivity - but you might very well help erode wider support for far more important aspects of inclusivity.


So, a word in your shell-like Fred my old china, ease off the entitlement pedal and learn to pick your battles. "