Sunday, 18 December 2011

Letters to the editor

These are letters submitted to the Christchurch Press and not published. Because I am arrogant enough to think they deserved to be published I've decided to post them here - for posterity, or something.

October 2007 Lisa Leary trying to justify the killing of anyone who isn't like her
Some people choose to ignore the fact that most people break some laws at some time. They prefer to draw a sharp distinction between law-abiding citizens and criminals. The former deserve police protection; the latter are rubbish who deserve 'to be taken out'.
It makes it easier to justify 'taking out' deviants if they are dehumanised by locating them in a 'feral underclass', or labelling them as 'drug-crazed maniacs'.
The shooting of Stephen Bellingham has formed a boundary between a NZ in which people are deeply concerned by the moral and legal ramifications of an agent of the state shooting dead a disturbed man who was armed with a hammer; and a NZ in which a self-proclaimed law-abiding citizen says she would shoot someone who was damaging her car.
What a dark and baleful place Lisa Leary's NZ is; I'm glad I live in the other one.

Aug 2008 Lorne Keuhn on useful idiots

Lorne Keuhn is like the soldier who hasn't realised the war's over.
He denounces Christopher Moore as having hagiographical tendencies because of Moore 's favourable review of Robert Fisk's latest book.
Kuehn calls Fisk a 'useful idiot'. This term, allegedly first used by Lenin, was actually a piece of right-wing agitprop and, like the people who use it, a relic of the cold war.
My father, inspired by the Birch Society, used to tell me I'd be among the first of the 'useful idiots' to be shot if the Reds ever invaded NZ.
If the term has a modern application, it is to those who blindly defend the ugly outcomes of the USA 's 'oil addiction'. Evidence of how powerful and dangerous that addiction is can be found in the fact that the American military uses as much oil in a day as the whole of Sweden.

Nov 2008 The frequently obnoxious and always ugly cartoons by Al Nisbett annoy me ....

Today's Underzone cartoon in the Press features a 'downsizing' plan for 'psycho killers' - in the form of a 'lead diet'. Perhaps cartoonist Nisbet could enlighten us as to what marks out the 'psycho killers' from the person who is about to machine gun them? 

I don't like Nisbet's cartoons in either style or content as I don't find aggression and hostility funny and it seldom results in anything insightful.
Aggression and hostility have been on display on internet message boards in the run-up to the election. The most consistently hostile and abusive people, especially on issues of race and sexuality, are those who say they vote National or ACT. They also tend to favour Nisbet's lead diet for 'violent' criminals.
It is truly disturbing. Almost as disturbing as Sarah Palin thinking that Nicholas Sarkozy would ring her for a chat.

Nov 2008 They really can't take it when it's aimed at them ....but oh how they love to dish it out

In the Nov 11th report on Jill Singer's acerbic piece in the Herald Sun, the sentence 'not even his family were spared her bile-soaked pen', indicated the writer didn't find it amusing.
The famous Kiwi inability to take a joke (especially from an Ozzie) appeared again today in the letters page.
Singer's comments weren't especially unkind but I do agree that, in general, families and private lives should be off limits.
It's a pity that people on internet chatrooms and blogs didn't apply that principle to Helen Clark and her family.
I read hundreds of venomous, obscene and abusive attacks on Clark 's appearance and her relationships – posted by people who claimed to be National and ACT supporters.
It was shameful and I hope John Key is as embarrassed by such 'support' as I am embarrassed to share a nationality with people who are capable of such hateful conduct.

Jan 2009 Serial whinger moans about PCness

According to A Creed, criticism of Prince Harry's 2006 video is 'PC'. To establish himself as anti-PC, Creed describes the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission as a 'bunch of old women' and argues that the term 'Paki' isn't offensive nor is using the term 'raghead' to describe an enemy who is 'trying sincerely to kill you'.
Lieutenant Wales isn't on the front line and is unlikely to be killed by keffiyeh-wearing enemies - however sincerely they may try.
The term 'Paki' is not analogous to the terms Kiwi and Aussie as it's used to label people who originate from many different countries, not just Pakistan , and is only used by ignoramuses and racists.
The term 'raghead' is an ethnic slur and belongs in the same racist lexicon as those other 'jewels of the language' - 'dune coon' and 'sand nigger'.
The interesting question to my mind is whether foot-in-mouth disease is hereditary.

Jan 2009 More on that subject

Yesterday A. Creed argued that the words 'raghead' and 'Paki' aren't offensive. My letter rebutting that assertion was rejected on grounds of space.
Today John Waldron, presumably imagining he is striking a blow for free speech, tells us that he calls his dog 'Nigger' and likes to eat sweets called 'nigger-boys'.
Why stop there? Why not argue for the right to use even more names from that long list of pejoratives coined by white folk for those they consider to be inferior.
How about – alligator bait, boong, chink, coolie, dago, darky, dink, dune coon, gook, jigaboo, jungle bunny, kaffir, kyke, nignog, porch monkey, sambo, sooty, spic, tarbaby, timber nigger, wog, wop or yid?
If J Waldron and A Creed want to know why these sort of words are so offensive and so destructive they should google 'niggermania' and similar hate-sites.

July 2009 David Round rewrites history

David Round (Press July 2nd ) tells a tale of doctrinaire extremists dedicated to turning our cities into a primeval wilderness of boring native plants, and to the exiling of beautiful exotics.
I don't know how one would 'exile' a plant but full marks to him for piling on the political allusions.
David is standing up to this Goliath-sized group of 'grim ascetics' by exposing their ideology of 'botanical correctness'.
Very droll I'm sure, but he's right – there are political agendas.
The one that I find most interesting invariably denies it exists but betrays itself with such contrapositions as: the cultivated exotic versus the wild native, and the civilized garden versus the uncivilized wilderness.
If the suggestion that plantings of natives on traffic islands could provide a habitat for endangered lizards is 'stupid', how do we rate Round's argument that there's a politically-inspired move to return our cities to 'primeval wilderness'? Puerile?

Oct 2010 The Great Paul Henry Show

I was offended by many of Paul Henry’s remarks but I didn’t expect anything better from him. And I don't expect anything better from those Kiwis who think he is talented, quickwitted and funny. Afterall he reflects and says what they think so they’re hardly likely to think he is crass and boring.
But it's the remark I read in the Press (Oct 1th) which I hadn’t heard before that has shocked me most. It didn’t result in an avalanche of complaints nor attract widespread media comment at the time, yet it is deeply offensive on many levels.
In relation to infant mortality rates in the developing world Henry is quoted as having said: " “Oh they’ve got enough babies to take care of that. Don’t worry about that. We’ve got 6 others out the back.'
Perhaps the anti-PC brigade can explain how the deaths annually of millions of babies is a joking matter? Oh, but of course, silly me, they're brown and black babies. Enough said.

Oct 2010 Michael Laws on 'freedom of speech' - aka the right to insult and denigrate people

Michael Laws (Oct 17th) says that ‘many New Zealanders’ have been ‘bewildered by our rapid transition from monocultural to bicultural to multicultural’ and ‘should be allowed to express that bewilderment’.
Who’s stopping them? Legal constraints on the public expression of views are post hoc and lenient and broadcasting standards are just the exercise of common sense and common decency.
Of more interest to me is who’s included in that collective pronoun. The only time New Zealand was monocultural was prior to European colonisation, so is he including Maori in the ranks of the bewildered? Or is he harking back to the time when white NZ thought of itself as monocultural?
Post-colonial New Zealand has always been multicultural. British colonists came from the distinct cultures that make up the UK; others came from all over the world. What Laws is talking about is that mostly they were white.
Laws also claims that the ‘Henry affair’ is evidence of an all-pervading metropolitan based political correctness that presages a ‘descent into a new fascism’.
This is as histrionic as it is opportunist and cynical. Henry resigned because, having lost sight of whether he was a news presenter or an entertainer, he embarrassed himself.

Nov 2010 The not-so-great Gadsby puts his foot in it

It was obvious that the Pike River tragedy would reopen the issue of open cast mining of the West Coast’s gassy coal reserves.
With indecent haste to score political points, Jon Gadsby (Press 26th) uses the tragedy to reopen the schism between ‘Coasters’ and ‘Greenies’ by suggesting that environmentalists caused the deaths by opposing open cast mining. This is deeply unpleasant both in intent and timing.
I was in Britain during the Miner’s Strike and remember the strike and the destruction of jobs and communities that followed it. I remember also how the government and most of the media vilified and demonised, not just the NUM leadership, but also the miners and their communities – labelling them ‘the enemy within’.
I wonder how many of the people who are crying over this tragic loss of life would have supported Kiwi miners in their historic struggles for decent pay and conditions?

Jan 2011 Did the Deans give us Hagley Park?

Islay McLeod (Jan 11th) needs to take care - if she tugs her forelock any harder her head might fall off.
Rather than counter a previous correspondent’s claim that Jamie Gough’s and Tim Carter’s election to CCC owed much to privilege, McLeod confirms it with her acknowledgement that Christchurch is indeed about WHO you know, not WHAT you know.
In fact, she argues, ordinary folk should thank the ‘great families’ of Canterbury for their ‘noblesse oblige’ and asks the rhetorical question, ‘didn’t the Deans give us Hagley Park?’
No, they did not. The Canterbury Association drew up plans for the park before the city was established and it could be argued that the land for it was acquired by swindling Ngai Tahu.
But hey, that’s history. 21st century Christchurchians can rest easy in the knowledge that the philanthropically minded Sons and Daughters of those original philanthropically minded City Father and Mothers are looking after their interests.

July 11 The 'Feminist Cabal" strikes again

Terry Pierson should note that, if you want to pontificate about the ‘obtuse and shallow nature’ of other people’s discourse, you’re best to make sure your own is astute and learned.
Some people use the intellectual equivalent of a scalpel to dissect an issue. Pierson wielded the equivalent of a meat cleaver when he claimed that a ‘potpourri’ of socialists, feminists, academics - and the mysterious ‘other wheelbarrow pushers’ - had whipped the Periodgate furore into a frenzy.
His letter did a bit of frenzy-whipping of its own.
It was assisted by a headline starring that figment of fevered rightwing imagination - ‘The Feminist Cabal’ – which has the effrontery to agitate about the fact that the first country in the world to grant universal suffrage still hasn't fully achieved equal pay for equal work.
They'd better not mention equal pay for work of equal value -Terry might lose a finger.

Oct 11 Apologists for the free market unite, you have nothing to lose but your shirts

Philip Hayward says respondents to the draft central-city plan are an undemocratic minority of know-all ‘barrow-pushers’ - whatever they are.
He also claims the 'free market is the ultimate form of grass roots democracy.'
When I read that, and after I'd wiped my coffee off my husband, I set about writing an indignant rejoinder.
But then I wondered - was Hayward being ironic? After all, no-one in their right mind could see the 'free market' as anything other than an ideological construct.
I know some people fervently pray that one day the Free Market will appear and - abracadabra! – will solve the world's problems, but sensible folk know the world economy is controlled by BIG business - with the help of its servant States and institutions. The market is well and truly locked up.
So, was Hayward's depiction of the residents of Canterbury who expressed views about the way their city is to be rebuilt, tongue-in-cheek?
Let's hope so. Otherwise he'd be a mean-spirited and ideologically motivated bombast who needs to mind his own business and let Canterbury folk get on with theirs.

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