marsden_online: (loved)
It is ANZAC day here in New Zealand, the annual public "holiday" to commemorate and honor those who died fighting in "our" name in military service. In practice this means primarily World Wars I and II with in recent years the occasional nod creeping in to Vietnam or more recent actions in the Middle East.

There are links I have shared on FB over the past few years that this year I am going to round up here before putting down more of my thoughts

#lestweforget
~~~

Cliffs of Gallipoli [Sabaton]
"There is no enemy, there is no victory
Only boys who lost their lives in the sand
Young men were sacrificed their name are carved in stone and kept alive
And forever we will honour the memory of them""


19 things you need to know about ANZAC Day (that we should not be proud of)
http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2016/04/25/19-things-you-need-to-know-about-anzac-day/

The Pencilsword remembers the Maori Land Wars - arguably more important to NZs history and identity but often forgotten
http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/the-pencilsword-lest-we-forget

The Making of Gallipoli into a Marketable Memory
http://werewolf.co.nz/2015/04/whats-to-commemorate/

I was only 19 [Redgum]
"And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And night time's just a jungle dark and a barking M.16?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me - I was only nineteen"


~~~
"Lest we forget" means different things to different people. For some it is about the family who went to war whether by choice or otherwise and didn't come back. For some it is about the need to be prepared to go to war "for the right reasons" (these reasons vary).

For me it means
a. Being aware that
-- wars past and present are not times of glory and righteousness as presented by the media and spin doctors, but of horror and death

-- that the amounts spent on military adventurism by western economies would go a long way to giving the oft-struggling citizens of those countries(arguably the losers and casualties of a form of civil /economic/ warfare which has taken place of the intervening decades) a decent standard of living. Food, healthcare, accommodation, the freedom to be productive rather than just trying to survive.

b. Saying #notinmyname when my government continues to choose to hire out our military "defence forces" especially in a time when modern military conflict often seems to mean
-- a technologically superior force operating on behalf of interests who are posed no significant threat by the other side
-- sowing death with machines which doe not need to have human compassion or judgement drilled out of them, dissociation of their operators enabled by a safe distance
-- inflicting civilian casualties and recording them as "enemy combatants" for simply being present

c. That the best way to not become involved in a war against a nation with a "morally bankrupt" government is for people to stand up, be critical and questioning, and prevent their government from becoming that sort of institution.

Every. Day.

~~~
War (What is it good for?) [Edwin Starr]
marsden_online: (write)
Toward the end of last week the EQC payout for the drain replacement arrived in my mailbox. Because it was a holiday weekend (Easter) banking it was less immediate than I would have liked, but after an uncomfortable couple of days sitting on a substantially large cheque I got it deposited. Now my internet banking shows two balances, one slightly unreal total and one much smaller "available".

Once the cheque clears I will be zipping most of that money off into a less "touchable" location while I work on plans for the next round of overdue household maintenance. Meanwhile my half-asleep brain suggested to me last night that this is actually quite an apt analogy for how I often find myself feeling about life. That is I am told that I have built up all this credit of various sorts (social), but I can't actually seem to access it in the ways I want it to have immediate value to me.

Objectively I realise this is because at some level I still have internalised the idea that if you do enough of the "right things" for people, you will get back the "right things" (you want) in return.

This segues into feelings about a post which has been shared through my Facebook feed a few times in the past week. The post itself is a screen capture of a tumblr post, I've tracked down the original but the author's Tumblr is very NSFW and comes with a blanket trigger warning so I'm going to quote the whole post here as well. (Not least to have a permacopy, but also because screen-caps are not non-sighted-user friendly.)
What I mean when I say “toxic monogamy culture”
- the normalization of jealousy as an indicator of love
- the idea that a sufficiently intense love is enough to overcome any practical incompatibilities
- the idea that you should meet your partner’s every need, and if you don’t, you’re either inadequate or they’re too needy
- the idea that a sufficiently intense love should cause you to cease to be attracted to anyone else
- the idea that commitment is synonymous with exclusivity
- the idea that marriage and children are the only valid teleological justifications for being committed to a relationship
- the idea that your insecurities are always your partner’s responsibility to tip-toe around and never your responsibility to work on
- the idea that your value to a partner is directly proportional to the amount of time and energy they spend on you, and it is in zero-sum competition with everything else they value in life
- the idea that being of value to a partner should always make up a large chunk of how you value yourself

Now we know that I emotionally even when not philosophically bought into some of these quite strongly during my younger years. It's probable that some of them still lurk below the surface waiting to strike when (if) the opportunity arises, as I have come to a better rational understanding secondhand through observation and "book learning" rather than through actual personal experience.

Actually reading through the list properly for the first time though it was the last one that struck me hard. Being of value to others does make up an overwhelmingly large part of how I value and define myself. I mean once you get past survival, once you get past living comfortably, what else is there?

[tangent]
For lack of a specific partner I have channeled my energy and devotion into an array of causes and people / non-romantic interactions/relationships over the years, but all the time craving that singular connection in return.

Not I should probably say as a singular recipient of all my attention, I care for others far too easily for that, but more as an anchor or a touchstone or a companion to share the journey with such that when it feels I am lost and storm-tossed on the seas of life, throwing cargo overboard for nowt but the space filling up with water I can reach to one side and be certain that someone is close there to me, and the world will well again.

That might seem like a terrible load to ask, it might seem as if I am expecting someone to "meet [my] every need", but in truth it's a fairly narrow subset of my needs, just potentially intense. I am lucky, oh I know how lucky I am, to have many committed friends now whom provide support in various ways, some who have gone out of their way to provide more than I ever asked and more importantly work on opening me up so I could accept and lean on that support for a while.

But even the most determined of my friends has not made a connection that feels like we are actually sharing each others lives to any great degree. It is more that our lives touch from time to time, like the courses of ships travelling the same way for a little while but not bound for the same port. That their course may change without notice or that they could pass beyond reach at any moment due to a swell or a storm.
[/tangent]

What else is there? Some people do fixate on a measure or measures representing material worth, striving to make the numbers ever greater. I don't know that they are actually valuing themselves. Some people spend their lives chasing the thrill of new experiences, I don't know how they value themselves. Some people seem to feel that just existing is value enough, they are welcome to that but at a fundamental level I don't understand how knowing that adding value is how the society they enjoy living in came to exist, they feel no responsibility to maintain it or drive to add more.

How does one have value to oneself? One is. Value only comes into existence when one interacts.

Perhaps I am off on the wrong track. Perhaps first I should be looking closer at another word I used without really thinking above. Perhaps value follows from how we define ourselves, but how even do we do that?

It's a post for another day now, but I do very strongly define the person I want to be because there is another person I know I am capable of being or even am by default, and that I have made the decision is not the person I value myself as.

[tangent]
Far too many people are perhaps still too busy just trying to survive to really think about valuing themselves. It take less energy to believe what others say about your value, to let others decide your value :( Another link I have already shared today: Addicts or not, workers don’t deserve public shaming.
[/tangent]
marsden_online: (write)
Today I added my body to a Women's March here in Christchurch, a sister and supporting event to one focused on Washington, DC. Because,
- as their manifesto says, Women's Rights are Human Rights and I support that. Both in the specific and in the general sense that improving women's rights will by extension improve the lot of (at least) every other marginalised group containing women
- and I feel it is important for progress that men are seen to be supporting that, because sadly many men are still more likely to listen only to other men
- but also on another level because I feel it's also important for the well-being of men that women are seen and treated as equal.

Here I just want to pull together a few threads from around the internet on why I think there is still a long way to go in western, particularly New Zealand society.

1. From an early age boys have been told to "don't be a girl", teased for being "girly" or put down for "hitting like a girl" in response to failure, asking for help, or expressing any "negative" emotion except anger. As well as indoctrinating the idea that women are somehow less than men in both boys and girls from an early age this negative approach to dealing with emotions also contributes to New Zealand having one of the highest rates of youth suicide (especially among young men) in the developed world.

Things are getting better on this front (I believe) but there are generations of us still alive who need to challenge those ideas within ourselves and strive to do and teach better.

2. If a little boy pulls a little girl's hair "it means he likes you". Not only is the reverse not held to be true, this normalises attack (physical or emotional) as a form of showing affection. Follow the chain and you get coercion seen as a valid form of obtaining affection in the form of sex, women criticised for not responding positively to catcalls or unwanted advances, and "he only hits me because he cares".

Again, NZ has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world.

3. There's this thing about queer/gay being used as a slur. Why is it that being romantically/sexually attracted to men is percieved as a bad thing by other men?. I'm theorising here, but coming back to my first point could it be that being attracted to men is something women do, so it is another accusation of girliness? Or could it be, as beautifully laid out here that a lot of men are afraid that a man attracted to them will subject them to the same form of unwanted attention they know they give the "objects" (women) of their affection (or even passing interest)?

I believe that in our hearts we men (most of us anyway) know that this behaviour is wrong because we become uneasy at the idea of it being turned on us. Knowing that it is our responsibility to try and
- firstly face up to the discomfort and accept when we are called out on it, then try and do better.
- secondly publicly represent and model for that better behaviour
- the hardest of all (and I fail at this often myself; pick your battles): call our friends and family out on it and support others - whatever their gender, orientation or colour - when they call others out on it in our presence.

If men can step up and do this instead of passively supporting the status quo, then fairness for women (and intermediate/null genders) will come a lot faster than if they have to keep wading through us every step of the way.

~~~
With all that off my chest, here is the gallery from todays march.

Victoria Square to Cathedral Square
The leading banner
marsden_online: (write)
There's a bit of a zeitgeist going around at least in my echo chamber about 2016 and the deaths of a number of celebrities who were of great influence on my cohort in their formative years. I have been mostly an observer in all this as I have never really attached to a real-world role model in this way. Partly because growing up I never had exposure to the same mass-media which made them household names elsewhere, but as I read more about what each of these people meant and represented to people only a click away through social media it becomes clear that it is also greatly because as a cishet white male on an easy course through life I never needed that role-model to aspire to. (Which isn't to say that I wouldn't have been the better for some more varied role models in my life.)

This was particularly well summed up in what I think was a retweet I saw a couple of days ago but have been unable to find to quote exactly, thanking "Prince, David Bowie, George Michael for showing me there was more than one way to express masculinity". Searching has however shown that this is a very common sentiment.

Today it is Carrie Fisher (among others, to be sure) we are mourning; and I do mean we because although I do not have the same strong personal connection I am not so emotionally stunted that I can not respect and and share in the grief for a woman who stood for - and spoke out for - so much to so many.

But to quote one angry man we "lost" in 2015
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away...”

These people and many others both past and still with us are the butterflies which create storms on the other side of the world with a flap of their wings. But they did (and do) it not by flexing their own but by inspiring others to do the same, until the beat of a million wings upon wings creates a force which can not be ignored.

With their passing the storms which are their legacy still rage and they will not be forgotten as long as those they inspired, and those whom are in turn inspired, over and over ... as long as we continue to beat our wings, sing their/our songs, carry their light*.

* I don't believe Princess Leia ever used a light sabre. But I believe wasn't entirely unrelated that that she was dressed in light/white, and Carrie stepped up to be a beacon in the real world.

~~~
It's particularly poignant for me that I write this today as I remember a friend of my own.
marsden_online: (write)
I thought I had already written a post on Ask vs Guess culture including an anecdote from my youth, but I am unable to find it. I'm not going to repeat the particular anecdote here because this post is to record and draw out a train of thought which occurred as I drifted into a "nap" this afternoon.

Background: I was a bit miffed at not having managed to acquire a second lotto ticket for the draw this evening (40 million must-be-won Powerball jackpot combined with a 700,00 Strike jackpot. I'll check in the morning). The reason it would be a) the second ticket and b) I didn't already have one was that I purchased the first online[1] then decided I could afford another; only to be informed I had exceeded my spending limit for the week[2].

[1] the one with maximum lines of Strike because doubling my chances in Strike seemed better odds than more lotto/powerball lines)
[2] Which was only like $30 because I set it (as a security precaution should someone get into my account) at a time when there was only one significant draw a week. And takes until the next Sunday for change requests to take effect (sensible). And would still have been fine if I was buying my usual[3] $9.60 tickets (minimum ticket because more than stuff all chance is a chance but still stuff all)
[3] only when the jackpot gets up a ways

While drifting off it occurred to me that I was /really/ miffed about being told "no" by the system. My increased determination to acquire an extra ticket was in reaction / rejection / rebellion against that. Which got me thinking (again) about my issues around asking / responding to being asked. Half-asleep brain made a new connection.

In terms of the previously linked article I would have said I grew up in a Guess culture and my asking habits reflect that. If I don't judge that there is a good probability someone will say yes (typically upwards of say 80%) I won't
- (rationalising) put them at risk of having to choose between an unwilling yes and an uncomfortable no
- (more realistically) put myself at risk of being made uncomfortable by having made them uncomfortable; or receiving a strongly negative reaction
... so I simply won't ask.

I don't usually /consciously/ have problems with a "no" answer
- although I have been known to interpret it as a "try again later in a different way"; a behaviour I hope I have broken myself of.
- the reason this one impacted me was simply that it was so unexpected; coming from a context where I didn't even realise I was asking for something (but of course I was)
- but see my final conclusion

On this afternoons half-asleep consideration though asking wasn't really a thing when I was growing up. The way our life was structured there wasn't really any "would you like to do x?" or would you like to do y?"; "can/may I do x?" or "can/may I do y?". "Questions" were usually just polite instructions: "Can you please pass the peas?", "Have you done [chore]?", "Will you please [task]?" As such a yes (or just getting on with it) was expected; any other response was likely to lead to unhappiness.

It may be one of the reasons I'm so good at politely taking charge; but it simply didn't give me soft skills around ... negotiation for lack of a better term. Or standing up for myself verbally (which may be related to other issues that developed later on). Or saying no because my fight-or-flight[5] response to being asked to do something is to "obey"/comply or rebel (the latter aggressively, probably even when I am not consciously aware that is what I am projecting. So no wonder people may feel nervious about asking for things they think /I/ may say no to.)

[5] The 3rd option, freeze ("play dead") is to vaguely accede and then passively aggressively ignore the request.

By the same token despite my best intentions it is likely I subconsciously expect people to "do what I ask" and get subtly (or not so subtly, just oblivious to my own reactions/projection) upset when "I do not get my own way". The first bit isn't really a problem for anyone but me; the second though would negatively affect other people and that, to my mind, /would/ be a problem.

If I'm being brutally honest the rejection (or possibility of rejection) probably influences my decision making and risk assessment around asking far more than I am willing to admit, even to myself. [It's half-past-midnight as I type this; a fine time for staring into the darness.]

~~~
[aside]
One of the comments on the link I chose for this post talks about experience a "Yes" culture; which from the description I would actually consider
- at best the culture shock of an Asker (the poster self-identifies as) who has found themselves in a Guess environment;
- a toxic outgrowth (or ingrowth) of a Guess culture or two merged Guess cultures
- an outcome of a Guess culture being colonised by unscrupulous Askers.
In my own personal experience, I think there is a third type of culture - Yes Culture. That is, social circles that have the expectation that it is OK to ask for anything at all with the expectation that you will receive a yes. Or, when asked of anything at all, you must say yes regardless of what the request is.
...
But I have witnessed first-hand what I'm calling Yes Culture. Having been submersed in it directly, I have experienced much frustration because my expectations and those of the Yes Culture differ greatly. Likewise, I have witnessed those of the Yes Culture's frustrations in dealing with me. No matter how I explain myself or my expectations, our expectations differ so greatly that I am almost always perceived as rude, selfish, unsupportive or uncaring for saying no (and believing it is OK). And no matter how much they explain themselves, I can't quite grasp how it's possible to expect that any request will/should be granted regardless of timing, workload, responsibilities, etc."

[/aside]
marsden_online: (write)
I communicate with the pollsters by e-survey, especially since auto-dialers put me offering my phone completely. One particular company often starts with the question "What do you see as the biggest issue facing NZ today.", or something similar. This week it was beefed up a bit and led to an extended series of thoughts which I posted on FB (as being the most convenient format at the time) but am repeating here as a less ephemeral record.

The question:
What are the main social problems in New Zealand that the Government and community as a whole need to address?
My initial answer:
Inequity and poverty:
With our GDP per capita there should be no excuse for not being able to provide everyone with the basics of a warm, dry, private space to call their own and sufficient to eat; as a matter of right with no need to jump through any hoops to prove they are entitled to it.
Address this issue and a great number of other issues which stem from or are exacerbated by it will also recede.

Half an hour or so later I also wrote the following (edited a bit for clarity):
---
Ongoing thought about why our current social welfare system doesn't work very well wrt eg housing and food.

It consists of (reluctantly) giving people money and then leaving them to be able to procure the required services from "the market". But they're not dealing with /one/ market they are dealing with /many/ markets - accommodation, food, electricity ... - /each of which/
- has the goal of acquiring as much of that money as possible /without concern/ for the balance of the customers' needs
- and prices accordingly.

The result of course is that there is not and probably will never be "enough" money - see also for example how private rent increases have tracked the accommodation supplement.

The supply industries also benefit in their pricing strategy from individuals being given the money to spend rather than the services being purchased in bulk by a central authority with the clout to negotiate and keep the prices down.

For this reason I'm not opposed to government purchasing services from private providers; I /am/ opposed to the private providers being selected on the basis of lowest cost or metrics such as how fast they can get people off their books (churn). The correct metric has to be based on standard of care.

That would unfortunately require the government to care about the well-being of it's /entire/ constituency, not just those who voted for the "ruling" party or contributed to its coffers. :/
---

Back to now and a couple of other thoughts

Dealing with poverty is not a problem which can be solved by a single approach.
- Giving people money (or some form of equivalent discretionary resource) directly so they can target their own needs in their own situation is one part of the solution and has been shown to work well for getting people back on their feet. But as a sole or primary approach it risks capture as described above; where funds meant to help people into a position to better their lives end up straight in the (mostly metaphorical these days) pockets of "service" providers.
- /But/ poverty is relative and targeting the affordability of common - even "basic" goods and services is another piece of the puzzle. Not in an ad-hoc manner (eg taxes on/off fresh/processed foods - this has been a regulatory nightmare wherever it has been tried, save it for genuine luxury goods) but in a whole-of-market approach like Pharmac.
Bulk demand can shift the costs down but this is not something those already struggling with their living situation are in a position to organise. In a democratic/capitalist welfare society this should be a function of government.

One government department I think could make more of an impact here (if they were permitted) is Housing New Zealand; right now they are limited by having to use their own housing stock (which they have been forced to run down and sell down over the past decade); but if they were also able to function as a not-for-profit property management company effectively handling maintenance and property standards for those who for example
- have an investment property "retirement plan" but find the details of renting it out more effort than it is worth
- have a social conscience
- will accept a low-end-of-the-market-rent-range return

they might well be able to
- apply downward pressure on rental prices
- fill up some of those homes we hear about sitting empty
- reduce their waiting lists
- provide security for a lot of people who currently have found they can't ever trust they will still have a place to live after the next review
- upgrade some of NZ's abysmal housing stock
- and potentially be in a position to acquire some of those properties to replenish their own stocks when the bubble bursts

Yes the deal would have to be structured so as to appeal to the property owners opening it up to the criticism of being a government handout to that class; but I am reasonably certain it could be made to work for no more than is currently being handed to them indirectly via the accommodation supplement and putting beneficiaries up in motels for a week while simultaneously lumbering them with a paper debt which will, realistically, never be recovered.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

~~~
Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here
marsden_online: (write)
Submissions to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) close tomorrow (March 11) barely two months after the treaty was signed and text made available. About 3am on Monday morning my brain decided it was time to write something, but Ithen got distracted by actually reading MFATs National Interest Analysis (NIA) (the better to make an informed submission. It of course paints a far rosier picture of the expected outcomes.

This post has three parts:
1. Useful links
2. The text of my submission (done through the online form)
3. Other rant triggered by reading the NIA (this was going to be rants but I have run out of time :( )

~~~
Online submission form (very limited life expectancy) (you will need to complete the verification at the bottom of the page and then click the "Make an online submission" button below to actually get to the form)
The NIA (pdf)
MFAT TPPA subsite

~~~
I felt it best to make a measured submission just highlighting a few points of concern.
As a member of the public who has been following the no TPPA actions but has also found the time to read the NIA (but not the earlier published fact sheets) I would still like to express some some concerns about the process and implementation of this treaty.

1. I understand that there is always an element of confidentiality required in trade negotiations but the secrecy surrounding this one - and indeed continuing for years after ratification seems to have be unprecedented. Combined with the very short amount of time allowed for public, expert, and opposition party representative examination of the text and consultation I find it difficult to have confidence in the benefit to New Zealand of any legislative changes which may be required.

2. Speaking of benefits it is not at all clear from the NIA /how/ the people of NZ generally benefit from the signing of this treaty. "Economic growth" and a forecast boost to GDP are presented as as self-explanatory benefits without justification; but this would only be the case if the wealth generated flows to those who are less-well off.

As it stands this treaty would appear to deliver the most benefit to
- those who are /already/ established enough to partake in international trade and
- a small minority of future SMEs producing exportable goods/services who manage to become established against the now-increased competition from our trading partners.

In short this treaty seems to offer no great benefit for the majority of NZ citizens and business while exposing them to economic attack by better-resourced established competitors from abroad.

3. Following on from that if the NIA is accurate the ISDS clauses have been well ring-fenced to protect "public-good" issues but it still seems to be a risk that if a local company were to come up with a disruptive technology or process which could challenge established players but would require tweaks to our - or our treaty partners - legislation to implement effectively (a recent examples from the news might be the taxi service Uber) the established players would be able to use the ISDS or the threat thereof to hinder implementation in an anti-competitive fashion.

I am hopeful that the government of the day would have the fortitude to support our business and accept the costs required to set an example which would prevent this happening a second time; if nothing else this would quantify "the actual costs of responding are unknown" (NIA p55)

~~~
Nevertheless as it seems that the implementation of the legislative changes required is a foregone conclusion I

- would strongly support a clause which only brings the changes into /effect/ at the point the treaty comes into force in a form substantively like it's current form, rather than incurring the front-loaded costs and "giving away the farm" the having nothing to negotiate with should other parties decide /not/ to pass it through their respective legislatory procedures in it's current form.

- look forward to the strengthening of NZ's environmental protection, labour protection and transparency legislations to bring them in line with the treaty obligations as explained in the NIA.


~~~
Rant time.

The NIA is very bullish about the amount of consultation carried out

9.2 Public consultation process
The consultation process for TPP has been among the most extensive a New Zealand Government has undertaken for any trade negotiation. Throughout the negotiation process the MFAT, together with other government agencies, has been active in engaging with a wide spectrum of stakeholders on TPP.
...
Throughout the negotiation there were two public calls for submissions. MFAT invited initial public
submissions in October 2008 on entering into negotiations with the US to expand the P4 agreement.
A second invitation for public comment was made in 2011 following the expressions of interest from other countries to join the TPP negotiations (Canada, Japan and Mexico) to better understand the views and interests of New Zealanders with regards to these three economies.
MFAT received 65 responses to the initial invitation for submissions, which expressed a diverse
range of views on the TPP
...
Following the second invitation for public comment in 2011, MFAT received fifteen responses. Thirteen were from business (including business councils) and industry organisations. Two were from other governments - Canada and Mexico.
...
Extensive public outreach and consultation took place throughout the negotiation of TPP, using printed, emailed and website information, supported by extensive briefings, discussions and correspondence with key stakeholders on New Zealand’s negotiating objectives and process.

A primary portal of information on the negotiations was the MFAT website, and dedicated internet column, “TPP Talk”. TPP Talk was regularly updated with the status of negotiations. Both the website and column
encouraged feedback on TPP from the public. In seeking views on TPP, the Government sought to encourage debate on the issues, including links to groups holding a range of views on the MFAT website.
...
Hundreds of meetings took place, including with business groups, iwi, local councils, health sector
representatives, unions, NGOs, Members of Parliament and individuals to seek input on the TPP and
to help ensure a high quality outcome that reflects stakeholders’ interests.
...
In a new initiative that reflected the level of public interest in TPP, MFAT also made provision for
stakeholder engagement with regard to the two TPP negotiating rounds held in New Zealand. With
regard to the round of negotiations held in Auckland in December 2012, the Ministry organised a
stakeholder programme attended by 72 New Zealand participants as well as other stakeholders from overseas.

... and so on.

Strangely I do not recall /any/ of the relevant ministers or officials saying in response to the noTPPA movement and media coverage "Hey, here is where you can go to get more information and to have your say." Apparently the broader public of New Zealand (or other parties) are not considered "stakeholders" in our international treaties.

We know who other treaty partners considered stakeholders from the mega-companies and lobbyists who got to peek at the proceedings and drafts. I wonder who in NZ our government actually considered important enough to be a stakeholder?

I'm going to be generous and assume whoever produced this analysis is so blinkered that they actually believe this number of submissions is a reasonable outcome rather than a failure to communicate.

Moreover I believe that an organisation believing in or proactive about public consultation would have opened another round more recently than five years ago, given the increased public profile of opposition to the matter under consideration.
marsden_online: (write)
Many years ago someone defined me as "an information junkie". There is a particular type of information that draws me in more than any other though and that is details of other peoples lived experiences. This is the drive that sees me abandoning an evening into the small hours reading the comments on a post like [potential trigger warnings on all these]
- Scalzi's classics on being poor (the first I remember)
- more recently a metafilter thread on emotional labour
- a reddit thread about moments which led people to change the way they think
- a strong article on why women smile at men who harass them [short version: it's a proven survival tactic for continuing to maintain some control in a dangerous situation]

Articles on what it is like to be struggling with poverty or mental health or generaaly being someone other than a middle-aged comfortably well off white male make up a significant amount of the links I share through my FB feed, which I am well aware is mostly read by other people much like me.

Why do I feel this is so important? In short, "There but for the grace of ghod, go I". In a word awareness, but lets dig onto it a little deeper.

Fairness )
Compassion and courtesy )
Preparedness )
Understanding )
marsden_online: (write)
After all I am one of the lucky ones; not only did I not lose anyone directly in the quakes I even benefited materially from the "repairs" to my home*. My life and work were mostly unaffected and since have continued on a generally upwards trajectory.

*( Like many the assessment was questionable, the workmanship left something to be desired in places and the scope was "tightened" several times between assessment and implementation meaning some things which probably should have been done rather than others were not. But my claim was acted on (un)fairly quickly and my home was still in better condition when they finished than before the quakes.)

If I only paid attention to my own situation or that of people like myself that might leave me content. But my social circles contain many who were not so fortunate. Their homes, lives, families, studies, health ... have been massively disrupted and I do not choose to disregard their experiences and those I read of from further afield. For so many people the past five years have been one battle after another; not all quake related but certainly quake-exacerbated, and so much of it seems to have been unnecessary.

~~~
In some ways the February 14th aftershock this year was beneficial. Some people might have been in danger of believing the platitudes which will have been spouted today about how well we are all doing; how well the rebuild is progressing. Instead as PTSD kicked in and "old" responses rose sharply to the surface there was an up-swell of awareness that no, everything is not all right; yes, we still need help.

In the last five years we have seen proof (if there had been any doubt) that the insurance industry is more interested in holding on to its money than in meeting it's contracted obligations. We've seen the one locally owned insurance company which was by nature overexposed to the risk "bailed out" by the government then promptly chopped up; the "good" bit sold off to one of the same overseas re/insurance companies which fights determinedly to not return the money they have taken from other insurees in premiums over the years (IAG) and the "bad" bit put into limbo (Southern Response, which can only progress so far without the goverment actually stumping up some money to cover the work that needs doing).

We have seen that we have a government who are more interested in bottom lines and doing deals with those same insurance companies than in standing up for the rights of the people they purport to represent. More interested in a magical accounting "surplus" than in the wellbeing not only of Christchurch but of the entire country. Only interested frankly, to all intents and purposes to improve the lot of "people like them" no matter the cost to anyone else. Quick to promise financial relief but very slow to spend any money which would not already have been spent.

We have learnt that our EQC disaster recovery fund had already been plundered by the government (through simply directing it to put the money into government-issued bonds), and there is no indication this government has any plan to rebuild it against future need.

We have seen control of "Christchurch's Recovery" taken away from Christchurch from the word "help". Hijacked by people who are more interested in vanity projects (which they then turn around and demand the people of Christchurch make ourselves responsible for paying for) than in the places people live. More interested in cutting costs and corners than in the human cost or actual repair. More interested in being "in charge" than in delivering what a broken city needs.

Today, the 22nd, is a day for reflecting on what we have lost in and around Christchurch. Not just people and buildings but well-being, dignity and agency. So much of which has not been taken by the quakes themselves but by the deliberate actions and inactions of those who claimed the people of Christchurch would be "looked after".

For those outside Christchurch it might be worth thinking about, "if a major disaster struck where you are, what would you lose?"

Emma summed up neatly why in her earthquake anniversary post so I am going to borrow her words to finish. "Because this isn’t about the past, five years on. Things are still happening."
marsden_online: (write)
Backgrounder: I engaged in the comments on this article about student debt at Stuff. Unfortunately comments closed partway through quite a long entry so I'm putting those thoughts here.

Preceding conversation
Matt N texas
Will Matthews, please explain to me why your or any persons student loan is any different, to my business loans ?...I have taken out loans for equipment, equal to or exceeding an "average student debt"...I have assumed all the risk and reward that comes with starting and running a business......no one is proposing to "wipe my loans"......why do you think that a person who borrows to fund higher education, with the intention of earning a higher income, should be subsidized by the taxpayer, as apposed to a business operator, who is also using borrowings to access a higher income ?.........thank you in advance for advocating that I receive the same treatment as a student (sic)

Marsden
Absolutely, the difference is in that taking out a business loan you are (presumably) in a position to immediately begin repaying down that debt and have done the numbers to indicate that the equipment will increase your immediate earning capacity immediately.

In taking out a student loan you are probably looking at at least 3 years before it has any effect on you earnings (in fact as laid out in the article you are looking at a very restricted income and probably taking on higher priority debt in the interim as well) before you can begin repayment, and that is /if/ you can find a position in a field where your degree adds a significant premium to your earnings. It is a massive gamble on an unpredictable future job market, but for many of the students I know (including many who already have previously "sought after" qualifications) the hope and a prayer is simply a better option than continuing to be stuck on the unemployment "benefit" (even with existing qualifications) in the current hostile job market.

Marsden
Additionally as I someone has noted in a more recent comment you would have been able to depreciate the value of that equipment on your books, thus offsetting some of your taxable income. Not possible with education, although perhaps is business owners could do that they would be more encouraged to invest in helping their employees gain relevant qualifications.

Matt N texas
Not really correct....it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success..or an "immediate " return as you seem to think...business income can be as unpredictable as any job....in addition equipment can offen require ongoing costs,repairs etc...purchasing an existing business does mean an instant income stream, as apposed to starting a business from scratch, however business loans have to be paid back starting with the first month after inception regardless of cash generated.
As for depreciation...some depreciation is as low as 2.5% per year. For 30-40 years...hardly a boon to a budding business, and if you're luckily enough to have made a profit, tax will be payable....by contrast students have a great system, they can borrow without having to repay until they start achieving an income...and then it is painlessly repaid via a paycheck deduction to the IRD...simple.
Now the last part of your comments, are impractical, as a general rule businesses are not really required to educate you....as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost..it is preferable to have the employee fund and achieve their own education, and if those qualifications are what I need or desire to operate my business, then I shall offer a salary or wages as negotiated.
It is plain to see you have not operated or owned a business


Marsden comment unposted

Once upon a time businesses were required to educate their employees, else they would have had no skilled staff at all.

This unwillingness to invest in training your own staff which has become endemic; probably dating back to the first days of public education when employers first decided that since the government was going to pay for training their potential employees it was a cost they no longer had to care about. And since the government has stopped paying all, rather than step back up to address the need themselves they now claim exactly as you do that it is up to the employee to shoulder the cost of the training; knowing that they will be able to use the threat of giving the job to someone who will work for less (read "is more desperate") to "negotiate" the wage or salary lower than the skills are fairly worth to the business.

This expectation that the government will pay for training; this determination to only employ people who are already educated - and often who are already experienced - is the reason despite our high unemployment rate and a glut of educated un-and-under-employed so many businesses are are crying out for skilled staff (as often mentioned in this publication and others). By requiring the prospective employees to take the gamble on what qualification might get them a well-enough-paying position after a year or more of study you guarantee that either
- there will be a glut of graduates with the skills you need (good for you because it forces the amount you have to pay for those skills down - but at the same time you constantly risk your employees leaving for a better paying position and having to pay the cost of replacing them)
- OR a shortage either because the public education is not actually providing the specific skills you are looking for or because few decide acquiring those skills are worth the risk of not having a job at the end of it, in which case your business suffers through having to pay highly for those skills or simply finding them unobtainable.

> .as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost.

Not really - you get the benefit of that employee's increasing skill level throughout the period where they are both working for you and gaining their qualification; you get to leverage those skills directly into the specifics your business without the need for any sort of settling in or induction period; even if they do move on you hopefully have the opportunity to have them find a similarly skilled replacement from the cohort they have gone through the qualification with (and who will be able to tap them socially for institutional knowledge about your business again cutting down the amount of time spent coming up to speed).

As returns on investment go up-skilling your employees is almost always going to pay off. Even though as you said at the beginning of your comment:

> it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success

~~~
Snark didn't make it into the final draft about what it says about his experience running a business with the attitude that he can't trust his employees not to leave. Snark didn't even reach the draft about the "painlessness" of losing 12% of your paycheck each month especially if your degree is not earning you a 12% premium on wages.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
- It "wasn't a problem in your day" aka "the youth of today" argument

- it wasn't happening /despite/ your obliviousness

- you have any right to disregard/diminish/dismiss other peoples lived experiences because they don't match your narrative

- you are in any way excused from trying to pull your weight in addressing the issue now that you /are/ aware of it.

Ref: Fix up, young men & subsequent comments thread
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Several months ago this thread on Unpaid Emotional Labour came to my attention via Facebook. It is a very long and emotionally fraught conversation in which many people shared their own personal stories and which at that time took me about 5 hours to work my way through, before I left it open in a permatab to re-read and post about at a later date.

If 5 hours sounds a bit much, just recently a condensed version (pdf)

This thread was especially useful to me in adding language and concepts around emotional labour to my toolkit, and shining a light on
- how much of it I actually do in my life and whewre; which is sadly apparently more than is generally expected of men in our society and yet still much less than is expected of women.
- how ways in which I have gone looking for support in the past may have amounted to causing unwanted emotional labour for my friends, for which I am sorry.

A lot of the stories/bits of quotes resonated in other ways too, and my intention in saving the thread for later is still to go through and pull some of those quotes fully out of that context and into mine, to unravel some of those emotional chords. That is however not this post.
marsden_online: (camera2)
On the weekend before the Paris Climate talks in December, climate marches took place in hundreds of major cities.

This was one of them.
Victoria Square
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Triggered by
Shall remain anon:
These were not cheap old cell phones, next time I see a beggar at Riccarton I will check to see if he needs money for food or to top his cell phone up, after all he may what to call his stock broker


Me:
So what if they were not cheap or old? If the individual has managed to save up enough to by a good cell phone which will possibly last several years instead of a cheap one or hand-me-down which may crap out in a few months why not? Compared to an example alternative of "burning" that money for a few nights accommodation in a hostel or continuing to save for a flat bond when you have no guarantee of being able to maintain rent - or even being accepted for a flat being that you are an "undesirable"with no references competing in a crowded market - spending on something with immediate and lasting utility seems a perfectly rational decision and a clear sign that they are not likely to "waste any money you give them on booze and drugs".

What really irks me about your post though is it smacks not just of "poor people shouldn't be able to afford nice things" but of "poor people shouldn't be *allowed* to have nice things". If they're spending their days begging it's a given that their life is not particularly pleasant to begin with; they have managed to acquire /one nice thing/ in that otherwise shit life and *you* want to /take that away from them/ again?

- the thread is still going; not real conversations (and no flames) and a balance of new people stopping in to either report their own giving (positive) or digitally spit on those who have no presence there to defend themselves (negative)
marsden_online: (write)
Posting here first ...

Some people also seem to think that
- because something can be called a "basic" service; i.e. ubiquitous, fundamental, necessary but probably with a low skill requirement / barrier to entry
- that this adjective also means it is a service which should be paid poorly; in the same way as one might pay little for a "basic" foodstuff or "basic" clothing.

Whereas if people had the freedom/resources to choose not to do this often also boring, strenuous, unpleasant or downright hazardous work because it is the only option/better of a very bad bunch available, these very "basic" jobs are ones which would command a significantly higher price.

Related, this link I have had sitting in my folder for some time:
The Most Basic Freedom Is Freedom to Quit (via The Chief Happiness Officer)
Freedom to quit distinguishes employment from slavery

The same principle also applies in the workplace. If you can’t quit your job because you are owned by or legally bound to your employer, or because economic necessity prevents you from quitting, then your employer can brutalize and exploit you and get away with it. If you can walk away, then your employer must treat you well if he or she wants to retain your services. The legal and economic capacity to quit is the force that tends to equalize the relationship between employer and employee. There is no mystery here.

(emphasis mine)
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
It's not such a big step to say "we as a society value the contribution you could make /and/ we are going to make it possible for you to make better use of your time by making sure everyone has enough of the plenty we produce to live a comfortable, if simple life while they do that."

- me, still engaging
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
I find it interesting that people so quickly respond to the situation where a perfectly rational person finds they can earn more by devoting their energy to begging than "working" by insisting that begging should be made more difficult not that finding better paying work should be made easier.

- me engaging in the comments of a poll on whether people give to those they encounter begging
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Although my relatively comfortable position in life is due at least as much to good fortune as to good planning / hard work I like to believe that an organised approach to managing my money helps maintain the state of affairs and bolster it against future misfortune.

One of the things I do is typically set aside some time Monday evening to pay any bills that have come in over the past week and make any other movements which are required. Sometimes this rolls over to Tuesday but rarely longer and I will often pay a regular bill as soon as the scheduled transaction pops up in GnuCash; but I don't open that every day. (I have also discovered that enabling 2-factor authentication on my internet banking (which everyone should do, if you haven't already) discourages me from logging in as often and encourages this sort of batch processing.)

To a lesser extent Friday but Friday is also payday and I kind of like to let that money sit in my account for the weekend.

This is particularly relevant today because today had a very big invoice (scheduled in two parts because transaction limits) paying the next instalment on my home solar panels, which were installed on Friday [happy dance].

2.6kw

This also means I am back to paying off a mortgage because the installation happened a little earlier than I originally intended. Yay having an open revolving credit facility for such occasions. (The revolving bit is important - if you don't pay it off it's not revolving.)

Since I really don't enjoy being in debt[1] I'm going to be a bit more cautious with my spending over the next few months. Fewer dollars to random good works and charity, more self restraint on impulse buys, and hoping no more crowd-funded investments (my only expensive vice at present) come up that I really want to get into.

That's more flippant than serious; I will "borrow to invest" in this fashion but only because I am confident of being able to re-earn the amount quickly. As the saying goes "don't lend what you can't afford to lose". I call crowd-investing a (personal) vice because it is putting significant amounts of money into limbo with no guarantee of when or if it will come back; very high risk for someone with normally a very conservative risk profile. I do however select the companies I invest in based on the principle that even if they fail, they will have added something to society in the process. [Eg cleantech, medtech, social enterprise].

In a similar fashion (and this has been a frustration throughout the process of researching, quoting and having installed) I'm not concerned about "payback" time on my solar installation, nor on the expansions planned to come. All the installers are like "Oh you don't want to install any more that you need for personal use; the electricity companies aren't paying enough to make your money back". I'm like "dammit, I don't need to make my money back, I'm spending money that I have to spend."

The energy companies can have my surplus for free if it means other electricity user get to pay that little bit less. Think outside your goddamn pocketbooks people!

~~~
[1] I know very few people who claim to enjoy being in debt, but several who claim that despite their dislike of it going into debt to get the things they want and then having to pay it off is the only way they can maintain financial discipline. I can sort of see where they are coming from, but it's like peeking into an alien dimension.
~~~

This post hasn't quite gone in the direction I intended but I'll leave it here and hopefully retain the enthusiasm to make another sometime soon.
marsden_online: (write)
Last week the Government released "The first in a series of government discussion documents looking
towards a better tax administration system for New Zealanders".
NZ Herald article
The Government is floating the idea of businesses paying their tax on a pay-as-you-go (PAYE) basis, like individual taxpayers, in the biggest proposed shake-up of one of the building blocks of the income tax system since its introduction in 1957.

Revenue Minister Todd McClay announced the proposal to introduce a form of "business PAYE" among a raft of other possible reforms contained in a green paper seeking public submissions by May 29 ahead of a rolling maul of public consultation documents he plans to publish over the next three years to modernise and simplify the tax system, while improving the rate and accuracy of tax collection.

snip )

I've made comments in a few other places too (all pending moderation).

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