Murder, men, shame and blame

The murder of young tourist Grace Millane is terrible, and very sad for her family in particular. Horrendous crimes like murder can impact on many people.

There have been appropriate reactions online, like:

I think that most people would agree with that as some have.

There have also been a noticeable number of different reactions. Like calling on the Government to deal with mental health issues, even going as far as implying blame on the current and past Governments. I think that’s unfair.

Apparently there has been some blaming of the murder victim for her own death – I haven’t seen this but have seen this: “Fuck all of you who are blaming Grace for her own death.” Aand:

I’ve had to go on a blocking spree cos I’ve had so many people tweet me to say she should have been more careful. Women and men alike. It’s as if we’ve regressed a couple of hundred years.

It’s sad that there has been victim blaming. Angry responses to that are understandable, but some go into women versus men territory.

When you argue that women shouldn’t travel alone for fear of violence, you’re arguing that women don’t have the same right to life as men because in effect there are some instances and spaces where women should expect their lives are rendered precarious and meaningless.

Also prevalent is the implication and blaming of all men for murders, and violence generally. There have been many variations to this, including attacks on men for questioning the ‘all men’ blaming. people who have suggested anything like ‘not all men are to blame for the crimes of some’.

And some responses combine things and generalise, like:

Ironically, many of the “What did she expect; she should have been more careful” people are exactly the same ones shouting “ “ the rest of the time.

Men are also effectively blaming all men, or at least all men who say things they disagree with.

To all the guys responding to women’s pain, despair and outrage right now with , please go fuck yourselves. You are part of the problem. We are part of the problem unless we actively confront toxic masculinity and the culture of violence against women.

This troubles me. I don’t feel any responsibility for this crime. I think that ‘all men’ type attacks are likely to be counter-productive, alienating many men who oppose violence, who speak up against violence, who act against violence.

I don’t see how I have any responsibility for a murder in Auckland. Are all Aucklanders responsible in some way? Are all New Zealanders responsible for the safety of tourists?

It’s very sad to hear of the murder of a young tourist, but I also find it sad to see all the blaming and shaming of men generally. I don’t think that will do anything to make tourists or women safer.

Turei the victim

The Green Party has been badly compromised by the Metiria mission in which she used her life experiences as a solo mother to promote pro-beneficiary anti-poverty policies.

When Metiria Turei started her confession based campaign against poverty and the pressures imposed on beneficiaries she got quite a bit of sympathy and support, and this was reflected in a jump in the polls for the Green Party.

But things turned sour, for three reasons.

First, Turei proposed a reform of the social welfare system that would substantially increase the amount of benefit paid (by 20%), and also no investigation policy with no pressure to move off a benefit – “everyone has different life circumstances and everyone is entitled to support for as long as they need it”, meaning as long as they chose, no questions asked. See Green policy Mending the Safety Net.

Second, it was revealed that Turei had not just fibbed a bit about having a flatmate to ‘feed her baby’.

She may have fibbed for up to five years with different flats and flatmates, one of whom was her mother for a year or two.

She was enrolled to vote at the same address as the father of her daughter. She claims they didn’t live together at all ‘since before the baby was born’ and that this was so she could vote for a friend in a different electorate (she stood for Parliament in the same election so one could wonder why she wouldn’t vote for herself).

Questions remain about why she didn’t name the father so he would be required to pay child support, and whether the child supported the child under the table, and if not why did he not support his child.

Third, Turei is complaining about any scrutiny of her family. She wants her years as a benefit and voting fraudster to be ‘no questions asked’. She is claiming to be a victim of a witch hunt.

RNZ: ‘Outside opponents want to see us fail’ – Metiria Turei

Green co-leader Metiria Turei is accusing outside opponents of making “wild accusations” in a bid to bring down the party.

That’s an unfortunate fact of politics,there are some people who want to ‘bring down’ every party other than the one they support.

But Turei left herself open by refusing to be up front about her whole story. She wanted sympathy without wanting to take responsibility.

She took aim at other opponents outside of the party who had attacked her.

“They want to see us fail at the election and they’re using me as a target.”

And she said she expected the critics to continue making “quite wild accusations” over the coming weeks.

“I understand that’s the game some people want to play, but we have a much bigger kaupapa to carry through.”

Mrs Turei also objected to the level of intrusion into her and her family’s personal life as ”a little out of control”.

“We have to be very careful that this doesn’t turn into a witchhunt.”

She chose to use part of her story to promote a policy and a mission. She has been an MP for 15 years, she is a party leader seeking power in government, she can’t be that naive that she expects no scrutiny.

Playing the victim is a risky game, as she has found out.

She accepted she had opened herself up to questions and criticism by going public about lying to Work and Income in the 1990s.

But she did not expect her family to be targeted.

“Having my family paraded in the media has been really tough

“My family didn’t deserve the kind of exposure they’ve had. I might, but not them.”

Her story was about her family and about her family situation. How could she have expected for them to be left out of it?

“The kinds of questions that have been asked of me are questions that are asked of beneficiaries every day.

“The scrutiny I have been under is the scrutiny they are under … people don’t like that. They think it’s unnecessarily punitive and I agree with them.”

Here she is again using her family experience to promote her campaign, but expecting no scrutiny.

She is playing a double victim card, portraying herself as a victim of an oppressive and miserly social welfare system, but wanting no questions asked about her choosing to break laws.

But she is a victim of her own actions. I think most people would barely care about a fib 25 years ago. However they would be more concerned about several years of fibs about multiple things – the electorate fiddle is what turned media against her more than anything, because it suggested a habit of not caring about the law.

And this is the crux of the reason why two Green MPs created turmoil on the party this week.

Having a lax attitude to laws two decades ago is justifiably questionable but history.

But as an MP and a party leader now, not condoning law breaking, and going as far as proposing an amnesty for all benefit law breakers, is problematic, and this is Turei’s real problem – her attitude to benefit fiddling and law breaking now, as a law maker.

The Labour Party has distanced themselves from this stance. Last week new leader Jacinda Ardern made it clear that it rules Turei out of consideration for a Labour led cabinet position.

And this week two Greens broke rank and said that they couldn’t  remain as MPs alongside this breach of integrity and principle.

They were attacked by Green party officials for making a principled stand. Co-leader James Shaw threatened to have them expelled from the party for bringing it into disrepute.

But the damage and disrepute had already happened through Turei’s stance, through Green party policy, and through the support of this from most Green MPs.

A well intentioned ‘mission’ had been poorly thought through and it turned to custard.

The nastiness of some Green supporters was exposed, especially with their attacks on their own MPs who stood up for principles that their party had discarded.

Turei is now playing the victim card. She seems unable to see or accept that she is the victim of her own actions – her actions from 1993-1998 to an extent, but mostly due to her actions and attitude over the past month.

She took a gamble and lost. The Green Party allowed her to take that gamble, they took it with her, and they have lost a lot of credibility, and potentially a lot of support.

Turei, Shaw and the party have chosen to not back down, so they all remain compromised. This is likely to keep blowing up in their faces through the election campaign.

They can play the victim as much as they like, but that is unlikely to repair the damage or win back lost support. It may well ensure that they don’t get it back.

Many of those who have supported the Greens for their environmental activism will be very disappointed that the party focus is obviously elsewhere now.

The Greens have strong core support on social issues and should still get back into Parliament, but this has been a major step backwards for the Greens, with no sign of a change of direction.

Turei claims that things have got out of control. What got out of control was the integrity of her mission.

Blaming others won’t repair the massive damage she has done to her party’s chances this election, and to the party’s credibility and mana.

Talking responsibility for it would help, but there is no sign of that. So the party continues to spiral out of control. It probably isn’t a death spiral, but a crash landing looks inevitable.

James Shaw: “Migrants are not to blame…”

Green co-leader James Shaw spoke in Dunedin today (and despte what he said it isn’t cold for this time of year).

He talked about immigration numbers but also in avoiding scapegoating.


Kia ora kotou, nihao, namaste, annyong, kamusta, talofalava, bula, salam alaikum

And warm Pacific greetings – on this cold Dunedin morning – to you all.

***

It’s a privilege to be representing the Green Party at your AGM.

We in the Greens are deeply concerned that the debate about immigration policy in New Zealand has, over the course of time, come to be dominated by populist politicians preaching a xenophobic message in order to gain political advantage.

This ugly strain of political discourse is quieter at times of low net migration into New Zealand, but rises at times of when net migration is high – as it is now, and so, at this election, sadly, the xenophobic drum is beating louder.

Last year I made an attempt to try and shift the terms of the debate away from the rhetoric and more towards a more evidence-based approach.

We commissioned some research which indicated that immigration settings would be best if tied to population growth.

Unfortunately, by talking about data and numbers, rather than about values, I made things worse.

Because the background terms of the debate are now so dominated by anti-immigrant rhetoric, when I dived into numbers and data, a lot of people interpreted that as pandering to the rhetoric, rather than trying to elevate the debate and pull it in a different direction.

We were mortified by that, because, in fact, the Greens have the ambition of being the most migrant-friendly party in Parliament. And I am sorry for any effect it may have had on your communities.

Migrants are not to blame for the social and economic ills of this country.

Migrants are not to blame for the housing crisis.

Migrants are not to blame for our children who go to school hungry.

Migrants are not to blame for the long hospital waitlists.

Migrants are not to blame for our degraded rivers.

It is the government’s failure to plan for the right level of infrastructure and services that has caused this.

***

So today I am not going to talk about numbers, but about values.

And, in all honesty, I don’t think New Zealand will be able to talk about numbers and settings until we’ve had the conversation about values and principles.

Until we can agree on those, we’ll just lurch around responding to changing circumstances or the latest headline.

And what are the values that the Green Party stands for? We stand for an open, inclusive and tolerant Aotearoa New Zealand that welcomes people who want to make a contribution.

We stand for an Aotearoa that stands up to racism and scapegoating and xenophobia.

That’s what’s missing from the debate about immigration. The rhetoric and scapegoating around election year means that people miss the fact that ‘immigrants’ aren’t a sea of strange faces.

They’re people, families, individuals. With hopes and dreams and aspirations. With fears and anxieties and worries. Humans who need love and need to love.

New New Zealanders who love their new homes and want to do so much to give and to give truth to that love.

But New Zealand needs to be better at showing that love back. We haven’t always lived up to that Kiwi mythos of giving people a fair go and being welcoming to strangers.

We have a tendency to treat immigrants as economic units who are either a benefit or a threat to our narrow economic interests.

We tend not to think of immigrants as people in their own right, as people who come to this country for the promise of a better life – as all our ancestors once did.

***

Look at how we treat our migrant workers – often putting them through harsh conditions and low pay just for the privilege of coming here.

It’s shameful that although only 5% of the total workforce are migrant workers – about a third of prosecutions involving employment condition violations involve a migrant worker.

And MBIE doesn’t have enough resources to deal with the problem. We know from their 2016 annual report that they’re falling well short of doing the interventions they need (up to 1049 short) and that one in five investigations are taking longer than six months.

That’s unacceptable. We will invest more resources into the Labour Inspectorate so that we can have more proactive investigations and less migrant worker exploitation.

***

And look at how we treat non-Pakeha New Zealanders in this country. According to a report by the human rights commissioner – one-in-ten Pasifika and one-in-five Asians have faced discrimination in the last 12 months.

Having a non-Pakeha name means you’re 50% less likely to get a call-back for a job interview. Being a migrant means you’re more likely to be over-qualified and over-experienced in the job you do.

And we need to address these issues. The Greens want to trial ethnicity-blind and gender-blind CVs to address discrimination.

***

Look also at how we treat our multicultural associations and migrant centres. Last month the Canterbury Migrant Centre was forced to close due to lack of funding.

The value that your groups bring to New Zealand – not only in easing the settlement process for new migrants but for the diversity and social connections you bring to your areas has been underappreciated for far too long.

The Greens at the heart of government will initiate a funding review so that the valuable work you do is rewarded and recognized through a consistent baseline of funding – so you can get on with the job rather than having to constantly chase the next dollar.

***

Look at how we rip off foreign students with the promise of a so-called high-quality New Zealand education and a pathway to residency.

But then thousands, if not tens of thousands, of these students end up in terribly dodgy private training establishments, doing courses that get them a certificate barely worth the paper it’s printed on and of no value to being able to find a job.

And in the meantime they end up being exploited, working for below minimum wages, and unable to get decent accommodation at a price they can afford. I mean, what way is that to treat anybody, let alone a guest in our house? That’s just a rip-off.

***

I’m proud to lead a party that stands for the politics of love and inclusion, not hate and fear.

I’m also proud to be standing with the most diverse list of candidates we’ve ever put forward for an election. They include:

Two Pasifika candidates – Leilani Tamu, a former diplomat and Fulbright Scholar, and Teanau Tuiono, an climate change advocate for the Pacific Islands
Two Chinese New Zealanders – David Lee, a City Councillor, and Julie Zhu, a freelancer in the theatre and film industries
Raj Singh, an Indian lawyer and successful business owner
Rebekah Jaung, a Korean doctor, currently also doing her PhD
Ricardo Menéndez March, from Mexico, a migrant rights campaigner.
And of course, many of you will have already read about Golriz Ghahraman, who came to New Zealand as a nine-year old refugee from Iran, and who is now an Oxford-educated human rights lawyer who puts war criminals on trial at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

These, our candidates for Parliament in this year’s election, represent our commitment to the journey of looking more like modern New Zealand and being able to advocate for all New Zealanders.

And we are the furthest along this journey that we have ever been – thanks to the efforts of my colleague Denise Roche, who has been reaching out to ethnic and migrant communities, with sixty-five meetings all over New Zealand, over the last three years.

But we do still have a long way to go.

We will continue to make sure that our party not only looks like modern New Zealand – but also reflects the needs of all New Zealanders.

We haven’t always gotten it right – and we won’t always in the future, either.

But I promise that we will listen to you and learn from our mistakes.

Openness, inclusiveness and tolerance must win out over racism and scapegoating and xenophobia.

Love and inclusion must win out over hate and fear.

We are only great, when we are great together.

 

What are we resisting?

Is there revolution brewing in New Zealand? If so, what are we resisting?

Jonathan Milne writes: Vive la resistance! Now to decide what we’re resisting.

As a country what New Zealand may be resisting most is much interest in politics.

After the surprise conservative uprisings that were the UK’s Brexit vote and the US election of Donald Trump, it is easy to look for a grand sweep of history to explain Le Pen’s rise. Will that same broom sweep through the UK general election next month, we ask, through Germany in September, through New Zealand the same month?

The last post The ‘Meh’ election? started off as a reference to this but grew legs of it’s own, I think we are different to elsewhere.

Drawing such a line in the dust, though, is a lazy attempt to avoid looking closely into the challenges facing our own communities. It’s easier to blame history for a rise of fear and loathing than to take responsibility for what is happening close to home.

Brexit and Trump and Le Pen are not the bastard offspring of Russian hackers and alt-Right hate merchants. They spring out of genuine unhappiness within large tracts of their nation’s populations, a belief that others were prospering at their expense. In France this week this can be discerned in an ugly combination of moderately high unemployment, terror attacks, and a fearful instinct to blame immigrants for both.

So in New Zealand, are we listening to our own neighbours? Or are we only listening to friends with whom we agree, our mutually-reinforcing opinions rising to the top of each other’s Facebook feeds?

Those of us with an interest in politics look for people who are willing to talk about it, but probably the vast majority of Kiwis choose to ignore most politics most of the time.

Like France, New Zealand has a widening rift. In this country, it is between those with homes and those without.

I don’t see a lot of similarity between us and France politically or socially.

Our housing crisis is creating an underclass: poorer, often young, more reliant on the social media purveyors of fake news in forming their opinions.

The French may blame foreigners for terrorism; in New Zealand we like to blame them for our housing crisis.

That’s true to an extent. And politicians in particular like to lay blame, usually on each other. But sometimes they pick scapegoats to campaign on. Immigrants, who some see as virtual foreigners, are easy targets for politicians wanting to pander to those who may be intolerant of people who are “not like us”.

The more fearful and paranoid we become of outsiders – whether that be Asian immigrants, Russian power-brokers or Trump’s alt-Right backers – the more we are distracted from responsibility for solving our own problems.

That’s a good point.

Our biggest problems in New Zealand – like violence and alcohol abuse and P abuse and related crime, and mental health that is related to both crime and drug abuse – our our own problems.

Even then some try to blame these problems on others amongst us, like Maori, or men.

We also have an obvious housing problem – simply put, we aren’t building enough houses for a growing population. But this is a self inflicted problem too. We choose how many immigrants come here, we choose how difficult it is to subdivide. And more Kiwis than usual choose not to go overseas or choose to return home.

We need to solve our own problems without creating other problems out of nothing but a stoking of intolerance.

Perhaps in New Zealand we need to revolt against our own way of thinking, of blaming rather than fixing.

Trump blames everyone else for his self destruction

Donald Trump defied many predictions when he won the Republican nomination for the US presidency.

He is now living up to many predictions that he would self destruct. Defeat looks increasingly likely, unless something game changing occurs.

The way Trump is playing the game it will have to come from another team, like WikiLeaks, but so far Trump has failed to take advantage of the drip feed of hacked emails, instead choosing to keep attention on his flailing, especially on the accusations against him of sexual misconduct.

Trump is now blaming everyone else in what looks like excuses in advance of as loss.

He has blamed his own team, the Republican Part, and especially it’s Speaker Paul Ryan after Ryan said he would no longer campaign for Trump. The party appears to be fracturing.

Trump is blaming the Clintons and the media and owners of the media for conspiring against him.

He is blaming the growing number of women claiming to be victims of the sort brazen sexual assaults that he bragged about doing in the tape released just over a week ago.

And he says the election is rigged against him. He has even intimated that the Republican Party is a part of the conspiracy.

One thing that has been common in Trump’s campaign, a tactic that seems to be quite common, I’ve seen it used here, is a form of transference. He accuses others of doing what he is guilty of. The most frequent example of this is accusing others of lying.

He has just come up with another transference attack. In the first two debates he had a habit of sniffing loudly, and there were suggestions in social media it looked like someone with a cocaine habit.

Trump has now come out saying that he thinks Clinton is ‘pumping herself up’ for the third debate and they should take a drug test before the debate.

So it looks like the race to the bottom will continue. Fox News has just described Trump’s campaign as a scorched earth policy.

Fox has been one of Trump’s biggest promoters. This morning they have had a number of people on their election programme saying that Trump must turn his attention to policies and the differences between him and Clinton as president.

There is no sign of Trump changing tack like this. His success was through tapping into the ‘stuff the lot of them’ constituency, and now he seems to have one focus, ‘stuff the lot of them’. A lot of them are voters. He can’t keep lashing out at people and groups of people and expect to increase his support.

After the sexual assault bragging and allegations polls show women have turned away from Trump in big numbers, and they make up over half the voters.

The problem for Trump with the scorched earth strategy is that it is unlikely to turn the polls around. They have been trending against him since the campaign went off the rails, so driving the train further off the rails is unlikely to make a positive difference.

Talking of conspiracies, one that’s been floated is that Trump is deliberately trying to lose. I don’t think it’s that complicated.

It’s likely that Trump is simply stuffing things up.Self inflicted cock-up rather than conspiracy of others.

But going by past behaviour of blame transference it is unlikely Trump will blame himself.

 

What to do about guilting and poverty

The poverty campaign continees today in the Herald: Lizzie Marvelly: The only debate is what to do about child poverty. Who is Lizzie Marvelly?

One of the best things to do about ‘poverty’ in New Zealand is to stop calling it poverty.

There are serious issues involving deprivation, hardship,  income and social inequities.

But in trying to frame it as poverty, in particular child poverty, campaigners have alienated people that would otherwise be more than happy to see real problems dealt with better by the Government.

Anti-poverty campaigners have overstated their case by using a term that is widely seen as inappropriate in New Zealand. They keep using a Godwin equivalent term and fail to see that it is counter-productive to their cause.

Marvelly says:

Poverty isn’t generally associated with the Kiwi childhood.

She’s right, and that’s the problem with trying to address it.

I… wonder whether the people asserting that poverty isn’t an issue in New Zealand have ever left the comfortable bounds of their own privileged neighbourhoods. I wonder whether they realise just how ignorant they are.

Marvelly is the one who is ignorant, of the problem she is a part of. Most people realise there are social and income and would like to see more done about them.

But they don’t like being preached ‘poverty’ and they are hate being guilted by those who are promoting a misguided agenda.

What is poverty? It’s a question that’s been given a considerable amount of airtime. While a number of thresholds and frameworks have been suggested, for a certain group of people, none will ever be good enough, for if we accept the validity of a measure we are then duty bound to accept what it is telling us.

That sounds like nonsense.

In a country where an unacceptable number of children live below the much-debated poverty line, we are becoming accustomed to hearing the lives of Kiwi kids and their families being thrown around as political hot potatoes.

While we can argue about poverty, its definition, origins, and how it is conceptualised until we’re blue in the face, such meaningless politicking does nothing to show people the reality of poverty.

But the reality of ‘poverty’ in New Zealand is that it is a term that is counter productive to addressing real problems.

The idea that people living in poverty are somehow to blame for their fate is attractive if one wants to absolve oneself from any sense of responsibility, but it is a notion that I find deeply sad.

I find it sad that Marvelly blasts anyone who is repelled by her own blame game.

When did we become so hardened and self-centred that we began to believe that those poorer than us deserve their suffering? When did we become so divorced from our own communities that we stopped caring about the families around us?

She is making things up about anyone who won’t buy into her narrative. This is not going to win over any support. It alienates people who care but don’t like being abused.

Our political parties found that they could shelve their disparate ideologies to sort out superannuation … why can’t they show our youngest and most vulnerable citizens the same level of care?

Mravelly must have missed all the party arguments over how to deal with the escalating cost of superannuation  over many years.

The wellbeing of our children should never be up for political debate.Nor should we feel disempowered.

The wellbeing of our children is our our responsibility – ‘our’ meaning parents and wider families.

Does “should never be up for political debate” mean that parents and families should be able to ask for and get whatever they want from the Government without any debate?

What the heck does ‘feel disempowered’ mean?

There are so many things we could do to make the lives of Kiwi kids better: feeding kids in school, bringing back a means-tested child benefit like the one scrapped in the “mother of all budgets”, requiring a warrant of fitness for rental properties to prevent children growing up in cold, damp, leaky houses, and simply helping out in our neighbourhoods.

The first step, however, is for us to look out into our communities and really see other people, to realise that even in the most privileged areas, poverty is just five minutes down the road. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s real.

The first step is to drop the ‘poverty’ framing. It repels rather than attracts support.

The second step is to stop guilting and blaming everyone who doesn’t accept the framing of people like Marvelly.

And then we need identify issues and problems intelligently and responsibly, and consider what might be the most effective way of dealing with them with limited and competing resources.