More feel good, but still waiting for actual good

Voter sentiment is changing from not wanting much change to wanting significant change. Some want revolution.

Perceived personality of politician has become more important than policies and actions – to an increasing number of voters and also to journalists who are increasingly involved in make the narrative rather than reporting.

But the hope of compassionate revolution is not (yet) being realised.

“We have moved into a political era where talk of empathy and compassion rates more highly than taking action, and the extent to which Jacinda Ardern can continue to rewrite the narrative this way will determine the outcome of the next election”

“The Prime Minister’s challenge is to entrench empathy and compassion as the basis of contemporary government, before evidence and achievement reassert themselves.”

Peter Dunne (Newsroom):  Government by worthy sentiment

For the older voters, the broad consensus from 1999 to 2017 was a welcome relief to the upheavals of the 1980s and early 1990s that had led them to opt for MMP in 1993, to place a greater restraint on governments. But for 1999 first time voters, most of whom would have been too young to recall directly the experiences and hardships of the restructurings of the 1980s and early 1990s, the same broad consensus was actually a straightjacket.

No matter the complexion of the government, the policy outcomes had still been broadly the same. While the country was being transformed, quietly and significantly, in those years, to those voters nothing much was actually seeming to change.

So it really did not matter to them which of the major parties was in power – they were all broadly the same anyway, and the succession of leaders each major party put up while in Opposition tended to confirm that.

If anything National under Simon Bridges’ leadership is becoming more old school conservative. His recent “What the Kiwi way of life means to me’ hints more than a little of ‘the good old days’ that we have evolved significantly away from.  There are ,more Kiwi ways of life than there ever was.

What these voters were yearning for, and did not see in contemporary political leaders, were “people like them” becoming more prominent in politics. People who would speak their language, and share their concerns and frustrations.

Bridges is failing at speaking anyone’s language well if at all.

The fortuitous arrival of Jacinda Ardern as leader of the Labour Party in quite dramatic circumstances weeks before the 2017 election was the tonic many of them were seeking to vote for, in the expectation of a real break from the status quo they had known all their voting lives. She was, after all, one of them, fitting their demographic near perfectly, and completely untainted by ever having held any previous significant or substantial political office. So, for her, no problem was insoluble, no challenge insurmountable, and no existing solution sufficient.

Her appeal was (and remains) that she is a break from the past in so many ways.

The contrast between Ardern and the four Labour leaders who preceded her was huge. She made an immediate impact when she stepped up. The media become unusually excited and gave her an enormous amount of favourable coverage, but people, voters, could see for themselves that she was different, she spoke a different language that resonated.

That of itself provides those voters with a confidence that she understands their plight, because she is living it too. Forget the fact that she has changed very few of the policies that Labour took to the 2011 and 2014 elections where they were trashed; or that those they have tried to implement now (like Kiwibuild) are becoming embarrassing failures.

Forget too that her Government now admits that it does not even know how to measure whether or not its policies are working, and the deteriorating relationship with our major trading partner.

It just seems not to matter because the sustaining feature of this Government is not anything it has done or stands for, but rather the effervescent personality of the Prime Minister, that fits the current mood of the group of voters around the median population age.

Indeed, it is highly doubtful whether many of them could articulate beyond the vaguest of platitudes what she actually stands for.

Your NZ commenters probably don’t represent average voters, but as an exercise I asked What does Jacinda Ardern stand for?

We are now in an almost post ‘politics as usual’ phase, where the previous emphasis on policy and delivery has given way to feeling and identifying with the issues of the day, although it is far from clear to where that is leading, or what the new norms will be.

The emerging reality is that, despite some of the rhetoric, we are moving into an era where commitment to aspiration (prioritising empathy and compassion) rates more highly than action (prioritising evidence and achievement).

The Prime Minister’s challenge is to entrench empathy and compassion as the basis of contemporary government, before evidence and achievement reassert themselves.

The extent to which she can rewrite the political narrative this way, and paint National as cold and heartless in the process, and therefore part of the past, rather than anything her Government manages to do, let alone what the opinion polls may say, will determine the outcome of the 2020 election.

I think many on the left would love for Judith Collins to take over the National leadership so they could build on the “cold and heartless” contrast with Ardern. As things stand Bridges playing into National’s opponents hands with his opposition to a compassionate approach to drug law, his opposition a compassionate legalising of euthanasia.

Ardern’s compassion and empathy and wellbeing and fairness – at a superficial level at least – is going to be hard to beat, unless Government failures to match rhetoric with action become too apparent (they are really struggling with housing and health in particular, with poorly performing Ministers Phil Twyford and David Clark).

National have indicated they plan to roll out policies this year, trying to offer substance over nice but empty words. But will voters listen, whether bridges or Collins are leading?

Labour are helped in the compassionate politics stakes by the Greens, but Winston Peters and NZ First are a sharply contrasting blast from the past. This may not matter if NZ First fail to make the threshold next election.

It may be that Ardern successfully manages to fool the masses with more feel good than actual good.

Ministry cannabis advice based on definition difficulties

The Ministry of Health advised against making it easier (and at least semi-legal) for people suffering from chronic pain to access cannabis products for relief because of claimed difficulties with legal definitions.

That sounds like a cop out to me. It’s up to Parliament to work out the law and legal definitions, and helping people shouldn’t be refused based on departmental definition difficulties.

It has also gave Labour an excuse to cop out of it’s campaign promise to make medical cannabis available.

NZH:  Medicinal cannabis: Ministry of Health advised against decriminalisation for those in chronic pain

The Ministry of Health advised against decriminalising medicinal cannabis for those in chronic pain, saying it would lead to major issues over its legal definition.

The advice is contained in a regulatory impact statement, released at the end of last year, on the Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill.

The impact statement said decriminalising for those in chronic pain would be problematic.

“Chronic pain is difficult to define, subjective, and would potentially cover a large patient group (21 per cent of adults experience chronic pain). Extending this proposal to this group would be likely to result in significant dispute around the definition of chronic pain.”

So ‘chronic pain’ would be difficult to define. Chronic pain can be bloody difficult to live with too, but the Ministry and the Government don’t seem to care about people suffering from that.

So the Amendment Bill avoided defining chronic pain. In other words they have ignored the needs of people suffering from chronic pain

As well as this the Bill proposes a flawed means of dying patients using medical cannabis – they will be able to claim a defence against using cannabis but it will remain illegal for them to grow it or obtain it and it will remain illegal for anyone to supply them with it.

Rebecca Reider, who uses medicinal cannabis, said those in chronic pain should also be able to use cannabis without being criminalised.

“It’s great that the Government recognises a compassionate approach to terminally ill patients is needed. But what about non-terminal patients? Why can’t the Government show that amnesty to everyone who has a doctor recommend cannabis?”

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell also said the provision for those with a terminal illness – defined as someone who can reasonably expect their life to end within 12 months – was too narrow.

“A one-year window simply does not go far enough to cover people with chronic pain and any terminal illness, and needs to be reconsidered by the select committee.”

Labour, and Jacinda Ardern, at least implied that would take a compassionate approach to people who suffered, but instead took a technical approach and avoided addressing it.

Health Minister David Clark has said that the bill, introduced at the end of last month, was a compassionate measure that would ensure no prosecutions while a new prescribing framework is set up.

The bill, which fulfils a 100-day promise, was softened to gain the support of New Zealand First, and will pass with the support of the Greens.

Bullshit. It’s a less than half arsed attempt to be seen to doing something they promised to do without actually doing much.

The Government has said those wishing for medicinal cannabis to be more widely available will have a chance to have their say when Swarbrick’s bill has its first reading, expected to be a conscience vote.

So they are effectively admitting that their own bill is a crock – a crooked attempt to appear as if they are keeping a promise.

So what if some people without major pain manage to use a bit of cannabis less illegally than now? People are still suffering and are putting themselves at legal risk.

Compassion my arse. Political gutlessness.

 

 

Statement from Turei

At 17:34 (well after her noon media conference) Metiria Turei continued her campaign  on Facebook.

We are working to become part of a Government who supports compassionate welfare and ending poverty in New Zealand. I have been working for more than 20 years as an advocate in this area. That work is more important than any one person.

Change is coming and I am proud to be part of leading that change this election but change comes with a price and today that price is being paid.

I opened myself up to intense scrutiny because I want New Zealanders to understand what it is like to be a beneficiary, in poverty, under scrutiny. I will continue to work for as long as a I can for a compassionate welfare system.

TureiCompassion

There is actually a lot of merit in campaigning for  a better way to address poverty and treating beneficiaries better. But She has probably weakened her campaign for now at least.

More compassion would help, but so would more realism about how much can be done and what the best way of doing it is.

Medical cannabis regime ‘anything but compassionate’

Prime Minister Bill English has been criticised after he claimed that there is already a compassionate legal route for patients to get medical cannabis products.

It is difficult and slow for most patients trying to obtain medical cannabis products legally, and many resort to breaking the law. Doctors have claimed possibly half of their patients are self medicating with cannabis products.

RadioLive: That’s a ‘no’ to doctors prescribing medical cannabis – Bill English on The AM Show

Fear of creating a ‘marijuana industry’ is stopping Prime Minister Bill English from allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical reasons.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Mr English said there’s already a “compassionate” and legal route for patients to get cannabis products – if they need them.

“The minister’s just changed the rules so that’s a little bit easier, with the Ministry of Health now approving it instead of each one going to the minister.

“As far as we can see, that’s going to work pretty well and we don’t want to take it any further.”

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ asks English “where is the compassion?”

On Duncan Garner’s Radio show Monday morning, our Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction with the current special approvals scheme.

Just 2 days before an Oncologist on the TV3 show “The Nation” suggested that about half his Cancer patients were using Cannabis. It would be safe to assume that none of them were using legal options as they were not cost effective. Sativex contains perhaps $180 dollars equivalent of Raw Cannabis, for the cost of over $1000

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun:

“Currently perhaps 1 per 100,000 people are accessing Medical Cannabis legally. If a doctor is accepting widespread Cannabis use in his patient population, with no effort put into trying to help them go legal then the patients are at the mercy of police discretion.

“The police have shown no ability to think of the public interest and discretion around Cannabis based offences for patients.

“Just this weekend they seized a Tetraplegic’s Personal Cannabis supply, how does that make the community safer? How does the community feel about that?

”The current system simply isn’t working and is anything but compassionate.

“MCANZ doesn’t advocate for terminal patients, as they generally die before the product is in their hands, as has happened to a toddler last year who died the week he was scheduled to start on Sativex”

Le Brun says that MCANZ would like a domestic market developed for Cannabis based medicines, believing they can be produced to a high standard without the need for expensive clinical trials.

“Cannabis based products are relatively simple, It’s just another Essential Oil.

“The Current regime ensures that only expensive products will be acceptable, and that means patients will continue to break the law with the support of their specialists, and making criminals of otherwise law abiding citizens.”

It drives people who are suffering severely and in some cases dying to break the law. Helen Kelly was a prominent example, being open about illegally using cannabis products as she died of cancer.

The domestic market in Canada is considered by MCANZ to be the closest model to ideal, where products are prescribed by GPs, and the cost per mg of active ingredients are 80% less of what is paid in New Zealand currently.

Many other countries are making medical cannabis far easier and cheaper to get – and legally.

See also:

Newshub: Half of cancer patients using cannabis, say doctors

Dr Falkov says 40 to 60 percent of his patients are using medicinal cannabis, and it may have benefits beyond pain relief.

“Essentially most patients use it firstly because they hope it’ll work and improve their cancer control rates, and that’s a very important thing that’s been missed in this debate about medical cannabis. It may well increase cancer control rates.

“Secondly, they’re using it for pain, and thirdly they’re using it basically for appetite stimulation, and a lot of them are using it for anxiety and nausea and vomiting.

“What I’d really like to see is not widespread legalisation of every form of cannabis, but allowing doctors to actually ask patients about their cannabis use; record what they take; evaluate the effectiveness of various products and actually be allowed to use cannabis in research protocols with cancers that are subject to normal ethical approval; going through ethics committees, and subject to normal clinical trial constraints.

“All I’d like really is for cannabis to be treated like any other medication.”

Stuff: Mother in panic over tetraplegic son’s missing carers

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ: website

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ is a Registered charity, run by a group of passionate, rational like-minded people with a personal stake in the need for Medical Cannabis in New Zealand. Our ambition first and foremost is to “Put Patients before Politics” and help others get access to Medical Cannabis in New Zealand through legal means. Our ambition is to facilitate and promote the re-introduction of Medicinal Cannabis products – as prescription medicines in NZ. We aim to provide a community for patients and their carers, to promote education of both the general public and especially the medical fraternity, and work towards MC products being more widely available, without the stigma attached currently.

 

 

Responding to violence with compassion

A very good comment at The Standard on their Nice attack thread in response to this from Psycho Milt:

Compassion isn’t an appropriate feeling for someone who’d deliberately drive a truck into a crowd of random strangers.

McFlock:

Actually, it’s almost certainly a very appropriate response to someone who ends up in that mindspace.

Because the absence of compassion for those who inflict pain simply puts us into the same mindspace that they were in: anger focussed at people who we no longer fully regard as human.

It’s incredibly difficult to respond to violence with compassion, few of us can really do it, but it’s something to aspire to. The alternative is to just continue the cycle of violence and injustice.

 

“Treat the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue”

Moves continue more towards drug and alcohol issues more as health problems than criminal problems.

NZ Herald reports: Value in new drug addiction approach

An “inspiring” Auckland rehabilitation centre shows why a recent shift to treat the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue is warranted, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says.

A substantial number of patients at Higher Ground Facility in Te Atatu, which Mr Dunne visited today, are being treated for methamphetamine.

“It was extraordinarily impressive and very moving. There is a highly dedicated staff, really well motivated residents, and just a sort of a buzz that everyone was there to do a job about making life better for the people who are the residents there,” Mr Dunne said.

It’s good to see promising results with a more compassionate approach.

Mr Dunne recently launched the 2015-2020 National Drug Policy, which could significantly reform the treatment of drugs such as cannabis.

“We are shifting the focus very deliberately to seeing drug-related issues primarily as health issues, and I keep using three words in respect of the principles that underline the policy – compassion, innovation and proportion.

“Compassion in terms of a sympathetic response to people’s issues, innovation in looking a new and different ways of tackling old problems…and proportion, making sure we get the balance right all the way through.”

 

The new national drug policy has five priority areas, one of which is “getting the legal balance right”. The Ministry of Health will work with the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to make sure that classification decisions on drugs were focussed on harm.

Work will also take place to examine whether the law and enforcement measures around drug possession and utensil possession are still reasonable and proportionate.

When it was released, the policy was hailed as hugely significant by the NZ Drug Foundation, who say it signalled an armistice in “The War on Drugs”.

Treating the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue would mean prevention, education and treatment would take priority over the criminal justice approach, the foundation said.

Dealing with the health issues will help prevent them becoming criminal issues, or break the habit and cycle.

I think that Dunne is doing as much as he can in moving the handling of drug issues in a better direction. It’s taking a while but there are signs of a far more realistic and hopefully more effective approach.

Discussion – compassion more than competition

Comments made by All Black coach Steve Hansen on his interview on The Nation are pertinent to blogging and social media discussion.

How do you motivate yourself? You spend a lot of time motivating the team, obviously, but what’s motivating you?

Interestingly enough, I don’t think my job is to motivate the team. My job is to create an environment where motivated athletes can perform. So how do I motivate myself? I guess it’s, one, I love winning – really love it. I’m a very, very competitive person.

You know, I love debating and having discussions. And when I was younger, I was probably an average human being because of that, because I’d lose sight of, actually, this is just a discussion; it’s not a competition. That took a while for me to learn that and probably hurt some people along the way, but… So I love winning.

It’s especially easy to try and hurt people, or to hurt people inadvertently, when discussing things online, as you are not personally engaged.

How did you hurt people? By…?

Well, New Zealanders are great at putting other people down. You know, some of us are quite sharp with our tongues, and you hurt people’s feelings by smacking them when— I don’t mean physically but verbally because you’ve outwitted them, but you walk away feeling pretty good about yourself because you’ve won that argument, but really you didn’t. You lost. You know, you lost somebody.

So once you learn those sorts of things, I think that’s a little easier to understand compassion, I guess.

Online discussions are often robust and sometimes testy and tetchy. But it’s worth all of us remembering the importance of some degree of compassion.

There are people involved in all sides of debate. Strong disagreement is going to happen.

Remembering there are people involved and maintaining a degree of compassion is something we should all think about.

And learning something from discussion and helping others learn something is more important than winning, isn’t it? Political discussions rarely have an end and rarely have a winner, they are ongoing works in progress.

Source: Steven Hansen on The Nation

Compassion or voyeurism?

The promotion of photos of a drowned three year old raise issues about media and public voyeurism and questions of how much actual compassion is involved shoukld be asked.

Max Fisher at Vox asks Are we sharing that photo of the drowned Syrian child out of compassion or voyeurism?

Looking at the same photo that everyone is looking at this week, of a young Syrian refugee boy whose body had washed up on a Turkish beach, and reading about the boy’s brief and difficult life, I found myself torn between two conflicting reactions. On the one hand, I was saddened by the needless death of this young child, and outraged by the many factors that contributed to it: the Syrian war, European hostility to migration, and the world’s callous indifference to the ever-worsening refugee crisis. Those factors are important, so the photograph’s ability to call the world’s attention to them makes it a powerful journalistic tool.

But I am also uncomfortable with the way those images have been converted into just another piece of viral currency. There is a line between compassion and voyeurism. And as that photo was shared and retweeted over and over again, converted into listicles and social-friendly packages, it felt more and more like the latter.

It’s worth reading through the post. It asks some hard questions about the populist outcry over one death when thousands of deaths over years have been virtually ignored.

Fisher concludes:

If you actually want to help Syrian refugee children like the little boy in the viral photo, it’s not enough to care about this single dead child; you have to care about living refugee kids too, and in fact you also have to care about living refugee adults. If the image of the Syrian refugee boy made you feel something, that’s great, but it only matters for making an actual difference in the world if you can apply those feelings to living refugees as well — and, crucially, to yourself.

If we want Syrian children to stop dying in the Mediterranean and washing up on Turkish beaches, we have to start with examining ourselves, our sense of our own cultural identities, and why we feel it’s so important to exclude foreign refugees in order to protect those identities. That’s a really difficult thing to do.

But unless we do it, then our treatment of this photo will have been more about extracting a “big emotional experience” than about really caring.

Of those who have demanded ‘we must do something to help! I wonder how many have actually donated to any of the organisations doing what they can to help Syrian refugees?

There’s no reason why commerce and compassion can’t co-exist

It’s common to see carping about how compassionless the Government and John key and National MPs are. How they purportedly don’t care about poor people – some go as far as accusing ‘right wing’ politicians and rich people of deliberately keeping the masses poor so they can accumulate wealth.

Which is absurd, as anyone who knows how commerce works knows that the more affluent people are the more prosperous business can be. You can’t make much money out of destitution.

Thursday’s budget has created confusion and consternation on the left. How could an allegedly hard right government be the first to raise core benefit levels for 44 years? Something three eras of Labour led government had failed to do.

Amongst the confusion absurd claims have been made. In Thoughts on budget 2015 Danyl at Dim-Post:

National believes in massive intervention in the economy, mostly in favor of their political donors but also in response to signals from their polling and market research…

rickrowling asked “What are the examples of this?” None have yet been given. This statement is typical from the left of National do anything hinting at compassion – there must be an ulterior motive driven by the greed of the 1%.

One way of trying to explain is by claiming that National’s efforts are weak and the left would have done it better. Like ‘truthseekernz’:

The response from virtually all opponents was lamentable. I would have preferred something like:

“It’s great to see this government adopt a weak tea, might-work-a-little version of the policies we’ve been promoting for years. So we’ve won the policy argument. National has done it because that had to, not because they wanted to. If voters want the real thing, they should be sure to vote for us (whoever ‘we ‘ are – Labour or Greens) next election.”

National can’t have done it because they wanted to what they thought was a good thing to do, they ‘had to do it’. That’s crap of confusion.

wjohnallen:

John Key’s hallmark of power is pragmatism and if that means that he has to give a little to the masses, he will, and did. But that does not change his wider agenda that has all the markings of seeking neoliberal outcomes.

Again Key “has to give a little to the masses” but has a “wider agenda”. That’s ideological crap.

Neilm has a different take on it:

And Key’s opponents have developed a rather insular, self-reinforcing narrative about how Key hates the children etc which isn’t quite what National is. I’m not suggesting that National is the perfect social justice party but constantly making strategy on the basis that they’re corrupt liars out to destroy democrat and the planet has distracted from forming a strategy that deals with reality.

Tinakori also challenges the left leaning laments.

Wow, Danyl, there are so many straw men in that post. The major two are the propositions that this government was a group of hairy chested economic fundamentalists and that effective social policy is entirely the preserve of the left.

The first was flawed from the very beginning and was probably prompted by the bizarre and false idea that they had embraced austerity as a fiscal policy when their approach was classic Keynesian. This is just another case of the left and the commentariat looking to overseas political slogans for guidance rather than looking at what a government actually does.

As for the big things – fiscal, monetary and general regulatory policy – there is no major change that I can see and the spending changes are pretty small in the context of both government spending and the economy.

richdrich swings the other way:

The “middle class welfare” concept is an artefact of neo-liberalism.

It divides society into “hard working keewees” and “beneficiary scum” (Labour and National both love the former term, but Labour might be a bit softer on the latter. “Communities with needs”, maybe?)

Benefits (apart from disguised ones like tax free capital gains) are denied the former and grudgingly meted out to the latter, accompanied by an appropriate degree of paternalism, like making them spend all day in a Winz office with no toilet – at least they can’t take drugs while they’re in there.

I haven’t seen any sign that National (and ACT and the Maori Party and Peter Dunne) have “grudgingly meted out” the benefit increases. Confused leftists like richdrich can’t bring themselves to even grudgingly meting out praise when it’s due.

How could this tory scum out left the left on social policy? Tinokori suggests:

On social policy you underestimate the personal impact on government policy of growing up in a state house (Key) and the Catholic social conscience (English).

There may be something in that, but there’s far more to it. I’m not Catholic and didn’t grow up in a state house. I did grow up in a very poor household – where I learnt the value of hard work and self responsibility.

Many people in New Zealand who have built their own businesses and careers and wealth have seen and experienced hardship somewhere along the way.

We now seem to have a left who can’t see past their arrogance.

I see more compassion in Key and English and many in business and on the centre right than amongst the carping on the impotent left.

This budget appears to have turned politics upside down in New Zealand. I don’t think it has. It just demonstrates what has been evident for a long time, that the left/right divide was long ago bridged. It doesn’t exist in New Zealand how it once did.

Key and his National government get it. They got it a long time ago, that’s why they are still in government.

There’s no reason why commerce and compassion can’t co-exist. Except in the closed carping minds of the old left. They are left crapping in their own nest.

ODT: Time for compassion

From ODT’s editorial Time for compassion

Attacking a section of society because of the actions of one person is wrong.

To do so threatens the very fabric of the values New Zealanders hold dear, too.

Innocent people died in Martin Pl.

Their families, friends, workmates – and many others, too – will be left grieving for months and years to come.

This event saw tragically lives cut short by the actions of one person. Generating hate is not a fitting memorial to their deaths.

Providing support and compassion in times of need would, however, give their shortened lives meaning.

Less hate, more compassion. Important, especially at times like this.