N.Z. in lock down: DAY 34

Yesterday was DAY 34 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

Yesterday was also DAY 1 of what I – and New Zealand – HOPE is only 14 days in LEVEL 3 lock down. Past articles have already explained LEVEL 3 compared to LEVEL 4, so I will not dwell on it here.

My parents and I celebrated the end of LEVEL 4 today with a lunch of eggs, hash browns, tomatoes and bacon cooked on the barbecue. During those 33 days for a lot of people it would have been a good family bonding exercise over learning how to work with each other, finding creative and stimulating things to do.

Going out for my daily walk this afternoon I was struck by the sheer volume of traffic on Harewood Road. Surely it cannot all have been compliant with LEVEL 3 restrictions, which enabled bubbles to bring in one or two extra family members. Surely it could not have all been going to McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King or other places serving fast food, though I was reliably informed by friends that there were queues in some cases starting before 4AM of people wanting to be the first to get a fast food fix into them.

At our place my father laid into a list a of do it yourself tasks around the house, including deferred maintenance – some of which had been on the cards for decades! – which he is feeling quite pleased about. The greater sense of accomplishment may however come when a significant portion of our cobble footpath is relevelled and re-aligned for safety reasons, for which he intends on enlisting the author’s help. With no prospect of work for a few more weeks at least, it will help to ease the boredom that will eventually start to creep in.

For some families the test of COVID19 would have been a fatal blow to relationships and marriages. An article from the United Kingdom that I read told of one particularly sad case where a man’s wife moved out during week 2 of their lock down, leaving him to deal with two energetic teenage boys. In other instances mentioned on social media couples have had huge blow ups in front of their kids, and although in some cases they appear to have immediately regretted it, the damage might be terminal.

But the worst for me has been getting regular updates from an Aunty in Southland whose husband has worsening dementia and is pretty much bed ridden in a secure unit. Because of lock down she has not been able to see him and nor have his adult children.


Supporting men to support our women

International Womens Day is today, Sunday 8 March. It was an opportunity to celebrate everything that females have contributed to society. It is a chance to acknowledge that whilst much good has been done, there is a lot more still to happen, and that not all countries are trying to move their women forward.

In 8 months time we will have International Mens Day. It will be a chance to acknowledge the contribution of men to our society, the issues we face and how we can move them forward. And it is a fully justified international day on the calendar. It is linked to I.W.D. whether either side likes it or not. Proponents of both need to realize the opportunities for co-operation are too big to ignore.

To understand fully the problems that caused the #MeToo movement to form, and which drive and will continue to help drive the problem, we must look at the upbringing of men in our society. We must look at the broken families that many sexual offenders come from, the messages that men from those kinds of hostile environments where they would have had to fend for themselves and might have grown up with no father or mother figures in their lives.

I say “we” because both men and women have contributed to this sorry state of affairs and all who have need to own their contribution. I probably sit off to one side from the mainstream #MeToo movement and that is fine by me. I want people to stop and think about why, because there is a purpose behind it.

I am different. From a very early age I have known I am different, and have grown to accept that.  A combination of hearing loss (now compensated by a hearing aid), physical handicap (which has largely been overcome, except for a slight speech impediment) and severe hypertension mean  I grew up mentally in some respects much faster than many in my age group.

It has caused me inordinate amounts of grief. When I was younger and trying to get my head around all of this, there were days when I just wanted to shut myself off from the world. The worst part was missing social cues in various social situations, such as a change of subject, interrupting, not realizing I was not involved and so on. I would get grumpy at some of my best mates for no reason and they eventually stopped being friends and to this day I regret it, but I knew no other way. The one or two times someone confronted me about things I had done or not done I would get upset that no one had the courage to tell me earlier.

When I was at intermediate I experienced heavy and prolonged bullying that only stopped when another classmate got so upset that he went home and told his dad, who rang my Mum. The following day there was an urgent meeting between my mother, myself and the teacher. The perpetrators were very lucky not to get suspended. It was a combination of physical and mental bullying – after P.E. belongings would be thrown into the girls changing quarters so that I would have no choice but to wait until they had changed and left; down trousers; flour being thrown on food I was cooking in home economics classes among other things. Both girls and boys participated in it. The worst though was actually by a girl who smashed my hearing aid.

There was mental bullying too. I was a sissy, a fat bastard, someone who would never be able to love or be loved. I was apparently a pervert and a fiddler. The accusers even arranged a boys only class meeting with the teacher to lay into me with further false accusations.

I am lucky. I had a supportive family. I learnt right from wrong before anything happened. Not everyone does. Because not all boys have that support they are prone to derailing and becoming abusers themselves, but not nearly enough is done to stop that kind of situation happening.

So, my message is simple. We should help our men folk get over bullying, because in turn we are probably doing ourselves a major favour getting them out of an environment where they might come to believe that abusing women is an acceptable idea.

If you do nothing else, show your teenage son/daughter this. It does not need to be like this, but until we accept the damage that this kind of behaviour does, #MeToo will have a purpose for existing.

Abortion legislation reaches Second Reading

Shortly the contentious legislation surrounding abortion laws will go through the Second Reading stage in Parliament. With 30 individual organizations having also signed an open letter supporting the legislation as it progresses through Parliament, including Amnesty International New Zealand, the high level of support for this contentious Bill of Parliament is considerable.

The legislation in question would enable women to voluntarily seek an abortion up to the 20 week mark of their pregnancy. At that point, they would be required to seek a statutory. The statutory test means a health practitioner will have to “reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate with regard to the pregnant woman’s physical and mental health, and well-being”.

There are obvious opponents such as Right to Life, Family First, and various Christian/Catholic organizations. Their members include people like Ken Orr, head of Right to Life. I assume that if they have not already done so, these organizations will come together just like the 30 that wrote in support of the legislation, but with the polar opposite intention in mind.

To be clear I support this legislation. Not because I am a murderer as the most ardent of the conservative lobby would have one believe. Not because I am a child hating monster.

I support this legislation because New Zealand has hugely outdated legislation concerning abortion, which does not recognize, nor support the autonomy, dignity and physical being of a woman. I support this legislation because it is far too restrictive in too many instances – whether it is a woman who and whose partner took contraceptive measures to prevent pregnancy during intercourse that failed; a woman who has been sexually violated; a woman who has developed potentially life threatening complications.

But most of all, I support this legislation simply because I understand and respect a woman’s right to control her body.

The legislation passed through the First Reading of Parliament 94-23 and was sent to the Select Committee which has received submissions on it.

New Zealand First asked for a binding referendum, to address the concerns of its more conservative members, but also to draw off support for National.

Most Labour Members of Parliament and all of the Green Party were in support of the legislation when it went through its First Reading. The more left leaning National Party, Members of Parliament such as Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye supported it as well When it goes before Parliament for the Second Reading it is likely to pass, but with significantly smaller numbers – my guess will be about 65 M.P.’s.

There is one more reading after the Second Reading before a law can be submitted for Royal Assent. That is the Third Reading and will be where M.P.’s sum up their take on the legislation before sending it to a final vote. If this legislation fails here, it will be a significant instance of stalling women’s basic rights in terms of one of the most important medical procedures they might ever undertake. But if it wins, New Zealand will have overhauled one of the more conservative national laws in the western hemisphere on abortion.

And that is to be encouraged.


The need to change the narrative around men

Tuesday was International Men’s Day. To some it was a chance to celebrate the “blokiness” of being a male – sport; beer; women and being the male in the house. To others it was a day to reflect on their painful past as victims of abuse, with nowhere to go and no one to turn to and wondering what the future holds for them.

Some say it is International Men’s Day 365 days of the year. I disagree, especially if one goes by the website promoting the day in New Zealand. Six key pillars are promoted on the website:

  • To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sportsmen. There are six pillars of international men’s day:
  • To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sportsmen but every day, working-class men who are living decent, honest lives.
  • To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, childcare, and the environment.
  • To focus on men’s health and wellbeing; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.
  • To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law
  • To improve gender relations and promote gender equality

Together they combine to help with a seventh pillar:

  • To create a safer, better world; where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential

I am concerned that there is no urgency to start showing our men folk that there is a better way than the old worn out “males need to toughen up”, “stop being a sissy” nonsense. Male abuse victims exist too and unless we acknowledge the harm done to them, and help rehabilitate them, we run the risk of the worst possible outcome: the abuse done to them conditions them to commit abuse on others.

My concern about the lack of urgency stems from many sources – societal attitudes; a comprehensive lack of guidance and support for men who have realized they can help themselves; a lack of N.G.O. support. Among others. Men that are not in contact with their inner self are often the ones that wind up abusing others, starting fights and having personal issues with addiction, mental demons and so forth.

How seriously do the authorities and society at large actually want to address the issues men face? Does it understand that in order to no longer be the worst country in the O.E.C.D. for domestic violence figures, addressing these issues is an essential first step?

Without wanting to sound like an advert promoting men’s mental health – even though that is a great idea – engage your male friends and start an honest korero. Have that conversation with a mate. Are you okay? What is going on in your life? Can I help you with something?

In a few months time we will have International Womens Day. For New Zealand to improve its abomination of a track record on domestic and sexual violence we must address these issues. International Men’s Day is a perfect day to do this, just as International Women’s Day is a perfect day to push women’s issues.

The challenge of funding sport for females

I was still getting over the Cricket World Cup final loss to England when I noted that the Silver Ferns netball team had lost their last group match at the Netball World Cup to old rivals and reigning world champions Australia by 1 point. Under any other circumstances that might have been an ominous warning. But this was cause for a grin. A rapidly rising New Zealand team that just 13 months ago had been written off as not having a dogs show of reaching the finals

Few had expected them to reach the final. 14 months ago, the team was in disarray having lost to all of its major rivals Australia, England, Jamaica. It had failed to make it onto the dais at the Commonwealth Games, where in the past they had always taken silver or gold. Even relative minnows Malawi had managed a 4 point victory over them. General expectations were that New Zealand would exit at the semi-finals and maybe pick up the bronze medal (which went to England). So, to not only make the final no one was expecting them to, but then defeat Australia, was nothing short of stunning.

But just as stunning despite not being anything new and criminally overlooked following the match by a lot of people was the complete absence of prize money. Until A.N.Z. Bank, a primary sponsor agreed that they should get $25,000 a piece, the Silver Ferns were destined to return home with no monetary compensation for the time taken to become the best in the world. Contrast that to the $3 million distributed among the Black Caps following their Cricket World Cup Final against England where neither regulation play or extra play could find a winner.

In the case of the Silver Ferns, I have to agree with a column that was written a few days ago, which said that they should have said “some financial recognition by way of prize money would be nice”. Maybe for some they were thinking that the dollars are nice, but nothing could beat lifting the crown, which on a personal level might be true. But what is it telling future generations of of females about demanding their worth be recognized? Not much. Oh, and sure netball is not the biggest sport on the planet. Sure it is not like football where the transfer of a star like Ronaldo would likely cost over US$100 million. Sure it is not cricket, where Virat Kohli is worth US$140 million from endorsements. But in the 21st Century, it is time that those who play the elite variation of the game start demanding that their contribution to the sport gets recognized.

Perhaps it is an indictment on the state of the game in New Zealand that financial compensation had not even been contemplated by any one. Perhaps it is telling us that the unfortunate mental messages that netball players are not worthy of just reward have succeeded in doing their unfortunate business. However, it was also telling to hear from the International Federation of Netball Associations that financial compensation for the most elite players has not really been on the agenda.

A few years ago, after much heat from commentators, the players and the public, Rugby New Zealand finally addressed the lack of compensation for the Black Ferns. Apparently until then three consecutive world cup titles was not enough to justify financial reward. Yes, we might be a small player in terms of our financial resources, but the All Blacks are a global brand worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Sure there might not be so much television coverage but if the dollars are not put into making sure people know in the first place, of course they are not going to get much coverage.

Rugby however is going places, despite what I got told by some Americans on the Fox News channel Facebook page when I pointed out that America was at the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup’s. I know this because rugby is one of the fastest growing sports there. When America defeats the New Zealand 7’s team, you know they know how to play the game. But does America know that America knows how to play the game?

I do not see this happening in netball. The sport needs to start arranging exhibition matches in places like the U.S. where multiple netball associations exist under a fractured organization. Let them see the thrill of an Australia New Zealand exhibition match in progress.

It is a slow work in progress, but I hope when the A.N.Z. prize money comes through the Silver Ferns are made to understand that they really are worth it. And that before too long, I.F.N.A. realizes that the sport will not grow unless they start seriously marketing it in new countries. Like America…