Friday, May 25, 2012

What can they do to you? Whatever they want*

Image of the four defendants in court.

You don't need to have been following the trial, or even have heard the verdict, to be able to guess which of the people in this picture were sentenced to two years six months in jail and which were sentenced to 9 months home detention.  Pakeha fears about Maori have been projected onto accused throughout the whole case. I've no reason to disbelieve that Andre, who commented on Public Address, is not who he says he is:
I was excluded from the jury for the trial along with two other jurors after being empanelled. I gave them all a rant prior to departing and am relieved they didn’t find them guilty on the main charge. They were overwhelmingly middle class white women that I left on the panel, some of whom had already told us that Tame Iti scared them etc. One of the jurors asked to be excluded because she was convinced he was guilty by how he looked. She was refused her request to leave and heard the case. Another guy asked to be excluded because he thought the whole exercise was a waste of taxpayer money and resources and he was excluded. How does that work? 


One way of communicating my range and anger over the sentences is to talk about how manifestly unjust they are on the court's own terms.  This man who beat and pretended to hang his children, received a sentence of two years 8 months.

As others have pointed out Rodney Hansen, the judge sentenced them as if the charge of being part of an organised criminal group (which the jury could not decide upon) had been proved.  He included the defendant's political views as aggravating factors stating: "Some of the participants held extreme anarchist views."  He blamed the defendants for the actions of the police - stating that they had done harm by creating divisions within Tuhoe.

The logic of the judge's sentencing was grotesque.  Justice was far from blind - it saw and was terrified of who these people were and sentenced them accordingly.


The sentence is unjust when understood inside the system of justice that colonisation brought.  But to focus on that is to ignore the larger injustice.

An art work - tuhoe never signed the fucking treaty is repeatedly scribbled in different colours on a map of New Zealand

Justice Hansen is not the first judge to exert his authority over Tuhoe people as a way of trying maintain the crown's sovereignty over Tuhoe land, unfortunately it's unlikely that he'll be the last.  He was very willing to describe the actions he'd decided people had undertaken as 'a frightening prospect undermining our democratic institutions and anathema to society'.  He talked of 'we' and 'our' and 'society' singular.  He ignored the many actions of the crown that had undermined Maori democratic institutions and that were an anathema to Maori societies.What right do Pakeha from Auckland have to talk of 'we' and 'our' when it comes to Tuhoe land?  They can't even claim the right of Kawanatanga.


Protests have been organised around the country over the next couple of days.  Come along if you can - thinking that this is wrong is meaningless without action.

PALMERSTON NORTHFriday, 25th May 2012, 1pm, Palmerston North District Court. Bring placards, banners, chants and friends.

Friday, 25th May 2012, 12pm, Wellington High Court. Bring placards, banners, chants and friends.

AUCKLAND Saturday, 26th May 2012, 2pm, Mt Eden Prison.

DUNEDIN Saturday 26th May 2012, 2pm, Dunedin District Court House.

CHRISTCHURCH Saturday 26th May 2012, 4pm, Christchurch Police Station.

* I found some comfort in Marge Piercy's The Low Road tonight - not for the first time.

** I've seen a lot of people express this idea in a way that implies that Rangi and Tame are more Maori than Emily. Sometimes this is because of lack of knowledge, but it is wrong.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good Idea - Bad Idea

Good Idea

Yesterday, the Southern DHB announced that it was going to start providing an abortion service in Invercargill.  Previously people from Southland who needed an abortion have had to travel to Christchurch (pre-earthquake) and Dunedin (since February 2011) to get them.* (Here's ALRANZ's supportive press release.)

One of the many things that is wrong with our current abortion law is that it makes centralised services necessary - which means women who don't live in the main centres have to expend extra money and time in order to get an abortion.  It's great (but not enough) that things have got a little better for Southland women.

Bad Idea

Yesterday, LifeChoice Victoria, LifeChoice Canterbury and Pro-Life Auckland launched a Right to Know campaign (there are not enough sarcastic quote marks in the world to properly communicate just imagine two sets for pretty much every word).  They distributed leaflets that lied about abortion in all the major lectures theatres at at least two (and probably three universities).**  You can read the full text on their website.  Campus Feminist Collective in Auckland have started planning their response

My favourite quote demonstrates the hideous double-speak of incrementalism: "Women should be trusted with all of the available facts, and then allowed the freedom and space to make a properly informed decision."  By 'facts' they mean 'inaccurate bullshit we like' and by 'freedom and space to make a properly informed decision' they mean 'make all women wait longer than they need to get an abortion through a cooling off period.'

The reason that this double-speak has any chance of working (and I hope it doesn't work - the person I was sitting next to thought the leaflets were prochoice - because they hadn't read the leaflet only looked at hte headings) is because the politics of abortion aren't particularly clear in this country.  Even people who are reasonably pro-choice can buy into a discourse which portrays abortion as the ethically murky thing that we shouldn't talk about, if that's the only discourse abortion they ever hear.  We need to be the ones that champion the ability of pregnant people to make their own decisions - so that everyone will see this for the patronising claptrap that it is.

* Talking of which does anyone know what the current situation is for people who need abortions from the West Coast?  They used to have to travel to Christchurch, but that clinic was damaged in the earthquake - do they now have to travel to Dunedin or Nelson?

** They're well-funded - these were glossy properly printed leaflets that were three to an 3 page - and they would have had thousands of them to do all those lecture theatres.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Problem solved

As you have probably heard, and raged about , the government's current plan is to target young women who are on benefits (or whose parents are on benefits) for long-term contraception.

Colin Craig objects for the following reasons:
"Why should, say, a 70-year-old who's had one partner all their life be paying for a young woman to sleep around? "We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world. This does nothing to help us at all."

Meanwhile Right to Life is really concerned about women getting tubal ligations.  They're worried for the following reasons:

  • It undermines the nature and purpose of marriage and sexuality. It goes against the dignity of sexual relations as intended by our Creator. It prevents the total gift of self because it excludes the potential for fertility.
  • Tubal ligation is the mutilation of a woman’s body and a violation of her human rights. Women have a right to the protection of the State.
  • Tubal ligation is an assault on the integrity of a woman’s body.
  • It is bad medicine, pregnancy is not a disease. There is no disease for which ligation would be a treatment. It is a medical procedure which is intended to destroy healthy organs.
I have the perfect solution to this:

A cage fight.

We lock all the people who think that certain women should have contraception forced on them and those who think women can't consent to sterilization or don't really know what contraception is, but know they're against it.

While they're fighting it out with each other those of us who believe that all people should have control of their bodies, and be able to select whatever contraception, or non-contraception, best works for them, without any financial obstacles, can take over the world.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Aotearoa is not for Sale: Demo report

Photo of lots of people at the Hikoi

4,000 people marched in the hīkoi 'Aotearoa is not for sale'  Friday (this is some of them).

I joined from a feeder march from the university.  We were worried we weren't going to meet up properly.  The first thing I saw was flashing police lights - which said the hīkoi wasn't far away.  Then I saw people two blocks away turning into Willis St and there were just more and more of them - by the time we reached the    hīkoi the front was already in Lambton Quay.  There were just so many people.

I wanted to see how long it went back from there so I started walked backwards against the demo. I said hello to friends, my sister, acquaintances, more friends, people who I thought were overseas; I went past a brass band, many lots of chanting, and still people kept coming.  This was the biggest march I'd been on since the Foreshore and Seabed  Hīkoi in 2004.

I was on Wakefield St before I could see the end.  I hadn't been planning to count it, even though I'm a wee bit obsessed with counting demos - it was too big.  But having seen so many people I wanted to be able to put a number on it.  So cutting corners and walking fast, I got all the way to the front again (by this time the front was half-way down Lambton Quay.  I counted out a hundred in groups of ten, and got a good sense of what 100 people looked like - then I counted people in groups.  About 37 groups of 100 people walked past me - and by the time we got to parliament it was more - as some could only come for their lunch break.

Watching everyone walk past I realised just how huge a group of 4,000 people is.  The different bits of the demo had a very different feel.  The very front was singing, and chanting faded in and out as people passed.   There were groups behind different signs - focusing on issues in specific communities - the meatworkers were well represented.  There were also some very cute kids (with and without signs).

The hīkoi was led by Maori, and Tino Rangatiratanga flags made a really clear statement about the issues being fought for.  I've been on Maori led protests with only a smattering of tau iwi.  I've also been on plenty of protests that were organised and dominated by Pakeha and made no effort to acknowledge tangata whenua (including many, many that I've been part of organising).  This was something slightly different than either of those things.  Maori led the  hīkoi, and framed the issues around Tino Rangatiratanga, and tau iwi accepted that leadership and framing - because we believe that our interests are best represented by being part of that fight.


I spent much of the time once we'd actually got to parliament trying to find out was speaking.  This was quite a difficult mission.  The sound system they had didn't work and people were trying to speak to a crowd of 4,000 through a mega-phone.  Earlier on, at the Vic feeder march - you could barely hear the speeches that were given through a megaphone when there were 100 of us.  It's a fine experience for those giving the speeches, organising the speeches and the first few rows - but a rally without a proper sound system just breaks up the protest for everyone else.  It is no longer a collective experience.  Either acknowledge that your sound system isn't good enough and focus on a very few chants - or get a sound system that'll allow everyone to hear speakers.  Anything else is actually disrespectful to the vast majority of people who came - by not having a good sound system and still giving speeches you're telling them they don't matter (and I should say I've been part of organising protests that made this mistake on many occasions - and it is only the few times that we've got it right that I've realised how important it is)

In this particular case, it was probably good.  The list I managed to build up was:

Someone who had been part of organising the hīkoi
Grant Robertson (apparently David Shearer was giving a speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce)
Russel Norman (obviously this filled me with joy)
Hone Harawira
Winston Peters (!!!!!!)
Someone from the Meatworkers Union (I was sad to miss this)
I heard one woman's voice, but I couldn't figure out who she was
Te Ururoa Flavell

I'll talk about the politics of this in a second, but at the time (no-one was giving two minute speeches - so the talking - which I couldn't hear - went on and on and on) I began to believe that the plan was to keep talking until everyone had left.


The political nature of the  hīkoi is a little harder to analyse.  Demonstrations are inherently incoherent events - and the larger a demo is the the larger standard deviation is.  On this demo one guy had two flags on his flag pool - the first was a tingo rangatiratanga flag.  The second was not a flag I'd seen before.  It was white and had the union jack in one corner, there were crossed shotguns on it, with a crown on top of it - and it had 'union power' written on.  I can't make those symbols make a coherent message - but it must have meant something to him.

There has already been quite a lot of radical political analysis of the hīkoi. Valerie Morse argued for the importance of anti-capitalist politics. Kim at He Hōaka responded with the importance.  And since Friday, Shomi Yoon has a post on ISO's blog has a demo report.

'Aotearoa is not for sale' (a name I hate incidentally - currently Aotearoa is for sale - saying something that is patently false has never seemed like a good strategy for me) is centred around resisting current attacks. It opposed: "privatisation of public services, sale of public assets to private investors (local AND overseas), casualisation of labour, privatisation and pillage of our country's resources."  I really appreciate the the posts I mentioned above each are focused on linking the current attacks with critical understandings of society.  In order to successfully fight - we need to understand how the world works and that means naming colonialism and capitalism.

I want to highlight a point of Shomi's "The xenophobia that’s represented by NZ First leader Winston Peters will be absolutely damaging to the campaign. It is a problem that an openly reactionary party like NZ First felt comfortable endorsing the hikoi." While the fact that no-one heard him takes a little of the sting out of the fact that he could talk .  Some of the campaigning material has been xenophobic - emphasising 'foreign ownership' as if that was particularly.   The false 'we' is a real danger -  supposedly left-wing people have suggested there's something progressive about a consortium led by Michael Fay buying farms.   The right have been emphasising the idea of "Mum and Dad" investors.  If those who oppose privation use xenophobia - then it is easy for the right to brush off those criticism with examples of New Zealand investors.  If we attack privatisation in its our totality our criticisms are much harder to refute.
My contribution is more prosaic. The protest was amazing - getting 4,000 people together is an amazing achievement.  However, it is not enough.  As John Key has already made clear - he can ignore it.  One massive protest isn't enough.  Organising is about growing and maintaining pressure.  If we want to effectively fight the current attacks - and push for a better world - we need more than one massive protest.


Last thought:

A statue of Richard Seddon with a Tino Rangatiratanga flag and a flag of the United Tribes

All the best protests enlist Seddon in their cause.