reflections on homelessness

The other night I participated in the 14 Hours Homeless challenge, aimed at raising awareness about homelessness and money for the agencies who work directly with the homeless who pull together to make the event happen. We got to visit a couple of them and see what they do, and hear stories of the difference they make. (Strongest one: the dental work DCM do, sometimes relieving pain that has been ongoing for years. Yikes.)

Then we spent the night outside on cardboard trying to get some sleep.

Big takeaways:

  • homelessness can be ended. Solutions exist. The vision from the agencies at the coalface is of ending homelessness. This is an awesome vision but it will require the government to step in.
  • the strategy is simple and three pronged: stop people becoming homeless in the first place; respond quickly with supports when they do; prevent them from falling back.
  • being homeless can feel like being invisible. The simple act of acknowledging homeless people, and talking to them, makes a huge difference. If you are left wondering what to do when you walk by, be human first.

Personal reflections: man, you don’t get a good night’s sleep sleeping rough. I found the noise more disruptive than the physical discomfort. I was pretty much a zombie after. Doing this for any length of time would be hella rough going. And even though it was a mild night with little wind, when the wind got up around 2am, I sure noticed.

I also figure the circumstances that got you to being on the street – having nowhere to go, no one who would put you up, and no money – would do me in more than the physical side of things. Most of the stories we heard were from people who never expected to end up homeless.

Today saw the release of the results of the Cross Party Homelessness Inquiry, set up when the government refused requests for a select committee into homelessness. Their recommendations are simple and stark: adopt international best practices the government is so far refusing to, namely put homeless people into housing first, then add in the supports. Build more affordable housing. Intervene in the housing speculation market. Create a nationwide strategy on homelessness.

The word from the agencies I encountered at 14HH was that this is doable. Ending homelessness in Wellington by 2020 is their goal. They can’t do it alone, however. We need the government to step up, or elect one that will. Hearteningly the Maori Party have announced they would split with National over this issue.

This is a live ball, but political pressure from the population is now what is required to get movement from the government. Let them know this issue matters. That it is not okay for Kiwis to be living on the streets and the government to do nothing. That’s not how we roll or who we are. We’re a damn lucky country, and we don’t want to become like some other countries where poverty and homelessness are endemic and entrenched.

Oh, and you can still donate to my homelessness fundraising page, which goes to support DCM. As of right now I’m third on the DCM leaderboard, a buck ahead of our departing mayor Celia Wade Brown πŸ˜‰

 

elections 2016

I think it is important, in a social media cycle completely dominated by Trump hysteria, to remember to vote in our local elections, which, admittedly, cannot possibly be as entertaining or alarming as this year’s US election, yet have more impact on our day to day lives (to the extent that our lives are not solely consisted of posting and reading things on social media).

To that end, I offer this wondrous piece of advertising:

wellington council inspired voter ad

inspired voter ad

In this campaign there are many different ads following this format. I only saw this one once, and am glad I got the photo.

In a world where our defacto world leader America is contemplating electing either a deranged incompetent laughingstock or an efficient woman that will faithfully serve the existing heinous and dysfunctional order, it is nice to realise we live in a capital city within a country that openly acknowledges β€œHey, at one end of one of our primary tourist attractions we have this cool tree with a great view that you can climb up in and get high on top of” in the advertising it uses to reach out to local voters.

So vote, yeah?

 

 

The TPPA, New Zealand, and Sovereignty

The TPPA is a “trade deal” negotiated in secret that the leaked chapters reveal goes far beyond trade. Once signed, the TPPA will be extremely difficult to exit.

The key issue is sovereignty. Leaks reveal the TPPA will override the ability of nations who sign to determine their own laws, and open them up to massive lawsuits from foreign corporations if they do.

New Zealand has a very particular history with sovereignty, which allows a simple one sentence objection to the TPPA to be phrased:

The TPPA does for New Zealand sovereignty what the Treaty of Waitangi did for Maori sovereignty.

ie it cheats us out of it by stealth without our intending to give it away.

This I think communicates the situation in a way that all New Zealanders should grasp somewhat viscerally.

“Free trade” at the cost of sovereignty – our right to make decisions for ourselves – is far too expensive.

NZ should refuse to sign the TPPA.

At the least the government should make the TPPA’s text available to citizens so they can decide for themselves. (Appropriate, as it may be the last chance we get to decide something for ourselves.)

Since our leaders will not do that, New Zealanders should, frankly, actively engage their right to civil disobedience to communicate with our leaders that we do not want a deal on these terms. Because sovereignty and freedom are too important to give up without a fight.

 

the NZ flag debate

 

So far I have avoided comment on this because I think it is a giant waste of time. But now I think I can express why in a single sentence.

The only good time, and the only good reason, for New Zealand to change our flag is when we become a republic.

It is that simple.

Presently there is no good reason, no compelling reason, no necessity to change our flag.

The consultation process has been a bad joke, and the four “options” are uninspiring to say the least. It is not worth changing the flag to one of those designs for no particular reason, or “branding”. The resurgent Red Peak design at least looks like a flag, but why bother changing to that, even if we were allowed to?

However, when we someday become a republic, it will be entirely appropriate to select a new flag as befits a mature country celebrating its identity and independence. That flag will have meaning.

on the dangers of sympathetic magic when choosing one’s national animal

“With no colourful plumage or a beautiful song to attract his mate, the male kiwi has developed the strategy of persistence. He follows her about, grunting. If uninterested, she may run away, or use her greater weight and size to see him off. However, if she is interested, mating takes place, three or more times a night during the peak of activity.”

[…]

“The kiwi female calls the shots during mating. If she loses interest she may wander away, leaving the male in an undignified heap on the ground.”

source

Review: The Ground We Won (NZ, 2015)

The first essential New Zealand documentary of the decade.

The Ground We Won is a gorgeous black and white cinema verite film which follows a rural rugby club, Reporoa, over the course of a year. The focus is purely on the men, their culture and relationships. It is an intimate window into the nation of a sort which has been lacking and needed for a long time.

The short version is you need to see this. It will spur many and complex responses.

(I am actually going to assume you will see this when it goes on general release in a week or so, so I’m not going to give much in the way of plot or narrative description, more comment on a cultural level.)

I grew up with rugby. I played for 12 seasons starting as a kid. My father coached club rugby, so I spent a bit of time around clubrooms and changing sheds as a kid, too. Though I drifted away from rugby and its culture as an adult, so much of the world of this film is deeply familiar.

Here’s the thing. Masculine camaraderie, working in a team, being part of a pack, is kind of awesome. (It is the reason the army appeals and would be great if it wasn’t about dehumanising and breaking you down so that you will follow orders without question and kill.) And watching this, I realise I miss it. There is something raw and honest about the physicality and putting your body on the line, and I haven’t encountered that in any other sport or physical endeavour in quite the same way.

What I don’t miss is the retarded drunken in your face side of things. (One in a while, maybe πŸ˜‰ ). And the film goes there, stark, uncomfortable and without judgement. Part of its magic is the access, warts and all, as the team goes on the road and gets hammered. They seem totally unabashed and unashamed of their behaviour. There is something beautiful in seeing our culture so clearly. And done right, it is all good fun. But there is a slippery slope with drinking. I guess it comes down to the culture of the specific group – the quality of the “elders” and those who dominate the group.

One thing the film highlights is the difference between grassroots rugby and mainstream (townie) rugby culture. At grassroots level it brings the community together, and links rural communities. The aftermatch clubrooms culture is classic NZ. The haka never made more sense than as the guys from over the hill coming to play you at rugby and doing their haka in the clubroom afterwards.

For those unfamiliar with this sort of culture, it will be a shock and a revelation. The beauty of the film is in presenting something so familiar artistically, thereby rendering it through new eyes. Seeing NZ in a timeless black and white, grounding the men in their work as farmers, the mists in the valley… it brings home the extent to which this has been the backbone of our culture for most of our existence as a rural agricultural nation, and captures it as it may be fading out. (A club like Reporoa previously would have fielded maybe six rugby teams; now it has one.)

One conclusion is we are probably better off with rugby than without it – perhaps a surprise to the liberal minded folks who disdain the game. But without rugby as a focus at the grassroots level, with its culture of play hard but fair, where would all that energy otherwise end up being channelled?

I think I will have more to add at some point. Meanwhile, here is the trailer.

 

CWC 2015, NZ v SA semi final

That was legitimately one of the most intense and amazing games of cricket I have ever seen. Truly epic.

(Unrelated rambling: I have watched quite a bit of the CWC so far, after discovering it streaming online. The weirdest part is getting British ads, the overwhelming majority of which are for online gambling. Like, seriously.)

 

 

vote drunk: on engaging youth voters and non voters

 

Is there anything to say you can’t turn up to vote drunk and stoned, and dressed like a clown, or a superhero, or a zombie, or whatever? Not so far as I know. As long as you have ID and can tick a box, who cares?

Maybe to engage youth voters (and the non-voting near majority) we need to go to where they are. Endorse a culture in which voting is a fun way to spend an afternoon. #votedrunk

I guess the challenge is your mates may live in a different electorate. So how about an election pub crawl through various electorates? Make a day of it.

The costume angle appeals. Imagine election weekend sort of like the Sevens but in a good way. Sort of “dress in a way that captures how you feel about the system” as a theme? Everyone dressed up and running around drunk. Or whatever. I mean, hell, how much of an excuse do we need? It’s only once every three years.

Not something I have thought through… but I do like the idea of turning up intoxicated in a clown suit to vote. It captures something.

 

 

on the NZ housing bubble and looming economic disaster

 

This article from Forbes is pretty interesting reading, essentially arguing that our economy is due to pop at some point due to our overinflated housing prices, the resulting exposure and risk our banks have, and the large borrowing National has been doing. Well worth familiarising yourself with.

Waitangi Day-ish special cultural appropriation post: The Plunder of Glow Worm Grotto

 

How about this (laughable, terrible) episode of an obscure cartoon from the 1980s which makes remarkable use of “Maori” culture and “New Zealand” as a backdrop. Presenting: M.A.S.K S01E55: The Plunder of Glow Worm Grotto.

YouTube Preview Image

All natives are basically interchangeable, after all.

(Sometimes, despite how much further there is to go, maybe we need to reflect on how far we have come.)

 

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