Greenwash sucks

April 12, 2007

I got a little bored for a minute, so fired off this letter to the editor to the Dominion Post. Hopefully it gets published.

With the release of the latest report from the IPCC, Climate Change Minister David Parker is doing his best to reassure us that the Labour Government is taking climate change seriously, and working hard to lower New Zealand’s emissions. This rhetoric around “carbon neutrality” could not be further from the truth. While some of the Crown fleet is moving towards lower emission vehicles, state-owned coal miner Solid Energy is responsible for extracting coal which, when burnt, will produce emissions roughly equivalent to ALL the cars, buses and trucks on New Zealand’s roads each year. The Labour Government, meanwhile, encourages Solid Energy to extract even more coal! What we need is a swift transition away from the extraction and use of coal, and to create new areas of employment for Solid Energy employees, such as rehabilitation of the vast areas destroyed by the most polluting SOE.

Labour has shown time and time again that it is not really interested in tackling climate change in any meaningful way. Its “greenwash” is nothing but cover for more environmental destruction, for species extinction and for making hundreds of millions of people worldwide into climate refugees.


Depression and support

April 10, 2007

This post was written last night, without an Internet connection, hence it is only being posted now.

I’ve suffered from depression more or less non-stop for the last 8 years, since I was 14 (see Mental illness: My struggle). Early on, I used to use that tired old joke, “I don’t suffer from depression, I enjoy every minute of it!” but it didn’t take to long for me to realise that that only served to further minimise and marginalise the all-too-real suffering I was going through in the eyes of others (“He can joke about it, surely that means it can’t be too bad”).

My support networks during those 8 years have ranged from the fantastic to the barely existent, changing with the various social circles I have mixed with during that time. Yet, when I think back to times where my support network has been all I could have hoped for, I find it hard to remember what it actually was that they did. In my latest especially depressive patch (as distinct from my routine depressive state), currently running into its 5th month, I certainly feel a lack of support, but I also have a total lack of an idea as to what I want or need.

Part of me longs for my friends to take the lead at this point – for them to gather together and do something, anything, to provide some support, even if it’s totally inadequate or not what I need. At the same time, I fear the patronising mentality that is so common towards sufferers of mental illness (even from fellow sufferers). I don’t want to have to deal with being patronised on top of everything else.

Because suffering from mental illness takes a radically different form for every person, even fellow sufferers are unable to provide any framework that is likely to be effective – I know sufferers who cope best when totally left alone, and I know sufferers who can’t bear to be alone for even a minute. Our differing experiences demand different strategies of support, which makes it that much harder to develop community strategies (see Building “mad” friendly communities) for supporting sufferers that can be readily applied whenever someone requires help.

I’m not really sure, at this point, of the purpose of this post. It’s about 20 minutes since I wrote that last paragraph, 20 minutes of sitting here trying to think of a positive, or at least constructive, outcome to begin to head towards. But I guess that I really don’t know where to go from here. I can only hope that this serves as a catalyst for people to take a good look around them and to question how they can best support their friends who are suffering right now. In the meantime, though, I’m sure I won’t be the only one crying alone tonight.


Everything is darkened

April 9, 2007

I wrote the following last night after watching a movie – apologies if it isn’t totally coherent, neither was my brain at that stage…

I’ve just finished watching Everything Is Illuminated, and it brought up a lot of feelings and thoughts in my head, far more so than any other Holocaust related movie I’ve watched. I think that’s because rather than focusing on the horrors of the Holocaust, it focuses on something which I experience far more – the knowledge of a lost past, of a lost heritage.

Only one of my grandparents were born in Aotearoa – the other three all migrated here. Two came in the 1920’s, while one escaped from Poland just before the Nazi invasion. Of the heritage of those three (all long passed away) I only have a vague knowledge of the last, my Mother’s father.

He was one of only a few of his family to survive, the rest dying in the Holocaust. I have no idea how, where or when – all I know is they did not survive.

It’s a strange thing – If I knew my family’s heritage, I probably would barely give it a second thought. But because I don’t, that lack of knowledge is something that surrounds everything I do.

In the not too distant future I’ll be going to Poland, to a town called Bialystok, where he grew up. I’ll be going to the concentration camps, where countless lives (perhaps some of my family’s) were taken in the most cruel and calculated circumstances. I’m going there, not in the hope that I’ll find anything I don’t already know (that could only be a fools game), but just to see, to feel, to experience, even if for a moment, what has been taken from me and so many other Jews (and Roma, queers and others).

That lack of a past engulfs me, imprisons me. When I feel so disconnected from what family I have left alive, it is the family long dead that I wish I could reach out to. I wish I could have met them, have asked them all the questions I want answers to. One of my foreign born grandparents died long before I was born, the other two when I was just 2 years old. And so I never really knew any of them. I was never able to talk to them about their hometowns, about what life was like, about their decisions to come to the other side of the world, and, perhaps most importantly, about what they left behind.

Instead, I sit here, typing on a computer, trying to put into words that which cannot be described. Trying to imagine what they might have been like. Trying to imagine what I would have done in their place. Trying to imagine what they would say of the choices I have made in my life. Trying, above all, not to forget.


On opposite sides of the planet, two prisoners are released!

April 7, 2007

A feature I just wrote for Aotearoa Indymedia:

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On Thursday 6th April, Hossein (Thomas) Yadegary, an Iranian born chef, was released from Auckland’s Mt Eden Prison, where he had been for 30 months after refusing to sign an order for his deportation. Yadegary arrived in Aotearoa in 1993, and made 3 failed bids for refugee status.

As a Muslim who has converted to Christianity, Yadegary could potentially face the death penalty if sent back to Iran. He was sent to prison by the District Court, which has continually extended his prison sentance in an effort to force him to sign his application for an Iranian passport, required for him to be deported.

In December, Yadegary applied for a judicial review of his case in the High Court. Two weeks ago Clayton Cosgrove, the Immigration Minister, rejected an appeal for Yadegary’s release, but on Thursday the High Court decided his detention served no purpose and released him.

Yadegary could still face deportation, but for now has been freed on restrictive bail conditions which include a 7pm to 7am curfew and reporting to Police 3 times a week.

Links: Global Peace & Justice Auckland Press Release | Green Party Press Release

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Meanwhile, in the USA, Anarchist journalist Josh Wolf was freed from Federal Custody after 7 & 1/2 months in prison on April 3rd. Wolf was imprisoned for refusing to turn over video he had shot at a protest to a federal grand jury. Wolf was in prison for longer than any other journalist in US history.

Links: IndyBay Coverage | Josh’s Blog | Interview with Josh from Democracy Now


Anarchism – What is it?

April 3, 2007

Every month in Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington, the Magnetic Fridge Diary is distributed. The MfD is a folded A3 piece of paper with a calendar of anarchist/activist/community events for the upcoming month, reviews of pamphlets from the local anarchist bookshop and short articles on a theme. It’s been running for a couple of years now, and currently has a print run of 300 which are distributed at libraries, high schools, cafes, universities and other places around the city. A .pdf (9MB) of the April issue is available for download here.

This month, the theme was Anarchism – I wrote a short and simple “what is anarchism” which I thought I’d repost here:

Anarchism – What is it?

Anarchism is the political philosophy that human society functions best based on concepts of mutual aid, direct democracy and free association.

Free association is the term for people who have chosen to associate for any particular cause. Free association is what occurs in any group in which you are a member by choice and choice alone, not because you are required to by law or other means, but because you care about and support the group and the goals of the group.

Mutual aid is a term used to describe interactions based on cooperation rather than competition. Under capitalism, we are compelled to compete with each other to survive – for jobs, for property and for friendships. While capitalism demands we ask why we should help someone, mutual aid encourages us to ask why not.

Anarchists see modern capitalist society as fundamentally flawed – a system where the means of production and consequently the wealth are owned by a small number of people while many more still struggle to get food, water and shelter to survive. Anarchists strive for a world where workers, wom*n, non-whites, queers and others are not systemically discriminated against for the benefit of a few.

Anarchists are for direct democracy. Anarchists often organise according to consensus-based self-governing principles, based in the understanding that we are best qualified to make decisions about our own lives. Anarchists believe that we must all control our own lives, making decisions collectively about matters which affect us.

Anarchists believe and engage in direct action. Direct action is any action which, if successful, achieves the desired result/s in and of itself, without appealing to a “higher power”. Direct action is based on the idea that we should all run our own lives, and that asking someone else to make a change for us, even if the change is made, is counter-productive as it only reinforces the idea that we cannot act for ourselves.

Anarchists are against nation-states and borders. Nation-states are inherently oppressive, and in subjugating the individual for further the welfare of the State in a race of nation-states and global economies, States resort all too readily to violent systematic oppression. Arbitrary lines on a map should have no role in deciding how we live our lives, and any movement for a better society must place the utmost importance on the free movement of individuals.

To find out more about anarchism or to get in touch with anarchists in Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington, visit The Freedom Shop, the anarchist bookstore, in Left Bank off Cuba Mall, or go to Revolting Books, the little anarchist library, at 128 Abel Smith St, Te Aro.


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