Monthly Archives: April 2009

McCully must go.

I’m really quite angry about this this.  I tend to try and reserve judgment of people with different ideologies until the real application can be tested and understood.   But recent announcements by Murray McCully about changes to NZ aid programme are a terrible idea from start to finish.   Aid and development are vast and burgeoning fields of knowledge.   With increased urbanization, increased population, and increasing numbers of man-made and natural distasters aid and development may well become some of the most important methods of allocating resources around the world.  In the best case this will be done in a sane and orderly manner that promotes long term peace and sustainability.

It is however a very difficult area.  It is young, under resourced and by its nature deals with disastorious situations.  NZ has previously maintained the noble goal of ensuring that our small contribution to the world of Aid is delivered effeciently and with the primary goal of poverty reduction.  Basically this means the money goes to simple things like providing clean water, safe accommodation, food. You know, all that stuff we completely take for granted.  This strategy has been widely praised and is inline with international best standards such as Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness that was signed in 2005. NZ has avoided much of the criticism and international scepticism that comes with aid from countries like the US and Australia who tie their Aid to their commercial and strategic interests.

New Zealand will now join those countries and make our AID programme responsive to our trade and political interests.  So first up we see NZ aid money been diverted to subsidizing flights to the pacific.  This is a fine idea and its great to be promoting NZ obligations to the pacific.  But lets be clear, this is money that would otherwise be helping people in the pacific deal with day to day issues of poverty.  Things like Maleria vaccinations, water pumps, grain, seeds…

Here’s two indepth articles recently published about this:

Josie Pagani:  If it’s not helping to reduce global poverty it doesn’t count as aid. 

Gordon Campbell: Murray McCully’s attack on New Zealand’s foreign aid programme

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A long, slow descent into hell

I’m currently living in Sri Lanka at the moment, and witnessing the continuation of this beautiful islands tragic history.   Colombo is a virtual police state now controlled by what is effectively a military dictatorship.

Any sane analysis of the recent history here makes taking sides a senseless exercise.  Much like the Bush/Bin Laden relationship, this is a game played by violent boys upon people of various ethnic backgrounds.   Given the complete banning of journalists anywhere near the current warzone and the state control of the media here it is of little use trying to work what is actually going on at the moment.  It seems truth reveals itself in historical glimpses.   The tigers may be a doomed force now, but a whole generation has been born and raised in this conflict.  They have lived lifes of forced migrations, refugee camps, propaganda as education,  and life looking down the barrel of guns from both behind and infront.

I had a moment of horror a few nights ago when I was taken aside by a young soldier in standard procedure when roads are completely cleared to make way for fast moving convoys of vips.  As the noisy collection of bikes, army trucks and black tinted SUVs emerged around the corner this friendly young soldier with gun pointing nonchalantly in my direction casually removed the safety from his gun.  So for a few sweaty moments I had my first experience of a fully loaded automatic weapon being pointed at me with no safety on.  As soon as the convoy passed the soldier put the safety back, smiled and let us be on our way.

With only limited ability to make sense of current events it falls to artists and writers to create meaning and hope.  I point you to a well written piece in The Guardian by Sri Lankin novelist Romesh Gunesekera.

The other night, in London’s Nehru Centre, I heard the Bengali poet Sunil Gangopadhyay recite a powerful poem against the warped beliefs we use to excuse our sometimes atrocious behaviour. It made me think: what should I believe in now? What can I believe in? What must I believe in?

So, here is a list to start with:

– I must believe that the fighting will be over tomorrow and there will be no more killing, indiscriminate or discriminate.

– I must believe that those who have the power will ensure that future generations will not be brought to this point of suffering again.

– I must believe that everyone believes murder is wrong.

– I must believe that aid will flow into the country and that it will go wholly and directly to those who have suffered most.

– I must believe that money for war will be converted into money for peace and reconstruction, wherever it may come from.

– I must believe that a military victory will not lead to triumphant jingoism.

– I must believe that all those who have been trained only to fight will be found gainful civilian employment.

– I must believe that the ambitions of the military will not grow ever larger.

– I must believe that a just and democratic society nurtures and protects all its people and treats them equally.

– I must believe that dissent will not be punished.

– I must believe that the press and media will be free and fair and brave.

– I must believe that journalists will not be intimidated.

– I must believe that good will is stronger than ill will.

– I must believe that good leaders are honourable people who will always place the interests of their people before the interests of themselves.

– I must believe that the young will learn from the mistakes of the elders.

– I must believe that we will not be fooled again, wherever we are and whoever we are.

– I must believe in the human capacity for compassion and reconciliation.

– I must believe all wrongs will be righted.

– I must believe that in words we will find what in fury we cannot.

But must I also believe – as leaders on all sides seem to – that the end justifies the means? Does it, really?”

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Why are all the bees dying?

This TED lecture looks at why up to 36% of Bee Colonys have been dying in the states each year for the past few seasons

“Bees are dying in droves. Why? Leading apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp looks at the gentle, misunderstood creature’s important place in nature and the mystery behind its alarming disappearance.

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Did you know how racist the allied forces were in WWII?

In the victory parade to celebrate the liberation of France at the end of WWII the French president De Gaulle made a deal with American and English authorities to guarantee that it would be a French led and All-White parade of troops.  This is despite the fact that white soldiers only made up about 40% of the Free French Forces, and some 17,000 black African recruits from French Colonies died defending france in 1940.  Farcically they couldn’t even find enough white french soldiers to fill the parade so many of the so called friench soldiers that led the parade were infact Spanish.

For France’s West African Tirailleurs Senegalais, however, there was little to celebrate. Despite forming 65% of Free French Forces and dying in large numbers for France, they were to have no heroes’ welcome in Paris. After the liberation of the French capital many were simply stripped of their uniforms and sent home. To make matters even worse, in 1959 their pensions were frozen.”

BBC: Paris liberation made ‘whites only’

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CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS: Freerange_II: Gardening and Violence

I am happy to invite you all to read the primer for FreerangeII and offer ideas and suggestions for the upcoming zine.  FreerangeII will be themed Gardening and Violence!   (We are limiting the size of this issue to a tidy 48 pages pages)

freerange-2.pdf   by Cheif Egg Bennett and Lt. Tania Maddog Sawicki 

Please  add points of conversation, ideas or suggestions below or email to freerangeorama@gmail.com

(I’m imagining writings about things like WWII Victory Gardens, Guerilla Gardening, Cuba’s Urban Agriculture)

ps. Freerange_III will most likely be themed “The importance of Design“. So feel free to put your thinking caps on about that one too!  

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