Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Art of War – An Introduction to Austere Governance.

The article below is a very indepth response to a freerange post from last year, written by Beale Stainton on his site The Bealian.   Beale has kindly given us permission to re-post his article here.     To quickly summarise: I wrote an article about  the philosophical/economic difference between the ‘left’ and ‘right’ where the left sees full employment and its consequences as the desirable goal, and the right sees low inflation and its consequences as the desirable goal.   I suggest that the right accepts that a certain amount of unemployment is good for the country, in that it keeps inflation down, but then it becomes nasty when it attacks the unemployed for being lazy, a drain on the country, etc, when in fact they are, in this model, making a sacrifice that we all gain from.    Beale has responded with a very informative description of the economic demands on government and what they are and aren’t able to control, suggesting that employment is largely outside of the scope of the government to control.

START

The following analysis is in response to an article published by the good folk over at Project Freerange entitled “The nastiness of the mainstream right politics”, which you can read by clicking on the link here.

http://www.projectfreerange.com/the-nastiness-of-the-mainstream-right-politics/

This article argues that there is a fundamental difference between economic policy of the left and that of the right in New Zealand politics.  A press release of Michael Cullen’s policy back in 2002 aimed at, among other things, the creation of full employment.  The 2008 press release given by Bill English on the other hand does not make a mention to employment at all.  This is a very salient observation that has been made.  The Freerange article goes on to then link the employment negligent economic policy of the right with inflation.  It is argued that right wing policy aims to keep unemployment high for the purposes of controlling inflation.  Now we all know that Government policy is conducted with the purposes of engineering some greater master plan.  The question that this raises is how far would a particular government be willing to go in order to control inflation?  Would they purposefully keep employment rates down?

Now, I have written this article for two reasons.  The first reason is, because I wanted to return a constructive and critical response to Barnaby at Freerange.  The second reason is to show the world what the insides of a governments books look like.  In regard to the first reason I will attempt to build upon Barnaby’s valiant attempt at an economic argument.  It does indeed appear as if employment levels could be engineered in order to control inflation.

The current National Government has been, for the most part, conducting itself in a fashion, which it can be argued, goes completely against the unwritten rules of civilized public relations.  They have, through their overly assertive reforms, taken very few prisoners, if any.  They have, time and again, come up against mass public opposition to their policies.  They have expressed a certain culture of authoritarian disregard so to speak, perhaps an arrogance even.  In the opinion of many in our country they have quite simply been rubbing people up the wrong way.  They perhaps have contributed to further backlash by the mere fact that their leader gained the nick name “Smiling Assassin” while employed as head of foreign exchange dealings at international banking powerhouse Merrill Lynch.  He earned this nick name, because he continued to smile while making some hundreds of redundancies in the wake of the 1998 Russian Financial Crisis.  It is no wonder that there is a certain air of mistrust and disillusionment coming from various parts of New Zealand society.

For this reason I hope I can lay down a few reasons as to why such policy has been implemented.  I would like to start off by saying that, in my opinion, this is not so much a matter of left or right wing.  For example, the former Minister of Finance under the Helen Clark Government, Michael Cullen has a past life and so does Helen Clark herself for that matter.  If you go back in history to the Labour Government of 1984-1990.  You will find an up and coming Cullen in the position of Associate Finance Minister plotting away in the shadow of Roger Douglas, the prophet of the New Right.  So it can be argued that Michael Cullen himself contributed to the genesis of the policies of the New Right in this country.  In my opinion Government policy is, for the most part, reactive rather than proactive.  Muldoon’s National Government was forced into extreme national protectionism and regulation by way of reaction.  Lange’s Labour Government was then forced to go extremely open and in pursuit of the free market by way of reaction.  Helen Clark’s Labour Government, post 2001, was the lucky one, because it got to react to good economic times.  It was lucky, because as a result of the success generated on the international free market it was able to oversee a speculative rise in property, financing and construction, which like Spain and Ireland brought a lot of money and jobs into the economy.  2001 was also the defining year for New Zealand in that China joined the WTO and Fonterra was established.  If you want to get a grip on why things are so in New Zealand at the moment then we only need to take a look at Spain, Ireland and many other parts of the world that too heavily depended on property, finance and construction to fuel their economies.

Anyway let’s move on.

The next point I would like to make is that there is not much a Government can do to keep unemployment low.  It can, to a certain degree, in the case where a Government employs a lot of people.  The Government would only need to lay off a required number of civil servants in order to meet a certain measure for the purpose of meeting a particular target percentage of unemployment.  The National Government has in deed been doing this, however this has been done for other reasons, which I will get to later.  In the private sector, demand for labour is unregulated.  When the private sector needs labour it simply takes it.  This is what happens when an economy is picking up.  When it is slower then the private sector doesn’t so much demand labour and so unemployment increases.  As I’ve stated.  This is an unregulated market Government cannot interfere with.

Another point of criticism I would like to make is in regard to the correlation between employment and inflation.  The man who officially argued the connection was the New Zealand born economist William Phillips.  He has, as a result, left to the world the “Phillips curve”, which states that when unemployment is high then inflation is low and vice versa.  This is evidently so, because as unemployment increases the supply of money decreases and therefore producers will be forced to put their prices down.  However Phillips argument was based only on research done in the United Kingdom between 1861-1957.  It has been apparently disproved by the many economies which have both high inflation and high employment.  However I would only take the rebuttal theories with a grain of salt, simply because they are argued first and foremost by Milton Friedman.  I’ve looked at Friedman’sstagflation theory and to be honest with you all, it stinks.  It stinks of the modern financial system and perspective engineering.

Friedman’s stagnation theory argues that when unemployment lowers this triggers a rise in wages and a rise in wages eventually means that unemployment will return to its previously higher level, so far correct, but then he goes onto say that inflation will remain high.  This is how the Phillips curve was disproved and forced to give way to Friedman’s theory ofstagflation.  Philips argued that inflation would eventually reduce too.  Now in pure theory, I’m going to go with Philips on this one, because in a self-regulating market, producers would bring their prices down to match the reduced supply of money in a high unemployment economy.  However we no longer live in a self-regulating market.  We now live in a market regulated by financial systems and the domination of credit.  If cross border credit didn’t exist then the pure theory of Phillips would prevail, but in a world where cross border credit is the main regulating force behind an economy then it is sadly Friedman’s version of events that will prevail.  What I have just discovered is actually quite brilliant and deserves to be written into a doctorate.  Anyway, I’ll come back to that in my own time.  We need to move on.

So there we have it Barnaby and others.  I have successfully altered the direction I was sending this article.  Friedman, being the worshiped economist that he is, was meant to be right and then I was going to proceed to make my final points.  However I’ve just proven him wrong and as a consequence, my further points wrong.  Or have I?  Perhaps I am still on the right track.

Let me just state that the reason unemployment is high at the moment is not so much due to a political engineering campaign by the National Government to keep inflation steady.  Employment is high, because there is a whole bunch of debt to pay off.  This situation has in effect squeezed the life blood out of the economy.  The situation is complicated, but I will try my best to explain it.

Government is not something that renews itself every three years.  It is an ongoing entity.  All that changes is the party or the leadership voted in to manage and direct it.  Debts and surpluses incurred by one government will be inherited by the next and so on.  In the same way, long term debts incurred now, let’s say in the form of a 10 or 30-year bond issuance, will be paid off by future tax payers in 10 or 30 years time and not the current ones.  The current taxpayers reap the benefits, so to speak, for what their children will be forced to pay off.

Now let’s look closer at Government.  It is such a beautiful monstrosity.  Government has revenues and costs just like any enterprise, whether that be yourself, the corner dairy, Telecom or whatever.  As such, just like most other enterprises, it needs to prepare a number of statements and plans.  Let’s start with the statements.  The first statement is the “Statement of Financial Performance”.  This statement records its revenue against its expenses.  The next statement is the “Statement of Financial Position”.  This one records what it owns against what it owes.  The third is the “Cash Flow Statement”.  Now this one is fairly self evident.  Now the important thing to note is that what appears in these statements, generally becomes the basis for preparing the next very important document.  That next document is the “Budget”.

It is likely that bad news in the 3 above statements over a period of previous years will most likely contribute to the publication of a bad news “Budget” for subsequent years.  The “Budget” then gets translated into policy and policy gets translated into execution, which is the responsibility of the party in power.  So hopefully the chain is now obvious.  Bad news in the statements, will lead to bad news in the budget and subsequent bad news in policy and as a result, in execution.

Now, as a result of the sudden contraction in the global economy, the private sector took one hell of a hit.  Let’s not go into too much detail.  It was a bust.  A bust is a cataclysmic event and everyone gets hurt.  Even Berkshire Hathaway stocks went from $150,000 a pop down to $60,000.  A raging private sector is fueled by a need for two things.  It needs labour and capital, the two main inputs of business.  The banks provide the capital and the people the labour.  As such, capital and debt markets boom and unemployment drops.  As a result Governments will receive more taxes and spend less and Reserve Banks will lift interest rates to keep inflation steady.  Up until 2008 the NZ Reserve Bank had the OCR, the primary interest rate of the economy, set at above 8%.  At the moment it is down at 2.5%.

When the private sector is booming there is money left, right and centre, which means prices will go up causing inflation.  Reserve Banks react by lifting interest rates so that people get enticed by the returns to be made simply by putting their money into Government securities.  This takes money out of the economy and keeps inflation steady. When economies are stagnant like now then Reserve Banks react by lowering interest rates making it cheaper to borrow and thus causing an inflationary effect of sorts.  However this gets countered by the lack of economic activity and therefore money.  What I want to describe to you in the boom picture, which lasted from 2001-2008 is how easy the Labour Government had it for that time period.  There was absolutely no need for austere measures.  Their Reserve Bank needed to do the opposite and reduce the amount of money. They were lucky the private sector was booming, takes the weight off their shoulders.

Since 2008 and the arrival of National, Government experienced a reversal.  Their revenues decreased and their expenses increased.  This was a direct result of the bust, not the arrival of National in and of itself.  Remember this is the same Government as always, just under new management.  Not only did tax revenue fall, but the taxpayer had to bail out the broken economy putting further pressure on spending.  As a result the weight got put on the shoulders of Government.  In the performance statement of 2009 there was a surplus between revenue and expenditure, but an overall decrease from 2008.  In the performance statement of 2010 there was a deficit of 2.1%, by 2011 a deficit of 3.3% and this year a deficit of 8.4%.  The large deficit recorded this year was mostly a result of an increase in the “insurance expense” column between 2010 and 2011 of some $8 billion.  It’s all recorded in the books.

Now what these widening deficits do is they force Governments to draw up budgets and policies which will cause a good deal of pain and frustration when they are executed.  Think about it.  If you record a 2.1% deficit this means that the budget for next year is going to come down to either one or two options.  The first is to adjust income or expenses.  The second is to put down a bond issuance and borrow in order to cover your costs for the next year.  The second move means that you need to borrow now, but as a result, future tax payers will be hit with the bill.  Not only that but your credit rating could be effected, which means that the cost of borrowing money next year will go up.  This means that you will hit the pockets of future tax payers even more.  Borrowing more also means that you are creating more expenses.  These expenses get recorded in the books as “interest expenses”.  The more debt you take on the higher this expense column climbs.  This will likely increase your deficit even more.  As a result it is best to resort to the first option than to resort to the second one.  There is a third option.  You can sell some assets, but we go into that.

So the first option is what governments will resort to.  They can increase revenue by hiking tax rates.  However this move is further bad news for the economy.  What they should do is increase taxes on mega profits, however this move causes big business to kick up a fuss and threaten the government with relocation to another part of the world or some other form of rebellion.  This eventuates into further bad news for the economy.  What the current government is doing is they are looking at other sources of national income such as the taxes and royalties generated by mining operations and other economic operations in the long run.  On the other side there needs to be a reduction in spending.  This is evident by the reduction in staff in the public services, a lowering of the teacher to student ratio and a tightening up of welfare services.  For the record, social security and welfare currently costs the Government $2 billion a month.  Education and Healthcare both come in at $1 billion a month, only half that of welfare, but in times like this the welfare is needed.  These three cost centres out shadow all others.  It’s all there in the books.

So I hope I have explained how increasing deficits and spiraling debt forces reactive governance.  It is usually the Finance Minister, who is also the automatic Treasurer, who holds the purse strings.  It is their responsibility, in their role, to create a long term plan, in this case a three year or five year one, to get the books back into surplus.  In order to do this the Treasurer needs to sit in his office, study the statements and a whole host of other reported information from his departments and as a result draw up, to begin with, a budget. The budget will most likely be produced, in a time of deficit, so as to reduce expenses and suggest increases in revenue sources, without needing to borrow too much.  The budget is then communicated through to ministers.  They will be told that they need to cut spending by such an amount.  The minister will then set about turning the expenditure reductions into policy.  The policy will be communicated to the public and, in a time of forced fiscal austerity, they will not react too kindly to it.  The appropriate ministries will then set about executing policy.

Budgets are limited, but relatively precise in that they only look upon the next financial year.  The next level of planning is what is known as the strategy.  Strategies look over periods of three to five to ten years.  They cannot be as precise in their financial estimations and therefore provide only rough projections of future Government revenues and expenditures over, let’s say, a five or ten year period.  They provide direction more than anything.  For example, the Petroleum Action Strategy of 2009 estimated that the mining of New Zealand’s minerals reserves could turn a $3 billion per annum industry into a $30 billion per annum industry by the year 2025.  As such Government would be set to earn from both taxes and royalties and the economy will be boosted.  Now we know that these figures are such an extreme estimation, but they at least provide guidelines to get the ball rolling, develop policy and debate the costs.

The sale of state assets is also set out in a strategy as opposed to budget.  The financial return on the assets will be estimated from, for the most part, an uncertain future.  The estimated return for example might come to $10 billion over four years.  This $10 billion will then be calculated into an estimated budget and performance scenario of Government four years into the future.  The Treasurer will then make a rough estimation and let’s say he concludes that Government will be back in surplus in four years time provided all policies and strategies have been successfully executed.  He will no doubt in include margins of risk to strengthen the estimations.  If the figures add up then Government will go about putting plans into action and when the chain is a result of bad news inputs, like they are at the moment, then there will be bad news outputs.

So there we go everyone.  This is how austere governance works.  Perhaps, after writing this, I now feel quite austere myself.  My main argument is that austere measurements, just like liberal ones are a result of reaction to a given economic environment.  It does not matter if you have a Labour or National party in power.  The boom of 2001-2008 allowed Labour to be liberal, but the dire economic situation of 1984 forced the then Labour Government to be austere and same with Muldoon.  My other argument is that keeping unemployment low is not so much a tool Governments use to control inflation.  If the private sector needs labour then there is nothing Government can do to stop this.  Labour is controlled by the market.  High unemployment usually means that the private sector is not demanding so much or that Government itself is forced to cut back on spending to reduce its deficits.  On the other hand there is a correlation between unemployment and inflation, which Friedman denied, but as I showed you guys I suspect Friedman’s theory of being subject to a regulating factor and that is cross border credit.  Therefore his theory of stagflation should not qualify as pure economics and the Phillips curve should be given its rightful position at the top again.  My final argument is that austere and unpopular policies and executive consequence are the result of bad finances caused by external economic conditions.  This is evident by the way continuing deficits, as a result of a bust, causes certain reactive policies to bring the books back into the black without having to borrow too much.

That is where I will finish.  Barnaby I certainly enjoyed reading your article and, as has been obviously displayed, it did make me think a great deal in order to give you a response you can seriously consider, warts and all, not the pretty picture anyone wants.  Monetary and fiscal policy, when the going gets tough, is not a place for the faint of heart.  However I will leave with a final thought.  What I have given you is my honest description as a result of my education and research.  Austere governance is austere governance.  There are no two ways about that.  It has its place and its time.  The power and influence of fiat money or credit creation on the other hand is a whole completely different set of bad news.  This system likes to pretend that it acts in the interests of deregulating economies, but the truth of the matter is that it has itself and is fast becoming, the ultimate and central power of regulation.  In this sense it is now the state being regulated.  There has been a fundamental shift in power and dominance.  Think about that for a second and the consequences it spells for the future of economy and government.  They will both be locked into cycles of boom, fueled by credit creation and cycles of bust, fueled by credit crunches, which Governments will be forced into taking the rap for.  It is the simple system of credit, which is what we need to look out for.  This is a game John Key and the rest of us are all pawns in.  It is a system people like Friedman have argued into the academic literature as being the way it is.  This is something I can’t quite grasp without speculating and making up conspiracy theories.  So for the moment it is best we keep silent about it and only think on it.

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Ten Rules on Being an Architecture Student

In 2007, Dr Peter Wood (aka P-Dubs), Senior Lecturer at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Architecture, gave a cutting and hilarious assessment of student culture to open the first formal day of Ctrl Shift 07, the Biennial Pacific Student Congress of Architecture.  A few of the Freerangers who put the Congress on recently revisited his lecture, and had to share his Ten Rules on Being an Architecture Student, transcribed here to capture Peter’s deliciously acerbic critique.

1. Dress right.  Cheap clothes should look expensive, and expensive clothes should look cheap. Under no circumstances should cheap clothes look cheap, or expensive clothes look expensive, except at crits.

2. Always work at least one all-nighter for every studio. Two is better as it suggests that you’re not doing the first one to follow the rules. Never do more then three in a row as this suggests genuine psychological problems, or it will lead to genuine psychological problems.

3. Meet the right people. This is a tough one because architecture students, architectural academics, academics, and in fact anyone from your immediate cultural grouping, is not the right people. The right people should meet three criteria: they should have money, they should want to give you their money, and they should not be interested in telling you how you should spend their money. Your parents are a good place to start.

4. Show dismissive scorn toward successful architects. After all, they are just cynical old fuddy-duddies who sold their creative integrity to developers because their bums like leather car seats, and anyway, you’ll never be like them.

5. Attend all openings. Art exhibitions, public lectures, new buildings, roof shouts, car doors, the only thing that matters is how disdainful you look, and the amount of free food and drinks.

6. Be I.T. savvy. It’s a digital world, and the more digital you look, the easier it will be to pass architecture off as a modern activity. Fortunately this has never been easier, it doesn’t matter what you listen to, whether its Burt Bacherach or anything else on your MP3 player, or that your laptop contains pictures of dairy cows, or that you only pretend to text-message due to the inability of bovine hooves to operate cellphones. The only real point is how shiny, expensive and visible your gadgets are.

7. Become moderately proficient at espousing the views of a continental philosopher.  Avoid the big names as its most likely that someone will know more about them than you. Choose instead a minor player from some Marxist circle and pick out the bits of their writing that might possibly have something to do with architecture. Liberally sprinkle these through your comments at openings.

8. Learn the lingo. Every attempt must be made to speak in architectural jargon. People might live in houses, but architects design responsive environments that challenge domestic paradoxes which combine atavistic references with new post-post-modern epistemologies.

9. Avoid student counseling. Conventional wisdom has it that student counseling is the quickest way to arrange a medical certificate for an assignment deadline extension. But once they have you on the couch describing your childhood, who knows what might happen. Instead, go to Student Health, tell them it hurts to tinkle, and save the antibiotic prescription for the bronchial condition your all-nighters will give you.

10. Organise an international congress. If only because it makes achieving the other criteria much easier.

 

Peter Wood, on Ctrl Shift 07: Biennial Pacific Student Congress of Architecture. [DVD] is available in most architecture Libraries across Australia & New Zealand.

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UP THE PUNKS 2012: The City Seen Through Thirty Something Noisy Years of Wellington Punk Culture.

 
 
 
 
 
“Not in the habit of saving things for posterity or thinking themselves as history. Not caring about the past, not seeing too much future to look forward too. Whether or not that was really true, it was definitely the understood attitude and mood… I’ve just started on this book and already I’m on a tangent…”

Aaron Cometbus

 

Time. It’s treated quite strangely in the world of punk rock. Most people arrive as though they were the first. And they leave out the back door to make way for a younger, more energised generation. Aaron Cometbus, of the Bay Area fanzine Cometbus, nailed it in a retrospective on his first 20 years of zine-making. When it came to cultural self-awareness, he claimed that punks were decidedly evasive. Whether fueled by  idealism or nihilism, they were preoccupied in a haze of the ‘spirit of the times’. The view from the blazing vehicle of punk rock is framed by a combination of radical ideas, growing pains and fast guitars. Vision under such speed is surely fuzzy. Beyond the ‘here and now’ getting a cultural perspective to the past (or future) is hard. But the last decade or so has seen a renewed interest from within and without Wellington’s punk community with a call to explore the vestiges of time and uncover the recesses of the city’s nearly forgotten punk past.

Enter Wellington’s own unique and peculiar cultural time-machine – UP THE PUNKS! It travels to depths of 35 years ago and up to the active present, exhibiting the stories and artefacts of a vibrant, living underground community. The ongoing documenting and open source archiving initiative provides an important means of linking together a body of diverse works such as music, arts, literature, activism and various aspects of DIY culture, which would otherwise seem disparate across generations past and present. Youth culture is rarely this prolific and broadly expressed. It is a showcase of spirit – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

 

Original poster for UP THE PUNKS 2002 designed by Kerry Ann Lee

 

To claw back the history of an obscure society, obsessed with its very obscurity, is not an easy task. Works can be as fleeting as youth itself, leaving little trace, if any at all. But memory will still prevail. People still fondly recall the legendary performance of influential bands which never lasted long enough to produce more than a rough demo and play at some house parties; rants from a younger version of someone-you-know found in a photocopied zine which was subsequently lost to time and a small print run; piles of old screen-printed posters and merch; dusty records and cordially exchanged mixtapes now warped and stretched; abandoned film negatives of rallies and hangouts with cherished friends. Interesting and unexpected things happens when returning to these places.

 

Punk was always positioned in relation to a wider context, differentiating itself from mainstream society. But over time, as we all know, things change, the mainstream changes too, and so each generational iteration of punk rockers bear traces of that change too. I can’t help but recall the backdrop of a transitional Wellington city in the 1990s, its people waking up from the quiet slumber of economic downturn. People were crawling out of brutalist buildings determined to paint over the grey walls that had only served to compliment the depressive color of the sky.
Whether or not these are actually my own memories, I’m reminded of something geographic, something spatial and material, tangible and almost graspable; squats on the waterfront as Te Papa was still in construction; un-refurbished flats with remnants of 70’s décor; walking home after school via The Freedom Shop, the local anarchist bookstore which was housed in a rustic shed on upper Cuba St before being squeezed out by the Bypass; the hired-out community halls; picking bottles off the street during shows; skinhead encounters in Newlands; skateboarding with mates in the Hutt; the patience required to order records and zines from overseas…

 

The Cure jamming at a house party in Mount Victoria, August 4, 198.1

 

UP THE PUNKS presents a case for continuity between generations otherwise fragmented and disjointed. In doing so it proves, in my mind at least, that the past 35 years wasn’t just an excuse for playing silly buggers after all (although there was a great deal of that too). It’s evidence of a sustained cultural activity. In such a hotbed for ideals put into action, ideas can last a long time, or burn out alongside musical trends, fashion, and haircuts. I’m curious as to how punk – peripheral by nature – has extended and adapted to other aspects of society, or whether (in many cases I imagine) it is left to the embarrassments of youth. It would be interesting to know what happened to those kids as they enter different areas of society, as they develop skill-sets for new contexts and responsibilities. It is contributions from these people that keeps the UP THE PUNKS online archive lively. I can think proudly of punk friends who are now educators, union organisers, lawyers, academics, artists, health care professionals, engineers, innovators, activists, musicians, amazing parents, and just all round good people.

 

A film made by Chris Knox on the punk and post-punk ‘Wellington Scene’ otherwise known as the ‘Terrace Scene’ in 1980. 

 

Without continuing to sound like a back-in-the-day-old-timer, it has to be said that a big aspect of the UP THE PUNKS effort is to present Wellington punk culture as a living community, uniquely localised and continuing today in full force. It stands in contrast to the picture painted by a Te Papa exhibition ten years ago that presented punk as a petrified historical nomenclature that only happened elsewhere. The ongoing spirit of participation from enthusiastic new blood will ensure that punk respond to a changing world, ultimately securing the promise of it’s future.

 

And because of the open sourced, participatory nature of the UP THE PUNKS archive, we now have a means of looking back through the noise of time. With the raw information available to all, the historical narrative of punk in Wellington can be constantly rewritten and contested.

At 16 years and counting, Punkfest is New Zealand’s longest running annual punk event.

 

UP THE PUNKS proposes one last important thing; that this living history is also a slice of the city’s history. It’s “the Wellington you didn’t know you didn’t know” as aptly put by John Lake in the Pledgeme fundraising campaign. The minor stories told here reveal the material culture of life in Wellington as told by the people themselves. It is also relevant for the story of independent music in New Zealand. These stories are our history and it’s a history to be shared by all.

 

 

A Pledgeme campaign to fund UP THE PUNKS 2012 has just started. Come along and check it out if you like!

UP THE PUNKS 2012 exhibition and celebrations: November 6-10

 

Exhibition Opening Night: November 6, 2012, 6PM, Thistle Hall
Gettin’ Worse: Punx Still Angry, November 7, San Fran Bathhouse. Check out the new breed with Numbskull, DILFS, Influence and more…

 

Closing Night Party, November 10, Thistle Hall Upstairs
All ages gig expanding the definition of punk with So So Modern, Rogernomix, All Seeing Hand, Mr Sterile Assembly, Johnny and The Felchers and more…

 

www.upthepunks.co.nz
www.facebook.com/upthepunks.wellington

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How do we harness trust?

TRUST:

1. To let someone in your lives.

2. To give information

3. To be vulnerable.

Without trust where will we be?

Living in Christchurch I have observed many businesses operating from home.

I love this!

PhotoMan, Tadakki Kusaka formerly photographing tourists outside the Cathedral in Cathedral Square, Christchurch – Now on 233 Waimairi Road, Ilam, Christchurch Ph: +64274374113 OPEN 7 DAYS

BUSINESS

These people having their flag, their business card hang high. The many signs on the streets of Christchurch: – Haircuts – Architectural Design – Fashion Design – Passport Photos A complete range of signs, some hand painted; really connecting the sign to that person, that business. I’m thinking small business not big business, thinking local business in my neighbourhood and not 30 minutes away in the city centre. I’m also thinking I’ll support thy neighbour and perhaps they will support me – Community!

1) Plants for sale in my neighbourhood Beckenham, Christchurch 2) Architects Stuart Manning’s Studio above a garage beside his house in Somerfield, Christchurch

INTERVIEW

I interviewed a range of businesses earlier in the year; Stuart Manning Architects, the PhotoMan, and Briar Cook from Rethreads Clothing Label. I presented the information at the recent SHAC Conference in May 2012 – www.shac.org.nz . Asking the audience whether we should have a network of skills in our neighbourhood? The overwhelming answer was yes.

I ask Briar Cook from Rethreads, What is it like working from home? Briar Responds, “People are beginning to know I’m here. It’s just easier as time goes on.” facebook.com/rethreadsnz

OVERWHELMED

Since the earthquake I have been overwhelmed by trust. Attending an art exhibition from a home two houses down from me. I went inside.

A displaced Gallery now selling artwork from their home, open to the public. Let’s support art from innovative spaces, let’s support emerging artists. Another link: facebook.com/artexplore I was wowed by the fact ‘High St Galleries’ were in my backyard – a gallery two doors down. And the trust this family had to let strangers through their house to view art. Viewing art amongst the kitchen and lounge – in its true state of place perhaps. This innovative space, people drinking wine and eating cheese like a fine art gallery, though in a home -these elements trans-placed to the home.

How do we harness this trust?

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Freerange collaborations

Here are a few projects we’ve been working with or supporting lately.

Songs for Christchurch

We’ve been working closely with artists around the world, including 2 grammy award winning artists, for around 18 months on this project. Launching later this year, we’ve just started a fundraising project to raise some funds to support the release.  Pledgeme site. 

The Children of Parihaka

In 2009, a group of Taranaki children were taken on a bus trip to visit the places their ancestors, passive resistors from Parihaka in the 1880s, were imprisoned and forced to labour in. Places like Addington Jail in Christchurch and various buildings and roads they worked on in Dunedin. Along the way, they were welcomed at local marae by descendants of local Maori who supported the prisoners at the time. It was an emotional journey, documented by Joseph’s camera and the children themselves. The narration is by the children, from their writing, poetry, song and art, expressed in a workshop after the journey.

 

Lurujarri Dreaming

This collaborative documentary will be a vehicle for the Goolarabooloo people to share their culture, history and vision for reconciliation with a wide national and international audience via broadcast, film festivals and online platforms. The Goolarabooloo are currently threatened by the prospect of a massive LNG refinery on their land, which threatens their sacred Songline, the Lurujarri Heritage Trail and there ability to carry out traditional cultural practices. The soundtrack will be composed by the renowned Deadly Award winning Broome indigenous musicians- the Pigram Brothers.

Lurujarri Dreaming Trailer from Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman on Vimeo.

 

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Letter from Kenya (eight)

In the small mud-floored kitchen, around the kitchen fire bordered by 3 large stones (to put the pots on), the middle son is home with his 8 year-old for a visit. The three adults discuss life, the city, work – or lack-thereof. The 2 grandsons that live on the homestead are seated there as well, with their cousin, quietly listening to the adult conversation. One of the boys sings, but it is barely heard; the others dig their feet into the ground and fidget. But I can only imagine this based on the conversation in a language that I don’t understand that comes billowing out of the barely open door and the small square window. The conversation is accompanied by the suffocating smoke from the kitchen fire, fighting for a place to escape from the confines of the small space.

I steal understandings of bits of words and, of course, proper names like the capital city where the son now lives, with his wife and son in the second largest urban slum on the continent, barely making ends-meet. I stand just a few meters from the wood building, looking up through the rainclouds of the Long Rains season through the pitch-black to a few constellations, barely visible. I look back at the square-shaped room with an orange burning light shining through not only the cracked door and window, but also the open slats that let the rain in this morning while we watched the water heating for our baths.

The conversation is familiar, one that I have had with my own parents in their kitchen during one of my countless visits home. There is a relay back and forth of question-answer, then intermittently the son explains further or the mother continues on a monologue asking and comparing, hoping to glean a bit more about her son’s life that is not so unfamiliar to her, she is from a city near by, not the capital, but she is no stranger to the hustle and bustle, but perhaps she has forgotten all of that. Perhaps the forty-some years that she has spent in the high rolling hills tending to their farm and dairy cows, perhaps this less-busy life has allowed her to forget the hand-to-mouth that she, presumably, once lived.

The oldest of the grandsons pops out and I quickly change my gaze back to the sky again, attempting to make myself invisible. Though the night is so dark with no moonlight and no artificial light for miles, at least to the closest town, being invisible isn’t so difficult. Then I remember the conversation I had with the shopkeeper today when we made the hike to town for supplies that cannot be reaped from their land, power had been out in the town for the last 2 days – no mobile charging, no television, only the police station, with their noisy generator, could be seen with their lights on at night. The grandson dumps some water and with a clang grabs something from under the chicken coop and glides back into the warm kitchen shutting the door just a few centimeters more behind him.

Nicole Rademacher was in Kenya from February until May of 2012 doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

 

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Hobo Camping

Last month I was cycle touring through Japan with a friend from Melbourne, John.

Throughout the trip he often spoke of Hobo-camping, that is just ‘sleeping rough’ in a park on on bench somewhere, no tent, no sleeping mat, sleeping public style. He had read about Japan being the ideal place for it on some ‘urban camping’  blogs.

So one night on the shores of Lake Biwa a little north of Kyoto with no camping grounds around and the possibility of rain during the night he suggested we should Hobo camp, I wasn’t that keen at first but with lack of any nice spots to free camp I went along with it.

We rode along the shore of the lake looking for a likely shelter, we found one, a pagoda with two benches under cover, surrounded by a low wall and long eaves in case the rain came. It was right beside a small road and a restaurant, which luckily closed at 9pm, there was also a ubiquitous drink vending machine nearby which threatened to cast effervescent light across us all night whilst we tried to sleep. I suggested we try unplug it and indeed the plug was exposed and there for the pulling but then I half-jokingly mentioned that in Japanese style this would probably alert someone somewhere that the Calpis and Pocari Sweat (two of the more amusingly named Japanese soft  drinks) were warming and they would come to plug the machine back in. We resolved to just hunker down behind the sides of the pagoda and try block the light of the drinks machine out. So we lay back, both succumbing to the hard boards we rolled our sleeping mats out, leaned our bikes against the benches and watched the tiny bats emerge form the rafters and fly out in search of insects on the wing.

I slept surprisingly well until around 2am when I awoke to a car idling right beside the pagoda. I lay there thinking the car would move on soon, it didn’t, I began wondering what it was doing there, they could clearly see our bikes and probably realise we were trying to sleep. For an hour or so it just sat idling and I fell back to sleep, then I woke to see the guy from the car putting a plastic container on the bench where John had been sleeping (he had since moved down onto the grass outside), he placed a cellphone atop the water and then hung a inflated swimming ring right above John’s head. I caught Johns eye, and he looked as confused as I was.  But it was 3am and the guy since had returned to his car, and driven off, so we went back to sleep. I woke a couple more times as the car returned to idle outside the pagoda.

When the sun cam up at 5am, John and I got up and sat bleary eyed looking at the water container, cellphone and swimming ring, and then turning to look at the car still idling next to the pagoda, I didn’t know what was going on. We slowly packed our stuff up and rolled down the lake shore 100m to a picnic table to make coffee and eat breakfast, as soon as we did the rest of the cars inhabitants emerged, a women and 3 children who supposedly had been sleeping inside the idling car the whole time, the kids ran down to the lake to swim (it was midsummer it was already swim worthy at 5.30am).

We realised that the family had come to the lake for the day and wanted to ‘bags’ that pagoda for the day, and decided they needed to get in early, real early obviously (even though that stretch of the lake was deserted) and that the something valuable like a cellphone is needed to make the claim (or maybe they are going to ring it if to wake us lazy gaijin up if we slept in).

It was a strange experience, both showing how safe Japan is (I don’t think I’d feel safe sleeping on a bench by the side of the road in New Zealand or Australia) but also how focused some Japanese can be, that guy knew he was going to get that pagoda for his family and two Gaijin cyclists weren’t gonna stop him.

I’ll leave you with this unrelated photo.

P1030462

 

MD

https://twitter.com/FreerangePress/status/245002191537057792

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Bicycles & Piracy

I am scribbling about bicycles, because I like them, and about piracy, as Freerange claims to be very interested in pirates, but has very little visible piratical content.

But let me preface this with a disclaimer:

I despise people who steal bicycles. I think that there is a special circle of hell reserved for bicycle thieves and the abusers of animals and children. In saying this I am walking a fine line, because like most forms of piracy, bicycle piracy is not as black and white as I’d like it to be.

*

I love bicycles, and I dislike waste. These fit together nicely, as bicycles are some of the least wasteful objects humans have ever managed to produce.

And bicycles make you greater than yourself. Slip onto a well-made bicycle, clip your shoes into the pedals and let your hands rest lightly on the bars and it feels like strapping on a pair of wings. You become something new.

Astride a well made bike you become strong. You can swoop across jammed cities, silent as an owl. A good bicycle is a perfect piece of hand-tooled minimalism with the merest hint of wheels, but which allows you to slice through the frigid morning, and nothing, not snow, nor gridlock nor petrol prices can stop you. Although snow can just make you want to stay in, drink wine, and bake instead.

Whenever I’m without a bicycle I feel like some crippled city pigeon that’s reduced to hobbling about instead of soaring. Every bicycle is a gift of wings. Which means that every abandoned and abused bicycle is a wasted gift.

*

Most cities have these wasted bicycles, chained and rusting against lamp-posts, fire escapes and bike-racks, and not just left there for a day or two while the owner’s away, but abandoned the way that many horrible people abandon kittens when they grow into cats. Maybe the owner left town or forgot the combination to their lock. Maybe a tire went flat or a wheel got bent and the owner couldn’t be bothered fixing it, the result is the same. The bike sits in the weather for a few seasons, often being stripped of it’s more easily removed parts by whatever scavenging creatures come along and strip abandoned bicycles in the middle of the night, and then it just becomes a corpse, a rusting thing, like a skeleton still chained to a wall.

It’s a myth that bicycles can live outside. They can get wet, but they shouldn’t stay wet. After a bicycle has been left in the rain for a winter all it’s delicate component parts will be just a rusted solid mass, no matter how expensive and well-maintained they were to begin with.

But if you get in quick, before the rust and the (other) scavengers, this fate can be avoided.

*

In 2010 I lived in San Sebastian for a time. It’s a beautiful city in Spain near the French border. It’s perfect for cycling, impossible to drive in, and has a huge seasonal population who come to work the summer and then leave as the jobs dry up and the rains come back and the city closes for winter.

This seasonal population get about by bicycle as the city has a web of idyllic bike lanes, and then they often abandon their bikes when they leave town for winter.

I was living in San Sebastian with an equally bike-obsessed friend, Peter, and I was about to be joined by another friend, Jenna, who was going to ride west with me from San Sebastian. Jenna didn’t travel with a bike forever in her luggage like Peter and I did, and Spanish Ebay wasn’t being helpful at providing a bike for her either, but we kept seeing beautiful mixte frames locked and rusting on the streets, begging to be ridden.

*

It’s easy to tell an abandoned bicycle. First, both tires must be completely flat. One tire may have gone flat anyway, leading to it’s abandonment, but the other will take at least six weeks to deflate completely. If both tires are totally flat it generally means the bike hasn’t been ridden for at least a month. Secondly, the chain should be rusted and seized, so that even if you pumped the tires up the bike would still be unrideable without some serious mechanical attention. Thirdly, the bike should have at least one missing or broken component. Maybe the front wheel is twisted into a pretzel, or the seat and seatpost are missing. If a bicycle ticks all three of these boxes, you can bet no-one’s sitting up at night worrying about it.

Strangely, it’s not just the Walmart-grade clunkers that get abandoned. There are plenty of unloved thoroughbreds rusting their last days away along the streets we all live on. I presume this happens because as bicycles become third and fourth hand they pass often into the ownership of people who have no idea of what they’re owning. Plus there is a strange period before a thing becomes ‘classic” when it’s just seen as “old”.

*

In San Sebastian the city council even identified abandoned bicycles for us by orange-stickering them. The orange stickers are dated, and state that if the bikes aren’t removed in two months the council will cut them loose and dump them. Sometimes these bikes cluster three or four deep round lamp-posts, forming rusty coral reefs that are large enough to block pedestrian traffic, hence the council’s insistence on removing them.

So by removing them ourselves we would be performing a public service.

No one bicycle that was definitely abandoned was in good enough condition to become a reliable touring bike for Jenna. So we began looking for bikes that had useful parts. And in our looking we started to see some gems amongst the chaff. Here a 1970’s Frejus with no front wheel or saddle. There an original ALAN in bright blue, it’s delicious Italian components so rusted that examining them made my tummy hurt.

What is a good citizen to do?

Liberate them as well, of course.

Not steal them. Liberate them

*

Peter and I arose at three am with a hacksaw and our maps and went bike-picking. By six am the hallway of our apartment had five new bicycles. Three of them we mangled into a touring bike for Jenna. Peter and I fooled about with the other two until they were functional again and then rode them round San Sebastian on sunny days. Jenna’s bike lasted two thousand kilometers, starting the trip as a ten speed and ending as a four speed. which she later sold for twenty five euros before jumping on a train to Sweden.

I kept the ALAN. I managed to pack it in with my other bicycle on my way to London, and sold it there to a man in Brick Lane Cycles for enough so that it nearly paid for my flight back to New Zealand.

*

I’m uncertain what i’m trying to say here. I would never advocate stealing a bicycle. Having a loved bicycle stolen is crippling and horrible. I’m tiny, and a confirmed pacifist, but I once chased a huge man away from a girlfriend’s stolen bicycle using only a carbon-fibre tennis raquet, which in a fight is about as useful as a toilet roll. That’s the sort of outrage that bicycle theft provokes in me.

But letting a beautiful piece of craftsmanship decay and rust out of sheer negligence provokes outrage in me as well. It’s a crime of omission, like that of wasting food, or of not separating your recycling,

So I think perhaps a little bit of educated bicycle piracy, of taking the law into your own hands in an informed way doesn’t hurt either. I suppose I’ve rescued maybe a half-dozen bikes off the streets now. I tend to give them away afterwards, which is nicely moral and robin-hoodish, but I guess what I’m saying is “Take care of your bicycles. Or they may be taken care of for you”

Marcus McShane.


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SHAKEY’S HELPFUL THOUGHTS

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5 Things You Need To Know About Bats Right Now

a) Unlike as often portrayed in popular medias, bats can’t really fly, but instead propel themselves from crude catapult devices, located on secret space bases near the moon.

b) It’s no coincidence “bat” backwards is “stab”. Bats are commonly regarded as the most stabby animals, and will often stab each other at bat social functions — giving rise to the popular phrase, “stabby as a batty stab-bat”.

e) Despite having no faces, bats have bravely evolved complex floppy neck extensions that fulfil the same functions and form of modern lips, ears nostrils & etc.

d) Often mistaken for delicious, egg-laying birds, chickens are in fact bats in disguise, doing their “day jobs”

 

Detective Mystery

Entering the sewers, I came to the startling realisation that — all this time — I’d been living atop a stinky river of shit.

 

Things I Hope I Never Find In My Salad Again

1/  an entire raw chicken (risk of salmonella)

2/  an old horse shoe (risk of damage to teeth; unhygienic)

3/  a meteorite (risk of cosmic radiation poisoning; also belongs in a museum or science place.

 

Cave Mystery

Deep inside the cave, I came to the shocking realisation I’d forgotten all of my salami sandwiches. Oh yeah — and my torch/clothes/spelunking gear. Who invented the word ‘spelunking’ anyway, I thought to myself, nakedly. Probably those crazy Ruskies, I decided–with their big fur hats and odd, salami-less open sandwiches (i.e. bread).

 

More Gestures Of Futile Resistance

a) Eating the parsley garnish before the rest of your meal.

b) Trying to get your friends to peel their bananas from the “other” end.

c) Buying the big box of raisins and attempting to eat them all before they get crystallised and weird.

d) Trying to feed your cat raisins.

 

Christmas Mystery

Some people say Christmas is their favourite time of year, but I have trouble believing that, as people tend to lie to me a lot of the time.

 

5 Scary Things I find Scary About Bats

1 }  Small pointy teeth

2 }  Nocturnal nature

4}   Association with vampires, Transylvania, & etc

5}   Penis out of proportion with rest of body

 

Secret Tricks To Impress The Ladies And Make Them Give You Affection, Money

1] Keep a hamburger in your pocket, just in case you both get lost in the woods and she gets hungry.

2] Learn to imitate the calls of various bats and waterfowl.

3] Pretend to read. [This works especially well if you use a real book as a prop. You can get free real books from a building called a “the library”. But here’s a pro-tip: don’t shower whilst pretending to read. The library makes you pay for all the real books you destroy with water — and I mean all of them!

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Dear New Zealand: This is on you too.

Dear Rest of New Zealand, our caring family, friends, school mates, colleagues, and lost loves.  Those of you who experience Christchurch through the newspapers and the TVs.

It is now two years since the strangeness descended on Christchurch.   The first shake that set of the rolling maul of mixed emotions that continues now: senses of luck, despair, abandonment, love, hope, hopelessness, excitement, of people lost and communities gained.

Remember in hours and days after the February earthquake, staring at the television, with tears streaming down your eyes feeling powerless in the face of such violence and randomness.

Remember in the days and weeks after February trying to keep in touch with friends, loved ones, and old acquaintances. Not really knowing how to help, but offering none the less.

Remember in the weeks and months, when your focus returned to your own lives, to your own financial crisis, and your own family tragedies.   The events became something remembered in anniversaries and progressed measured through small items on the news.

The rubble maybe slowly disappearing into deep holes, but believe us when we say the city is still on fire. There are thousands of individual battles occurring across the city, it’s a massive slow moving urban bush fire that’s been raging now for 2 years. It’s hard to see the form of the future when you are fighting for your own house, securing your own city.

Whule your tears may have dried, people here are still crying, and these tears aren’t enough to put out the fires raging in our lives.   People are tired, tired from two years of stress and fighting fires.  Grey is the new colour of Christchurch, and it isn’t the sky and empty building sites.  Those photos you see of elderly people getting angry at insurance companies haven’t even had their mid-life crisis yet.

The urban surgeons and political gamblers can see a new city.  It’s not even an act of imagination for them, it’s so real it’s almost tangible.   They have such confidence in the strength of it’s vision, it’s power, its uniqueness. IT’S INNOVATIVE.  It’s best practice.   It’ll be cutting edge. It’s going to be an ICONIC CITY MOVING FORWARD.   It’s so new and exciting it can’t really be explained in language we understand.   We say “great, but who is paying for it?”  They say “Oh, you are of course, but we can’t tell you how much it will cost.”

It’s the paternal nature of the political approach that is so unsettling, experts telling  us how we want to live in our own city.    We have become so marginalized in our own city that the idea that we might have something constructive to add is considered radical.  Everything is backwards, upside down.  We fear that by the time we work it all out we will be living in someone else’s city.

It’s like ignoring the quiet terror of domestic violence. The victim is too tired to complain, too exhausted to think that there might be another type of relationship. The violence is not so much to the body as to the imagination.   The abuser is drunk on power, forcing her to sell of her grandmother’s jewellery to pay for his grandiose visions.  “But you said you like nice things” he whispers at night.

Or perhaps its the patient and the expert doctor about to undertake another round of emergency operations, they’ve almost lost her so many times, and now her family has to keep working so aren’t there to support her.  She was sick before the accident, so the doctors have decided to try some new techniques.   Trust us the doctor says we are the experts, we are doing everything to get you back to health.  She feels tired, exhausted.  The endless pain killers and aesthetic are effecting her memory, she sometimes forgets what life was like before the accident. Sometimes she gets confused and angry, “What are you doing to my body?” The doctors don’t like seeing their patients get up set, so they’ve largely stopped explaining the complex operations they are doing to her, instead politely returning questions with questions “You want to walk again don’t you?”

What’s this all about you say?  Stop talking in metaphors!  It’s hard because we are still in the fog of war, buildings demolished, news announcements made, plans launched. It’s all a confusing blur.    But there are a few simple and startling truths to start with.

We don’t actually know who is governing us.  Think about what that means.  The Canterbury Earthquake Reconstruction act means we don’t know who has authority over the big decisions in our lives.  The Christchurch City Council seems bewildered by situation, CERA tries to be friendly but is secretive to its core.

The government is in the process of the biggest government buy out of private land in our small nations history.  They claim it is voluntary but it is founded on the thuggish threat that if you don’t sell the government will cut off your power and water, and you won’t be able to insure your house.

The recent government blue print was created with no input from citizens of the city.   Doctors aren’t allowed to do this our bodies, teachers aren’t allowed to do this to our children, so why is this process (which despite their claims goes against contemporary international best practice) allowed in our city?

The government, with our tacit permission, is failing those that we owe most to, our elderly.  It is humiliating and shameful that our elders, our kuia and kaumatua are been left alone to deal with the violent bureaucracy of EQC, insurance companies, and CERA.    If society is measured by how it treats its young and elderly, then we are failing.  It is well known the elderly are strong and resolute in crisis, they understand what it means to put others ahead of themselves, to sacrifice.  But it is also well known that this sacrifice is often too much for an aged body to bear, and it is often the case that many die quickly after the initial strength and resilience.   Plans for the future are nice to things to have, but we shouldn’t forget the reality around us, even if it is hidden behind closed doors.

But this isn’t just about us.  If other ways aren’t articulated, aren’t argued for clear and loud, then this process becomes normal, inevitable.  Then politics has won over people, and your city will be next.   Even now the extraordinary legislation being used in Christchurch that enables cabinet to make executive decisions without the normal checks and balances such as the Resource Management Act has been used as a precedent in the War Memorial Project in Wellington.  Watchout New Zealand, the NZ cabinet urban design team is coming to a city near you!

The stresses of our lives, the focus on holding our own ground in difficult times is making us forget our collective powers.  We only have what we have because at various points in the past others have stood up for our rights, our rights as citizens, as parents, as children, as Maori, as women, as disabled, and even just our right to be human.

Right now there are many groups in New Zealand really fundamentally struggling to live a just life:  the young and poor, the forgotten elderly, and many many burnout and tired people in Christchurch.

Come for a visit, have a walk around and think about what your home town would look like if this happened to you, and think about how others would be able to help you. German Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote a famous poem in the late 30s.

 

First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

 

Dear New Zealand,

This is on you too.

 

Yours,

The Freerange Team in Christchurch.

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