Strange relationships – John Safran meets Te Radar: WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

The appearance of Mr John Safran in Christchurch managed to pack out The Piano venue on Sunday with a fair audience. He was matched with NZ’s very own version of himself, Te Radar Esq., who pointed out that although they both looked very similar, you could easily tell them apart as John was the one with the accent. Unless of course you were from Australia, in which case Te Radar was the one with the accent. Simple really.

Te Radar and John Safran
Te Radar and John Safran. Flickr IMG_2509

Yet simple John’s new book Depends What You Mean by Extremist: Going Rogue With Australian Deplorables is not. In fact it might be claimed that one reason for writing the book was because most other media didn’t like the tangled web of stories John had discovered in his very own Aussie backyard. What he’d found happening in the world of political radicals was not easily reduced by the popular media spotlight to black vs white, or local vs outsiders.

There are many reasons people are in involved in anti-Islam rallies, and it’s not always politics.

In the world of Australian extremist groups things have become very complicated, says John. “Out in the street things are so messed up, it’s hard to pick things apart.”

John has found a very diverse range of cultures and people marching for the reclaim Australia and anti-Islam causes, some of them strange and unexpected bedfellows. An anti-immigrant campaigner with Aboriginal and Italian lineage hanging with white nationalists, a Sri Lankan pastor opposing multiculturalism, and leaders of anti-immigrant rallies opening their speeches by acknowledging the land they were standing on as belonging to the Aboriginal community.

Some have claimed the lack of media interest in John’s stories proves the “bubble” caused by social media and the internet is real, the so-called echo chamber where we only pay attention to things and ideas that meet our world-view and beliefs.

Yet people have always filtered news and read newspapers and magazines selectively. We read what attracts our interest and reading things that don’t fit our understanding of the world can be challenging, so often we don’t. The internet hasn’t created that effect, it’s just made it quicker and easier to achieve – such is the way of computers.

What John has discovered is that thanks to social media on the internet, the “unsayable often becomes normal when repeated over and over”:

The world changed as I was writing the book. The anti-Islam street movement tried to portray the rallies as ‘normal’ not extreme, but I found they were led by some very extreme people. It was like the fringe and alternative had become mainstream or at least mingled up with the mainstream.

John Safran
John Safran. Flickr IMG_2501

Te Radar asked John if he’d become less optimistic about the world as a result of writing the book? John’s response was that he had definitely got a bit paranoid hanging around with extreme people. Ironically he thought that getting out on the streets got him out of the echo chamber that the average person might inhabit.

But the idea that he may be humanising these people by writing about them in a book was not something he was trying to achieve. He is more driven by the comedian and artist in him, not so much the need to be a writer:

I can’t moralise about anything ‘cos I’ve always done something in the past I shouldn’t. But I don’t think people read my book and think the things these groups are saying and doing are ok.

A few questions from the audience stirred things up, with a bit of heckling that just came across as try-hard or even embarrassing. Mostly it was all very civilised and well-behaved. I don’t go to a lot of these events, so maybe that’s normal in Christchurch.

I’ve enjoyed reading the book and it’s definitely an eye opener. And thanks to John seeing the irony in much of what he saw happening, very funny too, although perhaps more in a gallows humour way.

John Safran’s ability to just rock up somewhere Louis Theroux styles and ask people the questions going begging, without being beaten to a pulp, continues to amaze me. An audience member shared the story of the New York commuters cleaning anti-Semitic graffiti from the walls of a train with hand sanitser, and John himself thought that the antidote to all this extremism is just to expose these people to the world.

All of which made me think that maybe John Safran is using humour to wake us up to the way people under our very noses think about the world. Does this make him the comedic hand sanitizer of the Aussie extremist world?

Remembering Norman Kirk

A big man in every sense, Norman Kirk was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1972 to 1974, and leader of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1965 to 1974. He  died on 31 August 1974 and I would like to pay homage and possibly introduce him to another generation of Kiwis.

It’s not a very long period to be Prime Minister and be remembered with such affection and respect by so many and that in part explains the man. He was raised by parents in the Salvation Army and extremely conscious of social injustice and a tireless worker for the downtrodden.

In 1943 aged 20 he joined the Labour Party in Kaiapoi, North Canterbury. By this time the poor student had held down numerous jobs and was already married to Ruth Miller. The young couple bought a piece of land in Kaiapoi but due to a lack of funds and building materials being in short supply post-war, Norm built the bricks and then he built the house. All this time he was working at the Firestone factory in Papanui and cycling to Kaiapoi, doing a stint on the house and home again.

All the while he was pursuing a political career and again by sheer hard work he led a Labour team to victory in the Kaiapoi local body elections and became the youngest Mayor in New Zealand at the age of 30, also being leader of the first Labour Council in Kaiapoi.

In 1954 Norm Kirk stood for Labour in the Hurunui electorate, increasing Labour’s numbers but failed to win the seat. In November 1957 after a physically energetic (door knocking) campaign he won the seat of Lyttelton for Labour, becoming a Member of Parliament in opposition. He held this seat until 1969 when he transferred to the electorate of Sydenham.

It wasn’t until January 1958 that he resigned as Mayor of Kaiapoi and the family (Norm and Ruth had 3 sons and 2 daughters) moved to Christchurch.  The work involved in being Mayor of a town outside Christchurch and the sitting MP of another electorate altogether must have been such hard work, especially for such a man as large as he had become. Partly because of his bulk and a childhood illness his health was never really good but still he worked hard for his beliefs.

Between 1960 and 1965 Big Norm progressed in the Labour Party, and with the backing of several large trade unions he was elected Vice President in 1963 and by December 1965 he was elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.  None of this without hard work and proving himself the right man for the job and a brilliant debater using his bulk and stentorian voice to his advantage.

On 25th November 1972, Labour won the election with a 23 seat majority.  The campaign was Norm’s campaign. The conservative newspaper The Dominion bestowed its ‘Man of the Year’ prize on him for ‘outstanding personal potential for leadership’.  Quite a coup!

Cover of Diary of the Kirk yearsNorman Kirk took a stand: The South African team wanting to tour New Zealand in April 1973  were not racially integrated and the Kirk government refused visas. Pressure was applied to the French to stop testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific, this failed so a frigate was sent to the test area ‘to provide a focus for international opinion against the tests’. This was an activist government the like of which had not been seen in New Zealand for 40 years.

Ever the hard worker, Kirk pushed himself during the two years of his prime ministership, travelling and attending conferences desperate to achieve what his government had promised, all despite suffering with problematic varicose veins, breathing difficulties, blood clots, weight issues and stress. By 1974 the world economy was slowing and oil prices rising and Kirk opposed abortion and homosexual law reform both of which were gaining more recognition with the public. His government’s popularity was waning, but he still had a big personal loyal following.  His health deteriorated further and he was finally persuaded to go to hospital and died of congestive cardiac failure and thromboembolic pulmonary heart disease on Saturday 31 August 1974 aged 51.

There was an enormous outpouring of grief nationally. He had gone before he could truly achieve what we all believed he was capable of. I had voted with proper consideration for the first time during the election of 1972 and felt we had lost a great leader, one not likely to be seen for a long while.  Labour went on to lose the 1975 election to Robert Muldoon’s National government.

Norman Kirk summed up his and the Labour government’s political philosophy as ‘a social programme which will promote the housing of our people, protect their health, and ensure full employment and equal opportunity for all’. What a man and what ideals.

Prime Minister Norman Kirk. Macfarlane, Ian : Negatives of Graham Bagnall and Norman Kirk. Ref: 35mm-00277-b-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22910147
Prime Minister Norman Kirk. Macfarlane, Ian : Negatives of Graham Bagnall and Norman Kirk. Ref: 35mm-00277-b-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22910147

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Podcast – Making a difference

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

What motivates people to ‘make a difference’ – and what actually do we mean by the phrase?
Guests Billy O’Steen (University of Canterbury), Sarah Campagnolo (Volunteering Canterbury and Gap Filler), Teoti Jardine (Volunteering Canterbury and Avon-Otakaro Network) and Jason Pemberton (Student Volunteer Army and Social Enterprise World Forum) debate this fascinating – and somewhat elusive – question, drawing on their huge expertise in the volunteering sector.

  • Part I: Defining ‘making a difference’ – Is it the same as volunteering? Activism? etc.
  • Part II: How can we measure ‘making a difference’? What are the shortfalls of relying on statistics? Ethnicity and volunteering
  • Part III: Demographics and volunteering; guests’ key learnings; encouragement for people to being ‘making a difference’

 

Transcript – Making a difference

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Podcast – Human trafficking

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

One of the major human rights problems facing the world today, human trafficking is a growing – and worldwide – problem. Ralph Simpson from NZ-founded anti-trafficking organisation Nvader, Nikki Prendergast and Michelle Pratt, founders of NZ group Child Labor Free, and anti-trafficking researcher Christina Stringer (the Human Trafficking Research Coalition – ECPAT NZ, Hagar NZ, Stand Against Slavery, and The Préscha Initiative), join Sally to talk about the issue, and our responsibilities in this sphere.

  • Part I: What is human trafficking and who does it affect?
  • Part II: Scale of the problem; motivations for engaging in trafficking
  • Part III: Anti-trafficking measures; what success?; prosecutions, including 2016 prosecution in NZ
  • Part IV: Systems in place to protect victims; suggestions

Transcript – Human trafficking

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Invisible Indians – World Anglo-Indian Day: 2 August

Some of the first Indians to settle in Christchurch were Anglo-Indians. They arrived as domestic servants with John Cracroft Wilson in 1854 where they were employed on his estate which later became the suburb of Cashmere. They married into the local populace and some of their descendants still live in the Canterbury region.

It was a New Zealand Anglo-Indian who, in 2001 at the triennial World Anglo-Indian Reunion held in Auckland, selected 2 August to be a day of celebrating Anglo-Indian culture, culminating in World Anglo-Indian Day.

A pan-Indian community

Anglo-Indians (originally called ‘Eurasians’) are an Indian community who are the descendants of a historical union between a European father and an Indian mother.

The community often traces its initial origins to the arrival of the Portuguese merchants who settled in India in the 16th century. The British were the next major European power to arrive in the subcontinent, with the British East Indian Company gradually expanding their authority beyond the trading ports where they had initially settled. Originally the officials of the Company encouraged their men to marry Indian women. In the early days of the Company, it was common for British men to integrate themselves into Indian culture, with some converting to Islam, adopting Indian fashions and practices, and raising families with their Indian wives, essentially becoming what historian William Dalrymple has termed “White Mughals”.

Major William Palmer with his second wife, the Mughal princess Bibi Faiz Bakhsh, and family. Wikimedia Commons.

Yet by the end of the 18th century attitudes began to change. The loss of the American colonies made the British wary of allowing a community, whose loyalties were not always certain, the responsibility of administering their most prized colonial possession. Measures were taken to restrict Anglo-Indians to lower ranks of the civil service and military in order to prevent them from gaining positions of authority.

By the dawn of the nineteenth century, racism and religious intolerance by the Company board of directors in London also led to the cohabitation of British and Indians being actively discouraged. Relationships between British men and Indian women still continued in secret, but the children were often no longer publicly acknowledged by the father. British regulations meant the Indian mothers had no rights to their children, and many were taken off them and abandoned in orphanages where they were raised to become British and Christian.

During the era of the British Raj (1858-1947), Anglo-Indians often worked in roles where they could act as intermediaries between the British officials and Indian employees. One traditional form of employment reserved for them was the railway department. As such the railway came to play a central role in the identity of Anglo-Indians and even led to the development of certain dishes such as railway mutton curry.

Although they dressed in the manner of the British, had British names and were Christian, they were still not accepted as equals by the British who ruled in India. In order to escape the prejudice they faced, many assimilated into British society by covering up their Indian roots, often attributing their looks to a “Spanish ancestor”. Others, when immigrating to new countries, hid their origins and simply pretended that their family were “British who lived in India”. As a result of this, generations have grown up cut off from their roots and cultural identity.

Because of their identity as subjects of the British Empire, Anglo-Indians continued to arrive in New Zealand throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially in the decades leading up to the independence of India in 1947. Although the community in India is estimated to be between 300,000 to 1,000,000 strong, the diaspora following Independence led to many settling in former British colonies such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Today, many New Zealanders of Anglo-Indian heritage are now reconnecting with their culture and heritage, often in the form of making trips to India for the express purpose to research their family’s origins.

The subject of this ‘renaissance’ of Anglo-Indian identity in New Zealand is currently being researched by Dr. Robyn Andrews of Massey University. The oral histories of Anglo-Indians in New Zealand is also the subject of the book, Raj Days to Downunder by Christchurch based scholar, Dorothy McMenamin (an Anglo-Indian originally from Pakistan). Work has also been undertaken by Dr. Jane McCabe of Otago University who has examined the history of the ‘Kalimpong Kids’, Anglo-Indian children who were brought out to New Zealand in the early twentieth century to work in domestic duties.

Famous Anglo-Indians include writer, Virginia Woolf, comedians, Billy Connolly and Alistair McGowan, and musicians, Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck.

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Podcast – Human rights in the era of Trump

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses Human Rights the era of the Trump presidency specifically –

  • increasingly inward-facing politics
  • the overarching importance of the commercial sector and the impact of economics and equality
  • the disconnect of the political elite from the people they are supposed to represent
  • foreign and domestic policy decisions
  • the role of the media
  • decisions being made about women’s and other’s rights

Preceded by reflections from long-time human rights advocate John Pace, listen as panellists Peter Field (University of Canterbury), Howard Klein and Laurie Siegel-Woodward (expat Americans) and Kevin Clements (National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago) discuss this huge topic.

Transcript – Human Rights in the era of Trump

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Podcast – Child poverty and the Budget 2017

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

Co-host Sara Epperson of CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) joins Sally Carlton to interview Paul Dalziel, Professor of Economics, Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University, and Helen Leahy, CEO of Te Putahitanga, Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency for Te Wai Pounamu, on the Budget 2017 as viewed through the lens of child poverty.

  • Part I: Paul Dalziel
    Budget 2017 in its economic context; key elements of Budget 2017; putting Budget in layperson’s terms
  • Part II: Helen Leahy
    Budget 2017 and its implications for whānau; family vulnerability and resilience
  • Part III: Discussion
    Government-civil society partnerships and the importance of holistic approaches to family wellbeing; pros and cons of statistics-based funding models; prioritising economic growth against other types of growth

Transcript – Child poverty and Budget 2017

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Podcast – 30 years nuclear-free New Zealand

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses the iconic NZ Nuclear-free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987 (which was passed on 8 June 1987) and its impact and repercussions, specifically –

  • Part I: Context and details of the NZ Nuclear-free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987
  • Part II: Importance of the Act for NZ nationally and internationally
  • Part III: Pressures on and work undertaken to maintain the Act over 30 years
  • Part IV: Upcoming UN discussion on Nuclear Ban Treaty and NZ’s position; likely actions and consequences of the 30th anniversary of the Act

Sally Carlton hosts with guests Kate Dewes (Co-Director, Disarmament and Security Centre), Natasha Barnes (Member, Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control) and Kennedy Graham (MP, Green Party, Spokesperson for Global Affairs including Disarmament).

 

Transcript – Nuclear-free NZ

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Haere ra, John (and Fred)

Yet another Kiwi icon passes. But his legend will live on.

John Clarke is someone many of us remember. For me it was as Fred Dagg, singing the immortal song “If it weren’t for your gumboots” played on National Radio storytime. For others it was his incredible skits on farming life and economics.

In later life in Australia, Clarke tried to shed the Fred Dagg persona. He made an indelible mark there with his scathing and incredibly intelligent political satire.

Also claimed by the Manawatu, Clarke was the voice of Wal Footrot in Murrray Ball’s Footrot Flats: The Dog’s Tale. I’d go as far to say John Clarke was Wal Footrot.

He died doing what he loved. And I bet his sharp wit never deserted him.

We didn’t know how lucky we were.

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What are your favourite John Clarke memories?

Podcast – Antarctica

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

The latest episode deals with issues relating to Antarctica:

  • Ice melt
  • Climate science and climate change – ice core research
  • Antarctic Treaty and international cooperation
  • Antarctica as a place – vistas, cold etc
  • The role of New Zealand and Christchurch in Antarctic exploration

This show was recorded at the Centre of Contemporary Art and includes discussion with Bryan Storey of Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, Dan Price (Pole to Paris) and Karen Scott from University of Canterbury Law School.

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