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Well Winnie is up to it again – claiming to be above political showboating by being a political showboat. As many had predicted, the recent police raids have set off a storm of political huffing and puffing across the country.
The thing is that while the Maori party is trying to decry racist actions on behalf of the police and government, the evidence on the ground is rather light. It seems to be a case of trying to pre-empt any backlash that may arise.
What they haven’t counted on is Winston Peter’s ability to spot the political hot topics that mainstream New Zealand is concerned about and then exploit it to gain their support. Darn it if he hasn’t hit upon a formula and knows how to use it.
Some of what he has said has a certain agreeability to it – and his Maori heritage wont be hurting his cause either. Here is Winston standing before White Middle Class New Zealand saying “look, I learnt to join the group and be a New Zealander first. I understand you.”
His party may look dire in the polls – but this is not uncommon for NZ First. What the Maori Party needs to learn is to play the MMP game the way Winston does. He’s a survivor and knows how to negotiate to keep in parliament.
Personally, I find him an odious man – but I do think that he’s got it right. This is not about racism, but rather it is about generating a new kind of racism.
What I don’t agree with is his view that there shouldn’t be a Maori Party. I feel that Maori have genuine issues culturally and historically, and we live in a country where certain promises were made by the founders of our nation. The Maori need to have someone who represents their concerns in parliament. But they need leaders who will negotiate and talk. Not stand up and threaten or demand. The Maori Party could benefit from finding some allies to help build a future for Maori that is inclusive with the rest of the country.
Winston is no stranger to playing the racism game in politics – if Pita and Turia think they can win by taking on his comments, then they seriously have underestimated his understanding of politics. Their current statements are feeding seperatist thinking and worrying a large number of New Zealanders. Winston Peters knows this and is willing to manipulate it to get his party back in the spotlight.
Rather than targetting the police, Winston Peters or Government – maybe they need to look at how Tame Iti and friends have damaged Maori Mana. Regardless of their guilt, Tame Iti and his friends actions were stupid enough to stir up a hornets nest of trouble that has lowered views of Maori activists and environmentalists across the country. Hell, more people marched for Destiny Chruch’s anti Civil Union protests than for the Urewera 17.
That should be concerning. Most New Zealanders want resolution, regardless of race. For that to happen, we all need to stop going to the knee-jerk reactions and start thinking about how to help each other and compromise. The Maori Party is in the position to start the move to reconciliation – but for that to happen they need to stop trying to play the racism argument at every opportunity, and start thinking about how Maori interests can unify with the rest of the nation rather than work against it.
This can be aided by working to educate NON-Maori in Maori culture. Learning to communicate why such issues as the Foreshore and Seabed aren’t necessarily a threat to non-Maori. Show how money from treaty settlements have helped Iwi become a part of the nation – for example, my boss is involved with several groups that have wisely invested money to generate Maori owned and operated businesses that benefit both Iwi and the country.
Conan

Currently Reading: Promethean: The Created
Currently Playing: Nothing yet.

Mood: Worried about the state of the country…

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Today I saw the small gathering of activists in Midland Park, as they warmed up to protest against the arrest of the Urewera 17. In an interesting karmic twist, the weather in Wellington did not seem to approve of their gathering.

Groups marched all over the country as part of a unified plan set up by such groups as Civil Rights Defence. Which is an interesting example of how a fringe group of activists continue to spread misinformation to rally global support. This is a manipulation of sympathies and political capital. It is interesting to note their messages of support – there is no place for dissent with their view, no attempt to reasonably debate the issue at hand. Most concerning is how they have deliberately misrepresented events so that genuine groups overseas will voice support without having any true information about proceedings.

It sickens me to see educated people who claim to be looking out for our civil rights acting in what seems to me to be a very self-serving agenda. Very few of the people I have seen support the Urewera 17 have come across as genuinely concerned about the rights of New Zealanders – they all seem to be more concerned with looking like they care about the rights of New Zealanders.

They tend to be of that set of people who become vegetarian and eco-friendly so that they can lord it all over everyone else about how morally superior they are. It’s kind of perverse.

Worst still, they are making wild speculations based on police actions over twenty years ago. Not forgetting that the people in charge now are different people, and that the laws of the land have changed to prevent such events happening again. But then activism is rarely reasonable. It’s passion and belief that makes people become activists.

The problem is when you don’t really have a cause to fight for. Most of these people have had to rely on amnesty international causes to support – writing stern letters and essays.

Now they have something they can stand up for – it seems to me that nobody cares whether the Urewera 17 are actually guilty or not. They have been wanting to blame someone for something – yay! Now the police are picking on activists. It’s Pol Pott! It’s Nazism! It’s Police State!

But wait. The police weren’t targetting activists in general. Nobody has stopped these protests or tried to break them up. Nobody burnt any activist literature or closed down any sites.

Now Myanmar – that’s a police state where they shut down access to the internet across the country, imprisoned anyone who protested and abducted people in the middle of the night for no reason. Nobody is allowed to voice an opposing opinion.

Let’s get this very clear. We do not live in a police state. Our civil rights are firmly entrenched in law. Even now the government is not 100% comfortable with the proposed anti-terror laws and they are doing what is expected of them – measuring up how important it is to place them into law or not. There have been plenty of opportunities to speak on it, and many have.

The police did not commit these arrests on some flimsy charge. If they had, the courts would have thrown out the cases and the Urewera 17 wouldn’t be in jail. Unless you buy into some BS conspiracy theory. The reality that Civil Rights Defence needs to grow up and face is that the Urewera 17 may just actually be guilty as sin. They should wait to see if the courts deem them guilty, which the Police must prove. The 17 don’t have to prove their innocence, just defend themselves against any proof that the police present.

Given the stupidly flimsy excuses that Jamie Lockett has spouted, I’m very curious to know what the police evidence is. The fact that it is so sensitive to the cases that judges have deemed that it must remain suppressed until the cases go to trial gives me reason enough to believe that it is likely to be very damning evidence.

Activism has its place in society – we do need people to watch out for tyrants and liars. But when those people become such manipulative, emotive liars themselves – it is a bad day for this country. Until Police start arresting protesters, shooting into crowds of innocents and shutting down sites that question their actions – then Civil Rights Defence is living a lie.

These people were arrested for legitimate reasons. They broke the law. The fact that they were hiding in activist groups does not equate to the police deliberately seeking to quiet activism. Given that these groups had not been particularly vocal in the last year or so, hell most of us were unaware of them until the raids, suggests to me it had nothing to do with the groups and everything to do with the individuals arrested.

But then I’m passionate about being reasonable and rational. And about thinking of others and not my own selfish need for moral validation – which I feel some of these people are quite guilty of.

Conan

Currently Reading: Sidereals
Currently Playing: naught
Mood: Not impressed with some activist groups hysterical hyperbole.

If you ever thought that Firefly was an example of poor programme planning on the part of a network, you then have missed out on an even better series – Freaks and Geeks – which managed to garner the title of one of TIME magazine’s best television series ever, and yet was cancelled after eighteen episodes.

Part of the problem lies in the series being slot into the lost zone of late evening/night screening. Why? Who knows. But due to perceived low interest in the series it was canned. Which is probably a good thing, because without that happening Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan might never had made the brilliant 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up (which remains the funniest film of 2007 in my humble opinion.)

What makes Freaks and Geeks so cool? Well, much the same elements that make Knocked Up so brilliant a film. Judd Apatow is the rare producer/director/writer who knows that a quality show is not made by one man, but by a whole group of talented people with a passion for the series. Rather than cast big names in the series, he pushed to get unknowns who actually fitted the roles. He got writers, directors and crew who were professional and creative.

This and his talent for finding the humour in everyday life guarantees that this is a consistently funny show. Freaks and Geeks doesn’t try to win you over with its humour, the gags come fast and out of the blue – letting you either get it or miss it. Humour lies in realistic set ups, nothing is implausible – even when dealing with the more eccentric characters of the world.

Stand-out performances from every cast member along with wry editing and shot construction make the whole series just one memorable moment after the next.

Set in the early eighties, it tells the story of two groups of friends as seen through the eyes of Lindsay and her younger brother, Sam. Lindsay has grown tired of her academic lifestyle, and following her grandmother’s death she tries to strike out and make her own way in life rather than follow the path laid out for her by her family. In doing so she befriends the “Freaks” of the school. The dope-heads and drop-outs. Despite her intelligence and success at school, she finds a common bond with them.

Sam, on the other hand, finds himself labelled a Geek along with his two friends Neal and Bill (two of the geekiest guys you could ever meet…) However he is madly in love with one of the school cheerleaders, Cindy.

Each episode gently follows from the last, cleverly setting up jokes that sometimes pay-off only two or three episodes down the track – while having a sympathetic and real approach to each character. Despite the initial stereotypical characters, we soon learn that they have a lot of depth to them. As Henley, my brother, pointed out – each episode looks at cliches of the high-school milieu and then takes it somewhere you didn’t expect it to go.

Brilliant. Watch it. Love it.

Love and Huggles

Conan

Currently Reading: Sidereals
Currently Playing: Nothing
Mood: Loving the geeks…

Well my ill-temper over this Urewera issue continues to hang around. I find it interesting that most of the people who have seen the evidence have remained convinced that the police handled things correctly, and that they have chosen to keep this evidence and reasoning from the public until trials are convened.

This is a serious thing to choose to do, and it isn’t something that the courts do lightly. The media is stirring up a shit-storm about race relations (always a favourite when news is light) but absolutely no evidence has come to light to prove this.

Police have arrested people from a number of different backgrounds and ethnicities. Their links lie in fringe political, activist and environmentalist groups – but all that shows is that they have figured that such groups are good to hide in and can harbour potential candidates for their causes – whatever they may be.

This isn’t necessarily a terrorist cause either – if you were wanting to start a Maori Sovereignty activism group, these are the kinds of people who are likely to be sympathetic to your cause.

However, no evidence suggests that this is a concerted police conspiracy. The reason for this is because the courts are not behooven to the police and given the highly political nature of the situation would have only chosen to keep things quiet due to some compelling and concerning evidence. To ensure that these people get a fair and just trial, that evidence needs to be kept as clear from contamination of opinion as possible – meaning that if the media were to print it prematurely, jury’s could be swayed into a biased position.

But certain activist and political groups don’t seem to care for facts – they are only interested in decrying racism and police-state tactics. Bollocks.

This hysteria has spread across the globe now thanks to groups like the “civil movement of Aotearoa” on facebook. Indigenous people are not being bullied or having their rights removed – most Maori realise this too. A particular group who have had a history of antagonism and self-serving protest under the false guise of “solidarity” have stepped up again and tried to blame the government, police and anyone else they can of some truly outrageous claims that betray a serious lack of understanding about how justice works in this country.

Nobody has thought to blame those who have been arrested of being so stupid as to cause the police to raid the community through their own illegal and self-serving actions. Nobody has stopped to give Tame Iti a well-deserved dressing down for potentially bringing danger to the Tuhoe through his irresponsible and selfish actions.

No – the police take action based on the information they have gathered about Tame Iti and friend’s activities, which the local community were not fully aware of. But it is the police who are held to blame.

This hysteria has to stop. It is irrational and neither helps those who have been arrested nor anyone in the country. It is shameful to accuse anyone of racial prejudice especially when many of the people arrested were of a mixture of ethnic backgrounds. So much so that it makes all the wild tales coming out of the area as a little exaggerated by people who want us to sympathise with them against the big bad police.

But the evidence simply does not support these stories. That’s the blunt truth of the matter. As was pointed out by an excellent column in the Dominion Post on Friday, violent protest against the state of New Zealand is somewhat insincere when there has never been a Bloody Sunday like repression of the people.

When I consider that my current employer is a Maori businessman who successfully heads several Maori community boards and companies which all generate considerable wealth for their people. Who has a university education and can do whatever he pleases. How the man who co-owned the business with him was also a highly successful Maori businessman whose daughter has excellent university education and is researching and studying Te Reo as a living and growing language – I find the accusations of a state repressing indigenous people as a little hard to swallow.

Things aren’t perfect – but they have been getting better, and the government has for the last decade been working tirelessly to help improve relations. Most Maori know this, and they work hard to be a part of New Zealand as well as teach New Zealand what it is to be Maori. They are the people who spearhead the future of Maori culture in a positive light.

They understand that we’re all in this together and only by learning to understand each other can we move forward – not by making outrageous demands or hiding behind ethnicity. These people haven’t allowed themselves to have a hysterical hatred of society, but rather have chosen to stand up and be proud of their heritage and to share it with society. To work with other people to benefit their families and culture as well as the greater New Zealand.

And they are the people who in cases as this one, believe that one should wait to see what the evidence is before harping off at the government or police or anyone else.

It may turn out that the Police did over-react. But it might also turn out that there really was a militia being trained to serve an anarchistic goal that each group was intending to exploit.

Until the evidence is revealed, we should wait and see – not decry foul play. It has been a week. As has been pointed out by others – in a true Police State, these people would just disappear. But they haven’t. We know where they are, we know that they will be charged with further cases soon, and we know that their cases will be before the courts in short time.

Until there is evidence, I refuse to accept that this is some conspiracy or politically motivated white-wash. There is more historical evidence that suggests there is good reason for these people to be put through the process. They had illegal firearms. There were witnesses who were threatened by armed militia. We now know that the SIS were involved. I believe there is enough evidence to suggest that this needs to go to court and be tested.

And I believe that given the seriousness of the crimes, the police were right in acting swiftly and efficiently. If a few windows got smashed – that is a reasonable price to pay instead of risking a potential gunfight, or loose anarchists with an axe to grind.

Conan

Currently Reading: Lunars 2nd Ed
Currently Playing: Nothing
Mood: Still short of a suitable icon for how grumpy these people are making me.

Henley and I went and saw the much talked about NZ comedy film Eagle Versus Shark last night, finally.

For those not in the know, it is the story about drippy-but-cute Lily and her romantic adventure to find love with Jarrod, the absolutely useless and seemingly irredeemable twat who works in the video store up the mall from her. Initially blinded by love, a trip to see his family becomes a subtle battleground between the two of them for attention.

Ultimately we find what it is that Lily sees in Jarrod, but I have to admit that for the majority of the film I just hated the guy unconditionally. He was the epitome of self-centred, arrogant and deluded. But he does come around in the end… kind of.

So what did I think of the film. Well it suffered from the awkwardness that so many NZ films deliberately aim for. Not so pretentiously as it could have, but what it ended up doing was making the film less appealing than it could have been. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it mostly, and there were funny moments – but good comedy it wasn’t. More often I found the best moments were not carried by the leads but some of the secondary cast – and the awkward tone of the film made the first half almost agonising to sit through. In fact, if it hadn’t introduced Lily’s brother when it did, I was getting tempted to just walk out of the cinema.

This whole aim at making the audience uneasy and uncomfortable was great back in the day when NZ film-making was all self-reflecting and searching for an identity – it worked for such serious films like Sleeping Dogs, Vigil, The Quiet Earth – but NZ comedy has always fallen flat on cinema because of this style of film-making. Via Satellite, Goodbye Porkpie, even Came a Hot Friday (one of my favourites…) – NZ film-makers need to understand that there is more to comedy and, frankly, more to NZ’s identity than this.

Eagle Vs Shark felt, to me, like a great big step backwards for NZ comedy films. Seriously. It just wasn’t as funny as it could have been. But maybe I’m just being a bit harsh – I just felt that with the amount of characterisation given, there could have been a better way to tell its story.

Maybe I feel that it is time for NZ film-makers to grow out more – redefine what it is to make a film in NZ.

I think one of the reasons that comedy suffers in New Zealand lies in how we train our actors. I’ve been watching Freaks and Geeks, by the brilliant Judd Apatow – who knows how to get the most out of performances. Most importantly his films and shows identify that the visual media is not a stage. Stage acting is the anathema of good film.

To act on screen a person needs to either be natural or hyper natural. People need to talk like real people, and not annunciate every word. New Zealand television and film performances are a bit of a mixed bag – with many good actors, and a lot of bad television actors who are better on stage.

There is a fault in the mannersims given – on television you get NZ actors who either do nothing but deliver their lines with minimum facial reaction, or go too over the top and look terribly uncomfortable and self-conscious when they do it. As if to apologise to the viewer.

Not that Eagle Vs Shark suffered too much of this – if anything it was too awkward and understated, and I feel that was a lot to do with the director and the style chosen.

All in all, I just wish I could see an NZ comedy that kept me laughing rather than squirming in my seat during the obligatory “serious bits.”

Maybe I’ve just become a serious Apatow school of comedy guy – where humour is found in the everyday, and where even during the most serious and heart-touching moment we still find something to laugh about. That is good comedy.

Conan
Currently Reading: Sidereals 2e
Currently Playing: Nothing
Mood: Getting ready to write his own scripts…

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