4.11.13

pain, pleasure, poetry

The last year has been tumultuous for me. I experienced significant changes that shook the foundations of the life I had created for myself. Also, at the beginning of the year I began to see a counsellor. It is interesting how being the recipient of counselling or a mental health service changes your own perception of such things - I preciously had considered myself as someone very accepting of anyone struggling with mental health issues. I work with such people, and also with people who have intellectual disabilities, and I have never considered anyone as being defined as any less worthy because of their illnesses. However, as soon as I began counselling and started to talk about the dark days I'd been experiencing, my own self-perception changed and I immediately felt ashamed of publicising my struggles. Blogging has previously been an outlet for my thoughts and struggles - now I was scared to say too much, and reveal the extent of my sadness. I talked to those close to me about such feelings; but after the initial conversation, I shut myself off from further vulnerability, terrified of being defined by my weaknesses. While I am well aware that having a cold or another physical illness is not definitive to my identity, I could not convince myself that having an unnameable, undiagnosed emotional or mental health issue was the same. I felt like I needed to make it more invisible, so then maybe it would go away altogether.

In the last 6 months I have made considerable progress in managing and feeling positive about life and my choices in life. Every 3 weeks or so I spend a few days battling the reality that I must get out of bed, and I must face the world. But the struggle to function becomes a little easier every time. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are supportive of me, whether or not I tell them how I feel.

This month I have submitted a poetry portfolio to apply for a summer workshop to develop my writing skills and to - hopefully - take my poetry further. One of the poems I included was first time I have publicly written about this journey. It was liberating to put my experiences on to paper; a validation of my own struggles, a way to turn them in to something positive. The following poem is that which I submitted - perhaps someone out there can identify with my own experiences.



          Untitled


          Life could be richer than the words 

          That drip thickly from her fingers’ tips.

          Quicker than the scratching nib that

          Etches letters arthritically 

          In to the pallor of not-quite-white paper.

          She remembers seeing life in high-vis colour,

          Beauty nestled in every crevice and every fold.

          The articulation of such wonders dripping daily

          From rosebud lips.



          But lately, such richness of breath

          Has felt as heavy as the rain clouds

          That press down on her temples –

          And the crevices seem ever deeper,

          Digging split nails in to the soft flesh of scarred palms.






.

30.5.13

I Am Not A Hostage: experiences of sexuality from a Christian feminist.

Feminism and Christianity have a historically tense relationship. I have been told by Christians that “That stuff [feminism] is all very nice, but sometimes you need to be more feminine and learn to not have such strong opinions.” I have feminist friends who have told me that in claiming to be both feminist and Christian I am essentially suffering from Stockholm syndrome. In their eyes, I am a grateful hostage in an archaic system of patriarchy, devoid of agency. It is important here to distinguish between the people who practice Christianity, and the Church itself as a historical institution. Few Christian individuals are themselves aiming to reinforce misogyny; It is instead the wider doctrine of institutional Christianity rooted in a historically Greco-Roman theology that promotes such ideas. Despite such glaring differences of opinion, feminism and Christianity do in fact agree on one thing; the importance of sexuality.

I write this essay, extracted from one of my university papers, not in an attempt to merely dissect gender roles in church, but to encourage critical engagement with such issues. My reference to 'sexuality' is not merely a synonym for sex, or sexualisation - it is important to define these words because while I believe that sexuality is a socially taboo topic that needs to be discussed more, I do not include in its definition the ever-present sexualisation of both women and men in mainstream media culture. Sexualisation is a distortion of sex, a tool used to maximise profit and to reinforce oppressive physical and sexual ideals. Sexuality, on the other hand, is a foundational part of every persons identity and a powerful tool in the empowerment of many men and women. As a woman, I am only able to write about my own gendered experiences, and I certainly don't claim authority over either feminist theory, Christian theology or sexuality.



Where Did I Come From?

My own experiences of sexuality as a feminist and a Christian have been shaped both by my family, and by my interactions with the Baptist church. I grew up in a household that was not religious, nor did it ever really fit in to typical domestic/gendered stereotypes. My father, a feminist “to a degree”, was a writer and worked from home, made a cooked breakfast for the family every morning and dropped me off to school clutching a packed lunch. My mother, a more vocal feminist, is a teacher who worked from 8am until 5:30pm, managed to slip notes in to my lunchbox each week and share the cooking with my father. 

One of my earliest memories is of reading a book entitled Where Did I Come From? which detailed the reproductive process in detail through the use of cartoons. My mother would have long conversations with my sister and I about sex and consent, the importance of protection and contraception, the roles of respect and reciprocity. I recall my first sex-education class in school when I was 12. I was underwhelmed; instead of the realistic anatomical and relational information imparted by my mother that painted a portrait of love and sex being constructive, empowering experiences, I was instead presented with crude animations of over-emotional girls with PMS and hormonal boys ruled by testosterone and a lack of intelligence. It was at this point that I was first conscious of normative gender roles in society. I wondered why girls’ sexual experiences were presented as trivial and something to be hidden or ashamed of, while boys were seen as overtly sexual and overbearing creatures to be reined in. Perhaps by then my mother had already shaped me in to a small, opinionated feminist. 

It was in this context that I first encountered Christianity. I was invited to a church that my friend attended; a feisty 14 year old, fiercely resistant and yet worryingly vulnerable to the pressures and expectations of teenage years. The Baptist church has subscribed traditionally to a theology in which men and women occupy different yet complementary gendered roles. Women represent the emotional, men the physical. Such complementarianism in fact advertised a very masculine and heteronormative theology. The God of the Bible is read in the masculine. Eve is Adam’s “helpmeet”, a sidekick, if you will. Heterosexual marriage is seen as the only context in which sexuality may be safely expressed, and in such a relationship the husband has a clear mandate from the church to be the “head” of his wife and to lead her, as expressed by Ephesians 5:2 - “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” I realised the prevalence of these roles when I once jokingly said to my friends parents that my mother “wore the pants” in her marriage. I was made to feel as if my parents were somehow partaking in an Unholy Union, that my mother was a bit Radical, that talking of gender roles in relationships was Inappropriate. I now know that my upbringing wasn’t radical, nor was my experience of complementarian theology representative of all faith/gender understandings.

Preparing for my future husband

As a woman in the church, the most valuable asset I owned was my sexual purity, and even then it was not completely my own; it belonged in an abstract way to the man who would one day marry me. Conversations about dating would often turn to praying for future husbands, that they and we would retain our untouched purity until we married them (in many of our cases, praying for forgiveness was as close as we could get). Ephesians 5:3 was a common mantra; “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” 

I recall being 17 and listening to a sermon on purity. The speaker, a male in his late 20’s, spent the hour preaching about the pornography industry, the temptations of promiscuity and the benefits of abstinence. However, the entire hour was dedicated to men’s own experiences of sexuality. It was implicit in his speech that he regarded women as holy temples not to be marked, let alone thought that as teenagers surrounded by religious pressure to avoid any expression of sexuality, women may struggle with forming and making sense of their own sexual identity. Thus, having grown up in a context of openness and frankness regarding sexuality, I found myself being idealised as a blameless bride and was enveloped in guilt and shame at my deviance from such a model.

Thoughts from the Castle

After a year studying theology in my hometown of Auckland, I moved to Wellington to pursue my bachelor’s degree and it was in this little city that I grew in to a comfortable understanding of sexuality. After spending my first year in a Christian hostel, I moved in to a house that was a part of a faith based intentional community involved with social justice issues in Wellington. I view this period as having been formational in the deconstruction and reconstruction of my Christian faith and in my discovery of feminism.

I live with 9 other flatmates and common dinner conversations revolve around Christian faith, politics, environmentalism and feminism. While living here, for the first time in my life I experienced a freedom in being able to explore faith and feminism in an accepting environment. Many of my flatmates held conflicting opinions about the Marriage Amendment Act when it was being read in Parliament. Some of my flatmates err more on the conservative Christian side of the debate, while many others object to the train of thought that equates non-heternomormative sexuality with sin. These debates reinforced my relief at having come to a place of critical engagement with my faith and acceptance of queer sexualities. When I look back and think of Ross, my father’s best friend who was gay, I can see that I was confused and torn between acceptance in church, and the relationships with my family and friends that didn’t fit in to church ideals. Towards the end of his battle with cancer Ross attended a large, queer-friendly church in Auckland. The last time I saw him before he died was when my father and I visited him in his hospice. He noticed that I was wearing a cross pendant as a necklace, and started up a conversation about God which took me by surprise. I can see now that I was a teenager trying to make sense of the world around me, perhaps finding comfort in the systems and boundaries that the church provided. 

Many feminists have discussed the importance of phenomenology and the lived bodily experience of women, especially in relation to sexuality. The lived experience of sexuality is central to the formation of a woman’s personal identity, and also sexuality in relation to reproductive potential is hugely influential on her social identity. I would take this further and say that given sexuality is a central factor in the subordination of women - a means through which gender differences are reinforced and historically a way in which women have been controlled by men - a feminist understanding of sexuality cannot be realised unless from a phenomenological perspective. Parsons (1991) describes Christian attitudes to the body and to sex as flavoured throughout by the notion of renunciation. Women experience their own bodies as good, but are taught to understand them as dangerous, or only good within conditional boundaries, thus accepting a view of themselves which is not their own. As a woman in the church I was taught to think as a disembodied being; the flesh was advertised as sinful, and to transcend it in pursuit of holiness involved denying it’s desires and the legitimacy of its experiences. It was almost a relief to be able to escape from the confusing turbulence of my teen years and the sexual pressures evident in my high school culture to a place where my body did not necessarily represent who I was – perhaps I was in a way grateful to my captor for freeing me from the messiness of dealing with such ‘messy’ issues of identity.

Yes: acceptance

I do struggle to reconcile my recently empowered and critically aware self with the girl inside me that still reverts back to sex gender dichotomies in cases of uncertainty, but I believe that this is a part of the struggle to create a space outside of dominant religious discourse. Sexuality is central to human identity and my sexuality is my choice, made not as a hostage of a patriarchal institution, but as a culturally and historically placed woman exercising agency over her body. I think that it is hugely important to critically analyse and question the assumptions about gender that we grow up with, and are constantly surrounded by. The outcome of my journey has created a space for me, somewhere in between discourses of feminism and discourses of religion, where sexuality as a female is distinctly flavoured by both ideologies. The following poem by Kaylin Haught (1995) sums up my feelings very well:

God Says Yes To Me

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes



Parsons, Susan. (1991). Feminist Reflections on Embodiment and Sexuality. Studies in Christian Ethics, 4(16), 16-28.
Haught, Kaylin. (1995). God Says Yes To Me. In Kowit, Steve, The Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop. Tilbury House Publishers: MA.

28.5.13

[vague thoughts]

It is so cold.
The wind is once again charging through Wellington, finding her way in to the tiniest cracks and crevices. Fingers retreat in to jacket sleeves. Chins burrow in to scarves and collars. Palms are warmed against the ceramic sides of a coffee mug. 


I am both anxious and ecstatic  I am in the midst of many assessments, and have never been particularly good at managing stress in such times. Also, I am at the point where I sleep with 4 blankets on my bed, and it's so cold that I never want to get out of bed in the morning. On the other hand, my sister is moving down to Wellington for 5 months to go to the NZ Police training college. Reunited once again! 

I find the idea of my sister living close by (compared to the previous 7 hour drive, a train ride to Porirua is an improvement) and becoming a part of my life so exciting, but also somewhat entertaining; I love that she will have to opportunity to get to know my flatmates, to come over for dinner and be a part of our community. However, I am struck by a tension regarding my sister who is going to be a police officer, contrasted with my friends and acquaintances at Stillwaters. I grew up with a very middle-class understanding of the police as a group to be trusted and relied on for protection. Despite this, given the various vague criminal connections of many of the people are a part of the wider community of Stillwaters and my brief soiree at Law school, in the last few years I have developed something of a cynical view of the Police and the role they play in a fundamentally flawed bureaucratic legal system. Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the need for the law, and I think that many police are amazingly courageous, hard-working and well-meaning individuals. I am, however, not so understanding of a legal system that perpetuates institutional racism and ideals of punitive justice. So, in light of this, I am (perhaps naively) hoping that through my sisters own experiences in the police with restore some of my faith in the people who enforce New Zealand's law. 

Nonetheless, I am so proud of her! And looking forward to introducing her to my favourite parts of this beautiful city that, at the moment, is enveloped in the icy breathe of the Southerly.


p.s. I am currently writing a reflective essay on my experiences of sexuality as both a Christian and a feminist for one of my papers. I am planning on posting a short version up here when it is finished...just to get you'se all waiting on the edges of your seats in suspense!

18.4.13

I surrender.

Three words that hang heavy in my heart,
that struggle for release yet catch on my tongue;
I realise now
after a lifetime of servitutde
the God I served wasn't you.
And now in this lonely place
as the ashen night glides over silver-line skies,
Orion kisses the day good bye
and my yearning for those three words spills over my heart
and on to my lips;
"I surrender all."

Though I know not who you are,
though we have met truly but a few times...
they say you are full of power,
they say you are true,
they say you are a quickened spirit,
that makes all things new.

If this is so,
will you have me?
Would you heal a lopsided girl,
broken for love found and lost,
hoping for resurrection,
who's heart scrapes the asphalt
alongside a weeping man?
I've heard of your deeds,
those suffered for my heart.
Will you coax those little words from me?
Surrendering, a faltering start.

4.4.13

A bird.


A bird.

These earrings, to me, are a symbol of hope. A gift from a friend, an interim dream. A clasped hand, a remembering of what is real, what is possible, what is known. An embrace and an encouragement.


Today I was brave. We don't give ourselves the credit we deserve for our efforts often enough. For some, just getting out of bed is an effort. For others, maintaining a standard of integrity and honesty is an effort. For many, learning to be okay with who they are and what they stand for is an effort. For me, the effort lies in continuing to live in the light and refusing to let the shadows take over my day.

But we take baby steps, we seek support and love from others, we seek to support and love others. And one day we will smile and congratulate ourselves on being brave and overcoming our fears, "our sun will never set again and the moon will cease to wane."

Keats said, “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?" I find this so comforting. We all seek what it means to be fully human, to understand the world around us and the consequences of our existence. So many people are terrified for admitting that they struggle. So many people get up in the morning and sit in front of the mirror, painstakingly painting on a face of perfection to display to the world. We weave intricate webs, living in the tension between honesty and deception, self-assurance and self-doubt, confidence and fragility. We yearn for the light yet we are afraid of the holes and the imperfections that it will shine upon. And so we live in the middle, hoping for reassurance with lips shut and eyes shining. We are afraid to admit our trials and tribulations, yet we are also aware that they are but a step in our journey towards the common soul, the shared experience.

So here it goes. 

I struggle. 
You struggle. Your neighbour struggles. Mother Theresa struggled. Mahatma Ghandi struggled. Osama Bin Laden struggled. Jesus struggled. Superman struggled! Your children, your mother, your brothers, your friends struggle. We all struggle.

But if you look at the very word long enough; if you roll it around on your tongue, feeling and tasting it's precarious awkwardness, you will realise that it isn't so powerful after all.

In fact, it's a funny-looking word.

Struggle. Struggle struggle struggle. It is merely a verb. To strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance. An action. An achievable action. A universal action. A common action. We struggle. We overcome. And we celebrate. The we do it all over again having learned some lessons and having to relearn some more. It is but a part of life, a part of the schooling of an intelligence and the creation of a soul.

So let us celebrate the victories! Let us celebrate the milestones and fears that we overcome in order to become better people. Today, I was brave. And that is something to be proud of. What are you celebrating today?

29.3.13

Remembering Nana

Wind blown flowers litter the checker-board grave markers that climb heavily up the hillside, eventually courting the fence line and abruptly turning in to a field of golden gorse flowers that explode in rapture as they meet the sky. Wind turbines, looming and graceful, spinning endlessly amongst powdered clouds rushing overheard, pushed by a northerly eager to envelope the earth. Ragged hillsides stretch and bend over the horizon, corners falling off here and there, roots of trees clinging precariously to the dried out soil. A woman with a rag cloth lovingly wipes headstones, murmuring orthodox prayers and weeping for someone she once knew. Panagakos, Athanasiou, Stathopoulos, Gabris, Tavoularis - last names scratched in granite, claiming the heritage of the elders. Greece has taken over this small plot of land on the southern coast of Te Ika a Māui, a stamp-sized memory of those who sailed on this very wind.


Today I visited the Greek Orthodox section of Makara cemetery with a friend, in search of her parents graves. There is some kind of peace that hangs around cemeteries. A sadness and a loss, but also an affirmation that, despite the inevitability of life ending, there is a resilience within humanity. We remember the dead, we place flowers on graves, we trim the grass and pave the paths that lead to their final resting place. We continue to live on; in the memories of those who loved us, in the letters etched on our gravestone, in the grass that grows over us. And as we share memories of our loved ones with one another - this is where he worked, that is the house that we lived in, once when I was a child, he told me a secret... - we remember them a little clearer, a little brighter, with a little more warmth. We are but a monument, worn down by time, but we were once here.

It reminded me of my Nana, who has been gone for 4 years now. She was a bright, lively, loving, generous, sharp-tongued woman who could keep her huge family in line with one word. She constantly gave all she could to us, and she looked after us no matter what. When I visited her open casket, a scared 16 year old with a broken heart, I slipped a note in to her hand (I don't know if I was allowed to do that, but I did anyway). I guess a part of me wanted her to be sure of how I felt about her. And now, thinking back, the story reminds me of how powerful relationships are. Whanaungatanga. We yearn to spend all our days with those we love, and we mourn them when we can't. But when we dig a little deeper, we see that we don't need a note slipped in to a casket to remember - because there is something in all of us that connects us, a compassion, an empathy, that cannot be dulled as the years slip by.



I am worth more than the children I bear.

I wrote this poem about a year ago, then forgot about it until I stumbled upon it today. Women and (dis)empowerment is a topic particularly close to my heart. Interestingly enough, finding this poem again coincided with discovering a clip of this spoken word poem by Katie Makkai. Her words contain so much power.

     I am worth more than the children I bear;
     there is no weakness presupposing me
     no male superimposing
     SHE
     is worth more 

     than the world would like to care.

     I am worth more than the length of my hair;
     more than the length of my dress
     or the cling of my shirt
     or the state of undress
     you imagine. 

     At the least,
     I am above
     being below.

     For she comes to life, lives in strife and bears the strikes
     only to fear her death, for who will remember?
     She was only a wife.
     The children we give life to?
     Tell them baby, you gotta fight right through
     to the end.

     And if I had a little girl,
     I’d tell her all about this world…
     This world that claims her worth
     as diamonds and pearls,
     yet smirks, lips curled
     in disdain.

     Oh, it sure ain’t fair!

     But I’d tell my baby not to fear
     her golden eyes will open wide,
     fingers stretched, arms alive.
     ‘Cause she’ll be worth
     more than the children
     she bears.





13.2.13

{to all you old souls}

An interesting fact about Valentines day for you - Saint Valentine, who supposedly lived in the third century and was martyred on the 14 February, is the patron saint of courtly love. Fittingly, his flower-crowned skull is exhibited  in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.

Nina has my heart this Valentines day.



The argument against asset sales

This post is sourced from Brent Sheather, writing for the New Zealand Herald, and can be found in its original form on the Herald's Business section. The partial (49%) sale of many of New Zealand's State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) has been the hot topic of the current electoral term, and has split much of Aotearoa down the middle. I have been wanting to write my thoughts down for a while but instead, I find that this article is succinct, well researched and frank, and most likely better than any post I would be able to write. I'm currently reading Kim Standfords 'Economics for Everyone' and it is interesting to note the prevailing idea that a capitalist/'market economy' philosophy is the only 'true' economy possible, a philosophy (almost, I would argue, a religion) that has fueled much of the asset sale dialogue. I would encourage everybody to do their research on economics and economic history - it's high time that us 'plebs' realised the importance of the economy in our everyday lives, the importance of us in the health of the economy, and the role we can play in reshaping and reviving it.





Whilst the problems in Europe are making the headlines, the elephant in the room is what Longview Economics labels "The Definancialization of the West". Longview reckons that, for example, the total debt to GDP ratio in the USA will need to fall from its current level of 353 per cent of GDP to around 250 per cent and perhaps as low as 150 per cent.

Deleveraging means much lower levels of economic growth and probably continued poor returns from the world stockmarket. However there is one very bright light on the horizon for local financial intermediaries and that is of course the forthcoming firesale of various state owned enterprises. Unfortunately however the logic behind the sales, apart from further enriching the finance sector, looks, well, stupid. The three main reasons given for selling SOEs are:

- To achieve efficiency gains within the SOE's sold
- To reduce debt
- To kick-start the stock market


Let's take a closer look at these assumptions. What has prompted this week's story is a recent article in the London Financial Times entitled "Number of State Sell-offs Cut in Half". The article reported on a recent paper by the Privatisation Barometer (PB), a joint project between KPMG and a Milan based research institute headed up by Professor Bortolotti at the University of Turin. According to PB "the pace of privatisation around the world has slowed sharply with an increasing number of asset sales delayed or cancelled due to volatile markets". For "volatile markets" read unacceptably low prices.

Commenting on the study Professor Bortolotti stated the obvious that selling in a depressed market is not a good move as sellers are better to wait. Contrast this with the mad rush the Government seems to be in to get rid of Mighty River - latest reason for urgency came from Bill English who said that our government debt to GDP ratio concerned him at the 30 per cent level. Well hello, the debt to GDP ratios of virtually all the other highly rated Western countries with the exception of Australia are double or treble that level. What is more, whilst the sale of an asset like Mighty River will of course reduce debt, at 30 per cent that shouldn't be a high priority. The key point is that the sale of the asset will reduce New Zealand's ability to service our debt and that is more of an issue. Then there is the fact that sellers in a hurry generally don't get top prices.

Next item on the agenda of non-reasons to sell SOE's is the illusion of efficiency gains from privatisation. The Financial Times article contained particularly interesting comments from Professor David Hall of the Public Services International Research department at the University of Greenwich Business School. In an email he said that on the basis of much research "there is no clear proof that the involvement of the private sector delivers higher efficiency or productivity or a lower cost of capital".

Professor Hall sent me a paper entitled "Public Private Partnerships in the EU - a critical appraisal" where he looked at the performance of PPP's in the EU. He investigated whether PPP's "provide a way of financing or running private services which is better for the public and the services". Professor Hall concluded that the private sector can't borrow money more cheaply than the government and in fact the opposite is true. Furthermore he states that "the empirical evidence shows that the private sector is not more efficient than the public sector". Professor Hall says that any PPP always starts with a handicap of a higher cost of capital which can only be offset by lower operating costs ie greater efficiency. These points have been noted by the OECD, the IMF and Martin Wolf from the Financial Times.

Professor Hall also referred me to an analysis of UK privatisations entitled "The Great Divestiture" by an academic from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which meticulously examines all the companies privatised by the Thatcher Government and finds no evidence whatsoever of efficiency gains but clear evidence of regressive redistribution (i.e. taking money from the poorer sections of society and giving it to the wealthy). Professor Hall said that "many other comparative studies echo this finding and these findings are especially relevant for capital intensive services like electricity". Recall also that a study by our own New Zealand Treasury found that there was "little evidence of systemic underperformance" in our SOE's.

This conclusion particularly resonates at present given the recent revelations about the systemic bad behaviour in the banking sector globally and the fact that wages in the finance sector have grown much faster than wages in the broader economy.

The other important conclusions in Professor Florio's book are that the assets sold were underpriced, there was a large rise in management salaries and most important of all privatisation made little difference to long term trends in productivity and prices. No wonder all the chief executives of the SOE's to be sold are enthusiastic about the idea - they stand to benefit from high salaries and no doubt huge bonuses via employee share purchase plans.

If the efficiency argument looks silly the "reduce debt" rationale is even more ridiculous. The electricity SOE's like Mighty River Power are going to be sold at valuations whereby the net profit as a proportion of the share price is around 7 per cent after tax.

Today the Government can borrow for 10 years at just 3.45 per cent so it doesn't take a finance degree to work out that the Government could retain the asset, service the debt out of the 7 per cent return and pay off debt with the balance. In cash flow terms the contrast is even more stark - the companies like Mighty River Power have substantial depreciation charges so the cash flow yield at which the companies are sold could be 8, 9 or 10 per cent - much higher than the government's cost of borrowing.

This raises another issue and that is the fact, also highlighted by Professor Hall, that the cost of capital of a privatised asset is much higher than a publicly owned asset. Financial economics says that a higher cost of capital requires a higher return of capital which means higher prices for consumers, pure and simple.

The case for selling our SOE's looks flimsy at best and a travesty from the perspective of young people and those other sectors of society who stand to lose from the transactions. This is likely to be at least half that population. If this Government truly has the interests of all New Zealanders at heart it is time to admit it has made a mistake.

12.2.13

Peace

There are moments that slip by. As they pass in front me, casting their shadow upon where I stand, I strain to imprint them upon my memory. But these moments are rare moments, they are transient moments, they are hidden moments. So when I return to my quiet place and attempt to put pen to paper, they are gone. Wisps of a memory, tugging at my heart strings but not quite able to jump off the tip of my tongue.

However, sometimes...sometimes I am lucky. For a split-second that moment of bliss, that ethereal experience of a life force beyond recognition, a common soul, jumps in to my heart and I remember how it tasted. 


Twinkling lights across a body of shifting water.

A reminder of home and belonging.
The wind whispering on my ear as I cycle along the oceans edge.
Dirty hands plunged in to life-giving soil.
The cobwebs of the day blown away by a Westerly gale.
Sunshine warming every inch of skin.
Trembling hands.
An intake of breath.
A swaying flame and a soft-spoken prayer.
Shared laughter over steaming bowls.

I remember how it tasted, and it tasted so sweet.

8.2.13

Saudade


"The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness". (In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell)

John Lucas - Quilts, Coats and Colours

I have come to believe that it is only in being sure of our own identity that we can ever be truly happy. Identity is a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations (such as national identity and cultural identity). The term comes from the French word identité, which finds its linguistic roots in the Latin noun identitas, -tatis, a derivation of the Latin adjective idem meaning "the same." The term thus emphasises the sharing of a degree of sameness or oneness with others in a particular area or on a given point. In light of etymology, the concept of identity, or understanding oneself, is not a journey of individuality, but of community. 

We cannot know who we are, and what the implications of knowing are, within the vacuum of individuality. It is only in comparison to, and in relationship with, others that we can begin to describe ourselves. The lens through which we view ourselves is shaped by the people and environment around us. And just as our identity is formed by our community, our community is equally shaped by our identity. But identity and community are not concepts that are limited to the present. It is the roots of our past that enrich and inform our present, that teach us, that mould us. He kākano āhau i ruia i Rangiātea.

Lately I have been doing some research in to my family genealogy. There is a family legend that says that King George III fell in love with Hannah Lightfoot, a young Quaker girl living in London, in the mid-1700's. Hannah was whisked away from her family to marry the King in private, and then her and her children were shipped to South Africa so that the illegitimate marriage would never be found out. Of the King and Hannah's three children, George Rex apparently established a line of heirs (not all legitimate, mind you) which eventually leads down to my great-grandmother, Victoria Richmond Rex.
If this story is true, then I have royal English blood in me (which to be honest, I'm not too sure I like the sound of, given the English legacy of colonialism and imperialism throughout the world). Having done a bit of research, it seems more likely that the George Rex I descend from was actually an Englishman from Yorkshire who emigrated to Australia in the 1830's, and we were more likely just a family of settlers eking out a living off the land (conversations about Australia, terra nullis and settler/Aboriginal relationships aside). 

These discoveries - of who I am, where I come from, and what those before me gained and lost in their journeys, whether they were royalty, or peasants...they have given something to my soul. I am no longer just Olivia, in New Zealand in the 21st century. I am a link in the long chain of history. I have ancestors who fought in wars, who sailed months in treacherous conditions with hopes of a new life, or new opportunities, catching in their throats. My identity is sure, because it is shaped by those who came before me, and by the promises of the future moulded by lessons of the past. 

I have often felt lost. Lonely. Saudade. My journey of the past 3 years has been a journey of self-discovery, of community. But I have never seen more than what the present offers. Having begun on this journey of my genealogy and in learning about those from whom I was born, for the first time I can say to myself truthfully, "This is who I am."

Identity may not always come from historical familial genealogy. I think there is great merit in the concept of spiritual genealogy. We come from a long line of followers of Christ, who over centuries have been oppressed and exalted, rich and poor. Our line of faith extends all the way back to Christ hanging on a crucifix, all the way back to King David of Israel mourning in the mountains, all the way back to a Jewish people wandering an arid desert and clinging to their God, all the way back to the beauty of Creation. We are in God, and God is in us. Each of us

The past holds the key to both joy and sorrow. I am filled with pride at the thought of my ancestors bravery in leaving all they knew behind in order to build a new life in a foreign land, yet I am also appalled in knowing the wrong done to the Aboriginal people of Australia by British colonialism. Similarly, I am fascinated by the humble Protestant people of Yorkshire from whom I descend, yet it pains me to think of the historic oppression of the Irish Catholic by Protestant England. But I think that part of living in the present well means acknowledging not just the victories of the past, but the trials of the past as well. By acknowledging wrongs done, people hurt, or decisions made poorly, we empower our children to walk forward having learned lessons, and we do justice to those we hurt which may, hopefully, pave the way for redress and reconciliation. I wonder was the implications of a secure identity for all would be? I wonder if, by being sure of who we were and secure in our knowledge of the past, we would be further empowered and enabled to take charge of our paths and practice love, solidarity and unity? Because if identity is rooted in community, what choice do we have but to love others, be compassionate and stand hand-in-hand, while we walk the journey of our own souls?

27.1.13

Te Whanganui a Tara

I am continually awed by the beauty and the diversity of landscape in Wellington. This little city has a hold of my heart and it won't let go. This weekend my flatmates and I cycled about 20km around the peninsula on the eastern side of harbour and it was breath-taking. I am so blessed - with a beautiful home, with beautiful friends, with beautiful new beginnings to be had.








23.1.13

Me?

Sometimes I wonder how many of us are truly free to be ourselves. How many of us fear showing our true colours? How many fear themselves?

We live in a society of superficiality. Over Christmas, when I was back in Auckland with my family, I watched the television with my father, and I was amazed at the advertisements - every single one of them sold the viewer a product guaranteed to improve their life in some way, or to make them feel better about something that was, in the advertisers eyes, a substandard way of living. It was scary to remember that we are bombarded with the message that we are not good enough alone. Ever since post-WWII economic boom and the introduction of the two-Ford family to American culture, we have rapidly hurtled down a slippery slope of consumerism and with that, a complete shift in the way we value and define identity.


The last month has been a time in my life where I have explored what it means for me to be alone. At first, I was scared. What if I failed? What if I couldn't succeed (whatever that means) alone? What if - God forbid - who I am wasn't good enough? But I think that I have learnt at least one thing in this time. In being alone, I am made available to love and connect with the world around me. In my solitude, I am able to hear the voice of my heart. I am ok.


There is hope. There is redemption. Imagine a world where we didn't need to feel self-conscious. Imagine a world where instead of running the race to the top, we ambled hand in hand and looked around once in a while. Imagine noticing the carved trellises on the sidewalk you never saw before. A lingering gaze, a smile to a stranger. Imagine what it feels like to completely accept who you are, who I am, who we all are, and to be ok with that. Imagine the liberation and freedom that accompanied such acceptance. I love these thoughts...I love these realisations that, yes I am scared and yes I am alone. But I am alone in the shadow of a vast and beautiful world, and that is ok.

On Love



When love beckons to you, follow him,


Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden. 



For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. 



Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast. 



All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart. 
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love. 



When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. 



Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

Kahlil Gibran - The Prophet

14.1.13

{thankful for}

Waking up to this view and breathing in the Kaipara air...

...this little guy who lights up the world...

...kayaking adventures with cousins...

...this pup...

...and the fruits of summer.

2013

New beginnings. New chapters. A clean slate.

A tightening in my gut and a quickening of my heart.

Change is something to be embraced and celebrated. Change signals new life, growth, progress. Change that looks to the future with bright eyes, and bows to the past with respect, often heralds beautiful things. Yet there is always an element of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure. Fear of being alone in this strange new world.

Kahlil Gibran said, “Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration.” 


This is the feeling. We are on a precipice, our toes overlooking an endless cavern of possibilities. Arms outstretched, eyes wide open, lips moving in a silent prayer of thanksgiving and protection. Hoping - no, believing - for the best.

This is my 2013.