Category Archives: Events

Getting along, and moving on.

Political passion can be powerful in creating positive change, but it can also be unnecessarily divisive. Today I attended the Occupy Christchurch demonstration, which is in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. There were a huge range of issues that attendees cared about, from specific (fracking in Canterbury) to general (people before profit). While it was great to see such solidarity in our increasingly individualised society, I couldn’t help being concerned about the potential for Occupy to turn into a binary and oversimplified good/evil movement, ending not in consensus and much needed change but indignant defensiveness and bitter disappointment. This concern of mine is not unique to the Occupy movements, nor left-wing political movements more generally – it applies to any political discussion, media coverage, article or simple slogan. The stubborn arrogance I’m talking about has been espoused by people all over the political spectrum, and is often present in many of those contentious issues: arguments about vegetarianism being a prime example. There’s no way everyone will agree on everything, even if you believe that those who disagree with you are uninformed or stupid. However, I think we are missing far too many opportunities to be nicer to each other, find common points of interest despite our disagreements, and solve common problems.

My concern about the Occupy movements is that they have been painted (a bit unfairly, since that isn’t their sole purpose) as protesting against a certain set of people, rather than a certain set of policies. Occupy has been framed as simply being against right-wing political parties, greedy corporations and the financial industry. Understandably so, some would argue, because many of these groups crafted the policies that have caused the problems Occupy are against. However, there is nothing positive or progressive about name-calling. You’re never going to get someone you just insulted to agree with you (you do give them a reason to insult you in turn though). You’re unlikely to inform anyone, or “raise awareness” about the causes of social problems through clever puns on a politician’s name (you do give the opposition reason to paint you as a raving, mean-spirited jerk though). You’re never going to learn anything yourself by point-blank refusing to listen (you might become so absorbed in your own beliefs that people literally ask what you’re on about though). Perhaps worst of all, you’re never going to enrich your own life or the life of others. It’s easy to revolve around criticism, simplify problems, reduce policies to certain individuals/groups – just don’t think you’ll ever get anywhere if that’s all you’re doing.

Of course, it’s easy for me to just criticise, but I also want to suggest a better way forward. I’m glad that Occupy Christchurch has planned to do the latter as well, in the form of an inclusive discussion that will hopefully welcome everyone. Two things stood out today that give me hope. First, a sign reading something like “I’m in the 1%, but I support the 99%.” Second, someone in the movement shaking the hand of a guy in young ACT who got booed for voicing his opinion that the crowd didn’t like, and thanking him for coming to an event which obviously he didn’t necessarily agree with fully. If we all listened to people we disagreed with more with an open mind, we would not only strengthen our own beliefs, but also discover that we have more in common with our “enemies” than we ever thought. Only on precious common ground can lasting and positive change be built.

So here are my suggestions for participating in politics passionately, but also progressively:

  • If you’re going to criticise something, focus on policies and/or outcomes, not people or parties.
  • Really listen to people you normally disagree with – the only way you’ll ever change their minds is if you can genuinely understand why they think the way they do.
  • Be open to compromise on details as long as you remember the bigger picture.
  • Find and foster common ground.
  • Disagree respectfully, with reason.
I’ll admit I don’t always stick to these principles myself, and that I enjoy the odd chuckle over puns on our Prime Minister’s name. I think it’s time to grow up though, and realise our demands for a better society also need to start from within.
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Eco survival week at UC

A quick message about Eco Survival Week on campus from the 11-15 October. Check out the awesome events and hop along to some if you have time. There are so many amazing events I’d love to get involved in but since two of my papers didn’t get offered formal extensions, I need to get myself into writing mode!

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Filed under Events, Food, Free, gardening, Pre-loved clothing

RMS

It’s obligatory for me to begin this post by pointing out that Richard Stallman is so famous that I can just refer to him by his initials.

An early luminary in the MIT hacker culture, Stallman is founder of the GNU’s Not Unix Project, the free software movement and a champion of copyleft (which we use a version of!).

He’s currently touring New Zealand, and despite regular ninja hacks is giving a second talk in Christchurch, Tuesday October 13, Lecture Theatre A1, University of Canterbury, 5-7pm. Apparently the first speech, at the Chrsitchurch Town Hall, will run you $450 for a day registration (is this a typo? Do conferences really cost that much?). Stallman prefers talking in openly accessible settings anyway.

He also spoke on Kim Hill’s morning show last Saturday (archived here, but National Radio’s site is useless so you might have to right-click and select ‘save link as’, or open the location with a media player if you’re that savvy). This interview was hilarious; have a listen. Kim Hill doesn’t seem to believe a word Stallman has to say about abuse of surveillance and control technologies. It’s almost as if she’s never heard of the Security Intelligence Service, which spies on and maintains files on political dissidents, even if they’re focussed on the national interest, or Rob Gilchrist, the Police informant who infiltrated every harmless activist group I’ve ever been in, agitating for actions that would allow our arrests, as well as unions and other civil society groups. Not to mention the state terror raids of 2007.

Back to Stallman. He speaks about these issues in the abstract, and cites overseas examples. New Zealand has no shortage of examples of abuse of secret power, but Kim Hill needed so much convincing that Stallman barely had the chance to speak about software freedom. He also had some excellent ideas for funding media in the 21st Century, essentially proposing that creative works be made freely reproducible and available, and artists paid from the tax dollar on the basis of polls or some other way of tracking their popularity.

Most of all, I was struck by how close-minded and unimaginative his interviewer appeared, and how this mirrored my own experiences in talking about these issues with people. When pointing out that the present system is awful, and suggesting a few ideas for a positive alternative, one must expect a hostile and aggressive challenge to present a wholly-formed alternative, complete with revolutionary program and a denunciation of every paranoid fantasy presented (pogroms, terrorism, intellectual totalitarianism, women with hairy pits) with any admission of personal limits or ignorance taken as evidence that the status quo is unassailable. Stallman shows that it only takes a little bit of common sense to stop accepting the abuses of the powerful, and that stating the obvious is often a perfect response to one’s doubters.

Hopefully I’ll see you Tuesday.

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Vegetarian Food And Lifestyle Expo, Sept 27th

If you’re a vegetarian in Christchurch or have ever wondered how vegetarians eat without meat, check this out. The Christchurch Vegetarian Centre holds New Zealand’s largest vegetarian event anually, complete with food stalls, cooking demos, free tasters, workshops, films, info & displays, community groups, businesses and artists, cafe, kids stuff, music, and a huge “sausage sizzle.” Entry is only $5 (and considering cafe food prices, this is honestly not much to pay) and kids enter free. This year it’ll be at the Horticultural Centre on Riccarton Ave, sort of in South Hagley Park.

Volunteers get free entry – email me and I can pass you on to the person in charge of volunteers.

stirfriedgreens-1Other links

Twospoons’ guide to stir frying greens
Sustainability and food resource page

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The Age of Stupid

From the director of McLibel Franny Armstrong is a film about why the world needs to act now to address climate change. It’s part dramatisation, part documentary, and part call to act, based on topics of oil, war, politics and consumerism in their relation to climate change.

theageofstupid

New Zealand Screening dates and locations have been confirmed, mostly it’s just the times that are TBC. If you’re in Auckland, there’s also a “green carpet” premiere you can head along to, but tickets are exclusive and available only through Oxfam and Greenpeace. Visit the “not stupid” page and watch the pop up, it’s actually quite informing. There are some interesting resources on that page as well, including guides on how to talk to skeptics, and how to organise an indie screening if you feel so inclined (which I may, and will of course let you know if I do).

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Yelling, screaming, back benches.

Here’s a fuzzy-wuzzy-democracy-bubble event for you. As a Freeview non-viewer, I had no idea that there was this thing called Back Benches, produced by TVNZ. Basically, some political dude from TVNZ gets a few local MPs to debate, live, in a pub, with random members of the public floating around. Is it going to solve all our problems? Not likely, but it may just get you political hermits off your laptops and listening to a live debate. Yes, I said LIVE DEBATE. Sure, it’s mediated, and it’s all about image, but unlike your usual televised debate, apparently you get to say something (Ctrl+F “Soapbox” on the Back Benches page).

What’s even better is that it’s happening tomorrow tonight. In Christchurch. PEOPLE are coming to Christchurch, people. This week’s debate will be about Boy Racers. Sure, it’s not the most riveting subject unless you’re eighty five, have trouble sleeping, and have the  misfortune to live on Blenheim Road, but it’s something. Am I just easily excited? In any case, I’ll be there. Thanks to the [University of] Canterbury CampusGreens for emailing me about it. Their email address is unicampusgreens[at]gmail.com if you’re interested in joining their mailing list.

Turn up at 8.30pm, Wednesday 12 August at the Dux De Lux,  (sort of opposite the Christchurch Art Gallery). Starts 9.10pm on Freeview channel 7 Or Sky Channel 97. Featuring Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei, Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove, National MP Nicky Wagner and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.

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Sustainability Film Series

The film line up for Term 3 (July to August) has been posted up. Anyone can come along to see these films for free, and participate in the discussions afterwards. A few nibbles plus drinks are usually provided too. If you live near the University of Canterbury, head on in.

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