Speaker by Various Artists


2500 Reasons

by Annabelle Lee

A Māori politician once said to me "our people will march to parliament for the foreshore and seabed, land rights, water rights and whatever else is going, but they never pull on their marching boots for our kids."

We certainly have plenty of reasons to – more than 2500, in fact.

According to the Children's Commissioner's Report State of Care 2015, of the 5000 children currently in CYFS care 58% are Māori, as are 68% of young people in CYFS residences.

Yet when Anne Tolley announced her "expert panel" to review Child Youth and Family last year, not one of the members was a Māori practitioner.

You would think Māori leaders would be incensed about being excluded from such a critically important discussion regarding the future of our most important taonga, our children.

But aside from the Māori Women’s Welfare League, there was barely a murmur from the Māori establishment about this monumental oversight.

By comparison, when Ngapuhi chairman and member of the influential Iwi Leaders Forum Sonny Tau was caught with kereru at the Invercargill airport, Māori leaders from across the political divide took to social media and the airwaves to speak in defense of Tau and his dalliance with the illegal tegel.

During the 2014 election, a poll of the seven Māori electorates asked voters what issue they were most concerned about. In each and every electorate the answer was the same. Family violence.

Since then our leadership has said not a lot about family violence. Not even when Māori mother of one Tara Brown was allegedly killed by her former partner in Queensland last September.

So it was curious to see five influential Māori women, including Whanau Ora architect Dame Tariana Turia, gather a few weeks later to speak out in support of another Brown. Chris, that is. The American R&B singer, infamous for ferociously beating his ex girlfriend entertainer Rhianna, wanted to tour New Zealand but his felony convictions for the attack meant he might not be able to gain a work visa.

Armed with their deep understanding of what’s hip with the kids, the Dames announced they wanted to support Brown’s visa application because they believed he was uniquely qualified to communicate with rangatahi about the damage violence does. Eventually, Brown didn't come to Aotearoa because Australia denied him a visa. Police recently declined to charge Brown after a woman alleged he had assaulted her for trying to take a photograph, but not before Brown posted a video calling her "ugly and old".

All this begs the question; are our leaders picking the right battles?

Are they focusing on the important stuff? Are they using positions of influence for the right causes?

The truth is when ordinary Māori march, like the thousands who showed up in force yesterday to oppose the signing of the TPPA, they are doing so in the belief that they are future-proofing the rights of their tamariki.

They know that without those rights being enshrined we are doomed to suffer the economic and social ills that in turn make Māori the sickest and most incarcerated New Zealanders as well as the most likely to be victims and perpetrators of violence and abuse.

But once the flags and banners have been rolled back up, and the marching boots stored away, our "leaders" emerge to pick over the spoils offered up by government to hush the natives, in the form of "working parties", "consultation rounds", "review panels" and "advisory boards".

The ultimate reason for these marches – trying to preserve something for our kids – is quickly forgotten in the carve-up.

As the TPP demonstrations reach a crescendo and Waitangi Day approaches, our Māori elite would do well to reflect on where our tamariki sit on their priority list. A sense of urgency is required.

There are 2500 good reasons why.


Blinded by the white

by Joshua Drummond

In the midst of a very good article over at The Spinoff this week - the Top 50 NZ works of non-fiction as selected by a panel of indigenous experts - there was one line that leapt out. "There are now no regular Māori columnists in the mainstream media".

I suspect it stood out because it's one of those deeply uncomfortable things that, once seen, can't be unseen, like white privilege, or The Room. And how has it not been mentioned more often? It was suddenly very striking how obviously whitebread our print media commentary is – and I say this as a Pakeha and occasional (and aspirationally less-occasional) newspaper columnist. How is it possible that in New Zealand, in 2015, we don't have any regular Māori columnists in the mainstream media?

I asked on Twitter if anyone could supply a regular Māori MSM columnist. Rachel Stewart (columnist at the Taranaki Daily News) suggested Dion Tuuata, a fellow Daily News columnist. He's the CEO of Parininihi ki Waitotara Farms (I Googled) and, Rachel suggests, well known in Māoridom.

So, that's one, and good on the Taranaki Daily News. But there quite obviously should be more than just the one in the country. Why isn't there a regular Māori columnist at the Listener, or Metro, or the Sunday Star Times? And there should quite definitely and obvioiusly be a weekly Māori columnist in our only national daily, The New Zealand Herald. At minimum. Come on, can't the media muster even a token effort?

It really does seem like the most ridiculously glaring omission. Editorially it makes no sense at all. There is no shortage of brown people in New Zealand who can write up a goddamn storm. Even trying to adopt a hard-nosed commercial perspective, I don't see the sense in the continued absence. Sure, pageviews are a key measure of success these days, and they have been for quite some time, but you can't tell me that the writings of a media-savvy, articulate, Māori person in New Zealand in 2016 wouldn't attract a metric fuckton of clicks and commentary. It'd also annoy precisely the right kind of people, which I see as a core duty of the fourth estate.

On Twitter, Russell Brown suggested that Morgan Godfery – blogger over at Maui Street – would do well with a Listener column. "It's bizarre the gap persists," Morgan replied. "Maybe some mainstream media expect Maori media to cover 'Māori'?"

Maybe there is that expectation. If so, the implication is that mainstream media commentary is produced by, and exists more or less entirely for, non-Māori. Which is pretty strange, and really quite awful, when you think about it.

I expect that there will perhaps be several, or many, people nodding wearily at this epiphany. It reminds me of attending a Wintec Press Club where Mihingarangi Forbes and Annabelle Lee were the speakers. Towards the end of the talk (which was fascinating and mostly concerned the conflict at Māori television and within Māoridom over the kohanga reo funding scandal) Mihi made a striking observation, as recorded by Stephen Stratford over at Quote Unquote:

And referring to Newstalk ZB’s Rachel Smalley’s complaint that there are too few women on-air, Forbes noted the greater “paucity of Maori in mainstream media”. Well, yes. There is marginal and there is marginal.

It's a bit hard to articulate the surge of awareness that rippled through the room, as the audience realised that damn near all of us – including most of a who's who in the New Zealand media, and for some reason, me – were white. For a while we were all treated to a look from the other side of New Zealand's racial divide, at the sheer inequality of things. There was a real sense of sadness to it. It was deeply unsettling and it shook me in a way I find very difficult to describe.

So to learn (and I'd still like to be wrong) that there are essentially no Māori columnists in the New Zealand mainstream media brought a lot of that surging back. Where does the fault lie? Privilege, wilful ignorance, racism, or the trifecta? It makes me wonder what a good old-fashioned public pressure campaign would do. Write some letters, tweet some Tweets. It's not like there isn't some dead wood in the mainstream that can't be cleared out. Rodney Hide does not need a column and it shows; his stuff reads like asphalt. Mike Hosking is horrendously overexposed. The Sunday Star Times used to have a couple of acid boring columns by Phil Goff and Judith Collins (does it still? I hope not) and the Herald kept Garth George on well after he was clinically dead.

It's time we had more Māori voices in the mainstream media. Maybe we should try and make it happen.

NB: New Zealand Herald columnist Lizzie Marvelly advises that she is of Te Arawa heritage. And occasional contributor Alan Duff was upgraded to a regular at the same time Lizzie's column started. – RB


Stand Up for Women

by John Palethorpe

Earlier this week I saw that the violent misogyny website Return of Kings were planning global meetups. There were set locations, narrow time windows and even a password, straight out of a corny sixties spy movie. I laughed and told my wife. How ridiculous are these guys? Eh?

Not so ridiculous. I could laugh at it, as a guy, because I’m not the target of their vicious, toxic and deeply conflicted ideas and practices. Women are. It’s my sister who has to clutch her keys between her knuckles as she walks to her car at night, women who to have pretend they can’t hear the comments and shouts should they wear anything short, summer appropriate or, actually given experience, ANYTHING. Not so funny then.

Because it’s men that do this. And yet there’s a prevailing opinion that women need to deal with this, women need to brush it off, ignore it or fight it. It’s not a man problem. Except it is. Since the media focused on this Return of Kings group, one of the replies in comments to a call for men to challenge misogyny is ‘Why is it my job to do this? I’m not a rapist’. Which entirely misses the point about how misogyny in society, often referred to as rape culture, is not simply rape statistics or domestic violence numbers. The culture of misogyny in society fosters the belief in some men that what they do to women is OK. And it’s not.

So if your mate expresses misogynistic opinions, you pull him up short and hard. If you’d stop someone being racist or homophobic, then why let misogyny go. Calling it banter or lads' talk doesn’t cut it any more, because the real consequences of too many men letting too many little remarks, comments and wolfwhistles go lead to stuff like Kim Vinnell being harassed live on air and the discussion being about what she did wrong. Or Roastbusters. I mean, fucking hell man.

The Return Of Kings meetup is intended to be a meetup of straight men, in order to discuss the issues of neo-masculinity which include hating women and how to have sex with women. The deep conflict within these these men is probably the scariest part. Their utter disregard for women as equals, their use of derogatory language and and their disgust of women and their sexual attraction to them is probably the scariest bit. They have no idea how to engage with women as equals and yet are driven to attempt to do so by their need to prove their masculinity through sex. And when I say scary, I don’t mean for me. It’s not scary for them either, it’s scary for the women involved.

So, opposition. I’m against this. Obviously. Misogyny is a problem embedded in New Zealand society, it’s not just something that these guys are trying to import. My friend Dan and I have spoken to the media about our opposition, because men don’t speak up about this sort of thing enough and that’s not good enough. It also ensures the women who are involved in organising this don’t get targeted by the misogynists.

So, as a group, we have organised a peaceful counter presence in Wellington. I’m organising a similar event in Auckland, except I’d definitely call mine a party. And to counterbalance the idea that a group of straight men can organise a meeting to discuss their superiority to women, we’re going to have an all inclusive party in Aotea Square. Straight, gay, trans, men, women - you’re invited. Misogynists? Yeah, nah. The only proviso is that you don’t act like a dickhead, don’t make women feel unsafe and have a good time. That’s pretty simple, right?

We’ve got a playlist on Spotify made up of requests, and I invite everyone to bring their bluetooth speakers, put on your dancing shoes and have a good time. If the Return Of Kings crowd turn up, they’ll be met with the joy of people who are determined to combat their ideas with the withering scorn and laughter they deserve.

The Wellington event has a Facebook page which you can find here.

The Auckland event page is here.

So if you can make it, come along. See you Saturday!


What Star Wars can teach us about good campaigns

by Kirk Serpes

It’s pretty rare that I pay to see a movie twice but along with Mad Max: Fury Road the new Star Wars sequel was totally worth it! To be fair I was already a big enough fan to binge-watch the trilogy with mates before going to see it but that doesn’t even put me near the middle of pack when it comes to the Star Wars fan base.  It’s one of the rare franchises that literally has a cult following. One so large that Jedi is an official religion.  Ignoring the prequels, the franchise somehow created a world that just but want to be part of, and characters that you feel in love with.  

It’s easy to just put its popularity down to things like visual effects, space battles and lightsabres, the sexy chemistry of a young Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.  But if we look back at when the original came out none of these are unique to Star Wars.

The original came out in 1977, almost 10 years after 2001: A Space Odyssey – a Kubrick masterpiece that broke new boundaries in visual effects and told a story that was far more nuanced and interesting than anything we will ever see in Star Wars.  And in that decade we also saw the release of other smart, well-made franchises with popular actors – from Planet of the Apes to Battlestar Galactica – yet nothing has come close the capturing the imagination and the following of Star Wars.  So what did Star Wars do so differently?

To answer that we have to go back to the 1940s, when an incredibly curious young author named Joseph Campbell set out on a journey to find purpose and meaning in his life.  He was obsessed with stories and mythology, from Native American ones, to those from India and East Asia.  And in studying the stories of mythical heroes and their journeys, he hoped to find some answers to his own purpose.  What he found was that from the thousands of stories of protagonists a single universal story began to appear. The Monomyth.

In the Monomyth, Luke Skywalker begins his journey as an outsider, out of place in an ordinary world, where he unexpectedly receives a message – a call to action from a mysterious stranger called Hagrid.  Harry then then receives a new weapon like a magical wand and/or some wisdom from old wizard like Gandalf, and sets out on his journey (sometimes with a group of friends or allies).  Rae then faces all number of challenges, traps and villains. She beats of all them until she meets her nemesis, Kylo Ren.  She is captured or has some kind of setback.   Sometimes our hero comes close to death or actually dies, only to be reborn stronger and smarter than ever and goes back into the Matrix to defeat Agent Smith and save the world/universe.  It’s actually a bit amusing that a lot of criticism of the Force Awakens is that it’s a lot like the original.  You can watch Campbell himself talk about the Monomyth in Star Wars here.

The monomyth is everywhere, and we just can’t seem to get enough.  It works because it draws from deep unquenchable and universal human needs - our search for identity, status and purpose in life.  When the hero is told they're special we project ourselves into their shoes.  When the world is split into good and evil, and our hero joins the fight, we share that feeling of having a clear purpose.  And when people look up in awe at our hero, we feel better about ourselves.

If anything, the power of the monomyth is stronger today than it ever was.  In the last 40 or so years we’ve seen the breakdown of the hierarchies and structures that for all of human history gave people a sense of identity through their jobs, religion or class.  We are now all individuals with never-seen-before social freedom.  And with that comes the challenge of finding our own purpose and creating our own identity among the infinite possibilities the modern world has to offer.

We are no longer driven by the pursuit of happiness but by the pursuit of purpose and a search for identity, and even consumerism can’t fully give us what we seek.  Which is why the idea of receiving a call from a mysterious stranger to go out onto journey to join the fight between good and evil is more than a little enticing.

Smart organisations understand this, and make it a core part of not just their comms language but of the campaign and organisational strategy.  They understand that to win, you have to grow.  And to grow you need more than people to just care about your issue.  You need a story that pulls on something deep and emotional.  You need something that allows people to project their own imagination, hopes and dreams onto the cause and make it their own.  And to do this you need to make your supporters the heroes – while you take on the role of the mysterious stranger or the wise Jedi that helps them on their journey of self-discovery and self-actualisation.

You can see a bit of this in action from the first few paragraphs of this email from “Barack Obama”. He calls for “your” help, and even touches on the shared “Democratic values we all hold dear”. 


Yes, after getting a 1000 calls to ‘Sign the Petition’ or “Donate just $5” it begins to sound less like a call to save the world from the Death Star and more like spam from a Nigerian prince, but just The Force Awakens, the 2008 Obama campaign was an international blockbuster hit for that reason.

If you look closely at speeches and campaign material from that time, you’ll find that he rarely talks about himself as a solution or hero. One of the most beautiful examples of this technique in action is in this campaign video from his re-election campaign.  In the space of a couple of minutes he makes himself more relatable and empowers the audience with a sense of agency, letting them feel that they’re the heroes who are going to change the world.

The monomyth is ultimately just a tool.  And that means it can be used for both good and evil.  I’m pretty sure if you scanned through ISIS propaganda you’d find it there.  As you would find it in good campaigns from every political party, religious text or cause that has ever meant anything to anybody anywhere.

There are unfortunately two Death Star-sized problems with this approach.  The first is a paradox I struggle with every day.  I studied a lot of math as an undergrad engineer and we often used simplifying mathematical models on complex problems.  And ‘The Hero’s Journey’ Monomyth does the same for reality. It takes something that’s full of nuance, contradictions and tradeoffs, and simplifies it so that people can take action without having to make a thousand morally complex decisions.  It’s efficient, but comes at the cost of nuance.  Unfortunately, reality is nuanced. And as soon as you paint the other side as the villains they bunker down and have less reason to ever come to the table to find a workable solution.

I’ve spent a decent chunk of my 20s working on climate change, and I can honestly say you don’t run into many people who are actually malicious. It’s a very small number of people who spend their time trying to deny the science. Most of the resistance to good climate policy comes from everyday folks who just happen to have different values, families to look out for, cultural differences and concerns that are totally legitimate in a democratic society. Just look at the resistance to decent public transport and higher density housing in Auckland.

Overuse of one simple story leads to your supporters seeing an issue as being ‘us’ vs ‘them’. Seeing the world as ‘us’ vs ‘them’ leads to people believing that the ends justify the means. And that I’m pretty sure leads to the dark side. The story becomes more powerful than the storyteller. There is no better place to see this play out over and over again than in the USA. Especially on something like gun ownership, where a simple story about “good guys with guns” seems immune to reality.

Which leads to the second Death Star.  Obi Wan Kenobi gave Luke more than just a lightsabre, – he gave him something far more powerful, he gave him a source of wisdom, and the ability to use the Force.  When we take on Obi Wan’s role in our campaigns, we do the same.  Whether we intend to or not – we teach our supporters how to gain and wield power.  So do we show them that to get what you want you have to always be the loudest and angriest voices? Does winning require shutting down internal debate and ideological purity?  Is it a waste of time to try and bring people together around shared values and goals? 

I’ll be the first to admit it’s not easy to decide when it’s appropriate to speak softly or use the big stick.  It’s hard to really know when you’ve gone from being the powerless to the one wielding power.  And it’s a LOT easier to get funding, supporters and media coverage when we break things down to simple black and white messages.  The actions that we ask our supporters to take do more to define the values our movements than anything we say we stand for in our speeches, websites and meetings.  And we do have to take great care that we aren’t reinforcing the values that created the problem we’re trying to fix. 

If you’re working on progressive campaigns and want to chat comms and strategy, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @kirkserpes


Jim's Five Weird Movies to Watch for Christmas

by James Rae Brown

Movie geekery knows no season – because when you really love movies, it's always popcorn time. But some times of the year are special and, for film nerds, Christmas is most definitely one of those times. Jimmy has rounded up his five favourite Christmas films – including, er, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Digest your turkey to this lot ...