Speaker by Various Artists

31

Colouring Girl

by Peter Alsop

The hand-coloured photos of Whites Aviation have become celebrated icons of New Zealand’s mid-century culture – but the story of how each photograph was individually coloured by hand has been almost lost. That's the story Greg Wood and I sought to tell in The Colourist, which is part of this year's Loading Docs film festival.

The film highlights the vocational alchemy and the love of creating a hand-coloured New Zealand. The depth of friendship amongst the ‘colouring girls’ was so great they even went on holidays together. One of them, Grace Rawson, even planned  her honeymoon to visit the locations of Whites Aviation scenes.

'Ohau Road', 1953, 560x1010mm, Collection of Peter Alsop, Alexander Turnbull Library (ATL) Negative WA-32638-F.

The idea was this: could Grace Rawson, at a spritely 83 years of age, have another go at hand-colouring a photograph, 53 years after giving up the craft when she left Whites Aviation?

Grace at work in The Colourist with her cotton wool brush. Photo courtesy Samuel Montgomery.

To fully understand the story, let’s wind back the clock.

In 1963, a rare behind-the-scenes account was published of life in the colouring studio of Whites Aviation, showing the studio as a well-lit room in Darby’s Buildings on the corner of Darby and Elliot Streets in downtown Auckland. Inside, a group of about eight women loved their work; using cotton wool to create the best-known examples, then and now, of hand-coloured photography in New Zealand. 

Interestingly, the article didn’t appear in a photography magazine or any publication related to art or design. Instead, the article graced the pages of none other than the Women’s Weekly. It was a good fit; all the members of the colouring studio were women, as they were through time, and the hand-colouring craze was on a public high.

The article was matter-of-factly titled ‘Steady Hand, Keen Eye and a Retentive Memory Needed for Tinting’. In the art paradigms of the day, these women weren’t "artists" and nor, for that matter, were those who took the photos. But the women were devoted to their art form, proud of their achievements and immensely happy in their work.

Grace at work in the 1950s in Whites Aviation’s production division in Auckland’s Darby’s Buildings. Photo courtesy Grace Rawson.

 

A wonderful photo of the "colouring girls" in company uniforms in 1948, working on large-format hand-coloured photos (ATL, WA-16074a-F, L to R: Joyce Chapman, Pat Poole, Colleen Beaumont (with uncertainty), Jocie Baker (with uncertainty) and Ray (with uncertainty and unknown surname).

The article provided insight into the delicate and intricate nature of the craft:

The sea was washed with blue, highlights were added in green and a darker blue. Rangitoto was a combination of green and mauve for the base and blue and mauve at the top. Highlights were of raw sienna. The yachts were mainly scraped up with shadows on the sails and the hulls brown. The tree in the foreground was washed with a darkish green with the highlights of a paler tone of the same colour. The flowers were done last … For bush, four shades of green were used, several tones of yellow, browns and pinks.

One gets the picture that it was complex work but, like most hard things, made to look easy by people at the top of their game.

'Rangitoto Island from Bastion Pt', 1954, 500x750mm, Cropped for display, Collection of Peter Alsop, ATL Negative WA-34549-F.

Grace was born in Auckland in 1933. At the age of three, she was asked that quintessential childhood question: "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Her answer was as unusual then as it would be today: "I will be an artist!"

Grace’s artistic vocation would soon become even clearer. Aged four, she was a flower girl and looked after by the bridesmaid who hand coloured a photo of Grace in her pretty wedding dress. In reflecting on that time, Grace said she ‘understood right then that there was a branch of art that maybe was possible later’.

 

Grace as a young bridesmaid, when she recalls getting her interest in hand-colouring. Photo courtesy Grace Rawson.

Later, like many of Epsom Grammar girls, Grace was hand-coloured in her ball gown; her photo worked on by Crown Studios opposite Smith & Caughey. The photo was displayed in Crown's front window – and it was the final inspiration for Grace to apply for a colouring job. For £1 10s a week, Grace was taught by Shirley Davies, a real hard-case character, and quickly fell in love with painting portraits and groups.

A portrait of Grace hand-coloured by Grace herself. Photo by Auckland’s Crown Studios.

After a trip to England, where her hand-colouring continued, Grace returned in late 1953 and heard of the growing reputation of Whites Aviation. She recalls meeting Leo White like it was yesterday.

Despite showing White her British portfolio – old mills, bridges and thatched roofs – Grace was also asked to paint some of White’s own photos to further prove her worth. Clyde Stewart (or "Mr Stewart" to Grace) was her manager. Stewart ran the colouring studio for 37 years and signed out each and every photo with the flowing ‘Whites’ signature.

The photos were printed on a special semi-matte, fibre-based paper, striking just the right level of absorption to allow the colour to cure without bleeding. The photos were painted in oil, thinned with turpentine to allow the paint to be translucent, creating a wash-like effect. For application, paint brushes were only rarely used and, instead, a small amount of cotton wool was wrapped around the end of a thin grapevine to create the ‘brush’. Cotton wool had the advantage of being able to create a thin film of colour, and in a uniform, streak-free way.

 

A set of Winsor & Newton paints for hand-colouring photographs. A bottle of turpentine can be seen on the right of the tray, with cotton wool and sticks in the bottom to be used as the "brush".

For landscapes, Grace recalls Mr White describing the right colours, always ensuring clarity in the New Zealand light. The 1963 article also refers to photographers frequently bringing back samples, "such as the time Mr White returned from the South Island high country with a handful of tussock."

A photo about 35x50cm would take about one morning to colour. When the girls painted large murals, it wouldn’t be uncommon to work as a team, standing, sitting or climbing up on stools. Even then, big pieces could take many days to complete, nine in the case of a large Lake Taupo photograph worked on by four "girls" in 1963.

Grace Rawson, Lorraine Sutton and Nola Mann work on colouring a large photographic mural for H & J Smith’s store in Gore in 1955 (ATL, WA-39940). Large murals like this took a number of days for a team of colourists. Nola Mann worked as a colourist at Whites from around 1955 until around 1998, likely making her – given the popularity of Whites’ work – the most extensive hand-colourist in New Zealand’s history.

Speaking to us, Grace explained her theory on the Whites sensation and the orders that came in thick and fast:

"It was very important for people to have photographs of New Zealand on their walls in those days. And once Whites started selling, they went berserk everywhere. In my view, everybody bought them because there was nothing else like them at the time. There were some prints of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Brugal’s paintings, Constable’s hay wain – but suddenly Whites was different. It was real, and the country we lived in,  and hand coloured. It absolutely took off."

One of the early hand-coloured ventures for Whites was also the capturing of farms, tapping into a strong sense of national pride in rural land.

Seventy one years since Whites Aviation was started, Grace still sees the hand-colouring legacy.

"I love to come across the photos: a majestic mural of the Remarkables in a Queestown café and many in Replete café in Taupo."

All, it so happens, locations of special significance in Grace’s life. Wherever she goes, the popular Whites Aviation scenes are never far away  – not least among them, the photos that she coloured with her own hand.

Grace with her completed hand-coloured photo of Queenstown created for The Colourist in 2016. Photo courtesy Peter Alsop.

–––

The Colourist

 

The Colourist from Loading Docs on Vimeo.

Peter Alsop co-directed The Colourist with Auckland-based filmmaker Greg Wood. Loading Docs is funded by NZ On Air and made with the support of The New Zealand Film Commission.

Peter’s beautiful book on Whites Aviation, Hand-Coloured New Zealand, will be released in October (Potton & Burton, hard cover, 416 pages). A sampler of the book is viewable here. The book can be ordered now with an attractive pre-release discount: 20% off and free postage within New Zealand (Coupon code WHITES).

45

What we think and how we vote

by David Hood

The data for the 2014 New Zealand Election Survey was recently released for the general public to make of it what they will, which in the modern world of home data analysis is like parachuting a gazelle into a pride of lions.

One thing I decided to explore is how representative the ideas of "Left" and "Right" are in the New Zealand of today. They are terms that get bandied around, and people and parties get pinned into place with, but do they actually matter?

One of the questions in the survey asks people to rate themselves on a spectrum of Leftmost (0) to Rightmost (10) with 5 being the centre of the spectrum. We can join that tidbit of information to information about what political party did the person declare voting for with their party vote, and so check the self-identified Left-Rightness by party preference.

For those not used to box plots the rectangle is where the middle fifty percent of voters for the party rate themselves. The black line in the centre of each rectangle is the median voter. The red-blue dashed line is the "centre" of the spectrum. The vertical thickness of the rectangle is the number of votes.

The smaller the number of voters (the thinner the rectangle) the more the results become sensitive to what one or two voters chose on the eleven-point scale. So, for this post, I am making the arbitrary decision to not bother talking about the parties with less than 0.5% of the vote in the survey responses (that is 14 people in the survey). Bye-bye for now to United Future, ACT, ALCP, and similar.

There are some not too surprising things on view here: not many people view themselves as extreme, people who vote Labour tend to see themselves on the left, people who vote National tend to see themselves on the right. New Zealand First and Māori Party voters see themselves as the generally most centrist. I do want to draw attention to the way that Labour voters tend to see themselves as closer to the middle than National voters.

We can build on this by comparing what people think of themselves with what people think of the party they voted for.

I dropped Internet/Mana for this graph, as I had separate ratings for Internet and Mana and that just made it complicated. The Green party, while having the same median as its voters, is given support by those that consider it to the left of their positions. Labour has an almost freakish match between its voters' self-perceptions and the perception of the party (I actually went and checked for mistakes due to that. Didn't find any). Māori party voters see themselves as slightly more centrist than the party. New Zealand First, while having the same median as its voters, draws support is given support by those that consider it to the right of their positions. Both National and Conservative voters tend to view the party as being to the right of the voters.

Rather than looking at it as bar graph summaries, we can look at the cloud of individual points of the self-rating on the x axis and the voters rating of the party they voted for on the y axis.

Putting aside the few isolated very odd results that may indicate people may have misunderstood the question, there are a number of observations about general patterns.

Conservative voters mirror National voters. Conservative and National voters tend to be centre to right, and see the parties they are voting for as more rightwing.

New Zealand First voters cluster at the centre and spread to the right, while the centrist NZF voters see the party as to the right, the right NZF voters see the party as to the left.

Māori Party voters and party form a central clump, with a tendency to rate the party near to themselves (most of the points are near the diagonal).

Labour voters are spread through the spectrum and concentrated in the centre left. Whatever Labour voters think of themselves tends to be around what they think of the party – if you are left and vote Labour then you describe Labour left, if you are right and vote Labour then you describe Labour as right. Green voters tend to centre to left, while rating the party left of where they are.

This does raise the (to me) interesting point that some people are voting a party they see as long way from themselves on a left-right spectrum. So how relevant are traditional left/right models in MMP New Zealand- clearly people understand them and can place themselves and parties- but to what extent does this actually matter in voting behaviour.

We can check this by rearranging the data a bit, and asking the question "What percentage of each parties voters voted for the party that they rated closest to them on the left/right spectrum?". The core idea here is that if you are skipping over a party that it is most in your "class interest" to vote for, then that suggests class interests are not your motivating factor.

Before revealing the results I'm going to preemptively say this is not an either/or- you might still be voting for a nearby party in left/right terms, just not the most nearby party or parties. But as you are not voting for the party that is, by your own opinion, the closest fit in left right terms so there is presumably other motivations at work.

I am bringing back ACT and United Future for this, as we have ratings for them, but still need to exclude Internet/Mana because of the whole ratings for both Internet and Mana confusing matters. So, the percentage of each party's voters that rated the party they voted for as closest to them (of the voters that rated all of the parties in the group, and answered the questions who they voted for, their self-rating, and the party best to deal with the most important issue in the country):

Party

% of voters closest

Sample size

National

74.26

571

ACT

66.67

3

Māori_Party

66.67

33

Labour

56.77

266

NZ_First

56.57

99

Green

56.11

180

Conservative

52.08

48

United_Future

0.00

4

There are some pretty big differences there (putting aside the handful of United Future zealots who voted from far along the spectrum). The concept of Left vs Right seems most important to National voters, then less important as you move left.

However, these results are strongly affected by how people space out the rating of parties. If you rate the Greens 3, Labour 4, and New Zealand First a 5, then to be closest to Labour you must rate yourself a 4 to be closest to the party. But if you rate National, the Conservatives, and ACT as 7 and New Zealand First as 5, any self-rating of 6 or better puts you closest to National (and ACT and the Conservatives). So these particular results, while interesting, shouldn't be read as too exact.

The party closeness can also be read in relation to the question that boils down to "what is the party you think is best suited to dealing with the most important issue facing New Zealand". We can consider if this was the party the person actually voted for (this is why I was including this question when making the previous graph).

Party

% voters think best

Sample size

National

88.44

571

Labour

61.28

266

Green

60.00

180

NZ_First

39.39

99

ACT

33.33

3

Conservative

22.92

48

Māori_Party

12.12

33

United_Future

0.00

4

The ability to deal with the most important issue seems to be broadly in line with party size (putting aside those with a handful of voters giving overemphasised weight to their opinions) and thus being able to have policies on stuff. But it is also broadly in line with electoral success (which is, after all, tied very much to party size).

If you look at both the left right spectrum and the best at dealing with issues in combination, if you explain people's behaviour with the left-right spectrum, then you also need to use best for issues, but If you use best for issues, that explains everything the left right spectrum does and more. So a minimalist explanation only needs to pay attention to issues.

Finally rather than comparing closeness and best party for the key issue as completely unrelated, we can work out for each party how many voters for the party were both closest and thought the party was best to deal with the key issue, how many were closest and thought it not best on issues, how many were not close and thought it best on issues, and how many were neither close to the party nor thought it best to deal with the key issue.

Of these final divisions the bestClose group who both see their chosen party as closest to them in left/right terms and feel that the party is best at dealing with the most important issue, I would imagine these people were very comfortable with their choice:

metric

Party_Vote

percent

bestClose

ACT

33.33

bestClose

Conservative

14.58

bestClose

Green

37.78

bestClose

Labour

36.09

bestClose

Māori_Party

6.06

bestClose

National

66.90

bestClose

NZ_First

26.26

bestClose

United_Future

0.00

The bestNotClose voters have reached across closer parties to vote for the party best able to deal with the most important issue, I'm thinking of these as issue voters:

metric

Party_Vote

percent

bestNotClose

ACT

0.00

bestNotClose

Conservative

8.33

bestNotClose

Green

22.22

bestNotClose

Labour

25.19

bestNotClose

Māori_Party

6.06

bestNotClose

National

21.54

bestNotClose

NZ_First

13.13

bestNotClose

United_Future

0.00

The closeNotBest voted for a party they see as close to them but this was not a party they thought best at dealing with a particular issue, I'm going to imagine these as being the voters of class interest.

metric

Party_Vote

percent

closeNotBest

ACT

33.33

closeNotBest

Conservative

37.50

closeNotBest

Green

18.33

closeNotBest

Labour

20.68

closeNotBest

Māori_Party

60.61

closeNotBest

National

7.36

closeNotBest

NZ_First

30.30

closeNotBest

United_Future

0.00

The notBestNotClose group are giving their support to a party not closest to them which they do not think is best at dealing with the most important issue, these are people whose voting reasons are not well represented by these questions.

metric

Party_Vote

percent

notBestNotClose

ACT

33.33

notBestNotClose

Conservative

39.58

notBestNotClose

Green

21.67

notBestNotClose

Labour

18.05

notBestNotClose

Māori_Party

27.27

notBestNotClose

National

4.20

notBestNotClose

NZ_First

30.30

notBestNotClose

United_Future

100.00

One possible reason is that these are representation voters- that people are voting to have the party in parliament even though the party does not specifically align to them or is the best to deal with issues. If that is the case, I think it is kind of heartening for democracy in a multiparty system.

I have moved the processing code (in R) into another document so that those that want to check the technical steps can do so.

27

The Uncomfortable Silence

by Amberleigh Jack

The boy I lost my virginity to died shortly after. It was a motorbike accident. He was intense and pretty moody at times. But he was kind and wonderful and still one of the best people I've ever known in my life. My friends and I mourned openly. We grieved together.

People would ask, “How did he die?”

“On his bike,” we'd say.

“Oh that's so tragic. And so young. That poor family.”

My high school sweetheart was a Pike River miner. He was a charmer. He could talk his way out of anything. He got the both of us into a world of trouble when we dated. His cause of death became almost heroic. I hadn't seen him in a long time, but I grieved for him openly. People would ask about it.

“He was in the mine,” I'd respond.

“So tragic. So young. That poor family.”

When my Dad passed from cancer we sat with him in the days prior, and he had a stream of friends, visiting to say a final goodbye. We invited people to donate to the Cancer Society in leiu of flowers.

We grieved openly.

“How did he die?”

“Cancer,” I'd say.

“Oh that's awful. So tragic. Still so young. Your poor family.”

Today marks three years since my brother died. The person who'd stood by my side, and protected me from the day I was born, was gone – suddenly and unexpectedly.

And I quickly learned to dread the question.

“How did he die?”

For six months we were lucky. The autopsy report hadn't been finalised. Cause of death: unknown.

He died in his sleep. We're not sure. He was well known enough in his field of work for consiracy theories to emerge. We let them ride. We hid in a silent shame while the rest of the world created ridiculous stories. Somehow it was easier. The truth in the autopsy report changed everything.

Accidental Overdose.

There's a look that people give when you mention heroin. Eye contact disappears. Voices get quieter. People don't know where to look.

If you want to end a conversation suddenly, it's the easiest way.

“Oh,” they say.

An uncomfortable silence always follows.

Not awful. Not tragic. No death notices requesting donations to drug harm reduction. No charities set up to prevent overdoses. No open dialogue.

“Oh.”

And with that one word, somehow my grief feels less legitimate. Those two words seem to overshadow the 35 years of incredible human that came before them.

I've learned to not mention it to most people. I've learned to not talk about my brother much to strangers because the question will eventually arise. I've learned that people don't want to hear that my brother lost his life because he miscalculated the amount of drugs he took one Friday afternoon, alone in his San Francisco apartment. People don't want to hear the word heroin. Or overdose. It makes them uncomfortable. Far be it from me to cause discomfort.

In the three years since, I've become an expert at pre-emptively judging people's reaction when they ask how he died. And I base by answer on that. The cause of death ranges from the truth, to simply an “accident”. When I answer honestly, I know the response before it comes.

“Accidental overdose.”

“Oh.”

So we sweep it under the rug. We pretend it doesn't exist. Died suddenly. Accident. Cause of death unknown.

How did he die?

He died in his sleep.

Not long after he died, I told a friend that I was dreading the day the autopsy report was released.

“Why?” he asked.

“How did he die?”

“Heroin, I think.”

“Oh,” he said.

“I can see why you wouldn't want that to get out.”

And for the first time in my life, I felt like I was supposed to be ashamed of my brother. And I felt guilty for grieving as much as I did. Because heroin users die. It's what they do.

Not so awful. Not so tragic.

And that collective shame and stigma is half the problem. I knew my brother liked to party. I never knew he used heroin. For a while I felt that he didn't trust me enough to tell me. Or that maybe we weren't as close as I thought. Until a friend pointed out that I didn't know because he simply loved me enough that he didn't want us to think less of him.

The shame that exists ensures that the problem as a whole will never go away. We can sweep it under the rug. We can pretend it doesn't exist. We can consider overdose deaths and less tragic than “real” tragedies. But that thinking is a tragedy in itself.

How can we expect to solve a problem that we shun so openly? If you know that reaching out for help is going to result in shame and stigma and potential criminal charges, it's no surprise that people choose to tackle the problem alone. And in the world of opioids, tackling the problem alone can be dangerous as hell.

My brother was my hero.

He was the child that would always want me to come along on adventures when we were young. He was the kid that got kicked off a school bus for hitting a girl because she was mean to his sister. He was the teenager that looked so incredibly sad when he said something mean and made me cry once. He was the man that had tears in his eyes as he carried our father's casket at his funeral. He was the guy that would always tell me his best days were the times when I told him life was going well for me.

He wasn't perfect. He made some dumb decisions. His biggest mistake is etched permanently on his death certificate.

It doesn't make his death, or his life, worth any less. It makes him human.

He's not an overdose statistic. He's my brother. And I love him.

And there's countless like him. For every memory of my brother and for every tear that I shed, there are thousands like me. With memories and tears of their own. Isolated in our shameful grief.

For every overdose statistic there's a memory of a baby uttering his first word. There's a grainy video of a child taking his first steps towards mum. There's a photo of a childhood adventure, a recollection of heartache and tears. There's a lifetime of favourite pets, hugs, tears, adventures, mistakes and triumphs.

Those two words on the autopsy report don't make the lifetime that came before it dissapear.

Good people die in car accidents. So do bad people. Cancer doesn't discriminate based on a person's worth. Some real jerks try heroin. So do a whole lot of good people. In the time since my brother died I've come to speak to a lot of users – past and present. I've met incredible people who, after getting clean, have made it their life mission to cut the stigma and reduce the shame attached to addiction and drug use. Because we all have one thing in common – we know the damage that shame can do.

I've met people more intelligent and loyal than I could ever dream of being. They also happen to be trying to kick a dangerous habit.

No less awful. No less tragic.

Until we remove heroin and overdose from the list of dirty words, the problem will never go away.

For three years my own shame,  my own guilt has been part of the problem.

This week, on the eve of his three year anniversary, the word heroin was spoken at a family lunch for the first time. It was spoken quietly and quickly. Like the word itself would bring shame and guilt. Among some family members the word will never be spoken.

I have never been anything but proud of how my brother lived. I no longer want to feel like I'm supposed to be ashamed of him for how he died.

Three years ago my brother died.

How did he die?

Accidental overdose.

Oh.

Ask me how he lived though.

He lived with passion. With indescribable love and fierce loyalty. He was smart and generous. He lived with joy and he suffered heartache. He laughed, he cried, he loved.

He was amazing.

My brother lived a full and wonderful life for 35 years.

He died of a heroin overdose.

It is awful. It is tragic.

Today I cry for the brother I loved. I don't hide from the way he died.

My grief is real.

23

Darkness in New York

by Graeme Tuckett

I'm a New Zealander who recently moved to New York City. I really wonder if anyone who isn't here understands just how nuts this place is right now, or how close this presidential race is going to be.

The Republican convention is happening in Ohio: A state in which anyone over 21 years old can carry whatever guns they own in plain sight, in any public place. Not just your standard issue Glock pistol on the hip, but a full military style assault rifle, slung over your shoulder as you contemplate which political rally to attend that night or which shopping mall to have lunch at.

There are at least 10,000 people in Ohio tonight who have come only to protest. These include groups from what we might loosely call the far left and the far right. And all of them can carry a gun if they choose.

In Ohio, you don't need a firearms license . The State doesn't even ask for background checks of gun purchasers.

Someone organising the Republican convention thought being in Ohio was a good idea. If you were endlessly cynical of human nature – or at least that brand of human nature that manifests itself in the organising committees of the Republican party – you might even think that they are hoping someone gets shot. Trump is openly campaigning on the 'Law and Order' platform that is always the first and last refuge of the bully and the closet racist. Violence in Ohio as the convention unfolds will only increase his popularity.

The anti-gun lobby meanwhile, by which we mean pretty much the entire Democratic party and a majority of American citizens, can't even get a law passed that would prevent someone on the 'terrorist no-fly' list from buying a gun.

Yep. You can be banned from boarding an aircraft in this country, but still be legally able to buy an AK 47 and a few thousand rounds of ammunition. Even an amendment watering the legislation down to 'hand-guns are allowed but not automatic rifles' was defeated by the Republicans. And this happened in a country that doesn't even have a Republican president. Yet.

Trump's choice of the ultra-conservative Mike Pence as running mate is frightening for all sorts of pragmatic reasons. It was widely believed that the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, who have raised between $700 million and $900 million to pour into this election, were not about to open up their wallets for Trump. But the appointment of Pence – a longtime Koch favourite – will probably change that.

The Trump campaign, that was looking a little under-resourced, should now have access to the single largest political war-chest in US history.

A CBS news poll put Trump and Clinton at a level 40% each earlier this week. And that was before the Republican convention, where, unless Trump embarrasses himself even more catastrophically than he already has – which doesn't seem possible – he will get another rating bump.

The very real possibility is that Trump will ease ahead in some polls this week or next. And that will put him in the debating position that he is most comfortable in: that of the mocker and the bully.

Clinton seems subdued, nervous and kind of joyless. Her appeals to common sense and our better angels are the only tactic she really has open to her – beyond her own version of 'getting tough on crime', which everyone knows is a card Trump basically owns – but appeals to American common sense haven't really worked for a generation or more.

Even here in the heart of liberal/democratic New York City, I see just as many 'Hillary for Jail 2016' teeshirts as I do 'Dump Trump'.

As HL Mencken wrote in 1926, in what must be the most misquoted 'quote' of all time:

No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

Even a single month of trudging and training around this place, watching the news, listening in on bar-arguments, talking to neighbours on the subway and in the queue at the pizza joint has taught me one thing. My cosy liberal assumption back in New Zealand – that even if Trump won the nomination, he would still get toasted in the actual election – I don't subscribe to it any more.

This race is going to be close. And the tenser, uglier and – god forbid, but you know it's coming – more violent this world, country and campaign get between now and November, the more it will play into Trump's tiny little hands.

10

Housing for the disabled is a collective responsibility

by Tom Adson

I have a very good and dear friend who the New Zealand government recognises as having a disability.

He is 41 years old and lives with his ageing parents. The primary carers are transitioning from a supporting and role to one where they will in all probability become consumers, no longer ‘free of cost’ providers.

My friend's dream is to live independently in a place he can call his own in a community where he feels safe and is accepted for who he is. He is gentle. He is kind. He would love to have a job, but the disability acts as a brick wall that prevents him from getting one because of discrimination and ignorance, or the inability to add value to an employer in the short term. Or he would love to use his skill set effectively to run a competitive business and make money in the manner that the government expects.

My friend is one of many in New Zealand – so who becomes “loco parentis” (a legal term for “in place of the parent”)? Government is the maker of law and as such is responsible to ensure that just laws are in place and adhered to, including adherence to the Human Rights Act.  

A situation under the law has developed where IHC (formerly the Intellectually Handicapped Children’s charity) is being encouraged to purchase ex-state housing, and presumably the land that goes with it. IHC is a ‘not for profit’ entity, but somehow it is expected to generate income in order to provide a worthwhile and essential service.

This strategy makes sense if you are out to make a profit from those who have disabilities. Has the government got shoulders like a Coke bottle, where the accumulated wealth trickles down and around into the pockets of property developers – or square shoulders that are prepared to carry and share the load?

Disabilities are not confined to the intellect and to children alone. They cover a very broad base among (and within an even broader base within) communities, so there is a collective responsibility that must not focus on profit alone – which current policies appear to do.

In any case, the provision of money is not enough. A workforce across a broad spectrum will be required. Building standards must be complied with, and spaces made healthy and energy-efficient.

Smarter systems can become our best resource, to marshal great ideas, material resources and skills, including the skills that many people with disabilities have now or may discover.

The best societies are those that are prepared to generate a positive attitude towards the challenges of the day and overcome them. As Abraham Lincoln said at the Gettysburg address, “The methods and policies of the past are no longer appropriate for the future. We must think anew. We must act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves.”

This is something the government of New Zealand, which means all of us in a true democracy, must take heed.