Club Politique by Che Tibby

On Not Loving Israel

What she said. In my day to day life I have to wear two hats. One is the loyal public servant, the one who does not attempt to embarrass the government of the day, while also retaining the confidence of opposition parties. Should they ever become Government that is. The second hat is the fun-loving liberal democrat, the one that thinks that open dialogue, tolerance and inclusion are what a decent nation-state is all about.

I think then that I can say in all confidence that I am not betraying either role by stating that Dr. Brash should just give up and actually walk that plank. John, Bill, anyone, pleeeeease get rid of this man. A vibrant, coherent, and credible Opposition is exactly what a country like New Zealand needs. It's what I want to see, it's what you want to see. These witterings are doing no one any favours, and only serve to undermine you as a party and as political personalities of any integrity. I say this because I'm only intending to be a public servant for a few more years. So ignore the boring mid-term polls, you are not likely to be Government anytime soon, unless you ditch Don.

Get rid of him.

OK, next topic. The question I keep asking myself, and have been for many years is, "why the hell should I support Israel?".

Let me preface this brief discussion by acknowledging the contribution of Jewish people to the development of all mankind. Jewish scholars, musicians, artists, comedians, businessmen and diplomats have made contributions to the betterment of this world for generations. As a nation self-defined by their religion, you would be hard pressed to find another people who has such great input into making our modern world what it is today.

Right. Now the thing so seemingly hard to get away with saying. I do not support Israel. I support their right to exist as a nation-state, and as a member of a colonial nation it would be hypocritical of me to think anything else. But I condemn their actions.

I think what annoys me the most is the continuously touted line, "[insert relevant atrocity here] happened because Israel is fighting for its very survival". What the hell? In no way is Israel fighting for its survival. If anyone so much as looks at Israel funny they kick the crap out of them. 1967? Sure. Fighting for their survival. But today the only way that Israel could seriously be threatened is if they start a fight with every single one of their neighbours, and even then the neighbours would have to contend with the US.

I concede that terrorism is a very real part of the lives of Israelis, and I condemn those who would murder innocents. But real peace with the Palestinians seemed to be within the grasp of Israel when Rabin was murdered by one of his own. Not a Muslim, but by a right-wing, fanatical Israeli. The Muslim world is not to blame for that opportunity slipping away.

It seems like another part of the issue is the belief that Israeli is somehow " God's Chosen LandTM ", and the way in which so many Christians buy into it. Dubya for instance. Hat tip to NZBC then (not the greatest photo of the muse there guys), who noticed the Rapture Index. Geez... imagine how great the world would be if all those fanatics pissed off to heaven and left the rest of us to get on with things in peace.

What mystifies me is how reference to Israel being the 'Holy Land' seems to impart some kind of moral high ground. The truth of the matter is that Israel lost any kind of moral superiority a long, long time ago. Genocide during the Second World War was good reason to give the Jewish diaspora a home, but the Holocaust does not automatically provide justification for atrocities such as those that occurred during the last incursion into Lebanon.

Israel reinforced that lack of moral superiority with the actions that started this current cycle of violence, the shelling of a Palestinian family at the beach, and the attempt to spin their way out of it. Oh. Forgot about that did we? The cycle went: 18-month truce, family killed, Hamas responds with violence, Israel replies, Hezbollah joins, Lebanon levelled. Important to remember that before condemning the entire Muslim world.

Note the picture in this article. Girls don't just wander onto military bases and sign shells on a whim. None of what we've seen in the Middle East gives us any reason to think that Israel is any less hateful than any other nation-state. They are in fact much the same as any nation in any conflict anywhere in history.

So the upshot of what I'm trying to say? You don't have to love Israel. It is OK to condemn their actions. Opposing Israel, and stating that all parties in this conflict are as bad as each other, does not make you an anti-Semite. Ranting about "the Jews" does, but we always knew Mel was a little unhinged.


I'd like to get the ball rolling by saying a warm thank you to Richard and the British Council, who were kind enough to invite me to a dinner this past Saturday night. If you haven't eaten at Kai in the City on Majoribanks Street, then I suggest you make a booking asap. Mind you, if you're adverse to singing for your supper, in Māori, then don't. Or maybe just hum. Worked for me. And in Māori language week it's all very timely.

Anyhow, it was an interesting evening. And the food was great, if you've never tried muttonbird, now's your chance. I mostly mention this dinner though because of the company. The do was on account of a number of directors of films being in town for the Wellington Film Fest, and they provided very interesting discussions of the situation of conscious people in the US, what with the whole 'BRING ON THE ARMAGEDDON' thing Dubya seems to have underway. The situation of these film makers segues well into another recent event here in Wellington, Craftwork.

So what's the connection I hear you ask. Well, what I enjoyed about Craftwork is the way it indicates that there are people left in the world who value the ability to create, to craft. All too often people are all to happy to just kind of buy things of the shelf, take them out of wrappers, or order other people to build something for them. It's a kind of shopping mall, convenience laziness that seems to be overtaking our society. I like to think of it as a real and dangerous artistic torpor.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not seeking to judge people who aren't 'crafty'. Rather, I want to indicate to indicate that attempting to craft is an important part of understanding the skill that artisans bring to the items you would otherwise blindly purchase. I was speaking to Costa Botes about this and agreed when he stated that there's something of a crisis of expectations among audiences these days. Film-makers put on grander and grander displays to take audiences on journeys, but audiences are never fully satisfied. Combine this with the issue of force-feeding of entertainment by movie factories like LA and you have real issues of 'dead' films. Films that are flat and soulless. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 for example. What a freaking schtinker.

I reckon that part of the issue is that people have become such passive consumers. Here's an example. Anyone can grown their own tomatoes. It's easy. The hassle is that by the time your tomatoes are ripe the ones in the shop are $1 per kg, which makes it seem like those tomatoes aren't worthwhile. But what you can't buy for a dollar is the experience of sitting in your yard and smelling those tomatoes ripen. You can't buy picking a tomato off a vine and eating it on a warm summer afternoon. Until you've done that, you'll never know what a tomato really is.

And all the things we consume are like that.

Now I'm not suggesting that everyone take up learning how to build TVs. There are some jobs that have to be given over to manufacturing. It's more that I think that there's no reflection in our lives any more. Even the cheesy TV do-it-yourselfers deserve respect because they're willing to get in and get their hands dirty. They understand what it is to create something.

All this stuff that I've been thinking about over the past few years was really brought into focus by Steven Bognar, who was deeply respectful of the work done by Oncology doctors, and for good reason, his own daughter survived a brush with cancer when she was very young. Steven stated his admiration for the people who work to save the lives of others, and was kind of self-effacing about his own contribution to humanity. A film.

I wasn't having any of that shit though. When it all boils down to it you can't compare the contribution of doctors, who are trained to perform certain tasks, and the act of giving life to an entirely new 'thing'. Again, I have the utmost respect for the medical profession. But the process involved in bringing forth new and worthwhile things, things made with the time and effort of a person just like you and I, deserves as much respect. Whether that thing be a pair of babies booties, a button, an album, or a film, it is a contribution to the ongoing culture that underpins us all.

Oh, unless it's porn. Which is another kettle of fish all together.

But it's good to know that while some American elites and their xenophobic allies are levelling big parts of the Middle East that there are real people doing good things you and I can relate to. Now go see a film, go on.

Metics Fourteen

The first question to answer is “what in the hell is a metic anyhow?” More than a couple of people have mentioned that one. In a nutshell 'metic' is a Classical Greek word for 'resident alien'. When applied as a label it indicates a person who is only a partial citizen. Perhaps they aren't allowed to vote, or aren't allowed the full spectrum of rights the average democracy extends to the average citizen.

It's an interesting concept, because it helps to highlight the precarious position of all kinds of individuals resident in a population. Recent migrants, refugees, some minorities, all kinds. Metic becomes a word that points directly at the stigma attached to not being an 'authentic' citizen. And not being authentic or real carries all kinds of problems.

Let's look at Rosemary McLeod's bizarre column in the SST this weekend for example. I'd like to know how heavily she was edited on this one, because it reads very, very strangely. To begin with, this myth of the homosexual agenda is a strange one, and is more a dogwhistle than reality. I consulted a friend who until very recently worked in the Parliamentary precinct, and asked what Rosemary might be driving at. Between us neither could think of anything other than two events that directly addressed a 'gay agenda'. The 1980s homosexual reform, and the civil unions fracas. That said, she did point out that there is a very strong gay presence in the current Labour Party, this in turn 'flavours' the party room.

My response was, “who gives a shit?” They can be dressed in pink tutu and carry fairy wands for all I care, as long as the Government is run in a orderly fashion, and according to set rules. How in the hell Rosemary gets from Tim Barnett's 'gay agenda' amendment to the Crimes Act to effectively excusing the violent death of a gay man is insane. Sure, we can assume rough trade is little dangerous. But so is bungy jumping and internet dating.

In this scenario gay men are effectively metics. They do not have the rights you or I take for granted. If I was stupid enough to wander down to Marion Square here in Wellington and pick up a sex worker it would doubtless be dangerous. But to be murdered by that woman would be inexcusable. No court in the country would let her off. Even had I threatened to treat her violently and she acted in apparent self-defence, my sexuality would not likely be brought forward as evidence for the defence. In the context Rosemary mentions the words 'menacing male homosexuals' are a disgrace. 'Menacing male' is relevant.

Enough has been written about this topic already, but you get the picture. Gay people often do not have the same rights you and I do. A lot of ground has been covered over the past couple of decades, and there are still plenty of people out there willing to admit they aren't entirely comfortable with 'homos'. But just get over it for Christ's sake...

Maybe the issue is that we do need to affirm the rights of straight men. So let me start. Guys, it's OK to be a straight man. No one thinks that anything is wrong with straight men. Hell it's good to be a man! But difference is a good thing. Who cares if your brother, uncle, dad, cousin or grandad is gay?

You see, straight men are not metics. The world is made for straight white men. Straight white men are the unit standard when we do things like make laws and write rules. If you can't get a job, it's not 'the feminists' holding you back. If you can't get into a uni, it's not some 'maori quota'. If you can't get onto the local rugby team because you're too white and wee, it's not the fault of some big Islanders. Be a man and suck it up. Work a little harder. Try a different code. You get the picture.

Again, 'gay' is always outside the norm. Conventional wisdom says that homosexuals are outside the boundaries of the everyday citizen, and the rules are written for the everyday, middle of the road Joe Bloggs. Tim wanting to amend the law to stop reduced sentences for the murderers of gay men is not an act of extremism. If you could matter of factly and violently bash someone to death for the sole reason you're scared of a poke in the bum, Hopawate would have been history a long time ago.

The Cure for Tinea

Someone I know recently moved to Australia, probably following sterling advice he'd spied somewhere, but promptly decided to pack it in and move back to the glorious Wellington weather. Naturally this isn't for either of the obvious reasons, that Australia is crappy and full of Ockers, but because there were too many poms. Go figure that one out.

In all seriousness, I'm sure that his decision to move there was based on his experiences as a young lad, full of English pounds and partying in some of Australia's greater tourist traps. What it made me think of is the way there's simply no going back to our good ol' days.

Pretty much everyone has them, or should have, whether it's the few years before you go getting someone up the duff, or the years you spent as the popular college kid. They always sit there, reminding you that life can be an endless lotto moment without care or responsibility.

That in turn made me think about why people come back to Godzone after time away. We've all done it. You purge all the gear you don't need, sell the rest, and off you set for shores unknown. Itchy feet, probably the New Zealander's greatest asset. If we all stayed we'd freaking hate each other within five minutes. That or start breeding with our sisters. Take a look at what places like Texas give to the world if you need proof of that...

And there it is. New Zealander's need To go overseas to stop us going stir crazy. But when it all boils down to it if you're a real New Zealander you have to come back. There's no two ways about it. Even if you think you've chosen to stay away you'll always be thinking about the place. You'll always feel the presence of New Zealand there, just under you skin, always causing an itch you can't always get to. It'll perch on a branch near the back of your mind whispering sweet nothings, nudging you gently with reminders of endless hills and empty beaches.

It was a strange thing for me. Someone asked me at the weekend where I felt the yearning and I answered glibly, but there was some truth in what I said. I did feel the longing behind my ears. It was a tightness, an irreconcilable tension. It grasped forward to my brow, only to release me when tales of home sprang from a friend. When pictures recognisable only to a true Kiwi appeared on billboards or the telly. They soothed me. They pierced the veil of ignorance blinding the people around me. They brought me closer to home and smoothed the yearning in a way big money never could. Hell, when did money ever soothe yearning?

Ignorance you ask? Not ignorance in a spiteful sense, but the ignorance of lack of experience. How can you explain Kiwi summers to an Ocker who bathes in sun year round? Those days of needle-sharp sunlight. So, too, short and hazy. The bite of salt water crisp and clean. Black sand. White sand. Grey sand. The smell of Pohutukawa baking.

And the yearning never left me. In the first few years the glamour of what I was doing pushed it deeper. It buried it at the bottom of an explorers pack. The forgotten momento of my person. Lurking there, springing out occasionally during a long stay, admired, and returned for future perusal.

The second place the longing sat was my shoulders. On the days when the alien places I travelled to became too much. When they slumped me forward. When they sat upon me to remind me I was a stranger. A welcomed adventurer perhaps, but a stranger nonetheless. On those days the yearning would lift me up with smiling memories of rainforest canopies and the wafting mist of the the bush floor. I would give myself over to it and it would grant me verdant and silver wings. I would rise in my mind high above the pale greens and luscious reds to glimpse the rising hills and clustering isles. I would pause there long enough to again feel the warmth being at home, and sink back to the quagmire of alienation.

And so I came home. When the sweet nothings became too much. When the pull of the yearning became too much. When it reached too far into my daily life to ignore, a foot-stamping, petulant child, I returned.

Do I regret it? Sometimes. But the yearning is quieted, and peace is a beautiful thing.

Bright Light Over Yonder

Having recouped almost a third of the price of my latest purchase by selling the old unit on TradeMe, I thought I could become an 11-star Sneetch by making sure I dropped it off. I'd made sure that I indicated that my old 1.8gig Athlon was collect-only, but the purchaser wanted me to mail it anyhow. I was hesitant until they indicated that the computer was for their wheel-chair-bound son. Pesky damn social conscience...

The main trouble of course wasn't that I'd be required to post the unit, I'd already volunteered to deliver it, I'd been enough of a sucker to drop off the old monitor a couple of weeks before (“I need the $$, and I need it now”), the trouble was the drive all the way to Farmerston North. But I figured hey, how bad can it really be? After the 'fug' of being in Wellingtown for too long, it couldn't be all bad. Plus, there was the whole getting the unit to the kid thing. I'm far too nice a guy for my own good sometimes.

Anyhow, I decided we should take the long way and headed over the Rimutaka's because it's far more scenic. Good decision. We raced on thru Featherston and stopped in Greytown for breakfast. After a few minutes snooping around we stopped at this place call Salute and I had what was probably the best breakfast pancakes I've had in years. Two light, fluffy pancakes topped with lemon curd and a berry compote. There was a layer of whipped full cream on top of all that with what they called pomegranate molasses drizzled all over. That and a decent coffee and back on the road.

I think one of things I do not miss about being a dishwasher is being able to spend $20 on breakfast and not have to think twice about it.

From the refined neighbourhood of Greytown we heading north into the bright sunlight and out past the geee-orgeous Tararuas, themselves all covered with snow, and made a beeline for Masterton to keep to the schedule I'd arranged with the buyer. We were supposed to meet in the carpark of the local ware-whare, and we looked like being about an hour late.

Funny place Palmerston. Literally. During the comedy fest I saw about four comics score points of it. My main [lack of] memory of the town is getting blisteringly blind there on this thing called the 'Tour De Coma'. It's probably the place's great contribution to athleticism and drinking. Jesus I was drunk. 24 cans is no small feat.

So, what's interesting about TradeMe exchanges is the trust it automatically imposes on you. One of the things I try not to do when the buyer hands me the money is count it. You just take it in your hand and count it later. If they short-changed you you can always character assassinate them online. Heh heh.

After getting the cash we headed into the aforementioned ware-whare. Damn they've got a flash one up there. Selling food, all kinds of crap, and dripping with people in sweatshirting looking for new sweatshirting to wear.

Like I say, funny place Farmerston.

On the way back we went along the coast, and a more boring damned drive you cannot imagine. Naturally we made good on the promise to drop in and see some family in Otaki, and enjoyed practicing a little of very simple Te Reo work has been kind enough to have me taught.

So no a bad trip all in all. Nothing quite like a drive in the country to clear out city dust.

On a final note, Bongo and the SpongeMonkeys didn't make it to the Wellington Finals of the 48 Hours film comp. But if you'd like to see what we knocked out, Jenn the producer kindly put it up on YouTube here. There was also this great photo doco by Karim Sahai that you might have wanted to check out, but it seems to have been taken down. I'll try track it down for you.

Oh... I said I'd do 'joy'. Sorry, wandered off into discussion of a roadtrip. But, that's probably for the best. No point having you all think I'm bipolar.