Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anzac Day - Finding out who you are

On Anzac Day today (ignore the stupid Google US date system) I had hoped to watch some of the excellent documentaries being screened on Maori TV. But I've been away in Auckland, and by the time I'd caught up with the washing and other odd jobs like cleaning the heat pump filter and the cat's tray, it was 3 pm. That was okay, because I had time to watch the one I most wanted to catch - Sisters Reunited. It made me very teary.

During the second world war, Bill, described only as Maori and from the South Island (it was made by the BBC, so they weren't good on his whakapapa) was stationed in Britain as a wireless operator on Lancaster bombers. He was already married, but he met and fell in love with a Scottish nurse, Jeannie. He survived the war and returned to New Zealand, where he had six children. But Jeannie had become pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, whom she called Jeannette. With no other option, she gave her up for adoption, and the girl's name was changed to Jennifer. She had lovely parents, but was badly bullied at school because of her dark skin, and always longed to know where she came from.

The documentary tells the story of how, after her own efforts had come to nothing, her New Zealand family was able to trace her, thanks to the help of a Scottish woman who met them by chance when she was visiting this country.

Because I'm adopted myself, I find programmes like this intensely moving. But I think anyone seeing it would have really responded to the story it told so well. It was the very best kind of "reality TV".

What I can't understand is why on earth we haven't already had the chance to see it on TVNZ. It was, of course, particularly suitable for Anzac Day, but it would have gone down so well on any night in prime time. But I don't think programmes like this even appear on the radar of the blinkered blokes in charge of TVNZ programming.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Where the jobs aren't

This week we got the unemployment rate confirmed for December 2008 as 4.7 percent. But this overall figure doesn't give the full picture. Pakeha women have the lowest unemployment rate of any ethnic/gender group, at 3 percent. But Maori women have the highest rate, with 9.7 percent, closely followed by Pacific women, with 9.5 percent. So where are the urgent moves targeting job retention in these two most vulnerable groups?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twinkle toes

Okay, so like everyone else I've just watched the final of Dancing with the Stars. I have just one question. Why, oh why, did Barbara Kendall have to wear not one, not two, but three incredibly tacky, hideous costumes, from faux cavewoman to black vinyl to Christmas tinsel? Do they do it on purpose?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh, those wonderful males

“The challenge is not just to understand how we develop as women or men, but to also comprehend why the male population encompasses the warrior, the poet, the scientist and wonderful blends of these extremes.”

Oh, okay - so no need, then, to comprehend more about the female population, since (setting aside Helen Clark, I guess) all it encompasses is the housewife, the callgirl, the nurse/teacher/secretary, and distinctly unwonderful blends of these dull norms?

(Quote from Associate Professor Ian McLennan of Otago University, co-author with Dr Kyoko Koishi of a study which found that male mice lacking a hormone called Müllerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS) show subtle changes in their brain anatomy, and behave in ways more akin to female mouse behaviour. I wonder if they get food and water for the other less defective male mice...)

Shutting up shop on Good Friday

I see the annual chorus of protest about (most) shops having to close on Good Friday has started up again. I'm in some trouble here. I think it's a really good idea to have a few days a year when the shops are shut. In Europe they make no bones about shutting regularly - for two half days a week and all day Sunday, as well as a solid clutch of holidays, sacred and profane.

So what do people do when they can't shop? They visit their families and friends. They go for walks and visit museums and art galleries. Some of them go to church. On Sundays they go out to lunch (it's a big day for restaurants, but they close Sunday evenings and often one other weekday too). New Zealanders used to do all these things too, until shopping took over.

On the other hand, I am so profoundly off the Catholic Church right now that I'd rather the shops stayed closed on secular holidays - Anzac Day, Waitangi Day - instead of religious ones.

Any institution that can proclaim that the man who raped a nine year old girl and got her pregnant with twins was committing a lesser sin than she and her mother did when they obtained an abortion - even though carrying the foetuses to term would have killed her - is unworthy of any sane person's support. To ram its point home, the church excommunicated the mother and girl and their doctor - but not the rapist.

Visiting the USA one Easter, I was amazed to find that Good Friday and Easter Sunday are not officially observed there. On the other hand, they have an impressive line-up of thoroughly civic holidays (though being America, they probably don't close up shop).

In Massey University's latest survey, 40 per cent of respondents say they have no religious affiliation, up from 29 per cent 17 years ago. Just over a third of New Zealanders describe themselves as religious, and although 53 percent say they believe in God, half of those have doubts. So clinging to Christian religious observances as almost our only form of time out from commerce doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. But the time out itself is invaluable, and the clamour of a few self-interested shopkeepers should not be allowed to drive it to extinction.