It Never Hurt Me Any

There comes a point in a man’s life when he has to admit something he has resisted for many a year…

I’m turning into my father – although this has been a slow process, it is often quite hard to fight. I find myself getting grumpy at the slightest piece of poor driving for example, or I like to complain at things I’m not willing to do anything about to fix.

Of course, I am definitely not my father. And quite thankfully so as I think my wife would be somewhat concerned if I had suddenly morphed overnight into her father-in-law.

Do I have a point? When I started writing 6.5 minutes ago I was going somewhere with this. However, it seems I have wandered off track like the aimless career path of Michael Jackson following the last 30 years of advice from his many, many ‘yes’ men. Before I get back on track I have just one thing to say about that weird pseudo-paedo – man could he dance. Well two actually – did anyone ever find his other glove?

Back in the 70s, when my father had the most influence over me, giving a child a sound thrashing for disobedience, silly behaviour, swearing in the house, stealing etc, was an acceptable disciplinary option for many a parent. Both here in New Zealand and around the world I’m sure many mothers and fathers optioned the occasional chastisement in order to teach their children right from wrong. And it was fine – those were very different times. At one point in the 1970s Richard Nixon was a well respected US president, Iran was pre-republic, and Michael Jackson was black.

So when did it all change? I think the crunch would have been somewhere around 1980 – the year I turned 10. Although my father still used the spanking to discipline, Iran was no longer headed by a Shah, Nixon had been impeached and Jacko was on the road to being the King of Pop (his attempts at being the King of Soda Pop were to fail dramatically, however, after the product used to keep his afro straight exploded in a fireball during the filming of a Pepsi commercial). My dad stopped spanking me around this time, not because I stopped being naughty, far from it (that didn’t happen until my mid-twenties), by this time I was nearly as tall as him, so this kind of punishment was becoming ineffective.

During the 80s and 90s, the sound thrashing that was part of many children’s upbringing was on the decline. During the noughties, with the rise of Supernanny and her wonderful parenting skills, despite the stunning lack of any children of her own. I suppose it’s easy to practise experimental parenting when children aren’t yours (controversial comments once again Boon – grow up!). So Supernanny Jo Frost has shown 172 countries (ABC website bio) that you can raise children without the need to assault them with your hand, a wooden spoon, or some kind of buckled, leather, & gravity-defying trouser device.

So now we move to New Zealand and the current Citizen’s Initiated Referendum we have before us on the issue of smacking or spanking depending on what you want to call it. It was initiated following legislation being passed that outlawed excessive force being allowed to be used as a defence by parents ‘disciplining’ their children. But before I start talking about the subject of the referendum it’s important to point out a few things about referendums here in little old NZ…

  1. A Citizen’s Initiated Referendum is just that – initiated by the citizenry. All someone, or a group of someones has to do is gather up a petition with signatures from at least 10% of eligible voters.
  2. Once the petition has been organised then it is checked by the Clerk of the House to make sure nobody has signed it 500 times.
  3. As long as everything is in order, then it is presented to parliament and the Governor General sets the date or declares a postal referendum.
  4. We all vote on whether we agree or disagree with the question put to us.

All sounds pretty democratic… well, to be frank, it’s bollocks.

Firstly, the whole process is fraught with nonsensical gibbering from various interest groups. It is the people with strong viewpoints on the matter that initiate these referenda. They write the questions, so quite often the questions are politically charged and worded terribly. This current question is appalling: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand? The organisers of this petition question were very cunning. If, like me, you’re against assaulting children in any way, you might decide to answer in the negative – I’m against smacking, so ‘no’. You would, in this circumstance, be voting in favour of hitting kids. The question is so bad that our prime minister John Key and leader of the opposition Phil Goff have both said it’s a waste of money and they might not even vote. Why couldn’t the question just read: Are you in favour of hitting children? If you answer positively to this question, then well done you dick.

Secondly, the whole process is a waste of time because this type of ballot is “non-binding” in that the government of the time can accept the result but the are under no obligation to pass any laws. And why would you? Punters are particularly good at having extreme viewpoints on a variety of issues – why should the politicians, who are all moderate, listen to the public they represent? I’m not sure if you can tell, but the inflection on that sentence is thoroughly sarcaticatory in nature.

Thirdly, because of the first two points, and the fact that this current referendum is costing $9 million ($US5.8 million), why are we even bothering. Couldn’t they save a whole bunch of money by doing a survey? Isn’t there something called the Internet now? Can’t we just log on to a secure page and vote there? I do Internet banking, inland revenue stuff and pay bills on-line using secure log ons all the time.

Fourthly, New Zealand has one of the worst rates of child abuse in the world. You wouldn’t think so, but about 6 or 7 times a year the news media will pick up on the story of a child – usually under 5 – who has faced such neglect and lack of respect that they have died at the hands of the people who are meant to be their carers. The last great example of this was a household of adults, who’ve since been convicted of murder & manslaughter, who ended up putting a 3 year old in a clothes drier and hanging her on the clothesline as punishment for crying. If you are in favour of disciplining children by hitting them in someway and/or with something, then you are on the slippery slope to abuse.

Think about it in this context: if I was to walk up to a person on the street, put them over my knee and give them a sound thrashing for something they had done, I would be charged with assault. There should be no difference for an adult who hits a child. Why should the size of a human determine the severity of the crime? Assault is assault – I don’t care what the bible says.

So, in summary, if you hit your kids you are a child abuser. We got rid of it out of schools in the 80s because it just doesn’t work in the long term. Nowadays there are many different options available to the parents – far more than when I was growing up when a pants-down hiding with the wooden spoon was considered appropriate. If you are a parent reading this and thinking, I smacked my child last week, does that make me a criminal – well yes it does, but you probably won’t get caught because nobody outside your family saw it. If you are wondering where to look, start with the Supernanny website – all sorts of wonderful material is available there, many bits you can download for yourself (rewards charts etc). I’m sure there are many others out there as well. Let Google be your guide.

Until New Zealanders realise that assaulting a child and disciplining a child are mutually exclusive, then our child abuse rate will continue to be above those of all other countries.

The naughty step is definitely the way of the future.

Boon x


Health and Happiness

As the alleged pig flu pandemic sweeps many nations around the globe, it’s time to ponder exactly how Republicans in the United States of America can say they have the best health system in the world. They do have the most expensive, but the best? I think not.

Contrary to the beliefs of Fox News and it’s Republican associates, the US health-care debacle has been going on for years and years and years. Thanks to some generous political tipping (various slightly legal bribes paid through a process dubbed ‘lobbying’), this side of the fence believes in its heart that private companies can offer a better health-care system.

37th in the world – (World Health Organisation report 2008).

Our grand supreme 3-point swisher Barack “Omygod” Obama is trying, as so many Democrats before him have failed to do, to convince the American public to some kind of federal government provided health-care package involving, among other things, a government provided alternative insurer.

According to the US Census Bureau, just under 50 million Americans, or one sixth of the population are without health insurance – this figure includes children. I’m not sure what it means to be uninsured as a health consumer, but if it’s anything like my car insurance (insurance is insurance after all), if you don’t have insurance and you break something by accident you have to pay the full amount to get it fixed. As with health-care, if you have a heart attack and don’t have health insurance then surely you have to pay the full amount to get it fixed. God forbid if you need a new heart or lungs.

I had a run-in with an insurance company about 15 years ago after an accidental fire in our student flat. They attempted to recover costs off me for burning down the kitchen. Thankfully (!??!) my mother had had a very similar oil vs stove fire earlier that year and had received a full pay out from the same insurance company so I was pretty confident that I did not have to pay. Taking advise from my flatmate, who’d kindly asked his father, I ignored the letters.

After a while the threatened me with a collection agency or some such thing and I asked my dad what to do. Together we drafted a letter containing the word ‘solicitor’ several times and the problem went away. My point is this: they were an insurance company and the may, a) not pay the claim because of something in the terms and conditions they think favours them, and b) they will try to seek recompense if they believe you to be at fault.

Now, I’m not saying this is wrong. After all, insurance companies are people too. Well, not really. Insurance companies are companies. But they are full of people. What I’m attempting to say, quite unclearly as it turns out, is that an insurance company is in the business of making a profit. If it is a publically listed company the profit is definitely paramount and maximising said profit is what the board are aiming for. It’s not their fault, they are just doing what the shareholders want them to.

So if insurance companies are in the profit business, how might they achieve successfully in this? Please see points a) and b) two paragraphs before this. They will deny claims or charge those at fault. Why would health insurers be any different?

I’ve seen quite a few Republican types on the news in recent times. Many are concerned. Concerned and worried. Thanks, in part, to a couple of things. Obama saying he is ‘gonna change’ things and the War on Terror dribbling to a Vietnam-like close. Conservatives by their very nature abhor change – they wouldn’t be conservatives if they flip-flopped on the various issues like us liberal types. Stay the course – stand tall – be true to your calling etc. Liberals like to change their minds if evidence and research suggests they should. It’s generally called common sense.

(Of course, as with all other mutterings on this page, I am full of opinion and argument with little in the way of back up and a lot in the way of gross gerneralisation – but that is the nature of my beast (sorry to sound overly sexual there))

Common sense would suggest that a country with a sixth of it’s population unable to just waltz up to a doctor and get a flu jab or an arm in plaster needs to offer some kind of health-care to these 47 million people. Republican sense, on the other hand, suggests any government involvement in the health system is sacrilege and they will not abide by it even if it means people dying.

Many commentators are suggesting that there will be bureaucrats between the patient and the doctor. As Mr Jon Stewart, Daily Show, New York pointed out, isn’t there a health bureaucrat inbetween my doctor and me at the moment anyway?

Another point that could be made here, and I’m coming from the direction of being a public sector worker myself, is that we public servants get paid a lot less to do the same job than those in the private sector. Private sector health i-dotters and t-crossers will be getting paid the private sector rate – far more than the health bureaucrats in the US Federal Government or in the Ministry of Health in Wellington (that’s NZ).

You could argue then that having federally funded health bureaucrats in Washington deciding things might actually make the US health system cheaper…

Or is that jumping the ak-47 slightly?

Anyway America, good luck. Health reform is a remarkably hard thing for anyone to achieve. But it could mean a lot cheaper premiums, which can’t be a bad thing.

Until next time, adios.

Boon x

Death to All

Hello to everyone,

Recently I talked about the rank hypocrisy displayed by many members of what has been dubbed ‘the right’ or ‘the religious right’. This time I plan to delve deeper into this most interesting and perhaps tragic of areas.

Whatever your views on any political subject, abortion seems to the the single topic that so divides thinking. On the one hand you have the likes of me (the Roers) who believe it is a woman’s right to choose and others (the Waders) who believe it should be their right to choose. Being in the midst of some fertility issues (and a man), abortion is not high on my list of things to experience, and I would never want any baby/foetus/embryo that was created in part thanks to my vigorous swimmers to be excised in any way. Even though I hold this belief, it is NOT my place to tell others to do it my way. This is how it should be…

However, there are those members of the community who do believe that life begins, not at 40 as the old song goes, but at conception – that point when sperm and egg meet somewhere in the fallopian tubes, combine together and begin to divide (Of course, if this bunch of cells were to be removed from the body they would not be able to survive on their own, so perhaps this isn’t when life begins???). Anyway, these people have been dubbed the ‘pro-lifers’ with their thoughts that 2 cells is a human being.

So begins the critique…

I believe that people have the fundamental right to believe anything that they want to. In New Zealand we don’t actually have a constitution (as they do in the USA), but we do have a Bill of Rights which holds for every citizen. If you believe, as those members of the Heaven’s Gate cult did, that the earth was about to be ‘wiped clean’ by the comet Hale Bopp, and ate tainted pudding to pass to the ‘next level’ then that is your fundamental right as a human. The main issue I have with belief is that so often it takes on a ‘we’re right and you’re wrong’ aspect (see Christians v. Muslims, 1095-present / Jews v. Everybody, dawnoftime-present).

The ability of pro-lifers to take on the mantel of the chosen ones whose belief system is the correctest has been a time honoured tradition passed down through many a family since the process was invented. The Bible is often used as a way of justifying their thinking (as you would expect I suppose since it is the basis of their belief system). However, because it was written by the church to quell the masses, and not by God and Jesus, then it is full of major contradictions.

And the Lord said unto him, therefore whoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold (Gen 4:15).

Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Cor 13:11).

God bless the Lord for being so multi-dimensional.

Of course, believers will say we are taking the Bible out of context when we quote these various contradictory scriptures. What about them? They like to quote single lines here and there (an eye for an eye etc.), they just fail to mention the contradictory bits (turn the other cheek, do unto others etc).

Ultimately, when that hippy Jesus came along (see new testament), the whole vengeful God thing calmed down. He walked around the middle east in his bare feet singing songs of love and praising God, who, he said was his father. Of course, if this sort of thing happened now (someone claiming to be the son of God), they would undoubtedly be institutionalised and diagnosed with schizophrenia. So Jesus preached a message of love and goodwill towards man, so how have things gone so tragically wrong?

This week, in a church in the United States, a doctor was shot dead. In a church. In a church!! What??!!?!? This doctor George Tiller gained notoriety for performing ‘late term’ abortions – these are abortions performed on foetuses that could survive outside the woman’s body if they were born. Controversial? Yes indeed. Worth being murdered for? I think not. The person who shot an killed Dr Tiller walked into a church on a Sunday morning last week and shot him once, then left. Presumably this person is opposed to the service that Dr Tiller provides on religious grounds.

What I can’t understand, perhaps because I’m barking up the wrong tree, is how anybody could walk into a house of God on a Sunday and murder someone. To that person I ask, “How on earth are you promoting your cause in this case?”

If you are pro-life, if you believe that life does indeed begin at conception, then you can’t, on the other hand, kill someone, bomb a clinic, or generally terrorise other people who don’t believe what you believe. It’s just wrong. So so wrong. There is no defence for killing someone for what they believe in. None at all. I don’t care if you’re a Christian from the mid-west, Osama bin-Laden or George W. Bush. You have no right to take the life of another.

There. I’ve said my piece. A bit preachy this time, but it had to be said.

Boon x