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Marriage Equality: Culture Wars One

12 Nov

Back in August Kiri and I both wrote about the marriage equality bill put forward by Labour MP Louisa Wall. I said I was going to ask some people what marriage means for them, in attempts to foster a more compassionate and productive discussion. I have finally got around to it!

What follows is a quick interview with my friend Susan, followed by a brief discussion. Susan is in her early 30s and has been married and divorced, attended a Christian church during her teenage years and also just had a baby with her partner.

G: Do you support marriage equality legislation?

S: Yes – because of the word equality. I see no reason to deny anyone the right to marry based on their sexual orientation.

G: Is the idea of getting married to someone important to you?

S: Personally no, but that is based on a past experience of being in an unhappy marriage. I think there are more important signifiers of a committed relationship than a marriage certificate. In saying that, I wouldn’t rule out getting married again.

G: What does marriage signify for you?

S: In the past it has signified one person being submissive to another. However, this is something I would like to redefine for myself!

G: Do you think marriage equality is a significant issue and needs to be discussed? Continue reading


Marriage Equality: “not exactly the biggest issue of the day”

6 Aug

Women getting marriedEveryone seems to be talking about marriage equality at the moment. From Obama to a New South Wales Anglican Vicar who recently put up a sign outside his church advocating for it. This Vicar suggested that it was time that society discuss the issue. So it’s pretty interesting that New Zealand is currently engaging in just such a debate. Labour MP, Louisa Wall’s “marriage equality” bill, was recently pulled out of the ballot for a conscience vote which may take place as early as late August.

For some people the issue seems like a no-brainer. Marriage equality, specifically widening the definition of marriage to include same sex couples is in line with United Nations mandates about equality under law for all people regardless of gender, sexuality, religion etc. However ‘marriage’ is a pretty loaded term and means different things to different people. Some people argue that marriage – as both a relation and state institution should only apply to a specific gendered configuration – often drawing on religious ideas about a sacred union between a man and a woman. Opponents of marriage equality appear to be arguing that marriage needs to be respected as a cultural tradition and to change the current rules would risk damaging the nuclear family and the ‘children may suffer’. But let’s not be naive here, marriage may traditionally have been about the union of a man and a woman but it has also been used to build nations, avoid wars, a way to gain financial security, escape poverty and do a bit of social climbing. While it might be about love for some people and having children, for many it is about more pragmatic and mundane concerns like visas, next of kin rights, keeping food on the table and protecting financial assets. Continue reading

Well-articulated rant #1

18 Jun

This week, ElevenHoursAhead will be publishing the thoughts of current and former students on the real value of the student allowance system. Here is today’s personal reflection from Kiri Stevens:

When does that moment come when a parent looks at their children and says “Stupid socialists, dumb communists…I’ve got a f***ing living to make, I had to pay fees too and now I have to work to pay them off!” Okay so maybe the person who said this doesn’t have kids but he did yell this at some Auckland students protesting the changes to the student allowance. When I read that I felt pretty upset – like the comments were directed at me, and since when did it become okay to swear at a bunch of young people. Actually when did it become okay to swear at anyone? But as I read, I was only to become more upset when another bystander was quoted as saying “There are ways to be political and blocking other people is not one of them…[a]nything that doesn’t inconvenience other people would be better, they’re disguising their selfish naivety as noble.” Hang on now, when did protesting become about making sure you are NOT inconveniencing people? Perhaps this guy should have a yarn to um, I don’t know, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Te Whiti, all those peeps in east Germany in 1989, Egyptians, Tunisians, Burmese, Chinese at Tiananmen square, the millions that took part in Occupy worldwide … So okay, the things that us students are protesting are almost embarrassing to say when viewed in this company, but people protest when they feel like they aren’t being listened to, that their everyday life, however lived, is somehow being judged as not as important as someone else’s. I have got through University relatively unscathed. With the help of a student allowance my student loan is only $20 000. I pity the students that fill my space in the University. Someone just told those future nurses, doctors, teachers, council workers or, dare I say it our future political leaders, that they don’t care. Which is a shame, because us students – well we’re you’re future.

(Which actually as your future representative in parliament – could become a real bummer for you when we decide to cap you superannuation at three years, or four for life lived with honour).

Kiri Stevens

A week of well-articulated rants

17 Jun

The idea behind this series of ‘well-articulated rants’ in which past and former students give their thoughts on the real value of the student allowance was triggered by an idiotic comment on facebook about students. The comment was nothing new, the same old ‘well why don’t they get a job and start contributing to society’ mantra that is often repeated but rarely elaborated on. However in the context of the changes to the student allowance system to which the person was referring, the comment took on new significance. It had become an opinion that the government had effectively sanctioned through their decision to cut allowances to post-graduate students. During the coming week, ElevenHoursAhead will be posting the thoughts of past and current students on the flaws in this new policy. The criticisms come from many angles ranging from the impracticality of the policy change and its unethical nature to broader concerns about the type of society it will contribute to creating.

Continue reading

Online Organising in New Zealand

3 Jun

Anyone who occasionally glances at a computer these days will no doubt have come into contact with the phenomenon called “online organising”.  The term is a relatively crude one which encapsulates everything from a facebook petition campaign started by a 13 year old to see their favourite band play at Big Day Out, to an efficiently organised multi-national advocacy campaign targeting the United Nations by international groups such as ‘Avaaz’.  Like it or not ‘online organising’ is fast becoming a vital piece of democratic infrastructure for the 21st century.  A new wave of organisations has emerged worldwide over the last decade in an attempt to harness and co-ordinate this power for real change offered by new technology.  Currently this movement is in its infancy in New Zealand and we are one of the few developed nations without a mainstream citizen-led organisation to counter the power of governments, corporations and lobby groups.  However, the community behind such movements are their real source of power and the more such organisations do to engage communities, the more effective they are in achieving their goals. Continue reading

Diary of a Frustrated Christchurch Limbo Local

13 May

It is coming up to mid May 2012 and we (the long suffering orange zone limbo landers) continue to languish in our damaged houses. An entire suburb of nearly 250 households of young and old left hanging with no end in sight and wishing bolts of lightning upon the bureaucrats dithering and diving in closeted offices.

D-week for a decision release to red or green zoning, promised by both CERA and Gerry Brownlee by end of April (mind you he did not say which year), did not happen. Neither did Gerry’s first stab with October 2011, as this date passed quietly by without anybody feeling the need to inform us, the earthquake victims.

It is no secret this Earthquake Minister and master of bluster is nicknamed ‘bully’ around Parliament, and no surprise he has shown scant understanding of the plight of residential quake victims. Nor is it surprising that he is widely perceived as stealing the thunder of the real architects behind the commercial rebuilds by only turning up to front the media. Continue reading

Something is Rotten in the State of New Zealand

7 May

Some of the contributors to elevenhoursahead took part in the Aotearoa Not for Profit hikoi last Friday. We were proud and humbled to march with 2000- 5000 fellow New Zealanders against the sale of New Zealand’s publically owned assets.  It was therefore with dismay and disappointment that we later watched John Key offhandedly dismiss the voices of his fellow kiwis in an interview with John Campbell. Fellow blogger Diane Revoluta has written this brilliant post titled Something is Rotten in the State of New Zealand (4th May 2012) which summarises much of our anger and frustration. We thought we would share it with you:    

Yesterday somewhere between 2000-5000 people marched in Wellington against the government’s plans to partially sell state assets. This followed a similar sized march in Auckland last weekend and a week-long hikoi starting in Cape Reinga. After last year’s record low voter turn out, it would seem that when it comes to political issues apathy is rife in New Zealand. People seem disinterested in the traditional ways in which politicians engage with the public and disillusioned by the corruption and lack of integrity displayed by some politicians. Which is why the size of these protests and the strength of the opposition to asset sales is all the more impressive. Protest is the antithesis of apathy, and the fact that an issue has mobilised so many New Zealanders is good reason for the government to sit up and take notice.

Did John Key sit up and take notice? No. In fact, John Key’s response to thousands of New Zealanders spending their lunch break protesting on the streets (and thousands more supporting them from around the country on Twitter, Facebook and other online forums) was this:  “How many people did they have? Ok, where was it? [laughs] Well, OK, no I wasn’t aware of it.”

Read the full blog here:

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