Monday, October 25, 2010

Why I will be attending the Rally of Hope to support filming of "The Hobbit" in New Zealand

I'm a strong believer in Unions and workers rights in general. Many of the rights we have as working people today are thanks to the sterling efforts of Unionists around the globe who fought for better conditions and better pay. We have a great deal to thank them for.

However, I also believe in having a decent strategy when you're fighting for change, and I think it's vital to pick your battles carefully.

Choosing to use the nuclear option at a very early stage by attempting to hold a multi-million dollar corporation to ransom when you have no aces in your hand is a risky strategy at best - and at worst (as we have seem with the whole Hobbit debacle) it can come back and bite you in the ass - hard.

It can also put the jobs of many of your fellow workers in jeopardy - and if you're on the side of the working stiff, as the Equity actors claim to be - surely that should also include the film crew, the pre- and post-production teams, the extras, the support staff and everyone else involved in or affected by the trickle-down effect of shooting (or not shooting) a $500 million movie in New Zealand?

Tomorrow the Warner Brothers executives will be here to hold emergency talks about the future of The Hobbit in New Zealand. They will be deciding on whether to spend their money here, whether to employ our incredibly talented and experienced film crews here, and ultimately they will be deciding whether or not we will be able to keep our unique title of "Middle-earth".

Do I wish that they didn't have that level of power over so many Kiwis' livelihoods? Yes of course - but the fact is, they do - and I'm hoping that a strong turnouts at the nationwide Rally of Hope to support filming of "The Hobbit" in New Zealand will serve to show Warner Brothers how much the people of New Zealand support Peter Jackson's wish to film The Hobbit here, and how hard we'll work to make sure that it happens.

I hope you'll join me.

Facebook Group here - Rally to support filming of "The Hobbit" in New Zealand:

RALLIES FOR ALL NEW ZEALANDERS, Industry & public on Labour Day Monday, 12.30 for 1pm-2pm!

These POSITIVE rallies of support are timed to coincide with the visit of Warner Bros. movie executives to discuss moving The Hobbit away from NZ. We're going to show them that we like them, we want The Hobbit filmed here and we SUPPORT Sir Peter.

These rallies will also emphasize the points other groups like film techs intend to make in the national media to influence Warners.

They are NOT protests against certain groups.

Invite ALL of your friends!!!

"Is the movie going to come or go? We don't know. Warners are coming here next Monday and we've got to fight like hell,"
Sir Peter Jackson.

Here are my placards:

Rally of Hope placard 1
LOTR Oscars: 17

Premiere of ROTK: 120,000 people

Awesome NZ locations: 268,021 km2

Skilled & experienced crew: thousands

Keeping The Hobbit in NZ: priceless

Rally of Hope placard 1
New Zealand

...these are cool too - people from all over the world are sending in video messages of support - if you can't make it to one of the rallies, you can do the same. More info on how to contribute a video here - Calling for Video Support! and view all the videos here - videosforclip's Channel.

Excellent series of questions and answers from actor Yvette Reid here - A NZ actor emailed me asking some questions about the Hobbit situation, here are my answers

The most recent Hobbit thread on Public Address - Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

Hope to see you at the Rally of Hope!

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The demise of Paul Henry and the rise of racism in New Zealand

When I first arrived in New Zealand 18 years ago I felt I had found the most beautiful place on the planet. And not just beautiful on the outside, but beautiful on the inside as well. The people were warm, friendly, and helpful. It was like walking into Paradise.

Kiwis would pick you up on the site of the road when you were hitching and sometimes drive miles out of their way to take you where you needed to go, or they'd invite you back to their place to stay the night and take you to your destination in the morning. At the dairy when you asked for an ice cream cone you'd get at least three scoops of ice cream instead of the mean little half-scoop one would expect back in the UK, and they always served you with a smile and a bit of friendly conversation.

I always used to say that New Zealand felt like it was set back in time by about 50 years. Back to a time when people had enough time to be nice to each other, where the pace of life was slower and where attitudes were positive, enthusiastic and generous.

I spent the first few years of my new life as a Kiwi bathed in that same kind of positivity. I joined an African drumming group in Wellington, and when we decided to branch out and start our own percussion-based world music ensemble, Many Hands, I was amazed at the number of people who thought it was a fabulous idea and were only too happy to get involved and help us make things happen.

"That'd never happen in England" I used to think to myself. "In England they're all 'ooohhhh no, can't do that, more-than-my-job's-worth, never been done before', whereas in NZ it's all 'wow cool idea, can I get involved, can I help, let me be a part of this'. It's wonderful!"

Same thing happened when I started organising dance parties and then got involved with The Gathering. All these amazing creative people jumping on board to help, people doing stuff for free because they loved the concept, all of us working together on TheG to make magic out of nothing, and all the Gatherers becoming the best that they could possibly be the moment they entered the sacred space of Canaan Downs.

But over the years I've seen I've my rose-tinted specs becoming more and more battered and damaged. The horrific levels of child abuse in this country, the anti-smacking bill backlash from Kiwis who appeared to feel it was their God-given right to hit their children, the awful statistics related to domestic violence of all kinds, our casual and brutal propensity to torture animals for fun - all these things have puzzled and deeply saddened me in this beautiful country I now call home.

The last couple of weeks have only served to damage my rose-tinted view of New Zealand still further.

I come from a country where racism was tolerated, where for many people it was the normal way to be. My dad was racist, and my sister and I spent many years fighting with him, arguing with him, and swearing at him across the dinner table (it was the one thing guaranteed to get a reaction from my parents). The level of intolerance shown by many people in the UK towards those different (in any way) from themselves was one aspect (out of many) that I despised in my fellow countrymen, and was one of the reasons that I eventually decided I no longer wanted to be English.

Somehow I thought it would be different here. That the intolerance and casual racism I saw in the UK was not a part of the Kiwi psyche at all, and that (for the most part) it didn't exist in New Zealand. I thought we were better than that. How wrong I was. How naïve.

It's bad enough that TVNZ has appeared to encourage Paul Henry's spectacularly offensive behaviour over the last however-long he's been on Breakfast for the sake of ratings.

It's bad enough that the man has been able to get away with offensive remarks about women, the elderly, homosexuality, Hispanics, Indians, Susan Boyle, families in the developing world, the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan - always people "different" from himself, always when they're not there to fight back, very often people of a different nationality, ethnicity and/or skin colour to himself - all without TVNZ lifting so much as a finger to rein him in.

It's bad enough that this pathetic small-minded bully has been paid to disparage and offend pretty much anyone he likes by our state-sponsored public broadcaster - paid for by you and I - a public institution that in some ways represents us all, commentates on our behalf, brings us news and entertainment and everything in between and that is bound by the Code of Broadcasting Practice which, amongst other things, requires that:

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.
It's bad enough that nothing was done to limit Mr Henry's ridiculous schoolboy-like behaviour until he managed to offend the Governor-General with what is, quite clearly, a racist comment.

It's bad enough that John Key was so "relaxed" about Henry's comments that he didn't make any attempt to point out during his interview that what Henry had just asked: "Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time... Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?" was racist and offensive. A politician, especially the Prime Minister, needs to be able to think on his or her feet and respond appropriately. Not lamely laugh it off with a joke about whether the questioner is after the GG's job.

It's bad enough that it took John Key many hours (and with reference to urgent polling data I expect) before he managed to say anything that remotely resembled displeasure at Henry's racist comments. I'd have expected better than that from a Prime Minister, whatever his or her political hue.

It's bad enough that TNNZ's first comments about Paul Henry's GG questions were from their PR person Andi Brotherston, who said
The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he's prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud,"
Um, no Andi. NO NO NO. He does NOT speak for me. I do not "quietly think" anything remotely similar to what comes out of that man's mouth and I'm appalled you think I do.

It's bad enough that Henry's first "apology" was one of those classic passive-aggressive non-apologies so beloved of those who've been made to apologise but really aren't sorry at all.
"I sincerely apologise to the Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, for any offence I may have caused. If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply."
Of course what that really means is:
"I sincerely apologise to the Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, for any offence I may have caused [IF I caused any offence, which I don't think I did. I'm definitely not going to admit that my comments were in fact offensive, I'm just going to blame my victim for being offended]. If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, [actually they were funny and therefore he obviously he has no sense of humour / is far too sensitive / is clearly demonstrating Political Correctness Gone Mad and therefore his feelings mean nothing to me] I regret it deeply."
It's bad enough that Henry's comments about Sir Anand Satyanand "not looking and sounding sufficiently like a New Zealander" were not only offensive to the GG himself, but to every single Kiwi out there who resembles or sounds like him - in other words, absolutely everyone whose skin is brown.

In Paul Henry's considered opinion, there's a certain group of New Zealanders who are "New Zealanders" and a certain group of New Zealanders who are not "New Zealanders". The determining factor in terms of whether you are acceptable to PH as a Kiwi is the colour of your skin and the way you speak. And that should offend all of us, whatever the colour of our skin or political persuasion.

It's bad enough that even after TVNZ had finally come to their senses and realised that the least they could get away with was to give PH a slap on the wrist and stand him down for a fortnight, the video footage of him laughing hysterically about his deliberately incorrect and deeply offensive pronunciation of Sheila Dikshit's name stayed up on the TVNZ website for at least two days:
"The dip shit woman. God, what's her name? Dick Shit. Is it Dick Shit ... it looks like 'Dick Shit',"

"It's so appropriate, because she's Indian, so she'd be dick-in-shit wouldn't she, do you know what I mean? Walking along the street ... it's just so funny."
...and of course his final comment - about her name being so appropriate because she's Indian is the icing on the bigoted cake.

Yes, all these things are bad enough, but it's been the response of some of my fellow Kiwis that has shocked and saddened me the most.

In Paul Henry's resignation statement he said:
I do not want to be the lightning rod for racial disharmony in this country
...which, quite frankly, I find disingenuous at the very least.

What this racist, bigoted man (and those at TVNZ who not only enabled, but encouraged him) has unleashed is an outpouring of racist comments from some New Zealanders that has shocked and horrified me, and that has rocked my love of my adopted country and my fellow countrymen and women to the core.

Some recent comments from Paul Henry's Facebook page:
Did you know indians fuck cows? that why they are holy in india . But can you really blame them. look at there women.
*Breaking News* NZ family of 3 evicted from 3 bedroom house in south auckland so 40 indians can move in!!!
If an indian baby was on fire how hard would you stomp the flames?

I would put it out with petrol

i would use bricks and a curry petrol blend.
October the 29th is international run down a rag head day all Indians killed or maimed will be eligible for points 1 point per male 2 points for females and 3 points for kids.
Paul henry is a breath of fresh air. His aura he has captivates veiwers in a way where all can laugh at what he says. NEW ZEALANDERS that is, so why is it that punjabi's are aloud 2 watch our television and make comments half way around the world on what we kiwi's want 2 watch. If they spent half the time worrying about whats in their own back yards then in others then maybe their wont so much poverty there and maybe our kiwi born television presenters wont mistake them for looking like dickshit.
India is like a sewer and the people are like turds floating in the sewer.
Im sure incest is common in india?

your goat fuckers who wipe there arses with there hands you sick fuck

naaargi buudbuud rat eating monobrow looking raabi infested povertised ridden cow and goat hailing low life monkeys ! PAUL HENRY said exactly what i needed to make me laugh that morning and i thank him. DICKSHIT OR IS IT DICK'N SHIT
I'm sorry, that's only the first page and I'm feeling sick already. I'm not going to read or paste any more. You get the picture.

I'm ashamed to be a Kiwi right now. Completely ashamed. I didn't think New Zealanders were like this.

Paul Henry may be gone from our screens (thankfully, for the moment anyway - I'm sure he'll be back unfortunately), but he's left the nasty dark underbelly of intolerance and racism in New Zealand exposed, encouraged, and out there for all to see. It's appalling.

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