Feedback: August 13, 2016by The Listener
Olympic meddling; the fate of flight MH370; China and Brexit; and the demise of the news.
VOICES OF THE UNMEDIATED
Richard Harman (“Breaking the news”, August 6) noted that print and transmission systems were “above all, too dependent on only a handful of decision-makers who told their audiences what they would read or hear or see and when they would do it”.
That’s why I am joining community access radio stations in August for the Big Listen, a celebration of the extraordinary array of content created by communities and individuals throughout New Zealand with a special passion or point-of-view.
It’s such refreshing listening: lovingly local, real, friendly and diverse with many languages and cultures represented, all making radio that is relevant to everyday lives and people’s concerns.
It demands a reassessment of the definition of news. You won’t hear anything on Donald Trump, but you may hear about Punjabi socialism or Pacific health initiatives. This citizen-made media is both local and online, not controlled by a corporation and is the only unmediated voice left. It may indeed be the ideal response to the globalised impersonality of today’s media.
It will be a sad day for this household if the local paper is no longer printed and delivered. Every morning for the past 10 years, our dog has run down the path to get the morning newspaper. Coming back up, she swings it side to side from the plastic tie, occasionally chucking it behind the barbecue or dropping it mid-delivery if she sees a cat. Breakfast is her reward and ours is sharing the paper.
We all win: the dog has a job and we get door-to-door delivery and maintain the cycle of sharing the publication, whether it be a newspaper or a magazine.
I hate the thought of no printed books, magazines or newspapers and the way of life they evoke. Books on the bedside table, magazines piled up somewhere and articles kept from the local rag because they said something moving or important and they were worth hanging on to to reread or share.
I guess electronic devices will replace all of the above, but a metal and plastic box stuck in a corner seems cold and clinical compared with the alternative.
I hope the dog doesn’t live to see the demise of the local paper. She wouldn’t understand what was happening, but she would know her job had gone and we were sad.
LETTER OF THE WEEK
AUCKLAND'S CHOICE: PARIS OR LA
I was disappointed to read Jane Clifton’s take on the Auckland Unitary Plan’s allowing higher density (Politics, August 6). Her assertion that Auckland “will morph into an Asian-style city: high-rise, space poor with limited communal green spaces” completely mischaracterises the two- and three-storey suburban housing the plan allows for.
What we are talking about is Auckland becoming more like Barcelona or Paris, rather than the Houston or Los Angeles we’re heading for. Which of these cities would you sooner live in or visit – sprawling, car-dominated Houston of the two-hour commute or a vibrant, people-dominated medium-density city such as Barcelona?
Our current rules enforce useless side yards, rather than being able to build up to side boundaries. Playing cricket on your lawn has long been an urban myth – gardens get too damaged for that. We need pocket parks within three minutes of our homes where you really can kick a ball around, sit under a tree with a book and have a picnic on the grass.
By allowing us to build up to side boundaries, we can have much higher density and better outdoor play spaces. Although some people do want to spend weekends in their gardens, this shouldn’t be an enforced lifestyle – many of us have more exciting things to do than mowing lawns and pulling weeds.
To say no to this proposed urban plan, what are you saying yes to? You are saying yes to sprawl, young people locked out of the housing market and cold, drafty high-maintenance old villas as the only option.
Auckland is tired of old people saying how things should be. Young people want the choice to live close in so they don’t need to use a car on a daily basis and to enjoy the city vibe. They favour cities more like Copenhagen than Los Angeles that are higher density, not high-rise, and with pocket parks nearby.
Malcolm Watts (Letters, August 6) is naive if he believes that the “amateur” rule isn’t just as easy to circumvent as no-doping rules. The amateurs-only Olympics rule was abolished only in 1986, so one doesn’t need to look far back to see examples of USSR teams getting around it.
Most Soviet Olympic athletes used to belong to the Red Army or emergency services sports clubs. This allowed them to be considered professional soldiers, firefighters, first responders, etc – in other words, anything but professional athletes. The reality was, however, that they’d get military ranks and military awards for service even though they’d never worn a uniform. Their life consisted of training and competing in their chosen events. These people were professional athletes in all but name.
We are about to be assailed by daily Games medal tables. The media seems to place a great deal of importance over which country leads the table at any given time. But by and large, the rankings tell us nothing we do not already know, because the top medal-collecting nations are generally the populous ones with the best sports budgets: the US, China, Russia, Australia and the like.
Much more telling would be a table based on population with, ideally, the gross national product factored in. Both statistics should be relatively easy to gather. The outcome would be meaningful.
It is time the media, and not just doping nations, meddled with the medals.
Diana Wichtel’s excellent review (“Marriage made in PR heaven”, August 6) of the third documentary about the Gloriavale Christian community draws a number of conclusions and asks some valid questions, except one. Given their content, to fund one documentary would be reasonable, but for NZ On Air, aka the taxpayer, to fund three essentially recruiting and/or propaganda films for a dubious religious cult raises the question – on what grounds?
FATE OF FLIGHT MH370
Bernard Lagan wrote that “nothing has ever come to light to suggest that the Malaysian pilots [of flight MH370]had a motive” (Bulletin, July 6). This is convenient for the Malaysian Government, which would want to promote this view to protect its reputation and chequebook.
The uncomfortable truth is that the pilot had a family connection with and was an ardent supporter of Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the political Opposition, who only hours before the flight was sentenced by the Malaysian Court of Appeal to five years’ imprisonment on allegedly trumped-up sodomy charges. That verdict sealed the fate of MH370.
There is evidence that MH370 was flown into the Indian Ocean and that the flight path had been replicated on the pilot’s computer one month earlier. The grieving relatives deserve closure on how and why this tragedy happened.
LEAD US INTO REALITY
Dr John Moore’s sentiments (Letters, July 30) struck a chord with me. The failure of political leadership in this country is indeed concerning. Possibly the risk-averse business model that prevails in politics is at the core of the problem.
I was recently reminded of David Lange’s likening the “market” response to events with that of crazed reef fish. It does appear that politicians go to extraordinary lengths to avoid “spooking the market”, and also spooking our business partners and the media. Most unfortunately, this spooking-avoidance also extends to the voting public.
What we end up with is a public-relations model of politics where truth and openness become unaffordable luxuries. It is not just John Key and his team who have adopted this model. The Labour Party’s ditched capital-gains tax policy is an example from the other side of the house.
I have not much idea of what Key believes in. He does, however, express considerable admiration for the All Blacks. So perhaps he could look to our most successful sports team for a leadership model.
I am sure they have never been encouraged to be “fast followers”. I also suspect that Steve Hansen’s half-time words are not expressed diplomatically or accompanied by reassuring smiles, but the team takes the message on the chin and gets on with it.
As a citizen of this country, I am willing to be told by my elected leader that, for the greater good, I need to tighten my belt, change my habits or face some harsh reality.
So, Uncle John, we won’t be spooked – we are family. For the good of the country and the planet, make some tough decisions. But also convince us that we can transform the game. For who in the world is better placed than us in our South Seas paradise to model equality of opportunity, conservation values, community caring and innovation?
CHINA AND BREXIT
David Mahon tells us the Chinese see Brexit as another example of Western political instability (Bulletin, July 30).
What China doesn’t understand is that’s what makes Britain stable: when more than half the population is unhappy with the status quo, you can change it and the country can then build on that change.
China’s economic progress has been in spite of its uncompromising Government, not because of it.
WHY TEENS MISBEHAVE
I’m a Brazilian who lived in New Zealand for three years and consider it my second home. I still occasionally read the Listener and was moved to write by the Dunedin Study story (“The examined life”, July 16).
New Zealand’s people, the amazing lifestyle – all of it still feels very dreamy. But I noticed something while I was there: how badly Kiwi teenagers behave.
I’m not pointing my finger at your kids; in my country we have worse. Some of our kids are dangerous criminals. But we are a Third World country and most of them grow up with no opportunities, family structure or education and are easy prey for drug dealers. They lack hope for the future.
I was curious how New Zealand teenagers, who grow up well educated, with amazing public healthcare, First-World opportunities and great parenting, end up behaving badly. The crime section of the local newspaper was always reporting incidents of teens destroying public property, setting fires and drinking.
I had run-ins with some of them trying to wreck my motorcycle and house, and not feeling compelled to stop by my presence. Even in Brazil, the average teenager (a middle-class one, for a fair comparison) doesn’t show that sort of behaviour, especially when a grown-up is around.
It may be a rite of passage, but Kiwi teenagers seem to be constantly bored, which intrigues me. The Dunedin Study article shed some light and finally I feel as though I have answers. Well done.
POOR CHOICE OF WORDS
One of the highlights of my week is receiving the Listener on Fridays. I always read the reviews of forthcoming TV programmes and films.
When I started to read James Robins’ review of Poi E (Film, August 6), I didn’t get past the words “dancing like an epileptic snake”. As someone who has epilepsy, I found this extremely thoughtless on the part of the reviewer. Surely he could have used a different analogy.
GETTING THE BALANCE RIGHT
I agree with Carol Rowe regarding the wholesome eating habits of our elders (Letters, July 30). I, too, enjoyed the full-fat foods she describes eating as a child. The difference, however, is in portion size and activity levels. Now we live in a society where we probably eat double the quantity and exercise half as much – and we wonder why so many are overweight.
Your July 23 issue had two excellent articles on the theme of nutrition and health (“Weight, there’s more” and “The whole shebang”).
But wait, there was even more. How did the Food column (“Chocolate celebration”), with its unbelievably decadent recipes, warrant a place in the same publication?
UNLOCKING THE GRID
It’s puzzling how such an individualistic behaviour as household electricity generation can be presented as a social trend (Science, July 23). This is like advocating private car use in a society where public transport is available to everyone.
The electrical grid as we know it has been designed for very few generators and millions of recipients. Private generation itself may not be a bad idea, but grid operators are not keen on connecting thousands of new generators.
That’s not because they are evil capitalists (as Greenpeace suggested in its recent campaign). The fact is the whole network may need to be redesigned and someone needs to pay for it. If you start using private cars on a road network designed for public transport, don’t be outraged when asked to pay road-user charges.
(West Harbour, Auckland)
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