Written By: - Date published: 9:10 am, October 28th, 2012 - 18 comments
Categories: babies, capitalism, child welfare, climate change, david cunliffe, ETS, families, Gerry Brownlee, workers' rights - Tags: planet key, sue moroney
On Planet Key there are no toilets. Natural body processes are considered irrelevant and nature only exists in the highly tamed and controlled form of a golf course. No wonder, then, that the government and its cronies are disconnected from the natural rythms associated with giving birth, or the chaotic consequences of the upheavals in nature caused by climate change. On the Nact government’s planet mothers don’t lactate or become hypersensitive to their babies’ cries: and fathers are unaware that We Borrow the world from our children.
A recent public meeting in Auckland about the Extension of Paid Parental Leave Bill, showed the uneasy relationship between capitalist working conditions, and natural processes associated with birth and parenting. Marama Davidson, of Te Wharepora Hou, said PPL is about the importance of families, the support of whanau, and community responsibility. It is not about consumerist individualism. Marama explained that “whanau” means the act of giving birth, strongly centring it within the extended family. After a baby is born the family needs time to adjust to the new rhythm and the new tune it puts into their life, so that it didn’t become a damaging hurtful song. She was happy to be the breadwinner for her family, but described her stressful experiences of organising breast-feeding as she rushed between meetings.
Jacquie Brown, as is her style, delivered a humorous monologue of her experience of returning
to work on a TV set 4 months after her son Leo was born: it was too soon. She acknowledged that other women didn’t have a the same choices she had. Women are encouraged to return to work, “half asleep, with our minds elsewhere … and whatever do we do with our tits?”. It was an emotional time when Brown would stop in mid-shower, a little anxious, and certain she could hear Leo cry. With her baby always on her mind, on her first day on the TV set she kept checking her phone to see if he called – and realising the silliness of that, kept checing the baby pics on her phone.
Michele A’Court performed her style of stand-up on the exhausting pressures and on-going learning involved in being a parent of a newborn child She to told some funny stories about a child’s fresh perspective on the awesomeness of life: the never ending questions about why the sky is blue or how the internet works. When scientific explanations fail, there are always unicorns and fairies that can be called in to assist.
Some oppoents of PPL lack senstivity towards such physical and emotional maternal experiences. This was seen with Business NZ’s spurious claims that it will cost employers to up-skill women after returning from PPL. Spokesperson, Paul Mackay (who had admitted to having been influenced by “political discussions“), demonstrated a Planet Key-type disconnect when questioned about their claims. When asked for an example, he gave the highly inappropriate example of a top level rugby player being “rusty” after not playing for 6 months.
The real political motives behind Business NZ’s claims is seen in Brownlee’s slippage in the House last Thursday. He was asked about the cost to business as claimed by National MP Tim Macindoe, but Brownlee responded by talking about the cost to the government. Indeed, extended PPL Bill does require an extra cost to government. Already parents can take unpaid extended leave. Many employers like to provide a good paid parental leave entitilement because it’s good PR, helps to maintain female staff after they give birth and makes less hassle with recruiting more staff.
Last Thursday in the House, David Cunliffe showed a strong awareness of the importance of natural rhythms, attachments and related social responsibilities when he unexpectedly spoke as a father. He argued with some passion against the government’s Climate Change Response Amendments (ETS), by acknowledging that climate change is “a scientifically verified fact”. Cunlifffe accused the government of selling out it his children and all our children, “by being craven” to its “traditional agriculture and big business interests”. On these points I agree with him.
Extended PPL is a necessary immediate compromise with a dysfunctional system, disconnected from the rhythms of birth and parenthood. And the ETS policy, whether or not it is weakened by the government’s amendments, is an inadequate response to the environmentally destructive practices of growth-focused capitalism.
Addendum: article today claiming the NZ government is planning to quit the Kyoto Protocol. h/t mickysavage.