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The Standard

The rhythms of life

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: ,

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

Jacquie Brown: “Keep Calm and Carry On”

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.

Cunliffe at his desk 

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.

18 comments on “The rhythms of life”

  1. karol 1

    <i>Of course the difference between taxes and benefits is that in the tax situation a person earns money</i>
    Are you sure that is always the case?  Some people are paid well more than is warranted from the effort they put in and/or the contributions these efforts make (or don’t) to the good of society.

    [karol: It's possible that I could've written this comment - but I didn't. To avoid confusion, could you please choose a different handle/name to comment under. I do tend to agree with the comment]

    • Bill 1.1

      Hmm. Pay determined by time spent on the task and factoring in social good and the relative desirability of the task being undertaken. Now there would be a thing. I’m up for that, I am. Want some extra money? Then put more of your time into some socially necessary but undesirable job. Don’t want to be locked into that task for ‘ever and the day’? Fine. Lets have multi-faceted job situations. So the surgeon also does ward rounds and toilet cleaning. And the (former) toilet cleaner can, if they posses the potential, train in and eventually practice surgery.

      Better still to have workplaces/communities as the economic unit rather than the individual and then we avoid any potentially fraught negotiations surrounding the relative monetary worth of childcare or home keeping etc in comparison to those tasks that we currently view as ‘jobs’.

      And so now the surgeon performs surgery, toilet cleaning etc as well as engaging in childcare or homekeeping, gardeining and so on. A ‘work/lifestyle’ balance that is roughly in keeping with everyone elses and that would blurr the division between work and leisure and create a seemless flow between the two.

      No compulsion beyond immediate peer pressure to participate in your society (your workplace/community) to a degree and in a fashion that your peers find acceptable. And if you don’t like it, you can always uproot to a new or different workplace/community – society. Thousands to choose from. And all working along broadly similar and democratically empowering lines…

      • OneTrack 1.1.1

        And the toilet cleaner can do ward rounds and brain surgery.

        • fatty

          …weird how some people can write, but they can’t read

        • kiwicommie

          In a New Zealand with Free Education perhaps, but under the current government you are lucky to get a job on a BA; the loan system no longer funds post grad so there are going to be a lot of unemployed university students with big student loan debts.

  2. Dr Terry 2

    As usual, I much endorse comments from Cunliffe. He speaks of the government selling out the children, as well he might. Somebody (forget who) has spoken of New Zealanders hating its children. Maybe that goes too far, but there is a point to be made. Having lived many years in America, my wife and I noticed that children there are treated by adults with much greater respect (and don’t worry, I am as big a critic of American policies as are many).

    Cunliffe also speaks with absolute truth with regard to Climate Change as a “scientifically verified fact”. I regard him as Labour’s main remaining hope, if he can cope with working alongside so many a drongo.

    • fatty 2.1

      “Somebody (forget who) has spoken of New Zealanders hating its children”

      Bronwyn Hayward, a political scientist, has spoken about how we do well with keeping elderly out of poverty, but not so great with children. Its a 30min presentation about her new book – ‘Children, Citizenship and Environment: Nurturing a democratic imagination in a changing world.’

    • karol 2.2

      Yes, I agree on Cunliffe’s value.  But he is still into the “growth” philosophy, and supports the ETS.  Maybe that’s because he is following the Labour party line…. or not?
      I agree totally with what he says is the problem with climate change.  But Labour’s solution falls short. 

      Labour wants the Bill withdrawn, of course. But, as National won’t do that, we’ve put forward amendments, including:

      Ensuring the ETS is an all-sectors all-gasses scheme, so everyone plays an equal part in the solution.
      Bringing agriculture into the ETS in 2015, as scheduled, so a huge advantage isn’t given to the minority of dirty farmers who’ve done nothing to prepare for this long-established deadline.
      Restricting international units to 50% so that New Zealand Units are preferred over international ones, thus protecting our forestry industry.
      Make the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) publish annually the amount industries charge their customers for carbon.

      The should at least have stuck with a carbon tax and not been scared off by farmers with tractors.  And here the devil will be in the detail:

      When Labour comes to government we will put good science and innovation at the core of our environmental and economic policies. We will put in place policies that support a future that is clean, green and clever.

    • David H 2.3

      I asked that very question of Hekia Parata and Paula Benett. on here.


      It is just stunning that they have this, this, words fail in charge And Cunliffe is being buried by bullshit, they need to make Cunliffe leader now. Then you’ll see the brown stuff start to flow in copious amounts on the NACT side of the house.

  3. Foreign Waka 3

    Whilst there are still various voices within the scientific community about climate change (not making judgement here) there is no doubt whatsoever about the consequences of “abandoning” a child after just 6-12 weeks. This is the generation that despite huge efforts from parents in many cases just have no ability or have great difficulties to develop empathy and sympathy towards their fellow men. This in turn creates an ever increasing brutalization of society that often is not realized until too late. Kind of slowly cooking a frog. There are consequences to the mental health, least of some very sensitive children whose aptitude tends to be towards the arts. Ooops, can’t have that, does not fit with the maximization of profit per head and capita.

    Of cause a government would need to take into consideration log term effects not just the next 3 years of populist decision making.

    • One Tāne Huna 3.1

      “Various voices within the scientific community” – well, there’s the consensus – the Greenhouse Effect is real, caused by human actions and, unless mitigated, will do untold damage up to and including threatening the survival of our species (including the children). Then there are about a dozen mutually exclusive and different versions being pushed – it isn’t happening, it is happening but don’t worry, it is happening but it’s the sun, it is happening but since we don’t know everything about it therefore we know nothing at all, it’s a a secret weapon invented by the US military, ad nauseam. There’s also the dominant public narrative – it is happening but I’m at such a level of denial and I don’t want to give up my car.

      The myth that “The Arts” don’t maximise profit is surely put to bed by Peter Jackson.

      • Foreign Waka 3.1.1

        As far as I can tell, the rate of children dying in NZ has not much to do with global warming. The number of reports would however support the brutalization of society due to desensitizing to the need of small children.
        I belief the article was primarily about PPL? Once more ignored and not surprised…..

  4. Bill 4

    Are you, or what you are doing, of any immediate worth to the market? Does the collapsing eco-sphere make any immediate contribution to the market? Coz it’s all about the market. And the days when a reasonable number of mp’s serving in parliament had run on an anti-market/anti-capitalist platform (the old school socialists) well, they’re long gone.

    So on the one hand – the hand that wields power – expect some sincerely insincere recognition of the importance of families, children and people in general. And then watch while those who do not make any obvious and immediate contribution to the market are marginalised and denigrated. And by the same hand, expect to see issues with our eco-sphere trivialised and marginalised while the market is elevated to levels of crucial importance.

    And on the other hand – ours; the hand that gave and gives power away to people who are almost exclusively focussed on market performance – expect a more or less impotent moral outrage perhaps. And what else? Eventual resignation cloaked in a sense of hopelessness? Or a recognition of the vast potential we have to exercise power leading to us taking back of all those powers we gave away and that we repeatedly give away? I don’t know.

  5. Tim 5

    Just as a matter of interest……what do you reckon John Key would make of this discussion so far?

  6. Chalupa Batman 6

    Yes because Labour never gave Katherine Rich a hard time about “abandoning her kids”

  7. “…demonstrated a Planet Key-type disconnect when questioned about their claims…”
    Many New Zealand businesses are out of touch with reality, they claim they are struggling to find skilled workers. However, they pay below global market rates, demand twice as much work for less pay, pull out all the stops to cut costs; and leave workers unsatisfied and stressed. Then they wonder why so many skilled workers are leaving to Australia. Time the business leaders of this country took a trip to Europe, hopefully Scandinavia (where they feed their people).

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