Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Rejecting the arms trade

Every year around ANZAC Day and more often over the last few years of remembering WW1 I have heard the pious injunction “so it may never happen again.” Every year I rail against the glorification of war, the hypocrisy and the irony of this statement.

I heard it again on Checkpoint in relation to the Passchendaele exhibition in Wellington. While thousands of people have visited the Gallipoli exhibition and have experienced a frisson of shock at the depiction of bloody and brutal warfare, few people seem to see the dreadful irony of holding what some have called a “weapons expo”- more euphemistically a “defence industry conference” – this week in Wellington. To the credit of the City Council, it has refused to allow the expo to be held in council venues. It was held in a sports venue. Is this less political? We certainly have a history of sports and politics in uncomfortable relationships.

My family have never been great warriors. I had one great-uncle on each side of the family who fought in WW1.  One came home, one didn’t. Uncle Albert never mentioned the war in my hearing, but my mother said that when he was dying he was back in the trenches at Ypres, perhaps one of the most profound experiences of his life. Many of those “returned men” had lives more blighted than his.

The First World War marked a turning point in warfare. Before then battles had resulted in most casualties being among the fighting men, but in the twentieth century it has reversed, eighty percent of casualties in the twentieth century were civilians, only twenty percent combat troops. Modern communications technology means that we can see the images of all this in our social media and our living rooms every night. We are becoming immune to suffering generally, and in particular the suffering of the human tide of refugees fleeing from these conflicts.

Modern warfare kills and disables military and civilians alike. It disables humanity, dehumanises all of us and the structures that underpin national and world order. War diverts precious resources. It destroys history and culture and causes rifts that take generations to heal.

If New Zealand is truly committed to being a nation for peace we should not be contributing to the arms trade. There could be no wars if there was no arms trade. This trade is every bit as vicious and immoral as the drugs trade. It destroys more lives on a global scale. We should not be associated with it in any way.

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Christmas 2016

As a battered and wounded 2016 staggers to a close, I’m not going to reflect on all the bad things that have happened this year, and there have been a lot of them. Nor am I a Pollyanna, believing we should think only of the good achieved, and there has been some. But there are already too many tedious lists and smug or pessimistic reviews at this time of year and I won’t add to them. The best year end lists are those of books to bring pleasure to holiday reading.

It seems inappropriate to lavishly celebrate a joyful Christmas with so much of the world in disarray and turmoil. Restraint from excess feels right. But Christmas can be more than commercial gluttony and the kitsch dumbing down of a once profoundly meaningful religious festival. Whether New Zealanders are Christian or not, the celebration of this cultural festival can create relevance and meaning in the 21st century as a source of reflection, hope and renewal, and as a means of sharing good fortune beyond empty platitudes.

It is often said that Christmas is for children. My hope for 2017 is that we as a society will nurture all our children who inherit the world we have cared, or not cared for.

2012-12-23 12.24.18

Pohutukawa tree

I wish a very happy Christmas to those who celebrate it, and a restful, peaceful and revitalising holiday season to everyone.

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An end and a beginning

In looking back on the past year I acknowledge that this blog has been rather neglected. That is not because I have lost interest; far from it. It simply means I have been concentrating on some other writing priorities. While I still have those same writing priorities I hope next year there will be more regular posts, maybe with a greater or slightly different range of topics.

Christmas seems to bring with it general insanity and a concentration on consuming food and drink, accompanied by frenetic commercial consumer activity. Everyone frantically tries to finish up all their work and leave everything tidy for the holidays, whether taking a few days or a few weeks away. Tempers are frayed and there is general exhaustion, especially for those who do the lion’s share of shopping and food preparation. Presents are wrapped and then unwrapped to the delight or at least polite acceptance of the recipients, and everyone collapses with a sigh of relief and repletion after a large meal followed by skirmishes over who will do the dishes, and after the children have been sent outside with noisy and destructive toys given to them by unwise relatives.

That is, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have the resources for such celebrations.

The minute the clock strikes midnight at the end of Christmas Day it is as if Christmas had never existed in the commercial world. On come the Boxing Day sales, and before you know it there are Easter eggs and hot cross buns in the shops.

Whether or not you celebrate the Christian religious significance of Christmas, or celebrate in a secular way a beautiful, life-affirming and meaningful festival deeply embedded in western cultural tradition, or don’t celebrate it at all, I wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas season, a safe and restful holiday, and may 2016 be a better year for disabled people and all of humanity.

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Disclosing disability during job search

A little while ago someone asked me about disclosing their disability when applying for a job. The answer I gave was focused on being in control of the process of disclosure, of making sure you choose the time and the place to disclose, and of disclosing in a positive way.

Since then I have been thinking some more about a problem which worried me a good deal when I was setting out on my own career. I took a variety of approaches, sometimes disclosing, sometimes not, and occasionally lying, which I do not recommend under any circumstances.

Disclosure is individual

The difficulty about disclosure is that it is such an individual thing. It depends on your impairment, whether or not it is hidden, whether you might need modifications to your workplace, or particular technology to help you do your job, or whether or not you might need to organise your work differently, or do it in a different way. There is also the fear, sadly, still not entirely unfounded, that discrimination will occur following disclosure.

However you disclose, and at whatever stage of the process, you need to take responsibility. Thoroughly research the job to help you decide. Think about what you need to do the job, and have a plan.

If your impairment is invisible and won’t affect the way you do your work, then the answer is easy, you don’t have to disclose. But if you don’t disclose, and your impairment does affect your job then there may be problems for you. If your impairment is very obvious you can seize the high ground, directing the conversation the way you choose.

How and when

There is no right or wrong way or time for disclosure. Don’t dwell on limitations. Weigh the pros and cons of disclosure at each stage of the job search, recruitment and hiring process, wherever it is appropriate for you. Think about the following stages.

  • In a letter of application or cover letter;
  • Before an interview;
  • At the interview;
  • In a third-party phone call or reference;
  • After you have a job offer;
  • During your course of employment; or
  • Never.

When you do disclose make sure you are clear about your needs in the workplace. Try to anticipate questions you might be asked and have some answers ready. You might like to practice disclosing with someone you trust who will give you feedback. Disclose on a “need to know” basis only.

What information to give

You need to disclose information relevant to the job only. Take the opportunity to explain positively how you might perform particular parts of the job well, perhaps with some modification. You should expect confidentiality with disclosure.

If you do disclose the following may be a useful guide to the information you choose to share.

  • General information about your impairment;
  • Why you are disclosing;
  • How your disability affects your ability to perform key job tasks and any ways you can do things differently;
  • Types of accommodations that have worked for you in the past; and
  • Types of accommodations you anticipate needing in the workplace;

Good luck!

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