Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Apologies don't mean shit

There's a couple of things I want to talk about in relation to apologies. One is Melissa Lee's "apology" for her comments on the Waterview motorway, saying it was to keep South Auckland criminals out of Mt Albert. The other is in relation to sexual abuse and physical violence, which is a pretty tough topic but it needs to be talked about.

I'll talk about the recent media hype about the Mt Albert elections and Melissa Lee's racist comments first. First of all, I think what she said reflects on the attitudes of probably most National Party MPs who would think that way but not say it out loud because they're aware that they would come under scrutiny, especially about Don Brash' Orewa speeches. We all know they represent the rich, and using a female Asian face is a rather token gesture that gives their Party some sense of legimitacy and credibility in "representing" Asian migrants. It's politically wise to do so nowadays. At debate in the quad at Auckland uni today was a really entertaining political spectacle. As an anarchist, I don't support voting or any of the political parties, but it was fun to heckle the right-wing parties along with the rest of the student population. But anyway, Melissa got heaps of heckling for her racist comments. Some Labour Party supporters standing on the balcony of cultural space yelled "I'm not a criminal" and signs saying "The National Party are the REAL criminals". A placard of Melissa Lee's face was also liberated and subverted with "Racist" and a Hitler moustache drawn on it, which caused a bit of scuffle with National Party supporters claiming it was stolen and called the police (it shows how seriously they take their property rights). In response to all this, she said in a rather patronising manner, "You are students, do you not watch TV? I have apologised." As if that made everything okay, as if it excused her stereotyping and racist (and classist) comments in public discourse. Once it's out there, it can't be claimed back. An apology doesn't mean shit to people.

Apologies don't mean shit to people who are living in poverty or people imprisoned by racist police and courts. Apologies don't mean shit after centuries of colonialism and the legacy still remains. Apologies don't mean shit when you're still going to support a motorway being built through an entire community for the sake of 'economic progress'.

The other situations where apologies don't mean shit is in cases of rape, sexual violence or physical violence against womyn. I also think other forms of violence too, but cases physical and sexual violence is what I have been confronted to think about lately. It's so fucked up that this even happens in our communities, which we think is all empowering and progressive. I'm not going to go into detail about anything because it's not my stories to tell. But I think there needs to be ways that we can deal with this shit as a community and support the survivors in every way we can. Male violence against womyn is so fucking common in this patriarchal society it makes me sick. Sometimes it is intentional and sometimes it's not. What's really hard to deal with is when it happens when people are out of control (ie. on drugs) or when people claim they misread signals and are genuinely sorry about what they did after the fact. Either way I don't think intimate violence against womyn or anyone is ever excusable. What I mean by "intimate violence" is violence against people they claim to care about or love. The effect of an abuser's actions stays with the person forever, it's not going to go away with an apology. Whether it was intentional or not, it still happened and it still hurt someone. To use an extreme analogy, it's like the difference between murder and manslaughter. In both cases, someone was killed - intentionality is irrelevant to that person's life that was lost. Or in some recent discussions I've had about genocide - with the UN definition including the intent to wipe out a whole 'people', and how that really limits the meaning of genocide when the destruction massive populations of indigenous people was "unintentional". It still fucking happened and the survivors should still be supported in the same way and abusive and violent behaviour should be condemned.

That said, I do think there is more potential for change when people have realised what they've done as wrong and are willing to change. I don't think that applies to National Party though, the apology was just a smart political move.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


不管我们是在这儿生的或移民过来的, 我门都应该了解新西兰的历史. 我们应该了解毛利人的历史和他们的文化, 因为我们是在他们的土地, 他们的被英国人偷的土地. 英国的殖民主义在这个国家跟八国连军在中国有相同的地方, 也有不一样的. 反正当地人的经验差不多, 殖民国家都用了暴力去达到他们的目的:抢地和资源. 杀人,杀戮,强奸, 他们都做了. 因为这个历史现在毛利人还是被西方的文化,政府和经济压迫他们的文化和自治. 中国的移民者要是懂这个历史, 我们才能在这个国家反对种族主义.来到这儿, 我想我们都受过种族主义者的欺负.要是我们不喜欢被别人欺负,我们不能跟羊人的文化学然后欺负本地人. 我们应该支持毛利人的奋斗去达到民族自决.

Roughly translated:

Why Chinese in Aotearoa Should Support the Maori Struggle

Whether we were born here or have immigrated here, we should understand the history of Aotearoa. We should understand the history of Maori people(s) and their culture because we are living on their land, their land which was stolen by British colonisers. British colonialism in this country and the imperialist occupation of Eight-Nation Alliance in China have similarities and differences. But the experience of the indigenous people are pretty similar in terms of the violence of colonisation to reach their goal of expropriating land and resources. Murder, massacres and rape - it's all part of it. Because of this history, Maori people are still being oppressed by the Pakeha culture, state and economy. Chinese in Aotearoa should understand this history in order to combat racism. Living in Aotearoa or after arriving here, I'm sure we've all experienced some racist bullying. If we don't want to be bullied, we shouldn't be like the dominant Pakeha culture and bully the indigenous people. We should support the Maori struggle for self-determination - tino rangatiratanga.

Individualism in Activism Organising

Individualism is part of the dominant western culture’s ideology. Look after yourself first. You are an individual with no collective responsibility. Your individual desires and needs are more important than the collective – that’s why it’s totally fine for one person to own more wealth and resources than a million other people. That’s why it’s totally fine for most people to live in abject poverty while a tiny percentage of the earth’s population can kill, exploit and enslave for their own benefits and horde all the wealth. That’s why private property exists. The idea of individualism is fundamental to the differences between western and many non-western and indigenous cultures. Coming from a culture where the collective, usually in the form of a family, is prioritised over individual interests.

Seeing yourself as separate from the community or society means you don’t need to feel any responsibility for the well being of the rest of the society. The most common excuse we hear as activists when we campaign about issues and try to involve new people is: “I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me”. To me, that epitomizes the inherent individualism in the dominant culture. We need to address that in order to work collectively and effectively. At the end of the day we can’t change society by ourselves, we have to work together. We have to create a social environment where we value solidarity, equality and liberty and discourage individualism, hierarchy and domination.

This problem affects everyone, and those who are most aware of it should be actively challenging individualistic tendencies. However, in most anarchist or grassroots activist groups, there is informal and obvious hierarchy. This hierarchy is usually created when tasks or actual organizing and functioning of the group depends on an individual or a small power block of friends or couples. Sometimes it is deliberate control-freakness and domination but sometimes it can also the problem of apathy and the followship of other members involved in the group.

When there is unequal distribution of tasks or responsibilities within a group, hierarchy emerges. To have the most responsibility on the shoulders of one or two people is not only unsustainable it is also unfair. And that’s usually when hierarchical structures emerge. It is a difficult problem to resolve because the reality is that we all have different amounts of time and energy to contribute. We all have different levels of experience, confidence, skills and ability. In addition, there’s gender dynamics, class issues, cultural/ethnic hierarchies, ageism and the most frustrating are the individualistic attitudes of egocentric and arrogant white men.

First with the problem of leadership: the way activism and anarchist culture is designed in contemporary Aotearoa is suitable mostly for privileged, middle class, educated white men who have a lot of time on their hands, who have the confidence (or is it arrogance?) to work (or socialize) themselves to hold a high-ranking position within the scene. The constant competition and ego wars are ridiculously draining for people who are serious about bringing this shit system down. I’m sure these people are also serious about anarchist politics but their ego is in the way of non-hierarchical and empowering forms of organizing. So instead of minimizing their privilege and empower those marginalized by the system, they sit comfortably at the top seeking glory.

Followship, as much as leadership, is to blame. For people who claim to be anti-authoritarian, who are capable of organizing and who have the time and energy to share responsibilities, to be inactive and apathetic allows and helps to legitimize hierarchy within groups. The lack of initiatives and dependency could be due to disempowerment but it could just be general laziness or just there for the scene kind of thing. But what this means is that responsibility becomes concentrated in the hands of a few who do all the work, while other members turn up to stuff like demos where they don’t need to do much except march and chant. Lack of participation of the majority of members creates hierarchy and forces leadership onto those who feel responsible for the group’s survival.

In order to have a non-hierarchical, egalitarian group that functions and organizes actively means that members have to participate and contribute and take initiative and organise collectively. It also means roles and responsibilities have to be rotated and skills shared. There needs to be a sense of collective responsibility for the group’s functioning or else it’s going to be short-lived and ineffective. There needs to be cohesion, trust and community; a commitment to collectivism and empowerment not encouraging individualism and inequality. That’s how we can work together better, that’s how we can be more effective in challenging state domination and social hierarchy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

May Day 五一劳动节: An injury to one is an injury to all!

Many stories of Chinese workers who have suffered injuries or have died due to their working conditions are untold or unheard. It struck me today as I noticed a family friend’s hand. Her thumb was a mere stub with no fingernail. I wondered why that was and my mum later told me that it’s from an injury at her factory back in China, where the machinery had cut off her thumb. These kinds of injuries are quite common in factories in China, my mum also knows of a woman who had three fingers cut off working in a factory producing shoes. This is just skimming the severity of workplace injuries in factories in China. Worker’s lives are disposable in the capitalist system, and this should be testament to the ‘false consciousness’ created by the Chinese Communist Party who have continually betrayed workers, using socialist euphemisms to disguise their policies giving more power to vicious capitalist corporations in China; using revolutionary rhetoric to entrench capitalist exploitation.

On May Day 2009, a 17-year-old Chinese worker dies in Yiuwah factory, mutilated to death by a paper-crushing machine. His name was Liu Pan. He had been working in this factory for the past two years of his life. Yiuwah factory supplies goods to Disney, Coca Cola and Ma Sha for international distribution. The report made by China Labor Watch revealed:

*Underage and child labor are widespread at the factory, with workers as young as 13 being hired in busy seasons.
*Labor contracts are haphazard, and many workers do not sign.
*Wages are low at only $113/month for base salary, and overtime is required on most Saturdays and holidays.
*Paid vacation is extremely limited and even maternity leave is denied.
*No training is provided to workers and the factory has no handbook explaining occupational hazards.
*Many factory machines are old and outdated, and injuries are not uncommon.
*Dormitory conditions are poor; normally 6-8 but up to 14 workers share a single room in the busy season.

This is going to be an interesting year with the recession happening and all. The resistance against the CCP dictatorship is rising in China with 58,000 "mass incidents" since the beginning of this year.

Meanwhile in Aotearoa, May Day was marked in Auckland with the usual march, this year with a statement of solidarity with refugees and migrant workers. Anarchists, socialists and unionists marched together to commemorate International Worker's Day, a tradition originating from the Haymarket massacre in Chicago demanding an 8-hour working day. The May Day march was followed by a Tamil march against the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka, demanding Sri Lanka to stop the war.

Welcome 欢迎

Kia ora koutou katoa, 欢迎大家

This is a blog dedicated to radical social change from a section of the "Asian" tau iwi population in Aotearoa. We wish to create more dialogue and space to talk about issues that are specific to our experience. It’s about opening up a space in which Asian womyn in Aotearoa can speak and communicate our specific and diverse experiences, to create understanding between all oppressed people, to support each other, to inspire solidarity and organize collectively for a better world.