Male Narcissism, Roastbusters and Rape

Background: A Brief History of the West

A thumbnail and only a tad simplistic sketch of Western ‘civilisation’ records men in the driving seat and women denied the right to drive, to voice objections to the destination and the quality of driving.   Land and loot-grabbing wars, hierarchical rule, bloodline succession, uprisings, and rioting were frequent.  Appalling brutality and revenge was visited on the rebellious, conquered, contenders, traitors.   Civilisations rose and fell as new invaders swept in from the east.  Various gods were worshipped, replaced, hybridised.  Prophets and philosophers (some were women but were habitually written out of history) philosophised and advised.  Narcissistic heroes (psychopathic killers – sulking sacrilegious Achilles springs to mind) were the subject of epics, myths and latterly Hollywood blockbusters.  Plagues, famine and general pestilence dealt to all and sundry.

DoubleStandardWomen were held to be lesser mortals.  In Western culture Jehovah/God gave women a bad rap and hard labour as punishment for Eve’s misconduct.  Pathetic Adam got to rule.  Some Christian disciples, saints, Popes, prelates also got hung up on women.  Ironically Ireland was almost a place of enlightenment under the Brehon Laws (a Druid legacy) which allowed women to serve as magistrates and own property.   Christianity co-existed with that set-up until Cromwell and Puritanism laid waste to the lot.  Seventeenth-century religious wars decimated Europe.  Religious freedom increased slowly, as did democracy, driven along by more frequent rioting and revolution.  Old regimes were stripped of lawmaking functions, killed off.   Atheists, agnostics, humanists are not quite pukkah even now.

Men postured about their superiority and made life difficult for women.   In English law until the late nineteenth century, sexual double standards were endorsed by law, adulterous wives could be chucked out of the home, lose their kids and any matrimonial property .  Not so men.  Women’s suffrage was eventually won.  New technologies offered better contraception, antibiotics improved birth and illegal abortion outcomes.  Women’s liberation marched joyously and angrily in at the end of the 1960s and the social order changed. Many men got grumpy.

At  much the same time as the ‘second wave’ of women’s advances, a psychopathic killer, James Bond, 007, became  the swashbuckling, lawless, womanising, narcissist hero who saves the day, sometimes the world, on our cinema screens.  ‘One night with you’ warbled his women and promptly got topped by psychopathic villains.  What on earth does all this have to do with sex education?   Quite a lot I think.

Women’s Liberation and Sexual Freedom

The central women’s liberation battle was around fertility control, abortion and sexual freedom.   Here in New Zealand, conservatives won hands down.  Censorship of contraception continued!  Abortion was effectively outlawed.  Doctors, bless them, wouldn’t work under the new law.   It was grumpily amended.    Abortion numbers slowly rose, clinics were set up.  But abortion remains stigmatised and hard to access in many areas.   Today the abortion pill is only available in licenced clinics i.e. not doctors’ surgeries.  The certification procedures insult and humiliate women.  Contraceptive censorship inhibited sex education and was repealed in 1990.   Unfortunately nobody told teachers, Boards of Trustees, or chemists of the change!

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Who is the biggest beneficiary?


So Mike Hoskins received some ‘hate’ mail in response to his coverage of Minginui.   His subordinates weren’t sympathetic.   He also received support.

I don’t think either the original story or the follow-up (which I saw as a vanity piece for Hoskins)  cost a lot to make.  But that doesn’t detract from the fact that they were still a waste of time and money from a taxpayer’s point of view.   TVNZ is currently on a three -year dividend holiday and the paltry $10 million it claimed as profit last year hardly reflected the public’s investment in it.

So there you go.   Mike is a not only  an overly well paid beneficiary of taxpayer largesse but he also shows no sign of putting his shoulders to the wheel and doing some research.

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Ahoy National’s Ordinary Blokes: Mike Hoskins to Your Rescue


I don’t know how or when tacky Auckland celeb and Seven Sharp frontman and ordinary bloke Mike Hoskins lodged himself in my memory banks as a probable National Party devotee and sloppy commentator.   I  had intended to include him in another blog about Resonating Ordinary Blokes for National but got overtaken by political events.

These included polls showing National might be able to govern on its own (not a huge advance) and the fall in Labour and Green support.  I’m puzzled as to why the Greens have copped so much flak, but gobsmacked by the idiocy of David Cunliffe.   He won’t be running under any slogan with the word trust in it.  Gobsmacked by Shane Jones’ outbursts.  Vanity, ambition, both?  New minder Matt McCarten has his hands full.   Update:  the same may be the case for National’s minders, hooray for Judith Collins and Hekia Parata.   I don’t think a one-horse race is good for a small democracy with a small parliament where the executive (in all probability a small cabal in the executive) dishes out patronage to sufficient members of caucus to ensure said cabal runs the country.  Labour exploited this strategy very efficiently in 1984 and initiated an even bigger social and economic mess than the one they were claiming to fix.

Back to Hoskins, Wednesday 19th on Seven Sharp:   It was serendipity that TV1 had been left on after the news.  I wandered back into the sitting room Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 13.52.46as he told us he was going to look at Minginui which was a once thriving but now nearly derelict forestry town near the Ureweras 100 kilometers south of Rotorua.  Population 150.  I sensed where this would lead.  The area is a bit outside my childhood territory but driving the same distance northeast through bigger townships on and around the Rangitaiki Plains (where we had a dairy farm) was  gutwrenching in the early 1990s.   Shabby houses, closed shops.  This wasn’t long after  Labour’s self-appointed  philosopher kings threw regions onto the scrapheap.   Minginui seems more at ease today than not far off crime troubled Murupara, Kawerau or Whakatane West.   Neither Te Teko, on a main highway, nor Edgecumbe (now that only a small part of its dairy factory is functioning) look good.   Minginui reportedly had a gang influence, drugs.

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Deborah Hill Cone and Simone de Beauvoir

I have warmed (at times) toward the new, sometimes softer Deborah Hill Cone. I don’t always read her column, but in the past few years, she’s been through some stuff that has greyed out her black-and-whites. Apparently (and all this is based on her writing), her marriage ended,  she became a solo mother, (and sometime defender of same)  she went back to university as a mature student, her dad Hill_Conemoved into a rest home, more recently, she began confronting the loss of her “sexual currency”. This was revaled in a column headlined “It wasn’t just depression that claimed Charlotte” (Feb. 24, NZ Herald)  and its follow-up “Mea culpa, but it’s dangerous to be always nice” (March 3).

I’m not going to address the controversy that blew up over that first column (on 24 Feb.) that focuses on her treatment of Charlotte Dawson  (and that led to Hill Cone’s mea culpa – sort of – response), but the issues she raises around women and ageing.

In that Feb. 24 effort, Hill Cone noted that she is the same age as Dawson, and “it is hard”: “It is hard being 47. At the crisis of middle age, losing your sexual currency, becoming invisible.”  Later: “Ageing is brutal. I definitely think we need to find a new way to age as women, to feel valued, to not be wiped out.” She then points to hope in “a fledgling new movement for women of a certain age to get stroppy, to boil with fury, to refuse to go beige, to refuse to become invisible”.

It was pretty obvious this article was as much about Hill Cone as it was about Charlotte Dawson, and she made that explicit in her follow-up mea culpa: “For some time I’d been grappling with the special horror of ageing for me and for other women, and then when Charlotte Dawson died I just sort of hitched my thoughts to her death; ill-advisedly, as it turned out.”

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Election Ahoy: Blokes and Blondes

Watch Out for Ordinary Blokes and Giggling Blondes 

Last Sunday I flicked through the paper and gasped:  there was quintessential ordinary bloke and shock jock Paul Henry coming to grace our television screens with a blonde in tow.  So 1950s, Mad Men.   I couldn’t watch that series.   I had endured a slightly addled adolescence thanks to the culture of the time.   But it was a breeze compared with the terrible damage to women friends and co-workers grappling with their Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 09.51.09sexuality, enforced ignorance thereof, stereotyped roles and male privilege.   I foolishly hoped the women’s liberation movement had tsunamied that  culture out of existence but reckoned without the media.

My daughter in law also flicked through the paper and cried out in anguish: ‘Paul Henry’.  We agreed about the blonde’s ‘role’.   I thought she wasn’t named.  Doubly insulting?  Decided to harangue TV3, remembered there was a website in the small print and found blonde’s name on same line.  But I won’t name her for conflicting reasons.   Was she spoofing her role?   Would that make her complicit in sexism?  Is being a blonde a prerequisite for tv work?  Or did she just need food on her plate?

The political implications of Henry’s reappearance also gnawed.   Another horrible memory flashed back.  In 2008 (an election year) I was subjected to Henry’s TV1 breakfast show while waiting for radiation treatment.  Oh the joy when my name was called.  Henry’s overt partisanship shocked and the giggling blonde (not the same one) was downright offensive.

So I girded my loins and watched tape of  Henry’s opening show.  He was fairly lowkey.  The blonde giggled, some technical hitch? Then she giggled again, Henry did something offscreen?   Words fail me.

Does Henry remind you of anyone?   Mike Hoskins?  Tom Scott’s cartoon on Thursday morning says it all.   Question:  Mike, do you think the rise in 7-Sharp’s viewer numbers is because the common man, the ordinary bloke, can relate to you?  Mike, bubbly in hand:   What a ghastly thought.  I sincerely hope not …..

Funny how the dog-whistle politics of National persuasion have surfaced on both channels in an election year.     The juxtaposition of the ordinary bloke and women voters (the latter now attracting considerable attention from both the main parties) poses challenges for Labour’s spin doctors.  If it promotes Shane Jones as their ordinary bloke I believe Key will probably be a shoo in.  In a family interrogation close to torture I was asked who I would vote for if I had to choose between John Key or Shane Jones.  I finally crumpled and whimpered ‘John Key’.   Thank heavens real life is not quite so cruel.

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Rereading de Beauvoir 4: Historical Materialism

Part One: Destiny

Chapter 3: The Point of View of Historical Materialism

Back to the new translation of The Second Sex after a bit of hiatus. And, time to cover the missed chapter from Part One of the book, Chapter 3: “The Point of View of Historical Materialism”.  I’m actually not sure why that happened, so apologies for this one coming after the first chapter of Part Two. But I’ve numbered the posts (i.e. this is No. 4 of 5) so they’re in the correct order in that regard, even if they’re not on the blog.

Kiddies_CartoonIt’s actually quite useful to be doing this chapter right now, because I’ve nearly finished wading through the three volumes of Leszek Kolakowski’s 1200-plus pages of Main Currents of Marxism. I know lots of Marxists, lefties, erstwhile Marxists etc. call Kolakowski lots of un-nice names, and the third volume really is filled with lots of foaming at the mouth. On the other hand, purges, famines, etc….!!!

The first volume of Main Currents is all about the philosophical roots of Marx’s writing (as opposed to Marx-ism), including of course, Kant and particularly Hegel etc. and how Marx-ism came to be so closely associated with what’s now called Historical Materialism (even though, let’s face it, hardly anyone knows quite what that means). Kolakowski at times mocks some of the later (post-Marx) Marxist activists and thinkers for their poor understanding of Hegel. To my mind, anyone who thinks they understand Hegel is a liar. (I was nearly driven to jumping from a 5th floor window trying to understand Hegel, though I appreciate this comment is a bit egotistical: if I can’t understand Hegel, no one can. But, yeah!)

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Leaky MPs and Press Buddies: How Delightfully Cosy

The Peter Dunne leaking saga was mind-boggling.  It also provided disturbing insights into the relationship between politicians and the media.  Winston Peters bagged his man.  After the initial shock, not a few of the mainstream media succumbed to a form of collective angst which has seen Dunne segue from deranged to not much short of  heroic.  We are now persuaded that what we really saw was a sensible and decent man gunned down for doing the right thing.

Some may not agree: Dunne jumped ship from Labour because it wasn’t far enough to the right.  That begs the question of why he was there in the first place.  He earned  the wrath of fairly fundamentalist Christians who joined up with him in United Future.

If he was doing the public a service by leaking the Kitteridge report a week before it was due to be made public, it wasn’t much of a one. We have learned or been reminded of the symbiotic relationship between the media and leaking MPs.  The latter proliferate in all parties. Journalists need stories.  If this seems a little perverse it probably is.  Leaks may not be evenhanded.  They are probably given to preferred journalists who may have their own political agenda.   But we were again persuaded to view this cosy set-up through rose-tinted spectacles.

We should be asking ourselves if the quasi-heroic portrait of Dunne is a response to alarm at the prospect of  Peters as kingmaker again?  NZ First was sidelined by most polls and the media before the last election.  The party’s success rubbished the prognostications, made the media look biased and not a little stupid and in some instances really sour.  Not all of us were thrilled to see Dunne, the Maori Party and John Banks throw their hand in with National.  If Peters is kingmaker again my bet is he would likely to be an irritating one.

Democracy is like that.

The real worry for our ‘democracy’ is the substantial decline in the number of those voting and and how we remedy that.  I don’t think the disenchanted worry about the manoevering of minor parties.  They are disenchanted with what all are the parties have on offer, which is a pretty bleak future for all too many of them.  The mainstream media doesn’t seem to be too worried about doing some digging on this.

Battle of the Sagas: Dunne Vs. Hager

The “Hager saga” is also a pertinent reminder of how poorly the mainstream media can perform.  Nicky Hager is an investigative journalist, and a decent and sensible man.  He has defended Dunne’s actions.  I don’t know if his support is appreciated.  Hager is not loved by either Labour or National.  He faced very unpleasant and repeated accusations in mainstream media of stealing the emails he used in his book The Hollow Men to discredit National’s 2005 election campaign.   No proof of the theft was supplied. Two police inquiries instigated by the National government found it was highly unlikely the emails were hacked into. Hager’s version can be found at Pundit.

Hager’s accusers, some of whom held or had held media jobs, were not hung out to dry.   Our media doesn’t need to be jealous of its patch. Investigative journalism is not in abundant supply.

Leaks: Does the Relationship Between Parties Matter?

The other issue raised by Dunne’s actions was the nature of the relationship between Dunne and Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance.  I can’t see how the exact nature of the relationship (a personal one was denied) matters.  Leaking can occur anywhere:  drinkies,  coffee, romantic, honeytrap (if the latter occur) and marital assignments. There is no law preventing politicians from marrying or being romantically involved with members of the press corps, let alone attending their weddings or being good friends.  Some of this I do find disturbing and one-off disclosures of a potential conflict of interest aren’t enough to dispel my belief that bias has been a little too prevalent.

Political reporters often end up as ministerial press secretaries, working in public relations, media training, lobbying for corporates, SOEs and the like.  Careful career planning may tailor their reporting to the interests of potential employers and the remuneration on offer. Requiring political reporters to wear a large badge proclaiming ‘REMEMBER THE PRESS IS NOT IMPARTIAL’  would be an excellent start.

But we need more than MPs leaking to their media chums to keep us properly informed.  The Official Information Act was intended to help redress this situation.  There are big delays in obtaining answers which are  probably due to under-resourcing.  Maybe that is deliberate.  We need an effective method of embarrassing ministers who don’t give prompt answers. Whistleblowing needs better protection.   At present it seems the best one can do is hope for a good outcome.  Huh.

Meanwhile stay tuned to the next chapters in Dunne’s life: how will he vote on the revamped GCSB legislation and will he prove as durable as his arch-enemy Peters?  If he quits Parliament he certainly won’t be greatly disadvantaged and should he be appointed to some quango he will possibly be better off.   Compare his paltry leak and rosy future with the outlook for Edward Snowden.

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