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Posts Tagged ‘violence’

A critical look at violence

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Source: Ask?

By Jayran Mansouri

Last year I studied Gandhi for history class, and something about him that stuck out to me was how deeply horrified he was at violence.  I realised that violence doesn’t upset me nearly as much. I have accepted it as part of my life, something I will see daily in the media. The violence I see in the media is not all presented in a negative light, and I am rarely shocked or horrified.

There is a huge difference between Gandhi’s view of violence and the common attitude towards violence today. Gandhi was born over a hundred years ago and raised as a Hindu Indian. As New Zealanders in the 21st century, we are exposed to a lot more popular media than Gandhi was. The majority of us are not religious, and our society as a whole is not particularly spiritual.

These differences between our culture and the one Gandhi was raised have resulted in a profound difference in our attitudes towards violence. I find our contrary attitudes towards violence interesting, but ultimately concerning. Too often, we focus on whitewashing violence, rather than thinking more deeply about it and the violent messages we get through the media.

Violence and gender
violenceagainstwomenIn my English class, we were watching a film. There was a scene when a man hit his wife. My class was almost unanimously horrified and disgusted. This reaction was something I found intriguing. I realized that this was one of the few times I’ve seen people react with shock and horror at seeing violence on screen.

Why aren’t we nearly as upset when we are presented with other violence? With the exception of violence from men towards women, our culture has been desensitised to violence. A man hitting a man is no big deal, a man hitting a woman provokes a strong negative reaction.  We really, really don’t like seeing men beating up women. Fair enough. That is quite as it should be. But we don’t seem to mind any other form of violence. There’s no outrage, no horror, no disgust, no OMG!!!

Censoring violence is not the way to go
I am an adamant proponent of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That to me includes the freedom to show violence on television and in the media.  After all, if violence wasn’t shown in the media, there would be no opportunity for us to see how it is presented and critically analyse the attitudes towards violence being communicated towards us through the media.

It is up to us, the viewers and consumers, to look at the portrayal of violence in the media with a critical eye. Unfortunately, the media, particularly the television, is designed to communicate to our emotional side, rather than the rational side. It is therefore hard to analyse the messages in the media on an intellectual level. It takes work to look at the messages you receive and challenge them, rather than swallow them whole.

But it’s thanks to the exposure of violence in the media that we have an opportunity to explore these messages. We owe it to ourselves to take advantage of it.

It’s okay
fendingoffSometimes, I’ll read or listen to someone say something about violence in our culture. Condescendingly, they say, “we’re all desensitised to it”. This has made me feel somewhat guilty and ashamed for being desensitised to a certain level violence.  I don’t want to dictate to anyone what their response to violence should be. And I certainly don’t want to shame anyone for the level of violence they are able to comfortably watch on television. We can’t help being desensitised. We can’t undo a lifetime of exposure to violence. We can’t re-sensitise ourselves. Innocence isn’t something you can get back.

I don’t think we should try to re-sensitise ourselves. For one thing, it just isn’t possible. For another, it’s misguided. Innocence is not a superior or desirable position from which to discuss mature issues. We can’t really control our emotional reaction to violence. Trying to be horrified is an exercise in futility. What we can do is control our intellectual reaction to violence. We can ask ourselves, ‘why do I feel this way?’ We can question the validity of the message being given to us.

Shades of gray
There are no black-and-white solutions to the widespread exposure of violence in the media. It seems pointless to moan about our society being desensitised to violence. Rather than aiming for any one visceral reaction to violence, our best bet is to see everything in our media culture with a critical and analytical eye.

Circle, Circle, Triangle, X

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Dru Seneviratne

Of course Grand Theft Auto is going to start some chins wagging; it takes the spotlight as ‘the’ worst game series because of its violent content, however millions of people around the world will be queuing up to buy it.


Photo by Fiona Beals

Things have come a long way since the Atari 2600 and games like Space Invaders. Nowadays, that 2D moving image with a background track of polyphonic music has evolved into a high definition, seamlessly animated, clear and crisp sound, gaming experience; and the video game industry has become a multi-billion dollar business.

While the industry grows so does the debate about the effects of playing video games. While some studies have shown it can have positive benefits, others show it can also lead to feelings of isolation, health issues and aggressive behavior. One study, Fair Play? Violence, gender and race in video games, produced by Children Now, looked at the top ten selling games in the US and highlighted the potential dangers of the use of ethnic stereotypes.

Putting people into boxes
Fair play found when we look at the portrayal of particular ethnicities in video games, some patterns emerge. More than half of all characters are white. Whites and Asians are over- represented, whereas everyone else is under-represented. Effectively, all the other ethnicities are shoved into the corner.

Photo by Fiona Beals

Photo by Fiona Beals

When they are not being marginalized, African American and Latino characters were usually seen as criminals or lowly citizens who cause trouble. Pacific Islanders also fall into the same category, as cheap, under handed thugs, while Asians are likely to be wrestlers or fighters and Italians part of organised crime.

The game world vs the real world
With the heavy stereotyping in games, there is a danger that we presume what we see on the screen is real. If we see a black man shooting a white man or an immigrant ripping off someone off, again and again, there is a chance we’ll believe that it happens in real life. A lot of traditional media use stereotypes, but this isn’t just a static picture in a newspaper; if you see something on a screen, talking, moving, acting like a real person, and you are interacting with it, then it’s likely that you’ll remember it.

Most of us want to see ourselves represented on the screen, being successful, happy and doing general all round ‘good things’, but the reality is, if you aren’t white or Asian, it’s likely that the you’ll see yourself as a victim, dying first and in loud, explosive ways. Better yet, you could be the antagonist, who is seemingly genetically programmed to murder, deal and rape. Image how it feels seeing someone who looks like you, getting their head blown off by a rocket launcher, because they robbed a bank? When, in the game, their character has been designed as a bank robber.

We are affected by these images and portrayals, like it or not, and it affects the way we think, and the way we see other people. It may not be such a hugely obvious issue, but especially for younger gamers it can affect the way they start to see the whole wide world.

Just a game?
videoTo put it simply, video games are a medium of entertainment, but the way we depict each other in that medium has an impact on the way we, the players, perceive each other. Gamers used to be stereotyped as guys living in their family basement with pocket protectors. Today video games are being played by more and more, and younger and younger, people. Game developers have a responsibility to start reflecting a more truthful reality, because there are no extra lives in the real world.

Case Study: Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto is one of the most controversial games ever released and also one of the most profitable. GTA IV follows Niko Bellic, an Eastern European war veteran who arrives in the US in search of the American Dream. He quickly becomes entangled in a seedy underworld of gangs, crime, and corruption. Niko is Caucasian, 30 years old and a hot headed gangster. He has a thick accent and is very handy with a rifle. His CV boasts murder, grand theft auto, kidnapping, assault, smuggling and prostitution. The other minor characters offer a variety of racial stereotypes, from the African American gangster to the Latino drug dealer. Not to be left out, the women are all over-sexualised, violent and generally depicted as idiots, while the immigrants (Russian, Italian and Irish) are painted as money hungry, heartless criminals.


Photo by Fiona Beals

As a player you aren’t just passively watching, but actually interacting with this underworld, carrying out various crimes and missions. There is a danger that people start to believe some of what they see, as if GTA reflects the real world. This is not helped by the ever more realistic graphics and the fact that the game is based upon the real life New York City. The worst part is when these issues are raised game developers and some gamers usually denounce the complainers as overly sensitive; a common response to critics is that these are ‘only games’.

Mean World Syndrome
‘Mean world syndrome’ explains how the media can make the world seem a darker and crueler place than it actually is. The term was coined in the late 60s by George Gerbner, who was one of the first people to research the effects of television on society. He found that people who watched lots of television tended to think of the world as a scary and unforgiving place, and felt they needed more protection than is actually necessary.

Today ‘mean world syndrome’ relates to all media, which covers television, movies and video games. Especially video games! A number of games are set in dark, inhospitable places, for example, the Fallout series of games. They are set after a nuclear fallout, and thus, the world itself is mostly rubble, and is overrun by the savage remnants of the humanity. Then there is Grand Theft Auto, most likely one of the most controversial games to be ever released, GTA creates a world were the only way which you can survive is through murdering and stealing. You play these games too long and you start worrying about what could be hiding around every corner.


  • The first thing you can do is be aware of the issues and talk to your mates!
  • When you are next playing a video game, stop and think for a minute. What does this game tell you about the world? Do you believe it?


Check out these other articles…

The war against women

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

By Cassandra Tse

“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier, in an armed conflict.”
Patrick Cammart, Former Division Commander of the UN Organisation Mission in the DRC

“Violence against women has reached hideous and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict.”
Ban Ki-moon, Chief of UN

“Women’s bodies [are] a battleground in times of war.”
Rachel Maranja, UN adviser on Gender Issues

drc-womenThe statistics are devastating. There were an estimated 500,000 rapes during the Rwandan genocide, 64,000 in Sierra Leone, 40,000 in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war.

Sexual violence is used shamelessly and appallingly as a military tactic in several conflicts areas around the world. It is used to humiliate and demoralise women and shatter communities. Horrifyingly, corrupt or inept legal systems often ignore, tolerate or even condone this atrocious practice. Rape may not even be viewed as a crime, meaning that there are no means to bring the perpetrators to justice. .

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) provides some of the most horrific examples of gender-based sexual violence as a common war tactic. Last year, in one province of the DRC alone there were almost 400 rapes a congo-truckmonth. Even during ceasefire, the war against women continued to rage on and it only worsened when the conflict reignited. And the blame cannot be laid on just one group– perpetrators can be government soldiers, rebels or deserters. To the victim, the identity of their abuser doesn’t matter as he will most likely never be punished.

“Despite many warnings, nothing quite prepared me… a sexual violence so brutal it staggers the imagination and mocked my notions of human decency.”
John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, after visiting the Congo

Even if a woman survives being raped and manages to receive medical attention, there is no guarantee she will be accepted back into her community. Victims of sexual violence are often ostracised and rape is stigmatised.-Even though it is now devastatingly commonplace, people deal with sexual violence by ignoring it and pretending it does not happen in their community. A common view taken by Congolese officials is that the woman “asked for it” and so she is to blame, rather than her attacker.

“When we got to the hill, one of the soldiers pushed me to the ground. He put the blunt side of his machete on my neck and the handle of his rifle on my chest. Then he raped me. When he was finished, he called the other soldier and he raped me too… As I fled, they shot their rifles into the banana plantation. I fell to the ground, pretending I was dead. They then left and I ran back to my family.”
Testimony of Marie , twenty-year-old Congolese woman

Rape is a brutal crime against humanity that stays with the victim long after the physical pain has subsided. Victims, like Marie, may have to deal with the emotional trauma of their attack alone, without any support. In their home village, they no longer feel secure. After subjection to sexual violence, women like Marie may live the rest of their lives in dread. The stigma attached to rape can break community ties with the victim, and in towns like Shabunda, North Kivu where the majority of the town’s women have suffered sexual violence, this can lead to a breakdown of the entire community and a permanent state of fear.

“Every woman in the village leaves at night to sleep in the bush because of the raping. They still loot but if they can’t find us they can’t rape us.”
Woman in DRC

As a battle tactic, rape can create more terror than terrorism, and is far more widespread. It’s a crime of the strong against the weak, the armed against civilians. Yet despite this, it was not officially seen as a war crime until mid 2008, when the United Nations Security Council put forward a resolution that called for the ‘immediate and complete halt to acts of sexual violence against civilians in conflict zones’. Though the UN hopes this resolution will be implemented by June 2009, it will not be that simple. For rape as a weapon to finally come to an end, and for its perpetrators to receive their deserved punishments, a complete turnaround in thinking is required. As Rachel Mayanja, UN advisor on Gender Issues, stated at the Security Council meeting, ‘Sexual violence in conflict, particularly rape, should be named for what it is: not a private act or the unfortunate misbehavior of a renegade soldier, but aggression, torture, war crime and genocide.’

There is still a long road to travel before communities in countries like Congo feel the impact of international law. If we want rape to stop being used as a military tactic, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond, not only laws but attitudes must change. Only when the victims of sexual violence are supported, not stigmatised, and when the culprits are condemned, not condoned, we will see sexual violence as a weapon finally come to an end.


  • Find out more about this issue- try the links above.
  • Go to www.saynotoviolence.org and sign the petition calling for an end to violence against women.
  • Start a photo petition. Go to www.stoprapenow.org to find out about the cross-armed gesture, symbolising an end to rape as a weapon.stoprapenow
  • Mobilise your local media. Write letters to the editor or talk about this issue online- get people informed.


Sites about rape as a weapon:
Stop Rape Now www.stoprapenow.org

Sites about women’s rights and gender equality:
UNICEF’s Gender Equality Division www.unicef.org/gender/index_3993.html
Women Watch www.un.org/womenwatch
Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org/en/category/topic/women’s-rights

Section 59 in simple terms

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Heather Yang
man hitting child
What is Section 59?
Section 59 is part of a law (Crimes Act 1961) in Aotearoa New Zealand that states “Every parent or person in place of a parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards a child if that force is reasonable in the circumstances.”

Why has it come to attention now?

Cases where this law has been abused have been spotlighted by heightened media attention. Negligent parents have used Section 59 to get them out of assault charges.

A “ban on smacking”?
Mainstream media has often presented this issue in a wrong light. Sensationalistic headlines such as “BAN ON SMACKING” create bias. The public are led to believe that good parents who discipline their children will be prosecuted, removing the focus from the issue of child abuse. Although section 59 would ultimately ban smacking, it will also mean that parents who beat their children will be held responsible.

What’s wrong with it?

With section 59 in place, parents and guardians are legally able to beat their children. Because of the end of the statement “ reasonable in the circumstances”, it is open to judgement what force is reasonable. A judge recently found it reasonable for a father to beat his eight year old with a piece of wood 30cm by 2 cm eight times which left bruises. A 12 year-old girl was hit by a piece of hosepipe by her father. This was also deemed reasonable. These cases are not rare, as many cases go unreported.

This goes against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which came into force in 1990). It states in article 37 that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Section 59 allows the parent to degrade’ the child by being allowed to use force, thus legitimatises assault on children.

Why do Children need protection from their parents?
Children are usually smaller, weaker and more vulnerable than an adult. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child states, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”,

Protecting the little guys
It is safe to say that most four year olds would be much smaller and weaker than their parents. Therefore, they are less likely to be able to defend themselves against physical violence. If two identical fighters were to fight each other, then it would be a fair fight. If you shrunk one fighter, removed their strength and then made them fight the original fighter, it would be obvious that the smaller fighter has a significant disadvantage. The repeal of Section 59 would mean simply that the fighting should not start to begin with, and if it did, then the law should protect the little guy.

A little smack helps the child learn discipline, doesn’t it?
Wrong, studies have shown that physical punishment can leave lifelong emotional scars that can disrupt learning, emotional development and an ability to relate to others socially. A better way of disciplining children is to reason with them about why what they have done wrong is bad. This develops a child’s sense of logic and also communication skills, which can be used later on in life.

The story around the globe
Internationally, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Austria, have changed their laws to ban smacking. The repeal of similar laws in Scotland and Great Britain have gained support from the majority of people and are now under scrutiny by the Government. It is time for New Zealand to catch up with the world and join the global fight to end child abuse.

What can I do?




Look under ‘Criminal Acquittals’ for case references, and also “Criminal Convict” on the Barnados site

Cindy Kiro talks about Section 59 in general

Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

Human Rights Commission; the convention on the rights of a child

Corporal punishment in the Nordic countries.

Article on Canadian psychologist Dr Joan Durrant, authority on Children’s rights in Sweden

Jim Hopper’s study on Child Abuse worldwide

Photo by Holly Greening.

Terrorism… Are we beng played?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Geoff Cooper
war is terrorism poster on wall
Have you ever stopped to think what this word actually means? And who it can be applied to?

The word itself is thrown around so often these days; it gives us the feeling that terrorism is on some kind of rise. You could even be forgiven for thinking that pre-September 11, terrorism hardly existed the way it is being talked about now.

Who’s a terrorist?
Using the word “terrorism” does two things in the mind of a listener. Firstly, it scares you. It has become common to hear crass phrases like “the terrorists are coming” (What better example than War of the Worlds’?). Secondly, it denotes who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. A notion that quite simply doesn’t exist in the world as we know it. Terrorism is a word that describes the threat of individuals towards a predominating system (notice how it is only ever used by representatives of that system?).

Who’s a Freedom Fighter?
Consider for a moment that people whom Western countries are told to consider as terrorists, are known as “freedom fighters” in their own communities. Why do they have to fight for this freedom?’ would seem to be a question worth considering, if you want to understand this political weapon. Why do terrorists seem to come from the poorest countries in the world? Why do they feel that creating disruption in the west will further their cause?
soldier in mask
Good guys and bad guys?
At this stage, it is tempting to think that they are simply trying to disrupt and steal the freedom we have because they don’t have it. This is a temptation we must resist, because it fails to acknowledge the connection that all countries have with one another. If we believe that globalisation is in action (as well we should) then it is impossible to believe that there is no relationship between political strategies in the west and apparent terrorism in the Middle East. Let me make the point here that this is no justification for the acts of terror that we see on a day to day basis in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, or the one-off attacks in the States, Bali etc. It is merely to make the point that there are no good guys and bad guys, just different clashing political outlooks, of which both have a part to play.

21st century propaganda
Being a New Zealander and a member of the western world, it is portrayed to me that Arabs are bad and we are good. We must search for a more balanced view on these oversimplified cultural models. For instance, how often are we told that Al Jazeerah TV is a tool of terrorism? I would challenge you to look into Al Jazeerah TV, what its views are and why it holds them. Same goes with the newly launched Chavez TV in Venezuela. Both stations were denounced by US authorities as causing disruption to the global community. Lets now make mention of FOX TV. Why are we never told about the dangers that this poses to the global community?
boys throwing stones at tanks
The word terrorism makes a mockery of complex political systems that are at work. It is a nationalistic tool, used to rally the support of a country, to square off against cultures that they don’t understand without asking the questions that really need to be asked.



  • Watch “Outfoxed” DVD (Available to borrow from the GEC library).
  • Get news from a different perspective from Al Jazeera

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons.


Thursday, February 16th, 2006

Eva Lawrence

All the time we hear about global pandemics like Bird Flu. We’re always told that we are at risk, but never given the guts of it… Like for instance, HIV/AIDS. What does it mean for me, an average young person living in Aotearoa New Zealand? Why should I care? It’s a scary thing that exists on the other side of the world and we’d rather ignore it right? Wrong.

Currently, about 40 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. 12 000 people are infected with HIV every day

In 2003 there were 188 new diagnoses of HIV reported in Aotearoa New Zealand, the highest ever! The figures for 2005 are likely to be higher. Latest stats show that the rate of new HIV infections among gay/bi men in New Zealand alone was one every four days! In the past five years in Aotearoa New Zealand, the rate of heterosexuals diagnosed with HIV infection is equal to homosexuals diagnosed (NZAF). This means that HIV is an issue for all of us, whether you are gay, bi or straight.

AIDS is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide. Young people, mostly young women, make up nearly half of the new cases of HIV infections worldwide — one every 14 seconds.

Young people are the group most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and we are also the window of hope’ — we’re the ones who can stop the spread and turn the pandemic around.

Are we at risk?
While HIV may seem far away from life here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the disease may have a big impact here in the next few years. The rates of HIV in Papua New Guinea are the same as the rates were in South Africa in 1990 — just before the epidemic. The Pacific region (of which we are a part) is vulnerable, like Africa.

Don’t believe me? Aotearoa New Zealand holds the not-so-glorious title of having some of the highest rates of Chlamydia and teen pregnancy in the developed world… which means we are at risk of HIV. Having an STI can make you ten times more vulnerable to HIV because the existing STI makes it easier for HIV to gain hold in your body. And of course, both the high STI and teen pregnancy rates mean a lot of unprotected sex is goin on.

What is it?
HIV stands for the “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”. HIV infects cells of the immune system, and destroys or impairs their function. When an immune system is deficient it can no longer fight off infection and disease. AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”. The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. For people with AIDS, infections are often severe and sometimes fatal because the immune system is so damaged.

What are the causes of HIV/AIDS?
The HIV virus is transmitted through body fluids such as blood and semen, and occasionally breast milk. HIV is generally transmitted through sexual intercourse, intravenously (through needles) and from mother to child.

While these are the technical ways to get HIV, they are not the only factors that make people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Here are some underlying causes of HIV transmission and vulnerability.

95 out of every hundred people with HIV live in the developing world. Poverty makes people more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and in turn, the virus leads to an increase in poverty. Poverty also leads people to unsafe practices such as prostitution. Poverty exists in the Pacific and here too.

While poverty is not a major contributor in Aotearoa New Zealand at the present, global pandemics affect poor people more than wealthy due to issues such as access to health care and resources. Regardless of this, whether you are rich or poor, you are still vulnerable to HIV.

Gender inequality
Women are more vulnerable to infection than men as they often don’t have control over if, how and with who they have sex. Teenage girls in some African countries are six times more likely to be infected with HIV than are boys of the same age (UNFPA).

Child Abuse and Rape
Children are often infected with HIV through sexual abuse. Some adult men are seeking young female partners (under 15) in an attempt to avoid HIV infection. Coerced sex including rape, increases risk of cuts to the vagina and anus and therefore of HIV infection.

People are still ignorant about HIV. A recent survey in 17 countries around the world showed that over half the youth questioned couldn’t name any methods to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS (UNFPA). Furthermore, almost half of 15 to 19 year old girls questioned in sub-Saharan Africa, didn’t know that a healthy looking person can have HIV/AIDS (youthandhiv.org).

Mobile populations
The movement of people within and between countries has led to the spread of HIV. In many countries men will work temporarily in the cities, at sea or for the armed forces, contract HIV and then return to their communities and unwittingly spread it.

People traveling on holiday also catch or spread HIV with local populations and other travelers through sex and intravenous drug use. Sex tourism is a major factor in HIV/AIDS spread in countries such as Cambodia.

Myths and Stigma
Inaccurate ideas about HIV/AIDS contribute to unsafe behaviour. Many young women in Africa have caught HIV due to the mistaken belief that infected men can cure’ themselves through sex with a virgin.

The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS often leads to exclusion and violence towards those infected. The fear of stigma means people get tested. Negative attitudes about the use of condoms also increase infection.

A major myth in NZ is that only gay men get HIV. As you can see from the statements above, it is increasingly becoming a heterosexual issue.

Silence is perhaps the biggest killer. HIV/AIDS is associated with sex and drugs and death. These are all things people don’t like to talk about. Silence and inaction has led to the pandemic that the world now faces. Only the breaking of the silence and concerted action will turn it around.


  • Wear a red ribbon to show you care about the issue, especially on World Aids Day - the 1st of December
  • Combat world poverty — join the Make Poverty History Campaign
  • Always. Use. A. Condom… got the message?
  • Break the silence — ask questions and challenge the stereotypes around HIV/AIDS


New Zealand AIDS Foundation
Family Planning Association
The Global Education Centre

This article was originally published in Jet Magazine’s World View column and is published here with their permission. Images courtesy of Save The Children.

Do you speak English?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Asian invasion’. Widespread immigration crisis’. Overstayers crowd workforce’. Terrorists in our midst’. Wave of foreigners’. Loss of national identity’.
Racial prejudice is founded on a lack of awareness; we fear what we do not understand. It occurs in varying degrees, from throwaway remarks, to the increasing number of brutal attacks on ethnic people in New Zealand.

The murder of pizza delivery worker Michael Choy in 2001 was said to be racially motivated. More recently, the vandalism of Auckland mosques in the wake of London’s terrorist bombings came as a reminder that racial and religious prejudice is still alive in our community.

Remember the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and the physical attacks on Somali youth in Wellington and Asian youth in Christchurch?

Racial discrimination is caused by false assumptions; supposing that a taxi driver with a strong accent is uneducated, while in his home country he may, in fact, have been a leading surgeon or academic, but is unable to find such employment in New Zealand. Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies remind us of one of the darkest times in human history; caused by the idea that one race was superior. But even today, neo-Nazi and nationalist groups sill exist around the world, founded on Hitler’s philosophies.

While clearly far from the severity of Nazi Germany, New Zealand politics has not been free from racial prejudice either. A poll tax’ (entry tax), applied only to Chinese immigrants during the 1800s, was a discriminatory form of government revenue-gathering. In 1975, National leader Robert Muldoon ran a scare campaign directed at Pacific Island migrant workers. This was followed by dawn raids on suspected overstayers. The flying squad’ model that carried out those raids could be brought back in some form under a future New Zealand First (coalition) government, according to party leader Winston Peters. With immigration being a hot topic of this year’s election campaign, the race debate is far from over.

Migration and racial prejudice
Refugees and migrants can still face discrimination wherever they go simply because they’re different’. Mexican migrants face strong prejudice in the United States. In recent years, groups of Americans have appointed themselves vigilante border guards. In May this year a masked vigilante dressed in military fatigues, and armed with an assault rifle, killed a man during an attack on a group of Mexicans attempting to cross the border.

Closer to home, Australia is the only country in the world with a policy of compulsory detention of asylum seekers This includes children, some of whom have been imprisoned their whole lives. Hundreds of children and adults have been detained in Australian government-run detention centres, and on Nauru, under Australian control.

The nation’s cultural pulse
New Zealand’s social and cultural history has been entirely shaped by migration, beginning with the earliest known arrivals of Polynesian explorers around 1100AD. Explorers, traders, colonisers, migrants and refugees, have arrived for various reasons — often economic, while some moved to escape social or political persecution.

Refugees and migrants come from similar situations; however, while migrants choose to leave their homeland, refugees are compelled to flee to a country of asylum. New Zealand has resettled approximately 25,000 refugees in the past 60 years. The annual intake is restricted by a quota of 750. There were also 22,000 migrants who were granted citizenship here in 2004, and now call New Zealand home. “It’s just a question of becoming more used to having different people around,” says Prime Minister Helen Clark. “I have a great faith in our ability to build a nation around new waves of migration.”

A change in immigration policy in the late 1980s resulted in a sizeable influx of new migrants. Because of this, the extended families of many New Zealand immigrants have been here for at least two decades. Yet these second- or third-generation Kiwis, most of whom were born here, are sometimes seen as foreigners in what they consider to be their own homeland.

Race relations remains contentious and polarising. Issues relating to culture, identity and immigration are questioned in communities all over the world; we are privileged to live in a nation in which we can freely discuss such issues. Racial prejudice may always be an element of our society. But if we work to create and maintain dialogue between people of different races, ethnicities and cultures, our respective prejudices will lessen and we can work together towards
mutual understanding and appreciation.


All this low self-esteem, hate crime and discrimination can be a bit of a downer. And I know this sounds cheesy, but prejudice ultimately affects everyone, because we are excluding and alienating people who could be well worth knowing.

  • Challenge your own prejudices: everyone has prejudiced thoughts, so don’t feel guilty, just recognize that you have them and work to think and act differently.
  • Get to know people from groups who are discriminated against. It will help with understanding and not being scared.
  • School yourself up with the Prejudice Institute’s factsheet.
  • Write letters to Editors or to politicians — make sure they know it’s something you care about.
  • Link up with other people or organisations to organise pro-diversity, anti-prejudice events or groups.
  • Call it when you see it.


New Mexico’s vigilante killings
Immigration New Zealand
Refugee and Migrant Service
Understanding Prejudice — this is a great website for getting your head around prejudice.
Oxfam International Youth Parliament - check out some of the cool things other young people are doing around the world — disproving the stereotypes.

This article was written as part of the Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

Great sacrifices: Labels in Poverty

Monday, February 28th, 2005

Samantha Davidson

Odd, but true: some New Zealand teenagers (or their parents) are forking over $160 for a single item of clothing, while not even being able to get enough together for school fees.

Did you know that almost one in every three young New Zealanders lives in poverty? Children and young people in New Zealand also have the fifth highest rate of death from maltreatment in the developed world and are more at risk from human rights abuses than any other group.

Clothes or class?

Reports suggest many parents and teenagers are having trouble paying school and exam fees, and are skipping NCEA assessment because of it. There have been reports from schools of students themselves or older siblings paying for fees from part-time jobs, and in one occasion a parent taking out personal loans to cover them.

Some young people are working hard just to put themselves through school — something the majority of us take for granted — and are then being penalised by their peers for spending their hard earned dosh on education and living expenses, as opposed to the one-season-wonder-fad of pre-ripped jeans and wrinkled shirts!

Surf DudeDue to our generation’s obsession with Von Dutch and Stussy, certain parenting magazines (check out mainstreetmom for a laugh) actually recommend paying extra for labels to avoid being the unfortunate guardians of a child who is “the target of unwanted teasing and bullying”. One intriguing “guide” even has several ways in which parents can obtain more cash-to-splash, including cutting out car insurance — the chances of actually having a crash aren’t terrifically high, after all.If these are the lengths the people of our nation are pressed to go to for the preservation of ones’ social fashion status, what are we saying to the world?

We might buy into label clothing for comfort or cause we like the way it looks, but it doesn’t mean we should judge people who — for whatever reason — aren’t wearing it.

Check out Child Poverty Action Group’s report on how NCEA fees are affecting poor families


TAKE ACTION: Be the alternative!

Want to try to avoid branded clothing altogether? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Go op shopping. Ah, the thrill of the find and the pride of a bargain. Because a lot of op shop items have been sitting in grandpa’s wardrobe for forty years, much of it precedes the move toward cheap and nasty labour. And more often than not, it’s one of a kind. Cheap too!
  • Make your own stuff. Who knows, it could be the beginning of a career in fashion design. Not only do you have complete control over what goes on your t-shirts/pants/hoodies, you know exactly who was exploited in the making. And I hear knitting is hip again.
  • Go Black Spot. This is a new anti-brand movement started by US magazine and anti-The Man force Adbusters. Their mission appears to be to take down Converse founder Phil Knight, and their first action is their Black Spot sneakers. They look just like Converse sneakers, but instead of the Converse symbol have a black spot representing their rejection of brands.
  • Seek out fresh talent. If the sewing machine is a bit intimidating for ya, try hunting down an up and coming designer. There are heaps of new boutique fashion stores opening up in the cities with young designers begging to see their work on the frames of hip young

This article was written as part of Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

Illustrator: Rebecca ter Borg