Friday, 28 September 2012

He Tangata

It takes all types of people to make a world, and I'm lucky enough in my work to meet many of them - the rich and the famous, the truck-driver and the elderly, the volunteer and the employed, the child and the childless, the sportsman and the politician....

We see them in the mags or on the news or walking down the street, and we form an opinion of them based on the opinions of others or on our own (very limited) knowledge. Yet when I meet them in person I get a totally different idea of who they really are.

I spoke to a senior MP about the lack of progress on the Rena shipwreck, and he happily told me what should have been done. When I suggested he was just talking politics, boy, did he get mad and all of a sudden I saw the real person. I heard his heart....

I've met rich and famous sportsmen who I wouldn't mind going out with my daughter and I've met rich and famous sportsmen who are arrogant and rude.

The same goes for teachers and employers - their position doesn't in any way guarantee their character. I want to respect you, in fact I'll give you respect because of your role, but there are times when I wouldn't respect either your decisions or your behaviour.

I hear what they say, but I want to know what they really think - I'm looking to see if their actions in any way match their rhetoric. It's not about who you are, or the cut of your suit, or your fancy title or how well you can chase a ball. It's about what you're like under pressure and what you get up to when you think you're not being watched.

I want to know if they keep their word. (David says there's a reward for those who "swear to their own hurt" and don't change their mind.) I don't really care if you're left-wing or right-wing, I just want to know whether you genuinely care about people or your biggest ambition is to line your own pockets.

I had a lot of respect for Jeremy Dwyer, a former mayor of Hastings who often quoted the Maori proverb:
"He aha te mea nui? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!
What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people!"
11 years later, and I still can't disagree. It takes all types, whatever their background, whatever their function. There's a place for you and despite our differences of opinion, there's a place for me. After all, if it wasn't for all the "interesting" types, the world would be a boring place, wouldn't it?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Quips & Quotes

Alec Issigonis: A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The court will rise

"I don't get the paper anymore," she said, "there's too much bad news." And while I think she's just reading the wrong stories, I do understand where she's coming from. Open up any newspaper or blog and it seems there's yet another BAD guy doing BAD things to innocent people. Or there's a blow-by-blow account of the ensuing court case followed by public outrage at the leniency of the sentence.

"The judge got it wrong," we say. We expect better! Personally, I think I'd go nuts if I had to sit through that stuff day after day after day. From just a few visits as a press photographer, and the few juries I've sat on, I've got a lot of respect for our court reporters, court staff, juries and judges.

Let's face it, it must be a difficult job to administer the law, especially when Joe Public thinks it should reflect their opinion of the moment. We expect the letter of the law to be followed unless of course it's an occasion where we think the spirit of the law should prevail. It all depends on our own viewpoint, so what if we've only read the headlines and didn't actually attend the trial. Can't the judge ever get it right? The law should be changed!

We expect our justice system to be fair and reasoned and impartial. Laws should be well-written and easy to administer, with no loop-holes, without favour. We expect the punishment to fit the crime. We won't tolerate exceptions. But be honest, how many times do we just want revenge? "Do the crime, do the time," we say.

Until we find ourselves, or our family or friends, in the dock....

Not between two cops in front of a judge perhaps, but when we've made a mistake or we've been found out after intentionally and secretly breaking the rules. Do we really expect justice? Or do we plead for mercy.... given the extenuating circumstances... in the light of our normally good character... I didn't understand... I was provoked... no-one told me... it's been a hard day...

The difference of course is how close we are to the accused, and what we know of their background and past record. And what we think their motive was.

And there's the crunch. No-one can really know what's going on inside another person's head, yet that's what we expect from the court. It's not their job to make Joe Public happy. It's to form the right conclusion. To make the right decision. To hand down the right punishment.

And to set the innocent people free!

Quite frankly, I wouldn't be that keen to have you as my judge, any more than I'd want the responsibility of judging you and your motives. Only God really knows your heart. And the good news is, not only is he a judge but he's also the defence attorney.

I can't really say it any better than David who wrote the following  Psalm
"Bless the Lord, O my soul.... and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 
"The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.... The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. 
"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.... But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him... Bless the Lord, O my soul!"

(My emphasis added and abbreviated, read the full version here)
In short, I know who I'd want beside me the next time I find myself before the court. The challenge for me on a day-to-day basis is whether I'm prepared to extend the same grace to my fellow-man.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Quips & Quotes

Bruce Arnold: People are the most important asset on earth - they're not easily replaced.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Poppies, prayer and politicians

What is it in the human condition that drives us to criticise, even revile, anyone who holds a different opinion from our own?

Why is it we feel so self-righteous in condemning "evil" people, yet neglect to consider our own fallen nature? We score ourselves on our intentions yet we judge others on their results... and what's worse, we presume to know their heart and condemn them on their (apparent) motivation...

And if I disagree with you, how does that make me a hater and a bigot? If the same logic is applied, you must be a hater and a bigot because you disagree with me... Why should I keep my opinions to myself?

It's a well-known "fact" that Kiwis suffer from tall-poppy syndrome, but isn't that just a simplistic disguise for what is really the tip of an ugly iceberg of criticism, discrimination and hatred? And anarchy?

How is it that the man on the street can hate the politicians they've never met, and pull them down at every opportunity, yet expect them to front up and take responsibility for their (larger) share of the blame for all of society's ills?

And since when was it okay for media to photograph our political leaders, and publish only their goofy mid-speech expressions, holding them up to ridicule? Would we find it just as funny if a wedding photographer had done the same? Why are the rules different? Like them or not, MPs are the leaders of our country and deserve better.
What do bloggers hope to achieve in publishing a picture of a dog urinating on a street-level billboard featuring a Photoshopped John Key? How would you feel if they did it to a loved one? Where do we draw the line? Imagine the outcry if Mr Key had done the same thing to one of his constituents! Maybe there's a reason he bears the honorific, The Right Honourable. 

And no, I'm not going to link to the offending items because I find them offensive!

Paul says we should pray for and give thanks for "all men, for kings and all who are in authority" so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life. If we don't follow his instruction, one could assume the opposite might occur... And I note he's not only talking about all men, but specifically employers and managers, the Police and judges, teachers and parents - and also politicians...

Mr Speaker prays a similar prayer when he opens Parliament each day:
"Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Your guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech You to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Your holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace and tranquility of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."
Imagine what New Zealand might look like if, despite our at-times childish and point-scoring behaviour, God took us and our MPs at their word and answered in the affirmative...

Monday, 10 September 2012

Quips & Quotes

Anonymous: We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Voices in my head

I always laugh at movie characters like Kronk in Disney's "The Emperor's New Groove" where he's got an angel sitting on one shoulder and then Poof! there's a devil on the other - and somehow he's got to make the right decision or the fate of the whole movie is at stake!

It's not a new theme. Since time immemorial, people have been faced with a choice between good or evil, positive or negative, selfishness or selflessness... Maybe that's what makes the story of the three voices in the Garden of Eden so fascinating (... the serpent, the woman and God.) We've probably all grappled with the Choice of Voice i.e. which voice should we listen to...

There are other voices of course.

I can still hear my own voice from when I made my wedding vows nearly 26 years ago. Due to the wonders of not-so-modern technology, I played the cassette tape through a few times, and it's deeply embedded in my mind.

I can still hear the TV jingle, "Boy Oh Boy, a Lincoln Toy," though I really can't remember what they were advertising. Childhood was more than a few years ago, you understand...

I can hear the voices of colleagues and bosses, and family and in-laws, and teachers and friends. When you send me a text, or comment on Facebook, I can hear you as plain as day, though I have to admit I may not always hear your tone of voice correctly...

Sometimes I can still hear the words spoken years ago which were extremely critical or nasty, though the intensity has dulled with time, and with forgiveness... I remember a course facilitator once said we should "Let bygones be bygones," but it doesn't really have the same power... Only forgiveness can silence the offences.

Then there have been the times when I'm in a spot of bother, and I've heard a word or a phrase. It sounds like it's from the Bible, but I couldn't tell you the context, what book it's in or even who said it. Sometimes it's just a scripture reference - but in each case, I've recognised the Voice.

On one occasion, I was in contract negotiations with an employer (not my current employer), and the phrase, "Having done all, to stand," came into my mind. It was back in the days before the Internet, so I had to go to my Strong's Concordance to even find it. Surprise, surprise, the verse came just after a passage about employer-employee relationships.

And no, I'm not suggesting my employer was the devil, or that he represented any of the other characters in the passage. What I am saying is that I heard God say that I should stand my ground. So I did, and not only did my employer change the clause in my contract but also in all my colleagues'! I won my case and I won his respect.

However, let me add this wee proviso: Just because God speaks one thing one day, it doesn't mean you can make a rule of it - after all, different paints need different thinners...

On a later occasion, I was praying and reading the Bible, and it was as if  He drew through some of the words with a highlighter. I was having an issue with a manager (not my current manager), and I read Ecclesiastes 10:4 "If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post; For conciliation pacifies great offences."

The message was pretty clear: Don't quit when the boss is getting in your face, for giving him his respect due will cause you to find favour. Or, as I noted in the margin, giving due respect is like pouring oil on the troubled waters of past grievances or errors.

So I obeyed my manager's instruction, much to my own discomfort. After a couple of weeks, I then presented him with a record of the outcomes of his instruction, respectfully suggested a change, and he agreed. I won my case and I won his respect.

Over the years, I've heard the Voice of encouragement, direction, and at times, even correction. The words I love to hear the most are, "I love you... "I'm proud of you... "I forgive you... and "I accept you..."

Despite all the circumstances, those are the words that keep bringing me back.