Age of umbrage

10/05/2016

Example  1:

A businessman posted a photo on Facebook with a comment. Twenty minutes later he realised it was a stupid thing to do and took down the post.

He also contacted the people to whom it referred, admitted he’d made an error of judgement, accepted responsibility for it, apologised, and made amends by refunding the money the people had paid him. They accepted his apology and the refund.

It should have ended there but someone had a screenshot of the offending post and it went viral on Facebook then became a news not-news story in the mainstream media.

Example 2:

A business sent an email with “your mother sent us her wish-list” in the subject line. A couple of hours later it sent a second email apologising after some customers, including one whose mother had died 16 years earlier,  had contacted them saying they’d been upset by it.

I got the email in a week when Mothers’ Day was going to be particularly poignant owing to the death of a dearly loved friend who was a second mother. I treated it like the marketing exercise it was and deleted it.

I haven’t named either business deliberately because they’ve had more than enough publicity over matters that should have had none.

Jim Mora referred to this being the age of umbrage on The Panel on Friday,

He was right. Too many people are taking umbrage at things which aren’t, in the grand scheme of things, important and because of social media they get far more attention than they deserve.

These two examples are relatively petty but there’s a third more serious one:

One Seven Sharp, host Mike Hosking added his opinion to a clip on the abuse New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd received for proposing a Maori ward for local government councils.

“Sad to say I’d never personally attack him obviously but he’s completely out of touch with middle New Zealand,” Hosking said. 

He went on to say: “There’s nothing wrong with Maori representation on councils cause any Maori that wants to stand for a council is more than welcome to do so and you can sell your message and if you’re good enough you’ll get voted on.”

You can agree or not with his view but several took umbrage at it:

In a statement Radio New Zealand received from TVNZ, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said a formal complaint had been laid against Hosking and a committee would review the complaint in the coming days.  . . 

One complaint on Seven Sharp Facebook page came from a medical student called Kera May. 

“Deeply offended by the racism exhibited by Mike Hosking on your show tonight. If anyone is “out of touch with Middle New Zealand” (which includes many Maori like myself thank you very much!) it’s you Mike.” . . .

Offended by a comment that disagreed with the mayor’s proposed policy without in anyway criticising Maori?

Hosking’s comments have been condemned by his own colleagues Miriama Kamo and Scotty Morrison on TVNZ show Marae.

Kamo said the comments had upset her and told of her own struggles with a previous employer firing her when she corrected him on the pronunciation of her name. 

Sacking for that would be grounds for unjustified dismissal but the example as explained here is not in itself racist.

Lots of people find lots of names difficult to pronounce but that’s nothing to do with racism.

I’m called Ele because it’s preferable to dealing with mispronunciations of Elspeth which have ranged from, and I kid you not, albatross to Elizabeth.

Racism is abhorrent and anyone is justified at taking umbrage at it.

But attempting to stifle debate by taking umbrage at someone’s opinion, correct or not,  and calling it racist is ridiculous.

I think Maori seats in parliament have generally served Maori poorly and I would oppose any attempt by a local body servicing an area where I was a ratepayer, to give seats with voting rights to anyone who hadn’t been elected democratically.

That is an opinion with which some may agree or not, but it is not a racist statement.

Taking umbrage rather than countering an argument is yet another example of emotion replacing reason.

 


Judges’ decision

30/01/2015

Miriama Kamo, convenor of judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014 responds to Eleanor Catton’s criticism:

Esteemed academic Peter Munz once said to me, “The wonderful thing about the humanities is the lack of one answer to any issue, there is always debate, there must always be discussion and there may not ever be consensus.”  

 I’m reminded of this as I watch, with a mix of admiration and dismay, the debate fuelled by Eleanor Catton’s comments about the political state of our nation and her feeling that she is a victim of a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. I am interested in listening to all of it, but wish only to comment, as the convenor of the judging panel of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014, on the continuing conversation surrounding our decision-making.

The New Zealand Post Book Awards is a multi-category, multi-genre competition. It is quite unlike the Man Booker competition, which considers only fiction. The Luminaries won the Man Booker competition, a thrilling achievement. Last year it went on to win the New Zealand Post Book Awards prize for fiction.  In doing so, it won New Zealand’s equivalent of the Man Booker. It then went into contention for the supreme prize against three other exemplary finalists of different genres.  It did not win that supreme prize; Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer did.  

I’m as impressed as I am bemused by Eleanor Catton’s belief that The Luminaries should have won the supreme prize. I’m impressed because we don’t have a proud history of owning our achievements, of proudly proclaiming our talents. Perhaps this is a by-product of a nation that did suffer a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Comments like Eleanor’s make me believe that this is changing. But I’m bemused because, putting aside that it diminishes the achievement of the supreme prize winner, Jill Trevelyan, it betrays a belief that our judging panel should have fallen into line with an international panel of judges. This is at odds with Eleanor saying that she grew up with the erroneous view that Kiwi writers, and by extension Kiwis generally, were somehow less than British and American ones; that we did not, and perhaps do not, back our own opinions or our own talent.

There was no sense on our judging panel that it was ‘someone else’s’ turn to win. We made a literary judgement, not a political statement. Given that our opinion did happen to align with the Man Booker judges and we did award The Luminaries our top fiction prize, it is at least churlish and, at most, mischievous to suggest that The Luminaries did not win its due in New Zealand.  

But then, that’s the beauty of the humanities. Such decisions rightly inspire debate. Like the Man Booker judges, we were a group of individuals making a collective decision. We worked hard at the task in front of us and, in my view, we made wise and well-placed decisions. I was proud to honour Eleanor’s incredible work, The Luminaries. I was proud to award prizes to all the finalists that night of the New Zealand Post Book Awards, and to crown, as supreme winner, Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer.  It deserved to win.  But in the grand tradition of debating and discussing the arts, I urge you to read all of our finalists before making up your own mind.

Well said and isn’t it good that she says it by way of addressing the criticism and not criticising the critic?

David Farrar also responds to Catton reasonably at Kiwiblog and Trans Tasman opined:

Catton . . . 
illustrated the old wisdom “artists are children,” and it is a little baffling why people seem to expect profundities about politics from them.  In Catton’s case, she is only the latest in the long tradition of NZ literary types who feel their country is too grubby and philistine for them to bear for too long.

It is one of the most tiresomely adolescent aspects of the Kiwi arts scene, and it gets more intense whenever their fellow NZers are so uncouth as to elect National Govts.

Catton isn’t a “traitor” though, despite what talkback host Sean Plunket – increasingly resembling a retired Rotarian – called her on his programme. It is just another case of artists being a bit silly. There is no need for this sort of over-reaction.

Quite.


Oamaru Dame’s dream holiday destination

25/08/2013

How’s this for a recommendation?

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa featured on Sunday this evening.

Miriama Kamo interviewed her and as she wrapped up said she’d asked the Dame what her dream holiday destination was.

The answer?

Oamaru.


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