Joshua Hitchcock

Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Four Burners Theory

In Lifestyle on September 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

Chris Guillebeau over at The Art of Non-Conformity has posted a discussion he recently had regarding the Four Burners Theory. In his post, which you can read here, Chris asks for readers to comment on whether they believe in this theory and what weight it should hold in modern society. This is an issue I have been meditating on for a while now and his post provided an idea opportunity for me to provide my thoughts on the topic.

The Four Burners Theory

The Theory goes like this: One burner represents your family, one your friends, one your health and one your work. In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners; in order to be truly successful you have to cut off two. One reason for writing here at Our World is to demonstrate that you can have it all in life, provided you are prepared to work for it. While I still hold strong to this belief, this theory, combined with recent experience, has resulted in some readjustment.

Can we really have it all?

The answer is that we can. However, difficulties arise when we start defining the words and concepts that we use. What does having it all mean? Does it mean successfully blasting all four burners and, if so, what does success mean? To me, having it all means that you maintain a level of satisfaction in the current balance of your four burners: You have a meaningful job which is challenging yet does not take up all your time; you have a loving family which you provide support to, and receive support from; you have an active social network; and your are in good physical, mental, and spiritual health. The theory goes that in order to be successful you would have to forgo one of those four burners which, for all intents and purposes, is proving successful and providing a healthy and fulfilled life.

That is the inherent inconsistency in the four burners theory – its failure to adequately provide a definition of success. If you accept that the four burners are fundamental to having it all and living a successful, well-balanced life, then the instant you turn off one of those burners you are no longer successful. However, if you believe that your mission in life requires that you turn off one of the burners, either for a short period or indefinitely, then that is what you will do in order for your mission to be a success.

But what if you do not want it all, or cannot have it all because of the circumstances you find yourself in? You might have no family, or you are a stay-at-home parent, be unemployed, suffer from a long term chronic illness, or like Nelson Mandela, be totally immersed in your life’s mission that your family life is lost as a result of the higher cause. Does turning off one of the burners in these instances make you a failure?

As always, it is personal

Nelson Mandela was a man on a mission. Fighting for what he believed in he sacrificed a loving life with his family for the higher cause. It caused him great pain, but it was the price he had to pay to ensure the freedom of millions of black South Africans. Mandela was a great man and a truly successful man, but his success came at a cost. Wherever you look there are stories of great triumph met with great sacrifice. Further, consider the situation of stay-at-home parents: These parents make the selfless choice to remain at home and raise their children. They place their family above all else – often at the expense of their work and, occasionally, social life. You certainly could not argue that such people do not live a meaningful life – in fact, there life often provides more meaning than thousands of those who slave away at a desk their entire adult lives.

What this demonstrates is that the four burners theory is simply that – a theory. And as with most theories, it is not complex enough to deal with the human element. We retain our individuality, and with that our power of choice. Whatever path we chose, we do so for reasons personal to ourselves. Success, therefore, cannot be defined according to a theory. It is a deeply personal assessment, and one which results from the circumstances that we find ourselves creating and responding to.

As for me?

I believe in having it all – and I am constantly striving to achieve this goal. It is never without its challenges, and each burner comes with ever increasing time demands. Advancing my career requires time and effort at the office; likewise maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit requires time spent in the gym, the kitchen and in meditation; friends, thankfully, are always there to enjoy life with and provide support; and as for family, this is always a struggle – I live with my sister but our work means that we see little of each other, my extended family live in a province 400 kilometers away, and my girlfriend has recently moved half way around the world! It is not an ideal situation and there will always be conflicts between various ‘burners’ at various points.

Whatever the case may be, I make a conscious effort not to lose sight of all four. For one reason or another there will be times when one dominates the others – this is unavoidable and only negates the notion of having it all when that domination exists for extended periods of time. The key, as I see it, is to find room in your life for all four. But, as I have said, the choice is solely yours to make!

What do you think? Is the four burners theory an accurate representation of success or is human success more dynamic than that? Let me know in the comments section below.

Modern Love

In Lifestyle on September 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

I have always conceived this site as being a way for me to express myself as I navigate through life. Based on the ideas of having it all and living a meaningful life, I seek to both understand and provide understanding on the important challenges we face. Today is a very personal article, but one that I feel most people of my generation would find commonality in. As we move through our twenties relationships start moving from casual affairs to more meaningful long-term connections. A generation ago this transition was met with little resistance. Our parents generation married young, had a family young and built a life together. At my age, my mother was married and had her first child. At 30 my father had two children and had taken over the family farm following the death of his father two years earlier.

Today’s world is vastly different. At 25, I have a mere two friends who are married and only one who has a child. From my perspective, it appears that the focus of us twenty-somethings has shifted from building a family to building a career. That, however, is the superficial analysis. Strip away the layers and a different picture emerges – one of a generation whose very ideas of the nature of love and marriage has changed. Change directly attributable to the actions of our parents’ generation.

The Children of Divorce

My generation is the children of divorce. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, as the women’s rights and civil rights movements brought liberty to more sectors of society then has every been achieved before; and as capitalism dealt the final death-blows to communism we, as a society, indulged in the freedom that came with this Brave New World. Consequently, marriage moved from being “till death do us part” to “till boredom do us part”. Capitalism turned love into a commodity – something as fleeting and trade-able as any other material or intangible good. Divorce rates soared and families were torn apart by the selfish actions of our parents generation. Our Grandparents’ generation, those who lived through the Wars and knew all about the fragility of life, fought tooth and nail to make their relationships work. Sadly, such knowledge was not absorbed by those that followed.

Of those same friends, the ones who are not married or do not have kids in their twenties, the majority are the children of divorce. We have experienced the anguish felt by the parent whose heart has been broken. We understand the consequence of divorce – the effect it has on the partner left behind, and on the children left behind. We know because we lived through it. As children we are placed in a highly traumatic situation and expected to deal with the consequences of those who are meant to protect us. Our story of love is the same as our parents. They grew up watching the strong bonds that united their parents’ marriages. We grew up watching our parents break those very bonds.

Modern Love

How does this then affect love and relationships in today’s world? I can only speak from personal experience so I invite readers to comment on this article and discuss how it affects them. However, I think that my experience highlights the many challenges that we face in love and relationships in today’s world.

As a result of my parents’ divorce I have always questioned the institution of marriage. I do not think that anyone can witness what they went through without being hesitant of committing so much energy and so much of yourself into a union which could end up equally as bad. In the great battle of our age – that between our relationships and our career – my career became the most logical path to focus my energy on. It was the easy way out since it avoided any prospect of being hurt in such a spectacular fashion. If I was going to enter into a long-term union the it was going to be real and I wanted (want?) to make sure that it is going to last the distance. Witnessing divorce has made me hesitant – anxious to be SURE that I was with the right person – the One. Anecdotal evidence is that divorce rates are starting to fall, especially amongst the younger generations. People are waiting later to get married, determined to avoid the mistakes of our parents.

For me, I have always been guided by he desire to be with someone who I could connect with at a deeper level than in any other relationship. Love is when you can connect with someone on the four planes of existence – the temporal, the physical, the emotional and the spiritual. It is about opening yourself fully to another person and sharing your life with them. In this state, love is as its purest. At 25, I am blessed to have met someone whom I can connect with on all these layers. We share a love which transcends many boundaries and exists without conflict. In fact, in 18 months we have not had a single ‘argument’. Yes, there have been disagreements but these have always been resolved through calm and rational communication – we operate as one and, therefore, without the need to resort to raised voices, or tempers, or threats.

Love Isn’t Always Enough

Unfortunately, life is not designed to be easy, and our relationship is no different. We are currently torn apart by our careers – living separate lives on opposite sides of the world. As the world becomes more international, so too do our relationships. As the world continues to open itself to us, couples often find themselves torn between one partner’s desire to travel and work in a foreign country, and the others to remain at home – or travel and work in a different foreign country. We are increasingly becoming a nomadic generation. I live in Auckland yet travel extensively; my girlfriend is in London; and I have friends and family in Australia, Paris, Kiev, Jakarta, Brunei, South America – everywhere. That is why the temporal is so important. Time and material presence. Not only are we looking for someone we can connect with emotionally, intellectually and spiritually; it would also be nice if we actually got to spend some time with them! Skype and Gmail can only take you so far!

When you add in the ever-increasing amount of time we are spending in the office you get a sense of the challenges faced in the world of modern love. Little wonder then that marriage is far less common today then a generation ago, and is also happening later in life. As for me, we are working through everything that we need to work through. Although, in the fine tradition of our generation we are both taking the time to focus on our careers. That seems to be the one aspect of our lives where the younger generation knows exactly what we want! Welcome to Modern Love.

A World Indigenous Lawyers Conference: The Definitive View

In Te Ao Māori on September 19, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I have promised many people over the course of the past two weeks that I will provide a review of the annual Te Hunga Roia Māori, Hui-a-Tau (The Māori Law Society Annual Conference) which also co-existed as a World Indigenous Lawyers Conference (WILC 2012), held at the University of Waikato in early September.  Not one to disappoint, here is the definitive review of the conference:

It was awesome. Come along next year and see for yourself!

Parliament Discusses the “Shares-Plus” Consultation Hui

In Te Ao Māori on September 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm

The following exchange took place in Parliament this afternoon in relation to the Government’s “Shares-Plus” consultation hui:

Question 3 : Wednesday 19 September 2012

3. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)—to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Does he agree that “Consulting involves the statement of a proposal not yet finally decided upon, listening to what others have to say, considering their responses and then deciding what will be done”; if so, how do the Government’s consultation hui about the “shares plus” proposal align with this definition?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes; and totally. Is that succinct enough?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before I come back to the honourable member, it might be, but it is not a good enough answer to a primary question. The Minister will now give a considered answer, because the Standing Orders actually require a Minister to give a constructive answer to a primary question—[Interruption]—I am on my feet; Ministers should just take a deep breath for a moment—where there are no words in that question that are in any way provocative. There are no such words in the question whatsoever. I do not believe that is an acceptable answer to the House. I accept that it is an answer, but it is not acceptable, given the Standing Orders, in that Ministers are expected to provide information in answering questions, and that answer did not provide any information.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: “Succinct” is obviously elastic.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. The Minister will desist from that line of action. He will just treat the House with the respect it deserves.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON The quote draws on the finding of the Court of Appeal in 1992 in a case involving  Wellington International Airport, reported I think in [1993] 1 NZLR 671. What that decision confirms is that the party consulting can have a working plan in mind, and that is the position here. The Government has a preliminary view on “shares plus” and a working plan based on that preliminary view, but it has an open mind and is willing to change its mind if submissions are persuasive—succinct and to the point.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister support the view of the Deputy Prime Minister that “The Government has already said that such a shareholding would be unattractive, unnecessary, and unworkable …”; if so, what assurance can he give Māori that the Government is not entering into consultation with a  predetermined outcome in mind?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes, I can give that member and the House an assurance that the Government has an open mind. As I said, the Government has formed a preliminary view about “shares plus”, and that view is noted in its letters on the Treasury website, and it is in that context that the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments are to be understood. Again, the view is preliminary, and the Government is consulting in good faith in order to hear whether there are other views about “shares plus”.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with Māori lawyer Joshua Hitchcock that “In many respects the Government is treating this as a pro-forma exercise of consultation. It is merely ticking the boxes to satisfy the Court in the event of a challenge to the sale process that it has followed due process.”; if not, why not?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, I certainly do not. It is not a matter of simply ticking boxes, and Governments have learnt a lot since the decision of the Court of Appeal in 1993. The Government has a preliminary view. It wants to test that view, and that is why the Deputy Prime Minister—and next week the Deputy Prime Minister and I—will be having these hui, one of which was very well attended in  Taupō today. The Government acknowledges it may not have thought of everything. It wants to hear other views, and then it will make a decision, and that is why we will have a consultation.

Hon Peter Dunne: Given the terse and succinct nature of the Minister’s answer, could he elaborate on what the Government’s preliminary view is?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes. The Government’s preliminary view, as set out on the website and in Treasury papers, and in the view of the Deputy Prime Minister, is that there are more minuses than pluses with “shares plus”. Take, for example, the suggestion that minority shareholders could have some say in the appointment of directors to the company, who would then act on the wishes of the minority shareholders. Well, in terms of company law, that is quite problematic because directors, once appointed, owe a duty to the company, not to the people who put them there.

Not the deliberate change in language.  The Deputy Prime Minister’s press release was rather unequivocal on the Government’s opinion of the “Shares-Plus” concept, to hear the Attorney General now speak of it as merely a preliminary view appears to be an attempt to fix an unintentional mistake.




“Shares-Plus” Consultation

In Te Ao Māori on September 18, 2012 at 8:43 am

Today marks the commencement of the Government’s consultation round on the “shares plus” concept raised in the Waitangi Tribunal’s interim report into the New Zealand Māori Council’s freshwater and state-owned enterprise claim.  I spoke briefly about the Government’s duty to consult on Newstalk ZB this morning, but time constraints resulted in a rather truncated analysis.

The Duty to Consult

The duty to consult is a long-standing principle of natural justice.  It is as extension of the common law right of Audi Alteram Partem (the right to be heard) and arose as Government decision-making extending beyond decisions primarily affecting individuals to decisions affecting larger numbers of people.

Initially, the Courts did not recognise any duty to consult implicit in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  In he landmark 1987 Lands case, the Court of Appeal defined consultation with Māori as being elusive and unworkable, although a precise reading of these comments can see that the nature of the consultation referring to by the Court was full consultation with Māori on all issues.  Framed as an all-encompassing duty to consult in all situations it is easy to see why such a duty can be elusive and unworkable.  The Court of Appeal would make this distinction clear in the Forests case (NZMC v Attorney-General [1989] 2 NZLR 142) when it held that the duty of good faith requires consultation on “truly major issues”

The Tribunal continued to develop the nature of the duty to consult during the 1990s and in the 2002 Ahu Moana: Agriculture and Marine Farming Report (Wai 953), noted that:

It is now well established that, in a matter of particular significance to Māori, the Crown has a duty to act reasonably, to make informed decisions, and to turn its mind to the future needs of Māori.  This cannot be done without consultation.  Full discussion must take place with Māori before the Crown makes any decisions on matters that may impinge upon the rangatiratanga of a tribe or hapū in relation to its taonga.

The duty is, however, not absolute.  The Court of Appeal, in Wellington International Airport, held that consultation does not mean agreement, nor does it envisage negotiations towards an agreement.  It does, however, require more than a prior notification that the Government intends to pursue a particular course of action.

For this discussion, the following principles can be distilled:

  • The Government has a duty to consult with Māori on issues that impinge on the exercise of tino rangatiratanga;
  • Mere notification of a planned course of action is not sufficient;
  • Consultation is a genuine, open-minded, discussion between the Government and affected Māori; and
  • Consultation does not mean agreement.

The Government’s “Shares-Plus” Consultation Process

There are some positives and some negatives of the current process being undertaken by the Government.

The positives:

  • The Government has made an effort to go out and talk to those iwi directly affected by the planned sell down of the power companies.  The Hui are being held in the rohe where the hydroelectric dams exist and impact on the rangatiratanga of local iwi and hapū.
  • The Government is engaging in this process with the Deputy Prime Minister, with facilitation to be shared by Sir Wira Gardiner and a chair appointed by local Māori.  A high-level discussion with the politicians making the decisions is more positive than one with officials only.

The negatives:

  • Information on the hui was only released last night. I presume that the Government has made contact with the local hapū in advance, the short public notification leaves little time for those within the area to organise themselves and present a detailed argument for the adoption of the shares plus model.
  • In many respects the Government is treating this as a pro-forma exercise of consultation. It is merely ticking the boxes to satisfy the Court in the event of a challenge to the sale process that it has followed due process.

This second negative could come back to haunt this Government.  While consultation does mean agreement, the Government cannot enter into consultation with a pre-determined outcome in mind.  The Press Release yesterday referred to the “shares-plus” concept as follows:

The Government has already said that such a shareholding would be unattractive, unnecessary and unworkable but now that the matter has been raised we will talk to affected Iwi about it.

The Tainui Boycott

Finally, news came through this morning that Waikato-Tainui will not be attending the first consultation hui in Hamilton this afternoon.  Tainui are clearly of the opinion that these issues require a national hui but their boycott is misguided for two reasons.  The first is that these hui are designed to be very specific in the issues that are discussed and a national hui is not an appropriate place to discuss the “shares-plus” concept.  Māori input in the operations and management of hydro-electric power companies should be limited to those iwi and hapū who are directly affected by the companies, i.e: those that have hydro damns on their waterways. A national hui with the Government on freshwater management is important and should be held, but that issue is completely different to the issue under discussion today. Tainui risk being shut out of this process completely.

That point leads directly onto the second problem with Tainui’s approach.  The High Court, in the recent decision of Greenpeace v Minister of Energy and Resources [2012] NZHC 1422, commented directly on this issue.  The Court noted that the Government held two consultation rounds and that the local hapū, Te Whanau-a-Apanui, did not make any submissions as to concern for its taonga.  The Court noted that Te Whanau-a-Apanui were provided with advance notice of the consultation and received an offer of a face-to-face discussion.  The hapū did not actively engage with the Ministry.  The Court stated that consultation and good faith is a two-way street, and requires the engagement of both parties.  The Court concluded by stating that:

If Te Whanau-a-Apanui had the concerns it now puts forward, on the basis of later opinion advice, it would have raised them then [at the time of consultation].  In choosing not to actively participate substantively or respond to the request to consult, it cannot complain now.





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