Odds are you’ve got on your person some kind of electronic noise-making device, be that noise Gaga, the BBC or some kind of atmospheric airport ambience by Brian Eno. Indeed, you’re browsing the internet on one such device right now.

In contrast to the Walkman, Discman or indeed a stereo on the shoulder, the computer I type on holds 16.4 days of podcasts, music and yes, Brian Eno. A fair chunk of that fits on the phone my pocket – 16.4 days of news and political commentary, beats for self-esteem boosting, others for emo-inducing and ambiences for when I want to feel like I’m in an airport.

The point of this post isn’t to marvel at gigabytes and hard drives, but rather to query if this is slowly driving me insane. Am I turning into Nyan Cat?


Is the constant availability of so much noise a good thing?

I’m always listening to something. The kind of admin work involved in running UN Youth New Zealand lent itself very well to background music. I typically study to music. Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report is set to automatically download for the walk to class. Ditto Checkpoint for the walk home. I’ve got playlists for the gym, for long-haul flights and for napping on cold winter afternoons. Recently, I created a playlist for “thinking”. Indeed, that suggests a problem.

Am I scared of silence? Or even of my own company?

What would I think about while wandering between class or waiting in a queue, were it not for the noise in my pocket? Does this constant stimulation prevent my brain from debriefing itself? From preparing its next moves? Or, is music no less detrimental to one’s psyche than the background noise encountered in everyday living? It is possible, of course, to think too much (this blog could be a case in point) – in which music may hold my mind at bay where it would otherwise get carried away.

There’s sure to be some YouTube lecture or Psych textbook on this question. I thought I’d seek therapy from you UN Youthers, however – I suspect I don’t suffer this addiction alone. Do you find that you are constantly immersing (read: bombarding) yourself with noise to fill the gaps, to fill the down time?  Does that ever concern you?


Oh, and here’s Ambient 1 from Brian Eno’s Music for Airports:

What influences our votes

In just under a month, many of you will be facing for the responsibility of voting for the first time. This is not something to be taken lightly as our voting is our way of voicing our opinions on how we think our country should be run.

All voters should be voting for parties and politicians that they think have good policy, since it is those policies which will determine the direction of New Zealand. But if the majority of voters know very little about the different policies and agendas of political parties and list MPs by the time they hit the voting booths, how do they vote?

Political Compass

Obviously media exposure is important in gaining votes, as you cannot vote for a party or a person if you have no idea that they exist. How personable a leader is compared to his opponent can also be a contributing factor. However media exposure and a candidate’s charisma are not the only factors that can cause voters to not vote with their policies they identify with.

Many studies have shown that where you vote can affect what policies you identify with and ultimately how you vote. The study showed that voters give more weighting to policies depending on their surroundings. For example, people voting in a school are more likely to support a party with strong educational policies, more than they would normally.

School Bus

Our Prime Minister John Key and the leader of the opposition Phil Goff have both stated that the results of the Rugby World Cup will have no effect on the election. This is unlikely to be true. A Stanford University studyshows that a change of up to 4% towards the incumbent (the party currently in power) can be caused by a favorable sports result. That might not seem like much, but that would have been enough to break the Australian hung Parliament at their last elections. Turns out the All Blacks’ performance can have a serious effect on Australian Policy.

Rugby Ball

Finally another well-documented strong voting influence is (unsurprisingly) how the politician looks. The studytook brain scans of subjects, showed them pictures of politicians they were unfamiliar with, and asked them to vote for one based only on their looks. The results nearly mirrored actual outcomes.

So what do these studies say? It shows us that many things which shouldn’t influence how we vote can and do influence our votes, whether or not we recognize that they do.
What will determine how you vote? A candidate’s looks, or their political beliefs and their agendas?

YOUTH: is it an advantage?

As a mature, precocious, responsible, studious youth being super productive, I was watching the Spongebob Squarepants movie to glean what jurisprudential insights I could from it for my upcoming exam. (Yes it is an excellent movie and yes you’re missing out if you haven’t seen it.)

This bit in the movie really struck me as something which UN Youth New Zealand resonates with:

We are a youth for youth organisation, so most of our officeholders are just 1-2 years older than the members they serve – this is a key part of our character.

Now in its 12th year UN Youth has built up a formidable reputation in New Zealand, particularly in the educational and NGO sector, but still sometimes it can be an uphill battle to be taken seriously for the work we do because of our youthfulness.

While we constantly strive to become a more professional organisation with the rebranding, regular officeholder training sessions and continual review of our programmes, we don’t want to lose the vibrant youthfulness of the organisation – in fact, we need to embrace it.

Why? Young officeholders respond with incredibly inspiring and innovative ideas!   It is precisely their lack of academic acumen and experience that enable them to do so.  They lack the constraints of an encyclopaedic knowledge on educational processes, on event management, on organisational structure, and the practical concerns of budgetary constraints and bureaucratic obstacles.

A great example of the power of young people is the uprising in Egypt.  There has always been opposition against the recently ousted Mubarak, but it was the youth who initiated the real opposition and resistance.  Faced with an regime they could no longer tolerate, they used the same social media networks we use as a form of entertainment, to rally Egyptians to their cause.  Their simple innovative response to the challenge of an oppressive regime was so effective, it lead to the toppling of an entire government.

I can only speculate, but I have doubts whether the youth would have rebelled had they known about consequences of getting caught, or experienced the brutal silencing of previous anti-government protests first hand.  I’d like to think that it was youth who led the uprising, precisely because of their naivety.

So yes, we are goofy goobers! And we’re more than okay with that.

Left brain, right brain.

I imagine many of you, like me, are currently in study-angst mode with upcoming assessments and examinations.

Just taking a study break, I came across this talk by Iain McGilchrist which has been animated by RSA Animate which explores the differences between the left and right side of the brain and how they work together.

It’s only about 10 minutes long #perfectstudybreak.

What part of the brain do you think is the most engaged during your studies, while you’re scrolling through your facebook feed like a zombie, or when you’re out socialising with friends? Which skills of the brain do you think you excel at the most?  Do you agree with his conclusion about society undervaluing the skills of the right side of the brain?


UN Day: a time to reflect

United Nations Day marks the anniversary of the enactment of the UN Charter, and it is devoted to highlighting the aims and achievements of the United Nations.

It is commemorated through conferences, concerts, festivals and even a simple blog post like this, which give us all opportunity to reflect on the successes and the failures of the UN, and where we all play a role within it.  Lets cut through the lofty rose-tinted words and bring this home to you and me – how does it relate to us?

At UN Youth New Zealand, we believe that the concept of global citizenship is the essence of the United Nations. Global citizenship is about thinking beyond the local to the global – recognising that our actions go beyond our school, beyond our local community, and beyond a country’s border.

We also believe that United Nations Day isn’t just about celebrating and reflecting on the work of the UN bodies and its member states – by virtue of acting and thinking as a global citizen, you acting as an integral part of the United Nations.  So yes, take a moment to reflect on the world events which have taken place in the past year and how the United Nations played a part in them.  But also take a moment to reflect on your actions as a global citizen.

Days from now, the human family will welcome its seven billionth member. Some say our planet is too crowded.  I say we are seven billion strong. – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.