Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > The wealthy pontificating to the poor…

The wealthy pontificating to the poor…

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Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed. - Herman Melville, 1819-1891

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And with that comment in mind, our household watched, and cringed, and boiled with anger, as we watched The Vote on TV3 last Wednesday (19 June).

First of all was the  question that TV3 deemed we should consider and reply to;

Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree? Yes. No.”

What a loaded question!

Why not, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s low incomes?

Or, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s successive governments enacting neo-liberal policies?

Or – and I personally love this one –  “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s the middle classes who have grown  comfortable with their lot and have given up on the notion of an egalitarian society?

The problem with the alternative questions is that they involve complex ideas;  recent history; and looking at choices that Middle Class voters have made since 1989. In short, those questions involve thinking.

As the question stood on the night; “The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting” – there was no real thinking involved. It was all about how people  felt on trigger words such as  social welfare; solo-mums; parental responsibility; etc.

Once those trigger words began to percolate through the minds of aspirationist middle class and angry working-class viewers, the results were wholly predictable; 63% voted ‘Yes’. (And the 36% who voted ‘No’ correlates roughly with the percentage of voters who supported Labour and the Greens at the 2011 general election  – 38.54%).

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The Vote 63 - 37

Source: The Vote

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If we were ever truly a caring, sharing, egalitarian society, it’s hard to see  how.

The very nature of the question invited an emotive, rather than an considered, intelligent, response.  It practically demanded plain old repetitive bigotry rather than insight, and the three panellists, Christine Rankin, Bob McCoskie, and Hannah Tamaki – all social conservatives – were more then happy to oblige.

Platitudes; cliches,  mis-information,  and smug instructions on how to feed a family on $20 a week… all came from the well-fed; well-clothed; expensively groomed; healthy; and high-income earning likes of Tamaki, McCoskrie, and Rankin.

It fed perfectly into every stereotype that New Zealanders have seen and heard since Once Were Warriors blew in our faces on our big screens in 1994.

And right on cue, the prejudiced; the mis-informed; and the plain spiteful came out and vented their bile on The Vote’s Facebook page. I was going to provide a  few examples – but why bother? We’ve seen that kind of bigotted response already.

So how accurate was the voting response? There were claims that people could send in multiple votes from the same ‘platform’ (cellphone number, IP number, Twitter account).  If so, the result would be rendered meaningless. One could imagine 3,000 Destiny Church members texting repeated ‘Yes’ votes with unholy speed.

Ten text messages, on average, from each member would equate to 30,000 “votes”. And with texting fees kindly waived by telcos, people could text to their hearts’ content. Free of charge. Ad nauseum.

(By contrast, our household studiously played the game fairly; we each voted once only, by text.)

However an unattributed statement from TV3’s ‘The Vote‘,  on Bryan Bruce’s Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty, stated categorically that “you can only vote once on each platform“.

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The Vote - only voting once

Acknowledgement: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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If that is true (and it is by no means a given), then that raises equally disturbing questions about the nature of our society.

If the 63% “Yes” voters are reflective of New Zealanders then that says something about our much vaunted reputation of being a fair-minded, compassionate, egalitarian society.

Perhaps it was never so. Perhaps only a third of us can lay claim to being fair minded and tolerant – whilst the remainder two thirds simply make use of the generosity of their more liberal fellow-Kiwis?

I would like to think that is not true. I would like to think that is not true.I desperately want to believe it is not true.

Instead, perhaps the real emotion at play by those Two Thirds is not hatred of the poor – but fear of becoming like them. Add to that mix an unwillingness by many to even accept that poverty exists – hence endlessly repetitive  cliches such as “Real poverty only exists in Africa” or “They spend all their money on Sky, pokies, booze, and cigarettes”.

It’s all a defense mechanism, of course. By denying a problem, you don’t have to do anything about it. Nor feel guilty at not doing anything about it.

My belief is that the poor are being blamed not simply because they are poor – but because they have not succeeded under neo-liberalism. They are poor despite the promises neo-liberal “Bright New Future” . The architects and builders of this Neo-liberal Nirvana don’t like being shown that their new paradigm is severely flawed not working as it should.

That is why there is so much anger being directed at the poor. They are the proof that the School of Chicago theory of economics – that the Market  shall provide – is a fraud.

Neo-liberalism’s acolytes, the  politically powerful; the wealthy; the aspirationist Middle Classes; the technocrats – all  stand accused of failure  by the poorest; most powerless; most vulnerable people in our society. The mere presence of the poor and dispossed points an accusatory finger at the neo-liberal establishment and those in society who support it.

And doesn’t that just piss them off?

So come 2014 (if not earlier) let’s piss Neo-liberal’s Acolytes off a little further. It’s time for a center-left wing government to take office. Because after my shame, anger, and frustration wore of, I was filled with even more determination to play my part in changing our society.

We need to re-set our nation’s moral, social, and economic compass.

And watching The Vote was just the determination I (and our household) needed. So thank you Ms Tamaki, Ms Rankin, and Mr McCoskrie – I feel more motivated than ever to make New Zealand a decent society again.

We will not surrender.

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We need to give the homeless and other disenfranchised a voice. Homelessness is not a choice, a decision, a lack of effort.

When I first came to New Zealand there were hardly any homeless people but now there are heaps, so where have we gone wrong?” – Simon Buckingham, Auckland Lawyer and one-time homeless person

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*

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Meanwhile, in another Universe far, far away…

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£13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

Acknowledgement: The Guardian – £13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2013.

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Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: 126 Meals for $20 – show us how?

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= fs =

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  1. di\
    30 June 2013 at 9:00 am

    I used to sell car, honestly. It took some time to establish a clientele, and even then it was small. Potential customers were told the truth, had their transport needs explored and options explained. Most then went off to buy from someone willing to sell them glitzy crap on a high finance charge plan. People desperately want to believe they can have the media hyped things they are told to value and to have them now. Reality is simply no match for delusional thinking.

    With the world coming apart around us people cling desperately to delusions. Technology will fix our problems, unlimited clean oil and coal will be found to make us rich, politicians really have our best interests at heart.

    The left has the difficult job of trying to convince people that we can work together to do better. The right has the easier job of simply continuing to sell the same snake oil they have been pushing for generations, and which generations of desperately delusional people have been trained into believing.

  2. 30 June 2013 at 10:27 am

    I have given up on this flawed, non scientific voting….for the several reasons you have suggested. Even suspect Herald-Digipoll which is showing this apology for a government is still running high in the popularity stakes. And let’s forget that s–t about the PM from a state house, solo mum crap…….he personifies the old saying, the working class can kiss my arse I have a PM’s job at last. Just as bad is Paula Bennett, solo mum but the DPB and free tertiary dragged her out of poverty and now denies others, who are now in her former situation, the same leg up the ladder. I used to believe that 80% of Kiwis were good decent people wanting the best opportunities for everyone, with a safety net for those who have fallen through the cracks, and the remaining 20% flawed. It would appear from this vote that the situation is reversed ? Hope I am wrong……just another rogue poll doing the rounds….maybe it will wake some people up and challenge their values.

    • 30 June 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Just as bad is Paula Bennett, solo mum but the DPB and free tertiary dragged her out of poverty and now denies others, who are now in her former situation, the same leg up the ladder.

      That would give her competition and prove that she’s the super-hero she believes she is. The rich love competition for everyone else but prevent it for themselves. This has always been true.

  3. liz
    30 June 2013 at 1:54 pm

    In a recent discussion with two retired women,I heard both express sadness at the loss of our egalitarian society. Is it just a valued memory for those who are longer in the tooth? Since the 1980’s we have determinedly promoted competition over cooperation – we have segmented out the rich, the poor, the elderly, Maori. etc, etc. We now live in separate suburbs, attend separate schools, etc. Lets be honest – how many of us bother to interact with anyone outside our own family and social group? So how can we appreciate what those “others” are about, what they value and aspire to, what their challenges are. Segregated as we are, it is only too easy to throw a cent of two in a beggars cap and pass by. Just as much as providing a “hand up” or “hand out”, I think we need to promote community activities and events that bring people of all backgrounds together. An egalitarian society needs to be based on respect for each other which won’t develop without such contact..

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