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Poverty Watch 6

Written By: - Date published: 8:13 am, October 6th, 2012 - 7 comments
Categories: class war, national, poverty - Tags:

Welcome to Poverty watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ. A lot of background issues and links are set out in Poverty Watch one two and three.

In related news this week, yesterday was a national “day of action” against the Nats’ punitive welfare “reforms”. There was a modest turnout in several centers, our very own Karol summarised the media coverage. Lunchbox Day donations are not over yet (video link), you can donate via KidsCan Charitable Trust: ASB BANK 12 3026 0348180 03.

Poverty and race are inextricably intertwined in this country. This shaming piece highlights one dimension of the problem:

Pacific Island workers languish in poverty

Pacific Island families imported to a small Waikato town with the promise of work and hopes for a better life are reportedly winding up living in poverty. The Government and local authorities are investigating reports of Samoan families living in mould and flea-ridden houses and struggling to pay for food, rent and healthcare. …

Samoan woman Lola Taulofa, 30, who works as a cleaner at Crusader Meats, has been living in a house with her sister, brother-in-law and their three young children since June, the Waitomo News reported. The ceilings and walls are covered in mould and the family have been sleeping on a pull-out couch in the lounge because of a water leak in the main bedroom. “It is very bad for our health,” Mrs Taulofa said. “The children are always sick.”

Following on from Lunchbox Day, Anne Russel published this excellent and challenging piece:

Child poverty and Lunchbox Day: philanthropy in New Zealand

… Perhaps, in an ideal world, citizens would be able to self-regulate enough to run their society entirely by charity in a gift economy, and no one would be deprived. But it has been clear for a long time that the wealthiest in our society tend to hang on to their money; poor people are in general more likely to give to charity than their rich counterparts. The areas of the brain which respond to winning and losing money are the same as those that respond to cocaine, explaining why gambling—or the stock market—is addictive. There are two sides to ending poverty; poor people need to be drawn out of it, and the rich need immediate intervention and rehabilitation.

While Lunchbox Day is careful to skirt around outright accusations (“whoever is to blame, it certainly isn’t the children”), child poverty is not something that was always as inevitable as the slow crawling passage of time. However, the pertinent question is not so much who, but what is to blame for the emergence of child poverty. John Key The Individual is neutral in the effect he can have on the world; he’s just an affable guy, as he might like to put it. However, John Key The Prime Minister is a different case. Likewise it’s National Party The Government that allows big business to wreak havoc on the economy, worsening unemployment and welfare dependency, not National Party The Morris Dancers. Institutions are to blame for child poverty; the people who fill the respective roles—be it John Key or Helen Clark—can be blamed for their complicity in perpetuating them, but many if not most of the institutions in question will outlive their careers. …

Two important ways of thinking are missing from the Lunchbox Day and Live Below The Line dialogue: contemplation and systematic analysis of inequality, and absolute fury. As far as my personal emotions are relevant to this article, ‘sad’ doesn’t feel like the right word. Child poverty makes me extremely angry, and then upset. I am furious that this society hems and haws over spending $4 million to ensure children aren’t half-starved, while defence spending clocks in at a whopping $3.4 billion a year and one-off sports events receive $300 million. I am angry that cuts to both rich taxes and the public sector go on unchecked, and that banks who fail get $1.7 billion bailouts, while mass unemployment drives parents into deeper poverty yet shames them for taking the benefit rather than starving their children. I am angry that New Zealand builds non-insulated houses to match a Western form of family, causing overcrowding and poor health among minorities, and then uses racism to explain the poor outcomes. And I am angry that privileged people are using the media to air their own stories of Poverty Lite, rather than working out ways to bring the poor forward to speak for themselves.

Click through and read the whole article – there is plenty more to think about.

Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:

• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty
• ?

7 comments on “Poverty Watch 6”

  1. Dr Terry 1

    There are unhealthy forms of anger, and there are healthy and necessary forms of anger. This article demonstrates anger at its best on behalf of the poor.

  2. just saying 2

    Thank you for this.

  3. Uturn 3

    Interesting, and I agree up to point: It sure is infuriating to volunteer for a charity looking out for the poor that’s run by a corporate model that creates poverty; under a mangement steeped in a culture that openly manipulates the goodwill of volunteers. A person wonders whether they’re just filling in the holes they’ve dug for their victims. But it’s that or happily watch them starve. Which is easy to do, if you have the luxury of distance. It’s still easy, but uncomfortable, to do when you’re close enough to be face to face. Crossing the divide intellectually, is impossible.

    But, to blame “government” leaves out an important point and trips off the edge of realisation into the generalities of who has and who has not, who’s doing what and who isn’t and who is to blame. And the indication of the blindspot is that it’s always someone else, and that fighting it makes you feel “exhilarated” as the article admits. Fury is an illusion, all emotions are, we need to keep digging for clarity and perspective. Feeding the hungry while we dig, to appease our good side, but dig none-the-less, to find our unconscious darkness – shifting it back into it’s rightful place, if possible.

    When the question of what government is remains unexamined we can’t see what it is that we’re fighting. Where does it fit into society and what role and reflection of society does it truely possesses, not just now, but throughout the history of NZ and human history in general, and not just as a piece of society, but as a snapshot of the individual. It is not hunger we are fighting, it’s millions of years of human nature. Within the context of present day NZ, there are parameters that exceed the ideas of white colonial culture and its eco-political systems and include all the apparent victims of the manisfestation of that same culture, in an equallly powerful role.

    Step back from the manifestations of action and reaction and you’ll find that you me and everyone else wants someone or something to end or die; the way we wish them to end denotes our position within a particular framework; whether you are European, from the Pacific, Asia or Africa. The reason for that is that our society reflects where we are as a collective entity, which myths we are living out and which archetypes we are simultaneously controlled by and passing through. Hard as it is to accept, the manifestation of poverty is a sympton of something we can’t fix. It’s like saying we can have a never ending day, without night. Life has two sides (two that we can see and experience).

    But it isn’t just poverty – poverty is just one of the many forms it can take. If by chance we fixed poverty, the things we call inequalites would pop up somewhere else, probably violently. We can’t remove the tension of opposites in human existence. It is being able to bear those tensions that creates life and motivates us forward.

    Now so far this sound like an apology for kids slowly starving and things continuing on the way they are. Go back to your latté, Uturn says. Forget it, nothing can be be done he says. No, Uturn does not say that. Because Uturn is not exempt from the game of life and he knows that there is an inescapable responsiblity to experience our current predicament. As far as better minds than me understand it, we have a strange irreconcilable impossible challenge as a collective. We can stand back and do nothing or we can act. But within those two choices there are two more: we can positively or negetively do nothing; or we positively or negetively act. The problem is we don’t have a choice which route we take. If I act a way you think is wrong, I am actually fulfilling my role. If you act in a way I thing is wrong, you are fulfulling yours and this also goes for the opposite good. The trick is that we must realise this is what is happening, not try to deny it. In many people, this realisation shakes the foundation of who they think they are quite drastically and dangerously. But there is dangerous danger and then there is dangerous danger that isn’t dangerous at all. Don’t let it freak you out too much. The moment of realisation itself is what decides what happens next. It cannot be forced or adjusted.

    If we were all to decide to enforce laws that made life clean and tidy, nice and equal, there would be a massive imbalance. Since most of us here are fairly caught up in European culture, since we’re online, speaking English and discussing western politics, lets call that imbalance The Negetive Mother Archetype. Other cultures have something similar. In society it would manifest in things like extremes in social welfare, authoritarian governments, violent reactions to “contradictions of the norm” and where the victim becomes the aggressor. You may remember a stark example, when George Bush told the World, You’re either for us or against us. The NMA does not reside specifically in the Left or the Right, in women or men, it appears in imbalaces of a type anywhere, any place. It demands “human sacrifice”, mutilation, oppressive acts and the blame we normally experience. It is both a distortion and elevation of a certain kind of positive power, both outside it’s place and the correct filling of a gap that must be filled. Imbalances are as necessary as balances – can’t have vacuums.

    The simple point is that fury at poverty highlights a particular place in the game. Feed the kids if you like, or don’t. Once you move toward forcing other people into doing what is not their nature, outside of their correct timeline, you’ve moved from acting positively in a postive way to acting positively in a negetive way under the force of the NMA. The elevated NMA demands absolute loyalty to the cause, ends in destruction, but once it has taken down itself, spectacularly and painfully (think the horrors of World War Two), new life begins. It’s a primitive way of thinking that we seem to have forgotten still holds us, behind our Ipads and electronic notebooks. We are sophisticated morons, in a sense. There is more to life’s intractable problems than Left wing political solutions, glib theory and slogans. So tread carefully, whatever you do.

    [There it is in laymans terms, I bow to anyone more educated than me that can adjust, refute or extend the gaps and simplifications.]

    • Chin up Uturn, all those balanced answers are there, don’t forget that.

    • just saying 3.2

      I could say more but I’m choosing to say nothing more…..in a positive way.

    • Jokerman 3.3

      “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
      Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”


      “If I give all I have to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

      -Nor were we of those
      Who fed the indigent;

      But we used to talk Vanities with vain talkers;

      -Surah 74: 44, 45

      “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

      (last day tomorrow-Spidey)

  4. Bloody well said Anthony.

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