Beg packing

Written By: - Date published: 11:52 am, February 12th, 2018 - 50 comments
Categories: Economy, poverty, welfare - Tags: , , ,

It took me a while to figure out my exact discomfit with the two young travellers currently in NZ and intent on not using money. I’ve moved in circles where the free, trading, gift or scavenger economies are normal concepts and practices, so I don’t have a problem with their intentions per se, although there are obviously limits on how that can work fairly in our brand of capitalism.

There’s been quite a backlash against these two though, notably because they did an interview for Stuff where they openly admitted to using a soup kitchen. This isn’t just about an adventure, it’s about a clash of values and culture.

Their Facebook page has been removed or closed due to reasonably heavy abuse, including one death threat. The criticisms on twitter were more even handed and focussed on the insult in the couple having used charity in a country that has had a decade of fighting to get the govt to stop ripping apart the welfare safety net.

The criticism on FB also had a large component of  “don’t bludge”, which I found disturbing yet understandable in a country where too many people are working too many hours for not enough pay, but where that rhetoric has been used too many times against New Zealanders who don’t have a choice. There was a lot of the expected ‘go home’ stuff too (She’s German, he’s an Australian living in NZ).

Yet between the harsher stuff on FB and the more liberal stuff on twitter, there was near universal opprobrium for what they were doing. A few supporters, but not many.

In the couple’s final statement on FB they justified what they were doing, and that’s when it clicked. They’re not only evangelicals they’re fundamentalists, and like all fundamentalists their politics can’t be trusted. There was zero attempt to take on board any of the criticisms from the people that live in the country they are travelling in and using as a social experiment, including those that either live in poverty or support those that do.

The couple insisted on promoting their libertarian hippy philosophy as if the relationship between themselves and the world was irrelevant. If you are going to preach love is the way, then please understand that compassion, listening and engagement are part of that process, as is being willing to change. Also, you don’t get to dictate libertarian philosophy to a population politicised around poverty and then have no backlash.

It’s not hard to understand the reaction when one reads their own words,

Orious denied that, by eating in the Sisters of Compassion soup kitchen in Tory St, central Wellington, they were using resources needed for the genuinely homeless or impoverished.

“We’re in the same boat as them really. A lot of them have incomes, but it’s a service that’s been provided.

“We’re not taking it from people who need more. We’re all there for the same thing.”

Cue sound of mass face-palms.

In a later piece on Stuff,

Karen Holland, manager of the Sisters of Compassion Soup Kitchen in Tory St, where the couple ate, said it was not for her to judge how they lived their lives.

The charity’s kaupapa was based around offering hospitality to whoever needed its help, and it turned nobody away.

However, she said she was disappointed by the division the travellers’ actions had caused within the community.

Wellingtonians felt a sense of ownership around the soup kitchen, because they donated to it, and give it their time.

“And it makes them angry, and it hurts them to think that someone would disrespect that,” Holland said.

“They see it as disrespect for the sisters and the work of compassion, when there are so many people genuine in need.”

That’s how to love in a harsh world. Both/and.

Karg and Orious said to their critics: “Open your eyes and see that we are not the reason for your suffering or your hurting. We are all just puppets in this game.

“Your taxes get taken from you if you want it or not, and distributed to many places. We both have been working before, we both have been part of it.

“If you really want to be angry at somebody, don’t blame us – blame the system.”

Good on them for attempting to tell a different narrative to the MSM. However, many of us do already hold the system accountable, but the irony of having anti-state libertarians using charity that exists because the state is shrinking is way too much. Who is going to feed poor people if not the state? Or build them houses? Probably not this couple, because while they did say they were doing some charity work after the event, it wasn’t something they had done until the criticism started, and they seemed confused about the difference between volunteering and work exchange.

It doesn’t appear to have ended,

“I’m sorry in your books our action was immoral. Perhaps all the charity and kindness we offer as we travel around NZ will soften your idea,” they said.

Charity and kindness are worthy goals, yet there is something more basic for many New Zealanders, and that is things like respect, and putting your money where your mouth is so to speak. In other words, do the mahi and then you might be able to claim some moral high ground.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. They’re young and on a steep learning curve. I just hope they learn the useful things here rather than retrenching into their fundamental position.

They seriously misjudged the mood of many New Zealanders on issues of poverty. In this I have some hope. While I’m sure there is xenophobia underpinning some of the criticisms, it looks like there is also a seething mass of resentment around poverty that has surfaced here. I found the amount of unity across the political divide with regards to poverty surprising. Maybe we’re ready to make the shift back to a society that does give a shit and then does something about it.

50 comments on “Beg packing”

  1. Carolyn_Nth 1

    Thanks for a very good explanation, weka.

    I don’t know who the criticism was coming from, or what their motives are.

    But, as well as the issue of poverty, there are some strong sentiments about the infrastructure groaning under the weight of freedom campers, and large numbers of tourists generally.

    I think some of the criticisms of freedom campers that I’ve read, are in terms of them not contributing to the local economy. That, of course was the NACT reasoning behind focusing on increasing the numbers of overseas tourists coming to NZ.

    So, some of the criticism could be coming from neoliberals who feel the beg packers are not playing the capitalist game. i.e. because they are cheating capitalists as much as they are cheating tax payers generally.

    I also have concerns about making tourism a major commercial activity in NZ. I don’t really understand the logic of tourism, either: people all over the world travelling to gawk at how each other lives.

    • weka 1.1

      I’m sure there is a neoliberal driver in there somewhere too. For people that value the economy in that way, not working is a big trigger, but I suspect it goes back a lot further than neoliberalism or even Liberalism, and has its roots in the Protestant work ethic.

      Some of the FB stuff sounded like classic ‘I’ve worked hard and I’ve got a chip on my shoulder to prove’ stuff. But even there, it was interesting how much everyone basically was in agreement that the couple were doing something fundamentally wrong. I doubt it would have been a story if they hadn’t gone to the soup kitchen.

      • Leonhart Hunt 1.1.1

        that’s a very good point lets try a few test scenarios and see whats wrong? trust your gut.

        1) going to a charity shop to buy clothing
        2) going to a charity shop to buy goods
        3) going to a refuge when you caught out in the rain
        4) going to a refuge when your blind drunk
        5) buying seconds from a supermarket
        6) getting food from a food bank because your hungry
        7) getting food from a food bank because you have no money
        8) getting food from a food bank because you have no money and are hungry
        9) sleeping in a freedom camping spot while on holiday
        10) sleeping in a freedom camping spot when you have no home
        11) getting money from a charity because you have none
        12) getting money from a religious charity because you have none
        13) getting donated clothing from a donation bin because your cold
        14) getting donated clothing from a donation bin because your wearing rags
        15) getting donated clothing from a donation bin because retro is cool
        16) paying $1 from an item from a charity shop because retro sells for a lot online
        17) getting govt assistance for poverty when you have family support
        18) getting govt assistance for poverty when you have friend support
        19) getting govt assistance when you still earn
        20) getting govt assistance because of age not means.

        • Bill 1.1.1.1

          Unnecessarily “going” or “getting” such that someone who would of necessity be “going” or “getting” will potentially have to continue without. That’s what wrong.

          And (in the case of the pair that the post’s about) the basic dishonesty.

          If they had chosen to travel around on the cheap and use non-monetary means of exchange, then all power to them.

          But when they made out that they were penniless in order to access some benefit to themselves, then nah. That’s when it became bullshit.

        • Adrian Thornton 1.1.1.2

          #16 when was the last time you got a serious bargain from a opp (charity) shop?they have replaced nearly all traditional 2nd hand shops now, and run pretty slick business models…I know there are a few exceptions, but I also Know that 15 years ago opp shops were not to be found in the centre of the main drag in your local shopping centre as the all are now.

          If anyone can make a couple of bucks from buying and selling something from one of these new commercially run charity shops, all power to them I say.

          • McFlock 1.1.1.2.1

            Yeah – most of them are fundraisers rather than bargain stores.

            • Bill 1.1.1.2.1.1

              Second hand stores can be effective fund raisers without resorting to a “retail outlet” model of business.

              I’ve a friend did a dissertation of some description (can’t recall if it was something to do with their “masters” or what the hell) on the whole “commercialisation” and “business modelling” of various outlets (Sally Ans, Presbyterian Support etc).

              There’s only one Op Shop I’ll go to/can really afford these days (it’s a fund raiser)

          • Augustus 1.1.1.2.2

            Charity shops, along with $2 shops, seem to be the only kind of shop that can still afford shop rentals in many towns and cities. In the case of charities, that’s because it’s not their money they have to budget and so long as something gets to the declared beneficiaries of their efforts, its all good.

        • jcuknz 1.1.1.3

          1] Yes because current styles/colour are not to my liking, also price USA $5 NZ 120 much better. I’m thinking of getting my son to buy a couple of shirts to bring his dad next time he visits because of the poor design and manufacture of what is available here even if you pay the $120 plus. He will be told to not buy new but from op.shop.
          2] Yes because I couldn’t find what I wanted in modern store. I wanted dress shorts for a visit and bought long trous and cut them down/up after visiting numerous stores.
          Note. over the years I have donated far more than purchased.
          3-8] never
          9] Frequently because motor camps do not accept dogs and the horrific tale of our dog crying all the time we left her in a kennel we vowed ‘Never again!’ It was several days before she forgave us after we picked her up.
          10-19] Fortunately not relevant so far in my life.
          20] Yes… Nat Super because it is the way we look after, more or less, our older folk.

  2. Leonhart Hunt 2

    wow I actually know jamie burfoot, totally not surprised he was doing this, but he was also very involved in charities around the north shore, his parents instilled into him the pay it forward mentality.

    Edit: His family when I knew him were very wealthy.

    • Carolyn_Nth 2.1

      I had to check weka’s last link to see who you are talking about:

      It turns out Enoch is actually Aucklander Jamie Burfoot, who grew up on the North Shore of the city and went to Westlake Boys school.

      Burfoot’s father Jeremy told the Herald his son was an Australian citizen, but had spent most of his life in New Zealand.

      He said his son went by the name Enoch and was a free spirit who liked to drift.

      “He’s got a good heart” and he was genuinely trying to get by without spending money, he told the Herald.

      ie Enoch Orious

    • weka 2.2

      Trustifarian is the term used in my circles.

      It’s not the money that bothers me, and that they do good things is good. It’s the blindness to the shortcomings of their own politics.

    • Bill 2.3

      A “pay it forward” mentality is essentially a vacuous piece of self serving deceit.

      Runs something like – If only we were all nice to one another and no, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with our socio/economic system. The universe will provide. It was the universe provided us what we have today darling! And remember son, when the universe provides, pay it forward.

      Fucking vomit inducing bollocks is what it is.

      • Stunned Mullet 2.3.1

        😆 Outstanding that there’s someone grumpier than me this Monday afternoon.

        I agree with your sentiments throughout this thread 100% Bill.

      • Siobhan 2.3.2

        Pay it forward is a concept loved by the likes of Heinlein and the ‘Heinlein Society’..and as much as I love the Starship Troopers movies on a long and rainy weekend when my brain and political concience is MIA, you just know, anything Heinlein likes is toxic to a fair and enjoyable human existence.

        • Leonhart Hunt 2.3.2.1

          Johnny Rico: Mr. Rasczak, I want to join the Federal Service and become a citizen. But my Dad thinks I should go to college and remain a civilian as he has. What should I do?

          Jean Rasczak: Figuring things out for yourself is practically the only freedom anyone really has nowadays. Use that freedom.

  3. Bill 3

    Meh – privileged little prats “playing” at being poor. Or maybe just young and incredibly naive.

    How many times in my life have I come across middle class people “going through the motions” (ie – “opting out”) and then gleefully opting back in when it suits them off the back of “daddy’s” largesse or a savings account they had sitting in the background all along?

    Many.

    Unnecessarily using a food kitchen (Why? For the “experience”?) strikes me as being in the same vein as all those who skip dive because it’s trendy and because, y’know, it’s really “sticking it to the man”. 🙄

    I’ve been homeless and I’ve been penniless, and sure, they say imitation is the height of flattery (or some such), but making out to be homeless and what not because it’s “spiritual man” and “everyone should feel the love” ….yeah, my thoughts run to some combination of 2x4s, spirituality and love.

    • weka 3.1

      I lost track of the quote so didn’t include it but one of them said something like that there was no real poverty in Wellington, there was plenty of food (all that free food everywhere!), and the issue was more one of homelessness.

      The level of hubris is strong.

      • jcuknz 3.1.1

        Sorry Weka but what about that story[?] that 50% of food bought in Auckland is thrown out to go to the tip? I do not suppose anywhere else is very much different.

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          Poverty isn’t about shortages of food. It’s about who controls resources. There is plenty of food in NZ. It’s a non-sequitur to suggest there is no poverty as a result.

  4. Leonhart Hunt 4

    anyone able to verify that ‘any” tax dollars go to food banks, I’ve volunteered for a few for many years and they always relied on donations from people or organisations and never got a cent from the GOVT for poverty support.

    SO the claim of tax dollar going to support falls flat if true (I ask because it varys so much region to region and with the rise of homelessness some tax money may be going directly to charities for food banks)

  5. Janet 5

    And next will they go and try their little experiment in Germany…. I don,t think so

  6. Adrian Thornton 6

    Yeh and their parents probably read the Guardian…..

  7. RedLogix 7

    Looks like the 70’s were a long time ago for more than a few around here.

    It’s a couple of young kids trying stuff out, like all young people should do. Utterly harmless. If it weren’t for the mass paranoia machine we call the internet this wouldn’t rate any adult attention for more than 300msec.

    • Anne 7.1

      Yes. When I was a teen I wanted to go and live on a kibbutz. No, I’m not Jewish and I didn’t really understand what a kibbutz was, but it sounded so romantic…….

      In the eyes of two naive German kids it could be NZ sounded romantic too. Still, if they learn something from their misadventure then no harm done.

  8. greywarshark 8

    You know that there is a tremendous amount of denial or disassociation when you see in the fashionable inserts of the newspapers etc. designer? jeans slashed across the knees and legs with a pric e tag of hundreds of dollars and it’s not 1st April. Fancy them becoming fashion forms. It insults people on hard times, or those who genuinely want to wear their clothes out instead of piling up on tips when they’re okay for messy work.

  9. chris73 9

    Something about this song seems kind of appropriate

    • Keepcalmcarryon 9.1

      Oh yes.

    • james 9.2

      Love that song (seriously) – never seen the video before now.

      • chris73 9.2.1

        Always nice when you get general consensus between the left and right on certain issues

      • Keepcalmcarryon 9.2.2

        It’s about the common people James, of course you wouldn’t. Wait until you understand the lyrics ( did I just ruin the moment?)

    • fender 9.3

      It’s taken a long time Chris, but finally you have posted something decent 😉

      One of the best British bands of the ’90’s

      • chris73 9.3.1

        I always found them interesting in that they had a long build up from the late 70s culminating with a massive 2 – 3 year burst then pretty going their own way

  10. Rosemary McDonald 10

    And now the little darlings are famous.

  11. adam 11

    Who else apart from a hierarchy with a monopoly on violence will help the poor?

    Well us of course, but that mean changing away from a statist society, and the elephant in the room – capitalism.

    • weka 11.1

      No problem with ending capitalism. But until the anti statists can come up with a reasonable theory on how disabled people would be looked after I call bullshit on the idea.

        • weka 11.1.1.1

          Please don’t link at me.

          • adam 11.1.1.1.1

            Can I suggest a book then. Kropotkin’s “mutual aid”, it’s language is a bit archaic, but he cuts to the heart of the issue.

            You get anarchist at the heart are opposed to hierarchy in any form. We see the state as the worst type of hierarchy, becasue it has the monopoly on violence, and is willing to use it. Moreover, it does use it to keep power in the hands of the few.

            • weka 11.1.1.1.1.1

              I’m less likely to read a book tbh. Much prefer to have a conversation. Academic level work at this stage will do my head in.

              “You get anarchist at the heart are opposed to hierarchy in any form. We see the state as the worst type of hierarchy, becasue it has the monopoly on violence, and is willing to use it. Moreover, it does use it to keep power in the hands of the few.”

              Sure. I don’t have too much of a problem with that, although I think the absoluteness of it is throwing the baby out with the bathwater (some hierarchies are useful). My problem is the lack of an alternative. When I see something that looks viable I’ll be much on board with removing the state.

              • adam

                Are you up to listening in the background? If so, I can link the 1st chapter of mutual aid read in a nice scottish accent 🙂

                • weka

                  not really. My listening list is even longer than my reading list 😉

                  I’d much rather have some conversations 🙂

      • adam 11.1.2

        And point two, the state pays me $17 a week to cover the cost of my disability. Yeah the state is a big man on that one. The state and care of disabled is a joke. And it’s getting worse.

        The state, this state sees how many young men kill themselves because of inadequate care, and support?

        Yeah like your alternative, its a winner. More Hierarchy and more people going after power, promoting violence, and the usual games of statism. I’m calling cow excrement on your ideas as well.

        • weka 11.1.2.1

          You don’t even know what my alternative is adam.

          In the meantime, the state that is treating people with disabilities like shit (and others) can change and pay for a decent welfare state. What is stopping that is the people of NZ. If the people of NZ gave enough of a shit we’d have a Green government by now. Getting rid of the state won’t actually change the people.

      • Bill 11.1.3

        Q. How would we look after or out for one another in general?
        A. By coming together and organising ourselves in ways we deem appropriate. In other words, by means of substantively democratic decision making processes that will vary across multiple and unpredictable situations and necessarily shifting (ie –
        not dead set) groupings of peoples.

        Are disabled people an integral part of that? Yes. Are disabled people empowered just as abled people are empowered by such ways of going about things? Yes.

        Can or should a blueprint be offered, a book written or a list of commandments hammered down that all people everywhere in all situations would be expected to consult and adhere to? No.

        And in looking for one, you’re asking that something fundamentally authoritarian and anti-democratic is adopted as a basis from which to develop democratic ways of organising ourselves.

        Far better to ask and explore what unreasonable theories would be, learn from any common characteristics of such theories, and go from there 😉

        • weka 11.1.3.1

          I’m not looking for not have I asked for a blueprint, please don’t put words in my mouth.

          My problem with the theory you put forward (which I am pretty much in favour of), is that I don’t see existing anarchists or anti-statists doing that. If they can’t or won’t, why would or should people not on board philosophically do that?

          I’d have more respect for the two travellers if they stopped proselytising, and stopped having a holiday, and went and hung out with adam and helped him (with his disability needs and with his political work). But they won’t do that, because they don’t actually want to bring an end to the current system by working together, they want to do what *they want (the essential dilemma for libertarians who think they are the caring ones).

          I’d have more respect for actual anarchists if I saw them doing what you are suggesting instead of doing what they want. Yes, I know you have had experience of it working, but that appears to be rare and I’m not convinced it lasts over generations. And yes, I’m aware the forces of domination are stacked against those endeavours, but even so, I see a lot of people still wanting to do their own thing. I see very few people willing to work together in a committed way.

          • Bill 11.1.3.1.1

            I read “ until the anti statists can come up with a reasonable theory on how..” as an appeal for an explanation or blueprint. My bad.

            Way I look at it, anarchism is about power and where it resides. At the moment we (people in general) can’t exercise much power, because the everyday exercise of it is vested in various state and market institutions. People can do what people can given their general situation. And for sure, many people could do more than they do.

            But there’s also the pernicious effect of cultural “norms” to be taken into account. They inform people how one “ought” to go about things, or what ones expectations “ought” to be, or how one “ought “to act/react. And even people who might dislike, distrust or feel uneasy about a given norm will often enough acquiesce to it because fear; because peer pressure; because no experience of, or exposure to acting in other ways.

            And maybe that’s where even seemingly very small acts of subversion can come in – a question here, a suggestion there, a refusal somewhere, an act elsewhere. Because just sometimes, what might seem like an innocuous act or pointless suggestion to one person can turn a light on in another – as in, it suddenly “speaks” to them.

            And then there’s always the possibility of a more widespread cultural shock hitting home that might see people simply shed formerly self evident “truths” about how things are and ought to be.

            Anyway.

            I did baulk at your use of “libertarian” in the post. Did they use that term to describe themselves? I mean, they can call themselves what they want, but as far as I can tell, they have no political nous at all and are just wee hippies all wrapped up in themselves (ie – life-stylers).

            • weka 11.1.3.1.1.1

              They didn’t use the term, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they believe they are apolitical. But they’re a very good fit for some of the alt culture people I know who are libertarian politically (but are too young to know who Lindsay Perigo is). They argue against the state until I ask them if they will support me once WINZ doesn’t exist 😉 In favour of charter schools because it means they can run hippy schools without state interference, not paying taxes, less regulation and people taking more responsibility for themselves etc. They wax lyrical about community but don’t practice it.

              I don’t disagree with what you are saying in the bulk of your comment, and I think those ways of changing and subverting are valuable. I’m still stuck with looking at anti-statists and/or anarchists and not seeing them doing the things they want to see happen. I think that is in part because of the ethos around individuality.

              Adam’s assertion that the people can help the people but it requires a move away from the state. And yet we have people helping the people without that. The government is a big part of the problem, but because of how it acts, not necessarily because it exists. I’m not against the idea of the state not existing – plenty of sustainable cultures on the planet that never used that structure. I’m just not convinced it’s the only useful way, nor that those politically against the state have anything better to offer (adam seems to be claiming he does, but I’m not seeing it yet).

  12. Jum 12

    Op shops are great. You go in, buy stuff that interests you, wear or use for however long it is of worth to you and then you recycle back to any number of other op shops to again sell. You pay less, they get money for their charities, then they get to sell the recycled stuff again and make more money. Win win.

    People on the insulting low wages currently need these places to enable them to survive.
    It is mind-bending that so many New Zealanders actually think non-living wages are acceptable. How can anyone think that is acceptable? If the wage is non-living that means we don’t want these people to live a decent life. Doesn’t that make us monsters? Any business that wants to make a bigger profit by denying a living wage – aren’t they monsters?

    Once upon a decade these op shops were looked down upon but are now trendy. This is a superb example of how egalitarianism was snuffed out and greed moved in. Cheap imports, low wages; huge public debt now.

    But, the most appalling indictment on us all is to have and be proud of a New Zealand charity to help New Zealand children in poverty to survive. That’s a disgusting exercise in the greedy few not paying people a living wage to look after their own children.

    I still remember the shock on hearing we actually had one for our own country’s children; now that really is a criminal act by those in power, both political and religious re tithing, to siphon off funding for the 1% and/or the corporate lobbyists.

    It’s like a Mike King moment realising that pigs were not running around on pasture and my moment when the sunny ads showing chickens running around in the sunshine was just a lie.

    So, we can rage at these two idiots all we like, but what are we?

    • chris73 12.1

      Well it might surprise one and all but I do most of my clothes shopping at savemart, except for more specialist items of course, you can dress quite well there

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