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COVID, We Need To Talk About Class

Written By: - Date published: 9:51 am, September 14th, 2021 - 27 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, class, class war, covid-19, david seymour, health, jacinda ardern, poverty - Tags:

We’ve never seen a nationwide disease illustrate class and deprivation like the future of the country depended on it. Not like this. This should change us.

This morning Prime Minister Ardern was on RNZ following a doctor talking about getting vaccines to Maori and Pasifika in a way that suited them.

Studies from elsewhere tell us that the most deprived areas are getting the highest COVID infection rates.

In New Zealand, it goes like this: well off travellers bring in COVID-19 and get sequestered in hotels for recovery, and they reinfect the poor who suffer in rentals and are harder to reach.

The areas hardest hit are the suburbs of high social and economic deprivation within Auckland, who are also predominantly Maori and Pasifika. More than 50% of COVID-19 infections are of Pacific descent.

But they have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

People have been calling for greater focus on Maori and Pacifika vaccination programmes for a while here and here and here and here.

It doesn’t take too much logic to identify that only the upper class have the power to use privilege to escape lockdowns that apply to all. Occasionally they are caught.

Generally speaking, those who are bringing COVID19 into the country are categorised European/Other, those who are most at risk of long eradication are Maori and Pasifika.

As the population heads towards 80% first vaccination and people get harder to reach and hence prevent a greater return to managed freedom of life and liberty, there will be bewildered questions: Who are these people? Why are they holding us back? Are they afraid? Are they lazy? Are they unpatriotic? Are they dirty? Don’t they care? Why are they doing this to us? Can I get angry yet? What caused this? When can I swim again?

It’s a fog of questions that belies a denial of deprivation and ethnicity and class: these people are us. The state – and those who work in and with it – is going to have to rely harder and deeper on those grassroots health providers who know and understand such people better than the public health system has so far. They already are. The public health system is seeing its own failings every day illuminated in national briefing headlights.

In Aotearoa New Zealand the unequal health outcomes experienced by Māori have been documented in a number of academic and government documents going back decades (Ministry of Health 2010; Robson, B & Harris, R (Eds.) 2007), and concepts to improve that access are voluminous.

A new nationwide Maori health structure will at some point be generated.

It was needed yesterday. Today. Now.

It is those on the side of the privileged upper class who can think of nothing better to do than to disrupt programmes that target Maori and Pacifika access to COVID19. Act leader David Seymour does so because it is in his career interests to sow class divisions. Because David Seymour sows race and class division in a time of national crisis, he is a traitor.

Deprivation and class barriers have caught up with the government and with us all, on a scale at which the current fate of the nation rides on it.

The biggest political mark is writ large across the sky: deprivation through class and ethnicity is the most damaging disease New Zealand has.

The primary disease to cure – for the sake of New Zealand – is to eradicate poverty itself.

27 comments on “COVID, We Need To Talk About Class ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    At last a TS author prepared to touch the third rail of modern left wing politics – class.

    • Michael 1.1

      Agree. Class is a major structural factor in Aotearoa. So is ethnicity.

      • Unicus 1.1.1

        Classisisim is an integral element within both Pacifica and Maori culture

        It may be useful to recognise and analyse its effect on the response of these communitys throughout the pandemic

    • Tricledrown 1.2

      As a history reader I have read much about the history of societies.The older a society becomes class and bearaucracy becomes a bigger part of society.The wealthy ruling classes embed their power structures. Blaming the peasants for being poor is just part of keeping the underclasses in their place. Dividing and conquering playing the middle class against the poor has kept the wealthy out of the equation who thrive on low or no taxes no responsibility to society.

      • Gosman 1.2.1

        I would suggest the opposite has in fact happened. European society was far more class bound and people's role in society was blamed on personal circumstances more prior to social reforms which took off during the 19th and 20th centuries.

        • Michael

          Which is why your lot have been so keen to wind the clock back to the 19th century, before those "social reforms which took off" at the end of it. Reforms that your lot resisted and undermined every step of the way. FWICS, many of you are keen to wind the clock all the way back to the feudal era.

  2. Stuart Munro 2

    Generally speaking, those who are bringing COVID19 into the country are categorised European/Other, those who are most at risk of long eradication are Maori and Pasifika.

    There's a fairly strong showing of imported cases among Asians, fully 2/3 of the European/other level. It needs a total inward travel breakdown to put it in context, but Modi isn't looking much better than Boris or Trump.

    There is a need to specify socioeconomic class in discussing your point though – the virtues of the aristos, which were traditionally employed by plutocrats to provide a veneer of palatable meritocracy, are not observable in figures like Whaleoil, Cmore, or the LotO.

  3. KJT 3

    Another risk factor. Obesity. Is tied to class and the foods people can afford.

    Overeating is NOT the primary cause of obesity: Scientists claim | Daily Mail Online

    ""Dr David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children's Hospital, said it was time to scrap the 'century-old' idea that obesity is caused by 'consuming more energy than we expend'.""

    Research has shown this for a long time. The media is finally catching up!

  4. I suspect that 100 years ago the Spanish flu had a similar effect, highlighting class divisions, and sparking some powerful socialist movements around the world (subsequently snuffed out by world wars and CIA mayhem)

  5. Cricklewood 5

    Be nice if there was more focus on class but class and race do, to large extent walk hand in hand in NZ, it's all the people in unstable casual employment, unstable housing that suffer the most in our society especially during lockdown when you lose income cant pay bills etc when society treats you this way why would you follow the rules?… look at the opprobrium poured on the girl who went to work at KFC last lockdown all the way to the PM no less… meanwhile the rich hide behind their expensive laywers.

    Class in NZ is becoming further and further entrenched as house prices spiral out of control renters v land owners… and this current govt have overseen housing becoming so far out of reach for many… and refuse to do anything meaningful about it.

    • Patricia Bremner 5.1

      In a society where some parents have the money to leverage their children into property, and property is treated as a wealth growth investment, inequity is built in.

      To change this embedded social gap, requires taxes on property, especially higher sales tax on the last third of a property's value.

      We need to look at no tax for the first $20 000 of income, and a twice yearly free visit to a dentist, and free visit (and glasses if needed) every three years. This would, along with the better primary health care, catch many conditions before they became problematic.

      Like oil and cigarette barons, the sugar barons need tackling. Much of the obesity is sugar.

      Three members of our family were active but became obese. Anecdotal, but supported by science. When sugary drinks are cheaper than milk and endorsed by sporting influencers people think they are ok.

      leaving all sugar and most carbs out of their diets, these three, adding in protein and fresh leafy veg made a massive difference. 40 kg in one case in 12 months. So foods do matter. The cheap foods are often sugar loaded breads and sauces with hardly any real nutrients. Some sugary foods are very addictive.

      Empowering the residents in lower socio economic neighbourhoods to use their representatives in their neighbourhoods, with money for community gardens outdoor gyms to build community wealth and health, funded by a programme of progressive genuine tax reform.

      Tax sugar and the rich. No taxes for the first $20 000.

      • Gosman 5.1.1

        A sugar tax would be a regressive tax so you would in fact be hurting the people you claim you want to be helping.

        • Michael

          By making it more expensive for people to kill themselves with sugar? I hope the food cartel isn't paying you for this stuff.

        • Incognito

          This is so intellectually dishonest that it is disingenuous outright. The point of a Sugar Tax would be to encourage people to make wiser choices and discourage them from buying the cheap empty and unhealthy calories of processed sugars – nobody is holding them to ransom and forcing them to buy the shit when it is taxed. Should we also make tobacco and alcohol cheaper because it is ‘hurting’ the less well-offs, i.e., the people whom you want to ‘help’? You seem to have a funny way of ‘helping’ others, into an earlier grave.

      • Cricklewood 5.1.2

        Sure, even setting limits on how many residential properties an individual or company could own or having progressively higher taxes like a stamp duty on each property you own would help ease demand and cut down on speculators.

        But if a majority Lab govt wont touch its never going to happen within the established political parties.

        Really the last few years have been the death knell of the mostly egalitarian society we had.

        It maybe a govt of kindness but its just about the worst Lab govt behind the 4th when you look at the long term damage the massively increased house and rent has done too society.

  6. McFlock 6

    The other thing is that the wealthy don't just have the ability to evade lockdowns, they can actually do things like work from home, take contactless delivery of items, and when lockdowns ease they can choose to stay at home.

    Folk like hospo workers get forced to go to work, for money and to keep their job, while the architect can spend another couple of weeks in their home office.

  7. David Mac 7

    Seems to me those of us most upset about the class seesaw are those from the Yang side of the tracks that knuckled down and got degrees, now sit under fluros. Others laid drives. 1000's of them. There is nothing a drive-layer likes more than rolling up to quote a job and there's a Bentley parked on the compacted aggregate.

    "Sorry Guv, it's Covid in a building boom, prices of everything are going ballistic."

    Don't moan, counter their bullshit with like BS. Induce change on their terms.

  8. Gosman 8

    Use of the word "traitor" is indicative of extremist ideology. Luckily most NZers do not share such ideas.

    • riffer 8.1

      Traitor definition, a person who betrays another, a cause, or any trust.

      I'm not so sure it is inappropriate.

      • Gosman 8.1.1

        I think you are clever enough to be aware that throwing around such terms in the political sphere is not usual and has been used by many a demagogue to stifle opposition. Pluralistic democratic societies do not tend to see such terms being used in the mainstream as they polarise debate.

  9. swordfish 9

    In Aotearoa New Zealand the unequal health outcomes experienced by Māori

    Yeah, I'd like to see the data for poorer non-Māori (Pakeha, Asian, Pasifika) … vs poor Māori / vs middle class Māori / vs affluent Māori / vs middle & upper-middle non-Māori …

    It appears members of the demographic I've highlighted in bold are the unofficial scapegoats of Critical Race Theory, of the woefully misnamed Health "Equity" strategy and of an affluent Pakeha Woke Cadre that wants all the prestige enhancement that accrues from ostentatious moral posturing & ritualised proclaimations of Guilt for Colonisation but are determined lower income Pakeha & Asians will do all the actual Penance.

    Let's be clear … Pakeha comprise an absolute majority of the lowest income quartile in New Zealand. This demographic are not – & never have been – "privileged".

    • Incognito 9.1

      You’re out of luck because that’s not the cause célèbre du jour in Aotearoa; aspiring first-home buyers is as ‘low’ as we go at present because if we were to ‘bend over backwards’ even an inch further we would hurt our spineless backs.

    • DS 9.2

      Along those lines, does anyone else consider it odd that an article titled "we need to talk about class," talks almost entirely about ethnicity, not class?

      • pat 9.2.1

        Not 'odd' at all…entirely consistent.

        • DS

          Seeing as there are middle-class Maori and working-class Pakeha, I'd suggest otherwise. The notion that the working-class (of any ethnicity) have more in common with each other than with the middle-classes of their own skin colour seems to be an old-fashioned one in these parts.

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