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Elitism and disaster

Written By: - Date published: 9:33 am, April 4th, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: disaster - Tags: ,

Watching Simon Barnett mouthing some cliched pap in front of photogenic rubble in an ad the other night, I got to thinking about how the earthquake has been treated as a stage by celebrities and the government to advance their own agendas.

The ad came on during the world cup final. One of my mates who was over to watch commented that the rubble behind Barnett looked like it had been arranged in neat piles. On closer inspection, there was also a fire engine conveniently parked in the background too. Barnett was speaking some cliched crap, asking for money for the Mayoral Relief Fund. The whole thing could have been produced on a Hollywood soundstage. The insult, though, was that he appeared to be filming within the red zone, which lesser mortals are still not allowed into.

As one of the guys commented, you would be far more likely to donate if it was an ordinary guy showing you his house and street ‘it’s pretty munted, eh? We’re surviving but it’s tough. With all the jobs disappearing, people are struggling to make ends meet. If you can donate a few bucks, we would all really appreciate it. Cheers.’

Instead, the people really in need are hidden away and some ‘celeb’ is appointed to speak for them.

It was the same at the memorial service. Did we hear the people who have been really affected? Nah. There may have been one or two ordinary people involved in the ceremony but I didn’t see them because it was hijacked by the elite. A prince, a governor-general, a prime minister, a mayor – all repeating the same pointless cliches. I couldn’t listen to more than a few seconds at the time before flicking over to something else. Dave Dobbyn performing the same song he used for the America’s Cup theme tune just topped it off. It proved this was a made for TV event – not about the affected people of Christchurch. No wonder they stayed away in droves; 70,000 fewer than expected showed up.

John Key’s decision to choose his mate Mark Weldon to had the Government Christchurch Appeal (which, bizarrely, is not a government body according to Weldon and not subject to the OIA) and Gerry Brownlee’s use of the PR company he hired just before the second quake to publish newspaper ads trying to convince us progress is happening when it isn’t make clear the government’s approach to the quake will be the same as everything else: elitism and staged-managed events designed to distract us from the lack of actual progress.

Speaking of lack of progress, has the government chosen a supplier for the temporary houses yet? The Japanese have been actually constructing temporary houses since 8 days after the Tohoku Earthquake and plan to build 60,000 units. Here we are 42 days after the quake and the government doesn’t even know who it wants to build them, let alone when it will have them up.

[update typical. No sooner had I written and scheduled this and the govt updates its temporary housing plans. We’re assured a Kiwi firm will get the job and next week, 50 days after the quake, we’ll be told who will be building and when they’ll start]

26 comments on “Elitism and disaster ”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Remember this  fund raising piece is done  via big corporates, Telstra Clear and Post Shop.

    As is common these days,  Plunket/BNZ or St John /ASB etc  its a chance to wrap your brand around a highly thought of charity.

    But for the ‘Mayoral ‘ Relief fund, you would have thought  … like the Mayor would front it.  That he doesnt  raises some issues for me that perhaps he too thinks the commercialism is over the top.

  2. ianmac 2

    All the Worlds a stage, and made for politics. The link “updates” did not work for me.
    Edit: Now links to the Herald front page but can’t find the “update.”

    [Fixed — r0b]

  3. ianmac 3

    Thanks Rob. It seems to be a huge job for one company to build 10,000 houses? I know of several companies in Christchurch who are on a knife edge of survival. Perhaps the winning company will sub contract?

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      The main contractor will most likely be Fletchers because they have the capability and resources and then they’ll sub contract the work out becoming nothing more than a middleman and a further drain on the work being done.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    The temporary housing plan seems to be ‘on hold’.  Looks like confusion is again rampant and Gerry   cant handle the job, or even just making announcements.
    The Herald says this line –
    An announcement was expected in about a week.

    Which is a change  from the earlier report which said an announcement was due today but has been put back a week.
    Lucky Gerry  gets to play online editor for a media group , just like Keys does.
    You wouldnt want  Muammar Gerry to make life hard for your reporters in Christchurch

    I have a suspicion the kiwi firm will only ‘install’ the temporary  houses  which will be manufactured overseas. Meanwhile  expect some   more stories  in the meantime to tell why kiwi firms are too slow/expensive/low standard to do this work

    • Bright Red 4.1

      “in the meantime to tell why kiwi firms are too slow/expensive/low standard to do this work”
      Yeah. Maybe if 40-odd days hadn’t been wasted so far, they could do the job in time and at a reasonable cost but by mucking around the govt is basically  leaving itself with no choice but to source the buildings from bigger manufacturers abroad.

  5. Tigger 5

    More elitist crap.  Key defending the casino here.  Why is he jumping in on behalf of the employers here?  Oh I forgot, he’s there for them, not the workers…
    Not saying this isn’t a difficult, messy situation.  But it’s not for the PM to take sides in an industrial issue like this.

    • Marjorie Dawe 5.1

      Of course you will be remembering that he also took sides in the debacle about the Hobbit.  He was firmly in the hands of the rich American film company wasnt he, even though he already knew that the Hobbit was never at risk.  What is he hiding this time.

  6. vto 6

    Tis certainly a big job for NZ resources to build that number of temporary homes. But could be done. They won’t all be needed at once anyway. In fact it will be a somewhat moving feast. Though it seems the hundreds of campervans parked out west for similar use have gone unused…

    I find it curious that the govt wants a kiwi firm to do this work, yet the govt did not want a kiwi firm to build the choo choo trains recently. What’s that about?

    And yes you are right re celebrity. But I think more what it is is people and groups using the earthquake to advance their own cause, whatever that may be. Govt advancing the “we’re broke and need to sell some stuff”. Celebrities celebritising. Contractors to advance their needs and desires. A crisis leads to, amongst other things, opportunity and that is what is appearing. Opportunity takers.

    • Armchair Critic 6.1

      Though it seems the hundreds of campervans parked out west for similar use have gone unused…
      Why, v?  Are they in the wrong place?

      • vto 6.1.1

        To be honest I don’t know. Could be the wrong spot. Could be people would rather live in their broken home than elsewhere. Could be everybody enjoys squeezing in with the in-laws… though ha ha aint seen that at all, more the opposite (“bloody so-and-so’s mum, sheesh talk about nosy”,, “I had forgotten why I left home all those years ago”,, “My old man’s old man, drink and sit on his ass..” and on it goes, many times over).

        • grumpy

          I understand the camper vans are at the A&P grounds all right but the necessary infrastructure, power, water, toilets etc. aren’t.

  7. todd 7

    Now National seem to be trying to use the Christchurch Earthquake as an excuse for the high levels of unemployed which have risen by around 200,000 since they’ve been in power and prior to the big Chirstchurch Earthquake.

  8. joe90 8

    Back in the late sixties through to the early eighties my old man ran the transportable division of Beazly Homes building and delivering on-site upwards of 10 homes a week to the Tongariro and Huntly projects. In the late seventies a Beazly/Fletcher factory in Mount Maunganui was producing 40 containerised housing units a week for various projects around the world.
    So why the delay, incompetence?.

  9. ghostwhowalksnz 9

    Just pay $25 per hour for tradesman carpenters and they would have the first houses in a week.

    After all these days , many homes are ‘pre -nailed’ at a warehouse somehere, all they have to do get a few designs,  build the suspended floor , add the prenail frames and roofs. Then clad it and add the roof, ship it to a site  to have fittings and electrical done .  
    Easy – except if you are National-Act

    • grumpy 9.1

      EQC/Fletchers are paying $45/hr….

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1

        No they’re not. It’s been capped at $45/hour but they’re paying $20/hr +GST for the tradesmen. As I said, My nephew looked at going down but the amount he would be paid would have left him losing money, ergo, he didn’t go down.

  10. Billy Fish 10

    I was listening to a podcast of BBC Radio 4 “The Now Show” topical news humour from the UK and they are in a similar situation there to that which we have here, a Con govt pushing an agenda and using any excuse to make it happen, even when it turns out to be 80% arse biscuits.
    The phrase that really caught my attention was the was the govt in the UK are creating “The Narrative”
    All news and information must fit that narrative and anything that contradicts it is hushed or buried.

    Maybe someone (not me as I am pants) could start a Narrative thread – write up the current narrative on each topic (as it appears to be) and what news fit it and doesn’t?

    EG Chch – its all about being a loyal kiwi and supporting chch, sacrifice has to be made, time for a heroic student loan pay back, if you don’t support the govt then you are spitting on the graves of the dead….that sort of thing

  11. I agree that there seems to be a lot of impression management being pushed. The local paper is just full of ads from corporates telling us how much they share our pain (especially banks and insurance companies). If I’ve seen one ad with Richie McCaw and other serious looking celebs looking out at me from the paper, bus stops and the like i’ve seen ten thousand. There’s a lot of effort going in to convince people that institutions (public and private) are caring, sensitive and only have our best interests at heart.

    There’s a battle between the ‘narrative’ and the actions going on in Christchurch at present. There’s a lot at stake in that battle – the ‘bewildered herd’ are getting restless and starting to flail around dangerously in their stockpens.

  12. Marjorie Dawe 12

    I like that analagy Puddlegum.  The elite are always trying to find ways to control the masses just in case they break out.  Do you think Kiwis will ever take Britains, Frances, Greeces, the Middle Easts etc lead on fighting back. 

    • Puddleglum 12.1

      “Do you think Kiwis will ever take Britains, Frances, Greeces, the Middle Easts etc lead on fighting back.”

      I don’t know. There’s a ‘cultural’ aspect to it I suppose. The very admiration for the ‘ordinary’ and unassuming that Key has constantly appealed to is also a bit of a brake on serious civil ‘rebellion’. There’s also the population question – I’m not sure there’s a critical mass of sufficiently annoyed, articulate and activist-inclined people with a clear, broad vision who could organise a sustained, cross-city movement that produced more than a couple of one-off street protests. 

      Then again, the thing about this latest earthquake is that there’s a large proportion of the population who have lost something – everything from infrastructure to houses, property values, jobs/businesses, life plans and, of course, friends and family. The practical problems that follow from that can’t be fobbed off when they exist on this scale. It may even have been the case that the rush to get the least damaged suburbs up and fully functioning was partly a calculation about how to marginalise and reduce the effectiveness of those more severely affected. (A bit cynical, but a lot of things would pass through the minds of our decision makers as they reach their decisions and establish their ‘triage’ protocols.)

      It was actually a bit like that after the September quake but, this time, I don’t think the problems can be contained either by celebrity fronting or marginalising of the ‘moaners’. [It’s also backfired in very practical terms with the sewerage system now on a ‘knife edge’ and everyone, no matter where they live in Christchurch and well beyond, having to be told now – belatedly – about the need to still think about flushing their toilets and restricting their production of grey water so as not to overload the Bromley plant and ponds. They’ve been brought back into Christchurch’s infrastructure problems with a bump, or should be.]

      I also think that the reason CERA has so many ‘advisory’ fora attached to it shows that the ‘unrest’ has been recognised and had an effect on how institutional and elite processes are responding. Power is always grudging in what grounds it gives and is always ready to take them back if ‘it’ thinks it can get away with it.

      I hope, however, that the government, council, etc. don’t think that that structure will keep everyone happy or silent. Once again, too many people are going to remain for too long in the midst of real practical problems for them to be silenced by the initial announcement of a ‘structure’. They’ll be looking at every step that’s taken very closely – there are enough articulate and savvy people across the city who have plenty of ‘cultural capital’ and, to put it bluntly, ‘clout’ to make sure lots of concerns will continue to be heard long after the media think they can move on.

  13. Drakula 13


    Maybe the government is trying a lateral approach, where there is a demand for rapid building and development you put the breaks on that and conceal it with stagecraft and eventually the people of Christchurch will move away and the problem will be solved !!!!

    It’s a unique approach when you think about it all you have to do is practice that sad and concerned look in the mirror and as Goebles (or was it Himler?) says ‘if you tell a lie often enough people will begin to believe you.

  14. Drakula 14

    I might like to expand on that brilliant concept of ‘doing nothin’ it can save the government an awfull lot of money.

    What to do with the extra dosh?

    You create a propaganda film/video/DVD industry and fiction that creates the grand illusion of how our corporate and political heroes/heroines have saved the day.

    AND that we should be eternaly grateful and in their debt!!!!!

    Wouldn’t you agree?

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