Speaking of mothers

Written By: - Date published: 1:28 pm, September 5th, 2017 - 31 comments
Categories: benefits, Economy, feminism, greens, welfare - Tags: , , , ,

As an aside to all the hooha last week about who has the biggest scandal, I was thinking about the use of mothers as metaphors for something big and impactful and what that might say about us.

Remember the Mother of All Budgets? The one in 1991 where benefits were cut so they were intentionally below what was liveable. Where the reforms started by the fledgling ACT party* in the 80s were solidified into a complete revolution of NZ society, economics and politics.

Richardson was a member of the radical right wing of the National Party, which took a miniarchist, libertarian standpoint which emphasized individualism and personal freedom.[1] These viewpoints were reflected in Richardson’s 1991 budget which resulted in a huge reduction in government spending, particularly in regards to social welfare. Richardson worked closely with Minister of Social Welfare Jenny Shipley and proudly announced her fiscal outlay as the ‘mother of all budgets’.[1]

The budget essentially dismantled much of what remained of the welfare state institutions established in the 1930s by the First Labour Government. The unemployment benefit was cut by $14.00 a week, sickness benefit by $27.04, families benefit by $25.00 to $27.00 and universal payments for family benefits were completely abolished.[2] Richardson also introduced many user pays requirements in hospitals and schools, services previously free to the populace and paid for by the government.[3] Public services such as state housing were devolved essentially into companies under government contract in all but name. This was not popular with many in the conservative wing of the National Party, and led to major disagreements over policy. Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon resigned from his Tamaki constituency in protest of Richardson’s policies.

This was a time when NZ was first getting used to women politicians in major roles, and here were Richardson and Shipley talking about mothers while destroying the social contract of looking after vulnerable people. NZ wasn’t ready to have that conversation about gender (see, Thatcher and Richardson prove that women are just as bad as men!) and it’s taken a good few decades for us to start to untangle ourselves from that piece of neoliberal treachery. One of neoliberalism’s tools is the misuse of gender politics. The value of having women do your dirty work is that it detracts from the value of women’s culture and what would happen if women collectively had power on their own terms.

Start talking about putting the kuia or aunties in charge and see what kind of reaction you get, even on the left. Instead we are allowed another woman making a run at PM, so long as she can play the game with the boys on their terms. Feminism lives within the patriarchy.

Compare National’s 1990s policy with the Green Party’s 2017 Budget for All Mothers, which isn’t a metaphor but an actual policy that understands that mothers are central to society because of their role in the wellbeing of children. When we place the wellbeing of children at the centre of society in meaningful ways we tend to organise society fairly and compassionately and inclusively, as well as create a healthy society that sustains itself. That’s as anti-neoliberal as it gets. It’s Māori, green, and feminist, and the neoliberal establishment hate it.

The Budget for All Mothers policy was followed by the Greens’ Mending the Safety Net package, which is the first real attempt by any political party to redress the wrongs that Richardson did 26 years ago. Those Green policies have provoked some of the worst political backlash we’ve seen in a generation which in turn led to the resignation of one of NZ’s finest politicians and champion of the notion that mothers are intrinsically valuable and should be respected and cared for. A notion deeply embedded in human evolution but in this instant of time is considered radical.  We prefer that our solo recalcitrant mums are sacrificed.

What we’re seeing since Metiria Turei’s welfare speech is the battle of values in NZ that’s taken 3 decades to come to a head. This is playing out in a number of different ways, including in the value of women. So we have the main woman leader being asked about her baby-making intentions, and white men of privilege siding with the patriarchy by insisting on their right to use metaphors about whores and lipstick on pigs. Because let’s not forget who and what is still in charge.

This isn’t just a left/right split either, because even on the left there are distinct factions that still see the Greens as liabilities or even the enemy despite the Green Party having not only the relevant policies but also the guts to stand up and push back against neoliberal culture in NZ, even if it comes at great cost. There are more than two sides here.

What kind of society do we want? In this election for the first time since Rogernomics we have the opportunity to choose life. For many of us it’s not enough to shift a bit to the left for another few terms and then suck it up while National have their go again. Thanks to the courage of the Green Party caucus and co-leaders we have a real chance at making the battle visible and mainstream enough that people take notice. The Greens excel at generating societal change and something important is building here.

This is critical in this election where a strong Green vote would allow the left to forge an actual progressive government. But it’s much bigger than this election too. With many things at stake here, NZ stands on the cusp of the same great changes that are happening globally. Which way are we going to jump?

In the meantime, this is where we are at as a nation in regards to mothers,

 

*aka the 4th Labour government.

31 comments on “Speaking of mothers”

  1. esoteric pineapples 1

    “Afghans Respond to Insult of U.S. Dropping Massive Bomb: “Would a Mother Do That to Any Children?”

    “The “Mother of All Bombs” is the nickname for the bomb the U.S. dropped Thursday on Afghanistan, but our guests in Kabul say civilians there are asking if any mother would conduct such an attack. Basir Bita is a mentor with Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, and Dr. Hakim is a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for over a decade. He works with Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building nonviolent alternatives to war. We are also joined by Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who is just back from Afghanistan, and Wazhmah Osman, professor of media and communication at Temple University and member of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association.”

    https://www.democracynow.org/2017/4/14/afghans_respond_to_insult_of_us

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    Well said Weka.

    This is a huge reason the Greens are getting my vote.

  3. savenz 3

    +100%

    At Auckland hospital mothers are discharged within hours of giving birth and made to go home or move to a facility to save money. The baby is birthed then bundled into a car seat instead of bonding with their mother.

    30% of kids are now failing Maths and writing by Year 8 of primary school. That is a shocking statistic – that suggests something is seriously wrong after 9 years of National in government. If we have 30% of the next generation illiterate Under National standards, there are going to be huge problems in this country. 5 -10% is bad, but 30%????

    Under National the education funding seems to have been diverted into real estate and different funding models worked out by economists to save money not educators, enlarging schools, etc not where it counts by having proper teaching help for children. There is less help, because of the disgusting testing regime more akin to surveillance than education, that takes away teacher time, and a lack of interest or help in ensuring kids meet standards as well as the enormous population growth that has effected all the schools.

    When kids fail National standards, it is completely arbitrary if help is given due to a lack of funding. Parents are now funding their own teacher aids or having to pay for expensive remedial schooling. These are normal kids that seem to be written off under the current system which is PROVEN to be damaging and creating the types of division and inequality in countries like the US and UK.

    Poverty can be eliminated by education. It seems that NZ is going backwards in this area.

    • Doogs 3.1

      savenz
      Thank you. As a teacher of long standing I have to say that you have absolutely hit the nail on the head. You probably realise that neo-liberalism relies on subjugated, uneducated and compliant people who are forced by ignorance and poverty to follow the party line. It is a studied approach, and embedded in the philosophy of the RWNJs. They cannot conceive of anything else. Example – why are Natzis so against the CGT? Because so many of our ‘serving’ politicians would have so much to lose under its application.

      Roll on 23 September!

      • North 3.1.1

        Save NZ and Doogs…….thanks for your comments…….even if (no, because) they really do make one weep. Your comments, your insights…….against the bastards I accidentally got to watch on TV3 breakfast show this morning. Garner, dressed up like a fucking downtown LA pimp, that whatever he is sports broadcaster pissing on…….it’s like they see the election as a big game comprising the primary political contestants and…….THEM. Nothing, no one else matters. Arseholes, particularly that overpriced slug pimp Garner.

  4. Nice post. There was a time in history ( still applies, I think ) that when a ship went down it was women and children first on the lifeboats ,.. under neo liberalism , –
    particularly the National party , it appears that time honoured and accepted maxim / practice has been reversed.

  5. joe90 5

    *aka the 4th Labour government.

    How the * colluded with conservatives to jigger the welfare state.

    http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/melinda-cooper-all-family-debt

  6. tracey 6

    Thank you for an insightful post.

    Steven Joyce lied or showed enormous incompetence yesterday in his role as Finance Minister. English perpetuated it as PM and former Finance Minister. Yes it has been critiqued, and they have been chided but none of the fury that reigned down on Turei. Yet these two have cynically conspired to mislead the electorate to hold on to the power to impact millions of lives and use billions of dollars of others’ money. No calls to resign. No moral outrage. It is akin to the hunt for witches and the preservation of the status of doctors in the middle ages.

    The upside is that, evidenced by the behaviour of many in the 4th Estate, the vitriol and panic over Turei suggests a deep nerve was struck. And those who feel threatened rallied and attacked to preserve the system that serves them so well, and some who it does not serve defend it too.

    “An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities”. Paul Verhaeghe

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/29/neoliberalism-economic-system-ethics-personality-psychopathicsthic

  7. greywarshark 7

    Mothers persist in furthering the human spirit. Men want it to be done by fathering, but in the end, when mother fails, its 90% likely that all fails.

    RW want to have the human thing under control, crush the spirit in cowed conformity. Many of the British stock many of us come from, would go to India for their careers and send their children home to boarding schools with little human spirit being taught. In the USA they may send 8 or 9 year olds to military academies. RW ultimately don’t care about others children and parents, human spirit and the wonderful things we are, they care only for money and position in society.

  8. tracey 8

    Weka, I have been reading around the Neo-Liberalism topic recently. I came across this

    “One of the main issues is the way people talk about neoliberalism; they don’t understand it very well. Neoliberals, first, are not conservatives. They are not libertarians. And they don’t believe in laissez-faire. I can’t believe the amount of confusion that there is in the media—and among reasonably intelligent political people, too. They don’t understand this.

    Neoliberals believe in a strong state. They need a strong state to impose the kind of market society that they think should exist. And their key doctrine—this is the part that I think is hardest to understand—is that the market mainly exists as an information processor more powerful than any human being. They mean it knows more than any human being ever could; they structure their politics around that.”

    and later in the same article

    ““Neoliberals don’t feel threatened by the fact that stuff just keeps getting worse, as long as they can convince people to keep doing the same things—more markets to fix markets.”

    author and historian of economic philosophy Philip Mirowski on 31 May 2014,
    https://antidotezine.com/2014/06/25/neoliberal-mythology/

    Perhaps feminism gets attacked because it has at its heart the concept of fair sharing. Neoliberalism is the antithesis of fair and sharing.

    • Perhaps feminism gets attacked because it has at its heart the concept of fair sharing. Neoliberalism is the antithesis of fair and sharing.

      QFT

    • Carolyn_nth 8.2

      Neoliberalism is a theory that is a smokescreen for a resurgence of power by the wealthy international elites.

      David Harvey explains it well in A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

      While those with power, access to the media and wealth preached small government and free markets, etc, in practice, they did whatever was necessary to give dominance to international corporates and power elites. It differed a bit from place to pace. But it took a lot of government intervention to get the results they wanted.

  9. Where are our moral values?
    After thirty plus years of capitalisms attack on our society do we have any left?

    • SpaceMonkey 9.1

      But it’s not capitalism outright that’s been the problem. Neoliberalism is more akin to a technocratic authoritarianism.

  10. Delia 10

    The insistence on women going out work, when the child is three years old, on the DPB is all part of this, bringing up children is not seen as a full time job. It is not just motherhood which is devalued,children are devalued. Both Labour and National see working jobs as more important than raising a family because Clark also promoted mothers working. There is no allowance for a mother or father raising a child alone, all must earn the almighty dollar.

  11. DRUM 11

    Thank you Weka…I appreciate and value your insightfullness.

  12. Carolyn_nth 12

    Mothers are often seen as very powerful figures in our patriarchal society – but this includes conflicting ideals of good and bad mothers.

    The good mother is traditionally seen as nurturing and domesticated, the bad mother more aggressive and destructive, stepping outside any conventionally feminine sphere.

    I’s interesting that the movie Aliens was successful in the 80s – the time when the neoliberal revolution was in full swing – it had a quite muscular, assertive, but asexual heroine, who spent a lot of time trying to save the child from the bad alien mother. The alien mother gave birth to numerous destructive children. The alien mother was imagined as something like a vagina with teeth.

    Not that big a step from the kinds of powerful roles allowed to women in politics – while the brunt of neoliberalism and austerity has descended on single mothers as beneficiaries – often described as bad mothers.

    So mother of all bombs or budgets uses the powerful association of mother stereotypes.

    And of course, recently we had #motherofallscandals – which seemed to be actually about a grandfather.

    The mainstream media went out of its way to paint beneficiary Turei as bad mother.

  13. Macro 13

    An excellent piece weka – thank you for this contribution to the debate.
    We need to constantly remind ourselves just how this current travesty of poverty, in which so many in New Zealand find themselves, originally began. It was a conscious political decision in the first place, that need never have been taken, and it requires a conscious decision to right that wrong. Tinkering around the edges, lifting 50,000 or even 100,000 out of poverty (while it might salve the conscience of some) is simply to leave 200,000 still in poverty. It is not good enough.

  14. McFlock 14

    Nice post, Weka.

    I’m pretty hopeful that the Greens will be a major part of the next government. We need them.

  15. mosa 15

    I don’t need convincing the Greens have had my vote since 2014 and this year more than ever because if Jacinda gets the numbers i want the Greens and their policies to be a part of a new direction, ” it is about time ”

    There has been a concerted effort to destroy them but it won’t succeed because they are a movement that is more relevant now more than any other time in their history.

    Thanks Weka great work as usual.

    • eco Maori/kiwi 15.1

      I agree Weka we need more women in power . The neo liberals will fight this.
      Because in my view they are scared that more women on boards and in government
      will kick there asses if they try and do stupid shit just to get what they want the neo liberals no WOMEN will keep them in check and women will make laws that benefit all people and not just the 1 %.
      Now these dick heads that are harnessing me are using propaganda to tell people that my views are manufactured by me to make people to think I am a saint well no I am not deceitful like them. And these are my real life views from the information off the internet and from my life experiences of living a life of a 30 % maori and 70 % other races a lot of different blood lines there . Living and razing and caring for my family in NZ.
      So in my view we are all human and all humans should share power and the resources of our WORLD. And thanks again Weka.
      Also you media people stop using the word CRACK as that shit is a killer and I will call you out on this word

  16. left_forward 16

    E mihi ana ahau ki a koe e Weka.
    I entirely agree with you Weka – thank you for articulating this.
    The progress of Labour is excellent, but if we want to turn this neo-libearl monster around, it remains critical to vote Green!

  17. xanthe 17

    dogwhistle?

    My view is that neoliberalism prays on the weak/dispossesed whatever gender, race, religion. it is counterproductive to portray it is sexist,racist,etc . it is essentially amoral in that it places a very narrow interpretation of “rational” above ethical or humanist. it dosn’t care who you are, only that it has an economic advantage and the “rational” thing is to exploit that advantage!

    don’t take it personally, it isn’t personal. it isn’t sexist. its simply amoral. and our only hope is collective action, not further division across demographic lines. That feeds the beast!

  18. Francesca 18

    An aside: Ruth Richardson had her daughter during the 1983 recess and became the first mother able to breastfeed her baby while serving as an MP as a special room was set aside for her to do this. Crazy how this didn’t translate into her having any compassion for the struggles of other mothers.

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