The underclass

Written By: - Date published: 10:46 am, July 26th, 2010 - 15 comments
Categories: class war, poverty, Social issues - Tags:

This comment from Jenny needs to be a post! — r0b

Remember when John Key used to talk about the “underclass”.

Much [more] recently of course John Key’s policy direction has been more about pandering to the wealthy elite, so you don’t hear so much from John Key about his concerns for the underclass anymore.

But worries about the underclass still concern some people.

The last week’s issue of New Scientist, 17 July 2010, has this to say:

LEFT-LEANING politicians have traditionally blamed the structure of western society for the feckless and antisocial behaviour of its “underclass”.

FROM feckless fathers and teenaged mothers to so-called feral kids, the media seems to take a voyeuristic pleasure in documenting the lives of the “underclass”. Whether they are inclined to condemn or sympathise, commentators regularly ask how society got to be this way. There is seldom agreement, but one explanation you are unlikely to hear is that this kind of “delinquent” behaviour is a sensible response to the circumstances of a life constrained by poverty.

According to New Scientist:

There is no reason to view the poor as stupid or in any way different from anyone else, says Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle in the UK. All of us are simply human beings, making the best of the hand life has dealt us. If we understand this, it won’t just change the way we view the lives of the poorest in society, it will also show how misguided many current efforts to tackle society’s problems are – and it will suggest better solutions.

The solution is to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest in society and give all young people the prospect of a good job and a stake in their future. But that looks unlikely, given the economic downturn.
In recent years, though, we have gained considerable insights into the prerequisites for human fulfilment. Health and security may be top of the list, but we also thrive on community, fairness, bonding, altruism, playfulness and celebration. Hard-pressed politicians seeking inspiration would do well to look to these biological principles.

Right wing critics of this approach often cite studies that crime and anti-social behaviour and the feelings of alienation that accompany them, are often much less experienced in conditions of absolute poverty.

As New Scientist explains “it is all relative”:

In their book The Spirit Level (Allen Lane, 2009), epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, of the universities of Nottingham and York, UK, respectively, emphasise the degree of income inequality in a society rather than poverty per se as being a major factor in issues such as death and disease rates, teenage motherhood and levels of violence. They show that nations such as the US and UK, which have the greatest inequality in income levels of all developed nations, also have the lowest life expectancy among those nations, the highest levels of teenage motherhood (see diagrams) and a range of social problems.

The effects are felt right across society, not just among poor people. “Inequality seems to change the quality of social relations in society,” says Wilkinson, “and people become more influenced by status competition.” Anxiety about status leads to high levels of stress, which in turn leads to health problems, he says. In unequal societies trust drops away, community life weakens and society becomes more punitive because of fear up and down the social hierarchy.

“Really dealing with economic inequalities is difficult because it involves unpopular things like raising tax,” says Nettle. “So rather than fighting the fire, people have been trying to disperse the smoke.”

Surely there couldn’t be a more apt description of this government especially in it’s approach to social decay and inequality. That and building more prisons to house all the projected victims of their proposed policies, expose this government for what it is, a government for the rich.

For the full report go to:

In sickness and in wealth

15 comments on “The underclass”

  1. Oh what the hell…i’ll go for the re-up as well

    Rest assured !

    Bill English has a plan to rescue the Pasifikan underclass in Auckland and close the inequality gap for young Pasifikans in education and employment. In essense, it is a trial of privatisation of social services, a pilot programme that can, if successful, hopefully be replicated and franchised to other individuals around the country.

    So far, it has involved handing 4.8 million over to a dodgy backroom private company of good ol’ brown boys with little experience and no accountability, then washing his hands of it and turning his back on the whole affair in letting one of his junior ministers deal with the fallout.

    The best of british to them i say whut whut !

    and then of course we have the mothership of culturally appropriate initiatives. Crewed by Navigators of Whanau Ora and specifically trained to deal with the Maori underclass sector of Pasifikans in NZ.

    To them i say, live long and prosper nanu nanu !

    and i’ll even spam a somewhat dated but relevent blog piece of mine just for the hell of it…:)

    • Bored 1.1

      You do realise Polly that the $4.8 mlln represents a very minor fragment of the required amount for remedying the exploitative nature of social relationships between South Auckland and Remuera? If Jonkey and crew are going to give something to the good ol’ brown boys they could at least give them enough to do the job……

      Then theres the Maori Party, in my Euro eyes a pack of traditional aristocrats lording it over their people, throwing them the scraps from their table after they have claimed the scraps from our table. If somebodies going to throw scraps I think the middle man needs cutting out…..

      • pollywog 1.1.1

        You do realise Polly that the $4.8 mlln represents a very minor fragment of the required amount…

        … if Jonkey and crew are going to give something to the good ol’ brown boys they could at least give them enough to do the job’s just enough to keep em fighting among themselves for the scraps while, above all else, key and the dipton fiddler are seen to be doing something about the underclass infestation in Auckland and the bluddy maaaris all over the place.

        token effort window dressed with a bit of lip service. They can fool some people sometime but…

  2. randal 2

    well according to hooton on the wireless this morning the national government has turned into government lite and is being run by a gang of juvenile liteweights in wellington so this is their post modern response.
    If you dont talk about it then it isnt true and doesnt exist.

  3. deemac 3

    excellent feature on Radio NZ Sunday morning programme yesterday about the Italian region of Emilia Romagna where co-ops (largely worker co-ops) dominate the economy and credit unions outnumber banks. As a result it scores high on quality of life, economic performance, lower differences between rich and poor etc etc compared to neighbouring regions eg Lombardy. Should be required listening for all Government ministers.

  4. Key’s labelling of an ‘underclass’ serves the rich by dividing the working class by turning them into taxpayers or taxabusers. He hasnt shut up about it just spread the load and passed the job to Basher Bennett whose job is to attack the ‘underclass’ as bludging on our taxes. Bennett herself is the aspirational model of the worker-made-good escaping the underclass. She has more street cred than John and his State House. But John hasnt taken his eye off the ‘underclass’. Instead of photo ops with young kids, he is promoting jobs for school leavers. Forcing them into 90 day fire at will jobs is premised on the need to rescue them from the ‘underclass’. Its a ruse for using the ‘underclass’ as a reserve pool of cheap labour being recyled through low paid jobs with no rights to drive down wages, encourage foreign investment and boost profits.

  5. just saying 5

    National, Labour, hell most of the country is doing exceedingly well at this particular post-modern conjuring trick. Nothing is allowed to penetrate the comforting myth that poverty and hardship are moral issues which can only be solved by ‘tough love’ (which always boils down to plain old tough!)

    The bigger the gap between rich and poor, the more the poor are disdained and blamed. To hear people talk you’d swear that the poor had caused the recession. The well off actually feel aggrieved and hard done-by in relation to the poor – I’ve heard them. And most of the working poor seem to believe that ‘welfare bludgers’ are blocking the road to their prosperity.

    • loota 5.1

      Kids ending up in crime too mate, nothing to do with a lack of opportunities, schooling or jobs, its a moral issue. Lock’m up!!!

      • just saying 5.1.1

        Exactly, those little bastards have had just the same opportunities as you or I, (more actually, there was none of this nanny state ‘working for families’ when we were kids). Problem is they’ve had it too easy, truth be known.

        And we all know what a cushy number prison is too – central heating, three square meals, free medical treatment, TVs, computers… it just goes on and on…….when what they need is a sharp shock to wake up their ideas. Discipline Loota, make em suffer.

        The whole problem with the underclass is the lifestyle. Once we stop them ‘living the dream’ they’ll pull their collective finger out.

        The poor must be made to suffer. TINA!

        ps We need to arm the police while we’re at it (safer communities together).

        • mcflock

          personally, I’m appalled at the fact we have child malnutrition in New Zealand. It’s their own fault for not eating, though! The nanny state police should taser the little buggers until they eat properly.

          • Bored

            Maybe Marie Antoinette Bennett has some spare cake?

          • ZB

            Child malnutrition. They eat fat, sugar and salt lashed with desiger pre-digested food! The joke is its cheaper to buy a bag of spuds and other assorted vegies (if the super market has post-heated them to making them last longer on the shelves)!

            No child should be stariving in NZ, its completely astonishing how from the top of financial and government right to the bottom of the under-class how few actually understand capitalism. Capitalism is not a mass movement like communism, its simple the individual getting together with other citizens and bartering for a better deal. Call them unions, call them credit unions, called them buying co-ops. They band together to lower the cost for all. And I just wish the ACT idiots, to the Maori idiots, would just teach their own that capitalism means the ACT party should fear every day that they peddle their individualist shit, and the Maori idiots should fear their Maori brothers and sisiters don’t wise up to their game either. Capitalism will set you free,
            will save Mother Earth, its just a matter of removing the National Socialists from parliament.

            Hitler is alive in the talk back coming from both left and right, and we need to reject him again.

  6. Rex Widerstrom 6

    Health and security may be top of the list, but we also thrive on community, fairness, bonding, altruism, playfulness and celebration. Hard-pressed politicians seeking inspiration would do well to look to these biological principles.

    But surely it’s all a matter of getting out of bed, putting on our optimistic faces, skipping our happy way down to the WINZ job board, and keeping our chin up through countless rejections (and even more countless no-replies-at-all)?

    It’s all about attitude and if we just do what Paula (allegedly) did and say “I know I can, I know I can” as we chug towards that next rejection then one day, we too could end up stomping on compassionately assisting others to rise to our heights?

    Errr, not according to no less an authority than Harvard University, which has concluded as the result of a study that emotions are transmitted like virsuses, by families and communities within 3.2 km of us.

    So corral the poor into low socio-economic suburbs and hopelessness, resentment and anger will spread like a disease.

    Oh but hang on, all we need to do is inject larger doses of those blue-uniformed microbes into the affected area and we’ll all be cured!!!

    Phew, I was worried there for a minute.

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