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Who Really is Judging the Poor?

Written By: - Date published: 2:46 pm, June 3rd, 2018 - 89 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, uncategorized, welfare - Tags: , , , ,

Families living in poverty, those who rely on food banks have internalised the overt, covert and inadvertent negative discourse that keeps the poverty conversation focused on individual blame, while ignoring the systemic causes of the problem.

Two incomes not enough for Christchurch family seeking food parcels’  is a headline that speaks volumes and is indicative of a trend that shows that more and more working families are struggling to make ends meet. This trend was identified in research as early as 2006.

Various charities  have been highlighting this issue for a number of years but it’s a trend that sees no sign of abating. Working families are struggling to survive in our low wage economy (thanks Bill English). While working families have been finding it really tough, those on benefits have been on the back foot since the 1990’s.  At that time benefits were cut and set at a rate that ensured that beneficiaries would not have access to an adequate diet. (Some experts suggest that these benefit cuts led to increased social problems). Despite supposed benefit increases in 2016, beneficiaries are no better off and Labour’s 2018 budget  does not go far enough to make much difference for those most in need. Some 500,000 people are left out of full participation in society and it does not appear that situation is going to change in any hurry.

While more and more working families are struggling and beneficiaries carry on coping with their lot in constant survival mode, there seems to be more emphasis on differentiating between the deserving  and the undeserving poor.  The judgements and assumptions come thick and fast about how easy beneficiaries have it in comparison to the working poor. For example:

I do not get any assistance from WINZ for anything as I am working. I would probably be better off financially on a benefit but I want to work

This implies that the benefit is adequate, it’s not. It also implies that those on benefits don’t want to work, they do.  That said, there’s enough evidence showing that even ‘hard work’ does not guarantee people a decent standard of living.

The article ‘Two incomes not enough for Christchurch family seeking food parcels’ provides another example of judgement  that can lead others to make generalisations about those needing food:

I’ve been to a house where they’ve been like ‘great, the food’s sorted. Now we can buy the grog’. You think ‘that’s not the purpose of why we’re here’

Those kind of statements help perpetuate stereotypes and myths about not only people who use food banks, but also about beneficiaries in general and a quick perusal of the comments section in those articles (if you can stomach it) confirms that.

These judgements or statements that justify the worthiness of recipients add to the overall stereotypes that those in need experience on a daily basis.  The sad thing is that you don’t have to search very hard to find example after example of the helping professions inadvertently perpetuating these uniformed beliefs and stereotypes.  It has reached the point that even those most in need resort to similar stereotyping and shame provoking discourse about others deemed less worthy than themselves (for example see this piece of research where food bank recipients were apt to judge other recipients as less deserving).

These type of judgements are internalised and research shows how this type of commentary leads to significant stigma and shame. Not only does that stigma and shame ensure that people in need are reluctant to seek help but it also leads to significant isolation, poor mental health, suicide and disengagement from society. On top of that, many of those experiencing poverty are the same populations that are subject to multiple oppressions in the Aotearoa New Zealand context ( see Giles, 2016).

I think it is time that the helping professions; the food banks, the ‘do gooders’ and  the people who claim they’re making some difference in the lives of others, simply stop and think before they speak. They need to ask themselves whether or not what they’re saying is contributing to the current dominant, anti-beneficiary, blame provoking discourse that plagues conversations around poverty.

Those commentators need to stop differentiating between the deserving and undeserving poor. Stop making stupid statements that poor people simply need to learn more skills (budgeting, cooking, shopping, gardening) to get by. Stop telling the public that their service makes sure those getting the help actually need it. (This simply buys into the myth that those fronting up to the charities are not really in need).  And finally stop individualising what is a systemic problem. I imagine if the ‘helping’ professions took a little more care about the conversations they’re putting out there, it may go some way toward minimising the impact of the negative stereotypes that dominate discourses about poverty.


89 comments on “Who Really is Judging the Poor? ”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Turn the stigma and shame around and direct it where it belongs: at the corrupt sociopaths who finance and otherwise enable the National Party. The authors of the hate speech documented in the OP.

    This isn’t happening by accident.

    • soddenleaf 1.2

      Personal responsibility. If only they took PR. That was the conclusion of a ntn podcast, after much study of criminals the guest declares they lacked PR, that society lacks this. No, not the wealthy collapsing the financial markets, but yet another bottom feeder, who seeks out the fallen, those clearly failed themselves and society, as examples of everyone else. Fact was had he studied the class of all drunks he talked about he’d find many were workibg off the evil they internalized whilst working in the financial sector. It’s not PR that’s the problem it’s society that disregards individuals for the greater growth of balance sheets. Those evil soft liberals aren’t the problem it’s the right-wing commentator pointing away from their own lack of personal culpability and at liberal progressive, who I must remind you, have be ousted from power for the last thirty years by neolib economics.

  2. Bill 2

    I wonder, in this world with its myth that one can “get ahead” if one merely chooses to, whether fucked over people have ever not internalised society’s general antipathy towards poverty and the poor?

    “Poor” is inferior and somehow lacking at the personal level (apparently).

    That judgement goes right back to the inception of liberal capitalism, and was one of the justifications used by the propertied members of society seeking to shape the world to their advantage. So we had ‘the rule’ that only those enjoying property rights could vote, because the fact they had property in a world that was guided by wholly neutral market forces, was illustration enough of their inherent superiority to those who didn’t have property.

    All that’s changed over the past near 200 years – attitudes around poverty, as your post illustrates, certainly haven’t – is that various discrete groups, that were formerly excluded from positions of formal power within capitalism have been co-opted, and arguably neutered as a result – women, workers, non-white skinned people…

    I believe there are some who would call that progress…

    • Stunned mullet 2.1

      There is little doubt that despite the conflict and other disasters over the last couple of centuries that in the main conditions for most of the world’s peoples have improved even those at the most disadvantaged, surely you have little appetite for a grea leap back in time to class war and the deprivations of a couple of hundred or more years ago.

      • Bill 2.1.1

        …in the main conditions for most of the world’s peoples have improved even those at the most disadvantaged

        That’s a crock of shit. For a start, your ideas of “improvement” are bound by western capitalist/consumerist/materialistic measures of “improvement” (and disadvantage) that have baselines that are oblivious to whatever measures various societies and cultures might have used to gauge well being or progress and what not.

        What the situation of many colonised peoples would have been today isn’t something we can even really punt at, given that so many cultures and their peoples were simply removed from the face of the planet altogether.

        And please, do yourself a favour and don’t be tempted to bang on about medical advances or technological advances, as though they would only ever have been possible in a capitalist context. Cheers.

        And not understanding the suggestion that class war is some historical artifact. Open your eyes. Look around.

        • Stunned Mullet

          I refer to the following datasets excellently presented by Hans Rosling.

          Your desperation to cling to the demonisation of all things capitalism and of the west are just but becoming a bit of bore.

          • adam

            Let’s reject logic of any strip, and call Bill a bore.

            Sheesh stunned mullet I knew you were a bit of a look at me, me, me. Even for you that comment is a loser move.

            Come on dude, if you can’t work out the capitalism has been quite destructive. You living with your head up your….

            I suppose I should put a list, or, like the others in rwjn collective, you will cry, or try to make a stupid joke.

            Puerto Rico
            South Africa
            Sierra Leone

            I’ll stop now, but the list is big.

            By the way, look up how capitalism stops technology in the name of profit.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.2

        The last ‘couple of hundred years or more’ also includes the Enlightenment and the resurgence of Democracy. The ‘New Deal’ was not a Capitalist priority no matter how you slice it.

        Not to mention the way limited liability companies are used to shield the owners of capital from the consequences of their behaviour; Chomsky: “Capitalism? Show me some!”

      • millsy 2.1.3

        I don’t know about you, but Chinese, Russians and Indians being able to buy KFC, McDonalds, jeans and TV’s doesn’t count as improving conditions (which seems to be the way to measure prosperity these days). Job protections, social services have been reduced over the past 30-40 years, and rents have quadrupled.

      • WILD KATIPO 2.1.4

        Stunned Mullet ( as always ) selectively chooses examples to suit the narrative. It is no coincidence that many of those peoples in nations in continents such as Africa ,South America or South East Asia often still live in the most rudimentary and destitute fashion. And they often do so because of western banking and capitalist interests.

        One doesn’t have to take a world cruise and travel far from the tourist destinations in those country’s to see the truth. Capitalism has done virtually nothing for those peoples lives. Running water? – a luxury . Medication from introduced diseases? – Often unheard of. And they die young and they die painfully.

        What SM is always talking about are the more prosperous examples of WESTERN nations.

        Which in turn displays the usual arrogant , self righteous and inherently self satisfied exclusiveness of that particular strain of thinking.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2

      To the extent that Calvinism predates Capitalism, it also has a lot to answer for.

      • humma 2.2.1

        Whats wrong with Calvinism? I was brought up in a Calvinistic household and think the grace, love and compassion shown by Calvinism can show us something in this day and age.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          because worldly success could be interpreted as a sign of eternal salvation

          Encyclopedia Brittanica.

          • Stuart Munro

            Calvinism brought an end to pretentions of divine right – judging by the knighting of silly Billy we could use a bit more of it.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Oh, did I mention it’s a mess of arrant mumbo-pocus? The divine right was mortally wounded by Magna Carta, not the competition between sky-fairies.

        • Grafton Gully

          “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
          Matthew 5:48

    • RedLogix 2.3

      For most of human history we sharply distinguished between trusted insiders and ‘others’. Those who failed to do so tended to get wiped out violently, selecting hard for those who were naturally suspicious of strangers or the unfamiliar. It’s strongly hard-wired into us to be naturally more attached to those we are familiar with, than others we can scarcely know.

      Yet despite this over the past few hundred years we have successfully broadened categories of insider quite remarkably, gradually peeling off the labels we have traditionally stuck to entire masses of people. At a formal level at least, we now regard all of humanity as essentially one species. All humans matter, we all count and none of us are ‘others’ any more.

      And at the same time our real measurable progress towards turning this formal moral ethic into reality, over any meaningful timeframe has also been astonishing. There are no parallels anywhere in our prior evolution I can think of.

      It goes without saying that such a monumental transition has been uneven, sticky and fraught with unexpected consequence … no sane person would argue the world is anything like nirvana. But we can point to a lot of good evidence that we have been generally heading in the right direction. By every measure the entire human race is at this point in time a LOT less violent, better educated, healthier, lives longer and enjoys at least a modest standard of living their great-grandparents might only dream of.

      In this view, ancient and absolute categories of class, race, gender and culture are disintegrating piecemeal, blurring their sharp edges, no longer standing as formal markers of exclusion. Therefore grounding a political philosophy on notions of arbitrary categories in an era when these mean less and less as each decade passes, is to my mind not an effective plan.

      Because while capitalism and technology combined are rapidly all but eliminating absolute poverty, there is no question relative poverty has greatly intensified at the same time. This contradiction generates a great deal of misunderstanding and heat. Each end of the political spectrum argues with considerable justification it’s own ideological view of this paradox; I’ve watched it rage here on and off for years; it goes nowhere and leads to no effective outcome.

      It seems to me at least, that eliminating gross extremes of wealth and relative poverty is the great unsolved moral challenge facing us as a species, but real change will not flow from these stale, positional debates. We should stop wasting time and energy on them and look elsewhere.

      • JanM 2.3.1

        An excellent and thoughtful piece, thank you RedLogix

      • koreropono 2.3.2

        “Each end of the political spectrum argues with considerable justification it’s own ideological view of this paradox; I’ve watched it rage here on and off for years; it goes nowhere and leads to no effective outcome”.

        I disagree. Challenging stereotypes, indeed raising people’s consciousness to social issues, or even their own plight is a valuable social work tool. For example when using narrative therapy or indeed consciousness raising techniques with client groups, there is nothing more satisfying when you see the ‘light bulb’ moment, that leads to measurable and effective outcomes at the individual, family and group level.

        On a mass scale it is important to challenge the status quo/the dominant ideology, lest we all become tarred with the same ideological brush placing financial gain over humanity (but that’s another story). I wonder what would have happened had Martin Luther King Jr not raised peoples’ consciousness or if the feminist movement had not gained momentum through dialogue, literature and action? A narrative was created back in the 1990s and that dialogue indoctrinated young and old alike. It continues to hurt disadvantaged groups. If that narrative goes unchallenged then people will only ever see things from one perspective. Thankfully the number of writers who challenge dominant ideology is proof that having these debates does lead to effective outcomes. I.e. more and more people challenging the status quo. The’ we are beneficiaries’ movement is proof of that.

        “We should stop wasting time and energy on them and look elsewhere”.

        And what would you suggest?

        • RedLogix

          Without gainsaying the value and importance of challenging conventional narratives, I do think we tend to get cause and effect inverted; or at the least we tend to overrate the political drama, while neglecting underlying causes.

          For instance consider slavery; a fixed and largely unquestioned feature of all human economic life for at least ten thousand years, yet utterly overturned within a century of the invention of the steam engine. Of course the abolition movement had something to do with it, but an underlying shift in technology certainly enabled the change.

          As for what I suggest? Certainly the left must continue to argue against relative poverty and gross inequality. But merely intensifying, further polarising a debate that has gone nowhere in decades will be counter-productive.

          We often use the metaphor of a ladder when thinking of the economic/social hierarchy. Using this metaphor as a tool suggests possible strategies; one to reduce the steepness of the ladder with the usual structural measures such as taxation and redistribution. Another is to reduce the spacing of the rungs on the ladder with more opportunity for education, healthcare etc, measures that put the next step clearly within reach.

          In broad terms these are the conventional left wing responses; all of which are helpful to some degree, but all of which seem to have real limits. Not the least of which is that they are so easily undone by the next Tory govt that comes along.

          The other possible way to see this problem is to consider how people on each rung of this metaphorical ladder can choose to both help and be helped by those immediately around them. In most ways this is an anti-political idea so I don’t expect it to be received well, but in essence I would argue the most permanent way to reduce inequality is matter of personal ethics. Also the impact of the internet has yet to play out; it may well play the key technological role that shifts the underlying ground, much as the steam engine did over 200 years ago.

          • Molly

            “For instance consider slavery; a fixed and largely unquestioned feature of all human economic life for at least ten thousand years, yet utterly overturned within a century of the invention of the steam engine. “
            Slavery hasn’t been overturned, just repackaged. I would go so far as to say, the lack of visibility makes it even more profitable and more unlikely to be stopped than during the abolition period. And while the invention of the steam engine might have contributed, but English slave owners didn’t give up without demanding compensation, which the British Treasury only finished paying off in 2015. Ironically, the lists for compensation provide the fullest archive for British slave ownership that exists.

            “The other possible way to see this problem is to consider how people on each rung of this metaphorical ladder can choose to both help and be helped by those immediately around them. “
            The problem with this idea, is that it requires a consensus on what achievements or values are placed on each rung. That is problematic.

            Is is an achievement to have become mortgage free at the age of forty, if by doing so you have contributed to the rising housing costs for others?
            Which rung are you on if you have increased the biodiversity of your land, but have done so on minimum wage?

            • KJT

              Repackaged is right.
              In fact, a youngster being forced by threat of a 13 week standown, from WINZ, to work for an inadequate wage, for a bullying, mean and capricious employer, fits the definition of slave labour, pretty neatly.

              Or the hospitality worker, paying his employer, so him and his extended family, can get residency.

            • RedLogix

              @ Molly

              Your interest link describing British compensation to slave owners demonstrates quite forcefully how deeply embedded the slavery was in our economic systems, and how entirely normal it was for so very long. But bluntly speaking the Industrial Revolution rendered slavery obsolete; machines were typically an order of magnitude faster and cheaper. Within decades slaves had no more labour value than horses were for transport by 1910.

              For the most part, of the abolitionists had simply waited a few more decades their battle would have been largely won for them by sheer economics .. and no compensation needed.

              Consider this, while there is no question the British abolition movement established an important ethical position and won a real political battle within the bounds of the British Empire … yet chattel slavery was on the decline in most parts of the world pretty much at the same time. You can quibble a few decades here and there, but in the context of ten thousand years of historic precedent, it vanished all at once.

              It gets the precedence wrong to say that the “steam engine contributed”, the link is more fundamental than this. The Industrial Revolution enabled the Abolitionists. The technology shifted the ground, which then opened the door for a political response.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Within decades slaves had no more labour value than horses were for transport by 1910.

                In other words, free-labour was cheaper.

                Think about that for second.

                And then consider that the rich blame the poor for being poor.

              • Molly

                “But bluntly speaking the Industrial Revolution rendered slavery obsolete; machines were typically an order of magnitude faster and cheaper. Within decades slaves had no more labour value than horses were for transport by 1910.”
                As DTB mentions above, that statement requires deeper thinking. And further exploration would make it apparent that if human rights were not part of the equation when abolishing slavery, then any future instance of free or cheap labour being required to make profits, would be considered a palatable option.

                As we can see with the prevalence of slavery today.

                Compensation was required, regardless, because those who benefitted from the exploitation of others, also held positions of influence, and used that influence to ensure further enrichment.

                “For the most part, of the abolitionists had simply waited a few more decades their battle would have been largely won for them by sheer economics .. and no compensation needed. “
                This comment really needs thinking about. Those lives, those individual lives you are so blase about, were not academic lives to those living them.

                You also imply that capitalism is fundamentally responsible for the improvement of lives, but ignore the lives, communities and cultures that have been destroyed by the pursuit of profit by capital holders. Which is also ongoing. Not to mention the destruction of the environment on a global scale.

                I would concede that there have been technological and scientific advances that have improved lives, but whether capitalism has hindered or hastened the equal distribution of those benefits is an ongoing discussion. I would tend towards the hinder side, myself.

            • greywarshark

              Red Logix
              What comfortable assumptions you make. And how easily you dismiss people’s distress when a life made by their own actions is taken away from them. Doesn’t matter, in the long run it will pan out, after your time though. Unlucky you.

              Because while capitalism and technology combined are rapidly all but eliminating absolute poverty,there is no question relative poverty has greatly intensified at the same time. This contradiction generates a great deal of misunderstanding and heat. Each end of the political spectrum argues with considerable justification it’s own ideological view of this paradox; I’ve watched it rage here on and off for years; it goes nowhere and leads to no effective outcome.

              Capitalism can intensify absolute poverty, and make death seem preferable to life. That thought of yours has maggots.

              For instance consider slavery; a fixed and largely unquestioned feature of all human economic life for at least ten thousand years, yet utterly overturned within a century of the invention of the steam engine. Of course the abolition movement had something to do with it, but an underlying shift in technology certainly enabled the change.

              Slavery always involves deprivation of something. But some slaves can be very well off, indeed some could earn enough to buy themselves out. They would be the exceptions. And being released from slavery can mean losing the protection of an owner valuing you as part of his/her resources. The blacks freed in the USA after their war became like the fox in the hunt, and likely to be beaten and strung up when caught. Red Logix you are dismissive of the individual here while you look at a broad history.

              The broad history of treatment by humans of each other is not served by dismissing bad behaviour. It is more likely to be elevated when there is better understanding along with some acceptance, and a vow to do better.

              • RedLogix

                Capitalism can intensify absolute poverty,

                Well no it hasn’t. In general terms quite the opposite. Globally the fraction of people living in absolute poverty has decreased dramatically from over 94% in 1820 to about 9% in 2018. In recent decades the rate has only accelerated to the point where just 30 odd countries account for almost all absolute poverty, and 2 of them, India and Nigeria for 40%.


                This doesn’t diminish or argue away the distress and suffering of those still trapped at the very bottom of the global heap wherever they may be, but in the overall context of history such a sustained, global and enduring economic shift has never happened before. Disentangling the relative contributions of the Enlightenment, science, engineering, technology and financial expertise makes for an interesting tangential debate, but arguably none of this remarkable transition would have been possible absent any single ingredient.

                Having said this; I’ve clearly stated (something you selectively omitted) that capitalism has paradoxically intensified relative poverty, which in it’s own turn is directly correlated with entire clusters of psychological and social ills. But to discuss this crucial matter intelligently, we need to be crystal clear on the distinction here, on the enormous problems capitalism has both solved and the new ones it has created. Progress is made by solving the real problems in front of us; not replaying old ones that exist primarily as emotional echoes, relics from prior centuries.

                Specifically I would argue the left should give away framing capitalism as the enemy; it is a social tool like any other, albeit powerful and prone to both great use and abuse. But on balance it has been an essential component of 200 years of astonishing progress; the world is not going to abandon it for all it’s flaws. Therefore we should bend our energies to adapting our use of this tool to solve the problems in front of us. And that I’d argue is a far more ambitious vision than anything a battered, outdated remnant Marxism might offer.

                • Stunned Mullet

                  Nice comment RL worthy of a post and enthusiastic discussion in its own right

                • greywarshark

                  I said that capitalism canintensify poverty. That shouldn’t be disagreed with as nothing is 100%. And quoting statistics gathered about people is pretty banal. Communism certainly does intensify relative poverty. Great improvements have been made in certain countries because of capitalism. But I think you may be considering material things mainly. But as for making people’s lives seem better, there is much unhappiness in countries that rate highly on a materialism ladder. So it is a mixed blessing. And that is reflected in the saying that problems aren’t solved by throwing money at them.

                  What we need is managed capitalism which would be far different to what we have been left with today. We also have to learn to work co-operatively and learn to plan. Running a democracy as a leader and and as a supporting citizen should be an important primary school course. How to organise a group that has a goal, an idea, and how to present it and carry it out. That would be good, children would enjoy that. Capitalism encourages the idea of being a worker. Many NZs have the idea that shopkeepers are wealthy and mini-capitalists and this is because they are so used to working for others. I struck this attitude when I had a small shop.

                  Capitalism also doesn’t encourage people to be participatory citizens, but likes the representative model. “We know what’s best, and will serve you well.” With a push the citizens can force consultation but may find it merely answers questions about the plan and ignores any requests and demands that the group involved all agree with and sometimes they may be wrong but have to be properly informed and aren’t.

                  I think citizens of Waiheke Island who wanted to stop a large marina being built there, having lost a case against it, have to pay $100,000 of costs. That is capitalism. There is a demand from wealthy boat owners, or people who are footloose and sample the world from their boat. So there is money to be made and whatever the residents had, they have no right to stop it being invaded for someone’s profit. It will be up to them to prise some of the profits to go towards amenities and to say fund a concert once a year as a booby prize. And that is what unbridled capitalism gives the ordinary Joe and Josephine in the end. At present it gives them overpriced housing and the whole life plan of a huge number of NZs that they could look forward to in past decades, has been swept away by the ugly capitalism adopted, this neoliberal capitalism

                  • RedLogix

                    And quoting statistics gathered about people is pretty banal.

                    I get it; every person on struggle street is someone with a story, usually a tough one. I think all of us here can either tell their own, or listened to them first hand.

                    And that is indeed the core of my argument above; if you are going to make a difference to people’s live the best way is one on one, personal and up-close. Intimacy and understanding the unique details of each individuals life sets the stage for the most effective transformations. This is the sense in which the personal is political, lives change one at a time.

                    But the tools for understanding the broader social picture, which is what I’m addressing, are different. Here is where numbers do matter, where data is king and statisticians are the princes of the modern world.

                    We’re both presenting two different ways to engage with the same thing; each has it’s place.

                    • Ad

                      The most effective moves against poverty still remain at the collective level, and that is the only way to sustain the right kind of capitalism.

                      It’s moves like increasing benefits such as Working For Families, increasing the minimum wage, and making the Living Wage a full policy that will lift people out of poverty fastest.

                      Another is in collective wage and salary agreements. With the decline of unions, the New Zealand government is now stepping directly back into industry-wide award agreements. Believe it or not, this initiative is going to be led by Jim Bolger (!)

                      Making a difference in people’s lives is at least as hard as you suggest. But each person in deep relative poverty has a large set of issues that got them there.

                      Those issues of poverty are addressed in the collective by institutions, and often multiples of them, because it is only institutions that have the specialist capacity and longevity to bring that assistance to bear long enough and broad enough to enable people.

                      Arguing for state institutions strong enough and interrelated enough to address poverty is not an argument against capitalism. It is an argument that the only bearable kind of capitalism is one in which collectivist institutions – such as the institutions of the state – are strong enough to sustain society.

            • tracey

              Well said

          • koreropono

            RedLogix you raise some interesting points but Molly then counters some of those with valid points that I agree with.

            When you say that “people on each rung of the metaphorical ladder can choose to both help and be helped by those immediately around them” are you referring to community development and localising support at various levels? If so, I kind of agree ( there’s a whole other debate sitting here too), but in order to do that there needs to be a level of raising critical consciousness to help people move past the indoctrinated bullshit of the last 30 odd years.

            Which brings me to this point, when you say “the conventional left wing responses; all of which are helpful to some degree, but all of which seem to have real limits. Not the least of which is that they are so easily undone by the next Tory govt that comes along”. When you refer to ‘the conventional left’ I am not sure who you mean, if you’re talking political thought and agendas I don’t see either of the dominant political parties as anything other than agents of the status quo, and there is certainly nothing left about that.

            • RedLogix

              Yes that certainly fits within the very wide bounds of what I was thinking of. Essentially we need to transform the enormous challenge of relative poverty from a political battle into an ethical one. In the past decade the ground has shifted dramatically; we now have excellent hard data and research that clearly establishes why gross inequality is bad for everyone.

              With a global economy well on the way to eliminating absolute poverty (https://humanprogress.org/article.php?p=770) we now face a radical and very significant psychological transition. For all of our eovlution most humans lived in extreme poverty; life was pretty much always a zero sum game, if one person won it was usually seen to be at the expense of someone else.

              We now live in a world where this is no longer an absolute truth. An entirely new possibility arises where the more individuals do better, the more everyone does better. Adapting to this new paradigm demands a deep shift in how we view the world. I deliberately chose to draw a parallel with the abolition of slavery; the underlying shifts in both technology AND our collective ethical outlooks are very similar.

              From our vantage point in 2018 we find it hard to imagine how anyone tolerated chattel slavery; we find it morally repugnant regardless of our political outlook. Yet our ancestors, who were really no less human than us, universally considered slavery perfectly normal, desirable even, for millennia. Right here we can point to an example of a deep psychological and ethical shift within the purview of our own recent history. The human ability to adapt to new circumstance is something we can depend on; IF we approach it correctly.

              Of course the transition from slavery was not easy, the Industrial Revolution came with it’s own challenges and awfulness, but crucially we can look back to see how we clearly evolved from one ‘status quo’ to another one small step at a time. The process was complex and messy, but it didn’t involve tearing the whole mess down to rubble in the hope something nice would arise in it’s place. (The French tried but most of the rest of the world looked on in horror and determined not to repeat.)

              Because the ‘status quo’ is not so carelessly dismissed; it may well fall short of some hypothetical ideal, but it is what we have and it isn’t all bad. If it really were so god awful neither of us would be safely typing this out with full stomachs and warm feet.

              The great challenge of inequality is primarily a psychological, ethical and social challenge; the political front is necessary but not central to establishing enduring change. That means winning minds and hearts, reaching out and expanding the left’s influence, persuading and transforming across the entire political spectrum. Huddling in politically radical ghettos hurling ideological invective just doesn’t feel like an effective plan.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.3.3

        But we can point to a lot of good evidence that we have been generally heading in the right direction.

        This is true but is it true due to capitalism?

        Capitalists have been against the removal of slavery, legislation against discrimination on race or gender, and pretty much every other ‘progressive’ action taken.

        • KJT

          I am sure all those African, Chinese and Mexican small farmers, who have been ‘rescued from poverty by capitalism” really appreciated losing their income, and having to migrate to city slums, in the hope of work.

          Rising average GDP, is not actually a measure of poverty reduction. like all right wing stats, it ignores the reality of a few doing well, while many are worse of.

    • soddenleaf 2.4

      Personal responsibility. If only they took PR. That was the conclusion of a ntn podcast, after much study of criminals the guest declares they lacked PR, that society lacks this. No, not the wealthy collapsing the financial markets, but yet another bottom feeder, who seeks out the fallen, those clearly failed themselves and society, as examples of everyone else. Fact was had he studied the class of all drunks he talked about he’d find many were workibg off the evil they internalized whilst working in the financial sector. It’s not PR that’s the problem it’s society that disregards individuals for the greater growth of balance sheets. Those evil soft liberals aren’t the problem it’s the right-wing commentator pointing away from their own lack of personal culpability and at liberal progressive, who I must remind you, have be ousted from power for the last thirty years by neolib economics.

      • tracey 2.4.1

        Like when Simon Bridges blames ‘dud advice’ and 44% of voters nod and think “ bloody advisors”

  3. North 3

    Dear Stunned Mullet…..a bottle of ugly plonk for your thick as non-sequitur rhetorical “…..surely you have little appetite for a grea leap back in time to class war and the deprivations of a couple of hundred or more years ago.”

    Talk about missing the very essence of the post !

    I guess it’s a waste of breath to remind you that we don’t have to look back a couple of hundred years to see a real, live, enduring class war going on.

    Taking another approach, your stupidity actually underlines the point you’ve missed. So thank you I guess.

    • Stunned mullet 3.1

      Dear North good to see you’re still about and as noisome a cunt as always.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1

        North has a point. If the way the most vulnerable members of our society are treated isn’t a “class war” then the definition of “class war” needs refreshing.

        “Ferals”, “underclass”, “lazy and stoned”, “personal responsibility”, “don’t you know who I am?” Not to mention the Iwi/Kiwi racism that goes along with it.

        This is what a class war looks like.

        • TheBlackKitten

          Your comments really do annoy me as all I see is a lot of bitterness when ones opinions does not agree with your ideology 1000 percent. Why don’t you offer constructive alternatives instead of getting so bitter towards those that have different opinions to yours.
          Here I will give you some help. Tell me ONB, what would you do about poverty if you were the Prime Minister of NZ. Now please try not to be nasty and personel in your reply. You may gain some respect by doing that.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Can you point to the “nasty, personal” aspect of the comment you responded to?

            Didn’t think so.

            I’m a big fan of predistribution: raising wages (including the MW) is a number one priority. That means stronger unions and more labour inspectors. In extreme cases, Mr. Peter Talley should have his assets seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, pour discourager les autres.

            Obviously benefits need to rise to a dignified level.

            Embed the BoRA in our constitution (such as it is), re-assert the rule of law. Enforce both far more stringently than at present.

            None of this is rocket science: all you have to do is look at the policies of countries doing a better job than we are. None of this should be news to anyone, since these are positions I’ve held and articulated for years.

            Perhaps you (somehow) managed to only read the comments I use to hold a mirror up to the National Party.

          • WILD KATIPO

            @ TheBlackKitten

            … ‘ and as noisome a cunt as always ‘ …

            I fail to see how OAB was as ” so bitter towards those that have different opinions to yours ” … compared to Stunned Mullet.

            You really must have peculiar ( and selective double ) standards, mate.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 3.1.2

        A revealing judgement – takes one to see/label one? You must be fair busting with pride.

      • Gabby 3.1.3

        Why’s that good to see stunted munter? What item of genitalia are you?

      • greywarshark 3.1.4

        stunned mullet
        Control your choice of language.

  4. Ad 4

    Well written.

    As the headline NZ unemployment heads down to 4%, at some point employers are going to have to pay New Zealanders in other firms a whole bunch more.

    Employers are also going to have to incentivise more and more; like in-work daycare, paying to get them drivers licenses, subsidized accommodation, free HOP cards to get to work, paying them to complete advanced literacy and trades training. The pressure is on employers to really persuade potential workers to commit to those work places.

    • Stuart Munro 4.1

      I’ll believe that when I see it.

      The lack of response in real wage terms to supposedly historically low unemployment levels suggest that the stats are less than bankable. A true low unemployment rate will see rises beyond government lifting of minimums.

      We’ve some way to go to restore the credibility of govt statistics after a decade of deliberate misrepresentation.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      The pressure is on employers to really persuade potential workers to commit to those work places.

      No it’s not.

      As the headline NZ unemployment heads down to 4%, at some point employers are going to have to pay New Zealanders in other firms a whole bunch more.

      More likely that they’ll complain about ‘skill shortages’ to the government and import people to keep wages down. As they have been doing for years.

      free HOP cards to get to work

      The government should get that happening now by the simple expedient of having employers pay for peoples travel to and from work to home.

      • tracey 4.2.1

        When “chef” is now one of our top “skill” shortage occupations that system is beyonf broken

    • tracey 4.3

      Why? We have had cycles of good and bad times for the last 40 years and tge only wages consistently going up are CEOs and MPs. And when the former do wrong they get million dollar payouts to leave and when MPs do wrong they get voted back

  5. AsleepWhileWalking 5

    In your first link (Two incomes not enough)

    In an average week, Kylie* and her partner might take home a combined $620 after tax. In a tough week it could be less than $300.

    The Christchurch mother said she did not receive any Government support or tax cuts to help her and her partner raise their two children, aged 8 and 5.

    These people don’t need budgeting advice, they need tax advice.

    It pisses me off that it is assumed people with low incomes should proceed through life with material disadvantage because they remain ignorant of what they can claim.

    Canada has a very successful program teaching refugees and poor about their tax system so they can get some upward mobility going. We need this too.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 5.1

      They charity *helping* them should have mentioned family tax credit. Its not judging, its discerning.

    • koreropono 5.2

      Maybe Kylie needs less support with tax advice but some support around changing her thinking. For example I wonder why she felt guilty about taking her kids for a free haircut? Was it because she thinks that only those who look homeless are deserving of it?

      Kylie “said she did not receive any government support or tax cuts” she then goes onto say “I just kind of like to do it on my own. I shouldn’t really do it the hard way but I don’t like to seek too much help”. I wonder why she chooses not to get the Working for Families Tax credits? Perhaps the answer lies in being indoctrinated in to believing that only certain kinds of people get this help? Is part of the problem that particular narratives are designed to make people feel guilty, or bad about receiving government support?

      Some of New Zealand’s more extreme right wing commentators are pretty good at making the Kylies of the world feel like bludgers if they seek support from Government sources.

      • tracey 5.2.1

        Excellent point. The villification of our poor and vulnerable has achieved its purpose self loathing silence and a desire not to be similarly tainted

  6. Zorb6 6

    Predatory lending as per the former Westpac executive and Equiticorp thief Allan Hawkins companies recently fined $720,000 ,have a huge impact on the poor.
    He should have been given another 6 years and not allowed out from 6.am to 6 p.m like when he did his last lag.
    Plenty more like him doing the same thing.Enticing the unsophisticated ,financially illiterate into ludicrous loans with eyewatering interest rates and penalties swamping people with unpayable debt.

  7. Observer Tokoroa 7

    There is no problem – but Capitalism

    No Government has to borrow money.
    no family has to struggle

    All essentials such as Housing must have capped pricing
    All Rentals must have capped pricing
    All essential food items must have capped pricing
    All Energy must belong to Government
    All Waters must belong to Government
    All Land must belong to to Government
    Air lines and their Routes belong to the Government
    All earnings above a given agreed Amount, must be returned to the Nation

    We have tried the idea of tossing every important thing to the greed of greedy. Ii has failed everywhere. Only pathetics such as Hosking and Espiner and Soper believe in crucifying the poor. Garner too.

    In return, No man or Woman shall receive anything unless they work for the good of everyone. Every worker, from Professional down to Untrained shall be responsible for their effort

    Share Holders shall not have any protection. Because Banks offer no protection to their Clients – there is no point in giving Share holders anything.

    Very Nordic – Yes. And very sane

    Just look at the mess National is in. They are positively vile. Evil in fact.

  8. TheBlackKitten 8

    Several issues contribute towards this issue and neither political party addresses them. The right wing label poverty as being lazy and the the left label it as not enough welfare when neither are the correct answers.
    The white elephant in the room that no political party addresses is that there is not enough jobs for everyone. NZ employers do not invest in any training and we are all paying international prices for food and housing which are essential living costs but we do not receive international wages. Sorry but NZ employers need a kick up the arse on issues of competitive wages and training to upskill the NZ workforce. Going to tech and getting a diploma does not give people the skills that on the job training does. All it achieves is high loans that need to be paid back and holds the young back financially. Importing migrants from poor countries desperate to stay in NZ and who will work for low wages and crappy conditions does not help the poor or improve the living standard for NZers. These issues only benefit rich business.
    We are been gouged the living daylights out of what we pay for basic essentials. I have not seen one NZ political party address the issue of why we pay the prices we do for food. Why does a bottle of milk cost what it does in the supermarket? What are the costs involved in getting milk from the cow to the supermarket? I suspect if this was investigated that you would find a lot of price gouging and ticket clipping involved.
    We now live in a global economy where third world countries that have poor working conditions have taken away a lot of unskilled work. This contributes to less jobs. Less jobs means the ones that are available can decide the terms and will offer as little as they can get away with.
    The real solution to poverty is lots of jobs with opportunity to upskill that won’t result in high students loans that will hold you back financially for the rest of your life.

    • Stunned mullet 8.1

      Don’t come here and talk sense you’ll be villified.

      • WILD KATIPO 8.1.1

        The problem is you never have. And neither has your little buddy TheBlackKitten.

        Have a read , both of you.

        Get an education for once.

        New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?

        • WILD KATIPO

          My apologies to TheBlackKitten.

          Indeed there are a few things that are correct in your above post. I consider myself corrected. However , I would be careful in future in defending the arrogance of Stunned Mullet,… whose views appear diametrically opposed to what you speak about.

    • tracey 8.2

      How would you address an aging and top heavy popukation tgat has close to, if not, negative growth, without immigration?

  9. Tricledrown 9

    Greed is a survival instinct nature is about the strongest smartest exploiting the resources.
    Those who miss out die leaving the strongest to breed to carry on the species.
    This basic instinct is the “heart” ironically of right wing monetarism.
    Civilization has not changed human behaviour to look out for the weak ,poor,disadvantaged .
    Fighting against nature’s pyramid scheme trying to undo it has been a failure harnessing it to benefit a wider spread of people is the best we can do.
    Pure capitalism Pure Communism are both failures.
    Balance of the 2 Dogmas works best.
    Ying and Yang push and pull competing dogmas delivers balance.
    Since the collapse of feudal communism capitalism has got more selfish and nasty.

  10. Observer Tokoroa 10

    Lol Stunned Mullet Lesson

    I hate teaching people anything, especially Kiwis, because they are the best and the greatest Wonderkind in the whole World. They Know and do everything.

    I am a Kiwi and I know for a fact – that as long as I can fart I am an educated New Zealander.

    But Canberra owns the Land. Yes. Get stunned Mullet. Canberra owns. the land.

    It allows or disallows people to build or not to build according to the Intentions of the Australian Capital Territory Authority.

    Or do you still think that Stalin did that . ?

    Now your good mate Hosking and Pigtails Key, will say it cause erections in there fronts and is very bad. For they want to take all the land for themselves and put it in their coffins when the (hopefully) pass on peacefully.

    I have one more little thing for you to consider Good old Mullet ?

    Would you explain, to all of us Kiwis how it is that that more and more money goes to fewer and fewer people. There are Millions of stupid econo mists strolling around doing sweet all, who never explain why money is a wayward treachery.

    It has no value because it favours fewer and fewr persons. Stick that up your treasured Mullet good man.

  11. Leonhart Hunt 11

    Really good write up, Ive been looking at how we got into this mess as it directly affected me, Its really heartbreaking to be stereotyped as a “bludger” or the most recent “drug use” (MSD testing show beneficiary drug use as 0.005%) “iphone’s” or “doesn’t want to work” (which is just stupid as the data show we do) excuse for treating my kind as less than human. Even though I am no longer unemployed I am still broken by what msd did to me and I doubt I will ever fully recover.

    Ive written before about the issues I had with MSD including being prosecuted for benefit fraud for simply living in the same flat with another person, (I plead guilty for various reasons, mostly because you can’t really oppose their judgments, MSD has a 97% win rate) was sentenced to Home D (completed) and community work (completed) as well as reparations (five grand already payed back, btw to me I consider this me paying back my unemployment benefit for the time I was on it, like a loan instead of “fraud” because no matter what they say I still maintain I did not lie on my applications over weather i had a partner or not, because I don’t.) 1/2 of the total amount, this week took another turn MSD contacted me to pay the other 1/2 of the reparations (you know that bit that the judge reduced based on means and liability) apparently MSd doesn’t agree with this, instead of challenging it in court they (according to them) have the power to recover funds that are beyond what a court has deemed. which I of course can’t pay because Im paying reparations which the amount I set at all the spare money I have, this doesn’t matter to MSD, its pay up or else.

    Oh and did anyone read the report on RNZ about ACC vs MSD prosecutions? ACC last year prosecuted 4 people, MSD 644 people, ACc handles a large fraud case load and pretty much identical situations.

    there’s good news though I have been in contact with the Hon Carmel Sepuloni, unfortunately I do not have permission to discuss what I have been talking about or her replies in any detail but “changes are coming”, hopefully they will be the ones we need so desperately because so many things in our society are affected directly by social services and we need a functioning system that is fair and accessible to all.

    • tracey 11.1

      Thanks for your comments. Gordon Campbell addressed so many welfare myths in his piece a few years ago at Werewolf. Sadly when some read tge facts they suppress it and continue on believing the dross they are tossed to keep tgem feeling confy. Bridges did it again by tossingctge 44% ‘dud advice’. A most BS of BS justification but the 44% seem pleased to have something to blame so that

      A. Nats are not held to account
      B. They dont feel foolish about being misled, again and again and again

      Fool you once shame on me fool you dozens and dozens of times, shame on you. The Nats strategy of Crosby Texter etc plays on people not wanting to admit they are wrong. Who wants to look foolish? So feed them more BS

  12. Jackel 12

    Capitalism is just a generic term that means market conditions exist at a particular place and time. It can also include predator investment banks, the debt system and money as a commodity. It’s just what you get when you let the cards fall by default. There is a non zero probability a better system exists. Why has no one thought of one. Well, better the devil you know but in time this too shall pass. Perhaps when we learn to be a bit more humane towards each other.

    • Leonhart Hunt 13.1

      No, this person is a con-person a deliberate fraudster, not undeserving poor, tenancies really need a centralised database that records all Tenancy agreements and how they ended to stop people like this, but even these people are deserving of assistance.

      • Antoine 13.1.1

        More undeserving poor, http://gisborneherald.co.nz/localnews/3167780-135/rental-nightmare-on-elgin-street

        (And yes I do understand there’s plenty of undeserving rich too)

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Where are you going with this nasty divisive crusade of yours? What’s it meant to prove other than that you’re a low-life?

          • Antoine

            I’m pointing out that the distinction between undeserving and deserving poor is still useful. Just like the distinction between undeserving and deserving rich.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              It’s useful to low-life sociopaths, sure.

            • koreropono

              @Antoine – the only people who find isolated and limited examples useful, are those who like to create stereotypes to justify the vilification of certain types of people. Those stereotypes are then used to justify the mistreatment of those groups.

              It’s a bit sad that bias leads certain kinds of people to constantly seek out information that will confirm their preconceived and bigoted ideas. I think this happens because certain kinds of people don’t have the capacity for critical thinking. I think we should pity those people, whereas others think those kind of people are just arseholes.

              • Antoine

                You can call me an arsehole and a sociopath if you like; I call it being able to tell the difference between one thing and another. If you want to discard that ability then go for it, but I think it’s part of what makes us human.


                • koreropono

                  @Antoine maybe some reading comprehension lessons wouldn’t go amiss either.

                  While stereotypical thinking is the brain’s shortcut and strategy to filter information and could be simply classified as ‘being human’, faulty ‘thinking’ develops when people don’t learn to develop other skills and processes within the brain, like critical thinking.

                  It is simplistic to assume that people can simply ‘discard’ our human inclination to form stereotypes, particularly when it is hardwired into the brain to help us manage large volumes of information. It becomes faulty and problematic when people do not develop other the skills to question their unconscious biases. It becomes problematic and harmful to others when people, such as yourself, rely on erroneous or biased information to either denigrate and vilify others or perpetuate those steretypes. Bias, whether conscious or not, means that people, such as yourself, will tend toward seeking out information that confirms their preconceived prejudices. Sure some poor people are bad, so are some rich people. Some commentators on TS are are stupid but it doesn’t mean they all are. Which category do you fall into?

                  • Antoine

                    Suggest you redirect your energy from thinking of elaborate ways to be snarky to me, to something useful


        • Leonhart Hunt

          That link shows the normal bias towards renters/poor note the comment at the end by the letting companies “5 – 10 percent of renters do this” the hard data show only 5% of rental agreements go to the TT (I cannot imagine landlords not taking this damage to the tt) so this would mean even at the lowest of what this agent says would be all cases taken to the TT, which Is simply not true.

          Completely tratshing a place is very rare, and almost always makes the news there has been only one other published case like this so far this year.

          • Antoine

            I don’t say this behaviour is common.


            • Leonhart Hunt

              I didn’t say you did, and we do need a better way of dealing with issues like this but still not undeserving of help. its pretty clear from the story linked that the person when though a mental health crisis, especially with being a “good” tenant for so long, subletting is usually not allowed in rental agreement (but not all have it spelled out) and the original tenant may not have been the one that trashed the place.

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