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datePosted on 07:31, November 23rd, 2011 by Lew

The other day David Farrar got in a pre-emptive whinge about Bryan Bruce’s Inside New Zealand documentary on child poverty that aired last night on TV3 (you can watch it on demand if you missed it).

Maybe the outrage expressed by David and others of his ilk is somewhat justified. This is not a grey, respectful, nominally-neutral sort of a work; it’s an impassioned and at times ideological work of advocacy arguing that New Zealand society, and in particular its governments, ought to be ashamed at the circumstances many of our children live in, and a significant portion of that burden of shame can be directly linked to the policies of National governments. It airs four days before the general election. The Labour and Green parties bought lots of advertising during it.

So if David or anyone else wants to bring a BSA complaint against the broadcaster, or — as David implies by calling it a “free hour” for Labour — if he wants to complain to the Electoral Commission that the documentary should have included an authorisation statement as a campaign advertisement, then I think they should do so. Fair enough, if they can make something stick.

But consider the response: a documentary about child poverty, covering the appalling housing, health and nutritional outcomes borne by children in our society, and the immediate response is to launch a ideological defence of the National party and deride the work as nothing but partisan propaganda. But an interview Bruce gave to Glenn Williams (aka Wammo) yesterday, before the screening, contained the following exchange:

Wammo: “Politically, though, it’s tough, isn’t it, to remove that money from the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and put it at the top.”
Bruce: “Politically?”
Wammo: “Yeah.”
Bruce: “This is not a political question, this is an ethical and a moral question. We all have to get together and figure out how we’re going to solve this, and what I’d like to see is a commitment from all the politicians that, after the election, whatever shade of colour they are, they sit down and talk about this and come up with a long-term plan for our children, just in the same way as we came up for the over-65s with our superannuation. The only problem is kids can’t vote.”

Yeah, it’s election week, and yeah, Labour are emphasising their poverty alleviation focus on the back of this documentary. But I haven’t heard a peep out of National about what they plan to do about the problems since it aired. Isn’t it more telling that National and its proxies immediately and reflexively go on the defensive, rather than acknowledging the problems of child poverty and renewing its commitment to resolving them? As Bruce makes clear to anyone who actually watches the film, the root cause is a bipartisan commitment to trickle-down neoliberalism over the past 30 years, and indeed, the illness and malnutrition that affects these children did not happen in the past three years; these were problems under the last Labour government as well.

But National are the government now, and their defensiveness, I think, signals that they know they bear some responsibility for child poverty. And yet they’re apparently not willing to do much about it, beyond the tired old saw of “a rising tide lifts all boats”, and announcements that they will further constrict the welfare state to force the parents of these sick children to seek jobs that aren’t there. (And yes; National bought time during the documentary as well: the “cracking down on benefit fraud” ad was a particularly cynical form of irony.)

They’d rather whinge about media bias and electioneering, casting themselves as victims, than concede the problem and tell us what they plan to do about the victims of their policies. That’s what I call impoverished.


33 Responses to “Impoverished”

  1. Russell Brown on November 23rd, 2011 at 09:09

    They’d rather whinge about media bias and electioneering, casting themselves as victims …

    The rolling around the floor pretending to be victims is, I confess, really getting on my tits.

  2. mike smith on November 23rd, 2011 at 09:10

    Neoliberalism as a cause? Oh yes! I just wish we could get many more NZers to grasp the inequality it causes to our society.

  3. Paul Le Comte on November 23rd, 2011 at 09:57

    That was one of the most depressing shows on TV I have ever witnessed. Anyone dumb or disingenuous enough to play political football with that post the show, demonstrates a complete lack of compassion for the plight of those affected by poverty. The irony is that continued degradation of those living in poverty actually has a greater cost on all of us, in that our Health & Welfare spend increases.

    I am sick of people saying “Oh, Labour” or “But National’s no better”, in my view they are all morally repugnant. There has been a rapid (not gradual) change in the social/political/economic make-up of NZ, in which in 25 short years we have created a New Zealand so far removed from our Kiwi Imagination, that when presented with such evidence we don’t even recognise this as us.

    This is equally an indictment on both the left and the right in NZ, and to say otherwise is completely disingenuous. The situation is so bad, yet the remedies are so blindingly obvious, yet successive political meddling (indeed blame asserting on the actual victims) will NEVER achieve anything but a perpetuation of the current situation.

    I am sick to death of the left saying, trust our tinkering, and conversely continually repulsed at the right saying they have the answers and it’s in the markets. Bullshit, they are all partaking ideological chest beating, and the ONLY victims here are the children we don’t need to look in the eye every night.

    When you have extremely successful and knowledgeable people like Gareth Morgan telling us point blank that it’s economically better for us to fix the problem that continue to sweep it under the table, and that is without ideological bias, how is it we ignore this.

    The time has come that all previous ideas and failed policies must be ripped up and that the primary focus in this country is the health, wellbeing and education of our most precious commodity – the children. Because, void of political ideology, we all know that happy healthy children, learn and live well, and the winner is New Zealand.

    The Bullshit must stop TODAY!

  4. WH on November 23rd, 2011 at 10:06

    “The situation is so bad, yet the remedies are so blindingly obvious,”

    Please enlighten me on the blindingly obvious. Note reasonable people can reasonably disagree and there are lot of reasonable people I know that have reasonably good arguments for there position.

    In policy land, things are often less blindingly obvious.

  5. Russell Brown on November 23rd, 2011 at 10:58

    Couple of relevant things:

    Bruce strongly contests the HoS’s report that he took the doco to TV3 and demanded it be screened in election week. It doesn’t work that way, as anyone in screen production will tell you.

    Bruce offered advance screenings to major and minor parties so they wouldn’t be blindsided by it. National and United Future declined to watch it.

  6. PhilC on November 23rd, 2011 at 10:58

    Very interesting programme last night – featuring the town I live in – that explained the problem and gave some solutions, which came across to me as;
    create an effective Ministry for Children and deliver assistance directly to the children, via free school meals and free health care (not rocket science; it’s the system I grew up with).
    And how to pay for this?
    Re-direct the Working for Families budget directly to the children’s meals, re-direct the WINZ payments from the unemployed / DPB to the now-employed wages for school ‘lunch ladies’ (as they were called in my day) and re-apportion the Health budget from the treatment of long term debilitating illnesses to illness prevention in schools.
    Do the dollars stack up?
    I don’t know, but so long as the different ministries bat the problem from department to departtment and don’t look at the problem holistically then nothing is going to progress.

  7. Russell Brown on November 23rd, 2011 at 11:02

    In policy land, things are often less blindingly obvious.

    I thought that was a weakness of the documentary. Presenting the solution as simple isn’t necessarily helpful.

  8. Sanctuary on November 23rd, 2011 at 11:06

    David Farrar’s response should hardly take anyone by surprise. He is, after all, nothing more than a self-aggrandizing political courtier. As such, he moves in the corridors of power for exclusively selfish and self interested reasons. He seeks personal benefit – through fat contracts for his polling company, Curia – and he seeks benefits for factions of privilege in our society he sees himself as a member of. What interest then, beyond self-interst, should we expect David Farrar to have in child poverty? Unlike those involved in politics as citizens who seek the common good, David Farrar is motivated only by self-interest. Of course, he is JUST a courtier – so, to quote Ralston-Saul, his “…agitation is filled with the bitterness and cynicism typical of courtiers who scramble for crumbs at the banquet tables of real power, but are always denied a proper chair…”

    As for the rolling on the floor, playing victim – the middle class as victims is deeply ingrained in the National Party brand. People talk about Key as a “celebrity” prime miniser, but whose celebrity? National party propaganda has got a huge number of the middle class, economic winners from three decades of neo-liberalism, convinced they are an embattled and oppressed group in the culture wars.

    Paul Le Comte above notes “…There has been a rapid (not gradual) change in the social/political/economic make-up of NZ, in which in 25 short years we have created a New Zealand so far removed from our Kiwi Imagination, that when presented with such evidence we don’t even recognise this as us…” and I agree. There is a massive cognitive dissonance in this country. Huge numbers of New Zealanders over forty simply refuse to believe the evidence in front of them, and they don’t much like media which challenges these views.

  9. Lew on November 23rd, 2011 at 12:08

    Paul, welcome.

    While I agree with many of your sentiments, I don’t agree that the policy prescription is obvious. I think one (arguably very good) policy prescription is obvious, and that in the absence of other credible solutions that’s clearly better than the status quo. But I think what would be better is just what Bruce calls for: a bipartisan commitment to addressing the problem of child poverty, an agreed, enduring policy strategy. That can only happen if parties stop treating it as a political football, and particularly in the case in point, if the Nats stop pretending the problem will just go away if the economy gets sprinkled with more laissez-faire pixie dust.

    One of the most crucial points made in the documentary was the Swedish doctor who had previously practiced in New Zealand — I forget her name — who said that Sweden had a very “thick” societal infrastructure around child welfare, whereas in New Zealand a change of government sees the entire system torn down and rebuilt from scratch (or, more realistically, not really rebuilt at all). So on the one hand I think initiatives like Whānau Ora, and deeper involvement from civil society and community agencies could be beneficial; while on the other hand I think this must remain squarely within the ambit of central government, since it is a shared responsibility, and bad outcomes cost us all in the long term.

    For this sort of social infrastructure to become politically sacred — for it to become resistant to short-term partisan tinkering — requires fundamental commitment and broad agreement on the nature of the problem, its causes and its general solutions. In my view the reason this is absent is due to the phenomenon that many commentators, including Pablo in this forum, have long lamented: the lack of deep, strategic vision within New Zealand’s intellectual and political community. It is depressingly congruent that poverty should be the consequence of such an impoverished discourse. That’s a really hard problem to solve, and not one that’s going to be solved this election. Though it would be nice to make a start.


    I know your schtick is to play the man, but even though I’ve been critical of David’s response in my post, the point is not to attack him. Your last two pars are better, can you concentrate on that?


    Fascinating — and rather damning — that National and UF declined to view the programme. None so blind, etc.


  10. Chris Webster on November 23rd, 2011 at 12:14

    Poverty and hunger in NZ is suddenly NOT news.

    The literature on poverty viz: John A Lee’s Children of the Poor, the 1972 Royal Commission on Children, the 2004 writings of Brian Easton and others like the Children Action Poverty group who sued the crown in an effort to get parity fairness and justice for children but failed – is voluminous.

    For Paul Le Comte: “That was one of the most depressing shows on TV I have ever witnessed. Anyone dumb or disingenuous enough to play political football with that post the show, demonstrates a complete lack of compassion for the plight of those affected by poverty’.

    I am pleased / glad / happy that you were depressed – we all should be. The lack of compassion is not wanted.

    What is wanted and needed is positive action by this and yesterdays and tomorrow’s politicians – glossy brochures and snarling right-wing commentators ain’t going to make this long-term and growing problem go away.

    Timing of the broadcast – it was superb. If politicians are not feeling uncomfortable and uneasy about what was aired/broadcast last evening – then truly that 1 in 5 children figure living in poverty in New Zealand’s will not only remain – the figures will get worse if nothing is done. They cannot wait until 2025 or 2014 or the other dates thrown around by wanna-bees and or the release of glossy brochures that contain no action plans.

    The lack of pressure from wanna-bee political parties that have remained silent on this issue is also telling.

    More insulting to those children is the lack of political will to fix this. PDQ. Never mind selling assets and looking silly at tea-party squabbles. Never mind about parrotting OECD statistics. Never mind the BMWs and the increase in MP salaries. These trivialise the depth of hunger and poverty families and their children suffer.

    Never mind the tax breaks for the rich – the 80:20 rule surely dominates here. 80 per cent of the countries wealth in 20 per cent of the population.

    And 80 per cent of families and children are only getting 20 per cent of attention, time and appropriate resources. Milk a luxury? Bread 3 times a day with jam? No breakfast at home before school. State house damp and rotten and cold creating the illnesses and third-world health issues that should not be in our country.

    Rich folk can advocate tax cuts for themselves and pay other to speak on their behalf. Children can not. Some one should.

    It is a gross obscenity and dreadful that in 2011 poverty occupies the headlines and the government’s response has been a glossy brochure. It would be truly dreadful that if in another 20-30 years -child poverty – and the problem of economic stress suffered by children and their families remains.

    In 2004 Brian Easton [‘Economics for the Children]’ championed one approach with the implementation of a social policy which assumed every working-age adult be an earner.

    He said ‘a society that ignores economic justice – as NZ has large done for almost the last three decades – eventually faces the danger of a lack of social cohesion which will result in social and economic failure’.

    I believe we are there now.

    Easton stressed ‘most people get a rough sort of economic justice from a ‘raw market’ – although interventions (government bailouts, wiping fines; white color crime, free market, free trade deals, price of milk, government gold-plated superannuation) do occur. On the other hand children get no justice from the raw market as there is no ‘trickle-down’ for them’.

    No justice, no food, no medical treatment, no clean and safe housing, no nothing. Just despair and unhappiness and unfairness and discrimination and violence and the list goes on and on and on.

  11. Brad on November 23rd, 2011 at 13:35

    While admittedly having not seen the documentary, in my experience much of the response of middle NZ to such child poverty generally comes down to blaming the welfare state, ‘welfare dependency’, ‘breeding for a living’ and other such stereotypes. The stigmatization of welfare and virtual demonization of beneficiaries, in my view, forms a significant barrier (among much of the general populace at least) to any meaningful public dialogue on the issue. Yet this still ignores the growing numbers of working poor, which is almost an issue in and of itself.

  12. Sanctuary on November 23rd, 2011 at 13:43

    Lew – Your admonishing me is another reflection of the very deep differences we have of the mutability of our current system and how to go about changing it. Farrar is a symptom of the wider decadence of our current political structures, where the medium has become the message. Insofar as people like him should be first to be purged in any sort of reform to our political mechanisms, and he would actively lobby to protect his courtier self interest to prevent reform, then it is hard to seperate playing the man from the ball, because as far as our reform to our political system is concerned, they are the same thing.

    The middle class as victim meme was played pitch perfect by National over the teapot tapes. The abrupt overnight change in tactics from Key where he suddenly contrived to walk out on the media was almost certainly predicated on focus group and polling, and like all of National’s propaganda over the last five years it was designed to feed and reinforce the prejudices of “middle New Zealand” (cue Mike Hoskin being on message this morning “…where it shows Labour to be so badly out of touch with the bulk of middle New Zealand…” approvingly re-published by said David Farrar) against the fifth columnists, the losers, the dissenters, the moaners and the wreckers. It is Rovian right wing identity politics, of “us” (mainstream New Zealanders, middle New Zealand, real New Zealanders etc etc) being “picked on” by “them”.

    It is impossible for the left to compete with these simple appeals to prejudice, emotion and discrimination because the messages are exactly the sort of simple appeal that generates the “controversy” that the dumbed down infotainment media loves to use to sell itself to advertisers. Lew here tacitly accepts this status quo and adopts a defeatist’s position of arguing you have to turn yourself into the monster you want to defeat to get anywhere, without acknowledging the essential fact that by the time you get to a position to change things you’ll be so thoroughly subverted that you’ll just have become another part of problem. So nothing will change around child poverty, because we’ll all be to busy arguing over the death penalty for the undeserving poor who abuse and kill their children in cold, damp houses.

    The simple truth is that if we want to deal with child poverty, we are going to have to first smash the prevailing corporate media ownership models and their resultant narratives first. Last night’s documentary hinted at this deeper truth. It showed the first Labour government’s ministers at work shifting furniture into the first state house without, it seemed to me, grasping why and how that footage came to be filmed and made iconic. Colin Scrimgeour was a close friend of Michael Joseph Savage and John A. Lee, and one of the first acts of the new Labour government was to make him Controller of the government-run National Commercial Broadcasting Service and later the National Film Unit. This was done for one simple reason – the dominant MSM in the 1920s and 30s were the newspapers, and they were violently anti-Labour. Having been swept to power by an economic emergency so extraordinary that even the dominant media couldn’t prevent a landslide, Savage and Lee knew they wouldn’t get a second chance and the first item on the agenda had to be to seize the narrative from a hostile, right wing corporate media. Savage and Lee determined that they would adopt newer technology like film reels and radio to communicate with people over the heads of the newspaper editors and opinion makers.

    Mike Hoskins. Michael Laws. Paul Holmes. Paul Henry. Kerre Woodham. Garth George. John Roughan. Richard Long. Karl Du Fresne. David Farrar. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The first order of business of any new, genuinely socialist party in government has to be to find a way to appeal to the people over the heads of the entrenched and vicious conservative media. Only then can we move on to successfully deal with child poverty.

  13. Pablo on November 23rd, 2011 at 13:58

    Following on Lew’s point that the issue of child poverty (and poverty in general) should be the subject of bipartisan consensus and a strategic plan, I note that such a consensus exists with regards to foreign policy, although the strategic planning behind the approach is suspect to my mind. One problem, at least with regard to foreign policy, is that once agreed upon, implementation of the consensus becomes an elite game where policy reform and implementation become the province of unelected officials specialized in the policy area. This leaves politicians dependent on bureaucrats for policy direction and strategic guidance, rather than the other way around. That removes a layer of accountability because policy-making by consensus excludes electorate input into the decision-making process (since all major parties agree not to rock the consensus boat).

    Whatever the merits, one would think that such a pressing domestic policy issue such as child poverty would be given priority over foreign affairs when it comes to bipartisan consensus building. Perhaps the relative insulation of foreign policy from immediate material issues makes it more amenable to consensus.

    As for the Swedish model. One of the basic foundations of the Europeanisation project (now under siege) was to promote an expanded network of intermediary agencies that mediated between the state and civil society. “Thickness” in this sense refers to the amount and extent of overlapping intermediary agencies in any given policy area. The more such agencies are involved in the formulation, consultation and implementation phases of policy, the more social indicators improve. Most of this is done in tri- or multipartite fashion within neo- or “societal” corporatist interest intermediation systems. The overlapping web of these “cushioning” networks is believed to improve the quality of democracy as well as delivery of positive policy outcomes.

    Interestingly, as AUT political scientist Kate Nicholls has shown, one of the differences between Ireland, Portugal and Greece when it comes to coping with the financial crises of the last three years is the presence of such intermediary networks as mitigators and distributors of benefits, now turned burdens. Besides some structural differences with its Southern European neighbors, Ireland is recovering faster in part because of the presence of a broad web of such organizations. Greece is on the brink in part because it has an atomized and polarized society without such agencies, and Portugal is somewhat in-between when it comes to using intermediary networks to distribute benefits and losses in key policy areas.

    There is more and I apologize for the long-winded jacking of this thread, but the main point is that NZ has steered in exactly the opposite direction to what is considered European “best practice” when it comes to democratic policy-making. It is not just the market-driven project supported by both major parties that has created the gross inequalities that some would prefer not to discuss and which become political footballs. It is the parallel dismantling of mediating agencies that has exacerbated, at the institutional level, the social pathologies resulting from the market-driven experiment.

    Consensus may be good, but institutionalized intermediation in policy-making is better. When it comes to the issue of child poverty it seems that NZ has neither.

  14. DeepRed on November 23rd, 2011 at 17:12

    As Sanc states, the fundamental problem is that any efforts to tackle child poverty have been, and continue to be, handbraked by culture war politics.

    Chances are there are middle NZers out there who think ‘war on poverty’ means gas chambers, the Mental Defectives Act, and Alberto Fujimori. And the weakening of the middle classes can only stoke such toxic attitudes. Robert Reich was on the button with his “Truth About The Economy” video.

    The way things are going, Tottenham and Clichy-sous-Bois could be closer than we think. And ‘middle NZ’ will find yet another excuse to erect the razor wires.

  15. DeepRed on November 23rd, 2011 at 17:27

    Further to add: is Bryan Bruce our Dorothea Lange? Mind you, there were no culture wars in Depression-era America.

  16. Lew on November 23rd, 2011 at 19:05

    This is the crux of the problem, really: the revolutionary/incrementalist divergence. Sanc reckons that we can’t alleviate child poverty until after we’ve destroyed transnational capitalism, and that essentially means it’ll never get done. At present the left can’t even win elections, let alone mount a credible ideological challenge to neoliberalism. Doing so is a long-term project, by which time the kids currently falling ill in East Porirua and South Auckland will be sick adults with sick kids of their own.

    I’m not arguing for that revolutionary project to be abandoned — but neither should it stand as a barrier to smaller, more achievable goals.


  17. Sanctuary on November 23rd, 2011 at 22:29

    “…At present the left can’t even win elections, let alone mount a credible ideological challenge to neoliberalism…”

    These two statements are not linked. Everyone can see that after three years of remarkable sycophancy the media has decided to call time on John Key, and should he secure a second term he will be subjected to much sharper media attacks from the likes of Garner and Gower. The media will eventually annoint Labour credible again and the cycle with a veneer of “democratic change” will continue. The left can win elections. It is creating a credible challenge to neo-liberalism that they’ve got to do, and that is going to require a streak of gritty political iron that ran through the poverty-seered Savage and Lee but is completely absent from the middle class liberals (and mnore or less supporters of the economic and social status quo) who have come to dominate the party after it was rebuilt from the near fatal crisis of the Douglas era.

    Bryan Bruce rhetorically asked what would Savage think of things today. But Savage was a doer, not a thinker. He would have been better to speculate on what Savage would have done. And I can tell you one of the first things Savage would do today – he would make sure the media didn’t determine what he could and couldn’t do.

  18. Chris Trotter on November 24th, 2011 at 22:18

    Oh, Lew. How far you’ve wandered from Jerusalem.

  19. Lew on November 24th, 2011 at 22:24

    Chris, I have to say I’m getting a bit sick of you pretending like you know me, who I am, or where I come from.


  20. ak on November 24th, 2011 at 23:43

    Yes. Impoverishment. Often considered a handicap or simple lacuna, but impoverishment describes it better; and explains the shifting sands under the 5% who govern us.

    For all, of course were created whole: the purity and literal wholesomeness of the toddler not yet depleted, that bewildering and incomprehensible lack of empathy not developed. Fear, the thief, yet to steal the heart and leave it’s anxious shell bereft. Impoverished.

    Diminished and alone. Without feeling beyond the physical, donning the raiment of decency to compensatory excess, yet incapable of joining the common wealth of humanity. Impoverished.

    Plundered by manufactured anxiety. Birds of the field aflutter: the permanent scent of the stoat in the nares, seeking succour in grooming and gluttony.

    Tight, narrow, light, and dark. Oblivious in limousine to the crushed gore beneath; unwilling to look, lest the spectre return.

    Impoverished. Piteous. Mature emotional toddlers, ever-vulnerable to Fear the heart-shrinker and his depressing triennial invocation by the witch-doctors.

    There but for the grace of strength go we all. Trapped, twitching flesh, flailing vainly for lost humanity at the eye of the needle. Scrambling, slashing, trampling on the necks of others for a magical key to a mythical brighter future.

  21. barry on November 25th, 2011 at 08:23

    Poverty in NZ is pretty much like poverty in Africa. It seems to me that the more money that is put into these causes, the worse the problem gets. In both cases the input (in $’s) increases yearly but the problem continues to get worse.

    I think its pretty obvious that the system of simply throwing money at the problem isnt working.

    I think its immoral and unethical to keep doing whats been obviously failing. In the case of aid to africa I think that in some cases it would be illegal to do what we do to people if we did it to animals here at home (ie: extend their misery for a few months). The connection of this to poverty in NZ is that we really cant see the forest for the trees sometimes.

    I have no doubt that the problem is parenting – many of these parents just have no idea of the responsibility of being a parent. It will take a policy of tough love to change things.

    For example I know a preschool facility in my town. It offers totally free 20 hours a week (yes – no fees of any type) Its located in a low decile area.
    Can they get the locals to bring their children? not on your nelly. Another place put on a van to pick up the pre-schoolers – but result was that some of the parents fell back even further and stopped giving the child any food or drink to take with them, and commented to the driver that they “didnt have time this morning” – ie: the more the preschool did for them, then less the parents (usually parent) did.

    I admire the Singapore model for aged care. You are expected by the government to look after your elderly parents. If you dont, then thats fine, the government (ie taxpayer) will, but you have to pay higher taxes.

    The news today that the idiots at Fairfield school who took pills to school have been told to ‘piss off’ by class mates is good news – nothing like peer pressure to get the message across. And I often think that one approach to child poverty is to concentrate the cure within the family – well families actually. The parents of the child have to pay – after all its their responsibility, and if they cant then the extended family pays (by higher tax rates). The brothers and sisters and parents of the mother and father have to pay higher tax rates. This concentrates the remedy within the extended family. It creates pressure within the group to solve problems and to stop creating new ones.
    Everyone talks about how important the ‘family’ (or whanau) is – so start to use its effect.

    As things are at the moment all we hear is that “Its societie’s problem” – but thats just plain stupid -‘society’ aint going to solve this sort of stuff.

  22. tautoko on November 25th, 2011 at 08:37

    A Cast-Iron Programme for Communal Activity, at Jerusalem, in Crash Pads, or in Peoples Homes.

    “Feed the hungry;
    Give drink to the thirsty;
    Give clothes to those who lack them;
    Give hospitality to strangers;
    Look after the sick;
    Bail people out of jail, visit them in jail, and look after them when they come out of jail;
    Go to neighbours funerals;
    Tell ignorant people what you in your ignorance think you know;
    Help the doubtful to clarify their minds and make their own decisions;
    Console the sad;
    Reprove sinners, but gently, brother, gently;
    Forgive what seems to be harm done to yourself;
    Put up with difficult people;
    Pray for whatever has life, including the spirits of the dead.

    Where these things are done Te Wairua Tapu comes in our hearts, and doctrinal differences and difficulties begin to vanish like the summer snow.”

    Jerusalem Daybook
    J. K. Baxter
    pub 1971 Price Milburn Wellington

  23. Pablo on November 25th, 2011 at 09:26

    One correction for Barry above: Singapore does not provide adequate care for the aged. The nation of “filial piety” and token assistance offered by the Central Providence Fund to the over-65 generations combines to offer a minimalist and rudimentary level of care for old folk out on their own, and has left many of Singapore’s elderly in poverty if not destitute. The government, being authoritarian, fiddles the official stats to hide this fact, but one only needs to walk around the hawker centers, malls and streets to see the problem–the elderly are the new class of rubbish and clean up staff, which now extends beyond the traditional “rag and bone” men and nightsoil collectors. Although one would hope that families in NZ would care for their elderly, SG is definitely not the model to use when it comes to elderly care.

    The new middle class option in SG is to ship elderly parents off to Malaysian rest homes–it is cheaper than keeping them at home or anywhere else in SG. I have seen no evidence that taxes are raised on those whose parents are wards of the state, much less receiving state-provided income assistance. In the very recent years in which I lived there I never once heard or saw anything that suggested that was the case, this in spite of my professional interest in the character and scope of the Singaporean state.

    I am continually amazed and disturbed by the use of Singapore as a model for anything in NZ. Its like comparing walnuts and grapes.

  24. Chris Trotter on November 25th, 2011 at 10:27

    “By their deeds shall ye know them”, Lew.

  25. Hugh on November 25th, 2011 at 12:47

    I’ve heard that in Singapore there are laws that force children to take financial responsibility for their elderly parents… not so, Pablo?

  26. Pablo on November 25th, 2011 at 13:00


    There are no such laws. What there is is a whole lot of govt fostered social peer pressure and opprobrium placed on those who do not exercise filial piety. Since matters of face and honor are taken very seriously by the ethnic Chinese and Indian populations, such pressure works very well as a means of social control far beyond taking care of the elderly. And of course, the more people feel obliged to do so the less the state has to do in that regard. The downside is a fairly high number of elderly “suicides” and unnatural deaths at the hands of, or in the homes of, their children.

  27. 100,000 reasons to vote Left « The Standard on November 25th, 2011 at 13:21

    […] a “welfare trap”.  Pathetic. (Lew has an excellent discussion of the Nats’ impoverished response to child poverty.) Welfare levels were at historic lows under the last Labour government.  People […]

  28. Hugh on November 25th, 2011 at 19:41

    I’ve heard of people who had the opposite problem – abusive parents who they effectively weren’t allowed to escape because they were obliged to financially support them. Tragic either way.

  29. DeepRed on November 26th, 2011 at 00:21

    @barry: How tough exactly? As in Alberto Fujimori tough?

  30. barry on November 27th, 2011 at 15:22

    @ Pablo re singapore. Its a bit hair spliting whether they have rules or presssure – the fact is in sangapore there is pressure to look after your parents.

    And isnt that fair?

    Why should someone else (ie their tax money) be responsible for my parents? Or why should I be responsible for someone elses parents?
    Whe people talk about ‘society’ taking care of things.
    – its really just another way of saying “lets take some money off everybody to spread around society” – and what does that achieve? it achieves complete removal of the concept of personal responsibility !!
    along with serious inefficency.
    It encourages even greater levels of ‘lower responsibility’, it leads to a society where the rule is “The Government will look after it”

    Look where the last labour government was going – limts on the type of shower head, limits on the type of light bulbs, working for families – theyre all moves towards the government being responsible for everything.
    In these situations people actually forget how to make sensible decisions. They cant budgtet, they cant get their family a meal, etc.

    @ Deepred.
    Alberto Fujimori had a big following in peru – many felt he was on the right path – until he did what so many of these corrupt leaders do – they think they own the country – and they start stealing from it.

    But his social policies started peru on a pathway towards opportunities for peruvians to exercise personal responsibility. Unfortunately he started putting his fingers in the national cash register.

  31. DeepRed on November 27th, 2011 at 17:32

    @barry: Fujimori’s corruption didn’t help, but specifically I was referring to his eugenics policy:

    Peruvian prosecutors have reopened an investigation into evidence that thousands of women were forcibly sterilized during the 1990-2000 government of Alberto Fujimori, a practice rights groups say was official state policy and constituted a crime against humanity.

    Rights groups say they have proof more than 2,000 Peruvian women were forcibly sterilized under Fujimori. But they believe the number is closer to 200,000. Most of the victims lived in rural areas, were poor and barely educated or illiterate.

    The goal was to reduce poverty by lowering the birth rate among the poor, who at the time accounted for one in two Peruvians, the groups say.

    “It was a premeditated development policy because it was done fundamentally, in areas of extreme poverty, rural and Andean,” said Francisco Soberon, executive director of APRODEH, Peru’s leading human rights organization.

    It was also racist because it chiefly targeted indigenous Quechua speakers, Soberon said.

    Alejandra Cardenas of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights said that not since Nazi Germany has a government employed forced sterilization an instrument of state policy.

  32. […] during the campaign was the usual nonsense about perpetuating a “welfare trap”. Pathetic. Welfare levels were at historic lows under the last Labour government. People want to work. There […]

  33. […] November 26 general election, TV3 aired Bryan Bruce’s documentary Inside Child Poverty, and I posted on the depressingly predictable response of the usual right-wing […]

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