GUEST BLOG: The playing field is level
Consumer culture is all about selling people's insecurities to themselves. Our path to enlightenment is lipsticked, latest model, nose jobbed, me-podded so much so that we have to believe THE PLAYING FIELD IS LEVEL, to fully enjoy our inflated sense of 'success'.
When we are confronted by the reality that the playing field is NOT level, it makes a ME generation question their own successes. This is a challenge to our own perceived beliefs in the system and as such makes the white majority viciously defensive and resentful towards any progressive movement that attempts to redress the innate injustices within a rule system that is written by the rulers.
The public reaction to the report showing beneficiaries are living in grinding poverty has embarrassingly let loose an avalanche of racist stereotyping already rubbed raw from the same venting over the Kahui case. So intent are we to blame the victim for being a victim we ignore our own outright bigotry towards beneficiaries.
The solution to the problem is simple, we need to increase the amount we pay beneficiaries, this combined with a rise in the minimum wage will do more for the betterment of an entire community within NZ than any other social policy.
But there is a problem: the puritanical streak that runs deep through NZ demands suffering as a solution to get people off welfare. There is a mentality that if people are suffering they will change their priorities and get a job. This mentality is childish and beneath adult conversation in the 21st Century. How hungry and cold children will be able to obtain an education so that they are able to lift themselves out of poverty is fucking beyond me - and WHITE New Zealanders who argue this position need to take a good long hard look at themselves and their views of brown people.
The well worn counter that if we increase benefits, there will be no incentive for people to get a job only goes to show how entrenched our bigotry is. What is the second question you ask ANYONE after asking their name - "What do you do?" We are so focused on our placement within the social strata, we automatically ask one another what job we do - the shame of being a beneficiary is all the incentive in the world to take a job and earn more than welfare, and people are more successful at education to lift themselves out of poverty when they have warm homes and are well fed.
I also find the cry of, "I can do it why can't they", tedious and painfully dumb. It's like swimming the Tasman Sea then jumping out at the end, proclaiming "I can do it why can't they!?". Everyone is different, self-achievement should be an example for others to follow rather than a rod to beat those who are weaker. The fact I have to point that out shows how defunct public debate has become.
The right wing media, talkback radio in particular, has allowed stereotypes to exist which supports and confirms the fears of the majority. People at the bottom of the heap are suffering, and at a time when NZ is richer than it has ever been, we still as a culture refuse to accept the reality of that suffering with solutions that only seek to punish.
Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury