Thursday 30 September 2021

Blame Games.

The Pathologies Of Poverty: And all this must have been known. In the ministries of Social Development, Health, Education and Corrections. In the Police. Politicians must have known about it, too. How could they not? When, every day, the victims of their “Look markets – no hands!” policies were beating a desperate pathway to their electorate office doors? But knowing something, and doing something aren’t always the closest of neighbours. Often they’re as far apart as Devonport is from Otara, and Remuera from Otahuhu.

AND SO, at last, we understand what building your house on someone else’s home means. It means living on top of those who were here before you. It means doing everything within your power to prevent them from getting out from under your crushing weight – and standing upright. It means always having someone to blame.

It means packing your poorest, your most desperate citizens, into a handful of ramshackle South Auckland suburbs. Requiring them to send their kids to substandard schools. Providing them with hospitals that start falling apart even before they are finished. Denying them an effective system of public transport. Paying them the minimum wage. Crowding them into sub-standard accommodation. Policing them harshly. Imprisoning them in shamefully disproportionate numbers. Offering them little, if any, rehabilitation when they are in jail.

And now, as if all this beneficence wasn’t enough, it means expecting them to co-operate fully with the authorities in the fight against the Delta variant of Covid-19.

And amazingly (given their treatment) most of the Māori and Pasifika residents of South Auckland are doing exactly that – co-operating fully. In spite of being shut in behind a complex motorway system that might almost have been designed for the purpose of keeping South Auckland out of sight and out of mind. In spite of all the evidence indicating that when Covid arrives it heads straight for the poorest part of town. In spite of Māori and Pasifika community workers warning those charged with managing the Covid-19 pandemic that the official messaging was all wrong for their people. In spite of everything the Pakeha powers-that-be did, or, more accurately, failed to do, the Māori and Pasifika residents of South Auckland are getting tested – and vaccinated – in their tens-of-thousands.

And inevitably, it isn’t enough.

Maybe, if successive governments had spent the last thirty years building the sort of state housing that the soon-to-be-dismantled Housing Corporation was perfecting in the early 1980s, then the people of South Auckland would have been sheltered from the Coronavirus in decent, publicly-owned and properly maintained homes.

Maybe, if those same governments had worked co-operatively with South Auckland not-for-profits and cultural institutions to design and support a system of health delivery attuned to the needs and preferences of Māori and Pasifika families, then, when Covid-19 arrived, those same families would not have fallen prey to misinformers and conspiracy theorists.

Maybe, if both National and Labour had entertained the truly radical notion that entrusting local communities with the power and the resources to teach their children in a way that made them proud of their successes, rather than ashamed of their failures, then the talent and entrepreneurial spirit abounding in those same communities might have been invested in something more personally and socially rewarding than criminal gangs.

But, because those past governments didn’t, our present government is continuing the practice of crowding individuals and families into motels and boarding-houses. It is difficult to imagine an environment better suited to the spread of a virus – especially one as infectious as the Delta variant of Covid-19. (Concentrating so many of the gangs’ actual and potential clients in these places must also be acknowledged as extremely helpful – although not to public health, or personal security.)

And all this must have been known. In the ministries of Social Development, Health, Education and Corrections. In the Police. Politicians must have known about it, too. How could they not? When, every day, the victims of their “Look markets – no hands!” policies were beating a desperate pathway to their electorate office doors? But knowing something, and doing something aren’t always the closest of neighbours. Often they’re as far apart as Devonport is from Otara, and Remuera from Otahuhu.

And, truth to tell, all of us living in the House of Middle-Class Pakeha know that our wealth and comfort comes with a hefty price-tag. It’s just that we’ve learnt how to defer calculating the cost by keeping the decaying communities of the poor, rank with the stench of deprivation and discarded dreams, as far away from our leafy suburbs as possible. Out of sight, out of mind, works every bit as well for the “boguns” and the “boofheads” of the Pakeha working-class as it does for Māori and Pasifika communities – better, in a way, since working-class Pakeha lack the conscience-tugging combination of ethnicity and indigeneity.

But, guilty consciences are difficult to live with. Especially when it becomes clear that all the te Reo speaking and name-changing that guilt-ridden Pakeha can be bullied into accepting will not make one South Auckland family richer or better housed. Unfortunately, where consciences turn sour, prejudices tend to flourish. Once the idea takes root that leafy Auckland is being kept from its pleasures by homeless Māori and Pasifika, the demands will not be slow in coming for South Auckland to be locked-down, ring-fenced, and left to stew in its own Covid juices.

It is then we will discover just how securely the House of Pakeha has been built on the home of Māori. How willing tangata whenua truly are to go on carrying its weight – and accepting its blame.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 30 September 2021.


Jack Scrivano said...

Chris, you fail to mention the one thing that would make things different: proper jobs with proper pay.

I grew up in a primarily Māori community. I don’t recall any poverty. There were no state houses. Not one. There were no gangs. There was one cop (who knew everyone). The big difference was the nearby freezing works. For nine or ten months of the year, there were fat pay packets every week. It wasn’t until the freezing works closed that things took a tumble.

CXH said...

Reading articles like this would almost make you believe that there are no poor Kiwis that are not Maori or Pacific Islanders. That all the others are middle class property owners, especially the white ones.

It would almost make you believe that all Maori and Pacific Islanders are downtrodden losers, victims at every turn.

Of course the truth is seldom so black and white. Just a pity that so many seem to either think it is, or are just twisting reality to fit their own perspective.

David George said...

Yes Jack, I have similar recollections living in Kaikohe. The freezing works (Affco, Moerewa) cut their workforce from a peak season high of 1500 to a couple of hundred, government departments closed or re-located and the farming community had all government support ended at the same time as we were locked out of traditional markets. The knock on effects on most people and businesses was dramatic and the place has never returned to it's former prosperity. Despite a massive payout in welfare and other support the place suffered over forty years of social and economic collapse.
I do think, however, that the Maori aspect is overdone, similar things can be observed among different societies - the American rust belt towns for example.

Many people left for better opportunities, left the country entirely in a lot of cases. And, it's fair to say, those that remained were generally not the best qualified or entrepreneurial or conscientious. It would be difficult, even at the best of time, to rebuild if left to the demographic that remained . The schools became deeply dysfunctional, crime and drug abuse soared, even the fire brigade couldn't muster a full complement of volunteers. What does that tell you about a community?

Jens Meder said...

But Chris - do not practically all(?) seniors who had loving, non-alcoholic nor ill-tempered parents claim to have had a happy childhood in the 1930-s under even more severe poverty than what the children of the same kind of parents are experiencing now ?

So - what was the reason for the sad face of the girl you published ?

If it was plain poverty (e.g. seriously overcrowded accommodation) and not just some whatever personal experience, then there is a straightforward answer to that which does not include te reo nor social unrest and hate incitement against middle class welfare.

In view that the capacity for unprofitable welfare and hobby donations is limited to a point after which they become increasingly unsustainable and potentially bankrupting society into poverty for everyone, except perhaps members of the governing bureaucracy -

the plain answer is to raise our collective and personal wealth ownership creative savings rates, with non-evadable participation also by the poorest and unwilling, as partially initiated already through e.g. compulsory education, NZ Super Fund contributions and the KiwiSaver effort.

As it is clear that hard work alone without saving can result only in an insecure and relatively stagnant hand-to-mouth existence, do not the pros and cons of raising our national and personal savings rates deserve some serious discussion ?

DS said...

Note that vaccination rates among South Auckland Pasifika is significantly better than among South Auckland Maori. This is not simply a matter of economic deprivation.

By the same token, Maori vaccination rates in Wellington and the South Island are pretty good. Vaccination rates among elderly Maori are pretty good. The real heartland of the vaccination crisis is among younger Maori in Northland and the Bay of Plenty.

Mark Craig said...

Chris your ability to lazer like focus on the problems and issues ,brings a tear to my eye.I used to employ a lot (35) people making kitchen wood ware and furniture fo the warehouse etcetc,We lost the market to chinese prison labour ,it was cruel,we were adding value to vast amounts of Pinus Radiata,and sending it all over NZ.Then the orders dropped off got smallem and we could not get prices rises at all..Finis.

Nick J said...

Anybody who wonders why the US never went down the welfare state road is probably unaware of their history of mutual support. On the frontier and afterwards mutual societies such as Buffalo Lodges fulfilled that role. Every member paid in, the fund was used for doctors, widows pensions, housing etc. This all declined after the 60s, and central government did nothing to replace it.

The reason I mention it is that poor areas and communities need local institutions to fulfil community needs. Im not suggesting that we adopt a mutual model, I'm pointing out that the services required need to be controlled as close to the community as possible. Looking at what John Tamahere is doing may be instructive. Imagine what he could achieve if he was properly funded.

sumsuch said...

The price-tag of 84 was not carrying along the neediest. It wasn't said at the time -- maiz ben sur -- nor even then did 'carrying along the neediest' completely include Maori and Pasifika.

Our uber-belief is fairness so we're not happy campers.

I'm lucky to be poor/ quasi-poor in Gisborne, I can't remove myself from poor Maori, where lies our heart. The Yertles. So I'm fuming mad, as a 'guid Scot'and New Zealander ... that century and a half of their unnecessary suffering, especially in the decades after 1984.

sumsuch said...

Re these different worlds, now that I've mentioned my home of Gisborne, I saw our mayor South African Rehette in my local Four Square for the first time in many years. The only person who grows younger with the years. Like someone from another planet, blasting us poor huddled, bedraggled masses (at least 30 % of the Gisborne electorate) away from her. I'm sure she will fulfill her CV, and we'll all die despite.

I realise she's shy but there's a conflict between her being a technocrat administrator and representing the poorest district in NZ. Something I don't think she can resolve, even after she tries for National MP for East Coast or North Shore. But hasn't that been the history of 'humanity'. All Good Fun.

greywarbler said...

I remember last late-century someone who was good with wood liked music thought he would see if he could build and sell mid price guitars. Went to Auckland Farmers store I think and made an agreement thinking it was with a 'sound' company, bought in his wood and machinery, and was undercut by some overseas group.

We have to have a supportive circle of NZs who will take on the 5 million idea and grow our economy and skills - support each other and our ideals of old. Otherwise we are just going to run ourselves ragged, literally.

John Hurley said...

Kate Hanna's patronising arrogance on display:
could have been a lab leak

Jens Meder said...

greywarbler - how can we effectively help each other without having adequate MEANS or RESERVES (savings) for this reciprocally benefiting ideal ?
Does our current welfare system actually achieve supporting each other in the way of benefiting all reciprocally?