Needs should come before wants

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The other day I took one of my kids to the doctor, just a little check-up, nothing to worry about. He adores the elevator at the doctor’s; it’s one of those ones that is basically just a platform that goes up and down inside a lift shaft. It would be a nightmare for anyone claustrophobic, but he enjoys it far beyond what is really reasonable.

On the way there I was quizzed about the elevator and there was an underlying insistence that we use it. I patiently explained that we could only use it if no one else needed it. “But I want to use it” he whined, a little bit Luke Skywalker. “Someone else’s need comes before your wants,” I replied, no doubt sounding like a mothery version of Obi Wan.

He didn’t quite get it, but then he’s five. If he doesn’t understand once he’s an adult then I’ll have failed one of the more important tests of parenting I think.

This is the thing I cannot get past with the nay-sayers about adoption of a Living Wage, those who swear at beggars in the street, and the down-right cruelty often exhibited towards those on a benefit. Are they really truly okay with the alternative, which is that some people do not get their basic human needs met?

We have enough to get by, enough food, enough money, enough housing, enough air. But we aren’t very good at sharing. Many can’t meet their needs while others chase wants that include owning a private plane, an island, a house with six bedrooms and six bathrooms that only two people will live in. Hoarding anything but money is seen as a problem. Yet greed is still encouraged, still acceptable, even when there are people who don’t have enough to actually live.

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That there can be people with nowhere to sleep in the same city as there are others with personal helicopters, how have we come to that?

And how do we get out of it.

It’s ok to have needs, and it’s ok to ask for help when those needs aren’t able to be met. That’s a small part of it though. The far bigger part is those who can help to meet those needs but just won’t. That’s not ok, not ok at all.

Sadly we have a government currently committed to enabling those who don’t want to share. Many can’t, they don’t have enough spare, but some definitely can and just will not. National seems to be fine with that. Deal with SkyCity that delivers basically no public benefit and increases problem gambling? Yep, let’s do that because it will make some richer. Do they need to be richer? Well let’s not ask that question, or think about other ways that money could be spent, on those with unmet needs rather than unfulfilled wants.

How about an unrelenting, unapologetic and frankly unconscionable focus on getting people off benefits? Nevermind that some of those people will now have no way to pay for food, shelter, clothing. That doesn’t matter because we have top bracket tax cuts to fund and elite sports events that need subsidizing.

We need to get better at sharing. Not just money and resources amongst humanity, but the planet too. Caring, sharing, being thoughtful and empathetic and nice to each other aren’t a sign of individual weakness, or collective cowardliness, they are in fact what make us better human beings, I reckon. Let’s cherish each other, and acknowledge that our wants can wait while we work on everyone’s needs.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your article. What the real problem is at the moment is the lack of addressing these needs by the major opposition party. Sure, there’s been some moderate promises of new housing, some bland Tsk tsks of National Govt policies and an introduction of Capital Gains tax is nothing but a good thing.

    However, there’s been no promise of reversing the present government’s anti-human/societal policies. No real plan released about where to take us forward. I understand that things like this have to be timed and released carefully for impact on the voter however the Green’s have been reasonably up front with their plans.

    I was really heartened at the David Cunliffe series of speeches. I thought this is it! Finally a Labour Party listening to it membership and returning to the values that created it. But the silencing of Cunliffe tells me that the neoliberal agenda still prevails and worker, unemployed and underemployed rights and issues will never be addressed under Labour.

    To really address the needs of the majority of New Zealand society a real paradigm shift need to occur from neoliberalism towards those embodied in the past under the pre-80’s Labour party governments. Michael Joseph Savage’s Labour pulled NZ out of the Great Depression so perhaps the policies that got us there should be revisited. But I think Labour are to cemented to their ways.

  2. Nice values, moral compass and best intentions exist in some, but the sad truth is, modern day society, that certainly includes New Zealand, is “connected” by smart and mobile phones and the internet, but apart from that emotionally and mentally disconnected as never before.

    I saw this again today, catching a bus in Central Auckland. Almost every person was sitting there, leaning over slightly, and staring on a small mobile or smart phone screen, reading or typing away. Others were looking at little electronic tablets and doing the same. The odd one had plugs in the ears, listening to some music.

    NOBODY talked, nobody looked each other into the face, everybody I looked at swiftly turned the face aside or down.

    That is what we are all confronted with, and that explains also the political realities we face, which are utterly depressing and grim.

    People are connected in social networks that are channeled through and meeting in “cyber space”. There is no or little physical contact. Individualism rules, and communications goes through channels that are offered by ISPs and service providers.

    News contain only snippets of information, much brief, superficial, uninformative, trivial, irrelevant to most, and they rather distract than inform and generate more interest.

    People focus on their small network of “friends”, if they have them, perhaps partners, their studies, their career planning, their Kiwi saver and other investment plans, their jobs, their next purchase, and on their week to week survival.

    Protests or pickets are only attended by small groups of mostly hardcore activists, and few others take note. Beneficiaries, sick and disabled are living on the fringes of society, are at the bottom of the heap with low income, and not interesting to the business sectors as potential consumers.

    The media and most working people know this, so they get stuff all attention.

    The National led government knows it, and their continual divide and rule agenda sees to it, that things remain as they are, or get even more disconnected.

    Divide and rule is the agenda, and it works just perfectly. In the meantime there are many of us sitting here and reading this piece above, agreeing in a sense, but otherwise not doing much more than feel depressed, angry and again “disconnected” and powerless.

    Nothing will change or improve due to what I just described, and the forces in control laugh and crack another joke about us idiots.

    Sad really, but that is the truth.

    Those I saw on the bus looked to disconnected, willingly isolated, they are not the human material that will bring change, they are the main reason for things to fall to bits in this society and others!

  3. Nice values, a good moral compass and best intentions exist in some, but the sad truth is, modern day society, that certainly includes New Zealand, is “connected” by smart and mobile phones and the internet, but apart from that emotionally and mentally disconnected as never before.

    I saw this again today, catching a bus in Central Auckland. Almost every person was sitting there, leaning over slightly, and staring on a small mobile or smart phone screen, reading or typing away. Others were looking at little electronic tablets and doing the same. The odd one had plugs in the ears, listening to some music. NOBODY talked, nobody looked each other into the face, everybody I looked at swiftly turned the face aside or down. There was no desire to talk or “connect”.

    That is what we are all confronted with, the “modern day society” we now have, and that explains also the political realities we face, which are utterly depressing and grim.

    People are connected in social networks that are channeled through – and meeting in – “cyber space”. There is no or little physical or face to face contact. Individualism rules, and communication goes through channels that are offered by ISPs and service providers. News contain only snippets of information, much brief, superficial, uninformative, trivial, irrelevant to most, and they rather distract than inform and generate more interest. Infotainment is a better description.

    People focus on their small network of “friends”, if they have them, perhaps partners, few on family, otherwise the are busy with their studies, their career planning, their Kiwi saver and other investment plans, with maintaining their cars, keeping their jobs, doing their next purchase, and for the rest on their week to week survival.

    Protests or pickets to raise awareness about issues are only attended by small groups of mostly hardcore activists, and few others take note. Beneficiaries, sick and disabled are living on the fringes of society, are at the bottom of the heap with low income, and not interesting to the business sectors as potential consumers.

    The media and most working people know this, so they get stuff all attention, let alone any sympathy. The National led government knows it, and their continual divide and rule agenda sees to it, that things remain as they are, or get even more disconnected.

    Divide and rule is the agenda, and it works just perfectly. In the meantime there are many of us sitting here and reading this piece above, agreeing in a sense, but otherwise not doing much more than feel depressed, angry and again “disconnected” and powerless.

    Nothing will change or improve due to what I just described, and the forces in control laugh and crack another joke about us idiots. Sad really, but that is the truth. Those I saw on the bus looked to disconnected, willingly individualistically isolated, they are not the “human material” that will bring change, they are in their states of mind actually the main reason for things to fall to bits in this society and others!

    Forget such “protests” as not long ago in Brazil, in Turkey, in Thailand, in the Arab Countries, and when the 99 per cent occupy movement was active. Such are just brief, sporadic expressions of frustrations or aspirations, they are not properly organised, participants are not committed enough to be members or any organisation that truly could change things. They are like “fads” coming and going, as fast as they came.

    Time for a radical rethink, and a robust challenge, to all out there!

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