This is my last blog before the election and I really just want to speak from the heart.
Right now in this country it seems to me that a lot of people consider the “essentials” in life to be simply shelter, water and food. And they expect beneficiaries and low-wage earners to live on that alone, in fact even provision of those things is seen as hard to economically justify. Being a beneficiary – even a sickness beneficiary or single parent – is seen as something that should be a stripped back to a brutal, gruelling kind of toast-and-water life along with accompanying social shame of being a “drain” upon society, with a side of social isolation; none of which helps the children of beneficiaries and low income earners who often lack enough food. Most beneficiaries and low earners can’t afford doctor’s visits, but yet children are funded. To me the mentality of considering the wellbeing of children but not caring about the wellbeing of adults is completely mindless. Firstly, children and adults are entirely inseparable. Secondly, why care about kids you don’t know but not grown-ups! Adults matter as much as children. Personally I believe the essentials for a safe quality of life – a life of social participation – include shelter, water, food, a dry, warm home, adequate clothing, no longer a television but access to transport, and easy residential access to communication (including internet and telephones). I would also include – as needs – access to the broader social community, access to social events, and physical and emotional safety. I was interested to learn that in the 90s a great push was made to include a television on a list of essential needs for beneficiaries. At that time the television was a way a person could keep up-to-date with vital information and participate in society. The new technology we all need is access to is the internet. It fundamentally affects a person’s ability to be able to apply for work, to participate socially, to participate democratically, to understand health and body care, and to access scientific information. I feel internet access is a right. I feel that we should have some kind of free public network, and the fact that libraries include free internet makes me think that those who control New Zealand’s libraries tend to agree with me. We all need to be able to participate in the free flow of information as and when we choose, whether we can get to a library or not.
I also believe beneficiaries can and do contribute to society, and are as important as the richest people. Often people are locked out of participation, we know this. We live in a country where equality is valued – and paid lip service by politicians – but not “equity” (fairness).
What pains me is so much political focus on beneficiaries as being criminal thieves, when in fact white-collar theft is so much more prolific, has a greater social impact and remains inadequately addressed. There is so much prejudice against beneficiaries, and as Hagar showed us in the Hollow Men it’s a moral panic frenzy that is whipped up every election to help people manoeuvre themselves. It’s needless, cynical bullying intended on gaining votes and little else. I have very low regard for that kind of thing. I have similar low regard for Whale-Oil-Jason Ede style dirty politics.
This election the most important things to me personally – event as someone who hopes to employ others one day – is the ability for all people living here to have access to everything a person needs, the things I’ve spoken about above, in order to be safe and to be engaged with their community. Adults and young people need to be able to have a decent job that pays them a wage they can live – and thrive off – the minimum wage should facilitate all of the essentials including some degree of play.
I’m speaking about my personal idealism here – not budgets – and I’m aware budgets need to be considered. In my ideal world, we would have a free and comprehensive transportation, free internet across the country, and everyone would be well nourished and safe. In this world participation would be easy and desirable. In this world we would protect the environment that we live in and whilst I’m kind of hot ‘n’ cold on capitalism, I still see these things as within our grasp now.
From a radical perspective I feel that when communities have their needs met this supports true participation. People naturally favour participation when this is made meaningful and worthwhile for them. Ideologically when the government and private owners see fit to control all resources this means participation in the system is forced. All of the essentials should therefore be provided to non-participants or those who have the need – no matter what cause is behind their situation. Even if their non-participation is political, they still ought to have access. This is a key obligation of government. If we all had free access to land and resources such as water and building resources, well, things might be different.
I would like to include in the scope of what I feel is protective a few other things. As you know, barely any rape of any person – irrespective of gender – results in a prosecution. Furthermore, our politicians have done nothing to reduce the amount of rapes – which can be achieved through adequate programs – and have preferred the ambulance-at-the-bottom-of-the-cliff approach. You know the statistics, and how high they are, this is a legitimate problem – when people talk about making the streets safe at night, we have to remember that most rapes occur in environments where people should feel safe – they happen in our homes, at our schools, and when we’re socialising – they happen with people we know and domestic violence is more or less the same; safety needs to be addressed.
We also need to be able to have privacy to voice our political thoughts without fear. As an activist when I think upon the terror raids and the government participation in that, and the entire way the government has behaved around the recent privacy concerns I’ve been really shocked. The thing is, I always assumed as an activist there might be a file on me somewhere – it goes without saying right? – what I really didn’t assume was that by dropping my name into a field they’d have access to every single thing I did online, and despite assurances that warrants are required and processes are followed, all we have seen over and over is examples of politicians and as they continually inform us – private companies – who have access to this information and will use it to further their own aims. This boils down to maintenance of hegemonic dominance and it’s not OK. Currently our government seems to have too much power and it’s had a corrupting influence, as power usually does.
This is the world we live in.
But one of my favourite policies was just put forth by Metiria from the Greens and I want to shout about it. It’s an idea I was for a while quite smitten with – the idea of a project to get Finnish baby-boxes into the country. I became aware of this at a time when as a new mum on a low income I was needing to meet the costs of a precious new baby. Metiria has said that her party will work on this project and to me it says what needs to be said. “We care”, for every baby, we care for every family, we care for all communities – we care.
And the government should care. Someone said to me, well a government SHOULD be run by business people, because it’s a business! Only it’s not. It’s not a business – businesses fundamentally serve themselves, it’s a government and the purpose of government is to support people. People are not units of production. We don’t get to choose – not in any real sense – if we are going to empower a form of government to run the country. We do get a limited choice on who we want to run the country. If their actions are supporting their own private interests and they see fit to lie to us, or if they support ideas that create a less equitable country, or if they can’t understand that controlling resources necessarily involves taking responsibility for everyone – then we need to do what we can to change that.
And there is another group that requires consideration. This group is often ignored because in an environment bereft of adequate compassion for children there isn’t much left for them. I would like us to broaden our circle of compassion to include animals. As many of you know I don’t eat animal products. I don’t eat them because I don’t need to use their bodies and lives to survive. In fact avoiding animal products altogether has been scientifically supported as ensuring fewer strokes, less heart disease, less cancer and less diabetes. It’s better for family and community health, it has the advantage of being ethically compassionate and gentler on the environment. Farming is a difficult business. I am not OK – fundamentally – with the needless forced insemination of any being, which is something farming often requires. As long as animals are seen as units of production – rather than beings – as long as they have no observation of their natural rights to protection, and as long as there is a financial incentive to use their lives and bodies, there will be a drive to intensify farming. There will be more packed in cages and crueller, cheaper medical procedures. As we have seen National is OK with practises that no left wing party is; extreme confinement, including new-style colony cages which are virtually indistinguishable from the old ones. They also support fallacious and illegal accreditation schemes that give consumers a false sense of security. National refuses to consider the welfare of animals who have no decent legal protection, when Labour, The Greens and Internet-Mana have all agreed, we do want relevant minimum standards and we can have them. Even for many meat eaters an end to intensive factory farming is something people want – and we want it now.
I’m not religious and think that religion has a lot of bad stuff to answer for, but I was raised in a religious environment. I had a solid literary background in the bible and this quote runs through my mind a lot: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” When I think of this – not as coming from Christ – but coming from a just another person I think, truly, what you do for the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me. Because whilst we are all different – humans, animals, all of us – we are all the same in some really important, fundamental ways, in our ability to feel pain, with our need to feel safe and loved. I believe we should prioritise compassion and care for each other in this country – a country with no need for unmet need.
I want a country where unions are once-again strong. I want a country where we operate with a strong a moral baseline. I want us to be caretakers of the environment that in turn cares for us. I would like to see values that truly support the community prioritised, rather than money. I want to see respect, softness, kindness and cooperation. I want to see prisons as places that help heal those who will be returned to us, to reduce recidivism and to recognise their role in family care, instead of being structured as simply punative in order to placate voters. I don’t want to see the glorification of competition. I would like equal numbers – for the first time – of women to men in parliament. I want compassion and wisdom – in all regards – to lead.
With all of this in mind, I vote.