“Not one more child”

By   /   May 31, 2016  /   19 Comments

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NZ doesn’t have a functional civil society. Unlike Europe where power is devolved through European law to the states and within many of its states to these “mediating institutions” of civil society, New Zealand devolved power and responsibility directly to individuals, bypassing civil society altogether.

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1000s marched in Whangarei, Auckland, Papakura, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo, Hawera, Whanganui and on to the deep south. It reads like a weather report as the centres of outrage at the abuse of children in our homes following the death of Moko are listed.

Between individuals empowered to stand up in Justice for Moko and the Government charged with protecting its citizenry is a chasm that any successful democracy would fill with the organisations of civil society.  These are the groups, like unions and women’s refuges, designed to connect individuals with the megastructures of government and society – the organised groups through which we learn to articulate our needs, solve problems, and express our democratic views.

NZ doesn’t have a functional civil society. Unlike Europe where power is devolved through European law to the states and within many of its states to these “mediating institutions” of civil society, New Zealand devolved power and responsibility directly to individuals, bypassing civil society altogether. The individual is the beginning and end of the story. The individuals who walk down Queen Street to helplessly vent their anger and pain and the Government’s Social Development Minister Anne Tolley who deflects any responsibility back to individuals when she says “two people put their hands up to torturing a three-year old…” Lucky escape Anne Tolley!

Government in a capitalist democracy has two jobs: firstly, to enable organisations of civil society to fulfill their role helping individuals manoeuvre through life and all its challenges; and secondly, to hold the power of the market in check. It has categorically failed at both.  There is no adequate support for addressing family violence (the Hastings Women’s Refuge, for example, has had their funding cut by over $36,000 over the last six years) or the poverty that places families under pressure. Tolley’s flagged greater “market” encroachment, with the possibility of the failed multinational Serco picking up social service delivery, was too idiotic to win any public support, even from her own colleagues but nevertheless exemplifies the tendency of the Government to look to business to occupy the spaces it wishes to vacate.

Far from building strong social institutions that protect individuals and their associations from “the market” or supporting individuals to access the State, the Government is nurturing social dysfunction by individualising blame and personalising responsibility. It sounds entirely reasonable, if not entirely ridiculous, for a Prime Minister to say “all I can say to people is if somebody is homeless they should go and see Work and Income.” Well, why wouldn’t that work? Where was the funding in the Budget for the advocacy services, like Auckland Action Against Poverty, that would facilitate the conversation between the powerless individual and the powerful government institution?

Disempowered social institutions, like unions, are left with little choice after 25 years of emasculation under successive governments but to seek new leverage. They must broaden their focus to explore new ways to win. On the one hand this means organising in the chasm wherein lies our fractured civil society and, on the other, directly challenging the state that has abdicated responsibility for its own citizenry. We cannot wait to be invited for a cup of tea and a chat.

The Kristine Bartlett equal pay case is a direct challenge laid down by E tū in the absence of any ability to secure decent wages for 50,000 carers responsible for some of our most vulnerable in society.  The legal victory brought the Government and its agencies to the bargaining table in the hope of concluding an out-of-court settlement.  All the parties accept this is the best and quickest option. Yet negotiations couldn’t be done without the unions because they are the social institutions that represent carers as a collective – you can’t invite 50,000 workers in for a cup of tea and a chat.  It isn’t often that governments in this country are forced to acknowledge the role of unions and this happened only because the alternative, leaving it to a court decision, was so unpalatable. The deal will create a better country for our workforce and their families, for the elderly whose lives are inextricably linked with their carers, and for the communities that will prosper from greater money circulating in the local economies.

An empowered and connected citzenry through resourced and recognised social institutions of civil society is critical for our democracy.  It is critical for real justice for Moko.  As individuals emerge from their homes to cry for help in the streets, the sound reverberates from building to building, normally occupied by the megastructures of government and capital, but on Saturday empty. Our alienation from both government and market is the responsibility of this government and the answer lies not in a chat across the chasm but a reconstruction of civil society so our communities can flourish again.

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About the author

Annie Newman

Contributer

Annie is the National Director of Campaigning for E tū, the largest private sector union in Aotearoa, spent 20 years in the union movement and 8 years in the public service in mediation, management and policy. Annie is also National Convenor of the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ."

19 Comments

  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Very well put Anne.

    You are so vitally needed in this very dark time of a careless society under the control of a money hungry regime that intends to drive us all to the wall.

    You should be equalled to Joan of arc when she lead the charge for social injustice and we need this now so very badly as we are loosing people to suicide at alarming rates as the austerity and rich steal everything from the poor and impoverished removing us so far away from our once proud egalitarian society of almost equality.

    Please gather together for leadership to lead us all to anew equality revolution as we need a protest march to send our message of despair at what this Government is doing to damage us all young and old alike.

    • i'm right says:

      Cleangreen, You seem to have in almost every post that you crave (demand!) a revolution/hikoi/march…but you seem to be awaiting on others to start it, why don’t you put your actions to what your typing and actually get off your arse and do something? or are you a follower rather than a go-getter? Seems to me you live in a fantasy land of being part of a revolution (probably at the back and not the front I would say)…keep dreaming, it wont happen anytime soon and it wont happen anytime later either.

      • Sam Sam says:

        It starts in the home boy

        • Im right says:

          In the home Sam, what happens if you live in a car? You are ailienating people now, be careful.

      • countryboy says:

        @ I’M RIGHT. You nasty little shit. You only seem full of toxic waste. You write nothing worthwhile, you whinge and insult and you bring nothing of interest to this debate or, I’m confident in writing, any other debate elsewhere. Unless, of course, there’s a Blog devoted to cupping jonky’s little testicles. So, based on that evidence, you must have a miserable life and no doubt inflict that on others.
        The entire reason I’m here is to hunt down and destroy punks like you. You’re the poison pen dipped in the vomit of our society made sick by the likes of yourself.
        You, and your clones are, in fact, the problem, not the symptom. So, bring it on little person.

        OK, moving away from the flies now.

        Here’s my-wish-to-see-before-I-die… well, wish actually.
        Farmers earn our economy. That’s a fact. But what else are farmers? Smelly? Yes, sometimes. Surly? Again, sometimes. A bit brilliant at what they do? Absolutely.
        There’s one other thing that NZ farmers are.
        Insecure. That’s what farming is. It’s an insecure business made worse for the fact that a Farmer can’t switch off the factory lights on Friday night and bugger off to the Gold Coast for the weekend.
        The reason farmers endure on-going insecurity is because the parasites that feed off ’em can’t have the farmer, or their down stream unions, take control of their own product so insecurity is used as a means of control.
        Here’s the thing that Farmers MUST do. ( Eye roll please ! )
        Unite ! Yep, you read me correct. UNITE ! UNITE ! UNITE ! And how does a farmer unite? By purging their meetings of the likes of the @ I’M Right types. Those kinds of scum will enter the Farmer World of Solidarity and poison it like as efficiently as some cast member on Game of Thrones.
        Preposterous I hear you stumble out ! Well, I’ve seen it happen. Ask John McCaskey of Waipara Wines what happened when Colis Blake …

        ( http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/local-papers/horowhenua-mail/7952026/Collis-remembered-for-his-generosity)

        … turned up at a direct-action farmer meeting that John and I had convened all those many years ago. Dear old Colis. Great man. Generous man? Or a Machiavellian confederate government patsy? I know what I think.
        He got up behind the microphone and started blathering about diversification, making do, cutting back, doing deals with banksters charging 20% + interest, blah, blah, blah,blah,blah,blah…
        I stood up and shouted ” Fuck this ! I’m here to talk of striking and taking out the freezing workers, shearers, warfies, railway workers and truck drivers! ” Dear old generous old, kindly old, Colis hit the roof ! He was extremely enthusiastic about shutting me down.
        What happened then? He continued to lay down his poisons. He went from organisation, to organisation spreading the “take it like the bitches to the banks you are” mantra and the whole impetus fizzled out. That was over thirty years ago and now look where we are as an agrarian exporter to a frozen Northern European market? Fucked. We have starving kids, homelessness and a lost few generations and all from the working class dependant on the export industry that is our agrarian enterprises.

        Farmers must weld themselves to their down-stream unions and those workers and Unions must return the favour. And if people don’t want to be a part of The Union? Then fuck them. See how they go it alone. Because you farmers aren’t doing so great being all independent and free are you? Free to be as enslaved as your Bankster masters need you to be and those deals brokered by your National Party mates, the very political party that say they’re your best friend. Tuis Ad anyone?

        • CLEANGREEN says:

          10000% COUNTRYBOY,

          AS TOXIC AS HIS/HER LEADER AND THEY ALL HAVE THE EXCACT SAME DNA DONT THEY ALMOST LIKE ANDRIODS?

        • WILD KATIPO says:

          A sight to behold is COUNTRYBOY in full flight !

          Sock it to ’em !!!

          • Geoff Lye says:

            Agree 100% the farmers are being screwed over and if they want to lay down like a dog and take it they are fools living in a fools paradise.

  2. david colbourn says:

    Bulls eye Annie Great stuff

  3. awanderer says:

    Yes – terrible place to live NZ isn’t it.

    It would appear other observers would beg to differ:

    http://www.prosperity.com/#!/country/NZ

    • Aaron says:

      I see the obligatory National Party representative has arrived to muddy the debate. Looks pretty stupid though when the papers are full of stories about homeless people.

      • WILD KATIPO says:

        Hmmmm…. homelessness and soon ,… overriding NZ’s anti nuclear stance… oh… and zero / free tax havens…ooooh wait!!! … and an arms dealer meeting in Auckland…

        Well, well , well… we have some things to discuss in this lil ole country … and y’know… I just don’t think little Keesey Weesey is gonna survive past 2017 , just quietly…

        Soooo…. there’s really not much point in him trying to break NZ’s laws before the election to curry favour for the TTPA , now ………… IS THERE !!!!.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Anne you certainly cause the right winger cling on planet Key mindless twits to react to any change to their cosy sinking lid policy they relish.

      Seems they were to young to recall when this was a good country to live in with all getting the piece of the pie.

      Sad people they are as they steal from the poor and defenceless what a sad lot.

  4. Afewknowthetruth says:

    ‘Government in a capitalist democracy has two jobs: firstly, to enable organisations of civil society to fulfill their role helping individuals manoeuvre through life and all its challenges; and secondly, to hold the power of the market in check.’

    Sorry, that is not correct.

    ‘Capitalist’ and ‘democracy’ are mutually exclusive concepts. You can either have capitalism or you can have democracy but not both at the same time.

    Capitalism, by definition, implies inequity, inequality, lack of representation and exploitation of the many by the few, often orchestrated via behind-closed-doors meeting. Which is exactly what we have.

    The notion that a capitalist government would hold the market in check is ridiculous. Capitalism is all about raiding the commons and transferring costs onto the many whilst enriching the few. A capitalist government promotes ‘market solutions’ which enrich the few in the short term (even if those ‘solutions make everything that matters worse long term). Which is exactly what we have.

    The solution to this predicament was in the process of being implemented towards the end of the Second World War, but ‘capitalist democracies’ would not allow the solution to be implemented and stamped it out wherever it arose. Hence the global predicament we are in now.

  5. Mike in Auckland says:

    Yes, they believe in creating a population of morons and nasty competitors, like rats fighting over the bait thrown at them, that is how I see so many people in this country behave now.

    It is a kind of fluid, modern day class system, where they all desperately try to cling to, to perhaps join and associate with certain groups or income level based classes of people, that they feel they should belong to, or deserve to belong to.

    Nobody wants to be identified with the “losers”, and the stigma attached to losers like “beneficiaries” and “other hopeless people”, is real bad now.

    Many years of stigmatising, of division, of hatred even, has resulted in this.

    When I hear this shit slogan coming from politicians, that they are there for “the hard working Kiwis”, “the hard working New Zealand families”, bla, bla, bla, I get sick and angry.

    It is patronising, it is insulting, driving further divisions between people, as everyone will want to be counted as “hard working” and thus “deserving”.

    The precariat are a group nobody wants to belong to, that is the working poor, the ones without representation and any political or economic clout.

    And as being Maori often comes with being poor, we continue to have “brown” suburbs and more leafy “white” suburbs, which allow some moderate influx of the “hard working”, “deserving” migrants, the “good ones”, not those difficult and complex refugees, who may even dare to bring their foreign clothing and religion with them.

    Welcome to the non-progressive New Zealand in 2016, it is a regressive society now, and I fear we have not seen the end yet.

    Talking about Europe, yes they have there perhaps more of a “civil culture”, but looking at the present Europe, we have the rise of nationalism, envy, suspicion, hatred and division there also.

    Human rights count little now, they are mere empty words, as refugees are not wanted in most places, not by say half or more of the populations, and the gap between better off and poor is growing there also, every where. It is indeed a global trend, which has reached New Zealand and is destroying the remaining bit of social fabric there may have been.

    Most are switching off, feeling under threat and stress, and in survival mode, it is every one to their own, fight for your survival, never mind the ones who cannot make it anymore, it is perhaps also “their own fault”?!

  6. Helena says:

    Here’s an expose worthy of note. It seems New Zealand is nothing more than a wallet into which all NZers contribute for the benefit of bankers and their corporations. Good bye TPPA I rather think but more importantly good bye government as we have known it. Let the clean air blow through and let the clean up begin:
    https://mainerepublicemailalert.com/2016/05/30/the-truth-has-come-out-finally-and-conclusively-anna-von-reitz/

  7. jay1 says:

    Another great Neoliberal advance: Poverty is Privatised! Poor and living in a car!? Well it’s your own fault!

  8. Z says:

    You need to watch Brexit the movie so you can understand just what a disaster the EU is – what you consider civilised action appears to be more of a veneer.

    The rest of your article was agreeable.


 
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