Seven years ago when I discussed a documentary proposal with an executive producer from a well known broadcaster and described how inequality would lie at the the heart of it she said:
“You’re not going to use the word ‘Inequality’ Bryan are you? No one uses that word in real life. They ( meaning my viewers) won’t understand you.”
“Yes they will” I said” our viewers aren’t dumb and besides so many folk are experiencing the reality of it these days, that our audience will instantly recognise the problem as soon as I describe how’ inequality’ refers to the gap between the rich and the poor.
Today inequality is an all too familiar word in our country and the coalition’s handing of the economy isn’t fixing it.
Why? Because it’s the same neoliberal approach the last National government took and the Clarke government before it .. going all the way back to David Lange and Roger Douglas who introduced this economic virus in 1984.
That’s why you are currently seeing so many strikes. Neoliberalism (letting the marketplace decide what’s best for the economy rather than the government regulating it ) is making a few people very rich while the majority are struggling to make ends meet.
There is growing unease in our country about how unfair our society has become which the interim tax review shows no real willingness to address.
So how and when will things change?
Well, I don’t pretend to know the answer to that seemingly simple question.
What I can tell you is that history shows that inequality – the gap between the haves and have nots – only gets upended after large and violent shocks.
For my parents generation the financial crisis and Great Depression of 1930’s sowed the seeds of social discontent and the Second World War that provided the shock. Workers who had spilled their blood on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific were in no mood to pander to moneyed elites anymore
Economists are already debating whether Brexit will damage the UK economy so badly it would trigger bad times not just for Britain but for much of the world economy.
Other pundits are predicting a further escalation of wars around the planet.
Me? Well, I think that good people hugely outnumber bad people in our country so I have hope that I might live long enough to see New Zealand evolve into a fairer place to live again through industrial action and a return to a more progressive style of government.
But I am also a realist and I know that as long as capitalism is not made to serve the State but allowed to serve the insatiable greed of financial elites, then history tells us that riot and revolution is only a flashpoint away.
(PS. And yes – it CAN happen in New Zealand. The Photo attached to this post is from 1932 when Wellington Police on horseback charged a demonstration by the unemployed during the Great Depression).
Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.