GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – What’s happened to Kindness?

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There are a lot of things I applaud in our current government. You only have to look at the carnage Covid 19 has been allowed to cause in countries such as the USA and the UK, for example, to realise that were it not for the decisive leadership our government has shown throughout this public health crisis many New Zealanders, perhaps me, perhaps some of you reading this post, would not be alive today.

But no government is perfect and this one certainly has a central flaw which it needs to address if we want to have a society where every child gets a fair chance at being the best that they can be.

And what’s that flaw?

Answer – it wants to practice the politics of kindness while clinging to the neoliberal economics of meanness introduced by the 4th Labour Government 36 years ago..

This is nowhere more apparent when you look at the numbers of our children living in households experiencing income poverty.

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Despite introducing the Child Poverty Reduction Act in 2018 Child Poverty Action Group report we still have approximately

241,600 children living in households with less that 50% of the median income after housing cost are deducted ( the NZ poverty line)

167,600 of our children living households with less than 40% of the median income after housing costs are deducted

66,100 are experiencing severe material hardship.

If you gathered all these kids together what would it look like?

241,600 – imagine the entire population of Auckland’s Northshore

167,600 – imagine the entire population of Hamilton and add about 10,000 more

The shame of it is that the record shows (kept by Stats NZ) that today’s situation is roughly as it was in 2007.

The plight of these children was not met in the last budget.

That’s not kindness.

PS More detailed information can be found on CPAG’s site
https://www.cpag.org.nz/the-latest/current-statistics/?

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.

18 COMMENTS

  1. ‘Answer – it wants to practice the politics of kindness while clinging to the neoliberal economics of meanness introduced by the 4th Labour Government 36 years ago.’

    Spot on, Bryan.

    And by clinging to the dysfunctional neoliberal economics of meanness (and accumulation of wealth by the few at the expense of the many) the Adern government digs its own grave and that of NZ.

    NZ under Adern is not doing well. It is simply doing less badly than it would under National. The loot-and-pollute and transfer-wealth-upwards continue unabated, and it will be the children who will pay the ultimate price, when the system goes under fairly soon (having destroyed the base it needs to exist).

    But try telling that to any politician. The institutional deafness is truly appalling.

      • “And quite deliberate”
        Yep, I wonder about that these days, but aside from the gNats who are equipped with Divine Rights, and who’ve pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, I look at others that have come in with the best of intentions but who then succumb to the cistern.
        Now I’m thinking we may have lost the best opportunity we’ve had in a century to reform that system and structure. But you know what they say about the definition of madness.

    • At the moment the neoliberal fiscal giants appear to be biding their time while wealth transfer to them continues under civid19. Remember Grant gave them $31 billion to play with and if we are lucky the public may get to use 8% of that as trickle down.

      Labour is busy attempting to ride the wave and keep the covid19 campaign rolling.
      I suspect they know full well that any structural changes made moving away from neoliberal ideology will see a very powerful reaction against that with MSM used ruthlessly. NACT will bide their time waiting and niggling until Labour tries to break out of privatisation. strengthen our health system, expand education and refuse to give tax cuts to coporate investors.

      As Grant puts it that we do not need to scare the horses.
      Once Labour are elected as a majority then swift action will be needed that is hard to turn back.
      Nordmeyer type suicide was not well planned strategically.

      A simple start will be to open up a Govt backed Kiwisaver fund as an option. Let the public vote with their feet.

  2. Perhaps one of the reasons is simply that there are now too many people in the world, and in New Zealand.
    When you have only two-three million people to look after, it is easier than when you have five million plus.
    To put it down to a simple cliche – the more you divide the pie the less each person gets, and the pie hasn’t really grown as much as people want to believe.

    • Both in NZ and beyond. Peaceful and rational control of population is an area of discussion that does not go well.
      Most churches are a barrier to population reduction as it means less income for them, hence is against there edicts. But they also seldom speak out against wars.
      In a finite and depleted country within a finite and depleted world, what is hard to see.

  3. “What’s happened to Kindness?”
    [It’s] withered and died because and as you rightly point out above that #A There’s no money in it and #B Because of that, kindness is regarded as more a cost than an investment. A weakness. And as we all know, the lunatics who are currently in control will tell you, if an investment doesn’t show a return then it must, indeed deserves to cease to be…
    Where as, there’s tons of ‘good coin’ to made out of misery, cruelty, hate, spite, horror and meanness.
    Ask any insurer, bankster, loan shark, lawyer, accountant, politician, prison privateer etc.
    Becoming, then staying, rich is exclusively the domain of arseholes, have the many of you not noticed that?
    I met a cool young guy working in an electrical supplies store recently. He was a hip young fellow with an open mind and a keen interest in things at a higher level, so to speak.
    But he’d never heard of roger douglas…
    He knows all about that punk pig exploiter now, I can promise you.
    That big black wall that stands between hungry AO/NZ kids and those living unnecessarily in poverty and our AO/NZ , a rich country overflowing with more foods than all of us could eat in years is ignorance. Deliberate, surgically placed ignorance.
    @ Bryan Bruce? Go and talk to our farmers? And remember? Farmers have been forced to become brutally provincialised
    so you must travel the length and breadth of AO/NZ and talk to many farmers to get a broader consensus of opinion.
    I guarantee, you will be shocked and surprised.

  4. Bryan or someone else, could you expand upon…….241,600 children living in households with less that 50% of the median income after housing cost are deducted ( the NZ poverty line):

    1) What is the Median income?
    2) And what is the median income after housing cost are deducted?….this must be difficult to calculate, given two variables, with big city rents skewing the data?

    Thanks for any help.

  5. “….it wants to practice the politics of kindness while clinging to the neoliberal economics of meanness introduced by the 4th Labour Government 36 years ago..

    This is nowhere more apparent when you look at the numbers of our children living in households experiencing income poverty.”

    This is why – despite being an old lefty and a longtime Labour voter – I won’t be voting Labour at the next election. And possibly never again.

  6. The government clearly doesn’t “want” to practice the politics of kindness or it would.
    It’s not some sort of mistake, its a cheesy slogan: There has never been an intention to change the system, which makes this government more cynical and hypocritical than the National/ACT bloc they despise.
    At least NACT are honest about not caring about the poor.

  7. Nine comments — despairing. With the race protests on the go Bryan, shirley the fact the 1991 benefit cuts were a renewed war on Maori is a new blast-off point? Almost anything Maori did now would fire renewed democracy, unlike the endless self-interest of the new ‘ by merit’ ruling class, let alone their ‘loyal opposition’.

    • sumsuch: “….the 1991 benefit cuts were a renewed war on Maori….”

      That’s not how I remember the situation back then. At that time, there were many pakeha on benefits of various sorts: in fact, where I lived then, the protesters were largely pakeha.

      “Almost anything Maori did now would fire renewed democracy…”

      I wouldn’t be so sure about that in the current environment.

  8. 1991 wasn’t intended as a race war but it amounted to it. Go into a poor house in the poor suburbs and cry like me.

    The Left’s heart, let alone NZ’s in my view, lies in the poorest. They don’t vote. Why? I’ve been agin since 84 and I’m right unlike the rich pricks who’ve prospered.

    • sumsuch: “1991 wasn’t intended as a race war but it amounted to it. Go into a poor house in the poor suburbs and cry like me.”

      Really, neoliberalism isn’t concerned with ethnicity or skin colour per se, but with efficient use of “human resources” – to use its awful jargon. And the consequences of the 1991 benefits cuts didn’t amount to a “race” war, either. Those affected were Maori, Pacific and pakeha.

      Even now, those in poverty aren’t exclusively Maori and Pacific. The demographic shift toward overrepresentation didn’t really step up a gear until the early noughties, more or less at the same time as the arrival of methamphetamine. Cannabis was already a significant issue in that sector of society, but meth was a much bigger problem.

      “The Left’s heart, let alone NZ’s in my view, lies in the poorest. They don’t vote.”

      I know about poverty. I worked in that arena; I grew up in a low-income family. It’s best not to assume that all poor people are left-wingers; in my experience, many are quite conservative. They – or many of them – don’t vote, it’s true. That’s for a multiplicity of reasons, largely that they don’t see the electoral process as having anything to do with them. Among some people I knew and worked with, there was no culture of voting. In my own family, however – Irish Catholic and with a strong interest in politics – there was. We voted. My parents and grandparents voted.

      After the 2014 election, there was lot of talk about the “missing million” non-voters. It was pointed out at the time that, even were they to vote, it didn’t necessarily follow that those votes would get the Left over the line. Without doubt, that would still be true.

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