“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little” President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said.
It is also a measure of our progress that we face to the mistakes of the past and try to put them right.
Last Wednesday the royal commission which has been looking into historic abuse in state and church run care facilities between 1950 and 1999 released its interim report.
It has found that of the 655,000 people who passed through the doors of orphanages, homes for people with disabilities and mental health institutions up to 250,000 were abused.
Physical and sexual abuse was the most common type of abuse reported to the commission, but abuse also included the use of medication and medical acts [electro-convulsive therapy] as punishment, unjustified solitary confinement and isolation, improper strip searches and vaginal examinations, verbal abuse, racial slurs and “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment”, as well as widespread neglect.
One of their most sobering findings is that 81% (202,500) of children abused in care were Māori.
The measure of REAL progress lies not only in the laying out of what has been done in the past but in what we do once we know a wrong has been done.
Yes the issue of impoverishment , institutional racism and the social consequences of it are complex , but there is nothing that we have created in our society that cannot be undone.
What is required is simple – the political will to have a more equal and caring society.
Once that is firmly in place we can, together, figure out how to achieve it.
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.