GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – ME or WE?

Rights vs Duty


An underlying, but often unspoken, theme in political debate is the issue of the rights and wants of the individual versus the need to have a cohesive society.

One way to think of it is as a continuum. At one end is the tyranny of the autocratic State in which individuals who seek to assert their individual rights are imprisoned, tortured or killed. At the other end are the extreme Libertarians who believe the rights of the individual are the only thing that matter and we have no responsibility to anyone else but ourselves.

There are of course other ways of thinking about the relationship between the individual and society but, however you imagine it, when we vote at election time it’s something we ought to consciously consider .

Do you want a WE society in which we all pay our fair share to look after one another? Or ME society in which the individual gets maximum freedom of choice and pays as little as possible to the upkeep of the State .

Cartoonists, at their best, often point up the absurdity of some of the things we believe .

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Like today’s one on the Libertarian belief that whatever people choose to do or whatever happens to them in life isn’t any of our responsibility.

It raises, yet again, the age old question
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

While we hear a lot of talk about “rights” these days we don’t hear anywhere near as much about our obligations to each other. Or, to put it another way, the word “duty” is not as common as it was in my parents’ generation, because they acnowledged through the Social Welfare governments the elected that we had a duty of care towards our fellow citizens.

It’s getting colder. Winter is settling in.Tonight some of us will be sleeping in cars and kids are growing up in motel units because rents are so high, wages are low, and there are simply not enough available houses to shelter everyone…


Bryan Bruce is one of New Zealand’s most important and respected documentary makers. His work is available on


  1. I would like to live in a “we” society.
    Currently our government says we must do this or that for the good of the country while their actions are to ensure that their sponsors are the ” I” that get the cream while the “we” get the skim .
    Just need to look at the housing announcements this week.
    First home grant gone, money shifted into a vacuum where none of the 1500 places to be funded will be available for 3 years as stated by Tama Potaka yesterday.
    Those houses will probably be provided by pseudo social housing providers who are actually developers or investors getting a guaranteed return subsidised by the ” we”.

  2. I know a few libertarians and although I don’t subscribe to their world view, that cartoon doesn’t represent them either.

    • You’ve just illustrated the talent of a libertarian – perpetual rationalization to validate mass harm when their Sci-Fi utopia never worked anywhere, ever.

      Rationalizing…. Blah blah blah Blah blah blah
      Blah blah blah …
      generally oppose foreign military intervention on anti-imperialist grounds, while right-libertarians also generally oppose foreign military intervention and generally oppose all government foreign aid as well. In the United States, the Libertarian Party opposes strategic alliances …
      Deliberate, rationalize some more…

      Blah blah blah Blah blah blah
      Blah blah blah … THEY ASKED FOR IT.

      ” Oh shit look at all the dead people ! ”

      Little F# Up Dave:
      ” Quick look over there, a kid needing a school lunch.
      Not on my watch. “

      • I literally have no idea what you’re talking about.

        Maybe because I’m not a libertarian.

        But then I doubt the author of this piece knows what one is either

  3. It’s imperative we build a society where no one is hungry or has to sleep rough.
    It’s how we do that where the debate begins.

    • It’s imperative that we put ourselves in reverse and back up to at least when Labour’s two term finance minister, roger douglas, and his cohorts and political cronies de-established a perfectly good and functioning society and systems to build 14 multi-billionaires, 3118 multi-millionaires each with a $50 million dollar after tax minimum and enabled four now foreign owned but once were AO/NZ banks to be the second most profitable banks in the world, second only to Canada taking $180.00 a second 24/7/365 net off shore.
      Bob the First talks about debating. Unlike Bob the First I talk about facts supported by stats and the facts are the facts. The fact is that we AO/NZ’ers are being exploited by a select few others and we need to take our AO/NZ back and so rather than a pointless debate where acquiescence would be born of frustration and boredom where nothing would be achieved except we give in and nothing would happen. Similar to committees actually. Someone wrote that committee’s were where good ideas were lured then murdered and buried.
      The health and operational security of our AO/NZ has become so critical now that it’s been my personal opinion for a while that we need help. We can ask for a royal commission of inquiry which would ( hopefully) be independent of the manipulative and devious control of the Kiwi-as hyper-riche and those within the four banks who only have themselves to self-monitor and the RBNZ too which I believe is bent as a nine dollar note even without ACT’s Don Brash’s signature on it.
      Finally, look at what we are? What are we? What’s our AO/NZ? We’re only 5.2 million people on a land area 29 thousand square kms larger than the UK with a population of close to 70 million. And what we do best, better actually, than anywhere else is in the world? We grow food and wool. That, is all we do, and we do it better than anywhere else because AO/NZ is perfectly designed and positioned to achieve that. We have the worlds best farmers who are the most technically equiped to cover a wide range of nuanced agrarian produce and yet what do we have? Millions of shitting, pissing cows supplying the aggressive, dominant and frankly scary Chinese Communists and communism, remember, is another word for fascism.
      I also believe the billionaire and millionaire hyper-riche are so terrified of being found out for their blatant exploitation of our farming primary industry both historical and contemporary that they’re, as I write, planning to off-load us to anyone with the cash.
      The other thing to remember, which makes us extremely vulnerable, is global climate change for the hotter.
      Check out where we are on Google Maps? Better still, buy an actual globe then stare at it. To the west of the 180 degree longitude is the fry pan aka Australia and the pressure cooker that is South East Asia just above. To the East of AO/NZ is fuck all except Ocean dotted with a few tiny islands. One might argue, as Sun Tzu might, that we’re in a pretty good position to wait and watch but Monkeys are dying of the heat then falling from the trees in Mexico so does that make us a bit of a target from even that far out? We need a very, very, very public royal commission of inquiry up and into our politicians and their rich mates then once they’re in prison we must plan accordingly. ( Sorry. That little fantasy of mine just popped out.)
      Finally. 600,000 kiwis living in financial hardship and 200,000 kids living in poverty is a lie. It’s much worse than that.
      You poor bastards who have massive mortgages? You’ve sprung the trap they set for you. If you can’t cash up and pay the mortgage you’re effectively homeless while living in a lenders building and I think now is a good time to watch these two documentaries.
      Prime video
      Prime Video.
      The Men Who Stole The World
      They’re bankers, traders, investment funds executives. They forgot all about morality to make money. The entire world had to suffer the consequences of their actions. They impoverished countries, drove millions of workers into unemployment, and contributed to the rise in extremism. So who are they? And, after the 2008 crisis, were the real culprits condemned? Could there be another?

      • What we do best also CB is
        ‘ innovation ‘ .
        AO/NZ has its share of the brightest minds with incredible potential that has produced world leading inventions.

        We’ve not invested in that , but rather the same old capitalism keeps producing a DEGENERATIVE economy with a downward fallout of mass harm socially and environmentally.

        In the same token of AO/NZ being a blessed land, but on the brink, we’ve continued the destructive DEGENERATIVE route, still believing in the myth of neoliberalism. There is a different way, still.

        Young people now, denied a voice, are now the pending mass voters across the globe and this shite we call Government is NOT what they want nor does it offer a glimmer of joy for their futures.

        ” Dying Planet ” on the example of COSTA RICA is a must see HOPE filled glimpse of where we could head.

    • And only a left wing government can achieve this. In just 7 months we’ve seen the social destruction of N.Z.

      • Squeaky
        Hahahahahaha only a Labour govt can achieve this..hahaha priceless. Which Labour govt did you have in mind…the Jacinda variety or the Chippie version.You know those blinkered horses that run around the track? You’re even more blinkered than them. But at least the horses aren’t half as brainwashed.

    • Yeah, we had pretty close to it.
      It was called Keynesianism.
      It was actually watered down Keynesianism and didn’t go nearly far enough in many areas but hey, it worked a hell of a lot better at keeping people housed than the neoliberal garbage were doing now.

  4. You’ll never get a WE society with mass, neo-colonial levels of neoliberal migration. After the next civil war, maybe…

  5. The tricky bit is trying to balance the needs/wants of those who work & pay taxes, against the needs/wants of those who don’t. This issue will become increasingly important as AI & robots put more people out of work, especially as this effects more middle class people, any idea how we deal with this?

    • It’s funny you say this because identity politics was a right wing invention.
      It’s unfortunate to see leftists fall into the idpol trap for sure, but this kind of thing happens when a bunch of elites re-order the economy, and people get conditioned into individualism.

      The contemporary left decides it needs to pander to individualist extremism in the social realm, because it hasn’t united behind a coherent counter plan to Neoliberalism in the economic realm.

    • …as are the majority of economic migrants, landlords (people farmers), employers and so=called political leaders…. sure does sound like a recipe for civil conflict to me. If you can’t see it, maybe see if a small child or talking parrot can explain it for you.

  6. There needs to be a balance.
    On the hand there are rights and entitlements and other the other hand there are duties and responsibilities. For many years now NZ has emphasized the former and ignored the latter.

  7. Squeaky
    Hahahahahaha only a Labour govt can achieve this..hahaha priceless. Which Labour govt did you have in mind…the Jacinda variety or the Chippie version.You know those blinkered horses that run around the track? You’re even more blinkered than them. But at least the horses aren’t half as brainwashed.

  8. Are we really all sitting on this continuum with the colonialist state at one end and unrestrained “free market capitalism” at the other?
    No, we are not. Since 1984 people have lost faith in the New Zealand state. The New Zealand Labour Party saw to that, as much as National or ACT. They also have all the evidence they need that the effects of global capitalism, under the guise of “free markets”, are no better than the depredations of the colonialist state.
    Collective or communal thinking will return from its true place of origin, in the hearts and the formal or informal institutions of the people. It will come from nga tangata motu.

    • Spot on . The de-alignment with these past decades models of Government will happen here in NZ too.
      The SHAM perpetuated on people is already reaching its day of reckoning.

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