As a Statutory Social Worker one of the tasks I had to complete was to determine whether I believed a child or young person was in need of care and protection, Continue reading
said a small voice to me. It came from a young boy maybe eight or nine. I was siting in my car when I heard a small noise and saw this boy bent over my strawberries. Continue reading
Today in New Zealand we had a budget delivered, with great fanfare John Key announced his massive attack on poverty. A huge 25.00 per week for single parents and low income families. In this case a low income family is counted as someone who is earning less than 17.50 or so per hour for a 40 hour week. In my town that won’t even pay for one of my children to visit the doctor, it would take 10 extra weeks to gather enough to pay for a couple of fillings, it might pay for one child’s school uniform and fees for the year, how is that going to impact on child poverty? In the mean time the rent will have risen and taken care of the 25.00, school fees will have risen because the rise in the general grant will only be 1% this year, not even the rate of inflation.
I had a stark reminder of the face of child poverty tonight. I was shopping at a supermarket and the guy in front of me was making a single purchase, a can of infant formula. He had a worried expression on his face and ran his fingers through his change seeming to count it, he placed the tin on the counter and said how much is that? 17:99 said the checkout operator, I’ll have to come back he said, the operator shot a glance at me and I at him, we both knew he wasn’t coming back, the look of desperation and sadness on his face told me everything I needed to know, it was like I could see the wheels moving in his head, where can I find $4:00,
It was cold and wet outside, his clothes looked inadequate for the weather, they had clearly seen better days and his feet were blue from the cold, rubber Jandals were what he was wearing. Ill pay the balance I found myself saying, “what was that he said, I’ll make up the difference, he said” no mate I can’t accept that”, I said it’s not for you. Been there done that I said to make him feel better, not quite true I have been broke before but always enough food in our house. He handed over the $14:00 he had and I paid the rest, he turned to me tears in his eyes and said you don’t know what this means, I think I did, he turned and left and I was filled with regret. Four miserable dollars, I should have paid for the lot, invariably I will have the same amount of money at the end of the week.
The checkout operator said it was the hardest part of her job watching as people put things back as they didn’t have enough to pay, and she said it’s not tobacco and alcohol going back it is food, bread butter. She said it is hard, she feels the tears welling up and there is nothing she can do, she is not allowed to. She said it was the first time she had seen somebody do something about it like I had, she said I was a good man. Well you know what I think about that moniker, from some of my posts (https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/if-someone-tells-me-i-am-a-good-man-one-more-time/) a good man, like heck I am. I couldn’t stop and tell her why I wasn’t a good man, I just thanked her and left.
I am not telling this story because I want people to know that I am a kind man, I am relaying the story to show the face of poverty. For me the decision to pay for the balance was easy. It is about retaining my integrity, looking myself in the mirror, if I thought that by my lack of compassion a baby was going to miss out on food then that is just too bloody awful to contemplate. I don’t care if he smoked or drank, although there was no evidence of the above and if he had put formula back on the shelf and bought tobacco or alcohol I would have given him the edge of my tongue. Judgemental? Absolutely. So an easy decision to make.
The question is how do I make it right for the children living in cold, damp overcrowded houses, the children who don’t get to the doctor, the children who just don’t eat right. How do I make it right for the pensioner shivering in the cold because they are scared of the next big power bill? How do I make that right, it is just as unacceptable…
I intend to write on this over the next few weeks (as usual with a few distractions) tonight I am grateful for friends, family, warmth and love.
Tonight for you,
without further adieu
I bring to you
Verse is hard
So it’s said
has not been read
Tonight’s poem is from a man who is a poet but till now he didn’t know it. I was going to write of budgets and housing but tonight this will do.
This is the poem Andrew Little read in Parliament, quite funny I thought!
Twas the night before the Budget
When all through the House.
The National Back Benches were keen for a stoush
The promises were hung during the election with care
Of course they would fill them
How could they not
They wouldn’t dare.
September 14 was a different time
The Back Benchers quite happy, some in their prime.
Nested all snug in their leather armchairs
John, Bill and Steven washed away all their fears
There had been promises of surpluses, of poverty relieved
Of great fiscal wonders, or so they believed.
“They’ve got us this fat, the Back Benchers said”
“What could possibly go wrong?”
“We’re so far ahead!”
But Bill English knew, he just hid his fear
That all their good words were just plain hot air
It was great that Mike Hosking and Paul Henry were glowing
But nothing could mask an economy slowing.
“We have to do something, we have to be quick”
Said John Key to his Cabinet that had run out of tricks.
“Now Bennett, now Adams, Now Bridges and Tolley
Forget Steven Joyce and his conventional folly.
Where’s Woodhouse, McCully, Crosbey and Textor
If there’s one thing clear – you all have to do better.
I need plans to help Auckland, to slow housing prices
To help feed the kids, and fix other vices.
Where is the plan for trains, trucks and bikes.
My Facebook page tanking, I can’t get no likes.”
“And I’m sick of seeing Andy, the new man about town
He never gets angry, we can’t bring him down”.
Bill English stepped forwarded in canonical mood;
“Just stop there John, I don’t mean to be rude
You may not have noticed, but we have a crisis
And it’s nothing to do with our troops fighting ISIS
Exports are diving, dairy is down
There isn’t much happening in any small town
I know I have said the problem’s inflation.
But there’s something much bigger – John Bank’s compensation.
You said don’t touch taxes, levies and fees
But how will we pay for this – it don’t grow on trees.”
And then the talk came to a stop with a shudder
The Prime Minister knew -his heart now aflutter
Up from the back came a great throaty roar
Judith Collins appeared on Parliament’s floor.
“I’ve heard all of your talk, me and Todd Muller
All you’re known as now is ponytail puller”
“Out of the way – shove this in your gob
I’m here to take over, it’s my turn in your job.”
I watched a lengthy interview of Paul Keating the other day. It traversed his time in politics with Bob Hawke Keating and Hawke are both ex Prime Ministers of Australia, with Keating serving as Treasurer to Hawke. The interview was candid and interesting, there was one thing that I found refreshing.
Australia had a recession, not as bad as New Zealand’s and the economic medicine that was prescribed was not as nasty as ours. The neo-liberals did not reign supreme over there. Some of this is due to the fact that there was a minerals boom in Australia that set a whole lot of other economic indicators in place, however they did have a recession.
In life and in politics it is very rare to hear people take responsibility for their actions, however it is both liberating and honourable to do so, all care and no responsibility seems to be the catch cry of many politicians and CEO’s. John Banks was on TV acclaiming his acquittal of electoral fraud charges as innocence, what a crock of the proverbial. A man who cannot remember a helicopter ride to the mansion of Kim Dotcom is hardly reliable. The defence of accepting someone else doing the paper work is disingenuous and morally bankrupt. More so because Banksie campaigns on morals and presents himself as above reproach. Banks made a fatal mistake, he forgot the cardinal rule and that is the piper has to be paid. When Mr Dotcom was languishing at the courtesy of her majesty on remand, he needed a kindness. Banks ran like a scalded cat, the rest they say is history. But enough of how he got into the situation it is how he got out of it.
I don’t like Banks or his politics, just to put it out there and I was not unpleased to see his grubby little arrangement become undone. However if he had smply come out and said I stuffed up, I got it wrong, I should have checked it is not good enough, I would have supported him. I would have had no choice because he would have been practicing what I preach. I would have supported him staying in Parliament and supported a discharge without conviction, because in doing so he would have been setting the right example. In doing so he would have provided the best defence and shut up the critics baying for blood, and set the example.
Back to Keating, you see Paul Keating said that in the end, no matter the outside influences, the policies etc he was Treasurer Minister of Finance when the recession struck and he was responsible. I don’t remember what he said at the time and revisionist judgements are not the best but he said it was my responsibility it happened on my watch, end of the story.
Contrast this to our present day pollies, they will do anything to avoid taking responsibility. The trouble with politics is that it is turned into a giant game of gotcha, which is driven by vested interests. Health housing, welfare education, all the same. We in New Zealand have tried to run with a budget approach to these things which are driven by the ideology of low tax and the neo-liberal mantra of privatisation and the nonsense of competition and market forces, which are euphemisms for corporatisation and the shifting of wealth from the bottom to the top. We cannot have world class education and low taxes, the same with health and even housing but nobody wants to tell the truth because that is the equivalent of a bucket of cold sick for breakfast so what do we get.
What we get is secondary taxation in the form of health insurance, ever rising school fees, and the commodification of basic housing just a tip of the iceberg. Those who cannot are cast onto the heap essentially, this is a short sighted approach that is costing us all dearly financially and in real terms. It is reflected in crime, abuse and many other negative social indicators, it is reflected in children living in poverty, short of food, clothes and above all else love and affection. It starts in my opinion in a very basic place and the answers begin in solving that. It is not solved by increasing benefits, more money spent on health and education the solution lies in housing, in my next blog I will explain why, as to Banks, Key, Little, Dot Com et al, learn to take responsibility and be accountable.
Often after people find out I used to work as a social worker one of the questions that they used to ask me was what does a child abuser look like, I used to say pick up a mirror and look at the reflection. Abusers come in all shapes and sizes they are a percentage of the population. In a population you will find all sorts of people however, living in a small town amplifies deviance. Clique groups and power brokers seem to wield influence beyond their sphere of influence and conservatism rules. This is not necessarily a bad thing, the problem lies with how deviance is defined. The fact that my children are relatively safe walking the streets compared to where we used to live is an example of a how in a small town deviant behaviour is much easier to see, and to a degree it is not tolerated. This is fine when we are talking about anti-social aberrant behaviours which are harmful to others however, the way behaviour is classified as deviant in a small town is very different to big towns and city.
There are a number of reasons for this, small towns should reflect big towns, society should be made up of the same kinds of people and in similar kinds of proportions, there in lies part of the answer, what may seem to a large group of deviant people in a city is perhaps not so true, they are probably just a whole lot more visible. Just as there are more deviant people there are likely to be more tolerant people who live in city, what it comes to is the amount of influence that these people have. That is the theory however my experience tells me a different story. You see here in Morrinsville many people see me as deviant.
I am deviant because I don’t vote conservative, I am left wing, how do people know this, well I stand up for what I believe in. I have been involved politically, I don’t shut my mouth when I encounter injustice and I don’t fit into the mould. Some of those moulds have changed since I was a young person but here in Morrinsville it is the conservative, conventional suits that rule, no ifs no buts no maybes, and to be honest I see them as deviant, is there any midway between.
Well I guess common ground can be found but I am not sure enough could be found for either of our points of views to meet in a real meeting of minds but I am not completely set in my ways, my views can be changed because I know that I don’t have the answer for everything and that is what makes me normal, well normal is a wide kind of a label but it is the word that comes to mind. Deviant is a loaded word that carries a lot of baggage, and as I have written before when we label people it is so much easier to denigrate, ignore and debunk their beliefs. In reality that is an approach that is used so that people do not have to engage with their own issues, they cannot admit to being wrong about one thing in theory life because that may mean their whole world view could be challenged.
I am not writing here of people that like or don’t like Paul Henry or Mike Hoskings or Julia Christie. I am talking of people who in the face of overwhelming evidence will deny there is a problem, like bullying, deviance starts at the very top of our country, parliament. Politicians deny things that are so glaringly obvious that it beggars belief. If I had such an aversion to the truth I would probably be locked up in a mental hospital and labeled deviant, yet politicians get away with it, go figure. So I guess the way I look at it is deviance is contagious we catch it from politicians.
Remember for the little crazy they calls you deviant and lock you up, for the big crazy they call you Prime Minister and pay you lots of money,
yours in craziness,
Over the years I have been privy to a lot of confidential information, criminal records, identities of abusers, the dirty laundry of families, skeletons in the closet even political secrets. Some of it is quite comedic and other stuff is just well ugly. I still walk down the street today and see people I know “stuff” about, stuff I rather would not know. I am good at keeping secrets and confidentiality, Continue reading