Disclaimer: I am in a very cynical mood.
Those who voted for the 1984 Labour government can be forgiven for thinking they were actually voting for a centre-left party. But unlike them, those who a) didnt vote at all in the last election; b) voted for the current National government, well…..in years to come, when we’re still being negatively affected by the policies implemented by this Government, I’m unsure how much could be forgiven. I mean, its one thing to screw up and buy the wrong type of milk (light not full cream dammit!) but its another thing to vote for a government that implements policy after policy which hurt people, which damages the social cohesion of our communities, damages our international reputation (Doha), gets rid of our sovereignty (TPPA; The Hobbit), which changes policy without public consultation and abuses the process of urgency (too many to recall); which ignores corruption – big and small fish (Banksy; English) and which laughs in the face of democracy. Oh and they have a leader who appears to have early onset Alzheimers. Sorry, unfortunately, does not fix what has already been undone.
This is not an attack on National voters. Rather, its meant as a wake up call for all Kiwis to start taking an interest in politics. Whether we realise it or not politics does affect you. Whether you choose to participate in politics or not, you will undoubtedly be affected by the government of any given day. Though, lets be honest. You’re probably more likely to experience the negative effects if you are working class and/or brown. So I guess if you’re middle class and/or white – or both, then you’ve got a free pass to vote for whoever the hell you like right? (To be clear, that was my attempt at sarcasm). Speaking of class, New Zealand is an interesting case. Well, interesting is being diplomatic. I could find other words for it. Anyway….. if we were to take Weber and Calinicos & Harman’s theories of class, we might want to grab a mirror and take a good hard look at ourselves. Apparently there are a large number of Kiwis who act/think/vote as if they are middle class on the basis that their white collar office job, which allows them to live comfortably and go on trips to Fiji or Raro every so often, actually makes them middle class. There’s already enough dribble about the blurring lines between blue/white collar workers so I wont go into it, but the point is that many of these *cough cough* ‘middle class’ people vote for parties like National because…..well, I dont really know why they would vote National. But what I can say, is that just because one works in a cushy office job does not automatically mean that they will benefit from Nationals policies! (Working class people voting for National is another thing that makes me cringe…..what on earth?! If Darwin’s theory could be applied to today, perhaps working class people voting for right wing Governments have got to top the list!).
The other thing, and this is on a more serious note that I just cant wrap my head around is when good, community spirited people, vote National. I mean, I understand someone voting for National because tax cuts gives you more money in your pocket, and less regulation for small businesses equals less rigmarole. But what completely throws me off is that the consequences of tax cuts are so blindingly self-defeating for most people in society. I honestly don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that tax cuts = less funds for educaiton; less funds for healthcare and less funds for social security – all of which have a direct impact on all our communities.
Less funding for education leads to fewer staff, resources and bigger class sizes. The efffects of this CANNOT be underestimated. I mean, why do you think John Key (and the rest of his cabinet) send their kids to private schools? Coz even they know the effects of cost cutting in education and they aint stupid! (Coincidently, most of them went to private schools). Less funding for health. Well, one need only check out the state of the US health system to see where we’re heading. Did you know that people are turned away if they don’t have health insurance because they cannot pay for the appropriate medical treatment? As for doctors visits and medicine, you can say goodbye to them unless you have an extra $100 bucks in ya pocket! (I actually do know someone who had to pay $70 for a doctors visit. Geebus!). I fail to understand why anyone would vote for these things? Coz voting for lowered taxes and less regulation isn’t just voting for lower taxes and less regulation. It is also voting for less spending on education and healthcare (not to mention the problem with deregulation leading to incidents like leaky buildings and worse still, catastrophes like Pike River and the CTV building in Christchurch).
As for less funding for social security, this opens up a wealth of issues (no pun intended!). At least in a free-market economy and lets not fool ourselves, this exactly where we’re heading. In fact we’re already known as a neoliberal paradise, much to my dismay. With this in mind corporations can pay staff whatever the hell they like. And since the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act made it look uncool to join the union, we don’t have a lot of barganing power on the shop floor. And with anti-protest laws already being passed in the last week, who knows what other democratic rights will be taken away from us. *sigh*. Anyway, back to my point. This basically means that companies have got free reign to pay us whatever the hell they like and there ain’t nothing we ordinary people can do. Plus in order to increase their profits (sorry but economics has to come in at some point), it is likely they’ll pay the least they can possibly get away with (I choose the word ‘possibly’ over reasonably, because none of this is reasonable. It is well and truly greedy). And this, my friends who may not be aware, is not always enough for the average person or family to survive on. Socal security is a little help from the government to ensure that families have the basic necessities for surviving. Sweden, which trumps us in so so many ways provides social security to ALL families, recognising the most important thing is to ensure people have access to the bare necessities of life. Even if you personally don’t need help from the goverment, why would you sabotage your neighbour from having the type of support that might help them get on their feet? That could be the difference between a child growing up in poverty, going to school hungry and with no shoes or no jacket on a rainy day. (Enough research has been done on the effects of child poverty, so please read it and inform yourself here: Child Poverty Action Group, http://www.cpag.org.nz/resources/). I know, this is all a bit long winded but I feel that the correlations MUST be pointed out with the naive hope that people might connect the dots and realise that governments implement policies that might sound really good…..until you figure out the long term consequences. And lets not play Labour V National, coz Labour is just as much at fault.
So in case its not clear, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich and live in Remuera or poor and live in Manurewa. By the pure fact of being a New Zealander, it is still a responsibility to understand how policies will affect society. Just because one is socially secure does not mean they forfeit any responsibility to the rest of the community (and if thats the type of society one wishes to live in, I’d seriously say feck off instead of ruining NZ!). Likewise, those who feel down and out – thats exactly why you should pay attention. The policies people vote for shape society. To that extent, the policies you vote (and don’t vote for) will affect you regardless of how rich or poor you are. Consider this: What kind of person does a child growing up in poverty who distrusts people, distrusts authority (i.e. teachers), and grows up knowing violence, become? It’s not my problem Mrs Jones from Remuera says. They have their own family, they have their own community, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Mrs Jones and her family. Until that kid learns that the homes in Remuera have a lot of worthwhile items that could fetch a good price on Trademe. NEK MINNIT Mrs Jones has been burgled. Or like the thugs who went to Takapuna a couple of years ago and beat up an innocent couple (no, I’m not about to excuse them and yes, I believe they are thugs). Geez I was pissed off at a sign I saw in the weeks following. It read: No Violence in Takapuna. Ummmmmmm there’s been violence in a lot of places in New Zealand for a long time oh, but thats right, its ok if violence happens when its hidden away in the backblocks right? But when it affects Mrs Jones, she suddently wants the Government to do something about it. On the other side of the tracks, you might have Mr Smith who just didn’t bother to turn up to vote in the previous election. He didn’t think there was any point – except if him and all his mates actually turned up, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re currently in. This is exactly what I meant when I said things have already been undone. Instead of communities building bridges to help one another, we have communities being pitted against eachother. Hoping the Government will cut spending in education, health or social security and put it into policing (or the GCSB) in order to control violence instead of PREVENTING the conditions which lead to violence occurring in the first place. Man, what kind of place have we turned into? Yeah, the right wing liberals will be going on about self-responsibility and all that jazz but all I’d say to them is keep your mouth shut when the ugly side of policy making (or lack thereof) bites you in the butt! Or indeed when you purchase a home in a gated community coz you dont feel safe anymore. Oh….and checkout the CPAG link above .
Now I admit, coming from a low-socioeconomic area like Cannons Creek, I am totally biased. But I make no excuse for that. To me, one child living in poverty is too much. To me, one child growing up malnourished or missing out on what many would consider necessities, is a failure of society – of New Zealand. So for me, its not just about voting for governments who promote policies for economic growth, but its also about other things like acknowledging the important differences between GDP and the HDI. Its about making sure that everyone in a community has the support they need, regardless of class or social standing (forget this divide and rule crap where you divide the working class into pakeha, Maori, Pacific Island and Asian and pit them all against eachother instead of bringing them together). And its about considering what kind of world I would want my kids to grow up in. And for those who don’t see kids in their future, what kind of world do you want to be an old person in (yeah, i know we’d rather not imagine ourselves all saggy and baggy but this is part of our responsibility). So its important to ask “what kind of policies are being put in place and what will the long term affects be?”. Sadly, I think people have gone far too long without asking these very important questions. So right now, the effects of the neoliberal policies implemented over the last 30 years are starting to appear and its not a pretty sight. The New Zealand that is starting to emerge is becoming an ugly, economically segregated place that hides (quite well I must say) behind the myth of ‘clean, green, socially progressive NZ’.
So for the record, the most important thing when voting for a party is to understand their POLICIES not their rhetoric. Dont be bought by their smiles. Don’t vote for parties based on their leaders ability to walk a runway (although, that in itself was an EPIC FAIL), nor for their brilliant PR campaigns. You also shouldn’t vote for a party just because a representative makes a 5 minute appearance at your local supermarket/club/work/festival. Or because they host a radio show where they’re happy to discuss their personal life. While appearances and radio shows are a start, the point is not to simply ‘appear’. The point is to talk about policy – to talk about what they are going to do for you, your family and your community and to answer YOUR questions about how their policies will work and how they will affect you in the short and long term.
It is about policy because policy shapes our nation and influences each and every one of us, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Voting for a government that creates policies against your own interests (indeed against the interests of the wider community) and for the wrong reasons has the ability to shape socety in ways that we may not imagine. We NEED to take responsibility for this, especially the younger generations – coz we’ll be inheriting the mess that follows. And at that point, sorry wont count for anything.
VOTE people and VOTE informed with information about policy coz POLICY is the name of the game!