It’s lazy politics — don’t fall for it

OPINION PIECE

Should gang members receive a benefit? I responded to the latest Gisborne Herald poll on this question in the affirmative and I want to explain my perspective.

Suggesting that we withhold financial support to possible “gang members” is merely a cynical and populist ploy on the part of Simon Bridges and the rest of the National Party. Sadly, such populism will appeal to those among us who find it easier to blame the victims of our dysfunctional society, rather than doing some proper thinking and real work to look more deeply into the causal factors of the behaviour of some of our most vulnerable people, too often Maori, Pasifika and the young.
Bridges is doing what Trump has done — play the race card, play on people’s fears, blame the vulnerable, ignore history and reality, and push the myth of meritocracy. Such political machinations won’t get us too far. Consumerism, racism, the idea of individuals rising or falling based on their personal merits, poverty, hopelessness and market-driven neo liberalism are some of the real reasons we have such an unequal society now. Not a few poor, sad souls who wear blue or red or some other kind of patch or strange get-up and swagger around trying to seem powerful.
Make no mistake, they are not strong or powerful, they are hurt, sad, needing our help and our love. Walk in their shoes, what was/is their life like compared to your own? Just saying . . .
Unless one has been living under a rock lately, you will have read or watched the recent inquiry into abuse of children and some disabled people while in state or church-run care facilities. It would be fair to say that some if not many of our past, present and future gang members passed through the brutal hands of the people running these institutions. Some of us may have helped put them there . . .
The state, meant to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, has instead brutalised them in ways I found hard to listen to. Hearing the pain those people had been though made me cry. How about you? For some of those people, often young men, joining with others similarly affected by cruelty provided a form of family and belonging.
The behaviour of some of the “gang members” at the ANZ and other banking and financial institutions who have ripped off New Zealanders for years is not on the radar of most of us. Why? I consider white-collar fraud — including unethical, dishonest business practices and the seemingly legal tax dodging that some affluent Kiwis engage in, to minimise paying their fair share of tax — to be just as anti-social as the conduct of some gang members. It’s just not quite as “in your face”.
Is it because most of them are Pakeha?
I call upon members of the National Party to come up with more holistic, healing and evidence-based policies to reduce the instances of anti-social behaviour. Continuing to beat the blame and shame drum while ignoring the reasons we have such a shameful underbelly (and underclass) is lazy politics. Don’t fall for it folks. Do some reading and learning instead, so you can help create the change you want to see. Harming none.</

Should gang members receive a benefit? I responded to the latest Gisborne Herald poll on this question in the affirmative and I want to explain my perspective.

Suggesting that we withhold financial support to possible “gang members” is merely a cynical and populist ploy on the part of Simon Bridges and the rest of the National Party. Sadly, such populism will appeal to those among us who find it easier to blame the victims of our dysfunctional society, rather than doing some proper thinking and real work to look more deeply into the causal factors of the behaviour of some of our most vulnerable people, too often Maori, Pasifika and the young.
Bridges is doing what Trump has done — play the race card, play on people’s fears, blame the vulnerable, ignore history and reality, and push the myth of meritocracy. Such political machinations won’t get us too far. Consumerism, racism, the idea of individuals rising or falling based on their personal merits, poverty, hopelessness and market-driven neo liberalism are some of the real reasons we have such an unequal society now. Not a few poor, sad souls who wear blue or red or some other kind of patch or strange get-up and swagger around trying to seem powerful.
Make no mistake, they are not strong or powerful, they are hurt, sad, needing our help and our love. Walk in their shoes, what was/is their life like compared to your own? Just saying . . .
Unless one has been living under a rock lately, you will have read or watched the recent inquiry into abuse of children and some disabled people while in state or church-run care facilities. It would be fair to say that some if not many of our past, present and future gang members passed through the brutal hands of the people running these institutions. Some of us may have helped put them there . . .
The state, meant to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, has instead brutalised them in ways I found hard to listen to. Hearing the pain those people had been though made me cry. How about you? For some of those people, often young men, joining with others similarly affected by cruelty provided a form of family and belonging.
The behaviour of some of the “gang members” at the ANZ and other banking and financial institutions who have ripped off New Zealanders for years is not on the radar of most of us. Why? I consider white-collar fraud — including unethical, dishonest business practices and the seemingly legal tax dodging that some affluent Kiwis engage in, to minimise paying their fair share of tax — to be just as anti-social as the conduct of some gang members. It’s just not quite as “in your face”.
Is it because most of them are Pakeha?
I call upon members of the National Party to come up with more holistic, healing and evidence-based policies to reduce the instances of anti-social behaviour. Continuing to beat the blame and shame drum while ignoring the reasons we have such a shameful underbelly (and underclass) is lazy politics. Don’t fall for it folks. Do some reading and learning instead, so you can help create the change you want to see. Harming none.</
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Martin Hanson, Nelson - 17 days ago
I agree that white-collar crime is more serious than crime committed by the more "visible", disadvantaged groups. And I don't expect the National Party to come up with any plans to deal with the underlying causes. The trouble is, once one starts to read outside one's comfort zone (i.e. beyond what merely confirms one's pre-conceived ideas), the results can be uncomfortable.

G R Webb - 16 days ago
Ms Meyer may not remember, but back in 1972 Norm Kirk promised to take motorcycles off gang members. We've had "birch the bashers". It never happened. So let's at least agree that both sides of the political spectrum advocate what they see as a populist solution. But why should the taxpayer fund these indolent souls?

Honest people get cynical about welfare when they see criminals and other freeloaders abusing the system. The effect on public morale and social cohesion - on confidence in the fairness of the system - is corrosive.

The culture of entitlement - the notion that it's okay to rip off your fellow citizen if you can get away with it - is endemic. Decades of welfarism (exacerbated by accident compensation, a perennial rip-off target) have implanted the belief that living off the taxpayer is a legitimate lifestyle choice. The National Party is simply attempting to see if that view is widely held.

Those who engage in less obvious forms of quasi criminal behaviour ought not to be spared any financial sanction. Bank and finance institutions, through their shareholders, need to ensure transgressors are bought to heel. Two wrongs do not make a right. So to lay off those who profit from welfare abuse because it happens in the private sector is a bizarre approach.