Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The gap between rich and poor widens in New Zealand

The report in today’s New Zealand Herald that the gap between rich and poor has widened yet again comes as no surprise. The ramifications for our most at risk citizens are obvious. In our bigger cites the situation is even more dire as families struggle to provide even the most basic of life’s necessities.
At a time when politicians fight about Charter Schools and benefits, the above report simply highlights what many of us working in schools and the local community have known for a long time. Even those on quite modest incomes are having a real struggle and are feeling quite hopeless for the future. Just imagine what each day brings for those even lower down the ‘income chart.’
Is it any wonder that kids arrive at school hungry, without the correct uniform or books and the tools they need for an education? How these kids will ever get computers and other ‘necessary’ technology ‘additives’ is just too hard to contemplate. We have a Government hell-bent on cutting wherever it can, all in the name or ‘responsible fiscal policies.’
Unless our economy magically improves and people find work that pays a liveable wage, then the situation can only get worse. I am tired of hearing the Government haranguing people to get out there and work, when it is patently obvious that the work is not there. For those on the minimum wage, living in a large city, the fact is that they cannot meet the needs of their families. Ask any food-bank just how bad the situation is.
There was a time when the huge majority on New Zealanders had their needs met and the gap between the ‘haves and have nots’ was far less. That time was a more compassionate time, where people were less selfish. Yes, our tax payments were higher, but there was a belief that that was fair. We have come a long way from that solidly held belief. Now it is---‘I want more and if that means someone else has less, then too bad.’
Unless we are more sympathetic to the position so many people find themselves in, nothing will change. I am not talking about more benefits and I am not protecting those who rip off the system, be it through welfare theft or other methods: I am saying that we need to look at where we have been and where we are collectively going as a nation. It is time to redress the balance. One way or the other, we are going to see stresses and tensions in our society grow if we don’t look for solutions that take the vast portion of the population along for the ride. Try to imagine what will happen if we don’t.

Binge drinking will be just the same.

I hear today that the producers of alcapop drinks are going to ‘voluntarily’ reduce the amount of alcohol in the said drinks. This was only after the Government made noises about legislating such a move. Who are we kidding if we think that either move is going to make one iota of difference to the serious binge drinking culture we have in New Zealand?
I am sure most of you have seen the images from Britain of young (and not so young) people ‘loading’ before they hit the town and then the subsequent crazy behaviours they exhibit as a result. I feel sorry for the policemen and women who have to deal with the mess and resulting criminal behaviours. ‘Never in New Zealand,’ you might have thought.
Well, hello---- such behaviours are alive and well here as witnessed by the scenes of young people throwing up in the street and fighting like demented hens. The serious health issues they are inviting into their lives are another ramification.
I hope the Government and the rest of us do not rely on such moves n=by the liquor industry to quell results of this ugly trend. No such luck. Tackling this problem now is a bit like trying to shut the door after the horses have bolted, but try we must. If not, look to huge increases in the police and health budget.
Where does the crux of the problem lay? Firstly in the home and secondly in the images we see in the media. Glamorizing and normalizing such dangerous use of alcohol has to stop. NO wonder the ‘smokers’ rightly point to alcohol abuse as a problem just as large as ‘smoking.’ That the two probably go hand in hand is conveniently forgotten of course.
Schools are often given the task to ‘change society,’ but they are only one part of young peoples’ lives and the effect they have on such anti-social behaviours, is minimal to say the least. Unless parents, in conjunction with the rest of society are able to provide safe and sensible role modelling behaviours, then why the hell would their children be any different? It’s so easy to say that ‘drinking’ is a ‘rite of passage’ and just hope that ‘she’ll be right mate.’ www.authorneilcoleman