Forget for a moment about the terrible events in Syria, Iraq and other ‘trouble spots’ that dominate our news every day. I am not belittling the importance of those ‘world-stage’ events; I am merely saying---take a closer look at New Zealand, the land where we like to think everything is OK; that opportunity abounds and that poverty doesn’t exists when compared to those images we have become immune to from the afore mentioned countries.
Every so often we are reminded that New Zealand has an ‘underside;’ one that we don’t like to talk about until it becomes so bad, or it forces itself onto our news outlets, be they social media or the old fashioned newspapers and TV!
Take for example the stabbing of an eleven year old boy and the violence between two groups of ‘kids’ just down the road. We express shock and horror, but anyone working with ‘kids’ in various capacities, indeed teachers in schools, are not surprised. Most of those working with our teenagers, go home at night and if they can, get on with their own lives. The rest of ‘us,’ see the headlines, watch the news and wonder at what is happening, but unless it is close to home, we just put it down to ‘things that happen to someone else, in another suburb;’ you know, one of those that get all the publicity.
Let’s look at ‘what’ is happening and perhaps why? No one has all the answers but there have been some pretty obvious explanations, ones that we have known about for many years. Politicians use these ‘facts’ for their own purposes, groups working with ‘at risk kids,’ manipulate figures in order to garner funding; the list goes on! So do the issues that lead to the events we have just witnessed. Listen to the talkbacks and you will hear another perspective, the one that is out there on the streets in our suburbs and towns. That it seems to be concentrated ion certain areas of our larger cities is not surprising. It comes down to a numbers explanation.
If you concentrate the poorest of our people into large areas, then the problems are going to be compounded. I am not making excuses for illegal or bad behaviours, or bad parenting, all of which have been blamed for what we are witnessing. Those labels exists as facts in many communities; it is that sheer numbers that make living is areas of poverty, high unemployment, drug and alcohol overuse/abuse, violence and crime all coming together that leads to what is essentially a breakdown in society. Small-town NZ also has these issues, but on a much smaller scale, hence the lack of media focus on them.
That South Auckland (there, I have named it) is once again in e the headlines, is a culmination of the failing of our nation to address the issues described. That they exists in South Auckland is a fact that cannot be ignored. WE even have the possibility of an organization that has worked with families and young people for 17 years, is now considering closing, because the director is not willing to put her ‘workers at risk’ is shocking. There should be no fingers pointed at her. Her group has ‘hit the wall.’ To continue in her work, she must be supported in ways that keep her workers and the young people she is trying to help, safe.
It is election year and no doubt we are going to hear ‘policies,’ claims, counter-claims and hot air. If the solutions require money the electorate may respond with—‘it’s not our problem’ and things will continue to worsen. We have to accept that—‘we all live in NZ and that no one group can make changes on their won. Until we all accept that ‘brining up kids’ is a responsibility that cannot just be left to parents, then the slide will continue. Yes, I can hear the clarion cries from those who do not have kids, or from families who through good parenting and luck, combined with possessing the resources needed to care for their kids adequately, saying that it ‘is not my problem.’
The fact is that when things go wrong, it affects us all. We can all be victims of the robberies, assaults, the drug/alcohol driven crimes that creep into the city centres and ‘better suburbs. We cannot keep our heads in the sand.
Wake-up New Zealand! We need to make sure that families are have healthy housing, that parents get the support they need; not when it is almost too late, but right at the time when their children are conceived. Once again, I hear the usual ‘accusations’ of the need for would-be parents to face up to their responsibilities and yes, that is true, but we must add into ‘landscape’ the collective responsibilities we have to support one another. Ignoring or blaming others is only going to lead to an even more segmented, divided society and that can only lead to much worse than we are already witnessing.
It is election year. Talk to the aspiring candidates and parties. Try to sort through the ‘political babble.’ That will take time, the very thing that is partly at the bottom of the ills I have described. The two most important things we can give our kids are ‘love and time.’ Whatever is getting in the way of that, is at the very root of our situation.