Cheap talk costs lives


    If we don’t start taking care of families – all of them, everywhere like, now – we won’t have a civilisation.

    National news on TV1 on Monday night was rendered so ghastly that one feared for the human race. And that was just the bright youngish things from the Opposition parties weighing in on budget issues. Shoving a microphone into the hands of someone, however unfit, in the name of “balance” isn’t journalism. This isn’t election year or Parliamentary question time.

    Enough with the carping and the spite.  Enough with dousing with scorn everyone who slaved or suffered or lost their livelihoods during a two-year global tragedy.

    If Covid showed us anything, it was that the greedy, top-down world order needed rigorous revision.

    The current conflict in Ukraine is showing us that mind-blowing corruption underpinned by armed forces and insidious, manipulative surveillance technology can plunge us into unthinkable barbarity in a fortnight.

    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s fight in Ukraine is a searing reminder that  the power of individuals defending their children and their homes, history and right to self-determination can be a formidable force – and requires eternal vigilance.

    In the last eight years, Ukraine has been fighting its own and Russian oligarchies and endemic corruption, and it chose Zelenskyy’s democracy (for want of a better word for freedom as individuals within a wholesome and accountable body politic). At its peril. Think David and Goliath, Robin Hood, Frodo Baggins.

    So enough with watching us here being inexorably plunged into class war by tawdry Thatcherite politics with a reckless disregard for decency when we need to be rebuilding schooling, higher education and making families secure in housing, healthy, affordable food, educational opportunity and training.

    Families able to nurture their young while they are young without despairing of ever finding settled housing. A reasonable approximation of the lives children see on television. Intelligent, generous, articulate and useful lives that could to be nurtured in state houses as much as in leafy suburbs.

    Probably nowhere else on earth came through Covid as unscathed as we did.

    We need to dig deep now that we can. The whole world is in worse disarray in inflation and debt than we are.

    Businesses and workforces survived because the right levers were pulled when it really mattered. Now getting the young on track for powerful learning to fill the two-year gap must be the priority and to get the same intentionality.

    A plague on public discourse that combs through this week’s budget for personal or political advantage.

    In writing this column, the first budget previews I turned up were $114 million to tackle family violence and a few million to make children like school again.

    Unfortunately, family violence and suicide rates are the poverty trainwrecks at the bottom of the cliff; families literally pushed over the edge. The poor – and increasingly the middle – don’t lack ambition or positivity, as Luxon gaffed this week.

    They lack food, shelter, shoes and a homework book that the teacher will lovingly read aloud in class.

    They lack homes, educational opportunities and strong family life, all of which went west, not 170 years ago by accident but 30 years ago when Rogernomics and Ruth Richardson hollowed out our equality index and we slid from top of the western nations to the bottom while wages stalled for decades. By cruel design.

    Someone sold off the homes, shops, innovation, manufacturing and centuries of intellectual property, closing down and sending offshore big businesses and town centres. While not looking even remotely contrite.

    Properly channelled, anger is a valid and useful response.

    If family breadwinners both slogged through the pandemic as low-paid essential workers, desperately aware that their children were missing out on vital stuff and losing their edge, they have the right to a better deal than market forces that are again ripping the heart out of the country’s money. Supermarkets need to be reined in. The food-miles they generate factored in. New Zealand doesn’t have to buy soup stock made from “real Australian-grown vegetables”.

    Or face empty shelves and astro prices because of manipulated supply lines.

    Back in the days when university was the birthright of everyone who had made it to Form Seven, fruit picking and heavy vehicle driving did not have to be entirely supported by immigrant labour and your bus driver might have an anthropology degree.

    For decades now, higher education has become not a professional rounding of bright young minds but a career path and the gateway to early-onset debt.

    The human race is on notice. Enough already with the meanness that does us no credit and the grinding austerity that we deeply suspect is manufactured. It is all to ready to come flooding back. • Liz Waters

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