“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” – Frederick Buechner
1/4 New Zealand children live in poverty.
Evidently the Neoliberal economics of the 1980′s, which are still at large today, birthed the socio-economic inequity that now silhouettes New Zealand society. Neoliberalism cements the individual as the be all and end all of society, in which one is totally responsible for their own hide and only their own. The theory often advocates for privatization, deregulation and the infamous trickle-down theory. For the past generation, Neoliberalism has taught New Zealand to vilify the:
3. Minority groups;
The economic naivety that depicts everyone as equal with equal opportunities, is another lie of neoliberalism. Government legislation is meant to iron out inequity, creating equal outcomes through ironically ‘unequal’ input – affirmative action is a prime example. To the dismay of neoliberal commentators, ‘helping’ others gain economic equity is a humanistic sin. Neoliberal politics patronize society with the haunting rhetoric of individualism, “am I my brother’s keeper?” Obviously the commentators would sing aloud, “NO!” If someone needs socio-economic assistance, then the only help that is deemed worthy is the ‘empowerment’ one gets from self-help. It’s almost like it is a New Zealand social norm to feel ashamed when asking for help or giving help. Neoliberalism has destroyed any sense of community, rather it champions society as a segregated pool of individuals. We are not equal.
Neoliberalism justifies poverty and relinquishes all ethical obligations for building social equity. It deems any progressive use of tax as propping up a ‘Welfare State’ and partaking in ‘social engineering.’ The Truth is, everyone engineers society – the difference is how much influence you have as well as whether or not you want to use that influence for individual benefit only. Neoliberal commentators would much prefer to just keep all their money (tax and all), and not give anyone else a hand up to financial nirvana. An obvious end result is the growing gap between the rich and the poor in New Zealand, even the middle-class is struggling. Couple this with the constant bashing of beneficiaries (not to mention the slap-on-the-wrist treatment that corporate tax frauds receive), we arrive in our current social climate. For those on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder, they are perceived as just occupationally lazy. This social norm paints people who need help, in an unfavourable manner to say the least. They are a financial burden, state bludgers or tax leeches – Neoliberalism almost venerates the social demonization of the poor. Survival of the fittest right? Every man and dog for himself? Ethically we have an obligation to honour the unspoken contract of social equity, a contract that is slandered in Neoliberalism.
Together we can end Neoliberalism’s philosophical hold on New Zealand’s economy. Start by interacting more with people living it hard. Buy a coffee and give it to someone living on the streets, have a chat with them and let them know that they are a part of society, least of all the human race. Secondly, advocate for social change by lobbying the government, protest laws that perpetuate poverty, join an NGO that is socially aware, write a blog, make sure you vote for a political party that wants social equity. Thirdly, utilize your occupational skills to implement change through the tools available to you. Fourth, get your whānau/family on board with the movement. Fifth, keep educating yourself and others. Frederick Buechner once said, “Wisdom is being eternally curious.” It’s an uphill battle, but it’s worth it, social equity is worth it.
Together, we can end Neoliberalism.