Saturday, 2 June 2007

getting out more

i'm having trouble understanding that someone actually died in NZ ... because our health system sent her home with an oxygen machine but no back up power, because a privatised electricity company didn't think that her life was worth more than an unpaid power bill, because our welfare system is set up to give you less money than you need to survive.

there are lots of places to put the blame, but Folole Muliaga is dead and she isn't the only one.
As Maia says, this happens every day.

just as distant from my reality are the dawn raids that have seen migrant workers woken at 5am, bustled out of showers, stopped at roadblocks and deported in Northland.

we call our habitat in central wellington the "activist ghetto" and it's oft said that we need to get out more. But calling it a ghetto ignores the fact that we are the privileged ones. Many of us have university educations and will be able to get a job when we eventually need one. Many of us have parents who would foot the bill if we needed urgent medical care. Most of us have enough visible class and pakeha privilege, that if we said 'when you cut our power someone will die,'
we would be taken seriously.

i'm generalising, there are activists in our scene who have much less privilege than me, and they often have a hard time of it. But the predominance of the white and middle classed creates a culture that is very very far from the struggle for survival that families like Fololie Muliaga's face.

There are also activists doing amazing work, fighting for everone's rights to healthcare, to food, to survive winter (and many of them are the ones struggling for their own survival) .

But I see on indymedia, that spies in our midst warrant 64 comments, while a woman dying from poverty (and a hatred of the poor) commands about 20 all up. I'm part of this too, i've certainly spent more time talking about spies than poverty in the last few days. That's why I'm writing, to try and figure out why I feel so distant from a woman's death that is geographically pretty damn close (and I'm sure there have been plenty more even closer).

I gonna leave this for now, I've got a lot more thinking to do.
Though i do reckon that forcing ourselves to talk less about spies is definately not the answer.
But maybe we should force ourselves to get out more, to make relationships that help us understand what survival really means. And force ourselves to admit our own vulnerability, our own fears (reasonable and not) about staying alive under capitalism.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Pip. I haven't commented on this anywhere yet, just haven't come to terms (again, white priviledge...) with how this can happen in this century, apart from a quick rant when I read the paper, about b-all & end-all capitalists. And how a sick, possibly terminally ill, worker gets no respect from the capitalist, worker-abuse system we have in this country. "Can't pay, won't pay" has turned into "Can't pay? Then die".

A woman's life is worth little enough in this country most of the time, just look at the sentences handed to murderes who kill the mother of their children.. Usually the defence is "temporary insanity", or "provocation". Yeah, a comment about your small dick is really worth killing me over... "That don't impress me, much!" - if a country singer can make millions out of the line, why shouldn't any ordinary woman use it, too?

Power and control games are at the root of the violence prone society we live in. The power to turn off the power being the ultimate, as this case demonstrates. I hope that man gets the sack, as well as the CEO making the stupid noises in the papers.
xxx anarkaytie

Maia said...

I think often this comes down to a profound lack of imagination. I'm occasionally astonished about how ignorant people are about some basic material realities.

I know that I carry around plenty of stupid ideas and assumptions about money. But some listening, and some imagination goes a long way.

I think that getting out more is part of hte solution (but only for people who are willing and equipped to listen). I'm not sure that for many people talking about ourselves, is what's needed. I'm kind of fearless about surviving under capitalism. I think that's reasonable, and the fears I do have are kind of ridiculous. I think conversations with people who are as (or more) secure than me can be really frustrating, unless they first acknowledge their security.

Although I'm not sure indymedia comments are the most useful measure. Just like I'm hesitant to believe that people are assigning importance to something by blogging about it. Often people write about something because they think they have something to say, less than because they think it's important. Feeling that you have nothing to add to the debate, either because of ignorance, lack of experience or distance, is a valid position, even if it creates problems in the aggregate.

Anonymous said...

This story made me really sad. It was a good reminder of the power of cash, and not having it. Recently, where my mum lives, the park next to her house was flooded with poos and wees from a broken pipe, literally coming up through the ground. But it was left for a few days to soak into the ground and wash away. You'd be right if you guessed it was a low-income neighbourhood with large-ish (as large as chch can get) Maori and pacific island communities.

On the activist ghetto thing, I agree that it would be good for people to 'get out' of the the clic to gain a better understanding of those not living in whatever the activist norm is. However, I'm in the clic and struggle with other peoples ideas of power and privilege, and seeming denial of education.

I've been told many times that uni is a waste of time and that i should be doing something else. I feel this expectation to justify my education to people who haven't had poverty (I mean poverty, not just poor) in their immediate family and don't feel the urgency to get away from it. Poor people don't just live in south Auckland they are in our communities too and I think there is a real lack of people realizing this.

I think that partly comes down to what Maia said about acknowledging security. The security of knowing that your children don't have walk past a football field sized pond of shit on the way to school.