12 July 2012
Today, I hope, is the beginning of a series of reflections on issues that seem to be injecting venomous outrage within our society, especially within our Pacific Island communities; and what better issue to start with this week than this lousy weather we have been getting. The weather just seems to be getting colder and colder this time around than previous years; and from what I hear from our Pacific communities here in Auckland, the cold snaps that we are now experiencing started back in December when the National government came into power.
It took me awhile to clear the fog from my mind and try to make sense of this tongue-in-cheek sarcasm on the part of the low income earners and some of the poor in our communities here in Auckland, especially our Pacific Island people who seem to still find humour in these trying times of wintry hardship; not just weather wise but economically as well.
It seems the long ranged forecast during the summer months of the last election by the National Party has turned out to be a bit of the Antarctica for many low income earners and poor families in New Zealand. And from what I can gather from Pacific Island newspapers and Radio programmes, the icy feeling experienced by many Pacific Island families at the moment will continue with no respite in sight. Many say it’s due to the National government’s stance on asset sales, the insecurity of the nature of our children’s future education, the overhauled of the Social Welfare system, the changes to Immigration services, the debacle within the Accident Compensation Corporation, and the latest failed transformation by Housing New Zealand to use an 0800 line to deal with client issues; it seems all of these changes have caused a freeze in the will and spirit, and not to mention the wallet, of many Pacific Island families.
According to the murmurs within the Pacific communities, the promised warm fuzzy feeling suppose to be enjoyed by all New Zealanders after the implementation of these changes has made more people feel colder than normal, especially New Zealanders for whom all these changes means hardship. I know there is some substance to the argument that the rich are feeling cosy with all the changes because selling assets means shares and profits, but for the low income and poor families in New Zealand it means paying higher power bills so that the rich can enjoy the profits from their shares.
But I, for one, believe the National government have taken these desperate steps as a cost cutting – revenue saving strategy to keep New Zealand afloat during these hard economic times. But, at the same time, I ask myself, if this is the case, then why is there such a strong sense of resentment within the Pacific Island communities to the changes implemented within the Social Welfare, Education, Immigration, and the way Housing New Zealand 0800 imitative deals with people? (The Pacific Island People’s protest march last June is just one example highlighting the growing concerns within the Pacific Island communities of these issues).
It seems the answer according to many of our Pacific people is simple; all of the changes implemented by government have made wealth more central and important in government thinking than the low income earners and poor people of New Zealand; the changes, whether it was intentional or not, has made many Pacific Islanders feel singled out to be forever condemned to live in poverty.
There is a growing conviction that all of these government initiatives are just avenues to give back to the wealthy their rewards for voting the National government into office. These are allegations that will always be debatable and can easily be proven as having no truth in it; for the National government will argue that the economic welfare of New Zealand and its people were the only motivations behind all that the government has tried to implement in its policies so far. If you ask me, that’s a very good argument, if you are warm and cosy this winter, not only in the climatic sense but also in the financial nous.
However, it will take more than words to convince those who are on the other end of the scale to think otherwise. There is no doubt that these are hard times for many New Zealanders, and with so many changes to some of our most important and influential services provider, it has made it even harder for many who are already struggling to make ends meet. These changes, together with diminishing employment opportunities available to many Pacific Islanders unskilled labour force in the private sector and job opportunities for school leavers being limited with government employment cuts and reshuffling since the last election, the low income earners and the poor are more like to get buried under heavy snow, than seeing any rays of sunshine, in the not so distant future.
But we can huff and puff all we want to shake the foundation of the Beehive to get some relief; it has so far withstood all types of weather elements, with the exception of the Government backing down on its education policy on class sizes. But this is sweet victory, nevertheless, for those who stood up and allow their voices to be heard. Such a rare victory gives hope to the plights of Pacific Islanders over the present issue affecting their communities; solidarity seems to be the key to force and implement changes.
It is important, therefore, for the Pacific Island communities to truly be one voice, but not one voice singing alone; they need to be heard in solidarity with the voices of other communities; that’s the kind of power that shakes foundations. But it is also a good time for everyone who are feeling the pinch because of the government’s initiatives in place to reinvent themselves within the new order, and find a niche conducive to the future of their families and children rather than fighting from, and still accepting, their status quo.
Sometimes we spend so much time fighting for something small and insignificant rather than looking at the bigger picture and taking a situation and turning it into something more significant for ourselves, our children, and our families; moving off island has been suggested as a good start.
I also advocate Scriptures for guidance when things get really tough and all support systems seems to fail around you in your endeavours; and I take comfort in the knowledge that the people of God in the Old Testament also faced many welfare, economic, immigration, education, and housing issues, as a foreign people living in a foreign land. And like us today, they also protested and cursed the government of the time, and turned to God for retribution; but God said: Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
But, if these suggestions fail to provide warmth for the bitter wintry conditions of our times, then exercise well your freewill come next election. Until then, God bless all our Pacific communities, and let’s all pray for warmer climes in the coming months.