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It’s lazy politics — don’t fall for it

Opinion Piece

Should gang members receive a benefit? I responded to the latest Gisborne Herald poll on this question in the affirmative and I want to explain my perspective.

Suggesting that we withhold financial support to possible “gang members” is merely a cynical and populist ploy on the part of Simon Bridges and the rest of the National Party. Sadly, such populism will appeal to those among us who find it easier to blame the victims of our dysfunctional society, rather than doing some proper thinking and real work to look more deeply into the causal factors of the behaviour of some of our most vulnerable people, too often Maori, Pasifika and the young.Bridges is doing what Trump has done — play the race card, play on people’s fears, blame the vulnerable, ignore history and reality, and push the myth of meritocracy. Such political machinations won’t get us too far. Consumerism, racism, the idea of individuals rising or falling based on their personal merits, poverty, hopelessness and market-driven neo liberalism are some of the real reasons we have such an unequal society now. Not a few poor, sad souls who wear blue or red or some other kind of patch or strange get-up and swagger around trying to seem powerful. Make no mistake, they are not strong or powerful, they are hurt, sad, needing our help and our love. Walk in their shoes, what was/is their life like compared to your own? Just saying . . .Unless one has been living under a rock lately, you will have read or watched the recent inquiry into abuse of children and some disabled people while in state or church-run care facilities. It would be fair to say that some if not many of our past, present and future gang members passed through the brutal hands of the people running these institutions. Some of us may have helped put them there . . .The state, meant to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, has instead brutalised them in ways I found hard to listen to. Hearing the pain those people had been though made me cry. How about you? For some of those people, often young men, joining with others similarly affected by cruelty provided a form of family and belonging.The behaviour of some of the “gang members” at the ANZ and other banking and financial institutions who have ripped off New Zealanders for years is not on the radar of most of us. Why? I consider white-collar fraud — including unethical, dishonest business practices and the seemingly legal tax dodging that some affluent Kiwis engage in, to minimise paying their fair share of tax — to be just as anti-social as the conduct of some gang members. It’s just not quite as “in your face”.Is it because most of them are Pakeha? I call upon members of the National Party to come up with more holistic, healing and evidence-based policies to reduce the instances of anti-social behaviour. Continuing to beat the blame and shame drum while ignoring the reasons we have such a shameful underbelly (and underclass) is lazy politics. Don’t fall for it folks. Do some reading and learning instead, so you can help create the change you want to see. Harming none.