The language of this media release by Minister of Let Them Eat Cake Paula Bennett is … a little worrying, when you look at it too closely.
There’s referring to an “investment approach”, which makes a lot of sense when you’re talking about bales of hay and pecks of pickled peppers, but less so when you’re talking about the lives and prospects of living human beings who through misfortune, sickness or your own government’s shitty economic management are relying on society for support.
And you’ve always got to start looking over your shoulder when government - any government – refers to “refocusing” the “entire” welfare system.
Welfare systems, by their very nature, should have a focus: the welfare of people.
Otherwise they wouldn’t be called “welfare” systems, innit?
But all of that’s a bit high-minded and word-picky and if you’re not me, you can be forgiven for not immediately leaping to the [justified] conclusion that Paula Bennett is once more providing covering fire for the government and aiming at beneficiaries in the process.
You still might be interested in analysing this, though:
“This approach forces the Government to spend taxpayers’ money where it will have the biggest impact,” says Mrs Bennett.
That might mean getting treatment for a back injury, or access to mental health services or help to manage a pain related condition.
I mean, it’s buried right there at the end, but what the Minister of Social Development, administrator of our Sickness and Invalids’ Benefits, just said is that basically, our medical system has failed by not giving people the treatment they obviously need.
And it has taken Paula Bennett and a small army of ingenious MSD policy analysts to figure out that hey, if we treat people’s [treatable] back injuries, they won’t need to be on a Sickness Benefit any more [for their back injury]!
What a novel concept! With any luck they’ll share their findings with MBIE, who can extrapolate these conclusions to the realisation that we can lower unemployment if there are jobs for people to work in!
NRT for details. My brain’s just stuck trying to decide whether I scream “FUCK YOU” loudly at the ceiling or roll my eyes so hard they fall out.
My feelings are pretty much still summed up in this post I wrote in January 2011. Labour, in power, needed to keep the middle classes happy, and so by buying into the idea that a well-above-average income makes you a “struggler” (pay no attention to the median income behind the curtain) they introduced “in-work” tax credits. Which weren’t about work, they were about children (and thus the Independent Earner Tax Credit was split off to keep us DINKs happy.)
Beneficiaries didn’t get the tax credit, because according to Labour, they needed to be “incentivised” into work. And if you honestly believe that that doesn’t tell you everything about Labour’s real attitudes to the unemployed, you’re kidding yourself.
Labour believed so strongly that beneficiaries were horrid bludging scum that they fought tooth and nail when the Child Poverty Action Group tried to draw their attention to that pesky human rights law we have.
Then came election 2011, and once their self-preservation glands finally realised that saying “I think Liz Hurley is hot too!” was not actually going to win back the centre from That Nice John Key any time soon, they had a brief brain explosion and literally announced a policy of “extending the in-work tax credit to beneficiaries”.
Josie Pagani, for one, had a really hard time explaining this to people. Of course, as far as she’s concerned that’s because Beneficiaries Are Scum, not because it sounded fucking ridiculous.
Now the election’s gone, and apparently the meme of the Labour upper echelons is “we need to revisit things. Oh, not the things like “listening to John Pagani” and “buying into Chris Trotter’s wish fulfilment”, maybe just the things which contributed to our downfall because even though they were good policy we completely sucked at selling them.”
So, here we are. Holly Walker is trying to do something to reverse a Labour policy which punished children living in poverty for their parents’ lack of advanced SQL development training and Chartered Accountant qualifications, and Labour is promising only the very, very see-through “we’ll support it to first reading.”
My mind’s made up. If you’re in Wellington and a loud expletive rattled your windows right before this went up, my apologies.
Just in case I was feeling a little self-doubting about my effusive hatred for those who minimize/ignore bullying, turns out plenty of those pseudomorality-pushing jerksocks aren’t even ashamed to say it like it is (via Butterflies & Wheels):
… Rich Swier of Tea Party Nation attempted to [condone bullying] in a column sent out to members nationwide, dubbing the bullying of LGBT youth a “sham” and adding that if it does take place, it is “healthy” since homosexuality, like drug abuse, “cannot be condoned” and must be stopped
H/T Hoyden About Town.
A Rolling Stone article from February has been doing the rounds – and should carry many big, clear trigger warnings for suicide, self-harm, homophobia, and hate speech (reported). This post on its contents likewise.
It’s entitled “One Town’s War on Gay Teens“, and it was a bit of an eye-opener to me.
It certainly wasn’t a revelation to me that there are truly hateful people in this world, that bullies get away with horrific abuse, that people are honestly so afraid of pointing out that there are a lot of self-proclaimed Christians in this world whom Jesus would absolutely tear strips off that they let them get away with encoding prejudice and bigotry into our society and schools and communities.
The revelation was this: I really haven’t taken my gloves off with these people, and I need to.
Despite being a shrieking swearing ranty bitchy PMS-ing monster truck of feminist blogging, I do moderate myself (you may pause to snort, if you will.) I do refrain from Jesus-would-slap-the-shit-out-of-you comments like the above. I do have this niggling little part of my brain that says there’s a line I shouldn’t cross, a line about faith and how people define their own, a line between pointing out the hypocrisy and horrific consequences without pointing too hard at the person behind them. Just as I’ve always objected to cheap shots about Gerry Brownlee’s weight or Cameron Slater’s mental health, I’ve felt that telling a person that it’s not their belief system that’s evil, it’s actually them, was … cheap. Dirty. Unbecoming. Something like that.
And then I read that Rolling Stone article. And while yes, like I’ve said, it wasn’t a surprise to me that fundy wankers have attempted to eradicate the existence of homosexuality from their communities (perhaps I should say, the communities burdened with their residence) and it wasn’t a surprise to me that this had caused some kids to take their own lives, something broke in my brain. Something clicked together. Something aligned, possibly the stars, and I realised in that moment a sad, terrible, huge, but ultimately truthy truth:
You fuckers are just, simply, fucking evil and if there is a Hell it will be too fucking good for you.
You shat on these kids.
You didn’t even tell them they, personally, were evil – you didn’t have to. You just removed any option they had of figuring out the world for themselves, because in your heads “choice” is just fine and dandy as long as the choices presented are all fundy-Christian-approved ones.
You let them get beaten up and harassed, and you threatened the adults in the best position to protect them with the loss of their job, maybe their career, if they dared to stop it.
You demonised the people who actually understand what compassion means and could have saved these kids.
In the wake of the suicides, the fundy asshats blame gay rights groups for the suicides. Because apparently telling kids that their feelings were valid “locked them” into a “lifestyle” etc etc.
Not, “telling kids their feelings were invalid and letting bullies attack them at their most vulnerable with no reprieve or protection from authority figures.” Not, “denying children even the acknowledgement of homosexuality by letting them know there was a policy outlawing acknowledgement of homosexuality.”
You trapped teenagers in a world where they could not even examine their feelings, much less acknowledge them, much less talk about them with anyone because you created a culture which made saying “I think I like people of my own gender” basically the equivalent of “I come from Mars and have acid for blood” and you fucking dare to say that homosexuality gave them no fucking options?
You actually think bullying is okay.
Michele Bachmann has a great point when she says bullying is wrong.
It’s only slightly ruined by the fact she said it to cover her ass after arguing that shutting down bullying was basically the end of free speech (ironic!) and would inevitably lead to “boys [being] girls”.
Because bullying isn’t wrong, apparently. Well, it is, it’s just that beating up a small, quiet guy for not being sufficiently manly isn’t really bullying, and constantly harassing a girl for wearing baggy sweatshirts isn’t either. They’re just basic social correction, bringing the deviants back into line so nothing threatens the established hetero social order. And those schoolyard bullies learnt it from you.
Let me tell you, people: Jesus was all about eliminating people’s differences and trampling on their individuality. Fo sho.
You are utter fucking hypocrites.
For people who think sex is a robotic process which married hetero cis couples should only ever engage in for the purposes of bring more little schoolyard thugs into the world, you are seriously fucking obsessed with sex, and “deviant” forms of it in particular.
Labelling Gay Straight Alliance clubs as “sex clubs”? I’d say “are you fucking high” but let’s remember: you’re not honest people. You’re not sincere. You’re half-driven to distraction by a lifetime of denying basic sexual urges, half-making shit up to scare the people who aren’t as evil as you but also aren’t particularly political, particularly engaged with broader social issues, who are susceptible to the bullshit you spin because you’re a Pillar of the Community.
You are, in fact, fucking evil.
You are entirely willing to destroy people’s lives if it maintains the dominance of your belief system. You will do whatever it takes to keep other people, other ideas, other ways of living in the shadows and bullying teens to the point of suicide is pretty much just hunky-fucking dory to you.
I do not believe that fundy shitstains actually think gayness is a choice. I do not believe they think it’s a genetic mutation. I think they do not care. It’s a threat to their natural order, so say and do whatever it takes to get rid of it, right?
Demonise teenagers. Pretend to be acting in their best interests when you say “oh, but they’re so confused at that age” with one Jesus-shaped sock puppet but scream “they’re evil and trying to destroy us!” with the other. Play on your fucked-up narrow-minded cultural paranoia, primed through decades of Yellow Peril and Red Peril and War on Terror, and turn it against your children because you’d actually prefer to see them dead than gay and at peace with themselves.
Fuck drawing lines in the sand with you cretins. There is blood on your hands. Your “faith” and behaviour bears absolutely zero relationship to the shit Jesus actually preached (gayness and abortion: not actually his favourite topics.)
But do you even have the faith you claim? I’m in serious doubt here. If you’d been born in any other country or time, would you just be the same hateful, demonic little fucks, waving whatever religion of convenience, whatever writings of whatever prophet, you could find to justify your self-centred bigotry?
You are fucking evil. And I’m pretty much decided right here right now that it is my life’s goal to fucking destroy you.
~A note to you other fuckers out there~
If you have read that Rolling Stone article, and you side with those people, and it offends you that I feel entirely justified in labelling those “Christians” as absolutely unmitigatedly evil people? You can go fuck yourself, because kids are dead and your buddies over there caused it.
There’s a phenomenon you experience every now and then as a progressive: hating the thing the mainstream is currently telling you to hate, only for different reasons.
Reasons you have to keep explaining to people because you find yourself agreeing with them, but have to let them know that you’re not agreeing with their racist/sexist/classist/ageist/ableist ideas.
Today’s case in point: Madonna.
News with Nipples has a great post about a shite article which basically says “Ew, Madonna is old and gross and should stop being old and gross in public.”
The intro to the Madonna article is full of age-shaming:
“ON WHICH SIDE DO YOU SIT IN THE GREAT MADONNA DEBATE? SHOULD SHE KEEP REINVENTING HERSELF OR RETIRE GRACEFULLY?”
I’m sitting on the side with the third option: MADONNA SHOULD DO WHATEVER THE HELL SHE WANTS TO DO.
Besides, we all know that “retire gracefully” means “become invisible so we don’t have to see old people enjoying themselves in public and WORSE, have to look at their bodies”.
And it immediately made me think of a (fairly) recent Madonna music video which I, in face-value accordance with the mainstream and that article, utterly hate.
Here’s the bit I find myself always explaining to people, on the oddly-common occasions this comes up.
The mainstream hates it because: Madonna is acting like she’s still fit, fuckable, and entitled to wear spandex, but ew gross she isn’t because she’s old, ew.
I hate it because: the song ripped the core out of ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme and that’s the only reason it’s memorable. In fact, it makes it so damn memorable I find myself singing it aloud in the shower. But the song is cack! It’s boring! It’s utterly mundane and unchallenging and ARGH I HATE IT.
Also, THAT’S NOT HOW YOU PLAY DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION.
But you can’t just get away with saying things like “God, I hate Madonna’s music video for Hung Up” because the immediate assumption is that you agree with the social narrative. And as soon as you start ranting about DDR and ABBA it’s glazed looks and “why do you take this so seriously” for all … then there’s nothing for it but slamming your head against a brick wall.
And I’m not talking about Bob McCoskrie’s boner, though I’m sure somehow, somewhere, he is.
The trick is to remember that the Value Your Vote site was built on Opposite Day so the smiley faces are bad things.
Of course, that’s not entirely true, since they’ve got the usual range of “family issues” covered, i.e. a strange mishmash of Christian fundamentalist morality (abortion, euthanasia, prostitution) and God-focused anticapitalism,e.g. voting against Easter trading gets a smiley face because it’s an important Judeo-Christian holiday.
Nevertheless, the podium for voting history is occupied by Dunne, Brash and Peters, and on a candidate survey basis, Peters/Brash/Dunne, with the leaders of the Maori, Mana and Labour Parties rockin’ the low end of the scale.
I suppose one could get antsy about the obvious bias etc, but in all seriousness, chur, Family First; it is actually a democratic good for people to be able to discover candidates’ views on divisive issues like abortion, prostitution, gay marriage, and … whether all billboards should have to be rated G (even if one is immediately reminded of the Jonas Brothers using-purity-rings-to-sll-sex-to-children episode of South Park, and is forced to wonder how precisely sexgear.co.nz’s excellent “All our customers do is scream and moan” would fare, unles the word “sex” itself is deemed un-G).
The McCroskie himself says,
“We are pleased to offer this resource to assist families in making an informed choice at the polling booth this November.”
Taken out of the context of his usual preachy wank, I am compelled to say: that man deserves a DB.
I know how this one is going to play, dear readers. It’s just going to be another evil, spiteful, bitchy, undermining, white-anting hysterical rant from a no-name bitch who no one likes who just hates Labour because she’s evil, and is just too picky, etc etc, and you know what? Go for your life. At this point I’m treating the whole thing as an historical exercise, writing down my thoughts now so in years ahead I can look back and say “fuck I was smart back then”.
And I do also understand that this is how politics works: find something that vaguely aligns to this week’s hot topic, and use it to try to turn the conversation back to yourself.
And I’ve previously said that it cannot be difficult for the left to put child poverty firmly on the agenda this election.
So when the Child Poverty Action Group’s report, Left Further Behind, got released last week, it was inevitable that as many parties as possible (the Nats and ACT excluded for fairly obvious reasons) would jump up with their hands in the air to cry “teacher, teacher, I have important thoughts on this!” like that beardy bastard in first-year philosophy/pols classes who thinks wasting half the class musing on the topic of “but is it not perhaps natural for man to seek a leader?” will really impress the professor.
Of course they were going to make this report about themselves. Of course you were going to get press releases with titles like “More evidence shows need for a plan to end child poverty” with the ever-so-subtle implication, “AND WE HAVE THAT PLAN”.
But I’m sorry, Labourites, yours in particular? Just a bit too far.
Here’s the context. Labour introduced Working for Families. CPAG made a complaint about Working for Families discriminating on the basis of family status. Labour, in government, fought damned hard against CPAG, with Crown Law even demanding a judicial review on the basis that CPAG, not being itself a starving beneficiary child, could not make such a complaint.
Now, CPAG’s report covers the introduction of WFF, noting it wasn’t as generous as a similar scheme in Australia (p51), and didn’t make allowance for big events like the recession or Pike River putting people involuntarily out of work (something the current Government kinda dealt with.) (p58) They agree that yes, things have got worse under NACT, and yes, they note that many many more children would have been in poverty today without WFF.
On p51, CPAG further notes that Labour is rethinking its attitude to WFF, and quotes Annette King on the subject. But a bit of a newsflash here: this is not CPAG jumping on some awesome Labour bandwagon, this is CPAG saying thanks for finally fucking listening to us on this, peeps.
Labour is also mentioned in other sections on removing GST from fruit and veg, the repeal of s59, early childhood education etc etc.
But no, sorry, Annette, sorry, Labour media team, sorry, Labour supporters; Left Further Behind contains not a single hint that CPAG “supports” Labour’s policies. Which is not really surprising, since CPAG is going for that whole “not politically affiliated” vibe.*
The Labour fans out there, no doubt already marshalling the usual “but John Key is Satan”, “but Labour is our last best hope for peace” lines, will not doubt point out that the press release doesn’t specifically say that CPAG are specifically explicitly and deliberately advocating in favour of Labour’s policies.
Not good enough, my friends.
Because the headline of the press release is
Labour welcomes Child Poverty Action Group support
Not even “Labour welcomes CPAG report” or “Labour endorses CPAG report” or “Labour’s policies in line with CPAG report”.
If the only thing you read (and please, stop for a moment to consider the standards of our mainstream media) was the headline, you would certainly come away with the impression that CPAG had endorsed Labour in some way.
Sorry, but they didn’t.
Then consider nice weaselly statements like
The … report released today confirms Labour’s policies
… when it doesn’t say anything about Labour’s policies …
I am pleased that so many organisations are coming together with the shared view that we must all do better for our children.
… as though CPAG were a new kid on the block in this area and just happened to have a really appropriate name …
and absolutely most fucking egregiously:
The Child Poverty Action Group has mirrored much of the policy that has already been announced by Labour
Mirrored. MIRRORED. Y’all may want to accuse me of being petty and pedantic, but you know what mirrors do? Reflect things that are already there. Obvious implication of this statement? Labour already thought of this first and CPAG are just joining in.
I’d hate to think that this is actually part of some official Labour key messages document: “Always speak as though all good things are inspired by us”, “always act as though we had every good idea first”. But it’s becoming a bit of a theme, and it’s far too closely related to “always act as though we are the one true leftwing god”, “the Greens are filthy traitors stealing our rightful votes” attitudes.
Child poverty is a serious fucking deal in NZ, and God knows I’m happy to see any party taking it seriously. But Labour has a pretty shit track record on this one, and it’s not one they’re keen to talk about (another recurring meme). So frankly, peeps, I am not looking in that direction for any actual answers.
I’m going to look to groups like CPAG. Here’s what they have to say about the future of eliminating child poverty (p73):
There are very good arguments for a universal payment, but in 2011 we have very wide income disparities and we do not have progressive taxation to fund redistribution. In addition, the poorest children miss out on payments in the current system because payments are tied to their parents’ paid work activity, not solely to income.
A universal payment alone is incapable of addressing child poverty with the current restrictions: fiscally it would mean that in order to make a payment to children that alleviated poverty, the payment level would have to be so high that we could not do it without either raising the top tax rates considerably to pay for it, or sacrificing some other worthy spending. Eliminating poverty has to be the first priority and this requires targeting assistance to the lowest income families. It would be possible (and desirable) to have a universal dimension, comparatively small initially, but the most significant assistance in the immediate future will need to be targeted at the poorest children. This could be the first step towards a universal payment for all children.
I’m sure they’d be happy for political parties to push these ideas, free of charge. But acting like this report actively supports any specific party, particularly Labour? Acting like this is some kind of “me, too!” to Labour’s awesome godlike child poverty policies which date back to the dawn of Westminster? Get your fucking hand off it, mate.
*Just to make it crystal clear: this is what it looks like when CPAG “supports” a Labour policy. Just so y’all know in future.
PS. Seriously, Labour. All this would have taken to be a good-news story from me (because it’s all about me) was to can the entitlement complex and say “This report is good, we’re happy we can see we’re going in the right direction, we did make mistakes last time and we’re not going to do it again.” How hard is that? Once you’ve taught your leadership team to say “sorry”, that is.
So, first up: clarification on Te Mana’s non-existent policy on reproductive rights which is due to be released in the undefined future.
The fact that this finally got responded to when a dude asked the question? Irony not escaping me.
The fact the answer is still surrounded by a bunch of Mana supporters whinging THERE ISN’T A POLICY, WHY DON’T YOU SHUT UP, YOU’RE HURTING THE MOVEMENT? Is just … well, depressingly reminiscent about asking Labour about policy, to be honest.
But before they got there, there was this. The awesomely waffley, refusing-to-take-sides, ever-so-slightly-whinging complaint that a moderator was expected to moderate shit and why couldn’t you all just get along. Complete with insisting that no one could be moderated until the admin themselves had gone through the threads because they just hadn’t seen the whole huge flaming “whores/lezos/demon seed” thread going down on their own page. Which .. is nicely reminiscent of every other instance of The Powers That Be in a given situation refusing to believe women’s experiences.
For bonus point, you get a bunch of people experiencing that wondrous 21st century epiphany that maybe posting abusive shit under your real name on Facebook on a public page isn’t such a good idea, and it’s so unfair for people to … accurately report a person’s statements via screenshot.
So this is still a big fail mark with me. You cannot let queries go unanswered for a whole business day, especially when those queries are being answered abusively by people claiming the mana to represent your voice and state your stance.
You cannot respond to hateful shit like that by waffling about good faith and not descending into personal abuse without clearly acknowledging that one side of the argument turned to personal abuse against the other. You just cannot play “both sides contributed” when one side said “what’s your policy” and the other said “shut up you sick lezos”. It’s just fucking gutless at the very least.
And to any Mana-Facebook-likers out there who want to whinge about people criticising Mana’s use of social media, and how dare we use this issue to raise points about their management of social media?
You want to know what looks awesome to a mainstream media already spinning a story about Te Mana being radicals, scary, extremists, unfocused, useless? Letting undecided voters get shat on on your Facebook page and not being willing to take a fucking stand on something as basic as “do not call people whores and accuse them of bad faith when they ask policy questions”.
[Trigger warning for suicide and emotionally-blackmailing religious proselytizing]
You know what’s not fucking compassionate?
Leaving anonymous, unbranded envelopes in people’s mailboxes which read only:
“You will never know what it meant to me to be able to come and see you at the lowest time in my life… you stopped me from doing something I would have regretted forever.”
And then contains a fucking marketing letter signed by the Sisters of Compassion Congregational Leader Sister Margaret Anne Mills, full of “here’s all the good work we do” and “we’re praying for Christchurch” and oh, “please give us money and remember us in your will”.
Sorry, Sisters of Compassion. I’m not in much of a fucking giving mood towards religious organisations which indulge in cheap emotional blackmail and don’t give a fuck about considering that in a country with a massive youth suicide rate, people may be a wee bit fucking sensitive to being reminded of the people who have done something which we get to regret forever, the people we couldn’t fucking help, the times in our lives when we ourselves have had to reach out to people who we don’t even know how to thank.
(And don’t fucking start me on how, given the fucking tragic proportion of gay, lesbian, bi, trans and other queer youth making up those aforementioned suicide statistics, the lack of fucking compassion they’ve received from the fucking Catholic Church makes this beyond ironic.)
It is totally time to do something about child poverty.
Benefits were cut to sub-starvation levels in 1991 to provide an “incentive”, and have never been restored. While Working For Families helped the working poor, it deliberately excluded those on benefits, again to provide an “incentive” for work. The resulting underclass was largely ignored by Labour when they were in office – they were invisible, and nobody wanted to talk about poverty in the good times. But now there’s a recession, exacerbated by National’s “hands-off” approach to economic mismanagement, and the problem is now too big to ignore.
If the left can’t make this a massive election issue, I lose faith both in our political representatives and NZ society as a whole.
Kids are going hungry, peeps. In New Zealand. And it’s our bloody job to stop that shit happening because even the better-off among us shouldn’t want to kick back texting our mates before dinner while children go hungry in our own damn country.