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My musings on Live Below the Line

I’ve had some really interesting conversations this week about global and domestic poverty and had lots of challenges. Thank you.

Three challenges were made, more often than once, that I’d like to explore.

LBL gives privileged people a sense that they know what poverty is like when really this project doesn’t give any indication of what real poverty is like.

I agree that this doesn’t give any sense of what real poverty is like, of course it can’t. I just hope everyone doing it had that pointed out to them as often as I did. I mean that really positively – because I think that is one of the values of this project. It starts a discussion between people about poverty and that doesn’t really happen very often at all.

For the record, here are just some of the things I have in my life that demonstrate extreme privilege that did not change while I did Below the Line:

  • A secure income
  • My workplace is warm and weatherproof and has health and safety standards
  • Sickness leave, if I need it
  • Secure comfortable housing
  • The space to have a garden ( this summers challenge)
  • No worry about paying bills
  • The extreme luxury of knowing I have enough money if an unexpected bill comes in
  • Access to free drinkable water
  • Access to sanitation with no risk to my physical safety or sense of privacy
  • The ability to pay for transport to buy the cheapest possible food
  • The ability to have a (warm)shower every morning
  • The ability to go to work by public transport
  • Access to the internet and mobile technology
  • The ability to speak and be listened to.
  • The ability to look people in the eye and have them look back and smile
  • Warm clean clothes and shoes for different situations
  • Continual offers of free food and a community that has resources and shares
  • I can buy books, or borrow them from the library, and have light to read them by at night.

Please feel free to add things. I know there are so many more.

LBL and organisations do nothing to challenge the global power structures that create poverty.

I get this too. Charity is not going to change the world. A just world is only going to happen through a massive reworking of global power imbalances, economic policies, institutional arrangement and understanding.

While I would like to consider I’m a tiny part of those moves towards structural change through my work here. I know we’ve got a very very long way to go, and that work is not going to happen without an initial awareness of the problem and strong civil society. I think Below the Line contributes to that, as do VSA.

What about the poverty in NZ, shouldn’t we start at home?

Again, I think we need to do both and make the links between poverty here and abroad. I completely get that in some ways people have more empathy for people in extreme poverty overseas because we haven’t messed up the discourse with it being their own fault. However I think we do need to make the parallels and look to other countries that have extreme inequality to learn some lessons before we end up there.

I also think we need to acknowledge that New Zealand has had a role, albeit minor, in contributing to poverty in some of our Pacific countries and we have a duty to redress this.

I’ve raised over $800 for VSA for their work in the Pacific and feel really good about that. I’ve also donated the money I’ve saved on food and coffee to the Wellington Benefit Rights Service (though I probably would have done that anyway) as they really need some help right now. I have had many many conversations. So I’d like to thank LBL for the opportunity to engage in this.

29 thoughts on “My musings on Live Below the Line

  1. Shundra, I think you may have misread my comments.

    Live Below the Line is about raising awareness of extreme poverty. 1.4 billion people for whom $2.25 a day or less has to cover all their living costs. I have worked in the slums of India and many of my comments were informed by that experience, though i certainly realise that many of the things in the list that denote my privelge are available to poeple living in poverty in New Zealand. I think it’s an interesting discussion to consider which ones are and which ones aren’t.

    My comments were certainly not saying poverty here is tangibly the same as it is in countries without income support systems.

    anyway cheers everyone for engaging

  2. Shunda

    Money solves problems that are related to not-enough-money.

    I have often pushed the notion of support for children being “in kind rather than in cash”.

    That model is hard to sell to anyone at the actual price it takes. The Right Wing don’t accept that the state can take on such responsibilities in the comprehensive form required. The left doesn’t think it is fair to the ? 90% of people who are NOT rorting the system but remain broke. The middle likes WFF which it would replace, and the tax system penalizes the middle class for not being either wealthy enough or poor enough… and without WFF that penalty is BRUTAL… it was an effective marginal tax rate of 90% for me at one point.

    The problems Shunda, do not reside in the place you think they do… and certainly not here with the Greens.

    “you ignore family dysfunction” – Really? In what way?

    Shunda – Family dysfunction is not a matter that gets solved by cutting a family off from money… that only makes matters worse.

    Perhaps we should have a SEPARATE policy on support of families that suffer from such dysfunction that is different from “cut the bastards payments off” ? Do you think ?

    …or perhaps we should simply make all the child support we can possibly do this with, “in kind rather than in cash” and wipe the WFF, and fix the tax and benefits structure to remove the hump, and tax the wealthy properly and has it occurred to you that this is an deeply tangled problem that cannot be solved by simply cutting off the “kindness” that most people are NOT abusing, but requires an integrated solution?

    So far I am not impressed by your analysis.

  3. Shunda, do you think that working people should get the ‘in work’ payment? If so why? What makes their needs greater?

  4. Do you agree that beneficiaries should get the ‘in work’ payment BJ? Do you think money solves peoples problems?

    Here is the simple reality about living in NZ, no one has ANY excuse to send their kids to school with no food, no one has ANY excuse to go hungry in this country.

    That is a fact.
    We look after our poor.

    You lot lie and distort reality, you ignore family dysfunction and the terrible effect it has on kids and finances, you gloss over the problems or blame them on the right wing boogie man, you resign the kids of dysfunctional parents to a future of hopelessness.

    I see it, my wife see’s it, the Greens do not, because ideology is not caring, ideology doesn’t help anyone, it polarizes and distorts reality.

    It’s about time you all familiarized yourselves with the real threats to viable social welfare – welfare abuse. It’s about time the left stopped subsidising property investors (Labour did for 10 years) and creating a low wage economy with ‘working for families’ payments.

    The Left have killed this country with kindness.

    The Greens want to continue down that track, full steam ahead.

  5. I also don’t believe in signing up people to a flawed system of superficial wants and rampant consumerism, which is exactly what Jan and other Green party policy is all about.

    What policy are you talking about Shunda?

    … and how do you get to the idea that this is what Jan is about?

    I think you’ve mistaken your prejudices for something WE are promoting.

    I want you to show me what you’re claiming has some basis in reality…

    …because I have some notion of what my fellow Greens have and how we gather together what little of that there is to make things work for us.

    There is an aspect of our policies that I wish to change but you haven’t provided the slightest suggestion of what YOU think ought to be changed… either in the world or in our policies. Unless you do, your accusations are hollow and useless.

  6. I find your comments.. ‘a load of BS’..

    Oh gee whiz! really?

    Oh deary, deary me!!

    I mean, goodness gracious!

    The Greens are good you say? my stars, what have I done?

  7. @SB

    I find your comments.. ‘a load of BS’..
    my experience.. greens come in many shapes & sizes. The main objectives being Environmental & Social Justice concerns !

    Kia-ora

  8. Not that Shunda and Photonz seem to have much to say about getting people out of poverty.

    I have plenty to say about getting people out of poverty, you can’t hear it though because your mates are making so much noise shouting people like me down.

    I also don’t believe in signing up people to a flawed system of superficial wants and rampant consumerism, which is exactly what Jan and other Green party policy is all about.

    Which is yet more hypocrisy (and confusion) of the highest order.

  9. So one poor person hates other poor people and chooses to spend his time attacking those with more money than him who want to help the poor.

    Who said anything about “hate” what a low blow (even for you).

    And just what does the pay for an MP (of whatever party) have to do with the wider (income and wealth) profile of party members or those who vote for a party?

    Oh please, the average Greens supporter is well above middle income, are you serious?

    Apparently the profile of the low income southern white Christian who votes Republican because of dislike for the urban liberal (left hardly applies in the USA) fits like a glove here. Some religious indoctrination is virtually akin to political brainwashing; where the state that provides for the those in need is portrayed as a left wing entity and the deserving poor are untainted by any dependence on it. Thus the Republican Party exploit southern white identity pride for cheap votes for policies that favour the elite. All based around perceiving those reliant on welfare as undeserving and those supporting it as lefties trying to redistribute wealth.

    What paranoid delusional bullshit.
    The fact that you got so many upticks for that nonsensical comment only proves me correct as far as I am concerned – the Greens are primarily driven by ‘cut n paste’ leftist ideology that has little practical application here. You are all so terrified of the Christian right wing boogieman that you can’t collectively think or see straight on just about any social issue.
    You wouldn’t know how to help the poor if your lives depended on it and yet you claim superiority over someone like myself that has lived my whole adult life in a low socio-economic area.

    I don’t hate the poor, I hate poor behavior, behavior that resigns children to a bleak future because mum and dad don’t give a shit about them.
    A state that enables this to continue is evil, as are out of touch politicians that care more about ideological ‘oughts’ than giving people a meaningful existence and hope for the future.

    Hypocrites of the highest order.

  10. Why are some of you attacking Ms Logie for raising her concerns about the plight of the poorest in Aotearoa ?
    I for one, thought MPs are their to represent ‘we the people’ NOT just talk about their own problems or worse for ‘self-interest’ (as it appears some may well be.. on the right ?)

    Good onya Jan

    Kia-ora Koutou

  11. I think Shunda has a point here – it’s very difficult for ANY parliamentarian to speak on class/power issues without the obvious hypocrisy coming out. Movements concerned with these issues are messing themselves up by taking the parliamentary route – perhaps the Green MPs need to find and promote spokespeople who are themselves in poverty, rather than trying to do the job themselves.

    Not that Shunda and Photonz seem to have much to say about getting people out of poverty.

  12. So one poor person hates other poor people and chooses to spend his time attacking those with more money than him who want to help the poor.

    And just what does the pay for an MP (of whatever party) have to do with the wider (income and wealth) profile of party members or those who vote for a party?

    Over 10% feel represented by Green Party policies – and given we don’t have that many wealthy people, and most of them vote for the political right out of self interest, these voters are not wealthy people.

    Apparently the profile of the low income southern white Christian who votes Republican because of dislike for the urban liberal (left hardly applies in the USA) fits like a glove here. Some religious indoctrination is virtually akin to political brainwashing; where the state that provides for the those in need is portrayed as a left wing entity and the deserving poor are untainted by any dependence on it. Thus the Republican Party exploit southern white identity pride for cheap votes for policies that favour the elite. All based around perceiving those reliant on welfare as undeserving and those supporting it as lefties trying to redistribute wealth.

  13. @Shunda barunda 7:56 PM

    So we have established a minimum income of 80k, so that’s the ‘poorest’ a green mp gets?.

    Shunda, a single person or couple with one person working at the minimum wage, or a family in similar circumstances(before WfF tax credits), earns $28,080 p/a.

    A hell of a lot below your supposed $80K.

  14. So we have established a minimum income of 80k, so that’s the ‘poorest’ a green mp gets?.

    Not bad at all really.

    If I had that much money, I would feel absolutely stinking rich.

    But most Green party Mps are considerably wealthier than that.

    Someone prove me wrong (if I am wrong).

    The poor are just so easy to wax lyrical over when one wants for nothing and lives many miles away from the neighborhoods the ‘poor’ inhabit.

    Then you all have the bloody cheek to tell me how to relate to my neighbors.

    You ain’t got a collective clue.

  15. It’s a lot, Shunda, but it’s not extreme, is it?

    You did say, extremely wealthy didn’t you?

    Just fact-checking here. And turning down the heat a little.

  16. Sorry mate, you said extremely, not middling well off. They work IIRC for about 80K/year. Don’t know any South Island Greens and are they our MP’s?

    Do know Jan Logie a little bit. If wealthy she hides it pretty well.

  17. Extremely wealthy? You are… making jokes again right?

    Why would I be joking? are Green Mps working for minimum wage? hell, the south island ‘greens’ alone own millions in land and assets.

    Are you kidding me BJ?

  18. Photo are you suggesting it is the responsibility of the people with the least resources, without any of those privileges I mentioned, to reduce inequality and poverty

    Jan, are you seriously suggesting that beneficiaries in NZ don’t have access to the vast majority of those privileges you mentioned? because if you are, you are a very dishonest and deluded individual.

    I have come to the conclusion that the Greens are being quite deliberately dishonest on this issue and are simply trying to rabble rouse like common red necks.

    You are shamelessly confusing this issue, you don’t give a stuff about ‘the poor’, you are completely preoccupied with left wing wealth redistribution ideology and nothing else.

    Pull your head out, learn a bit, and then come back with some decent solutions to actual inequality in NZ.

    And I say this as someone who has been living in ‘poverty’ with my wife and kids my whole adult life.

    It infuriates me how people like Jan and the rest of the greens use the poor as their own personal political football, green mps are all extremely wealthy people and are so out of touch it hurts.

    I can’t stand the hypocrisy.

  19. I find it fascinating to hear people who live in affluent suburbs & earn ‘big bucks’ condemn those who dont (not talking about you Jan)..
    I used to be in the middle class (earning about $60k/yr) but since i got made redundant some years ago, i only manage to get p/t & temp. work & Im on & off the benefit (which I DO appreciate.. its NOT a lifestyle choice, as some suggest).

    I quite disgusted to see in a country of 4 million, there can be such derision & scorn cast on those at the lower end.. “SHAME”

    Surely we are all KIWIS : NOT just the ‘HAVES’ & the ‘have-nots’

    Kia-ora Jan

  20. You really do not want to go there Photonz,

    I mean you SERIOUSLY do not want to go there.

    Because when someone who is really poor works hard enough to get a little bit ahead, someone with a lot more money leverages it to steal from the poor guy. Doesn’t matter who, and it doesn’t matter if it is one or many… it happens.

    So the way that the poor people can correct the injustices they suffer looks sort of like this:

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/greek-spanish-riots-shatter-european-market-calm-17331469

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillotine

    The things you THINK they can do… most of those things exist only in your fertile imagination.

    ..and we know it must be fertile because you are so continually full of fertilizer…

    However, the point being made is that revolution is pretty much the only way the poor will get a break.

    Electing Greens would be the same as a revolution, but one has to get the middle class of NZ involved to have a ballot box revolution like that. It isn’t I think, something the poor can do themselves. Maybe.

    The problems come from a lot of things that you regard as gospel, and we understand as sin. Which is why National has accomplished zip in terms of changing our employment or economic status and will, apart from the insurance money being used to rebuild what once was the second largest city in NZ, continue to accomplish nothing.

  21. Kerry says “How can they.”

    That’s the white flag up. Don’t even try to improve things for yourslef. Game over.

    What a loser attitude.

  22. Photo are you suggesting it is the responsibility of the people with the least resources, without any of those privileges I mentioned, to reduce inequality and poverty?

  23. How can they. When the wealth they and their ancestors earned is continually given away to the already rich. You know, the ones who get millions, not hundreds, for doing bugger all for society.

    Like the one who got a 750 million handout last year for costing his employers 34 million.

  24. Jan – in your musings I don’t see a single idea or tip of what poor people can do to improve their own lives – not one.

    Because in the end, that’s how poverty is solved.

    If we concentrate on handouts, we’re not solving the problem – just applying a temporary and inadequate bandage that often only serves to prolong finding a solution.

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