It's been raining for five solid days in Christchurch and the weather forecast says it'll be more of the same for at least the next three days - with the added 'bonus' of snow showers.
It's bitterly cold and this morning I woke with a chronic headache and a cough. I'm hoping it isn't the onset of flu and I have hit the panadol in the hope of nipping it in the bud.
My mood mirrored the dark sky above me as I trudged off to my local mall to buy groceries.
I remarked to the woman on the checkout counter at the supermarket, in the way of chit-chat, that the mall would probably not be busy today.
'Don't you believe it,' she replied . 'People come in here just to get warm.'
And she's right.
In these citadels to consumer capitalism people shelter from exorbitant power prices before having to return to their houses and flats where electric heaters don't get switched on because of the fear of what the next power bill will say.
This, to me, is indicative of the state we're in. While TVNZ's Paul Henry is congratulating John Key for his Budget, elderly people get some temporary warmth in the mall or perhaps in their local library.
This is not a society we should be proud of living in because this is a society in decay.
Despite the relentlessly cheery propaganda we get from Government and its cheerleaders in the media, I think New Zealand is a society that is crumbling. No amount of cheering from the acolytes of the free market can conceal that.
If we look beyond the ideological smokescreen the Government is putting up, we see an economy that is struggling and which is in danger of being knocked down again by another global crisis which is more than likely just around the corner.
The gulf between the rich and the poor is widening yet this Government handed out big tax cuts to the wealthy and very little to the poor. The new round of tax cuts will give people who earn $15,000 a year an extra $6 a week, while earners of $25,000 a year will get an extra $12.80 and people earning $120,000 will be better off by $89 each week.
After the increase in GST is added to the equation, people on $15,000 will actually be better off by about a dollar while those on $120,000 will be keeping about $56 of their tax cuts.
We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the OECD. Over 200,000 New Zealand children live in severe or significant hardship according to Susan St John, an economist from the University of Auckland. The Budget did nothing to address this social catastrophe.
And despite all the bluster from the Minister of Social Development, there are still over 260,000 out of work - not to mention the folk who are underemployed and struggling to just survive. Over 100,000 New Zealanders who are in part time work say they need more hours.
Paula Bennett's response? She's harassing beneficiaries - telling them 'the dream is over' and they should all find jobs despite the fact the jobs don't exist. I despise Paula Bennett and I despise the political conditions that allow this ignorant woman to be a cabinet minister.
With people like Bennett in charge, it's not surprising that the food banks are struggling to keep up with demand.
It might surprise some people but food banks as we know them today have only been around since 1991. Another 'triumph' for the free market.
Auckland City Mission chief executive Diane Robertson says she has witnessed "a huge number' of new families, who have never been to food banks before, approaching the mission for food assistance.
Salvation Army policy analyst Alan Johnson says: 'There has been a rapid rise in food poverty from early 2008 with an increase in demand of around a 30 per cent per year over the last two years.'
We are in a state of social decay.
The decay has spread to the formerly comfortable middle class who no longer have the economic security they once took for granted. White collar jobs are being exported to countries like India and the Philippines where wages are even lower than those we have here.
It seems to sum up the state of the nation that we elected a former market trader as Prime Minister
This is a Prime Minister who tells us that we should not be 'envious' of the rich and the tax cuts they received. Why? Because they are 'winners' who deserve our help. According to right wing tailback host Michael Laws 'the wealthy are more deserving than they are given credit for'. Think of some of the people Laws is referring to - Mark Bryers, Mark Hotchin, Eric Watson. The fallen 'heroes' of the new 'entrepreneurial' New Zealand.
In contrast though Key has no problems with bashing the 'losers' - the jobless, solo mothers, pensioners. There is no compassion or respect on display for those defined by neoliberalism as 'losers'.
If you are a 'loser' it's you're own fault. If you are out of a job it's your own fault. According to Michael Laws the Budget was step in the right direction but it could of been bolder and not compensated beneficiaries for the rise in GST - in order to force beneficiaries into minimum wage jobs.
We have certainly travelled a long way backwards from the days of Michael Joseph Savage.
The neoliberal dogma that separates the 'winners' from the 'losers' has contributed to a society where the values of the community and of social solidarity have been replaced by the venal values of the free market.
While I am a Marxist in the classical sense I know too that we are fighting a rearguard action.
How many more lives have to be wasted before we say that the era of neoliberalism is over? How many more lives have to be wasted before we reject the free market and put the interests of society and people first? How many more lives have to be wasted before we reaffirm the values of equality and solidarity?
How many more lives have to be wasted before we say enough is enough?
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