The media has  focused on the assault of cricketer Jessie Ryder, but has had  nothing to say  about the economic violence being waged against Christchurch's quake victims.   The 'cogs tyrannic' of the government's bureaucratic machines roll on.

In the aftermath of the assault on cricketer Jessie Ryder, it hasn't just been Cr Aaron Keown who has been  getting  all hysterical about Christchurch's so-called 'culture of violence'.

On Tuesday The Press used the release of new crime  figures to  suggest that the good citizens of Christchurch are always on for  'the bash'  The page one headline hissed ;  'Stressed Cantabrians  Turn To  Violence'.

The evidence for this claim was that there was a 10.7 percent increase in the number of reported assaults in 2012 compared to  2011. The source of most of these assaults wasn't surprising - boozed up bar patrons lashing out on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Press did not want to waste a good tabloid headline so it chose  not to highlight that the new figures are still  far lower  than they were before the quakes. But, of course,  a headline like 'Christchurch Less Violent Than Before The Quakes'  would not have quite  the same dramatic oomph.

Buried in the article it was reported  the police ' maintain Christchurch is still far safer than other  New Zealand  cities, and things are not as bad as the days 'of putting out fires and stopping fights' in the pre-quake central city.'

Canterbury District Commander Superintendent  Gary Knowles told The Press  that 'crime was still down on 2010'  and that Christchurch was 'a lot safer' than the metropolitan centres of the North Island.

But while some local politicians and the media have been  frothing  at the mouth   about  Christchurch's mythical  'culture of violence' they haven't been so vocal about the violence being waged in the eastern suburbs.

Such is the 'cogs tyrannic' of the banks, the insurances companies, the Earthquake Commission, the  Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) and the government. It rolls on leaving thousands  of lives  injured and damaged, trampled into the ground.

The violence is systemised and routinised  and it doesn't appear like violence at all  - but nevertheless it is this bureaucratic violence that has wrecked local communities.

It is violence that has forced people to accept derisory offers for their home and land from the government.

It is the violence that has forced people pay extortionate rents they cannot afford  and a violence that has forced people to live in  garages and overcrowded conditions. It is a violence that  is plunging more people into poverty as each month goes by.

The violence has  resulted in  over 66,000 people in Christchurch  turning to anti-depressants . The region now  holds the highest anti-depressant prescription rate in the country.

And if you want  more evidence of the casualties of this protracted assault,  consider that mental health referrals in Christchurch are  now  at an all-time high and severe psychological disorders are beginning to emerge.

Associate Professor Dee Mangin, of the University of Otago Christchurch campus - and who also works as a Christchurch GP - said this week that some  of her patients had reached the end of their resilience, no longer able to cope with  living in damaged homes, the intransigence  of the  insurance companies  and the  Earthquake Commission (EQC), the arrogance  of CERA,   job losses and  relationship breakdowns

Mangin told the media that she had   written 'so many letters I cannot remember" to EQC, CERA  and various insurance companies urging them to fast-track repairs, but said her pleas were largely ignored.

I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this violence is  killing people but no one is accountable.  Indeed we have the editor of The Press  writing editorials that praise  Gerry Brownlee and Roger Sutton   and a Christchurch mayor so bereft of morality and principle that he refuses to fight  alongside the very people who pay his  exorbitant  salary.

Perhaps what we need to do is start   thinking in a new way and ask what kind of a society  and economic system not only  renders such violence  possible but actually condones it.


  1. J'accuse:
    You say : "severe psychological disorders are beginning to emerge.".

    Psychiatric disorders are the result of feelings of hopelessness and the social dis-integration of the individual.

    If, as you say, these are emerging as a result of the inability of people to "sort" their problems by their own individual efforts (ie: "writing so many letters I cannot remember to EQC, CERA and various insurance companies") then the blame for this must also fall on the existing political organisations of the workers (Labour etc).

    These organisations have led people down the path of responding individually to their issues, and then piggybacking on their stories as fodder for their own attacks on government inaction. Labour constantly re-routing real workers issues into media campaigns and morality tales, as they trip down their parliamentary road to nowhere.

    Rather than organising mass actions such as: defying the EQC and their drip feeding of settlements; protest against the government red-zoning and demolition of habitable buildings; occupations against the actions of property speculators like Mike Pero and his mates; these workers organisations have been content to let things take their (legal/bureaucratic) course.

    Actions that have occurred have arisen out of the self-organisation of homeowners, ratepayers, affected tenants, even small-business owners and the local clergy. But again, because of limitations in consciousness these have also followed legalistic avenues.
    Even for individuals who can stand up for themselves and know their way around bureaucracy, this is a challenge, let alone for people with already limited resources, domestic disarray, and work and time constraints.

    If local street violence is up (and the appeal of far right opportunist currents), this too is the co-responsibility of labour, and for the same reasons.

    Rather than deny statistics (or trying to dissappear them by reference to better, earlier, stats) you would be better served by apportioning responsibility for social discontent (and thereby having a real discussion on what is needed to end it).

    yours etc,

    Franz Fanon


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