A survey by the Mental Health Foundation and the Canterbury District Health Board makes for grim reading about how the people of Christchurch are coping over two years after the first big quake.
Over 800 people were surveyed and over 80 percent replied that life had changed for the worse. This survey provided a picture of a people under pressure. Issues such as depression, ill-health, financial difficulties and alcohol abuse loom large in many people's lives.
Life in the red zone was described as "unbearable" and people reported widespread dissatisfaction and anger with how the Christchurch rebuild was being pursued, - more than two thirds believed the quakes were a 'convenient excuse for the Government to pursue its own agenda'.
All of this doesn't come as news for most people in Christchurch, especially those living in the quake-wrecked eastern suburbs. It appears to have come as a bit of a shock to The Press though, which commented in an editorial that it was surprised 'that the problems continue in such widespread and severe a form.'
Really? Why shouldn't 'the problems continue in such widespread and severe a form' when nothing has substantially changed and, in fact, when social and economic conditions continue to deteriorate?
Perhaps The Press has been too busy cheerleading for the government to actually listen to the people of the eastern suburbs. But there was a hopeful sign that the newspaper was finally starting to get the message when it commented in the same editorial that:
Behind the personal suffering and presumably causing the loss of hope is a majority belief that the recovery has been badly managed, with wrong priorities being set and people's needs being forgotten. The management of the recovery was seen as dictatorial, inconsistent and fragmented.
Given that only a few weeks ago The Press was praising the work of Gerry Brownlee and Roger Sutton, were we about to see the newspaper end its support for the top down and undemocratic rebuild of Christchurch? Would it now stop passing off government propaganda as opinion pieces?
Er, no. The 'solution' of The Press to the growing desperation in the Eastside is for the government to launch a media campaign to encourage people to seek help:
Brownlee might also find that the next needed step, the harnessing of Christchurch's social and medical services and the encouraging of people to use them, would be inexpensive and effective. The social media, advertising, advocacy and the empowering of social networks - a campaign - would show those who are quietly desperate that their problems are understood and that help is available.
So the despair that people are feeling, according to The Press, is simply people's inability to cope and its got nothing to do with a rebuild process that has prioritised the interests of the property developers and the corporate sector ahead of local communities.
Given the stark failure of both the Labour Party or the local trade union movement to do anything to galvanise community opposition to the bloodless coup that has occurred in Christchurch, it is up to the people to say that we are not going to take a few pills and have a bit of a lie down but we are going to assert our democratic right to have a real say in the rebuilding of our city.
The answer to individual despair is united community action driven by a determination not to be driven into the ground by the likes of Gerry Brownlee and Roger Sutton. We need to take back our city before the likes of Ngai Tahu Property get to plunder it and the monstrous glass and metal edifices of disaster capitalism are built in the central city.