The Prime Minister wants to know why protesters are not grateful for an 'increase' in the benefit, as does Radio Live's Duncan Garner. They both should read Oscar Wilde.

BARELY HAD THE PRESS EMBARGO on the 2015 Budget been lifted and Duncan Garner was tweeting what a 'compassionate' Budget it really was.

The Radio Live and TV3 presenter, who doesn't have to be persuaded to say nice things about the Government, wanted us to know that increasing benefits (for some) was a sign of a Government that had heard the increasing calls for it to tackle child poverty and was doing something substantial about it.

Many other people though were far less convinced about the Government's "benevolence'. Yesterday Auckland Action Against Poverty protested outside Sky City where the Prime Minister was addressing a lunchtime bash of business leaders and others - like Garner's TV3 colleague, Paul Henry.

Inside a smug Prime Minister told his audience:

"We are the first Government to raise benefits in 43 years. I would have thought they'd be cheering out there, not protesting,"

There was much laughter among his audience, who had all paid some $450 to attend the shindig. There was not much poverty in evidence here.

On his afternoon radio show Duncan Garner was keen to underline what John Key had said. He too wanted to know why the protesters were such an ungrateful lot.

Why? For several reasons, Duncan.

It might be because few beneficiaries will receive the full $25 because they lose much of it because of a corresponding reduction of the temporary allowance supplement.

It might also because this 'increase' is being used to introduce some more punitive measures against beneficiaries with children

And, of course, beneficiaries who don't happen to have children get nothing. Apparently they are immune to the pangs of poverty.

But why should  beneficiaries have to grateful for any crumbs flicked in their direction by the 'high and mighty' anyway?

In his essay 'The Soul of Man Under Socialism' the great Oscar Wilde writes:

They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor....But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.

Wilde goes on to say:

We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table? They should be seated at the board, and are beginning to know it. 

If Oscar Wilde was alive today, and living in Auckland, he would of been protesting outside Sky City yesterday, reminding us that poor should always be disobedient and rebellious. And never grateful.


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