According to an article in the Listener and republished by the NZ Herald, the New Zealand middle class is 'indifferent' to poverty because they view it as a 'brown problem'. Apparently 'poverty has a colour'.This will be news to the growing number of working class Pakeha suffering the misery and indignities of being poor.

BASED ON THE VIEWS of a handful of people including a Maori provider chair and a Pasifika social worker, Listener journalist Colleen Brown concludes that the reason why the New Zealand middle class is apparently 'indifferent' to poverty is because they view it as a 'brown problem'. Although she doesn't spell it out, obviously it's the white middle class that is the offender here.

That Brown reaches this emphatic conclusion on the basis of the opinions of the handful of people she has chosen to talk to is questionable. This is especially so since they all share remarkably similar views and all of the liberal left variety. It's almost as if Brown went seeking the views she wanted.

But there's an obvious political agenda at work here and one most of us have probably met on more than one occasion while reading Stuff, watching TVNZ or listening to RNZ. You would of heard of it if you managed to listen to Green co-leader Marama Davidson's parliamentary response to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. That view is articulated in the Listener article by the Chief Executive of the Auckland City Mission, Helen Robinson, who declares that in 'our country, poverty has a colour. It is about racism and colonisation'. 

No prizes for guessing that the colour of poverty isn't white. 

Actually, poverty doesn't discriminate on the basis of ethnicity. It's quite fair in this regard. According to Stats NZ, for the year ended June 2021 13.6 percent of New Zealand children (156,700) were living in poverty. Of that number 52,600 were Maori and 30,300 were Pasifika. That means 73,000 were European. That doesn't suggest that 'racism and colonisation' are at work here. But liberal journalists like Colleen Brown and others like her seem determined to write poor working class Pakeha out of the discussion altogether. Nice.

Unfortunately we live in times when a liberal fixation with identity politics has inexorably led to the development of a race-based politics that has replaced one based on economic class. But it allows journalists like Brown and others who share her views, like the Minister of Maori Development Willie Jackson and Green co-leader Marama Davidson, to avoid having to confront an unjust economic system that they themselves support and prop up.

It's just nonsense to suggest that the explanation for every injustice - like poverty - can be reduced to race and racism. The statistics show that not everybody who is hurting under neoliberalism is Maori or Pasifika, and not all Maori and Pasifika are hurting under neoliberalism. Some of them, like multimillionaire Willie Jackson for example, are doing pretty well. 

Despite all their outward appearance of being 'progressive' the 'woke' liberal left - and I include Colleen Brown in this category - are trenchant defenders of the economic status quo. That's because, in their focus on race, they place obstacles in the way of a politics that says any form of emancipation within a capitalist society can only be achieved through class struggle. This is a form of struggle that incorporates people of every identity. 


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