Friday, 7 September 2012

Social Justice Week. Presentation Palmerston North.

Feeding people has been a problem since the early Roman Empire and even before that. Every time the grain ships were delayed because of pirates and such-like or crop failure, the hungry mob in Rome threatened the wealthy dictatorship. Suddenly feeding the poor or masses became a matter of urgency even self preservation. Then as recorded history proves repeatedly revolutions, riots, wars and general mayhem reigned until control was reestablished by the strongest. Might was right and as always the victor wrote the history and made themselves the heroes, while the starving continued to be victims.
I today will limit my talk to those areas of actual fact, Poverty, the lack of food for the table is not new, nor is it universal, although it is growing at a rapid rate, but there is one common denominator and that is ‘money’ its the main driver for and against putting food on the tables of everyone.

Fact: Control access to food and you control people, power and the future.

These days there are only four ways of legally putting food on the table: Grow it, or harvest it from the wild, Buy it, or be given it. If none of those four exist you have to STEAL it.

Fact: Greed automatically leads to poverty.

There are people, families and whole societies and even countries today that never think about food, it simply appears whenever they require it. A cell phone is much more important to them, but to others its life or death.

Fact: Preventing poverty via food on the table [availability] has been an unachieved target goal for centuries.

Millions of people have attempted to prevent poverty and food shortages and as yet no one has been successful on a fully national or international scale. Religious, political powers both democratic and otherwise have failed to achieve a lasting answer to the cycle of poverty, starvation, or even the distribution of food itself.

Fact: The world’s leaders have not developed a poverty prevention plan, nor have they had the collective desire to design one.

So long as the poor, the hungry and the needy are seen as charity recipients this will always be the case. Mana says ‘Do away with the word charity’ and create a new word that represents hope and possibilities. I don’t know what that word is but when I hear it I’ll know…as I said:

The only legal ways of putting food on the table is to grow it or harvest it, buy it or be given it.

Does Mana have an answer to this age old problem; an answer that will see poverty disappear over night…it does not. But it is at least is in touch with those affected and those who cause the problem. Other political parties have lost touch.

But somewhere within this room or country of ours, the answer resides awaiting discovery…it won’t be an easy answer…nor will it be cheap…the world has put people on the moon, we’ve put giant sized TV cameras on Mars…and yet we can’t feed the world. We spend trillions on killing each other, billions and billions on mind numbing TV shows, but we can’t afford to feed the worlds population. Yet we call ourselves smart and intelligent, we even call ourselves human. But are we collectively human if we can’t feed those living in poverty.

We are even dumber here in New Zealand, for we have the land…at least for the time being…we have the knowledge and we have the wealth and means of distribution but still we lack the collective ability to share with others willingly.

What to do now is the key question that needs answering, before I recommend a first step, let me state clearly that demonizing those presently receiving social welfare payments is not only self defeating but is ethically and morally bankrupt, so I’ll not waste words on that stupidity. So all this talk of drug testing and punishment rĂ©gimes is simply a red herring and is nothing more than vote catching by those who can’t see the trees for the forest.

Sue Bradford is Mana’s spokesperson on social welfare and she played a part in producing a revealing document now known as ‘The Alternative Welfare Group Report’. It clearly demonstrates that many [and it’s a growing number] of those receiving social welfare entitlements are treated not as individuals who simply need assistance, but as almost lepers. The key word here is respect. Language management is a key. Language is more than words it is the means by which self esteem is demonstrated.

The words, ‘Universal Wage’ have a demonstrative human respect about them and it is the future track I would recommend. It would give us the greatest chance to make meaningful steps towards the removal of poverty as a major issue here in Aotearoa. This is vital because our society has reached the point that food, housing and all other necessities for a life free of poverty have to be purchased, or stolen. Let us purchase them collectively.

A life free of poverty, free of charity, free of humiliation is an unquestionable human right. There is no such thing as the deserving poor or the undeserving poor. There are only those who for the time being need a hand up. Not to do so is murder by ignorance and greed.

So regardless of where you are targeting your anti-poverty efforts, be it local, national or international, the key message in my and Mana’s view is that every person you are helping, in any shape or form, should be treated with respect, thereby maintaining and lifting their individual and collective mana. This I would humbly suggest is the only acceptable and human response.

Let me finish by thanking you for your collective efforts, particularly Mana acknowledges your work, the papers on the Myths about Poverty and Beneficiaries, your support for the Conference – Beyond Poverty as a counter view to the Government’s conference ‘Beyond Dependency’ which was pushing for time limited benefits. Also Mana thanks you for the work of the Alternative Welfare Working Party and its report. CARITAS and the wider Church and its officials they all play an important role in confronting the myths and political agendas that perpetuate poverty – please continue to speak out strongly 

Thank you.
Peter Wheeler
Mana Ki Manawatu

Peter at
06 359-2030

021 509431
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