Having coffee with a friend and we were both complaining about the current state of affairs in New Zealand when she looked at me and asked, “So if you could do anything, what would you do?” And being the opinionated woman I am, I immediately went off on a rant…
First, I’d stop ploughing money into Defence, prisons, and the police, and put it into child and family health and fixing the environment.
I’d remove financial targets from health and education and strip those bureaucracies of their bureaucrats.
Tertiary education would be free, and students would be paid a decent cost of living allowance.
I’d abolish all prisons (yep you heard that right) and increase the minimum wage and welfare benefits so people can live, not purely exist.
I’d help politicians understand what it’s really like to live on a benefit. On being elected, I’d freeze their assets, and they’d be paid the current benefit for the first 12 months of their term.
Then, they might understand why (when you have limited resources) you can’t go to the dentist, take your kids to the doctor, cover your house insurance costs, or pay your car’s registration and WOF.
I’m pretty sure after a couple of months if I looked in their shopping trolley, I wouldn’t see eye fillet steak, season vegetables, avocados, gluten-free bread, and a case of Pinot, but white bread, biscuits, tins of spaghetti, sausages, potato chips, cheap wine, beer and cigarettes.
I’ve never forgotten a guy I used to work with (a former IV drug addict dying of Hepatitis C) telling me that people in poverty are without hope, and people without hope don’t think about the future.
They don’t save money for a rainy day. They go for what feels good now, the quick fix, the alcohol, gambling, the drugs.
My point is – if you’ve never experienced poverty – you will never understand poverty.
And before you accuse me of never experiencing poverty, you’re right. I was born into privilege.
Acutely aware of it, in fact. Ironically, this has never stopped me from getting into heated conversations at dinner parties with my affluent friends.
Because if you think it doesn’t affect you, that you’re immune, think again. We’re all connected.
With poverty comes high crime, child abuse, and a healthcare system struggling to meet the basic needs of the population.
The current situation is biting us all in the ass. Not just those on low incomes.
We need leaders and policies focused on people and the environment to balance out capitalism.
I have this dream of getting into politics, but not as a politician. I want to bring mindful leadership to politicians. I believe the only way to change the system is to change the leader, one leader at a time.
We are a small country of 5 million people. We’ve got to do better! We can do better…