OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Dear Labour Caucus

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  • Sacha, in reply to Damian Christie,

    When I went from minimum wage student media wages, to a half-decent TV salary, did I jump a class, or was I always middle class?

    I reckon it's more about accumulated social capital than income at any time - the expectations we learn, especially about our economic place in the world.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    We do have an upper class, or perhaps a privileged class might be a better term. Instead of being defined by accents it is defined by knowledge ... and not my kind of knowledge.

    It's called networking and is consists of being told (quietly) that so-and-so is about to announce X and now would be a good time to by shares in ... Or being told that a certain council is about to change it's zoning and now would be a good time to ... Or being invited to dinner with Y so you can convince them that changing that law would be good for ...

    Those circles of networking are largely closed in New Zealand. That barrier to entry is what, for me, defines a "class". It can be broken down by people with drive and determination and luck.

    We also have several lower classes, we have lower classes defined by race (sharp intake of breath), by health (including diffabled people), by place (East coast anyone) and more ... sadly.

    Is it useful to talk about class? I'm not sure. Personally I prefer to focus on actual things that make changes and determine if those changes are likely to have a positive effect ... based on evidence and data. But I can see that the discussion of the class itself may identify places where changes might make differences.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Damian Christie,

    I've never really thought about NZ in class terms

    To quote Baudelaire (or The Usual Suspects, whichever you prefer):

    The Devil's best trick is to persuade you he doesn't exist!

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    lasting social change occurs when groups who have privilege give it up voluntarily. If they have it taken from them, they'll only try to get it back.

    Highly relevant to this thread's original topic - how willing a small group of people are to put their own interests aside if broader wellbeing demands it.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    diffabled

    like

    I prefer to focus on actual things that make changes and determine if those changes are likely to have a positive effect

    Same, and for whom. There's far too much policy made and approved by people who have little idea how other people actually live.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Or at least I find it interesting

    Cochrane fanboi :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    The Devil’s best trick is to persuade you he doesn’t exist!

    Yeah, just like a number of people I know, genuine, intelligent, liberal, kind-hearted types who still come out with the line "we don't have poverty here, not real poverty".

    Like it only counts when you have a distended belly and flies on your face.

    @Bart - I take your point, but I see that sort of influence and information as a spectrum too, it's not like one day you get the keys to the executive washroom, not in NZ. I have friends from every 'top' school in NZ, anyone (in the middle class) should have no issues getting into any university. We don't have a House of Lords, or titles that really divide by class (Sir Mad Butcher? Sir Colin Meads?), and so I think there's really only one division that matters - the haves and have-nots. Although it would be easier if that latter had flies.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    Out of interest, does anyone here (including the obvious candidates) not consider themselves to be middle class?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Out of interest, does anyone here (including the obvious candidates) not consider themselves to be middle class?

    I entirely reject the terminology as indicative of outdated imperialist dogma that...

    ...nah, I'm middle class.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Damian Christie,

    I wasn't brought up middle class. We didn't have the words for it back then, but I guess my origins, on my father's side, would be upper middle class, if anything. We all went to private schools. Most of us went to university. I was brought up that that was just what you did, if you had the inclination - although Dad didn't, but that was because of the Great Depression. And that had nothing to do with money, any of that. Private schools in those days didn't cost an arm and a leg, and university was as cheap as chips to attend. Seriously. We travelled all the time (domestically, but still). We had a yacht, and nice cars, and Dad had a Very Important Job. After the last yacht was sold, we had a holiday home. My father never had a mortgage, and never owed anyone any money, for anything. All that sounds pretty elitist, I guess. But it never felt like that. We were never allowed to talk about money, ever. Or class. Or the lack of it. Now, I guess I would say I'm middle class - if it were to do with income, and means. If it were about expectations and how you are brought up? Far more complicated.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Damian Christie,

    it’s not like one day you get the keys to the executive washroom, not in NZ

    Not quite so obviously perhaps, but I disagree with you about the spectrum. I don't think it's a smooth curve.

    Of course there are always people who break "class barriers" and they are always used as an example of why there are no class barriers. But I believe that in New Zealand if you are born into the right family and get entry into the right school your path to wealth is very much enhance irrespective of your actual ability. And vice versa for our lower classes.

    That to me anyway defines class.

    Given our household income I doubt I fit into middle class and if I were to have children they would by that starting point not be middle class either.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    diffabled

    like

    I remember that thread ... mostly because of my difficulty in understanding.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • DCBCauchi,

    Hmm, I’ve just stumbled on this, and waded back a few pages, and I’m going to chip in, prompted by this comment:

    ‘The reason those discussions work is that no-one is dumb or insensitive enough to be a nit-picky fight chasing arsehole on those threads.’

    I have been arguing stuff on the internet ever since the day in 1991 when I got given access to the internet, made a reasonably innocuous (I thought) comment on a discussion forum, and crashed the university’s computer network with the volume of outraged responses I got.

    Now, the way I understand it, the Golden Rule, as expressed by pretty much all the good philosophers of ages past, is not ‘Don’t be a dick’ or ‘Read kindly’. It is ‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you.’

    Given that premise, these are the conclusions I draw:

    If you’re running a discussion forum, the Golden Rule suggests what the tone and style of argument participants adopt should be.

    If your over-riding aim is that no-one gets their feelings hurt, then all participants should adopt a tone of exaggerated politeness and avoid any topic on which they disagree. Cats would be a good subject for such discussions (pretty much anything other politics and religion). Most people like cats. And those who don’t aren’t welcome anyway. Such discussions tend to be exclusive, with fairly primitive group dynamics in play (i.e. anyone not a member of the elect who is seen as challenging the elect in any way is demonised, a ‘nit-picky fight chasing arsehole’ or worse).

    However, if your aim is to promote a vigorous discussion that includes variant and unconventional (some would even say deviant) points of view, then you cannot worry too much about people getting their feelings hurt. Nor can participants be overly concerned with how they appear to others. What matters is the exchange of ideas, not self-serving posturing. The participants put their self-image to one side.

    In such a discussion, provocatively bald statements are considered to be, not personal insults to be countered with all the weapons at one’s disposal to preserve one’s self-image in the eyes of others at all costs, but rather valuable contributions to the discussion, ones that clarify or extend that discussion.

    Each participant fights their corner. A corner defined by ideas rather than personal feelings. It’s called being disinterested. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

    I’ve had a couple of run ins with Giovanni Tiso on these forums here in the past, neither of which I much enjoyed because I found his style of arguing particularly annoying. I thought he kept shifting the goal-posts and was being deliberately obtuse. However, this was my failing, not his.

    The thing with discussions on the internet, as everyone is well aware, is that small snippets of text that were written in the heat of the moment and that contain little or no contextual cues are more likely to be misinterpreted than not.

    Therefore, you get a lot of back and forth clarification, which can be frustrating. This is where things tend to break down.

    Final 2c re: the ‘middle class’. No-one should be made to feel bad for circumstances out of their control, but by the same token privilege (especially economic privilege) comes at other people’s expense.

    (Note that this is not directed at any particular individual or group of individuals:) Not acknowledging that expense while insisting on your entitlement to that privilege is not very nice. Those who have to pay the price resent it.

    Comments welcome, including name-calling. Shall I start? What a smug patronising wanker comment this just was eh? Annoying nit-picking fight-chasing arsehole!

    What a dick!

    Since Feb 2011 • 320 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Out of interest, does anyone here (including the obvious candidates) not consider themselves to be middle class?

    I am now, though I certainly wasn't raised that way. When I was a teenager, all my friends came from working-class families. The way you can tell how middle-class we are now is that all my friends are middle-class.

    And class mobility isn't just about who you know who became a lawyer when their mother was a cleaner. It's also about who you know who became a cleaner when their mother was a lawyer.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Jane Pearson,

    Middle class and a baby boomer!

    Since Feb 2010 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Damian Christie,

    does anyone here not consider themselves to be middle class?

    One's Earldom presumably excludes one?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It's called networking and is consists of being told (quietly) that so-and-so is about to announce X and now would be a good time to by shares in ... Or being told that a certain council is about to change it's zoning and now would be a good time to ... Or being invited to dinner with Y so you can convince them that changing that law would be good for ...

    This is precisely why I guffaw with cynical laughter every year when the Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index is published and the New Zealand political and media establishment pats itself on the back about how little corruption there is here. I'd never heard the phrase 'shoulder tap' until I got here. In the UK it's called nepotism.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Classic = Class IC = Class of 99(%)…

    I am now, though I certainly
    wasn’t raised that way.

    ditto – raised Working Class in Sydenham, not sure if we ‘lifted our game’ to become Middle Class or whether the Middle Class expanded to absorb us – I never had much time for the distinctions, (though one could hardly not be aware of them), my criteria was always respect and whether people were due it for deserving reasons, not just birth or perceived position – and as DCBC says above it all boiled down to what was on all my exercise books at Sydenham School – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – always seemed like the only logical way for a society to get on with each other – prince and proletarian alike…

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Given our household income I doubt I fit into middle class and if I were to have children they would by that starting point not be middle class either.

    Knowing nothing about your circumstances, are you saying you and your kids are upper class? Or underclass? Or working class? Or mind-your-own-business?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to DCBCauchi,

    I thought he kept shifting the goal-posts and was being deliberately obtuse. However, this was my failing, not his.

    You're a more generous and patient man than me, clearly.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Upper middle class. No kids though which helps.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • DCBCauchi, in reply to Damian Christie,

    You’re a more generous and patient man than me, clearly.

    Two word answer: Tui billboard.

    Since Feb 2011 • 320 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to DCBCauchi,

    However, if your aim is to promote a vigorous discussion that includes variant and unconventional (some would even say deviant) points of view, then you cannot worry too much about people getting their feelings hurt. Nor can participants be overly concerned with how they appear to others. What matters is the exchange of ideas, not self-serving posturing. The participants put their self-image to one side.

    I, too, have been doing this for a while and I see it more as:

    1. Attack the argument, not the person, although the line between the two might be blurry and people might be quite hurt by having their arguments mocked or torn up.

    2. Do try and bear in mind that there is a person behind that screen name.

    3. Argue positively and in good faith. i.e.: don't write something purely to wind up someone else. (nb: unless it's some wing nut blog and you're bored)

    4. It's just a discussion thread on the internet. There'll be another one tomorrow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew E,

    Except this one’s run for four days. Hurry up and write a new post, Keith.

    ETA: ;-)

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Out of interest, does anyone here (including the obvious candidates) not consider themselves to be middle class?

    I thought of myself (when I considered it at all) as working class for many years because, y'know, I worked for a living, lived payday to payday, had no assets beyond my clothes, books and records that got moved from flat to flat. I was disabused of this fantasy by a couple of siblings who pointed out that, though Dad had worked in the Patea freezing works when young and clawed his way up the educational ladder to become a very senior public servant, our generation hadn't really wanted for the necessaries and was definitely middle-class.

    I'm still not sure about that. As steven says, the bank considers me middle-classified by mortgage, though I appear to have little more actual spending money than I did in my footloose days, but I doubt that I was ever working class either. I'm really not sure those labels fit NZ anyway.

    You can have an underclass, without the lower middle and upper ones - as Bart mentions, you can have several of them. We used to call them ghettos, before that became unfashionable.

    I think people who want class warfare have no real idea what they'd do if they won. Except be part of an academic class chattering about labels because, really, some pigs simply must be more equal than other pigs.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

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