OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Dear Labour Caucus

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Sure hierarchies seem to be inevitable and not necessarily bad, certainly like you I have a very good friend in that upper class, from very middle class background and a great guy. But there are conversations where I am aware that he has connections that make the impossible easy.

    The issue for politics is to ensure that those class structures do not lead to harm, that's what we trust our MPs to do. That hasn't been all that successful of late.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    when in Roma…

    then the priest class is very stratified
    with enormous barriers to entry.
    …Whee politics and religion:)

    But they have such groovy threads…

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Public squares can have the problem of people just walking away. The value of a core of engaged regulars at the cafe is they help progress discussions without driving away the lurkers, who are the largest group here. But they by their own voices can restrict the discussion.

    I can see your point that the culture of the cafe can restrict the breadth of the discussion. I don't have any answer to the balance question. While I commented that this thread got unpleasant I wasn't comfortable with you being targeted specifically. To me you were neither the only nor major voice that had lost it's inclusive tone.

    Somewhat circularly I think that might be my point, in the cafe there is generally a desire to draw in as many as possible into the discussion, including those on the edge of the crowd with edgier ideas. In the square there is a tendency to ignore those that walk away. I like the cafe more than the square.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    like you I have a very good friend in that upper class, from very middle class background and a great guy.

    Where as I, on the other hand, have no class whatsoever. I am often reminded of this fact on these very fora.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    Someone forwarded this to me yesterday. It seems to fit the general theme of the past few pages.

    http://thechive.com/2011/08/29/20-first-world-problems-20-photos/

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Where as I, on the other hand, have no class whatsoever.

    And here's me thinking you were all class.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Someone forwarded this to me yesterday. It seems to fit the general theme of the past few pages.

    The erasure of class in the West is quite nicely illustrated by that meme. On the one hand, it says that since people in the first world are better off than those in the third world, than there is no meaningful inequality in the first world and nobody is entitled to complain (shut up, proles). On the other hand, it says that nobody in the third world has first world problems, which is equally unhelpful.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    AFTHOTWTTF*

    I like the cafe more
    than the square.

    how about the Salon
    - or better yet, saloon.
    Cheers...

    * A funny thing happened on
    the way to the forum...

    - Buster Keaton's last appearance

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    On the one hand, it says that since people in the first world are better off than those in the third world, than there is no meaningful inequality in the first world and nobody is entitled to complain (shut up, proles). On the other hand, it says that nobody in the third world has first world problems, which is equally unhelpful.

    It seems to hail from the same un-school of thought that makes whingeing anecdotes about state houses with Sky dishes.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    On the other hand, it says that nobody in the third world has first world problems, which is equally unhelpful.

    ...and here's me just thinking it was kinda funny.

    I personally prefer using the tag #whitewhine, but I wouldn't for a minute think that by using it I'm saying every single white person in the world is equal, or doesn't have issues, or doesn't cope with poverty, or has an iphone 4s. Or that all non-white people do. Not that I'm saying that's right, but I'm not quite sure how to show the appropriate level of self-deprecation in a hash tag after uttering something like "Nosh was out of chicken parfait"... #middleclassproblems? #well-adjustedissues?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Not that I'm saying that's right, but I'm not quite sure how to show the appropriate level of self-deprecation

    So when you proposed that that link "fitted the general theme of the past few pages", you meant to be self-deprecating, and not characterise the discussion as one long white whine?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    (I'm white male and, I guess, middle-class. I'm probably blind to a lot of issues of privilege. Just to get that out of the way :))
    If we're going to talk about class (and it might be invaluable- if we can move past the fraught part :)), yeah, it's absolutely necessary to define terms- in this case, what and who and how and why separate classes are constituted.
    Does 19th century Marxist analysis translate neatly (and usefully) to 21st C NZ? I don't think it's neat, at any rate. But that might be just because I don't understand it properly :)
    I think it's sposed to be:
    upper-class = nobility
    middle class = ownership of significant capital from which they can derive income (which could be a business, factory, shop, farm etc but also maybe in some cases (doctor, lawyer) include intellectual capital.
    Working class = no ownership of working capital
    If there's a Kiwi 'upper-class' it's not about titles. Also, the nature of society and work has changed significantly (and is still changing... sometimes in the wrong direction) as are the rights and privileges of workers.
    Not so long ago, when most people owned homes and held steady jobs, maybe it was reasonable to claim most Kiwis were middle-class. (This is, I'm pretty sure, what Reich and Obama and folks in the US mean by the term- it would include, eg auto-workers and shop assistants. No intention it be limited to owners of working capital. And workers with shares in a company, maybe; with their own homes; with considerable intellectual capital in experience and expertise- the boundaries don't seem to be neat, but maybe they never were.)
    In NZ we now have a growing group sometimes called the 'working poor' - does this group map more usefully to marxist notions of 'working class'? What about the great bulk of what is sometimes called the 'underclass'- is this different because it is defined more by not working than by working?
    Gio- how would you divide NZ up into class interests? Neatly, or messily? Any links to handy class analysis of 21st century NZ society?
    Too many questions? I tried some analysis meself, and it all looked totally lame. Time for an expert opinion :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2118 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    If we're going to talk about class (and it might be invaluable- if we can move past the fraught part :)), yeah, it's absolutely necessary to define terms- in this case, what and who and how and why separate classes are constituted.

    I don't think we'd easily come to an agreement on any definition. But I would hope that we might come to agree that class is a broader and more complex concept than what's generally understood by the term in our political discourse (which goes "underclass", "middle New Zealand", "the rich"). Glossing over the differences allows politicians to appear never to go against any interest in their policies, and also to frame anything underneath middle New Zealand - which Goff placed last year at a level of income ludicrously above the median, incidentally - as the citizenship in need of rescuing. As if our economic system wasn't in fact predicated on containing inflation by keeping a lid on wages, a goal that is achieved in turn by ensuring a constant reserve of unemployed people.

    But not allowing for the existence of class or a sufficiently honest and nuanced understanding of class impoverishes the political conversation, and so not even the introduction of a CGT (bad for the propertied class) and the extension of the retirement age (bad for the working class) proposed by Labour were able to be discussed in terms of how they affected different sectors of the population differently - but always solely in terms of their effects on the government's books.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    In NZ we now have a growing group sometimes called the 'working poor'

    The working poor and the unworking poor have their own fluidity.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    When the Irish revolted in New York, they went after the group who they believed to be taking their jobs, the african-americans, many who had longstandings to that real estate back to New Amsterdam Days.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    But not allowing for the existence of class or a sufficiently honest and nuanced understanding of class impoverishes the political conversation, and so not even the introduction of a CGT (bad for the propertied class) and the extension of the retirement age (bad for the working class) proposed by Labour were able to be discussed in terms of how they affected different sectors of the population differently - but always solely in terms of their effects on the government's books.

    I think this is an extension of the shift in political discourse over the last year or so, whereby sovereign debt has become the benchmark by which everything - absolutely everything - is measured. Whether a policy increases it, decreases it, might increase it, might decrease it...that's it. Not whether it helps or hurts *actual people*, or, god forbid, whether countries like New Zealand - with internationally very low levels of government debt - even need to be concerned about it as their first priority. Back in 2007/2008, when the whole economic crash was brewing, I don't remember government deficits garnering anything like the level of attention they have now. It's been a very marked shift in how things are discussed, and it doesn't seem to me to entirely reflect the realities of the situation for a lot of countries.

    It's not about the erasure of class so much as the take-over of political discussion by pure economics. And Labour, to a large extent, chose to buy in to that view of things, rather than say, hang on, maybe we're looking at the world the wrong way if that's our only measure of achievement. In a year where they did choose to come forward with a lot of policies considered politically unpalatable, I would have liked to see that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    I have been pondering this "class" thing for a couple of days
    Being white and middle class there is a tendency to say we still live in a mostly classless society, which is true for us but not so much from the point of Giovanni's "under class " though
    So ok , we have ""underclass", "middle New Zealand", "the rich" with the subset here in my part of the South Island that could be called the "Landed Gentry" (send their children to Christ College, owned their land for 4+ generations and are not very financial thanks to the afore-mentioned)

    The great thing we do have going for us here in New Zealand is that it is quite easy to slip/slide from one class to another. In fact you don't even need a Lotto win to do it, just good luck and timing

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    The great thing we do have going for us here in New Zealand is that it is quite easy to slip/slide from one class to another. In fact you don’t even need a Lotto win to do it, just good luck and timing

    Or bad luck and timing, of course. What everyone always seems to ignore with the whole Poor Person Making Good thing is that if the percentage of the population who are in the "middle/upper class" section isn't rising, it means some people are going the other way....

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    it means some people are going the other way....

    And for a whole bunch of different reasons. Having a child with a disability will help the process no end.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Susan Snowdon,

    I have been pondering this "class" thing for a couple of days

    Me too, my brain hurts.

    The great thing we do have going for us here in New Zealand is that it is quite easy to slip/slide from one class to another. In fact you don't even need a Lotto win to do it, just good luck and timing

    But this assumes monetary wealth is the main factor in allocating 'class'. You can change this, but not 'where you came from'. (Neighbourhood, town/country, generation, species of culture, family attitudes to education, social behaviour, consumption, religion etc etc.)

    It's not about the erasure of class so much as the take-over of political discussion by pure economics. And Labour, to a large extent, chose to buy in to that view of things, rather than say, hang on, maybe we're looking at the world the wrong way if that's our only measure of achievement. In a year where they did choose to come forward with a lot of policies considered politically unpalatable, I would have liked to see that.

    Same.

    Since Mar 2008 • 110 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Tip of the iceberg:

    Or, speaking of great New Zealanders, this.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    So when you proposed that that link "fitted the general theme of the past few pages", you meant to be self-deprecating, and not characterise the discussion as one long white whine?

    Again, we are in danger of me feeling you are deliberately misinterpreting what I'm trying to say. We had been discussing what makes people middle-class, people had discussed the 'well-adjusted' blog of yours, and then someone sent me that email. I forwarded it on. Because I thought some of them were funny. Turns out I might have been wrong.

    Of course, some might say that yes, a whole lot of people with the luxury of the time and energy to be having the discussions we have been having over the past couple of weeks is very #firstworldproblems or #whitewhine etc. I didn't see too many people arguing whether "cafe", "public square" or "salon" was an appropriate metaphor for online discussion when I was in Afghanistan.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    We had been discussing what makes people middle-class, people had discussed the ‘well-adjusted’ blog of yours,

    I think the term you are looking for here is blog post, otherwise things may get misconstrued.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to merc,

    I think the term you are looking for here is blog post

    Ta Merc, you've probably just circumvented another week of cross-purpose discussion.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

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