• Doing our bit in a f***ed up world

    In the wake of the devastating Haiti earthquake, Her Every Cent Counts blogged about being torn between a desire to help others, and to ‘get ahead’ in the traditional First World sense.  I found myself nodding at every single word. I couldn’t have written it better myself. I mean, I’m struggling to build a career, to start saving, to do all the things I want to do in life. I want to get married, to travel, to have kids. And yet there are millions of people around the world who will never get to experience any of this. Some of them won’t have a future. Some of them can’t even imagine anything like it, who don’t have a tenth of what I have. People who sometimes make me think, f*** it, maybe I should drop everything and go dedicate my life to working with them and helping them. Maybe I should donate everything I own to a cause. Maybe I should devote myself to doing good for others.

    Thinking about it simply makes me feel absolutely hopeless. What can I really do, in the big scheme? What can I give that’s going to make a difference? What is wrong with human nature and why do we insist on torturing and destroying others just like us? How can we repair and rebuild downtrodden villages, cities, countries, and change the lives of men, women and children who have so little and have been through so much? How can we create meaningful change and stop atrocities like these in the Congo (I cried as I read this – what they have gone through is absolutely unspeakable).

    But doing something is better than doing nothing at all; that’s what I tell myself, and I hope you feel the same.

  • “Stealing our jobs”

    (This is a post based on my personal experiences and observations. Yes, I’m going to generalise and make some sweeping statements, but I am aware that I can’t apply a blanket rule to everyone of a certain ethnicity. Topics like this always arouse intense feelings; here are my views on immigrant-bashing).

    In recessionary times, everyone gets all protectionist and the rednecks come out of the woodwork to shout about immigrants stealing jobs. Stealing jobs from our young unemployed. Stealing jobs from hardworking people just trying to support their families. One Your Views gem in particular really got me riled up. It was rather incoherent. I finally worked out – I think – that this person meant immigrants working at gas stations and supermarkets were stealing jobs from Kiwis and in particular young people and students.

    Because of course, immigrants can’t be students working a part time job to support themselves. Of course! All these “useless unskilled” immigrants have decided to make the momentous decision to immigrate to an entirely new country just to work menial jobs to screw over NZers. As many expats know, it’s local work experience that is valued here more than anything.

    My mother, an accountant, worked in a factory for a while before landing a part time bookkeeping job. We hear the classic line about Russian doctors and physicists being forced into taxi driving. I don’t think it’s different for accountants, teachers, or any other sort of profession. At dinner not so long ago, my mum told us how important it was for her to acclimatise and learn more about the culture before diving back in. Simple things like going through receipts and working out what were deductible expenses and what weren’t, are a billion times harder when you don’t even know what Tic Tacs are. (I also remember our first Halloween and wondering why all these random people in costumes were turning up at our house. And my first sleepover, where we had boiled eggs at breakfast and I didn’t know how to peel them, so even though I love eggs I didn’t have any to eat).

    Migrants don’t have the safety of the full welfare net to fall back onto. They are more likely to take any job they can get, because they HAVE to. I know many people, for whom it’s preferable to sit on the dole rather than work on, for example, an assembly line that requires commuting and pays about the same as the dole. Why would you want to work a job like that? BF”s case worker commented that many of her clients choose to job hunt from home rather than coming into the centre every day. But when she asks for their job lead diary, it’s empty. You can guess what they’re spending their time doing instead. Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many many people who would be grateful for ANY job. But there  are just as many happy to get paid for doing sweet f-all, due to the way the NZ welfare system works. Oh, and not-so-hypothetical people (who irritate me with their sheer stupidity) who don’t believe that their boss won’t fire them when they don’t go to work – just because they DON’T FEEL LIKE GOING TO WORK. (And, of course, get fired.) I am serious. True story. Happened last month.

    Here’s a sweeping statement. From what I know and see, migrants are generally very hard workers. It’s the fact that many of them have had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (what a lame expression!),and have certain values and priorities instilled in them. It’s the way I was brought up, to stand on my two feet. They have a strong work ethic, they value education and take it seriously. I don’t even technically live out west as such, yet I am still surrounded by bogans – think Outrageous Fortune, personified – and it’s an entirely new world to me. There really is no Asian equivalent to the concept of a Westie, to my knowledge. It just wouldn’t happen. There are A LOT of things I hate about Chinese culture. But not this one. There ain’t no option to pump gas all your life and spend your free time drinking, smoking, and screwing. That’s something I see on a regular basis, and it frustrates me.

    I wonder if people like that would rather I gave my job up to a “real” New Zealander. I’m an NZ citizen. I was brought up here. I have a white boyfriend, I don’t eat tofu or chicken feet, I swear like a true blue westie and eat Watties tomato sauce. Yet when I open my mouth sometimes, people are surprised I don’t have some heavy accent. But you know, I look different and all. Maybe I’m not entitled to my job, by that logic.

    Immigrants don’t always get hired because they are willing to work for fifty cents an hour. I’m willing to bet most of them are hired because they work bloody hard, they’re committed and they’re willing to do the hard graft to get ahead. I don’t think it’s a great idea to be bringing in tons of new migrants at the moment, but leave the ones already here alone. Would you rather take their jobs and give them to a “real NZer”, and pay them the dole instead? Yeah, didn’t think so. Job stealers, dole bludgers, they just can’t win.

  • You gotta earn it first…

    From my conversation the other week with the New Start peeps at Auckland Uni, I don’t think its a bad thing for applicants to have to earn their entrance into uni. But I think it sucks that they introduced an open policy like that, and are now retracting it. I can only assume it’s to do with costcutting and a lack of funding for universities. They’re not even going to have enough to pay for the influx of students trying to weather the recession, so why make it easier for anyone to get in? Just like they cut the few scholarships Studylink provide, which were good because they were pretty open to anyone. There are very few scholarships out there with broad criteria. Most are very narrowly tailored and targeted only at specific kinds of people.

    But it seems short sighted to me. As pointed out in this week’s Debate, young people who can’t get jobs and can’t go to uni will just end up on the dole, which is government funded anyway. I don’t claim to know much about this stuff, but if it’s at all feasible to help universities accommodate students, that seems smarter than, well, NOT. I’d rather see investment in a more educated/skilled workforce.

    And on the heels of this – Pita Sharples calling for Maori to have free entry into uni. JUST as they axe special admission for adults. Could the timing be any worse? At least there is zero chance of that happening at this point in time. Race based policies may have their place, but this is not the time!  From now, everyone will have to sit foundation courses to gain university entry, so let’s apply that across the board.

  • Feeling pretty good – I think I did pretty well on the exam, and OH MY LORD does it feel good to know I’ll never sit another one again!

    Out of the three topics I wrote about, I had already written essays on two during the semester. And then there was the NZ section. I toyed with writing about the 1987 stockmarket crash, or the privatisation of Telecom, but in the end I chose privacy and surveillance. Privacy was my topic of choice for a couple of reasons: there wasn’t a lot of theory to learn, and it genuinely interested me. And the more relevant a subject is for me, the better I’m going to do. Simple.

    I suppose on the face of it, NZ isn’t all that bad. We don’t have extensive CCTV on the streets like in London. Our credit files are pretty sparse in comparison to the States, where it’s reported to credit bureaus every month whether you pay your bills on time, and health insurance companies know every minutiae of your medical history.

    There was apparently a huge ruckus in the 90s when they introduced photographs onto driver’s licences. Honestly, I never even knew there was a time when licences didn’t bear photos and were merely printed on paper. Photos? We don’t even bat an eye. Where would most of us young’uns be without them? Our licences are our primary forms of ID. If you don’t have one, you can’t get into bars/clubs/pubs unless you want to buy a HANZ 18plus card, and in that case you might as well pay to sit your learner’s.

    How much do you value anonymity? I can’t put an amount to it. I’m definitely becoming more aware of what details I dispense, and to who. I’m becoming more discerning of what I post online and how I conduct myself IRL, especially anything that might be recorded. if I’m going to be working in the media industry, it’s only wise.

    But at the same time, anonymity seems to be a concept that’s becoming more and more antiquated. Nowadays you have to market yourself. Selling yourself might mean establishing a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (how sick am I of seeing those three names bandied around together???) and more. Off the top of my head, a really good example is Julia Allison. She basically lives her whole life in the social media spotlight. It’s not something I’d like for myself, but she strove for this and she’s achieved it.

    The older you get, the more you have to reveal about yourself. Applying for loans. Applying for jobs. Applying to university. Even applying for a place to live! I remember looking at places last year. One agency in particular had a heinously long application form which required income, source of income, and even bank account number (and that was a big firm too!!) – can you say dodgy? I’m not sure what, if anything, they could do with your bank account number, but I certainly was not comfortable disclosing that. There are some things I’m comfortable giving out, but that was out of line.

  • Hikoi

    Knocked off fairly early today, given that I didn’t have my 3pm lecture! I went to the Recycle Boutique to try on this dress I had my eye on for a friend’s party. Unfortunately, it was a gorgeous colour and everything, but size 14. I tried everything I could to make it fit but it was NOT gonna happen!

    I also watched the hikoi on Queen St for a bit. People on foot, waving flags and banners, people with loudspeakers, in cars and trucks and vans and utes, little kids in yellow raincoats.

    I think it’s amazing that people can come together for a cause like that, and be so committed as to walk for hours in the wet. Should have taken some photos, but I didn’t have my camera, and my phone camera is as shite as it gets. Yay democracy!

  • I get really torn between the two sides when it comes to welfare. On the one hand, I totally agree that people who don’t deserve it shouldn’t get it. People who show no sense of responsibility whatsoever. But 99% of the time there are kids involved. And why should the children suffer? There’s a whole other problem, the cycle of poverty. But then…that pretty much ensures the problem’s never fixed, and we continue to have the same issues generation after generation.

    What’s the solution?

  • Bleeding heart

    I cried my eyes out last night at Forrest Gump. I absolutely love that movie. I have a pretty terrible memory, so everytime I watch it it seems fresh and I see new things that I didn’t notice or simply forgot over time. I have to admit I got annoyed a couple of times at the sheer improbability of all the things Forrest was responsible for (busting Watergate, making the famous smiley face logo), but I got over that, because really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Overcoming the odds and doing extraordinary things, despite being an ordinary, somewhat hindered person? I WANT to see Forrest doing well, I WANT to see him succeed, because he’s such a sweet, innocent, kind hearted person, and he deserves everything in the world.

    Some of my fave moments of the movie:

    “My favourite book!” – Pulling out a book from his son’s bag
    “Is he…smart? Or he is like….(me)” – Asking about his son
    “He’s just so…smart! He wrote you a letter….I can’t read it, so I’ll just leave it here for you” – Oh, how I cried at this one. Talking to his wife’s grave
    “Why don’t you love me? I’m not a smart man…but I know what love is”
    “It was the happiest moment of my life” Jenny wading through that gigantic pond thing in Washington to get to him….Incidentally, I am dying to know what the “one thing he had to say” about the war was. Would it be about Bubba? Shrimping? Lieutenant Daim? Ping Pong?
    “New legs!” To Lieutenant Daim, at his wedding, followed by “This is my Jenny” – finally, she is!
    Naming his boat Jenny, “The most beautiful name in the whole wide world”
    “Momma said it was just a little white lie, and wouldn’t hurt nobody” About being sponsored by that ping pong bat company
    “Life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” says his mum, to which he tells her she’s so good at explaining things so he understands

    Okay…that’s probably enough!

    I think I’m just feeling hormonal. I was teary eyed on the bus home, reading the paper and came across this column. Not normally a Colin James fan, but his short yet poignant description of the boy in questions left me damp eyed. Then a few pages on was a feature on the Congo atrocities, where 2 out of 3 women have been raped and the situation is still deteriorating, impossibly enough. Plus a full Africa map with arrows and boxes detailing the humanitarian crises in places like Zimbabwe. It’s all too much. I think about how much needless bloodshed and suffering us humans are inflicting on each other for NO good reason and it’s way too overwhelming. It makes me think how can we celebrate Christmas when this is going on? How can we keep grinding away in our capitalist economies, complaining about traffic and the weather – how can fat cat corporations in all good conscience keep turning massive profits while ignoring the plight of Africa?

    What can I do? I’m never going to be one of those souls who devotes their lives to bettering the children of Africa and go over there to live and teach and offer aid, but surely there is something I can do.

  • I wanna save the world

    WHY must there be hunger in the world? Why must there be people who don’t have enough to eat and kids who die every day from starvation?

    I may not have a lot but at least I (almost) always have food in the cupboards. It saddens me that we have all manner of greasy crap freely available to us on one hand and on the other, fattened birds and battery farmed hens and baby calves sacrificed so people can have their delicacies.

    With so much wealth concentrated in the first world it seems so wrong to me that millions don’t even have the basics. A little redistribution?

    They’ve only recently managed to eradicate some disease in Africa stemming from dirty drinking water (?) where worms grow in your stomach and then burst out through any part of your body (wherever they may happen to be, eyes, chest, legs, worse…), a painful, painful thing that a little sanitation wiped out.

    In the midst of my interminable reading for my lit review I came across this quote from “a little boy in Gabon”. Something along the lines of, I don’t have breakfast in the morning; I go to school, and I don’t have lunch. When I get home I have a little supper, maybe potatoes, and sometimes I see other children eating and school, and I watch them eat, and think I’m going to die of hunger. Oh, how I wanted to cry after reading that.

    Oftentimes the weekend comes around and I moan about the fact that we have no food, and annoy everyone around me by complaining that I’ll pass out if I don’t get something to eat. But no matter how bare our pantry gets, in reality it’s never really, truly empty. So here’s my resolution – no more ‘there’s nothing for me to eat’ Saturday morning bitching. There’s always something of some sort around. And if I don’t like it, at least it’s still edible.