Opinion: There is a fair bit of political uncertainty around. It will not dissipate quickly. Even when a new Government begins work there will be a lot of preparation and prioritisation of positions, policies and actions to feed the news flow.
All fine if you like that sort of thing. It disappears at the push of a button if you don’t.
For many people going about their daily lives it is going to be a very difficult time. This is not a doomsday view of a bitter leftist. My depression is clinical not situational. It was going to be a very difficult time for many whatever the election outcome.
Inflation may be slowing but it is not gone, rents are rising, building consents are falling, pressures continue in key workforces, job losses are affecting many. The list is long. “Cost of living” issues which politicians liked to talk about still face most of the population and will be largely unchanged for many months to come. There is as much risk of deterioration as improvement.
We can expect to see lots of diversions as this reality unfolds. I suspect few at the most difficult margins of the cost of living have been under any illusions about that. Many did not enrol or did not vote for that reason, among others. The real passion and expectations of the election were largely among those with higher aspirations than just meeting rent, food, power and transport. They may be the ones who will now get exercised about congestion charges or slow coalition negotiations in the news fodder. The poor will just keep dealing with what they have to.
The things politicians can improve are mainly quite slow to implement and have an impact. This does not make them unimportant, for only big changes in how we organise and operate our economy and society will do, and politicians are the conduit for those. Equally they are the blockage or gate to change as well. Those who say people voted for “change” or expect to see change now are talking about relatively small shifts in the style and content of running the same old ship. Which is fine if you have a first-class cabin, or even a good one. Not attractive if the bilge water is lapping around your ankles.
It is possible to meet the real needs of those struggling to maintain a decent life. As a country we decided not to do that. We decided to ignore, evade or postpone the actions needed. That’s what the “strong liberal democracy” that politicians speak of has chosen. We live with that choice.
Poverty will be untouched in substance in this next period of government. No one is even pretending they will be fixed or substantively ameliorated with any urgency. The offered answer to the costs of being alive is in a gold pot at the end of a long rainbow of false promises and misconceptions. Just as it was before the election.
Maybe we have lost the appetite for everyone to have a “fair go” in life. I don’t personally think that we have, even as we may have lost faith in the ability of our politicians to deliver. At a whānau and community level we still intuitively look to support each other. We should focus on that strength and not be overwhelmed by our weaknesses.
In the short term there is a real need for personal action. The demand for help with all aspects of the costs of life for families will keep growing. One philanthropist described to me the other day a rough but shocking calculation that while the demands for help were doubling, the flow of funding to meet the demands was halving. As individuals and as families who can meet our costs of living we have a moral obligation to do more to bridge the gaps for those who cannot. There are no excuses. There are many sound agencies with ways to assist family poverty. They need money. They are not hard to find.
We have chosen to have many poor families. That was quite easy, even abstract, from the comfort of the ballot cubicle. It was portrayed by the major political parties as something we have to accept as it was “not the right time” or because we must “fix the economy first”. Though it is “right” when it is needed and the economy is already “fixed” against those in most need.
But it is another thing to walk on by in real life, to choose not to contribute and share when you know the need is there and you know most of us can help. These are not statistics, these are people in need with whom we share space and air. They are us.
It may not really matter to those who need the hand whether you contribute from love or from guilt, but we will be a better place for everyone if it is from love.
So let’s do some real sharing – it is the only short term way we can be part of a better place. Rebuilding a society based on a fair go starts with us. Our political outcomes will reflect that if we act accordingly between elections.