Thursday, 23 June 2011

Money and the communal spirit

Let's get this right out there first thing: How many homeowners in the parts of Christchurch that are to be abandoned don't have insurance? I'm willing to bet it's not a huge number. Which means that the cost of buying them out is going to be pretty damn small in comparison to how much the government is spending on fixing this mess, or even to the cost of buying out all 5000 or so homes, whether insured or not.

Yet it's that relatively insignificant amount of money that had the EQNZ feed turning on itself last night. You see, these people made the choice to be uninsured, and letting them get some kind of compensation would devalue the insurance of those people who were responsible enough to never have an unexpectedly tight budget. In fact, if we were to bail out the uninsured, insurance would be worthless.

Never mind that someone without insurance whose house was damaged or destroyed in a more common means would not get paid out. An individual story of misfortune would get little attention or sympathy. However, a massive natural disaster is entirely different from a solitary house fire. Who would we be, as a people, if in the wake of this we simply shrugged and said "too bad, so sad" and allowed those few uninsured to simply lose everything? Especially when we've been investing so much in this image of ourselves as resilient, as coming together to rise above hardship, as helping our neighbours through it all? Right now, volunteering to shovel silt in the hardest hit suburbs is a legitimate and pretty common social activity. But that's completely incompatible with the attitudes displayed by some last night, the people who claimed that social welfare would pick up the slack, that no one's stolen to eat in twenty years, that it's a moral hazard to look past the technicalities and stick black and whites to actually help these people out.

I can only imagine that these attitudes come from a place of irrational selfishness, the kind that hasn't actually been bothered to look at the studies on economies of inequality and economic disparity to realise that it's far, far more expensive to allow people to subsist on the most mediocre of incomes so that their nutrition suffers, preventative healthcare falls by the wayside, their very living conditions wear at their immune systems. This is why we still have rheumatic fever in New Zealand. It's a disease of poverty and the fact that it's a problem here is nothing but shameful. But, I can understand (while strongly disagreeing) ignoring the problem of the already-poor, especially when they're in rural areas and overwhelmingly of a different ethnic group. It's this callousness towards the people who could be anyone, your neighbour or kid's school teacher or the person who checks your tire pressure, that I don't get. What's the benefit in condemning them to poverty?

I think I figured it out, though, when I reopened Twitter this morning. One of the @ replies that came in after I all-caps yelled at someone and left for the night said, "Yes but some of us went without so we could pay our insurances..."

And that's what it comes down to. Pure fucking resentment. How dare anyone get help when I don't? Never mind that you don't know what situation they're in. It's the same argument people use against affirmative action or treaty reparations or any other attempt to reverse the drastic and blatant inequalities in our society. "I got mine - screw you!"

No comments:

Post a Comment