OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Dear Labour Caucus

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  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Public Address Discussions About Public Address Discussions totally give me the shits. Because they have no clear answers.

    Discuss.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    people get defensively prickly about class labels

    People sometimes get defensive because of tone rather than content. Especially if their own resilience is low for whatever reason.

    What I hear in my head when I read what you write is hardly ever what you heard in your head as you put fingers to keyboard.

    At the pub you read someone's face and body and tone and still get it wrong sometimes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3115 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    Discuss.

    Haven't got all day, y'know ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 5735 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Jeremy Eade,

    To live outside comfortable weekly allowances means you inevitably see that class as desirable and then when you realise many in that class are either ignorant or downright dismissive of the struggle of life below that class and it can piss one off.

    It’s the slow process of giving jobs and money to the underclasses in New Zealand , a process that retreats constantly under the thunderous chorus’s of “bloody bludgers” that in a way disgusts me. So a discussion of poverty can’t help but get a bit edgy and emotional. For what its worth discussion does get heated here but the topics are generally big troublespots that don’t at all worry the minds of our smiley “Key” people.

    Incomes aren't the burning issue, but rather, quality of life versus materialism. As Robert Reich demonstrated in his "Truth About the Economy" video, the systemic weakening of American middle class foundations has caused it to go Peoples' Front of Judea.

    The Wall Street 1% has managed to hire half the working and middle classes to kick the shit out of the other half, and it's the same here.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3912 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Because they have no clear answers.

    Facts and clearly right answers are useful but sometimes boring ... discussing how we discuss is actually interesting because it exposes assumptions people have about conversation and communication. Or at least I find it interesting :).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3115 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to DeepRed,

    We are indeed a classless nation – that is, in the institutionalised British sense. What’s emerged instead is a de facto caste system as seen in America, where celebrities and executives have effectively become lords and barons by another name. It’s all the more so with unskilled hands being made obsolete by machines and industrial globalisation.

    True. And that means the language of class comes across as dubious to people, because it's not a perfect fit. It's easier to rail against the idle rich if they all have funny accents and wear top hats and monocles. Harder to get a good hate on if you can't dehumanise them because they talk the way you do and wear the same kinds of clothes only newer.

    Which comes back to (my interpretation of) Gio's point: "identity politics" has a lot to teach people about communication. In particular, I think one of the most important concepts the world could use right now is that acknowledging privilege is different from wallowing in guilt.

    I believe that 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.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    FWIW, I don't consider myself a moderator in this thread. Does it say somewhere that I am when I post? I haven't seen it, but I guess it's fair for others to assume - just saying that I don't really consider it that way - unless it's a thread off one of my own posts.

    @Andrew E - I've said it before, the 'middle class' comment itself wasn't what pissed me off, it was just the general tone leading up to that. And I don't see what Russell said as throwing his weight around - there was no talk of any intervention, he was just pointing out what he thought about the comment, just as Mr Crawford did with my 'snarky prick spectrum' comment.

    At the risk of venturing into shark-infested waters - what is 'middle-class' in New Zealand anyway? Other than a pretty clear idea that we have a poverty stricken 'underclass' in NZ, I've never really thought about NZ in class terms. Is that incredibly middle-class of me? And is it directly linked to income? 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? Is there an upper class? How do I know when I've got there, and how embarrassed should I be when I do?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1121 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to steven crawford,

    As opposed to sexual orientation, class position can shift.

    Yes, true, and that's another reason why it's a thorny area to discuss. Being born rich or poor doesn't mean you have to stay that way, but it sure is easier to be rich if you were born rich.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Damian Christie,

    At the risk of venturing into shark-infested waters – what is ‘middle-class’ in New Zealand anyway?

    Someone (I'm going to say George Bernard Shaw, because it doesn't sound like Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde) once said that what most defines the classes is what each thinks defines the classes. Working class people believe it's all about money, middle class people believe it's education, and the gentry believe it's down to breeding.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • 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 • 15762 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 • 3115 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!

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 782 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 • 15762 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 • 15762 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Or at least I find it interesting

    Cochrane fanboi :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15762 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 • 1121 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 • 1121 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 • 127 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 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Damian Christie,

    I am unashamedly middle classed. And with that comes responsibility for more than my middle class mortgage to the National bank.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2289 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 • 3115 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 • 3115 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 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • Jane Pearson,

    Middle class and a baby boomer!

    Since Feb 2010 • 21 posts Report Reply

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