Club Politique by Che Tibby


The greatest thing this opportunity to access a public voice has given me is the ability to express weird thinking and impressions to an audience who may or may not appreciate them. Sometimes this has meant taking slight artistic licence with real-life events, but generally this is only to protect the interests of the people involved. Other times it's just because the truth is a little. bit. boring.

What this opportunity was never meant to present is Dr. Che, "Expert on All Things". Mostly what I've tried to express over the past two and a half years is a serious of thoughts in the hope it would stimulate people to think and discuss among themselves. Maven is a word I've only recently learnt, and if you take out the 'expert' bit, and insert 'know-all-with-plenty-of-wacky-opinions' you're reading him.

Consequently I'm a little perplexed when readers, bless 'em, rationally explain to me that the word I'm looking for is, "wanderlust", when the intention was always to get you to look up and understand the word. Not that I don't value a single one of the emails I receive. Even the slightly wacky and/or angry ones.

All this has been compounded by my role as a 'public service blogger'. I can say with all honesty and limited humility that being one of the pioneers in this field has been a real honour. I know there's plenty of you out there under pseudonyms doing this too, and it's been a pleasure getting to know many of you. Having wandered exceptionally close to the line on Public Service Code of Conduct issues over the last 18 months or so has I can say that being out in the open is not as scary as you might think. At least the public service tends to give you decent transferable skills...

Now, something I haven't had much opportunity to do over this time is give a decent bit of reader feedback. But the responses to this week's blog were so interesting I thought I'd relay them back to you.

So, do we have a class system? In the full British sense of the word of course not, but does some kind of divide exist? Well, Tracey says,

Having grown up as working class, I was and am most certainly aware that class is a feature in NZ society. It's nothing "new", actually, it's always been that way... It's not as extreme as in the UK, as you point out, but all the stratifications are here. It's just our egalitarianism means we have a good amount of class mobility...[and] it's only certain middle-class types who think we don't have a class structure in NZ.

I couldn't agree more. And does this divide exist in the public service? I should add that I'm not seeking to condemn any colleagues who may well be policy-employed. Rather, I'm trying to show how New Zealand society works its way into our workplaces. I've noticed it in any number of fields I've worked in, including academia. This from Ed,

Oddly enough, the distinction (and I am not sure if you could call it class, but it is definitely hierarchical) is even more pronounced in departments that are purely policy based. The divide there is between the policy wonks (the serious thinkers who are 'delivering') and the rest of the staff who, while still tertiary educated and wearing suits, are 'only' there to 'support' the important work of the wonks...

The hierarchy is reinforced in rates of pay, job titles and the tacit understanding that, if you aspire to a senior position, you need to cut some serious policy first.

Well, I hear you say, so what? A few people's impressions don't maketh an aspiring class system. But that's a pretty short-sighted way to look at it. So let's hear it for people like Michael,

I'd say NZ has a fairly strong, but flexible class structure. More along a Weberian than a Marxist sense, meaning that status is very important, not just economic position.

In Auckland the area you live in, and that your parents and grandparents lived in, (Remuera or Parnell for old money) matters, as does where you went to school, (little Kings then big Kings being the preference for boys, Dio or St. Cuthberts for girls)whether you are Anglican or Catholic, which golf club you belong to (Remuera Golf Club is nouveau riche, Auckland Golf Club at Middlemore is old money) and belonging to either the Auckland or Northern Clubs: these are all strong inidcators of class structure, and there are strong lines of familial continuity. But it is flexible: you can marry into it, and you can charm your way into it as well, but there is still an old guard that keeps certain gates closed.

Class and status fascinate me. We have the myth here that there is no class structure, but there is... I nearly did my PhD on Auckland's class structure, hence my interest.

Damn shame you didn't Michael. Would have made a fascinating read.

And on a final and hilarious note, this from Adam,

There is a split.

I was once working at Fletcher forests (remember them?) in my consulting days. 6 of us in suits in a room in Rotorua. Door opens, hairy-check-shirt guy looks in. "Just what we need, another room full of fuckin overheads".

He was the GM responsible for forests. The bit that makes the money, as opposed to the small brains who keep score.

That I'm not going to touch.