NZ’s ugly inequities laid bare


Did you rejoice when you heard we were moving down to Level 1? I wonder if the homeless, temporarily housed during lockdown, felt as positive as they faced losing their brief safe havens?

One homeless man, interviewed in his temporary motel accommodation, gratefully acknowledged the help, but worried it would be even harder to resume life “outside”.

A Northland child whose family had been rehoused from leaking campervans to ones not needed for locked-down holidaymakers exclaimed it was “like being on holiday!”

Does experiencing the basic comforts the rest of us take for granted have to be only a temporary respite for those less fortunate?

Can we look away as fellow humans shiver and suffer on pavements, or in rusty cars or leaky buildings (and let’s not disgrace ourselves further by calling these “homes”)?

Does life “outside” lockdown have to be the same as before?

Will the creative families whose private lockdown sporting events were featured on the news in lieu of “live sport” resume passively watching individual screens in parallel?

During lockdown, the technology that isolated us became a priceless connector to the “outside” for many.

However, families and especially children without devices and internet access at home could not access education, vital community services or communicate with wider whānau.

The Government proactively ordered devices for affected children and their families.

However, even if these devices had all arrived in time (which they did not), the inequities caused by lack of power, no or insufficient internet bandwidth, lack of printers and scanners are not resolved by providing a single device that multiple family members must share.

Not only that, children and their family members without a history of working with personal devices would certainly lack the critical knowledge needed to gain the maximum benefit from those devices.

Some changes will happen regardless.

Those with lost or reduced incomes cannot resume social and retail therapy.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to have survived lockdown economically may be taking sobering looks at our finances, and wondering if the economies we made in lockdown could be extended.

For example, being in lockdown dampened our literal and figurative need to keep up appearances – if our hair was greyer and shaggier, or our shabby mailbox not replaced, the few who saw us or it, understood.

Perhaps others could be more accepting if we went to the barber or frequented our expensive salon less often.

Lockdown had ended, but the digital acceleration it forced upon us will continue to change the way we live and work. Continue reading

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