Wednesday, March 7, 2012

All Are Punished

I think everyone knows by now about the latest development in the Auckland Port debacle - if not, you can read about it here. It's not over yet, but this really breaks my heart, and it makes me so, so angry to see the feedback of people who have absolutely no clue as to what this is about (one on Campbell Live tonight saying the strikers are stupid to be risking their jobs?!) and comments Len Brown has made. Come next election, unless the alternative is John Banks (heaven save us) or someone like him, Len has lost himself two votes from our house.

I think it's quite obvious why the wharfies are in the right, so I'm not going to talk about it. Instead I want to talk about why supporting them is so important; not only for them, but for all of us. In my first year of philosophy, I remember a discussion in my ethics class about why moral rules are so important. We were talking about promises, and whether or not they should be kept, and why, and I remember us all deciding that even though an individual promise might not seem significant, society depends on everyone keeping their promises because the rule keeps us safe; we need to know that a promise means something. When Vincent read out to me Len's comment that he is on the side of the people of Auckland, that's what came to mind. If we are going to look at this from the perspective of the wider population, we have to see how it's going to affect those people. A thriving economy is (supposedly) important to a country. But right now, the country with the healthiest economy is China; China, from whence we import tons of shit every year because it's cheap, and it's cheap because there is no minimum wage in China, no rules about working conditions, and certainly no unions. Is that what we want? Are we really willing to sacrifice things we, as a society, rely on in this country; fair wages, fair working conditions, and the right to advocate for these things? Fairness is like a promise; being able to trust that it exists and that it means something to everyone is crucial to everyone's mental, emotional, and physical well-being. We need to know that these things are important to everybody; if we can't trust this, there is the danger that some people will try to take them away - which is exactly what is happening to the wharfies right now. People who think this is just about one group of workers and their employer, and has nothing to do with them couldn't be more wrong; this affects all of us, not only the group of us who care about the wharfies and their families.

Maybe I will talk about why I support the wharfies. I support what they are asking for, and I think it's ludicrous that they even have to ask for it. But I also support and admire them for putting themselves on the line and striking. People who are prepared to do this are why we don't have to work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. They're why we get breaks. Whatever we're doing, if we work for someone else, they represent us, and when they lose, we all lose.

That's how I feel, anyway. I have utmost respect for the striking stevedores (and I think stevedore is the coolest job-title in the history of the universe; better even than messiah), and what they were dealt today makes me feel awful for them, and sorry for the rest of us. Someone said you can tell a lot about a society by the way they treat their animals, and I agree. I think you can also tell a lot about a society by the way they treat their workers, and what I'm seeing in my society says we aren't much of a society at all, right now. Where are you, Harry Holland? Mabel Howard? We need you.

PS The image is from the Maritime Union of New Zealand website. If you haven't already signed the petition in support of the wharfies, you can do so there; and please, please do. And if you're in Auckland on Saturday, attend the protest!


  1. i feel so angered and sick to my stomach about this. i agree with you about moral rules. trust is something that keeps popping up at the moment in relation to employment and our government. in my own workplace it's an issue. and in oneroa the other day an elderly lady had a sign strapped to her front about how we can't trust our current government. she was parading around the street on her own, yelling at the top of her lungs in protest. it was bizarre but i understood where she was coming from - a place of desperation i guess. it seems to go without saying these days that the lines of trust between us and them are getting very thin. and then the protestors and social activists are made to feel like lunatics; like they're creating moral unrest for speaking out, when in reality it's the complete opposite.

    1. The complete opposite! I keep thinking about the boiling a frog analogy; right-wing people are supposedly all about personal freedom but support everything that takes it away, and we lefties have to live in a perpetual state of fear! That poor lady, she must be so frustrated and feel completely disenfranchised... How can people not see what's going on?