OPINION: Poverty by Rob Mitchell – Acting Editor 24 April 2013
There are few words in the modern New Zealand lexicon that stimulate quite as much debate or polarise the populace as dramatically as this one.
It appears that you either believe in its existence or you do not; there is little middle ground, little stable footing from which to mount a reasoned argument. It’s black and white. End of story. At least until the next round of statistics are released.
Critics who argue against the existence of poverty usually point to what they claim is a dearth of evidence supporting the contention. They point to disturbing images of bloated, malnourished African children too weak to bat away the many flies as a major plank in their own cross-examination.
That is poverty, they say, and nothing like that exists in this country.
That may be true, but like most points of reference when comparing our country with others, everything is relative. Including poverty.
And while we have a safety net to help ensure that pictures of hungry, dying children remain a distant, foreign concern, there are people who are struggling in this country. Some of them quite badly.
And the evidence is there. In Palmerston North it is displayed for all to see just metres from the city’s expansive, pleasant Square.
It wraps around the walls of two buildings leading to an outlet where free food is dispensed to all who need it.
Some of those waiting in line at Just Zilch are likely not as desperate as others, but it is clear that the great majority of these people share a ragged and threadbare coat of desperation and deprivation.
Whether it’s their own fault or they are victims of circumstances beyond their control, most of these people badly need the support of organisations such as Just Zilch.
The service this organisation delivers for its community is both honourable and charitable. That a funding body would deny its status as a charity is most definitely dishonourable. And that its main reason for doing so is Just Zilch’s refusal to discriminate is bizarre and disturbing.
There is a poverty of morality and logic in not supporting Just Zilch’s good works: it takes food deemed surplus to requirements and helps to feed those struggling to look after themselves. And it also keeps a lid on shoplifting and petty crime, a point made by those on the line.
Possibly even more importantly, it provides very public, albeit challenging, evidence that poverty of a sort does exist in this country.
It’s black and white. End of story.
Source: Fairfax NZ News
OPINION: Poverty by Rob Mitchell – Acting Editor