The rich discourse on financial security. The poor speak of fear
James Nokise is a Samoan/Welsh comedian, writer and podcaster from New Zealand. He co-created the political satirical PSA series and mental health podcast Eating Fried Chicken in the Shower.
OPINION: Why do people want to be rich?
It certainly looks fun, if not a little surreal, bordering on unbalanced, depending on the Netflix viewing choices you’ve made lately.
For some, it’s as simple as having options. Being able to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want. The fairy-tale lifestyle that reality TV has conditioned us to believe is achievable by any schmuck with a little luck and some aspirations.
For others, getting rich is a societal task. Rise to uplift those around you and ensure that even if your life has been difficult, it will be easier for those you love in their future.
* “People are hurting and we must act” – A fairer future reveals a seven-point plan to lift families out of poverty
* The poorest are hit harder by inflation, with benefit increases now tied to the average wage
* ‘It’s the worst it’s ever been’: Increase in benefits and minimum wage not enough for some
Increasingly, however, for many, trying to get rich comes down to fear.
A fear of losing property, people and status. Do you have a credit card? What brand? What color of this brand? Is this the last color?
It’s the fear of missing out on the experiences others are having that clearly make them happier. An amazing vacation, an amazing dining experience, or more likely, an amazing home entertainment system to watch reality TV shows about vacations and dining experiences.
A fear of having the little that there is taken away. Lose the apartment. Lose the phone. Lose the job. It’s normal to see a bill arrive and feel surprised, bored, tired. But a person should not be afraid. Right now, too many people are doing it, and we’re getting too close to normalizing the abnormal.
This is often where the humor is needed. Sometimes the only thing a person can do in the face of increasing economic pressure is to laugh at the ridiculousness of things. Cheese costs at least $10 a block in a country renowned for its giant dairy industry. Blueberries cost up to $7 a tray, or two liters of gasoline. People are jumping off cryptocurrency and into the avocado market.
Accommodation remains a mess. Sales are down, which could be the market correcting itself, could be shoppers not wanting to spend lotto-level money on a compromised dream, or could just be general mental exhaustion from committing with the system.
Three Wellington software developers, clearly exasperated by the situation, took a comical step and created a website allowing other frustrated people to photograph personal slogans on images of Lowe and Co Realty billboards. The company took the taunts with good humor, which is probably the best outcome available, short of embarking on a one-company crusade against the housing market.
Because economic fear is also linked to the fear of being punished, or embarrassed, or embarrassingly punished. Not in the Trevor Mallard way – where you embarrass yourself trying to punish someone – but the fear of being publicly seen as less of a person than the rest of society.
When it comes to money, the word “security” often comes up, but in fact, what is sought is the absence of fear. This may position money as society’s great panacea, but tends to ignore how this philosophy can cause symptoms requiring cash treatment.
Which brings us to the annual Budget presentation, the Parliament TV gala.
Following the usual pattern of events, the government will attempt to christen its spending list something like the “Wellness Budget” or “Life Budget” or (help us) “Budget 4 Life”, while the opposition will equally cringe names like “Well-meaning Budget,” “Gamer’s Budget,” or “Jurassic Budget,” because an intern saw a movie trailer.
Meanwhile, the nation will collectively rub their temples, knowing that naming isn’t the most important issue right now, and naming a budget hasn’t really mattered to anyone since the ’90s.
Depending on a person’s radio preferences, it will either be a budget to help the poor or a budget to make more people poorer, debated mostly by people who have never been poor.
Their lives, while stressful and sometimes downright unpleasant, have financial security. They might be shocked at the price of cheese, but they can still afford to get out and buy the good stuff, with some blueberries on the side.
The majority of MPs have never squatted in the blind spot of their tiny house, so debt collectors can’t see them through the windows. They never found themselves scared and cold in A&E because mold in their damp apartment gave the occupants a fungal infection requiring their partner to undergo immediate surgery. They never had to hide a parent from their owner because that parent had nowhere else to stay safe.
Perhaps the small number of politicians who can identify with these personal examples are representative of the people of Aotearoa, and perhaps this lack of representation is why we found ourselves in this situation.