Hardships cannot be written off
I love working near the newsroom in The Press. If you flap your ears hard enough you get to find out things as soon as they happen. Sometimes you hear the titbits that don't make it into print for one reason or another.
Despite a close relationship with the news, I still take in these pages like any other reader.
I skim for headlines and cherry-pick a couple of stories to read. I favour the quirky, the criminal and the human. I sigh and tut and form opinions based on the lightest of readings, and I have found myself getting bored with endless earthquake stories.
Then I take a breath and I am ready to read again.
For me, at least, part of the attraction to this job is that I speak to people from all sectors - from the people who make the decisions to the people who feel like they have no decisions to make.
On the days that I am in the mood for people, I get a lot of enjoyment from this spectrum. Not everyone can say they are exposed to society this way because for the most part we roost comfortably in our peer group. What need would you have to soak in the personal lives of strangers?
One rich vein of stories for The Press in the past 18 months has been the plight of so many families and individuals who have been so terribly disadvantaged by the quakes. In the beginning, it was people who had lost lives and income, but now we are seeing people who have lost their homes, their community and basic rights to dignity. These pages give voice to people whose situation would not have normally have rated a mention, and I applaud it.
Admittedly, a more gripping and redemptive read is the story of rags to riches, but the reality is that rags tend to beget only rags, and riches lead to yet more riches with the odd exception.
We came off the back of a recession and straight into a series of earthquakes, which sparked a rise in unemployment and rental prices. The stories of people living in sub-Kiwi, sub- human, sub-acceptable conditions have opened our eyes just that little bit more.
I realise it is easy to disregard or tire of these articles. You can gauge as much from the letters, emails and online comments the stories inevitably get.
There is an astonishing seam of jerks and kneejerkers whose first reaction is to accuse these people of being easy-riders, dole bludgers and lazybones. Before even giving these stories a second thought and what they expose as a society, these people are written off as solo mothers breeding for handouts. These reactions are so predictable and so ignorant that they should barely rate a mention, but they must at least be acknowledged.
We can blame the health system, the education system, helicopter parents, baby boomers, additives in food, birthing methods, advances in science and technology, rampant liberalism, consumerism, conservatism, and the loss of the Goodnight Kiwi cartoon, but the fact is there are people living with us who consistently fall between the cracks.
If there is an upside to the hell and inconvenience of the quakes it has been that we are seeing a little more how other people live. And if you care, what can you do about it? Give money? Time? Goods? Lend your voice to the growing disquiet? I have no bloody idea. At the very least, stop brushing these people off as losers and imagine what path your life could have taken if fate had just been that little bit crueler.
- © Fairfax NZ News