The Brighter Future: Is it really that bright?
Social media continues to be an interesting phenomenon. One of its many uses is tracking the impact of Government policies on real people.
I know a guy through Facebook. Met him a couple of times in real life. He's the friend of a friend. Polite, respectable, what you'd call a good decent sort. Last year, he found himself unemployed. It could have been worse. He had savings, enough to get by. He applied for jobs, starting with the ones he wanted and was qualified for. Soon he expanded the search to be for job, any job at all. I suggested he go on the benefit so as not to run completely out of savings. His reply was unequivocal. He would rather be on the street than on the benefit, he said.
He ranged further and further afield in the job search. He posted a cover letter to Facebook which contained an anguished cry for help to potential employers - he could no longer afford to fill his petrol tank.
Then, finally, as he was on or beyond the brink: success. He was thrilled. Updates (after work hours, naturally) began to appear on his Facebook newsfeed about how happy he was to be working again, how much he enjoyed his job.
He found out a few days ago that he had failed his 90-day trial.
I remember that he was quite staunchly in favour of National during the latest election. Very keen on Individual Freedom and Responsibility. Who wouldn't be? We're told that if you're Individually Responsible, and have the appropriate amount of Freedom, you'll be successful. Good, honest, hard-working people always do well. They're never screwed out of a decent livelihood by circumstance, not they. We're in the Brighter Future now.
I know a person on Twitter. Their friend just had their benefit reduced because he'd turned down available jobs. Fair enough? One potential job was in commission-only telesales flogging "medicine" and the other, apparently, was as a forest labourer. Still fair enough? The person turning down these jobs is 60 years old.
The Brighter Future. We all live there!
Twitter, Facebook and Reddit all got very heated a few days ago, immediately after the Budget, when it transpired that the Government had once again forced Parliament into urgency - this time to pass a bill that allows family carers of disabled persons to be paid less than professional carers. The bill came as a response to a court decision that not paying family carers of disabled persons was discriminatory.
The way to deal with this in the Brighter Future is to force a law through Parliament in less than a day that prevents families from having any recourse to the courts. Attorney General Chris Finlayson said the bill breached the Bill of Rights Act. The bill's Regulatory Impact Statement - which, as the name would suggest, is designed to show MPs the potential regulatory impacts of what they were passing - was so censored as to be practically unreadable. MPs, in essence, did not know what they were voting on.
"Unprecedented," said Labour. "Deplorable," said the New Zealand Herald. "I think National just broke our Constitution," said legal expert Professor Andrew Geddis.
John Key has defended what legal experts say could be breaking the constitution, because he believes in the Brighter Future.
I follow a woman on Twitter. I often see her say callous and nasty things about her colleagues. She seems to think it's funny. In any other work environment this would be cause for a talking-to, but in this case it's encouraged. The body she works for seems to labour under the delusion that the public enjoys seeing their petty insults and spats aired in public.
Her name is Judith Collins.
She has a curious obsession with Margaret Thatcher. Shortly after Thatcher died, Collins released an uncharacteristically weepy tweet. "She saved Britain." She then held a wake for Thatcher in her Beehive office. A few days ago, she excitedly tweeted that she had received a present - a hideous photo frame emblazoned with the word "freedom". In it, naturally, is a picture of Margaret Thatcher.
Idolatry, perhaps, is key to success in the Brighter Future.
Judith Collins, who is clearly being cast as our very own Iron Lady - watch, if you can stomach it, as the right-wing blogs cheer for her to take up Key's mantle one day - is the embodiment of the Brighter Future, of a government that believes that its way will always prove right, that anyone who disagrees is an enemy of progress, and that all that is necessary for good things to come to pass is to crack the whip harder.
But don't worry. It's always darkest before the Brigher Future dawns.
Joshua Drummond is a Hamilton freelance writer and cartoonist who heard that in the Brigher Future, there will be cake. His website is cakeburger.com