Garth George: Life isn't fair


I had to laugh when I read a report early this week about a conference in Auckland called Diversity Forum, with the theme "Aotearoa: A Fair Go for All".

I laughed because I wondered yet again how long it will take the sincere but idealistic and naive people who organise and participate in such meetings to understand a fundamental fact of life: there never can be a "fair go for all" in any human society. There never has been since mankind first walked the Earth, and there never will be.

Back in the beginning there were the biggest blokes with the biggest clubs, then there were those of his kin and neighbours who were smaller and/or weaker. Guess who got the choicest food, the biggest caves, the best weapons and most curvaceous and fertile women, and who got the scraps? It wasn't a fair go.

And that's the way it's been ever since. Neither feudalism, nor democracy, nor theocracy, nor communism, nor capitalism, nor any other political structure or societal institution devised by man has ever made life fair to all.

For it is a fact of life that there will always be a few people at the top of the heap, a whole bunch at the bottom and all the rest in varying degrees in between.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

But that, of course, isn't what this forum is about. It is, as are so many today, arranged to pick at the scabs on the wounds our society suffers from such things as racism, poverty, immigration and so on and on.

According to a report to the forum by the Human Rights Commission, minority groups are being disadvantaged by the country's one-size-fits-all system in public services, which does not account for different needs and values.

"Put simply," said Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, "Maori, Pacific peoples and ethnic communities are not getting a fair go in New Zealand's justice, health and education systems. The evidence is that a monocultural approach continues to fail Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities."

Thus is the victim card played again. And, as usual, it ignores the fact that in general every New Zealander is given equal opportunity when it comes to justice, health and education.

As ever and everywhere, some are born white, some brown, some black and others yellow; some to plenty, some to poverty; some with brains, some with limited intelligence; some with caring parents, some with parents who couldn't care less.

But the fact is that every child born in this country has available the same public services, the same educational opportunities, the same health services, the same welfare provisions.

It is often reiterated when matters of perceived inequality are paraded, that Maori and Pacific people, for instance, suffer much higher unemployment and imprisonment rates than Pakeha.

But what no one seems to understand is that people in prison are there because they have broken the law, not because they are Maori or Pacifika or any other ethnicity; that those who need health services need them because they're sick, not because of their race; that the uneducated and unemployable are that way because they have forgone what schools have to offer, not because of their race.

And that raises the question whether any sort of targeted assistance or favouritism will make any difference. The huge favouritism in money and Maori-specific social programmes, for instance, certainly seems to have had no effect except to counterproductively create a new Maori elite.

It seems to me that all we ever offer is to put more salves and plasters on the wounds that afflict society.

No one seems to be prepared to make the hard decisions that would prevent the wounds happening in the first place.

That would give more folk a fair go.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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