Garth George
Garth George is a Herald columnist

Garth George: Offer still open, but who will accept it?

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It takes me anything up to three hours to read the Weekend Herald - quite rightly named New Zealand's best newspaper - but half an hour into it on Saturday I began to wonder just how long we can keep going before our intractable social problems overwhelm us completely.

By the time I reached the end of the Review section, I was tempted to give thanks that I'm as old as I am and might well be gone from this world before they reach that stage.

It started on page one with news that drug rings are recruiting students at some of our top schools to receive drug parcels from overseas.

And while we know that illegal drugs are just as popular in the wealthier suburbs as they are in the mean gangland streets of the poorer, this indicates a rather large step up in the distribution of these murderous products.

Sure, the police and Customs do their damnedest to stem the flow of illegal substances into this country, but they're obviously fighting a losing battle, and the pot and the P and the coke and the horse still flow like a river.

It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that if there were no customers there would be no demand and that maybe we're looking at this problem from the wrong end.

Also on page one: a ghastly reminder of the most dreadful of our social disgraces, the epidemic of child abuse that has been going on for years, and the discovery that naivety and incompetence are allowing little ones to be abused over and over again.

What have we become as a nation that our children, our most vulnerable citizens, cannot be safe even in their homes? Social agencies and the police have been struggling with this for years now without any appreciable results.

Children are still being murdered, and the bashed and broken bodies of tiny tots are far too common in our hospitals.

But here again we continue to treat the symptoms rather than the causes - such as poverty, family breakdown and illiteracy - so the only comfort we can take is that some of the best brains in the business are still looking for answers.

On page three we are reminded that the justice system, long in disarray, is getting so bad that minor offences are likely to be ignored; and on pages four and seven that nothing practical has been done to deal with the thieving millionaire shysters who prey on gullible investors.

Worse, one gets the distinct impression that the mirage of easy wealth, which led to untold millions of dollars in investor funds going down the drain, is already being created afresh, particularly in the property market.

And on page five we come to the Harawira affair, probably the most sinister of all the things that should be giving us the heebie-jeebies.

Hone Harawira was born angry, from the womb of an angry woman. And what his latest outburst reveals is that there is among many Maori an abiding and malevolent antipathy towards Pakeha, which is far more widespread than we're prepared to acknowledge, and which no amount of monetary and land compensation, special treatment and political cuddle-ups is going to change.

To make matters worse, there is a corresponding bitter antagonism to Maori on the part of many Pakeha, who deeply resent the money, land and special treatment given to Maori and whose anger grows exponentially with every new concession. This, too, is far more widespread than most people care to admit.

And don't tell me I exaggerate: I have a finely tuned intuition and live in a city where at least a third of the population is Maori.

Yet we continue with a policy of separatism - you might even call it apartheid - the latest example of which is Tariana Turia's Whanau Ora scheme to give Maori sole control of their community services.

But nine out of 10 of us don't want to know. That's not new. Thousands of years ago God said through the prophet Isaiah: "Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."

But those of us who do hear and see and understand might take some comfort from the words God spoke to King Solomon: "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Fat chance, but the offer is still open.

- NZ Herald

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