I live in a bubble, my partner tells me. He doesn't say it cruelly, just simply as a fact. I'm one of the lucky ones. I am not one of the unsullied. How I've remained in my bubble is by living on a hill top in suburbia, shopping at New World and sending my kids to private schools. How "niiiaaace" (said with that posh affectation some New Zealand women from snooty suburbs adopt).
I grew up in South Auckland and Central Hamilton. There were no bubbles there. I bubbled up as I got older and accumulated "stuff".
New Zealanders are living in cars. New Zealanders are living on streets. I simply don't believe most people living on our streets are mentally ill. Nor do I believe the majority are drug addicts or drunks. I'm of the opinion, and yes it's purely my opinion, many people living rough can't afford rent or simply can't find a single damn place they can afford.
There are hundreds of empty and uninhabitable state houses. Why? Because they are contaminated by P. So where are these people going when they miss out on homes? Are they living out of cars or under bridges, because of methamphetamine contamination? Sounds crazy to me, but crazier things are true.
That aside, as I peer through my shiny bubble wall I'm forced to notice that it's not just America that has let all its manufacturing jobs go overseas. We have massively outsourced too.
We used to build cars in this country! When that stopped happening we at least assembled them here. Todd Motors was a huge company. We don't make cars here anymore. Fact.
We made a lot of everything here. My partner's first job was making "Piping Hot" wetsuits, until the contract went to Thailand. We have massively outsourced. Ask anyone who has lost a factory job. With a lot of our manufacturing moving off shore not only do we lose jobs, we are left with a pool of minimum wage service positions.
In Noam Chomskys Requiem for the American Dream he speaks of America losing its jobs but, more sadly, the loss of its empathy and sympathy.
We used to worry about the elderly widow across town, and the hungry children living in suburbs we chose not to venture into. Somehow we've managed to separate ourselves from society in general and look at "society" as them and our "bubble" as us.
So here we are. We've given away our jobs. We've neutered our unions. We've got massive meth contamination in houses that should be filled with laughing, happy children. All while a hell of a lot of people are floating about in bubbles saying:
"It's not happening! It's not happening! They're all drunk! They all smell! They don't want to work! They're lazy! I could get a job! They don't want a job! They're on drugs!"
For a lot of these people, there is nowhere safe for them to live. I got a message recently from a woman living with her sister and six kids between them in a tiny two bedroom flat in Auckland. They are grateful they're not on the streets. They are not drunks or druggies or lazy or bludgering. They are two low income working women with six kids. I get desperate letters weekly. I don't know what to do.
How did we lose our empathy? Was it taken from us? Or did we just leak it away?
More importantly, are there really thousands of houses in New Zealand with unsafe levels of methamphetamine contamination? Should I always wear a hazmat suit when I go to a friend's house to play scrabble? I'm paranoid and terrified! Playing board games in rented houses suddenly seems death defying. It might be healthier to stay in my wee bubble.
Note to self: No to Sam's invitation to game night at his RENTED house.