Protests, change, and the media
I am not a social activist. While at university, a hotbed of activism I never went on any anti-apartheid marches. I have since been on two protest marches.
The first was to protest Jenny Shipley's black budget. As a budget advisor with Citizen's Advice Bureau I had seen just how tough it was for people to survive. Admittedly most of my clients would not face the reality of their situation - but I still remember hearing the best clients bought their own house some time later. However this budget made it impossible for some people to cope. Letters to the Minister simply produced insipid answers that offered no hope - but did produce anger in me. I joined the protest march as a last resort. This caused great confusion to one of the marchers when he saw me. He was a store-man in the business where I was the accountant, and it was clear he couldn't understand my presence there. I just didn't belong.
Being someone who has never voted red or blue, it's hardly surprising that my second march was prompted by actions of a Labour government. To my embarrassment, I can't remember now what the issue was. But I do remember the march. There were a few "ordinary" people there - but the most vocal seemed likely to be members of the Act party.
When I heard a talk-back host recently talking about rent-a-crowd TPPA protesters I sent him a photo of the 20,000 - 30,000 people protesting the same issue in a different location. Sadly that seems to illustrate the sad fact that genuine concerns are inevitably turned into left / right debates (and worse), with no real listening. People talk past each other with clichés and sound bites, and often their real motives never come out.
There's also a critical article on the TPPA in the March 2016 issue of NZ Business magazine by a lawyer - hardly a rent-a-crowd type. It gives a summary of the development of TPPA and how commercial interests of the big boys, especially in the US, have become paramount over "free trade".
An article on The Tech Economy - growing or slowing wasn't in a political forum - it was in my accountant's magazine (In The Black). Unlike the sad reality of much media coverage today, this article featured two opposing "experts" - who happen to be friends who work in the same building (north of Chicago). It concluded with a statement from the optimist:
"Ultimately, though, history tells him that technological change cannot be resisted. For him, the biggest challenge is how to ensure that the benefits of progress are shared."
"I am really worried," he says, "that we will create this fantastically productive and sophisticated economy but only the top five per cent of the population will enjoy it and the rest will be ready for the scrap heap. That's the real issue, not what is happening with productivity."
I'm not the only one regretting the dropping of effective media coverage of issues. A recent article suggested the weakening of the news media threatens our right to know - surely a basic right.