Like many others, I was struck by the election result last month. As I watched the results come in I was not surprised by the left’s heavy defeat (depressing as that was) but I was more affected by how many of my friends on Facebook and elsewhere were lamenting the result and fact that the issues that they care about would now suffer another three years of inaction. Strongest amongst these statements was a sentiment of disconnect, comments like “I don’t even know you New Zealand” were common.
I get this, but I also think that we cannot wait for or expect our political parties or politicians to make any change happen for us. On election night I expressed it like this:
Only thing I have to say is that progressive change is achieved despite the political (-tician) class, not because of it. Pick something you hoped tonight might change and go and do your best to change it.
I’ve been thinking a lot in the subsequent weeks about what I hoped the election might change and how I might go about fighting to change it (after all this post was mostly a challenge to myself).
Like many, I am appalled by the reality of the poverty that a significant number of New Zealanders live in. I don’t think that charity can solve those problems, however noble the effort. Instead, I believe the left as a whole need to find new and innovative ways to reach out to and organise people to strengthen their own communities and fight for what they need to live happy, safe and fullfilling lives.
Of course many unions and other organisations are working very hard on this already, but organising those who are suffering most in our neo-liberal experiment of a society has it’s own sets of challenges. Work is casualised, fragmentised and contracted out and even where unions are able to make gains the transience and precarious nature of the work means union membership and organisation is a constant battle against entrophy.
And so my mind turned to considering whether there were other areas where complementary organising effort could reach out to and organise those that unions find hardest to reach. I arrived at housing and in particular that hundreds of thousands of people who will be life-long tenants.
Rent is usually a household’s single biggest expense and the failures of the market to provide healthy, warm and safe houses is already well documented.
So, my far from fully formed idea is this: a Wellington tenant’s union (working title) that organises tenants to fight for an affordable, safe and stable home for everyone.
I’m talking to anyone who’ll listen about this at the moment so get in touch if you’d like me to buy you a coffee.