22 May 10

One of the things I drive through every day is a road realignment: the road is being widened, and land reclaimed, so there can be a cycleway and walkway around the harbour. There are men working in the water, at all times of the year and in all conditions but high tide and high wind, building drystone walls. For miles. I live about six miles out of town, and they have done a similar distance further away. It is hard, brutal, cold work. We have laws that the contractors must pay their wages, because those men and women have families to feed and landlords (or mortgages) to pay.

We should pay those who work for us promptly. In the old times, that meant daily: for that days food was needed for the meal that night.

‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.
11 ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.
13 ‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. 14 You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to [a]act against the [b]life of your neighbor; I am the Lord.
17 ‘You shall not hate your [c]fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:9-18 . NASB.

When I was a child the number of people unemployed in New Zealand could be counted on the fingers of one hand. This was driven by many things: regulations that said that the maximum mortgage payment was no more that 30% of the primary wage earner (breadwinner’s) wage; A social expectation that most women did now work after childbirth; employers of last resort — as a junior doctor, that included hospital porters, so one of the medical students jobs was personally delivering important samples to the laboratory (or they would not arrive in a timely fashion). However, our centrally planned and regulated system was not sustainable: we almost went bankrupt.

In the thirty years since then we have become more and more efficient and competitive. There have been casualties of this — generally kept quiescent by a benefit, inter sectional rhetoric and that true opiate of the people, Lotto.

I think we lost something. Being too efficient made us less human, and less decent. And for that we will be held to account. Our elite have been liberal on moral issues and ultraconservative financially. We are now seeing the consequences.

And pretending they were not predicted and predictable. We need to change. So we are not like those who would make false accusations, harvest to the edge of a field, and cheat a worker of his wages.