Guest Post – The Dangers of the Myth Makers

The last twenty-four hours has been an indulgence in listening to the pontificators defend their positions and repeat myths as if they are self-evident truths.

These myths are around how wonderful the past was.  How great was the egalitarian society when everyone was equal.  How we all had about the same amount of things, even if it wasn’t much and no-one was jealous of others.  Communities were good places where everyone cared for each other.

I listened briefly to the National programme a few minutes ago to one of the pontificators stating that  the Chicago School of Economics was responsible for the evils of Trump.  How the economics of that time destroyed communities, made some very rich, and the poor very poor and has led to the creation of the anger that is now making our communities places of stress and hate.

Well, I am old enough to remember what that society was like.  And frankly, it wasn’t better than society today.  It was perhaps more egalitarian in one way – the very few very rich controlled this country, rather than lots of rich.

There were about five men in New Zealand who had all the import licenses and they controlled  every product that came into the country.  We had five very rich families – and they are still very rich today.  But they no longer control the wealth of the country.  That is spread over many people and there is an opportunity for anyone to join in if they have the knowledge and the skills.

Were communities better than today?  Not for many.  My grandmother was ignored by all her relatives and communities– both Maori and Pakeha, because she (a Maori) married a Pakeha man.  She was very lonely and rejected.  Racism was rife. 

Violence was part of life.  My mother was on the school committee that was set up to lobby for no strapping in school which eventually became law.  But many families still gave the belt to their kids for minor infractions.  Bullying was rife, and no-one noticed.

Rape within marriage was very common because of course, it wasn’t really against the law – it was considered conjugal rights which gave the man the right to have sex with his wife.  This lasted until about 1972.

Many of the rapes that are still going through the courts date back many years.  So they are not new complaints.

We were all short of resources, and very close to the poverty line.  Did we share with others?  Not often because we didn’t have much to share.  Even our baking recipes were held closely, and only passed down from mother to daughter, not to outsiders.  When asked to provide a recipe for the fundraising cook book, women fought with their conscience as to which recipes they were prepared to share.  Nowadays we share knowledge much more freely as my facebook daily demonstrates.

So why is this mythology a problem?  Because it gives those who want to hate an excuse to blame others.  It ramps up disaffection against “them”.  Those they perceive as having more.  Of intergenerational theft which suggests that earlier generations had everything and has taken away the opportunity for the new generations coming up.

I laugh when I hear about the virtually free homes that were given to those who needed them.  The new state housing estates were not the beautiful solid homes in tree-lined streets we see now.  They were houses dumped in barren paddocks with gravel roads, no pavements or curbing.  No fencing around the houses – which is one reason why kids played in the road as there were no boundaries.  The house sites were just bulldozed flat, exposing solid clay that wouldn’t grow anything and has taken several generations to turn into gardens.  There were no buses, no dairies, and the women by and large did not have cars.  Which is why we developed Saturday trading so husbands could drive them into town to do the shopping.

Many women, many of whom did not work outside the home were clinically depressed by this desolate environment, and resorted to taking Valium to deaden the pain.  Addiction to Valium or gin or sherry was very common.

The houses those families obtained were turned into homes by sweat equity, not by the state.  The state gave them a start, certainly, but the people worked very hard to make the most of the opportunity.

Some sections were made available by a lotteries system, as was marginal land for farming.  Lucky young people had the opportunity of winning a home or a job (the farm) by being in the draw.  And ask any old man whether winning that farm was good for them or not  might provide some interesting hind sights!  Many of these farms drove their owners to bankruptcy.

Whether you went to war was also a lottery too.  Your birth month was put into the draw and if it was pulled out, you went into the services.  Not very human rights focussed , that one!

By misrepresenting the story the anger of the so-called deprived is increased, and the hate begins.

Our historians owe it to us to be accurate.  The mood of the nation is dependent on the information it receives from all sources.  To mischievously present lies that create rifts between us is so dangerous.

Our past was pretty awful actually.  Rose tinted glasses can be destructive as it provides a false premise against which the modern day is measured.

While many of us did have good childhoods, with loving parents and space to play, it was because our mothers were wonderful.  Not because the world was wonderful.  It was hard and poverty for many of us was unrelenting.  There were no food banks, no benefits, and any help was delivered by the good women of the community in their twin set and pearls who were judgemental  in the extreme and only helped those who “deserved” it.

Until we can see the truth in the past and the present we cannot provide a stable platform for a future free of hate, fear, and resentment.

 

-Frances Denz

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