Now we got bad blood: being poor in a rich world

I have this skill, so I am told, of really annoying or even enraging people who hold right-wing views, and in particular young Tories. I recently exercised this skill in my blogpost “In the playground of the rich, wealth flaunting is a sport.” I was told I was a “gutter journalist” by many upset readers and fans of the super affluent who flooded my Facebook to call me names and engage, often, in poverty shaming rhetoric.

All this, merely for daring to talk about “The Fulltimer Society,” a club started by some young men who sell an affluent party lifestyle during a time of great inequality in this country. I also upset and angered friends of Max Key for “checking his privilege” in my piece. Max Key is the son of our millionaire prime minister Mr. John Key.

Even political blogger Cathy “Chop Chop” Odgers (also known “Cactus Cate”) who was involved in smear campaigns against the Serious Freud office and was one of the stars of investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, stopped by my Facebook page to tell me what she thought of my piece:

cathy odgers

Cathy like so many others is woefully unaware of just how hard it is to “make it” as a writer or in any industry or creative endeavour which adds to and develops culture instead of obliterating it. Especially if like me, you write on or engage in issues around poverty, inequality, and speak about structural racism and sexism. Those topics are not easy sells to fat cat editors who might be able to pay you for your work; in America only 1% of all reporting is focused on poverty. Newsrooms and newspapers have been laying off reporters for a while now, as Barbara Ehrenreich recently wrote for The Guardian:

Once-generous magazines shrank or slashed their freelance budgets; certainly there were no more free lunches.”

I guess, for a  corporate lawyer such as Cathy who specializes in trusts and tax who earns staggering amounts of money for all up working a job that is useless and serves to protect the wealthy, which is why her job is useless? The idea that accessing upward mobility or a better job is often pitted with structural hurdles, is a foreign concept to her? Cathy may as well have said: “poor people should just stop being poor”.

What I found most unsettling and even disturbing was not the name calling or even the threats of violence I received, but how so many young people clawed, like Cathy did, to protect power while at the same time ignoring how power structures serve to continue oppression and the disenfranchisement of people and entire communities.

Max Key stands to inherit millions of dollars as well as beach houses and holiday homes. He also benefits from the structural privilege accorded to his gender, class, and race. But apparently according to those messages he is the victim and I was the bully. I was told I “attacked him.” He is the one suffering “hardship” as I was informed by two of his friends and members of the “Fulltimer Society:”

max key is such a victim

max key is just a nice guy

Actually, it does matter that Max Key is so “under exposed” and utterly removed “from the grind that less fortunate children are exposed to.” It matters when anyone may be able to bring change to serious inequality, poverty, racism, or other such issues of structural social disadvantage but opts instead to ignore them.  

While tens of thousands of people of conscience marched on the 15th of this month all over Aotearoa to speak out against the TPPA–an alliance between corporate interests and governments which would erode our civil liberties and destroy our sovereignty as a country–in the USA a Black Lives Matter protest was happening on the streets of St. Louis. It is important to note there are generally a few BLM protests happening at any given time in America. I followed on the ground updates via Twitter: Linda Tirado, author and anti-poverty activist, Tweeted this image of a BLM protester chalking the following words on the pavement:


When you stay silent on matters of racial injustice that include the targeted killing and what the journalist Kareem Abdul-Jabber calls the “assassination” of unarmed people of colour by police in America. Or the reality that Maori–our first nations people–represent 15% of the population but make up half of Aotearoa’s prison population, as Toby Manhire recently reported for The Guardian, you accept that situation and you consent to this structure. When you refuse to acknowledge there is a growing chasm between the super wealthy and people who are poor then you collude in the construction or the maintenance of that structure. And if the TPPA is passed this chasm will only get bigger.

By not actively speaking out or working against the TPPA, and against racial bias from the street to the legal system and elsewhere, and all such issues of structural inequality, you are saying: it doesn’t matter, and none of it matters. Or worse yet, you blame those who are facing structural equalities for their own circumstances – for example when you condemn and shame people living in poverty instead of the systems which create poverty, this only serves to excuse, reinforce and further entrench oppression and injustice.

Not everyone is a “victim” of the system, no matter what Max Key’s friends believe. Many people from privileged backgrounds benefit–without even thinking about it because they do not have to-–and become the wilful enforcers of systems of oppression.

Eric Garner was a black man who was murdered by police in America for selling untaxed cigarettes. Over and over again he repeated clearly: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” These were the last words he would ever speak as police officers held him down while another placed him in an illegal choke-hold, squeezing the breath and life from his body. “I can’t breathe” now rings out during Black Lives Matter protests and uprisings and has, at times, become a trending hashtag on Twitter, opening conversations around race and racism in the USA. The white police officer who put Eric in a chokehold served no time, a grand jury decided not to return an indictment.

However, Daniel Pantaleo who filmed the brutal killing was not so lucky; the police tried to put him behind bars and as Molly Crabapple wrote for Vice, “In December, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, but Orta, his supporters say, has been the target of a police campaign to destroy his life ever since.”  Those who expose injustice and cruelty will nearly always be punished for their bravery to serve as a warning to others.

This is business as usual in the USA. This, we are told, is just how the world works.

Max might be a “nice guy” as so many of his fans and BFFs told me while also indignantly exclaiming “You don’t even know him!” I may not know him personally but, what I do know is this: like so many who benefit from oppressive systems, Max says nothing about the hardships of others. Not a fucking whisper. The NZ Herald recently reported that over 300,000 kids are now living in relative poverty in this country; but sure, it is Max who is suffering the real “hardship” in all of this. Let’s talk about how hard done by he is, shall we, with his fancy swimming pool, beach houses, convertible cars, and blossoming model/DJ career.

So often journalists and those who messaged me and posted on my Facebook to let me know how “mean” I was and call me a bitch or whatever else they could come up with, in turn portray people who benefit the most from the misery and deprivation of others as the victims.

This is a key way in which the powerful maintain their dominance: they portray themselves or others with whom they identify as mere hapless victims who are unable to do anything about the gross inequality we are witnessing in this country and around the world.

What could they do instead? Share their ludicrous sums of money with communities that are in hardship and stop hoarding it. Perhaps they could even use their privileges to benefit others, rather than just themselves and a select few. This is just an idea, for any super rich-ass people who might be reading this. Perhaps they feel their hands are tied.  Anyway the reality is increasingly becoming clearer that you are either rich or you are poor. The myth or story we hear from above though continues to be that this stark economic and social binary is a result of the individual choices we make in our lives. “You get what you work for,” right?

This is just business as usual.  This, we are told, is just how the world works.

Between the petty names and the hypersexualised messages sent to my inbox, it became incredibly clear that many believe rich kids such as Max Key-–who is cultivating a celebrity presence via social media-–and young people who start societies such as “The Fulltimer Society,” are completely off limits. They have special exemption from critique or criticism. I even had one white dude message me in response to what I wrote to let me know he would like to “shove a fucking cactus down my throat,” rounding off by calling me a “cunt,” and in another post called me a “niggah.” My friend who is a writer living in America suggested that it was likely this guy used that word against me because to him black people are the lowest of the low. So, it was a big insult.

All of these reactions made it clear that many people believe the lives of the rich and affluent are “off limits.” Perhaps this even extends to those who worship wealth and play the dandy like some kind of Nick Carraway character from The Great Gatsby; after all, some of the guys who started the “Fulltimer Society” don’t necessarily come from wealthy backgrounds.

However, the lives of the working class and those who are poor are never “off limits.” We don’t get special exemption from name calling and shaming in relation to our “life-styles.” I come from the working class and I am routinely told that I am lazy, no matter how many minimum wage jobs I am working at any given time. If I am fired, for whatever insufficient reasons and from whatever precarious job I am working, and if I need welfare between jobs, I get called a “benefit scrounger” and I am made to feel worthless. Cathy Odgers pointed out that with my “literary talent” I should have managed to land a better job in a higher pay bracket. As if it is that easy!

If you are born into wealth you are likely to get the contacts and thus the networks which come with it regardless of how talented you are. I don’t have that benefit, and most millennials growing up today don’t. Instead of contacts and networking opportunities we are handed austerity and pushed into situations where we are competing with each other for low-paid precarious jobs in a flooded and cut-throat job market: jobs we often do not even want but have to work in order to survive.

There is a reason why The Hunger Games series resonates with so many people. It portrays a futuristic dystopia where young people from the lower classes are selected to battle each other to the death in an annual ritual death match. These “games” are enforced by a heartless totalitarian leader: President Snow who lives in the affluent capital, disconnected from the day-to-day hardships and deprivation his people are forced to endure. The books and movies resonate with so many because young people who come from the real political underclasses often feel they are living in a dystopia ruled by heartless leaders; we live in a structure which is a parallel reality, where we have to battle each other for shit jobs, just to survive. The odds are never in our favour.

happy hunfer games

In Aotearoa we have one Mike Hosking, our most prominent media mongrel and our very own equivalent of Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Both are committed to protecting the super wealthy, especially those such as our millionaire PM John Key, or Donald Trump as if either actually needs defending. Both media mongrels say the most offensive shit about people who are poor, and both have prime time “current affairs” shows. The lives of the poor are rarely off limits, if ever. Mike recently weighed in on changes to child support, asking:

“The cost of a child is the cost of a child. If you can’t afford one, why did you have one? And if you did have one and can’t afford it why are you expecting the rest of us to pay the bill?”

I wonder how many tax deductible business lunches Mike has, had? I guess it is okay if we, as taxpayers foot the bill to subsidise some of his food bill? But parents living in poverty gostruggling to feed their kids well, they shouldn’t have had kids in the first place? Where is the moral distinction between Mike, getting a tax deductible business lunch and a person who is struggling to survive getting a WINZ food grant in New Zealand or food stamps in places like America? Can someone please, tell me?

Should we just give the super affluent a “get out of jail free card”? Must we just allow power to go unchecked and unfettered? After all, this is exactly what some of our most prevalent political pundits do, including Mike Hosking, who himself is a millionaire – he protects his own. He acts as a mere messenger for the right-wing and endlessly defends John Key’s behaviour even when it is outright fucking creepy.

For just one famous example, when Key was found out to have yanked on a waitress’s ponytail repeatedly over several months, even after she had expressed over and over again it was completely unwelcome and was causing her distress, Mike ran to his defence like he always does:

Let’s just face it: We can tell it was sexual harassment in the workplace because if it was a dude with a ponytail John would not have yanked on it. Similarly, from this singular incident we can tell Mike Hoskings serves the powerful and not the disempowered. He is committed to obscuring power, not exposing it. As veteran journalist, John Pilger has stressed for most of his career:

“The media is the invisible government.”

From his endlessly repeated rhetoric we see that Hosking believes power and the elite few who hold it must be vigorously protected at all costs, even if it is at the cost of the vast majority of people living in Aotearoa.

Already we are seeing the rise of third world diseases in this country, attributed to the growing rates of heart-numbing poverty in low socioeconomic communities. More often than not the vulnerable and downtrodden are not protected by our governments, neither those from the right, nor the relatively nominally left of the Labour party. (Seriously, does anyone even know what Labour stands for in this country anymore, other than pandering to the centre-right?) New Zealand gangs are doing more to feed kids in poverty than the National government, who actually voted against the recent “Feed the Kids” bill.

Just typing those words is heart-wrenching and jarring. Our most vulnerable people are not being protected by their own government, nor even having their voices elevated by the vast majority of media tycoons such as Mike or journalists, who are meant to be truth speakers in times of universal deceit.

This then, is business as usual. This, we are told, is just how the world works.

You can follow me on twitter!

In the playground of the rich, wealth flaunting is a sport

There is an elite new rich club on the party scene in New Zealand. They are calling themselves the Fulltimer Society and, as much as I can gather, this club of young people is a hybrid of The YaYa Club, another more well-known rich society with a higher profile and membership. The Fulltimer Society was founded by 17 young men who may not all be from wealthy backgrounds but an affluent “life-style” is certainly what they are selling. As the NZ Herald reported the founders of the Fulltime Society have “created a business from partying”. Their membership includes Max Key, who happens to be the son of our millionaire PM John Key. In a piece entitled  “Auckland’s extravagant, young, elite society you need to know about,” journalist Beatrice Hazlehurst spoke to the founder of the  Fulltimer Society, Vicktor Green. She writes,

They united/were recruited if they had A) ever modelled or B) were widely connected in the nouveau-riche Auckland social scene – the latter applying to the likes of the Prime Minister’s son, Fulltimer Max Key.

Members of the Fulltimer Society get drunk in bars at Auckland’s Viaduct and pretend to be entrepreneurs (hey man, they organise events and shit) and urge young white girls holding champagne glasses to kiss each other for the camera, as if being born lesbian or bisexual is some kind of fashionable fad that gains you popularity instead of the typically more common social exclusion, discrimination and sometimes bodily harm. People who criticise their pursuits are labelled as having “tall poppy syndrome,” a term used to describe the cutting down and criticising of people of merit who, because of their talents or achievements, are elevated above the rest of us. Beatrice writes,

[Green] blames the “haters” on kind of exacerbated tall poppy syndrome – suggesting the critics are made up of those that would never be accepted into the Fulltimers ranks themselves, so they resort to taking the club down a peg – an “if you can’t join ’em beat ’em” mentality.

“Tall poppy syndrome”? Not. So. Much.


Girls at an event hosted by the Fulltimer Society. Photo / Facebook

It is more an unbridled and growing discontent and frustration at this kind of wealth flaunting (whether perceived or real) in a country where 260,000 children are living in poverty and where upward mobility is nearly impossible to access for the growing working class – especially, for Maori and Pacific Islanders who are acutely affected by poverty. The knowledge there is plenty of wealth to go around stings: we can see it, but unfortunately this wealth is more and more concentrated in the hands of a few who will hoard and guard this money and the assets which come with it, until the day they fucking die. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, wrote earlier this year, “the combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked.”

It’s just, this all feels utterly fucking unfair? Like something is really rotten at the core of this once so-called great egalitarian country that has become a vastly divided society of “haves and have nots.” It’s become a place where Max Key can D.J (just like Paris Hilton) at glittering parties for members of a club that promotes itself as some kind of elite rich-kid society (as if what clubs like these “do” has anything to do with culture), and play shitty remixes of pop-songs, then post a viral video of his luxurious holiday in Hawaii with his blue eyed, blonde haired model girlfriend hanging off his arm. While many families could not afford the rising electricity prices to run a heater during the dead-cold chills of winter and where a young child died last year due to respiratory failure that the coroner attributed, in part, to the cold, damp mould-ridden state house she was living in. This kind of disparity in regards to the quality of life people can and cannot access is palpable.

As the political underclass struggles daily to gain economic stability, we are told we just need to “work harder;” this statement is usually accompanied with a good dose of poverty shaming. Herein lies the myth we have been sold as truth: that somehow rich people, such as John Key, worked really hard for his millions and possess special skills and an intelligence, implying we do not. This myth is better known as the Self-Attribution Fallacy, wherein rich people credit their successes with outcomes for which they weren’t responsible. In other words: when rich people pat themselves on the back for all their successes in life they are kind of full of fucking shit. George Monbiot writes in the Guardian,

Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.

Getting rich and remaining wealthy has little to do with skill and much more to do with luck and having what it takes to break the backs of the working and lower classes as they stomp their way up to the top. Or like Max Key rich young people inherit a bunch of money and the privileges which go with it and somehow think this makes them special; as if they possess superpowers we do not.  When I talked to a friend who is a law student at Auckland University, he pointed out in regards to accruing wealth by luck and at the expense of others:

Prime Minister John Key, who was a Wall Street banker, did not produce any useful good or service. He just bought and sold currencies at the right time to make a huge profit. Currency speculation is a very useless industry which leads to huge riches for some but economic chaos and uncertainty for others. For example international currency speculation helped lead to the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

John Key was appointed the head of the Asian foreign exchange in Singapore in 1995 and during the staggering losses of the 1998 Russian financial crisis he oversaw the sacking of hundreds of employees. Key was nicknamed by co-workers as “the smiling assassin” in response to his “cheery” disposition while telling people they no longer had job.

Out of crisis and chaos there will always be an elite few who rise from the ashes of destruction by grinding their heels into the necks of others, eventually benefiting from the economic disasters around them.

One of Max Key’s stated goals in life is to turn his father’s millions into billions and, if Max has inherited his father’s ruthlessness and utter disregard for the welfare of others–evident in John Key’s overseeing of callous state welfare reforms by National MP Paula Bennett, and his cuts to public spending–no doubt Max who is studying finance, accounting and property at Auckland University, will accomplish this goal. The Key dynasty will be born.

I understand these young people who start-up these elite clubs are just responding to our times; they aren’t just some aberration.

Collectively, we have been taught money means status, and status (often defined by a ruthless exploitation of others and the acquiring of ludicrous amounts of money) means power; it so often seems that to these people, the pursuit of power and the need to “have it all” at the expense of millions of others, is far more important than building a sense of community or looking out for one another. We prize psychopathy over empathy and compassion within our dominate systems.

This is the perverse logic of neoliberalism and a constraining economic model that serves only the elite rich at the expense of our planet and the majority of people living on it.

There will always be very real, sometimes deadly, casualties in the pursuit of “personal freedom” and “choice.” Neoliberalism was the promise that once free from state “interference” our lives would become better and we would have more autonomy, and this would be a good thing. For example: once state welfare is abolished people would be forced to find work, and thus, if they can’t find jobs they will then be pushed to create new work opportunities and jobs for themselves out of necessity. The unemployed will not become unwitting victims of the “welfare-trap” because, simply, that safety net would no longer exist.

What has resulted though, is not more choice for the majority of us, nor more “freedoms,” but the illusion of choice, or what I prefer to call “constricted choice,” and therefore less [economic] freedom. When short sighted governments slash state welfare they often push people further into crippling poverty; you may avoid creating “victims” of the “welfare trap,” but instead “victims” of neoliberalism are created.

So when I read about Max Key, who benefits from neoliberal policies, going on luxurious holidays and having endless leisure time to pursue his passions such as DJing and going on holidays most of us can only dream of, I am reminded of my own “restricted choice”…  .

As a low paid service worker I can either pick one shitty, meaningless and low-paid bar job or I can pick another shitty, meaningless and low-paid bar job that may have some extra benefits such as sick pay, eventually.

A more extreme example of what “constricted choice” looks like I learned about when I told a writer friend in America who is currently working at a supermarket as a low wage earner about my ideas around the realities of “constricted choice.” He told me:

“I’m joining the military soon because I feel like I am not doing anything with my life and there is a lot of tension at home. Essentially, for me, It’s either the military or homelessness. However I am looking at the bright side: I can get paid and travel, but I could get placed somewhere shitty and if we invade some place I could end up getting shot at.”

For many people, limited options force them to consider and often take work or career paths which are not only limiting and depressing, but also dangerous, if not deadly.

Being rich doesn’t just buy you pretty things, it also buys you an abundance of choice; it buys you leisure time to pursue whatever it is that brings you joy and fulfilment, and a sense of well-being. Even if this “fulfilment” is found in organizing booze drenched parties at fancy bars geared at the upper classes, it also buys you time to spend with the people you love and care for. It buys you the time and space to develop and pursue your passions whether that be music, drawing, writing, dance, whatever; these are all things which develop and add to culture.

The cost of being poor is not just the denial of basic necessities like a heater in winter to stay warm or a dry and warm house to live in, it is also the loss of sleep because you are working some shit low paid job which means working harder and longer hours to stay afloat, thus you have less or no time to relax and rest. If you stop to catch your breath or take a day off from whatever menial job you are working, to gather yourself and catch up on sleep, it means forgoing rent (risking becoming homeless) or buying less, or no food the following week. If you are economically poor, you are typically also likely to be “time poor.”

This is the bottom line for so many people who are struggling to stay afloat in a rich world:

in a country where there is an abundance of money and resources to go around, an elite selfish and callous few are refusing to share. For a few to prosper many must suffer.

You can follow me on twitter!


Kia ora all! I am freelancing which means I have no secure income so, I rely on donations from the wider public to keep myself economically afloat. If you like what I have to say and want to support me, you can make a direct contribution via my bank account:


Bank Details: 12-3040-0580277-01