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Posted by Philip on 5 September 2012, 4:20 pm in , , ,

When caring isn't quite enough

Last week I went to the Tenancy Tribunal because, once again, Housing New Zealand placed a tenant next door to me who was known to Police for violent and anti-social behaviour. He was arrested in late May for disturbing the peace and threatening other neighbours in my street; luckily I was away.

Since June I have been working with HNZ to reach a creative solution to stop this repeated flaw in their placement process happening again. I suggested they convert the duplex I live in into one dwelling. They refused my suggestion once and then again when I asked for a review of decision.

They did, however, move the nextdoor tenant. But this resulted in him abusing me verbally from outside, leaving me feeling threatened enough to call the Police. Though he's been gone for ten days, I am still aware that he is aggrieved and knows where I live.

Today I received the order of the Tribunal: that my application be dismissed because "the neighbour having departed, there is no longer a live issue between the parties."

A relative with a law background replied to my email, "Disappointing, but ultimately not surprising. You are dealing with flawed decision making and policy, and incompetence. The law has always struggled to prevent that…"

Discussing it later with a friend, I joked that I blamed John Key's neoliberal government. "Yeah," she agreed, "he wouldn't care."

"Actually, I think he would," I countered.


"Yes," I said in all seriousness. "I think if I sat down over a cup of tea with John and told him my story, he'd say something like, 'Gee, that's rough and it must've been hard. But bad things happen to people and that's just how it is.'"

John Key cares, just like the many HNZ staff I've spoken to in the last three months. What they all lack is commitment. Commitment to change. Commitment to improve.

Recently I was in a leadership forum with a senior politician. He said that the reason NZ has a democratic parliamentary system isn't because democracy is good. "It is because," he admitted, "democracy is the least bad."

I actually liked his candid answer, mainly because it affirmed my cynicism about Government. I asked, "If democracy is only the least bad system, why wouldn't our Parliamentary leaders work to create a good one, rather than waste time trying to solve problems using the least bad system?"

He faltered, answering that democracy isn't that bad. Another example of someone who cares deeply enough to devote decades of his life to politics, but not committed enough to seek to change and improve the system in which he works.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's true. But it's not caring love. If you care about someone or something, it's no longer enough.

What the world needs now is commitment – and a hell of a lot of it. Commitment to recognising that, if the box is the wrong shape, no matter what you do to the contents, they still won't fit.

We need people leading bureaucracies to face up to the fact that good decisions aren’t made by following policies – it takes case-by-case judgement and creativity.

We need every person on this planet to commit to making the world the best place possible to live, starting with themselves. Caring about causes, unfairness, the poor, the needy – caring about anything right now just isn't enough.

We need everyone to stop asking themselves, "What do I care about?"

The question to ask now is, "To what am I willing to commit?"