Dollars meet State.

The people of my city Christchurch are trapped in the ideological pincers of a post-disaster nightmare: on the one hand they have the dogs of capital patrolling the broken city dining on the bones; on the other, the hand of the state dictating how and when the recovery, so-called will proceed.

The bad news is that this is inevitable; the good, that humans can survive almost anything business and government will visit upon them, but at a cost we are all seeing, even those of us at a distance right now.

This is almost the perfect storm – however you want to regard its outcomes. The stresses of being caught up in this 24 month ongoing series of trauma and trials is proving too much for some. Anger is breaking out again: not the kind of early outbursts that we saw in the first few months, but the exhausted rage of burn-out, of chronically depressed human beings who can see no end to all this.

The storm that has fallen upon us is the convenient marriage of capitalism and the command economy: political theorists and anthropologists not resident in the city may find this social experiment instructive; but when Fletchers (from the Capital Team) have sawn up your rimu floorboards and replaced them with chipboard (on a job of repair for the EQC, the State Team), it is personal.

The householder who sees their cracked and broken world insulted again by contractors who demand you sign off on their work, the citizen who cannot get the same person on the the phone when they call Earthquake Commission to complain, who is worn out from two years of being fobbed off and dicked around by giant insurance companies now owned by corrupted bailed out US corporations is caught in this vice-like conundrum.

They need the state to oversee and make provision; they need the so-called private sector to carry out the repairs mandated by our elected officials. Instead, there are countless examples of a nightmare bureaucracy that would turn any normal person into a cockroach just to get away from it all, bullying corporations and power-hungry officials over-riding the remains of local democracy.

Today’s citizen is rich in rights’ awareness and unwilling to simply roll over and submit; but when the earth itself has rolled over you and you have been terrorised this often, you have already learned to play dead. It’s hard to keep on and fight the good fight.

Of course there are good people, nice humans and well-intentioned law-makers out there trying to make it all happen; but when the role of the person is so diminished, when those who have been at the mercy of the earth’s incredible power come to feel themselves likewise on the receiving end of arbitrary and impersonal human forces, there is going to be trouble – big trouble.

Some of that will go within: alcohol abuse, quarrels and domestic violence behind closed doors, depression; some of it will hit the streets in protest and civil unrest. However it manifests, if politicians don’t stop patronising us and corporations continue to milk the till, something not seen before in New Zealand seems a likely outcome – civil war, as the result of natural disaster.

I can envision a scenario where the people of this city, exhausted by the endless shaking of the earth and their octopus wrangling marathon with the Dollar State will secede from the body politic and declare what is latent, in embryo: The Peoples’ Republic of Christchurch.


About paparoa

Writer and researcher.
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