Friday, September 21, 2012

Streetlife in San Francisco

I've been in San Francisco for the Dreamforce conference.

The conference was amazing - I might even try to write up my thoughts.

But what I wanted to talk about now, is the terrible number of beggars, crazy people, and homeless people on the streets of San Francisco. Many of these poor souls seem to fall into multiple of these categories.

I don't understand how the greatest country in the world, blessed with so much, can abandon its weakest members to a pre-civilisation existence.

Worse, it's easy for the constant stream of the rest of us, as pedestrians and car passengers to avert our eyes. Every time that happens I think a bit of our own soul is chipped away. We can say that it's about choices, we can say that no-one needs to be in this situation, we can say whatever we like. But they are trapped in that suffering. And while we stand by and let it happen - so are we trapped in a different kind of suffering ourselves - one where a hardened heart prevents us from fulfillment.

What to do? Let's start by thinking about what a society is supposed to be. A civilised society protects its weakest members, it redistributes resources in a way that ensures that, although effort is rewarded, no-one is left behind on the journey.

Clearly San Francisco has failed in this duty. I do not want a New Zealand that follows this model.

We have a responsibility to look after each other and to protect the vulnerable.

It's a shame that in New Zealand the political system is set up so that the parties that should best offer to address these issues are unpalatable in so many other ways.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I'm sorry, but it does matter where the poppies are made.

Ok, I totally get the RSA position. They have a limited income that is effectively fixed,

The more cost they can take out of the organisation, the more money there is available for providing benefits to their members.

If this were a case of, say, staff flying Jetstar to save money, we'd all be applauding.

But some decisions have a hidden cost, and a moral dimension.

Imagine a continuum with one end highly moral and satisfactory, like making the poppies in a sheltered workshop in earthquake ravaged Christchurch. It would be difficult to think of a more worthy supplier.

Using the cost justification argument means that next year the poppies could be made by slave labour in North Korea.

If the RSA executives are not prepared to do that, then they are saying that there are considerations that override cost saving.

So what we are discussing is how far we are prepared to go down that slippery slope before we cry off.

Making the poppies in China goes too far along that scale for me, and apparently for a bunch of people in Queenstown .

What's really interesting in that article is that the RSA president criticises the public because these weren't actually Chinese poppies, they were left over stock from last year.

I'm unhappy that the RSA has put me in the position where donating endorses the decision and boycotting hurts the wrong people.

I am donating this year but I won't take a physical poppy.