My third academic publication considered the relationship between tino rangatiratanga and tenancy security. In part, it was due to a background as a landlord, a tenant, and a tenants' advocate. However, it was mostly due to a gap in the literature. Despite shelter being necessary for human survival, very little had been written from a Treaty perspective on the policies which affect it. This post explores a new element: the language used to describe the state housing sector.
"State housing" isn't a term you'll read in the media anytime soon, except when it's in a title. Like most purveyors of National fiction, the term you'll read is "social housing". That is because the policy agenda is for "social" versus "state" provision, where "social" indicates a reduced role by the state in housing.
The process is ideological. The economic liberals in government believe a limited role by the state ensures freedom from interference in private affairs. By promoting "social" over "state", the media makes ideas of state provision disappear.
The media and education system are apparatuses which help people name and locate in society. For example, 50 years ago women were the primary caregivers. If someone spoke of "childcare" in New Zealand circa 1965, listeners would have pictured women caring for children at home. Similarly, "smoko" was the regular break taken by workers sometimes in conjunction with a cigarette. "National standards" is an educational example, well-known (if not well-understood) today, but a nihility 50 years ago. The existence and meanings of these words were changed, suppressed, or reinforced through the media and educational system. It is how a national identity is built.
The problem I have with the change in wording from "state" to "social" is two-fold. First, I disagree with the sale of state housing or devolution of its management to non-state agents. Second, and more importantly, I disagree with the domestication of human populations. By helping people to lose the language to name their circumstances, we make them politically passive and available for consumption.
Wake up, New Zealand. If you can read this, you are not a sheep.