government


I’m nine and we’re sitting at the living room table she made a year or so back. It was a full dining room table but she cut down the legs, sanded it back. I remember gouging it with a fork handle in a fit of pique, a childish anger vented at some one thing she must have been proud of.

I’m looking at the empty grooves now, and asking,

“Is this tea?”

“Be quiet and eat.”

“But it’s just weetbix.”

“The benefit isn’t till tomorrow, so eat up.”

“But it’s breakfast isn’t it?”

“Just eat up.”

It’s a story I tell for years, of the superimposition of hunger by ‘our situation’. In retrospect it’s the one thing I associate with benefit dependency, the constant hunger, not only for basic nutrition, but for the many small things others take for granted you lack. The small luxuries and the simple things you cannot afford. A hunger for invaluables like comfort, security, certainty.

You see these things among people you consider rich, and you crave them. You hoard small objects, the cast offs of the better offs, and you think yourself lucky to have snatched such prizes.

I remember being perhaps 10, or 11, and sitting on the floor of the dining room reading Australian Womens Weekly Cookbook, a glossy A4 softcover filled with large pictures of simple foods. Brandy snaps. Yorkshire pudding. The pages were something I would treasure, the details of the recipes something I would pore over, a series of simple how-to pictures I must have subconsciously replicated here on this very blog. I would look at these foods and yearn for the ingredients, the know-how. But to practice we would need more than what we had. And what we had wasn’t enough.

So where are the choices in that? We were making the right life choices. We were frugal as our station demanded. We made the most of what we had. But still we ate cereal for dinner while our neighbours’ cat ate gravy beef.

What is it about dependency that means you must suffer in silence the ire of those who consider themselves your betters?

I sit now in comfort, folded in the bounty of the middle classes, and I look back to those days as a hazy memory, and I’m thankful to be free of then. I can sit now and listen to people run down the poor to someone the feel is a social equal, and while I no longer feel myself an interloper, I sometimes feel I have abandoned my past, that I have turned my back on what it was to be both hungry and undeserving.

Until I see the ire acted out again, as if by rote, an endless script of hate and condescension.

There is no such thing as a “Prime Minister Elect”.

Here in the Colonies we elect a party, not an individual. The person you are referring to is the “incoming Prime Minister”.

I’ve heard of at least two rants been taken out on the “Elect” phrase today, and we’d better all stop it before someone gets hurt.

Well, my advice today is for you to do two things.

  1. Buy some earplugs, turn off any TVs you may have, and ignore the international sections* of the newspaper
  2. Write a big note and plaster it to your fridge. The note should read “New Zealand General Election, 8 November 2008: I MUST VOTE”

The earplugs are to block out the week of media puffery we’re about to get in relation to that overseas election. The note is to remind yourself that we have one too, lest people getting overwhelmingly gushy about that other election causes you to forget.

And my recommendation on which party to vote for?

Whoever the hell you like! This is a democracy and you’re welcome to think for yourself. There are plenty of parties to chose from, so knock yourself out.

*Heh. Just kidding, I know none of our newspapers carry actually international news.

Crazy. In the dream I was reading a newspaper and the headlines read:

Occam’s Razor-Gang takes to Bureaucracy: Public Servants cut in half

And I was looking at it thinking, “somewhere, this might make sense…”.

So you think that a country that can put pig genes in people could do filing correctly right?

Wrong.

As myself, The Ex-Expat, and some people in the DomPost can attest, the problem of very poorly integrated medical records is a very real one for New Zealanders. As it stands there is so little integration that I’m often required to wait for months for records to be transferred between hospitals, it even takes a month for a record to travel within Wellington Hospital, and I keep my own log so that I can easily remember when different events occur.

Basically, the system doesn’t work. Information transfer in “the medical system” is a joke, and “customers” (or what they used to call patients) are all too frequently let down. It has been my extremely good luck to have an uncle who is a cardiologist and is able to collate all the relevant facts and give me something like a useful summary of where my health is at (side note: health not so bad, just some unusual physiology that makes life difficult sometimes).

Recognising that the system doesn’t work, and that making it work is a Sisyphean task that could bankrupt the nation, we need a cheap and reliable* solution. Also, health policy doesn’t seem to be on the radar for this election, so I think I can chat away safely. If it does become discussed in the next few days, then, well, I guess I’m just an originator.

I can’t take credit for this idea, but what Dave Snowden said has been applied in [insert country here] is that medical records are transferred for safe-keeping to the real owner of those records, the patient. The basis of this idea is relatively simple, the person who has the greatest interest in the health and well-being of the patient is… the patient. Consequently the safest place for medical records is with that person. The trick of course is how to get the records across, and how to keep them safe.

There are three issues in there. First of all is the problem of loss of records. If the individual loses their records then all the records could be lost!! But actually, no. Because all the records would remain with the various health providers. All the individual does is compile copies of all their own records, so if they lose them, they can just go back to all the providers and recollect them. A hassle, but an incentive to keep an eye on them.

The second issue is the technology. Which is a very real issue. Different providers use different systems, and there are lots of different things you need to keep. So what happens to all the”stuff” and how do you keep it in a useable format?

To be honest, I dunno. There will be some tricky stuff in there, and this is likely the only actual issue. But, many records could easily be kept in PDF to prevent them being tampered with, and advances in technology mean that it’s easy for people to purchase gigabytes of thumb drive to store stuff on.

The third issue is privacy. What if someone finds and exploits your records!! Well… keep them safe the same way you would any valuable. What about,  “people seeing what medical professionals write on their records!!” Well [again]… medical professionals generally don’t write nasty notes on your records. If they do, then that is another issue altogether. A more pressing issue is people having access to both their own records and the internet. Self-diagnosis is probably the worst outcome of this idea.

Expanding the idea, you could also encourage people to use services like LifeBox to store their personal data.

In the end, what this approach for someone like me is that I wouldn’t have to worry about turning up to an appointment and have a specialist tell me that everything is hunky-dory when I was only in emergency a few days before. I could also transport my records to a new GP, which I needed to recently. In short, a win for everyone. Cheap for the public health system, and more reliable for patients.

*Not guaranteed to be reliable.

When you’re a political animal, but live by the Public Service Code of Conduct, it pays to just not blog all that much at all.

Seems like a long way till Nov. 8…

Will try to post a recipe this week though.

“Are you gunna go with my Gran?”

Jesus kid, you’re breaking my heart here. You don’t even know who I am, but you’re looking at me like I’m the same old same old, aren’t ya?

You’re breaking my heart.

There was a time once when I thought well of people, you know? When I thought that good intentions would overwhelm all the evil shit that happens to people like yourself. A time when I thought that someone like me might actually make a difference. So to respect that younger, foolish me, I’ll answer your question.

Am I gunna go with your Gran? Well, let’s look at this reasonably. Let’s ignore that your Gran is well, a gran. Let’s ignore that she’s probably 50 but looks 70. Let’s ignore that’s she’s lost most of her teeth, and she’s pissed at 11.30am, on a Saturday. And let’s face it, she’s a bit worse for wear. Even ignoring all these things, the answer is still, undoubtably, no.

Now this isn’t to say that no-one I know wouldn’t go with your Gran. Because your question, asked by you who is obviously no older than 7, reveals two interesting things. First, people going with your Gran isn’t outside the boundaries of your everyday reckoning. Second, blokes who look like me are obviously the type of bloke who do drive up that long out-of-the-way road to go with women who live up here.

So Gran, you’re breaking my heart.

Why I’m here is something I undertook even before you were born. Your sister here might have been perhaps two or three years old when I first same here to speak with your family, and the people who live round here. And she’s giving me this look like, “if not my Gran, then who?”, and I’m looking at her like, “love, if you were a boy, you’d barely be shaving.”

So the three of you, you’re breaking my heart.

But here I am, all the same, a bloke who’s seeing something he’s seen before, when he came up here the last time, acted out all over again. And the sadness it laid on me then was burnt out in the kitchens of the big city while I slaved to finish this, a book I brought up here to give back to your people. And you look at me with the eagerness of a group of people somehow conditioned into thinking that blokes like me come up here for one real reason, to lay with a woman old enough to have birthed me, and or a girl still with the flush of innocence on her cheeks.

And you’re breaking my heart, again, while I stand with book in hand, trying to fulfill a promise, one I made long ago to people who aren’t even living here anymore. A promise that’s dug into my conscience for three years now, while I grow fat and content off the Degree I made out of knowledge I took from here. And I know that once I ditch this copy I’ll get back into that rented car and drive that 4 hours back into the big city to a cushy hotel room and sleep comfortably while out here the cycles we all hear about, and all hear about needing to be broken, are repeated endlessly.

And it’s not guilt that twangs on my heart-strings, it’s anger. Anger that’s breaking my heart because I know that years of work amount to nothing out here in the wilds. A place where 7 year-old Aboriginal boys find it usual that blokes are coming up here to treat their women like a convenience. A place where all my work amounts to nothing but an avenue for a bloke to take a step ahead, while you take the step backwards. A place where the word ‘sorry’ is a meaningless nothing spoken by well-meaning liberals.

So I’m looking at your sister, and I can see the intelligence in her eyes, and I pleading with her, gently, to read it. Just read these pages… Please. Not the whole thing I’m saying, just this bit here, because this is your history. The history of this place that’s been scattered to the winds over the years because blokes like me can’t see any worth in writing it down. A history that makes blokes like me get fat off the proceeds of books and talking tours while up here you have a life like your Gran’s to look forward to. Abuse. Alcoholism.

So I’m looking in her eyes and I know that once I leave that that big ugly dog in the corner will eat this book, and I’m trying to hide my desperation, because I know that education and knowledge is the way out, and I know that this thing making the difference to just one person would make all those years worthwhile. 

But you’re breaking my heart, because I know, in the end, it’s futile. Blokes like me never make a difference. We take what we need, the way we always have. And people like you three keep living on these mission stations, the remnants of a once proud people destroyed under the genocidal policies of the blokes who now come up here, for fun.

And the anger, it will always break my heart. But I tried. And I cared. Which is something I need never regret.

(PS. Cross-posted over at Public Address)

Well, I’m finally back from almost two weeks of jaunting about the place learning about Knowledge Management.

And I’m freaking exhausted. I’ve been in hospital, been in conference, been in hotels and been in dives. Have eaten a range of terrific food and spoken to literally dozens of all kinds of people.

Next is to digest it all, and get up it up here on Dart. Believe me, I have a lot to tell you. The last two weeks have both affirmed and expanded both my confidence in my abilities, and my range of working knowledge. I’m looking forward to unpacking it all slowly and getting it down “on paper” as it were.

I got a request from someone who’s moving into a public service role to outline some dos and don’ts in respect of social media and the government job, so thought that I’d put up some of the best references I’ve seen around the place. I also thought that I’d generally repeat a few things I learned when first moving into the public service (the only real game in town if you’re a Wellingtonian, other than Wellywood or Silicon Welly).

The first thing to note is that there are good resources. I’ve found Jason Ryan’s postings at  the NPSC blog to be invaluable. If you’re really keen on the use of social media, and you think your new agency could use some, or could use some guidance, then get yourself over to the SSC (State Services Commission) and hunt about for the guidelines. They have a community of practice that you could refer to as well. Finally, there are sites like So Said the Organisation that talk about the experiences of other jurisdictions, and the British government seems to have published a Guide really recently, which I can’t find just now (and would appreciate someone linking to.)

If you’re not predisposed to doing a bit of research before you get into the blogging, podcasting, twittering, wiki editing, or other things I’d been doing, then the GOLDEN RULE when using social media is:

DO NOT, under any circumstances, BE A DICK.

It’s pretty much that simple. The wonderful thing about social media is that it allows you to express yourself freely, and to engage with people all over the world, online. The very real risk this poses is that anything and everything you do or say is permanently recorded by Google Cache. Consequently, if you find yourself having a bit too much coffee in the morning, and you’re the type to blow your stack about things like, for example, trolls saying outrageous things about people you might know, then if your response to that troll will be visible to the whole world.

Why this is a problem is the complicating factor of the Public Service Code of Conduct. Basically the Code can be interpreted to say that you are a representative of the government when speaking in public. You should recognise yourself that the internet is a very public space. Likewise, the Code says that you should maintain the confidence of both Government and Opposition. This obviously means that you’ll need to make sure that your opinions, assuming that you’re putting your opinions online, which is not always a good idea, are politically neutral.

You should be able to get the idea from this short run-down. What it all boils down to is the application of common sense. Just don’t go doing things that could embarrass you, and the boss you’ve disclosed your social media activities to, i.e. operate a “no surprises” policy.

Easy-peesy.

Well, I walk to work, so your protest is meaningless to me. But that said, I really don’t give a shit about your economic woes. Frankly you bunch of road-hogging, dangerous driving idiots can take your trucks and down-scale to a less fuel-consuming, road-destroying, air-polluting, noise-generating occupation as soon as possible.

If tomorrow one kid doesn’t get his MacDonalds burger patties shipped all the way from some South Auckland factory to Manners Mall, then so be it… You’re probably doing us all a favour.

And if all you’re doing is pissing off the people you actually want to support you, then you’re likely to succeed. Catch up with the C21st boys, your long-haul trucks are obsolete.

Damned luddites

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