Karl du Fresne bigot | The Jackal

8 Nov 2012

Karl du Fresne bigot

Yesterday, the right wing propagandist Karl du Fresne reported:

Today’s Dominion Post reports that poor dental health is the most common cause of avoidable hospital admissions for pre-schoolers in the Wellington region. Pacific Island and Maori children are particularly susceptible, with rates of hospital admission several times higher than other groups.

The paper quotes Murray Thomson, Otago’s head of dental public health, as saying: “Kids are being given things in sippy cups and bottles that are neither milk nor water.” Fair enough – but then he goes on to say: “It’s just another marker of poverty, really.”

Hang on. How does that add up? Are Maori and Pacific Island parents forced to give their small children Coke and other high-sugar drinks because they can’t afford water or milk? That seems an absurd conclusion.

That's because it is an absurd conclusion... It's also not what the Dominion Post reported:

Pacific preschoolers are almost three times more likely to be admitted to hospital than other ethnicities, and Maori preschoolers are four times more likely.

Professor Thomson said tooth decay was the main culprit behind young children being admitted to hospital and operated on under general anaesthetic.

Parents' lack of education, the inability to access dental services, no fluoridation in water, and poor tooth brushing contributed to bad oral health, he said. "It's just another marker of poverty really."

I'm not sure how du Fresne has jumped from a "lack of education, the inability to access dental services, no fluoridation in water, and poor tooth brushing" to "Maori and Pacific Island parents forced to give their small children Coke and other high-sugar drinks because they can’t afford water or milk"?

Murray Thomson did not say Maori and Pacific Island parents forced their children to have sugary drinks, he said they are less likely to have adequate dental health care. The fact that du Fresne has decided to promote a complete untruth to try and discredit the report and its authors, not to mention ethnic people, shows him up to be a complete bigot! Karl du Fresne then dispels all doubt about his racism when he writes:

But it will play well to Prof Thomson’s colleagues because it conforms to the prevailing orthodoxy which holds that everything bad in New Zealand can be attributed to poverty, and that poverty in turn could be eliminated at a stroke if only the government were of a mind to do it (presumably by increasing benefits and the minimum wage, and thereby increasing the burden on the productive sector that must ultimately bear the cost).

Clearly poverty does lead to many children having bad dental health, because cheaper foods often contain more sugar and unhealthy snacks contain more acid that attacks teeth to cause decay. That's an inescapable truth that the right wing try their best to ignore. Another inescapable truth is that dental health of young children in New Zealand is amongst the worst in the developed world. Is it just a coincidence that we also have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the developed world as well?

Increasing welfare so that parents can afford better quality foods and increasing education would go some way to alleviate the major problem of bad dental health in children, and as usual this is a problem that could be resolved if the government decided to. However in my opinion, a more targeted approach of making fruit and vegetables cheaper by removing GST, increasing funding for dental clinics in schools and an education campaign targeted at children and parents to increase knowledge on dental hygiene is also required.

Thomson may be closer to the mark when he cites lack of education as a cause of poor dental health among children. Perhaps the Maori mother my wife recently observed feeding her baby Coke on a train simply didn’t know that Coke isn’t good for babies. Or was it just that Coke is more convenient than healthier alternatives? (Normally my wife would have said something, but chose not to because the woman was accompanied by tough-looking members of her whanau who might not have appreciated being given advice by a Pakeha.)

Karl du Fresne is obviously making up a little story here to try and support his argument. He's taken something that was reported in an NZ Herald article last year, which did not attribute the 'baby bottle filled with Coca-Cola' incident with any particular ethnicity. He then goes on to try and confirm popular misconceptions about Maori that the bigots love to promote.

Another favourite thing that right wing propagandist's love to promote is elitism. They do this by trying to ensure the class structure of capitalism, which is characterized by the conflict between the haves and the have nots, does not change. Without the poor, the rich simply cannot stroke their egos and feel superior about their wealth. And as usual, the bigots believe thet best way to achieve this is to attack the poor.

Problem is, every time an “expert” like Thomson glibly attributes this type of health issue to "poverty", it removes personal responsibility from the equation – and gives the supposed “victims” licence to carry on, since their behaviour is out of their control. It’s all the fault of the government and the economic system.

The problem is that every time a racist bigot attributes problems like this entirely to personal responsibility, they make an excuse for the government to remain inactive. It removes their social responsibility from the equation, and gives those in power license to carry on gaining more wealth for the already wealthy without any thought for or compassion towards those that cannot afford basic health care.

Bigots like du Fresne believe its better to give the rich tax cuts than ensure children's dental health. He's also trying to say that the behaviour of citizens and the health of their children is entirely out of the control of politicians, which is entirely wrong! Karl du Fresne believes that it's all the fault of poor people because they are poor, and it's their decision to be poor, because they're inferior!

Thankfully people like Karl du Fresne and what they believe is becoming increasingly irrelevant in a multicultural and diverse society, and it's only a matter of time before that change dominates the halls of power. The days of segregation and elitism in New Zealand are numbered.