Since returning to New Zealand I’ve become accustomed to hearing the claim — usually by politicians from the ruling coalition — that New Zealand’s economic performance is the envy of the western world.
Over and above our being what Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull amusingly termed ‘The Saudi Arabia of milk’ our robust position is said to be a sign of good financial management.
Well, in my view good financial management requires that we don’t just manage the wealth we have but protect and grow wealth for the future. And in that sense, I don’t believe our leaders are managing matters well at all.
Bear with me and I’ll do my best to explain why.
I have no particular political persuasion in terms of party politics. My position might best be described as that of a compassionate capitalist, which, for many might seem an oxymoron. More especially since we seemed to have settled into a world where those who believe in social welfare, who openly care about social justice, environment and sustainable futures, are generally classified and lefties, and those who work in forms of commerce, business owners and others who might seek to acquire wealth, are often classified as right-wingers if not fascists.
At the risk of over-simplifying, in America the Republicans would represent the latter and the fact that the courageous, compassionate and fair-minded President, Abraham Lincoln, was a Republican has long been forgotten.
Actually history tells us that Fascists are simply rabid populists and proof that if you rule by consensus self-serving stupidity will inevitably prevail. Thankfully, Fascism like all extreme political isms eventually implodes albeit that enormous damage is inevitably wreaked along the way.
Then again, history also tells us that humankind learns nothing from history. And despite what Split Enz might have said history does indeed repeat— most often in a bad way.
Okay the real point of this: The way I see it New Zealand has a number of assets that our leaders are failing to protect.
In simple terms we are enjoying short-term gains at a very real risk of long-term loss. And this shortsighted approach is endemic in our current crop of leaders.
When tourism (a leading earner for the country) is fuelled by the ‘100% Pure’ bullshit slogan we are clearly heading for trouble. Fact is our pristine environment is but a memory. The rapidly declining state of our beaches, streams, rivers and overall environment is testament to a smug populace resting on its laurels and being led up increasingly shitty creeks by the myopia and circumlocution of truth-challenged leaders.
Already international attention has been drawn to our ineptitude: “Fail Grade for New Zealand’s environmental management’ was a recent newspaper headline. The world is beginning to see past our lies. In real terms this means our leaders are failing to protect one of our most profitable assets. If we don’t reverse this trend the outcome is inevitable. We will kill our proverbial golden goose.
How has this been allowed to happen? Easy — it’s happened because too many people don’t care, that’s why. Walk beside any highway in New Zealand and you will see litter strewn by thousands of people who don’t give a shit.
A few weeks back I picked up some rubbish two young men were dropping out of their car outside a lunch bar rather than walk ten paces to a nearby bin. In return for my efforts one of the young guys leapt out of the car and threatened to punch me. I lived to tell the tale. He lived to breed more morons in his own image.
Farmers pollute waterways because we let them. Commercial Fishing vessels are depleting our oceans because we let them. Local bodies are approving housing developments on precious arable land because we let them. Billionaires are buying and locking us out of vast tracts of our own country because we let them. Politicians are failing to protect our natural assets because we let them.
I could go on listing the current and potential destruction and depletion of our natural assets caused by our complacency and silence but you get the point.
(I hasten to add that my point is NOT to blame the immigrants as so many of those who consider themselves Real Kiwis do these days.)
On the subject of blame: I keep hearing how my ‘Boomer’ generation is to blame for all that’s wrong, inequitable, unfair and insurmountable in society today. There’s a degree of truth in that, especially with housing, albeit that we had about as much control in this as anyone who climbs onto an escalator and finds their position being elevated automatically.
However, it must also be said that my generation stood up against injustice and the lunacy of the antiquated attitudes of our misguided leaders and inarguably we changed a world that needed changing. This is a piece of history I’d like to see repeated.
I’m an old dog now. I bark but lack the energy and strength to bite. I just wish the young would stop whining and get into the fight.
They could start by using their vote to keep our leaders honest. To make sure they do the job they have been elected to do. To remind them they aren’t just meant to show up in Wellington for lunch and cocktails, they have been entrusted with our present and our future. They need to cultivate and protect the assets that make us unique. They need to put people before profit. And if they don’t do that job to the betterment of all, get rid of them. Vote them out.
Tell your politician to stop protecting his or her ass and begin protecting your greatest asset — Aotearoa. Do it now before it’s too late.