Friday, February 08, 2008

As I walk away from you / as I walk away from you

I can’t leave Auckland behind without commenting on what is an increasingly bizarre and irrational political situation. On my not infrequent trips back to New Zealand I’m always hit with how overwhelmingly wealthy the place seems to have become. Not stinkingly, offensively wealthy with extremes next to grinding poverty as you find in much of the world, across Europe, Asia and much of the Americas. No, there is no real wealth in global terms in New Zealand despite some having aspirations, but neither is there much real poverty as found elsewhere. Poor but not no drinking water poverty.

No, what always hits me, from Ponsonby to Mangere is a rough equity, across a range of course. New Zealand, especially when you consider its lack of natural resources al la Australia, and lack of population, has done rather well for itself in recent years. The populace is well fed, largely healthy, well educated, and has, with obvious exceptions, an economic stability it’s never seen before, at least in my lifetime. It’s as close to a real democracy with all the freedoms that requires as any society has ever been in history. It’s a happy, largely peaceful, clean country with an excellent infrastructure. The economy has boomed over the past decade and everyone who wants a job has one, and one which pays, despite the banging-on about trans Tasman inequity, as well if not better in real quality of life terms than virtually everywhere else on this planet. People take pleasure in whinging about all those things but seriously, get on a plane, look, get a life for god’s sake.

It’s a very different place to what it was ten years back.

Which brings me to the bizarre. Everybody, seemingly, wants to change all that. You rarely hear a good word about either Helen Clark or the Labour government, and the word seems to be its time to go.

And no-one really, if you ask, seems to know why.

From my perspective, quite some miles away, but still very interested, the glaringly obvious question seems to be are you all barking mad? Forget the policy vacuum that John Key seems to be…oh that’s right you’ll get small “tax cuts”, and despite National’s shocking historical track record, they are ‘business friendly’…forget any personal feelings that you may have towards the current PM (although whenever one mentions NZ in this part of the world the listener inevitably says, with thumb up, “Helen Clark”..she’s given the country an aura of respect it didn’t have before in Asia)…forget everything else and think back.

I know that a large part of the electorate is too young to really remember but it is worth reminding them and everyone else what it used to be like under a National government. The grey, divided, depressed and depressing place that Labour inherited in 1999.

And what it would have been like under a National government just a few years back when National shadow ministers were urging NZ to follow, without question, the US into Iraq.

But think further back to what National governments meant to NZ. Under National governments we had dawn raids; Bastion Point; Springbok tours, with hugely divisive and violent riots up and down the country; troops dying in Vietnam; crippling think big projects that NZ paid for, for decades, with no real gain; team policing units that rampaged through inner city Auckland batoning and beating all and sundry with little provocation (I saw it many times); gross economic mismanagement that was handled, ludicrously, by artificial price and wage freezes and Stalinistic controls; the IRD was told to take the gloves off by minister Bill Birch which led to suicides and ruthless bankrupting regardless of the human cost and viability of the business attacked; a tax system that taxed top earners at 66%; an arts sector that was grossly underfunded; and slashes in benefits that threw many onto the dust heap and has caused social problems to this day. Couple all that with an unnecessary and quite depilating national torpor and I certainly have no desire to go back to those dank old days.

How soon we forget….

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Craig Ranapia said...

...and slashes in benefits that threw many onto the dust heap and has caused social problems to this day.

Yes, Simon, and could you remind the class of the flaming bag of fiscal dog shit that Jim Bolger found on his desk after the 1990 election? Or I guess there was some magic way any Government could let the Bank of New Zealand collapse without catastrophic economic and social blowback.

And there might just be one or two folks out there whose experience of 1984-1990 wasn't exactly an episode of Gloss either.

The problem with nostalgia is that people don't live sepia and rose-tinted lives. We just find it convenient to colour it that way.

Timmy H said...

Yes quite agree. There is some sort of odd backlash against the one clearly world class politician we have in Helen Clark. And also just as clear is that her wider team has so much more substance than National.

Perhaps it is simply that it is much harder to keep the existing image fresh than to propose change, especially after 9yrs. If I was their strategist I would be thrashing the fact that every major step forward for NZ has and continues to happen under Labour. And that is for all of NZ - not just a priveleged segment.

National have never been anything other than fiddlers and wreckers in the times between.

Simon said...

Can't help thinking that the economic situation in 1990 had just a wee bit to do with the quagmire Labour inherited in 1984 and the overwhelming need to sort that mess out..oh, and something that happened in New York on a Tuesday in October, 1987.

Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blake said...

I remember Mr Key coming out with a comment about a low wage economy is good for NZ.....and NZ don't forget four weeks holiday... unless you would be happy to go back to two which is what Birch wanted.

Mel Archer said...

I have to agree - coming back from living in London a year back I was struck by how much people were whinging and moaning (esp among my parents gen.) about the 'state of the country'. Yet all around me (in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) I was struck by how much 'wealthier' and more cosmopolitan these cities had become in just a few short years ( I was away for only a 2 1/2 ). I really couldn't/can't understand what all the complaining is about, or comprehend what exactly is 'worse' in the lives of the people doing the complaining...

the sprout said...

"the flaming bag of fiscal dog shit that Jim Bolger found on his desk after the 1990 election"

spoken like a true National man Craig - lots of colour and zero context.
you see - the economic fallout that National inhereited from "Labour" in 1990 was specifically the result of:

1. years of Muldoon's economic insanity

2. nacent ACT Leaders Douglas and Prebble's far-right neo-con policies, precisely the sort of policies we can only assume Key still holds dear.

A vote for Key will be a vote for returning to the 90s and all the greed, myopia and pain they embodied.

gregster said...

"You rarely hear a good word about either Helen Clark or the Labour government, and the word seems to be its time to go. And no-one really, if you ask, seems to know why."

Griggster - Just you wait till the out-of-control cost of bureaucracy screws us. 99% of all laws being counterproductive.

Crime is skyrocketing because of liberal laws and PC judges.

She wants to further kill off the economy by subscribing to the doctrine of Climate Change.

I could fucking go on all day. The list is endless, endless, endless.

Roger Douglas had exactly the right ideas but was still a statist.

I'm voting Libertarianz, the only ones with principle and balls and brains.

You do know what I mean. Have you become part of the statist system? Where's the punk energy gone to?

Simon said...

well you know, those sorts of comments have been coming since the beginning of this government and we are still waiting for the sky to crash in.

As my 'punk' ideals...whatever they might be...I'm still not willing to subscribe to the dictatorship of a self appointed elite which is what Libertarianz-ism means to me.