A message to Kiwi politicians this election year: Must try harder

On September 23rd politicians must give us something to hope for. 

“To be truly radical make hope possible rather than despair convincing” Raymond Williams

The problem with Trump, Putin, Farage, Le Pen and the many other populists that dominate politics in (currently) democratic nations is that in the face of massive change they have chosen to make despair convincing rather than hope possible. 

Politics should be about hope. The world is a tough enough place at any time, but right now it is going through a period change second to none. Big shifts like globalisation, the knowledge based economy and new technology are disrupting everything. 

But let’s be crystal clear, if we are to emerge from all of this in better shape we are going to have to cut with the grain of change and enable society to develop in a more progressive way. We cannot pretend it is not happening. 

This is exactly what Trump and Co are doing as they talk of closing borders, reopening coal mines, returning to the identities and ways of life last seen in the 1950s, and conjuring up jobs for people whose skills have no relevance to the world we are going to be living in. 

None of this is to say that much of the anger populists tap into is without merit. Too many people have been left behind in the wake of globalisation, their skills and their very way of life undermined. The champions of change like Thatcher, Reagan, Clinton and Blair, and Douglas in New Zealand, preached the gospel of there being no alternative to taking the medicine offered by the new world even if the taste was bitter. It is a wonder people put up with this nonsense for so long. 

But the alternative to unquestioningly embracing change is not to stoke anger and offer solutions that can only end up hurting the very people they are supposed to help.

So let’s turn to our own election. On September 23rd New Zealanders will go to the polls to vote for their future. Between now and then all of us have to work hard to ensure the kind of despair sweeping the world election by election does not happen here. Politicians can make sure of this by refusing to follow Trump into the cesspit even if that is the road to victory. Instead they need to provide a realistic assessment of the changes taking place in the world and demonstrate that we have the ability to respond in ways that will make for a better future. It would help if they can be a bit inspiring as they do it. 

The short story is that our world is being shaped by globalisation, knowledge, high techinformation and climate change. But we do not just have to stand back and accept whatever comes. As the saying goes, we might not choose the circumstances we live in but we do make the future. 

Nations can choose to work together to create the rules and regulations that make globalisation as fair as possible. Everyone can be offered that opportunity to gain the skills they need for this world and to retrain as often is needed throughout life. The huge gains new technology access to information offers in areas like health care can be made available to all. We can shift swiftly to other forms of energy than fossil fuels. 

Choosing hope over despair is something fewer and fewer people around the world seem to be doing. This is because change is making the future look very insecure. Some politicians have chosen to feed off this insecurity in their drive to gain power. They are succeeding because other politicians who may not share the populists view seem paralysed. They neither feel able to explain what is going on or to suggest better answers. 

This is not good enough. They urgently need to try harder for all of our sakes. 

Just as Trump has sought to turn despair into a movement, those who champion hope must do the same. There is a world of possibility out there. It is no exaggeration to say that across the globe millions of people are working on ideas that will change the world in ways and on a scale we not yet dreamed of.  This will not be a perfect world, only fools offer that, but it can be a better world. A world where we share the view that if we work together we can still give everyone a fair chance of succeeding.

We should expect politicians to show us what is possible. But as voters we also have responsibilities. We have to demand that politicians take us forward not back. To do otherwise is to conjure up some version of a dark age where we deny the possibilities that lie all around us because we have convinced ourselves they are reasons for despair. We cannot let that happen. On the 23rd of September we need to ensure politicians are truly radical and give us something to hope for.

Comments (9)

by Charlie on February 04, 2017

It's not so much the Trumps and Farages of this world that are perpetually angry, it's their opposition. 

Note that those indulging in violent protest are almost exclusively from the Left, with it's leaders stoking the fire with inflamatory references such as "rich pricks"... if you recall that disgusting phrase being used in the New Zealand Parliament. 

The left claims there is a right wing conspiracy afoot in order to justify it's own excesses.


by Andin on February 04, 2017

"The left claims" You know this how exactly? You dont know any such thing do you. It is your opinion that is all. And dont point to this and say look see! Use facts to back up your views next time please.

 "Douglas in New Zealand, preached the gospel of there being no alternative"

There was an alternative, people like Douglas, Reagan and Thatcher just didnt want to voice it because they were caught up in a head long rush to be first. Get in the IMF's good books.

But its an opportunity lost now. IMO govts/banks/the 1% should pay for everyone to get an electric car, and full housing. Pay for retraining, upskilling, reeducation, more social services and throw in a UBI. They made this mess now pay to fix it.

by Ross on February 05, 2017

The writer of this article was of course in Parliament for some 18 years. For 8 years he was a Cabinet Minister. I think it would ve very useful if, instead of criticising current politicians, he gave us some context by telling us what he did to change the world while he was in government.

by Siena Denton on February 05, 2017
Siena Denton

Let's talk about home instead...

What do you call a democracy that lacks integrity?

What I mean by integrity, is in the context of this National government, and I suggest quite strongly that the circumstances of governance today has weakened and diluted its meaning in the extreme.

We can use the notion of integrity expansively as a general, all-purpose yardstick against which to measure public conduct.

An elusive concept one may think, especially in relation to government and government officials. Not in today's high-tech cyber arena...Secrets hidden behind a veil eventually are revealed, which as to be expected the citizens' become rather irate, don't they?

The least that integrity requires of a public official is that he or she not be corrupt in obvious ways: soliciting or accepting a bribe, or accepting a gift or favor in return for official action. Such conduct is generally criminal; so the added fact that it displays a lack of integrity is beside the point. So also, integrity requires that one not take some action or fail to take some action because of a perceived benefit to oneself, even if the benefit is incidental and not a reward. But again, profiting from a conflict of interest also is generally subject to criminal or regulatory sanctions. Although we sometimes have to draw painful distinctions between what is and what is not within bounds, the principle is reasonably clear. Formal mechanisms for preserving integrity in government go no further than corruption and near corruption of this kind. There is also much conduct for which official sanctions are out of the question and which we should hesitate to call corrupt, but which nevertheless raises issues of integrity. It is in this area that we New Zealander's are most in need of a better understanding.

The meaning of integrity that comes easiest to mind is Polonius's advice to Laertes: "This above all, to thine own self be true." Authenticity-being what one is, without deceit or dissembling-is surely at the core of integrity.

My view of virtues of integrity are truthfulness and sincerity, lucidity and commitment.

NZ should kick into cyber hell..Dirty Politics, National government and Peter Thiel.




by Charlie on February 05, 2017

Ross - great question!

I await Steve's response with baited breath....  ;-)



by Rich on February 06, 2017

I'm not sure how having Willie Jackson and Greg O'Connor as MPs fits with this?

by Tim Watkin on February 09, 2017
Tim Watkin

Ross, Steve was invited here to comment on current affairs not his own career path. Pundit covers politics, culture and current issues, with contributions (not rants) from people who are expert and have rich experience in the areas they write about. We certainly don't want people to use the site as a place to justify themselves.

As for comments, our rule here is that we play the ball, not the person. If you want to make cheap shots, there are plenty of other blogs for you to enjoy.

by Ross on February 11, 2017

If you want to make cheap shots, there are plenty of other blogs for you to enjoy.

Tim, I have no idea what you are talking about. A cheap shot is not what I made.

Steve says that we "should expect politicians to show us what is possible...[w]e have to demand that politicians take us forward not back....we need to ensure politicians are truly radical and give us something to hope for". If I were a former politician and exhorted certain actions from current or future politicians, actions that I may have been unwilling or unable to fulfil when I had the chance, that would of course make me a hypocrite. I'd like to think we'd can discuss such an issue like mature adults, rather than ignoring it or pretending the issue doesn't exist. Blogs don't generally censor mature discussions.Of course, you have to be open to ideas and perspectives different from your own. If you aren't prepared to do this, debate could turn into an echo chamber.

On a related matter, it'd be useful if contributors explained what their areas of expertise are and how they have become experts in those areas.



by Ross on February 11, 2017

I should have added that there was no implied criticism of Steve in my original message. It was simply a case of asking what he had done, or possibly I should have asked, what would he want to do or change were he seeking to be part of government later this year.

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