Now published - My Memoir "Thank God It's Monday"
Ive just today published my memoirs in the form of a 50,000 word e-book. Its focused on a fascinating career embracing multiple industries including tourism, horticulture, FMGC and telecommunications - not forgetting my venture into industry promotion in establishing the "Buy NZ Made" Campaign.
You can access it by going to amazon.com and searching on my name, or the book title above. You'll get a free sample of the first few pages and an opportunity to buy the whole thing.
As a teaser, I've printed the Epilogue from the book below. Happy reading!
So reflecting back on the past 60 years, has society and our political system improved or otherwise?
From my perspective modern New Zealand is not a pretty sight. I fear for how our country will look in my grandchildren’s day. History won’t treat my generation kindly.
When I was born, New Zealand was proudly a welfare state – a society where the state took responsibility for the health care, education, safety and wellbeing of all its citizens, especially those who for whatever reason were unable to fully provide for themselves. Somehow over time, with no specific mandate, we’ve abandoned that – the Labour government of the late 1980s started the process, while politicians of all persuasions have watched on as “welfare” became a dirty word and the mantra turned to “every person for themselves.”
Why wouldn’t the politicians look after their own kind rather than those less fortunate? They’ve raised themselves into the top group of income-earners, well able to fund their families into private education and themselves into private health care. Superannuation – no worries to them; they’ve granted themselves a gold-plated retirement at public expense. They’ve also joined the cohort able to top up their incomes by buying up the country’s housing stock for personal gain, thus denying those at the lower end the previously time-honoured ability to secure their future through home ownership with all the social stability and dignity to which that once led.
Having established themselves in that position, many of our leaders now sneer at the poor. (“Bottom feeders,” one says.)
Never mind that many poor people arrived into the world as babies already condemned by foetal alcohol syndrome, and already addicted to drugs. Never mind that their early years involved daily domestic violence, multigenerational absence of parenting skills, normalisation of substance abuse, and absence of dental and general healthcare. That they existed on a diet of fast foods because the cooking (and woodwork) classes my generation went through were deleted from the curriculum by some do-gooder. That many had no opportunity to play sport while growing up because of lack of facilities, and lack of funding for equipment. And teachers who used to coach sport after school but these days are too busy because they are ground down in paperwork, or demoralised, or stressed, or need a part time job to survive on their eroded pay packets.
This generation of young people also faces additional challenges of the digital era – fake news, online bullying, pornography, social media and the like. They face these in childhood, not just adulthood. (And add covid and lockdowns into the mix.)
Once upon a time business used to talk about the “triple bottom line” – people, planet and prosperity. New thinking in the 1980s, championed by the then NZ Business Roundtable, scorned this and inculcated the view that a business is accountable solely to its shareholders without regard to the wider community good. Nonsense! Moral and ethical behaviour always has regard to the effects of one’s actions on other people.
The fact that it’s the behaviour of a group rather than an individual does not remove that moral responsibility whether the group is Fletcher Challenge, the government, a church, or the Mongrel Mob.
Good parents and teachers can no longer discipline kids with a whack on the bum, because of social engineering by life-skill-lacking politicians unable to distinguish between a normal disciplinary whack and a beating.
In today’s New Zealand nobody is taught to respect anyone or anything – other people, parents, authority, police, the elderly, the rule of law, teachers. In my day respect was inculcated through teaching and by observing the behaviours of parents and other elders. Now we have the other extreme - the obscenity of parents enabling their underage kids to commit crimes knowing that there is no way anyone can face consequences even if the children are caught in the act. And the parents laugh all the way to the drug dealer.
Meanwhile at the top end of society, parents who are lawyers take legal challenges against teachers who have disciplined their precious kids. Is that so different? Think about it.
We have entire generations growing up void of any moral compass. Or tolerance. Or kindness. Or hope. People without hope will do desperate things. And politicians – especially on the right – sneer at these people - apparently its all self-inflicted.
Race relations are taking a hammering. Back in the day Maori and European coexisted harmoniously, respecting each other’s talents and differences. We used to poke fun at each other. Billy T James was a universally popular lightning rod for light-hearted inter-racial jesting; his premature death was a tragedy for our country in ever so many ways.
Now the well-intentioned efforts of the Labour government to lift the status of Maori in the community have been shattered by incompetent implementation and communication – failure to articulate what is meant by “co-governance” thus creating a whole lot of suspicion around a well-intentioned process. Ironically, the greater the number of specialist communications staff interposed between our leaders and the community, the murkier the messages become and the more suspicion is aroused.
Back in the day, churches provided a stabilising influence that helped many people to be grounded with a sense of a wider purpose. But these too have changed for the worse. Not all, I hasten to add. But too many have become serious money-making ventures for the people at the top. They’ve harboured some seriously nasty people who have used their shelter to inflict massive damage to others. All in the name of religion.
I’m not picking on churches. My life experience is that mixtures of good and bad people populate every kind of organisation in society – service clubs, sports groups, schools, and so on. Look at the unpleasant and narcissistic personalities who have infiltrated our political parties of all stripes in recent years! Its just that until recent years I assumed churches to be above all that - they’re not.
Then there’s the environment. In my childhood kids could jump into any river or stream for a dip without a thought. Now more than a third of our waterways are classified as risky for swimming. And the iconic blue colour of the southern lakes, a key tourist attraction, is under threat – putting two big export earners, farming and tourism, on a collision course. Yet despite all that our farmers continue to beat the drum about the dreadful burden of environmental regulation, with the right wing politicians nodding vigorously like pet puppies and promising to give them even greater freedom. By no means all environmental degradation comes from farmers, but a lot does.
So worthy environmental goals get kicked into touch for some future generation to deal with. Populist politics again.
Many issues like these are international. Look at the calibre of recent political leadership in Britain, or the USA. Or at the instability in the Middle East which seems founded in the obscene gap between rich and poor.
But confront these issues, we must. We need to re-instil an understanding that the rich and fortunate in society can only live happily and safely if society also gives a hand up to those less capable or fortunate. The rich have a moral responsibility to understand and deal with the issues confronting the poor. Remember the welfare state?
That’s not to say that every impoverished person is free of blame. Some need to look in the mirror. But a huge proportion were dealt an unwinnable hand at the very beginning of life and deserve support from the rest of us.
So don’t we need to review our approach to the consequences of crime? Yes, of course we do. The balance between rehabilitation and punishment needs looking at. But the primary challenge is to reduce the root causes of offending and thus get fewer criminals. There are plenty of political leaders addressing the former, but few with a plan to deal with the latter.
I commented earlier in this book that New Zealand has a habit of fixing the wrong problem. Think of it this way. If you’ve left a tap running and your kitchen’s flooding, what do you do first? Mop up the water? Turn off the tap? Or both?
What Aotearoa lacks and desperately needs is great political leadership. Not a self-serving elite attracted by Ministerial cars, gold plated superannuation, free flights for life, prestige and ability to hand out favours to mates. Not career politicians who believe a political science degree and an internship in a parliamentary office are all that’s needed to lead a country - these may teach how to win an election but they certainly don’t teach leadership! And certainly not vision.
And I’m not even sure they teach basic political management. What they do achieve is to give their graduates a unrealistically high opinion of their own competency.
We need leaders who’ve done the hard yards, have mixed at all levels, and who care. People who’ve cleaned toilets in factories or waited on tables after a day’s work to make ends meet. Who’ve mixed in a wide range of social strata. Who have a genuine vision for the kind of society we aspire to become. People with not only governance skills, but compassion, wisdom, and determination. And ethics. (Remember that quaint old word?)
Name a dozen with those qualities in parliament right now?
They just need to be citizens with a good brain, a strong moral compass, a vision for the kind of society we aspire to be, and enough communication skills to get that through to the masses.
So my parting challenge to the next generation reading this. Are you a leader? Could you be? Do you have the qualities I have listed? If you have, please step up. You are desperately needed at this time. Good luck!