Thought provoking and challenging. Our future is in the balance.
What NZ?- Abstract
Thought provoking and challenging. Our future is in the balance.
Peaceful? Yes. Prosperous ? .. but not the insatiable, affluent consumerism that destroys resources, pollutes the environment, degrades adolescence, disintegrates community; Sustainable? to ensure that we do not diminish the basic resources necessary to maintain the country’s future wellbeing. Innovative? –well-publicised examples show that our tradition of ingenious improvisation is alive in actively embracing new technologies, materials and information opportunities to create viable small industries, many becoming successful exporters.
A multicultural society, inevitably; we are already. We cannot isolate ourselves from our obligations to our near neighbours, or the pressures of refugees from
countries in turmoil , distress and fear, or just overpopulation. Growing numbers of new immigrants rapidly adapting themselves to our standards and attitudes diminish the relevance of controversial claims by the tangata whenua.
This prospect may temporarily intensify such claims; each new generation of young Maori may challenge settlements made by their parents. History is against them. The aggressive entrepreneurism of Asians and the diverse cultures and work-ethics of Europe and Mesopotamia are combining with Polynesian values as deterrents to any form of separatism. Being part-Maori remains a source of pride, but not a valid justification for perpetual economic privileges.
Multiculturalism is no longer confined to our cities. In 2003, at a small township in Northland where organic land use is well established and a complex community developing, a cultured Japanese practices sustainable living in a purpose-designed dwelling surrounded by a planned productive landcape. He generates his own power, utilising all wastes and experimenting with innovative techniques. His next door neighbour and friend is a Hungarian born artist with an international reputation, in an architect designed house and studio - on that day about to leave for an exhibition of his work in Switzerland. Residents of the nearby Eco-Village include several of European origin.
The number of New Zealanders living on small farms diminishes substantially, but new multi-purpose lifestyles repopulate extra-urban areas with something that may become richer , more sustainable, and far less dependent on what happens in other countries over which we have no control.
No longer a predominantly agricultural economy, prey to the obsession with “free” international trade that has destroyed and is destroying so many
land-based societies and cultures since the advent of colonialism, New Zealanders decide what are the sustainable foundations on which preferred lifestyles can be built. And what can we do well without!
It is certainly vital that New Zealand preserve its independence –the courage
of the anti-nuclear minority – while deferring to the principle of genuine
international authority on such issues as CITES (endangered species) and a growing number of other globally significant concerns, without which peace and co-operation will be impossible. Not oil, but water becomes a dominant factor in international relations., with the fair distribution of resources and populations as an ongoing issue.
Looking Into the Near Future
Opportunities for successful enterprise on a global scale have been greatly
expanded by information technology, which eliminates distance for both communication and transport . New industries are seizing these opportunities. We are reducing dependence on exporting non-renewable resources which can be used economically for the benefit of our own people.
Well-established environmental enhancement laws and biodiversity protection policies are rigorously maintained. We conserve minerals for future generations and replace exotic monoculture with indigenous forests that will provide for long-term high value usage. Thus we restore much of the unique biodiversity lost in a mere two centuries of careless exploitation.
We plan to avoid overpopulation, the fate of other nations whose political stability has been shattered, often with serious effects on neighbours. We have precious freedom from the religious fundamentalism widely resorted to by ambitious leaders elsewhere as the means of controlling dispossessed and disillusioned people, subordinating even national patriotism and racial enmities. We have a high level of tolerance and mutual respect. Bankers still live next to shop assistants .
Trade and Employment
The economic revolution since WW11 remorselessly demolished previous
international trading relationships; the process will not be complete until the pressures of inequitable living standards and resource distribution are reduced to acceptable levels. Meanwhile the balance between national economies constantly changes as “underdeveloped” communities catch up with the dominant capitalist nations.
“Free” trade is no longer the holy grail. With the emergence of Asia as a major
force and the consequent redistribution of resources, markets and employment
every government, including New Zealand, has to maintain levels of protection
for its living standards, industries, skills and other cherished values. We can do so without incurring unpayable debts or becoming involved in international onflicts.
To reduce rampant consumerism and wastage of resources, we are increasing restraints imposed on advertising. To offset disemployment we promote community service programmes.
We have successfully limited the influence of advertising on consumer behaviour, targeting wasteful and unhealthy practices, with enormous reductions in costs and prices. The process has been popular and self-energising, abating the dominance of large corporations in the marketplace.
Even more dramatic is the rise of a community service economy based on the
provision of Government funded facilities and equipment for recycling and
reconditioning . Commencing with small-scale basic operations and the secondary purpose of occupying and training young people post-education and pre-employment, the opportunities have attracted widespread participation and proved remarkably successful, especially in small communities.
Simple workshops have become sophisticated enterprises with up to date equipment converting discarded materials and appliances into usable items, while cultivating skills and generating enthusiasm in participants of all ages. Retired professionals welcome the opportunity to give their services as managers and engineers; talents emerge, resulting in impressive innovations; the products are disposed of by volunteers in community markets typically at prices less than a third of comparable articles from conventional industry.
Consideration is being given to extending these facilities into fabrication and even laboratory research. A great leap from the nineteenth century when pioneer New Zealanders, isolated from the world’s industrial activities and knowledge, found ways to prolong the life of imported machines and to develop
The economic and social consequences are far reaching and more effective than the ubiquitous “cash economy” and barter activity, widely used to avoid the expenses and tax liabilities of commercial enterprise. Special assistance is provided for local community enterprises.
Leadership and Decisions
We are resource rich, far from neighbour countries, less vulnerable to climate change, and able to plan for increasing numbers without unacceptable urbanisation and environmental damage. That may involve some apparently draconian policy decisions in which the process of consultation is subordinated to long-term objectives reached by consensus
Such decisions are often made on a local or regional basis, with a better understanding of local resources. The necessary powers can be localised.
It has been demonstrated that integrated communities can be developed
away from large urban concentrations, reviving dormant social and cultural ties.
Our educational and political structures aim to produce –and recognise- the necessary wisdom to overcome petty divisions and prejudices in favour of far-reaching policies. Leadership is not confined to the political sphere. The apparent deterioration of political standards during the testing years of an MMP structure has matured and attracted appropriate talent to parliamentary careers. The advantage of diverse viewpoints being directly represented has resulted in more responsible behaviour.
New Zealand has had relatively little reason to be ashamed of its principal political leaders or the integrity and probity of its administration. Demagoguery has occasionally taken centre stage, but never enjoyed prolonged support.
There is a case for encouraging labour-intensive procedures in some industries, especially land-based, because this appeals to many as a healthy and sustainable way of life; but sophisticated technology inevitably displaces human involvement where efficiency and competitiveness are paramount considerations.
Economic policies now recognise that this scenario invalidates the concepts that
all livelihoods must depend on remuneration for ‘ productive’ employment and that financial rewards are essential for all respectable social services.
There is great scope for renewed focus on voluntarism in community services at many levels. Talented, dedicated and ambitious people of all ages can maintain and lead a variety of activities, especially those directed at the restoration of our degraded natural environment or the welfare of disadvantaged persons. Many deliberately seek escape from the tyranny and humiliation of financial goals.
Fostering and celebrating this commitment contributes to the solution of many social problems, especially for young people.
Mainstream education in New Zealand has swung from narrowly based academic objectives to ideological experiments to occupational goals, the last frustrated by the economic changes of the twentieth century. Too many of our young people have been left behind, turned off by seemingly irrelevant demands, perhaps never to become useful citizens. No country can afford this, least of all since we have few of the sophisticated advantages that attract uncommitted, adventurous youth to glamorous destinations.
And we are constantly enriched by arrivals from other cultures, often with highly desirable skills and talents and a commitment to succeed in our safer,more ‘natural’ environment.
‘Right’ or ‘Left’ politics notwithstanding, New Zealand governments have an inalienable social compact reflecting the country’s essential ability to support a
good basic standard of living for all its people. The multitude of targeted
‘benefits’ developed in the complex and controversial ‘welfare’ systems of the last century have been replaced with a simple basic income, irrespective of age, occupation or means. An enormous and expensive bureaucracy and its associated venality has been abolished. Hospital services and education are free. Community service is an obligation for all below eighteen who do not qualify for advanced education.
There is a firm commitment to price stability, maintaining the value of money.
Taxation is simplified and graduated, further reducing bureaucracy and costs. Alternative financial and banking techniques to reduce the anomalies and restraints of income appropriation and debt accumulation are being gradually
introduced. While saving is encouraged as a personal discipline, our future security is seen to be a product of conserving natural resources rather than any form of financial manipulation.
John Hogan. October 2003.
I write this just seventy years after King George V of Great Britain, opened the first World Economic Conference in the depths of a Great Depression, with these words:
17 years old and bitterly aware of dis-employment, I quoted those words over a thousand times in speeches campaigning for economic reforms, until after World War 11 in 1939 ended “unemployment” for a few years.
The basic problems still remain.
In a special 1955 issue of “Life” magazine, “The Fabulous Future” was previewed by David Sarnoff, distinguished Chairman of Radio Corporation of America: “Not Labour, but Leisure will be the great problem. The prospect should be welcomed as a God-given opportunity to add dimensions of enjoyment and grace to life.”
As requested, this article predicates New Zealand after 2020. But prevailing political currents, storms and forecasts suggest that it may well take much longer
without elements of political dictatorship, surely preferable to the emerging global financial dictatorship
Nor are the social benefits inevitable. It is increasingly apparent that economic
‘success’ and “progress”, Western style, do not guarantee life, liberty or the
pursuit of happiness. The most prosperous “free” continent in history, North
America, displays growing incidence of physical and mental disease, social discontent and disruption, and the breakdown of healthy human relationships
under the pressures of superabundance and overconsumption. The wealth we inherit turns to ashes. Leisure becomes meaningless, pointless.
The same symptoms appear in all countries that pursue, ever more rapidly, the “American dream”, from Europe to Africa to Asia. Chaos follows. Without the challenges that lead to personal development homo sapiens appears to be in decline.
Believing that evolution preserves and recalls its advances, however obscured by events, I reject the doom predicted by Edward Goldsmith and others.
But it is difficult to see how British/European/colonial parliamentary democracy, even as adapted in America, Africa and Asia, can cope with present trends without some centuries of education and enlightenment.
This is not an encouraging prospect for many generations of youth.
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