In a recent TED Talk Simon Anholt argued that the traditional left/right divide was no longer the relevant spectrum to gauge the political divide. With a world shrunk by communication technologies and air travel he argued that the new political debate was between those who wished to promote global citizenship and those who preferred xenophobic nationalism.
He therefore argued that the only relevaant questions to ask those seeking political office was to clarify which of these two views of the world they were promoting.
With this in mind I sent the following email to all the sitting parliamentarians :
In preparation for this years elections I would appreciate your responses to the following questions:
- What is your vision of New Zealand's role in the world?
- Is New Zealand part of the Global Community or not?
Unsurprisingly only a very small handful, mainly from the Green Party, bothered to reply!
One respondent replied, and I quote in full, in the following manner:
"My vision of New Zealand's role in the world is one where we are internationally competitive. This includes maintaining the status of having a world class education system where all our young learners (but not seemingly the old ones?) and people are achieving,thriving and succeeding.
Secondly "Global Community" is a very broad term. Whilst I believe that we have an integral part to play in the world, we must not sacrifice our societal values or unique way of life in playing that part."
All very commendable but I wondered to what "our societal values" and "unique way of life" refers?
New Zealand today is vastly different to the country in which I was raised.
- We used to be essentially mono-cultural. Even Maori struggled to be acknowledged in the overwhelming presence of a white European monopoly.
- We enjoyed the third highest standard of living financially in the world but at the expense of a stifling blandness that Austen Mitchell so brutally described in his book "Half Gallon,Quarter Acre,Pavlova Paradise.
- Our shops closed for the weekend at 9pm on a Friday night and our hospitality industry amounted to an orgy of beer swilling by 6pm - except Sundays when the public was given time to recover.
- We had to stand and listen to the playing of "God Save the Queen" before sitting down to watch heavily censored movies.
- Our palate was essentially "Meat and three veg".
- Milk was delivered to our letterboxes each night and provided without cost to all schoolchildren.
- The rest of the world was "overseas" and a great mystery to most - made more difficult by the need to apply for foreign currencies in order to travel.
- New cars could only be readily acquired by those with access to overseas funds so were enormously expensive and at best limited to one per family.
- Homophobia was rife and articulated by the member of Parliament for the constituency in which Tim Shadbolt is now Mayor.
- Rugby was the only sport of consequence.
- a woman's place was in the home!
So we have always had our values and our way of life but its hardly fair to say that they are in any way 'unique" or worthy of preservation.
I suspect that my parliamentary respondent has indulged in a little "Politico Speak" to pander to the common fear of change.
In reality our values and way of life are not constants.