|Andrew Dean (picture from TVNZ via Google).|
Some have hailed Andrew Dean as the voice of this generation. "His generation feels disconnected from society, and told that the discomfort of their stressful, competitive lives is necessary to have a competitive economy, though Dean doubts some of the assertions the young are asked to swallow." (Stuff Business Day, 26/4/15)
During the interview, Jessica Mutch pointed out that Ruth Richardson and her contemporaries had a different environment as they set up their lives - free tertiary education, cheap housing, standard employment conditions - all the things that Rogernomics and Ruth Richardson and the like worked to deconstruct in the early neoliberal years in New Zealand. All the things that those of my generation, Andrew's generation and onwards have not been able to access.
Andrew Deans was able to interview Ruth Richardson at her home. In the Stuff article, Speaking for the generation born after Rogernomics, it was written: "As for Richardson, who Dean visited at her home near Christchurch, he says there could have been a temptation to do "a Conradian Heart of Darkness thing. You begin by going up river and then you arrive at Kurtz."
"Nice image, yet she too was generous, welcoming, thoughtful, kind and funny, while remaining "very forceful and certain of herself and what she believed". Dean talked about losses and Richardson talked about benefits. There was no sense that her thinking had changed over time."
During the Q&A interview, Jessica Mutch asked Andrew Dean, "Cause some of the ways you describe it in the book is that... young New Zealanders at the moment, are experiencing discomfort and disconnection, like a social phenomenon, in a way. Can you explain what you mean by that?"
Andrew Dean replied, "A set of beliefs that suggest that being uncomfortable makes our lives better, that we'll be more productive, that we'll strive further, that we'll be better citizens if we are less comfortable. So that means cutting welfare, that means implementing student loans. And I suggest that the result is that for some people, some people, will be resilient, will be able to work through that, and the large number will be negatively affected by that and will live diminished lives. Disconnection is the way that many people become alienated, especially young people from their communities which they might have belonged. There is strong evidence for that, but no where stronger than in voting I think, where young people in the last election, I think it was 63 or 64% turn out for 18-30 year olds, it was above 85% for people over 65. And when the New Zealand General Social survey asked people why they weren't voting, 46% of non voters said they did not feel like they belong to New Zealand. If I am right the disconnection has been the result of the reforms, that it is not accidental. It is built into the ideologies, very deeply."
This statement from Andrew Deans is very applicable to the last two elections where voter turn out has continued to fall, the level of apathy voters have towards their vote making a difference. The recent UK election has all these hallmarks as well. What is happening in both countries at the moment? Huge neoliberal social policies such as the downgrading and abdication of responsibility of government in public health and education as well as various social services like housing and work readiness, and yesterday's TVNZ announcement that Dr Jonathon Coleman, Minister of Health, is looking to Social Bonds to pay for mental health services has already been implemented in the UK and US with no actual outcomes or dividends documented yet. This is a link to the Social Bonds Pilot by the Ministry of Health.
Of course New Zealand is quite advanced down the neoliberal pathway. We have already seen so much in the last 30 years. When my brother and I were born in the 1970s, my parents had no concept of us having to pay for our education or that jobs would be as rare as hen's teeth as we left school in the early 90s. The world had changed dramatically from when they left school in the 60s to when we did in the 90s. The world has changed so much again in the twenty odd years since I left school. It was hard then, it's that little bit harder now.
As I left school I had to cope with the lack of jobs and the almost impossible task to get welfare because I lived at home. I had a gap year before starting university because I didn't get my first choice placement and decided my second choice wasn't for me in the end. The gap year was a good move for me personally. It gave me an opportunity to grow up a bit before going into the heady world of university. I learned about working - short term jobs, but working none the less. I did do some study in office management and hospitality, which has helped me in my following study and work life.
University was a struggle financially. I avoided a student loan in my first year - it was the only year my parents were able to help with half my fees. I paid the rest with an overdraft from the bank, which I never was able to clear until I had been working a few years after graduation. My last year of university was paid for with a loan from my grandmother and my first Visa card. The three years in between were student loan years. I had a student allowance (thank goodness for my parent's accountant and a loss making business my parents owned) and I worked part time and during the summer holidays every year, at one stage holding down three separate jobs part time. I also worked for my father for free at times (see why below) as well as the odd bit of baby sitting for neighbours.
Today, the fees are bigger. I'd be surprised if a student today could pay half a year's fees on a student overdraft or save the money in a summer break with the casualised nature of today's workforce.
The only way my parents were able to support me during my university years was to have me at home. I had looked at going to Massey or Auckland Universities, but my parents balked at the costs that would bring. As we lived a quick fifteen minute drive to Waikato University, it was deemed the best choice for my study. My mother also went back to study while I was at university. She worked four days a week while upgrading her nursing qualification at Wintec. My parents expected board payment from me was an HP I paid for them, and Dad did most of my mechanical work until I got a car that bamboozled him.
It was hard enough in the 90s with the constrictions National had placed on young people and study. Benefits were drastically slashed in the Mother of all Budgets. The Employment Contracts Act had gutted conditions, restricted pay and changed the face of employment forever. Unions were demoralized. Nurses had their pay slashed by the dissolution of a nationwide collective agreement into individual DHB agreements. I watched my Mum fight as a member of her union for 10 years to bring back a nationwide collective for nurses. I saw our power companies privatised and sold off for "better competition", but the price of power continued to increase year on year and the increase of blackouts too, during the 90s, as the power grid couldn't keep up due to the national strategy for electricity having the rug pulled out from under it by privatisation. I watched as more hospitals, schools and businesses closed. Manufacturing fled New Zealand for foreign lands. I watched the social fabric of New Zealand rot away.
My one hope was to get rid of National. Labour had a lot of ground to make up for after letting Roger Douglas and Richard Pebble loose in the 80s, but Helen Clark was trying to redeem herself and her colleagues. It was a huge relief when they did win the 1999 election.
We've now seen seven deficits in a row from National and the overseas debt is four times greater and growing than when National was elected. It currently stands at approximately $88 billion and we tax payers are forking out $10 million in interest a day as a result. National prides itself on being financially prudent, but the last seven years in comparison to the previous nine years speak for themselves. National, you fail the standard on financial competency.
I make this point about the future often: that if the government won't protect children, how can we expect it to protect its elderly? I've been making it for nearly seven years now.
I could go on... and on... and...
In 2009 I met a new grad, with a degree in communications and marketing. To this day, she has not had a position in the field of her qualification - because I am sure working retail at JB Hi-Fi really does not count.
I look at my nephew who turned 5 and started school at the beginning of term two in April. He loves learning. But I know the damage done to the education system of this country in the last seven years, and I have a fair idea of what is to come. His mum and dad work very hard to provide for him and his two year old sister. But their work lives are at the mercy of the market and how business is done. What will it be like for them when they leave school? What choices will they have for work or study? What financial burdens will be placed upon them before they have begun to be real contributing citizens of this country?
But my point here is that when I'm old and dottery, today's kids and youth will decide my fate as an old person. The generations before me have screwed me over (I still don't own a house either thanks to high house prices) for the last 30 years, and those generations before me will screw me over for the next 50 years because of their selfishness and the legacy they leave the generations after me.
You next get that opportunity for change in 2017. Please use it.
That's why I fight, that's why I tweet, that's why I blog. But shit, I'm really tired.