Can Jacinda Ardern inspire a new generation?

The intermittently hopeful Chris Trotter asks  Can Jacinda Ardern, like President Kennedy before her, inspire youth?

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.” –  John F. Kennedy

Nothing in President Kennedy’s inaugural address resonated in the hearts of young Americans, and the youth of the world, like the words quoted above.

Nothing in what Ardern has said so far comes close to anything like this rhetoric.

The big question for 2018, therefore, is: what are the motives and values connecting New Zealand’s 37-year-old prime minister with the generations born after the post-war Baby Boom?

The full measure of that success is captured in Kennedy’s proud boast that, thanks to humanity’s technological prowess, “man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”

The Ancient Greeks would have called this hubris – and they would have been right.

But what of the generation for whom Jacinda now speaks? Untempered by war; undisciplined by the existential stakes attached to global ideological competition; unimpressed with their nation’s colonial heritage; and uncommitted to the universal definition of human rights for which Kennedy pledged his country’s all on that chilly January morning in 1961: for what will the Millennial Generation “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe”?

Well, for a start, they would probably refuse to be bound by such an open-ended and reckless pledge. “Any price?”, they would respond. “No, not any price. The world has had enough of men who commit the lives of millions to the fulfilment of promises they had no right to make.”

For a great many millennial women, JFK, himself, is a problem. “If #Me Too had been around in 1963,” they ask, “how many women would have come forward to denounce the President?”

Politics, media and the ability forr anyone to speak up have changed markedly in the last sixty years.

Jacinda’s millennials are not well disposed to big promises, all-encompassing systems and unyielding ideologies. They have grown up amidst the havoc wrought by a generation far too prone to alternating fits of selfless idealism with bouts of hedonistic excess. That all their Baby Boomer parents’ enthusiasms boiled down to, in the end, was the cold and selfish cynicism of neoliberalism, taught them all they need to know about the malleability of human aspirations.

The Labour Leader’s brisk “Let’s Do This” slogan was perfectly pitched to an audience more intent on achieving small dreams than grand visions.

Or was it largely a typical reaction in the age of celebrity worship with little though of the politics? It was probably a mix of both – Ardern did impress with how adeptly she stepped up into the Labour leadership role, and she did what was needed to do a deal with Winston Peters (but given his animosity and legal action against people in National  that may have been fairly easy to achieve).

Sanders and Corbyn were the proof that growing old did not have to mean growing cynical and cruel. The Millennials looked at the career politicians of their own generation and saw far too much evidence of wholesale generational surrender. How had so many twenty-something minds been taken over by so many hundred-year-old ideas? Sanders’ and Corbyn’s bodies may have been old, but their thinking was as young as the kids who cheered them on.

I suspect a lot of Ardern’s support was quite a bit more shallow than Trotter thinks.

This, then, is the torch which the Prime Minister is being asked to carry into 2018. The inspirational torch of authenticity which dispels the darkness of hypocrisy. If she truly wishes to change their world, Jacinda must first prove to her generation that the world is not changing her.

That’s an impossible wish.

Any politician is changed by the world they grow up in, and by how their career unfolds. Anyone suddenly elevated to being leader of a country has to change considerably to manage many conflicting pressures, and in reaction to events as they unfold.

Ardern will change New Zealand a bit for sure. Whether she will change the country in a direction and to the degree that Trotter wishes is another matter. It’s unlikely she will come close – but Trotter’s ideals seem to be stuck in the past, and the millenials and whatever else post baby boomer voters and MPs are labelled.

Ardern has already changed significantly – she has moderated Labour policy ‘promises’, and she has already lost the openness and energy that she launched her leadership with.

The holiday break, such as it is for a new Prime Minister, may give Ardern the opportunity to refresh and launch into 2018 with a grand vision for a new generation, but she still has to deal with the needs and the votes of the baby boomers.

It will be an interesting year – it’s hard to predict how Ardern will evolve as Prime Minister, but Trotter is likely to continue as a political manic depressive.

 

 

 

 

 

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28 Comments

  1. PDB

     /  January 2, 2018

    She’s made a good start in being like JFK;

    *To get into power Kennedy won a close election when his old man enlisted the heavy hand of the mafia.

    *To get into power Ardern was heavily promoted by the media and then an old man decided she would win in a close election.

  2. David

     /  January 2, 2018

    Chris Trotter has completely lost his marbles. Jacinda is nothing more than Head Girl. The idea she is going to inspire a generation is laughable beyond measure. JFK’s great, saving move was to get wacked before all the chickens came home to roost. That allowed his fans to cling to the notion he would have been far better than he really was. Much like Obama, all hope, no substance.

    The funny thing is Trump is doing a far better job of actually delivering change than any of these pop star’s.

  3. adamsmith1922

     /  January 2, 2018

    Trotter is a fantasist

    • Blazer

       /  January 2, 2018

      Unlike Adam Smith,you have very little to say…and most of it is hardly worth…saying.As a woman of 37 Adern presents an opportunity to focus on the future of NZ,instead of an endless obsession of inter generational…theft.

      • Speaking of theft, just saying that 500,000 plus, plus is tantamount to same. She’s a career political and for her age there’s nobody in Parliament more so. To me she is a civil servant at the top of her pay grade with a penchant for public speaking but lacking life experience and the gravitas to bring anything other but hope to ideologues like CT. People who regard their politicians as potential messiahs and imbue them with qualities they simply don’t have will always be disappointed. It’s about delivering outcomes and balancing the books to me.

        • adamsmith1922

           /  January 2, 2018

          As so often you contribute nothing and say less

        • Blazer

           /  January 2, 2018

          And now describe …English and or..Key.

      • adamsmith1922

         /  January 2, 2018

        As so often you contribute nothing and say less

        • Blazer

           /  January 2, 2018

          the ultimate irony,repeating a meaningless..post.

      • PDB

         /  January 2, 2018

        Blazer: “Unlike Adam Smith,you have very little to say…and most of it is hardly worth…saying”

  4. David

     /  January 2, 2018

    Her burning issues are the environment and we have seen the Kermedecs sacrificed to Winstons mates in the fisheries industry and the big end of town at that, we have the zero carbon goal relegated to a committee, water conservation sacrificed in coalition talks.
    Then we had child poverty and the cancelled tax cuts that would have lifted 50,000 kids out of that measure and instead we have bonus payments to mums of any income bracket and a winter fuel payment to pensioners with absolutely no means testing.
    I am delighted she is useless and wont do anything or change much except at the margins, with a bit of luck she wont last beyond a couple of years. Twyford will explode mid this year which will be fun to watch, he is far to emotionally immature for serious cabinet roles.

    • Blazer

       /  January 2, 2018

      What are the senior National party M.P’s…’burning issues’?

      • David

         /  January 2, 2018

        Who cares, the article is about Ardern. Try reading whats written and you might surprise everyone by making a lucid comment every once in a while.

        • He’s obsessed. Pretty sad

        • Blazer

           /  January 2, 2018

          I care…your venal crew are the alternative…I want to know what issues are important to them,the ‘safe pair of hands b/s’ has worn…thin..to the bone even.

      • adamsmith1922

         /  January 2, 2018

        So right

  5. David

     /  January 2, 2018

    Trotter is at least consistent in his never ending call to take the country back to the 70s and he is destined to live out his years with disappointment. The myth that there is a call for generational change bears no resemblance to NZs current state. We are a relatively progressive country so not a lot left to do there, the younger generation are pampered and privileged beyond words and we dont have the EU, Brexit, Obama,s awful presidency, massive public debts that bailed out the private sector and the US and UK whch have pretty much had no wage growth in 9 years.
    And on any measure we dont have the inequality that you literally trip over in the US and UK.

    • Blazer

       /  January 2, 2018

      ‘ massive public debts that bailed out the private sector and the US and UK whch have pretty much had no wage growth in 9 years.’….yeah right.

      • No backward looking Socialist virtue signalling government is going to increase wages. That’s business and enterprise territory. You can’t legislate for anything but mediocrity for the unskilled.

        • Blazer

           /  January 2, 2018

          yo talking M.B.I.E here girl!Please tell me what have they ever achieved,this pert plaything of that great economic manager Joyce after the last 4 years of ..spending 1.25 million a DAY on…consultants.Go right…ahead.

  6. 2Tru

     /  January 2, 2018

    Jacinda’s inspiration appears to be extreme socialism and one world government. Perhaps hoping for a legacy of New Zealand sliding gently into a socialist utopia over the next 3 years. Sorry girl it’s not likely to happen. Certainly not in 3 years and fingers crossed not in 30. We’ve all seen what happens to these socialist “utopias”. But maybe I have read her wrong and all she really wants is power just like all the others.

    • phantom snowflake

       /  January 2, 2018

      Give me a break. We’ve been plagued by Centrist governments intent on maintaining the status quo for as long as I can remember. The only difference I can see between between the current “Centre Left” and previous “Centre Right” administration is a kinder face to government and a collection of election promises concerning changes of direction which are being abandoned one by one. (Oooh, that’ll get me in trouble…)

    • adamsmith1922

       /  January 2, 2018

      She’s Venezuelan

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 2, 2018

    Anyone inspired by Jacinda will be beyond useless. Give me someone inspired by Musk or Jobs or Lorde or outstanding sports men or women.

    • Blazer

       /  January 2, 2018

      try Musk Oil for Men by Jovan,get a proper job,praise the Lord and you are…on your way ..Al.

  8. PartisanZ

     /  January 2, 2018

    “Two years after the Wairau massacre the New Zealand Company was forced to suspend operations. Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s wicked dream of replicating the manifold injustices of England’s class-ridden society in the South Seas had failed to come true.

    What he did bequeath the young colony of New Zealand, however, was a legacy of private capitalist speculation underwritten by public resources and state power – the same poisonous nexus of rapacious businessmen and ambitious politicians that was to plague New Zealand for the next 166 [177] years.”

    – Chris Trotter – Chapter 1 pg 33 – ‘NO LEFT TURN’ (2007)