“The social democracy of my youth has so radically collapsed”

Mandy Hager has written a lengthy post at The Standard titled A calculated feeding of the beasts within, which she introduces with:

There was a piece written in The Guardian last year by Paul Verhaeghe about the way that Neoliberalism has shaped current behaviours, titled Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us. It touched on something I have been thinking a lot about lately: how the social democracy of my youth has so radically collapsed into our current culture of individualism, privatisation and personal greed.

Some things have changed radically over the last half century but calling it a ‘collapse’ is highly debatable.

I doubt that most people would agree that we have experienced a societal collapse – and I suspect most people would have no idea what ‘neo-liberalism’ is supposed to mean.

Most who lived through the seventies and eighties will remember that post-Muldoon something had to drastically change in New Zealand and urgent action was required, or we really would have had a major collapse.

But societal changes are not just reactions to political changes. Technology has had a huge impact on us, and major shifts started before the eighties.

The population is much more mobile now. Locally due to a rapid change to the use of cars by far more people, enabling a spreading out into the suburbs and less time spent amongst neighbours. And internationally due to air transport that has made it easy to travel anywhere in the world.

Television had a major impact on social interaction, keeping people indoors much more resulting in much less neighbourly interaction. I can remember when meetings used to be scheduled around popular TV shows.  TV also meant we started to see much more of the world beyond our suburban/village and family bubbles.

Computerisation has had a huge impact on how we work and live. I hadn’t heard of computers in my childhood but wrote my first program (on punch cards) in 1972, and witnessed and experienced the gradual changes which become rapid.

Associated with computerisation is the huge change in personal communications through telephone and then internet transformations.

And changes in health care technology have also had a major impact on our lives, helping significantly extend most lifespans.

And New Zealand has been impacted in a major way by outside forces, notably the change in trade with Britain as they chose the European Union over colonial food providers. This forced a farming rethink here and Rogernomics was a part of the reaction, not the driving force.

In many ways politics and governance has battled to respond rather than forged societal changes.

I have seen significant changes in New Zealand society in my lifetime but that’s been affected by far more than a shift in economic approach.