On the campaign trail in Dunedin North with Victor Billot

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Posts Tagged ‘students

Turkeys for Christmas

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Today was the three yearly Helen visit to campus, where she announces some small time fiddle around the edges of the student debt scheme.

As in 2005, students have such low expectations, their political culture has become so complacent and their intellect so dulled, that they applaud wildly when they are thrown such crumbs. It is a spectacle resembling turkeys cheering for Christmas. 

The $10 billion debt is accepted as a fact of life. Fees and debt are normalized. Unfortunately when these comfortable, consumerist middle class kids hit the workforce in a year or two’s time, they are going to find out the hard way what starting out in life in the middle of a recession/depression is like. There is going to be unemployment, massive debt and serious problems for years to come. But by then it will be too late. They will have the debt. They will postpone buying the house, and postpone the family. They will react by swinging further to the right, demanding tax cuts and rejecting any concept of wider social responsibility, because they have been left to fend for themselves. This is the legacy of Labour.

Young people have been paying for the greatest intergenerational theft in New Zealand history, where a welfare state cossetted postwar generation awarded their wealthiest members a tax cut and provided the next generation with a legacy of debt.

But history is dead and the election is a horserace between two presidential contenders, the liberal candidate and the conservative candidate. The death of the vision of the founders of the Labour Party, genuine socialists whom I hold in high esteem, will be complete. New Zealand will have returned to a nineteenth century situation where two factions of the middle class battle it out – in the modern context, the bureaucrats versus the capitalists. A depoliticized population will descend into amoral hedonism and the cult of money, and a gutted union movement will stagger onwards towards oblivion.

A decade ago, politicians were still getting challenged and called to account. Today I was the only serious heckler with two or three others. People were genuinely confused and upset that anyone would disagree publicly with the Leader. This deadbeat, democratically castrated and spineless attitude seems to be dominant. This was a celebrity gig. The less politics the better.

The event was a stage managed opportunity for the Labour Party to announce its new policy. That’s probably why the platoon of sycophants who follow senior politicians around looked a little annoyed at me. I wasn’t reading from a script. A gaggle of embedded press gallery journalists trail around after her to document the self-referential world of professional career politicians.

The worrying thing is that Labour has actually created, through their manipulative approach and cooling down of the vital spark of social resistance, a generation of people who are politically conservative, individualistic and are devoid of any sense of political history, or dare I say it idealism.

Whereas once student activism focussed around a small but vibrant culture of confused and excited ideas jostling for space, the flat, empty “pragmatism” that reigns supreme in todays University environment is a reflection of a passionless, washed out defeatism. When peoples sights are set so low, nothing good can come of it.

At a time when a committed and informed generation of young people are so badly needed to solve the civilization-defining problems coming on stream, it seems that although Labour may have won the elections, the Right have won the hearts and minds of a generation.

Written by Victor

October 13, 2008 at 5:36 am

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