Friday, 10 August 2018

The “Over-65 Vote” May Be “Funkier” That National Expects.

We Didn't Die Before We Grew Old: It is sobering to realise that by 2020 roughly half of the Baby Boom Generation will be drawing a pension. The “Over-65 Vote” will no longer be composed overwhelmingly of what Colin James dubbed “The RSA Generation”. More and more of these older voters will cherish youthful memories of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.

PICTURE THIS. It’s a just a few weeks before the 2020 general election and social media is smoking. A superb piece of digital fakery has the National Party leader, Simon Bridges, inhaling enthusiastically. Over a Pink Floydesque soundtrack, Bridges exhales an impressive cloud of marijuana smoke. “My party is opposed to legalising pot” he explains, grinning broadly and winking knowingly. “But, if the people of New Zealand vote yes to dope in the forthcoming referendum, then a new National Party government will honour their decision and end cannabis prohibition within its first 100 days.” The clip ends with a rather glassy-eyed Bridges flashing his viewers the peace sign. The video’s tag line flashes up on the screen: Simon says, VOTE YES – AND NATIONAL.

Now, the prospect of a “funky” National Party mobilising the “Head Vote” will no doubt  strike many readers as a most unlikely proposition. For a start, the staunchly conservative Mr Bridges would certainly not take kindly to being portrayed as some sort of peace, love and mungbeans hippie. Less certain, however, is whether his campaign team would be all that bothered by such a clever piece of guerrilla advertising. Not all fake news is bad news.

It is, similarly, important to realise that by 2020 roughly half of the Baby Boom Generation will be drawing a pension. The “Over-65 Vote” will no longer be composed overwhelmingly of what Colin James dubbed “The RSA Generation”.

More and more of these older voters will cherish youthful memories of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.

On a darker note, their personal experience will have confirmed over and over again the brute reality that alcohol is capable of inflicting immeasurably more harm on families, friends and workmates than cannabis sativa.

Their children will point out the absurdity of preserving the market for increasingly deadly iterations of synthetic cannabis by prohibiting the cultivation and use of the real thing – a substance with no known fatalities to its credit.

The idea that the careers of their grandchildren may be jeopardised by engaging in what is, essentially, a harmless habit, will fill them with a mixture of exasperation and dread.

What’s more, as the Baby Boomers’ bodies begin to fail them and the aches and pains of old age make themselves known with ever-increasing intensity, the analgesic and stress-relieving qualities of cannabis will recommend themselves with ever-increasing force. Why should the law be interested in the consumption of a slice of hashish-infused chocolate-cake to relieve arthritis?

These are the considerations that National’s campaign strategists will be inviting Simon Bridges and his conservative colleagues to consider. Active Christian worship is now very much a minority sport. Likewise the misogyny and homophobia of those involuntarily celibate keyboard warriors who daily defile the Internet. The overwhelming majority of New Zealanders are men and women of good will and good humour. Those responsible for developing National’s election manifesto would do well to remember that.

Good will and good humour does not, however, signal soft-headedness. Sixty-five years and more on this earth has a habit of exposing the weaknesses of youthful propositions concerning human nature. Monty Python mercilessly satirised the notion that all individual failings could be laid at the door of “Society” by offering to “book them too”.

The explanation for the rock-solid character of National’s massive electoral support owes a great deal to older New Zealanders’ reluctant acceptance that many of the wounds which their less fortunate fellow citizens are expecting them to heal have almost certainly been self-inflicted. For the past forty years, doubt has been growing steadily in “Middle New Zealand” about the Welfare State’s capacity to improve the lives of either its “clients” or the society in which they live.

Bill English recognised this growing doubt and attempted to address it by means of his “Social Investment” initiatives. Much more work on these is required before they are ready to be rolled-out as the replacement for the First Labour Government’s “Social Security” model. There is, however, the whiff of the future about English’s ideas, so, if Simon Bridges is as wise as he is ambitious, then social investment will be the project into which he and his caucus colleagues hurl themselves in the run-up to 2020.

Bridges simple message to Middle New Zealand could be: “National’s not hard-hearted – just clear-headed”.

Except, of course, when it’s stoned.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 3 August 2018.

7 comments:

Kat said...


Chris, are you still watching lots of movies and rolling another one. Highly unlikely that Simon Bridges will be leading the National party next election. If he were to escape the blue steel in the back he would more likely be listening to John Bonham bash out Dazed and Confused.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The only problem is of course that National is in fact hardhearted. If you are 1 of the over 65 generation and you've ever been to the – damn it, senior moment – pension place, you will notice the difference in the way that you are treated, and the way that beneficiaries are treated. In fact when I 1st went to organise my pension as I was leaving the guy said to me "remember – you are a superannuated, not a beneficiary."
And I think many of the beneficiaries that I have met would back me up on this. And 1 or 2 of the social workers that I've come into contact with have mentioned that they were basically under orders not to inform beneficiaries of their entitlements. That to me is hardhearted. It's efficiency in place of effectiveness. And it makes people feel even more like shit than they do being unemployed.

Anonymous said...

I have a contrary opinion. Agree that Bridges appears staid...but I would like to believe he can learn quickly. I am in the Epsom electorate, a right wing voter and I think Bridges has finally begun to pull finger this week.
Chris has written a very good article....I hope Bridges & advisors read it and take note!I concur with Chris.

greywarbler said...

many of the wounds which their less fortunate fellow citizens are expecting them to heal have almost certainly been self-inflicted. For the past forty years, doubt has been growing steadily in “Middle New Zealand” about the Welfare State’s capacity to improve the lives of either its “clients” or the society in which they live.

I am sure you know what you mean Chris but I don't follow. A shorter sentence with less loading of differing views is needed. 'Wounds which their less fortunate fellow citizens are expecting them to heal' (probably self-inflicted) - what does that mean?

Is the meme from elderly that they are entitled to welfare, and younger are not because they didn't work hard enough, had family breakdowns, turned into drunkards and drughards, and that welfare goes only to those who worked (said self-righteously), a hard but reasonable summation?

The reply is, that NZ was at one time a country that valued work, and being reasonably self-sufficient. (As a slogan, the old Canadian handyman tv show Red-Green offers a quaint, amusing "They mightn't find you handsome, but they'll sure call you handy." However the aspirational wanted lots of overseas-made stuff to fit their lifestyle, and swapped our beans for a mess of pottage.

Are we to blame for the collapse in 40 hour a week jobs, and a solid domestic economy undercut by residues of runs produced using marginal economic calculation. We did not understand the applicable economics because they were not part of our 3R's simple education (one where the student who excelled at sport was the hero/ine!)

Once the concepts of the jargon are explained, any intermediate school student would know but our educationalists are very conservative about practical matters like this, plus teaching politics and civics are approached with as much caution as sex, and religion is left to whoever dresses tidily, speaks in a polite fashion and waves a bible around.

We should have known all this stuff. Labour would have known this and particularly the economics side, but brushed aside the unemployment and loss of capital investment from their blundering in accepting the Treasury mandarins' figures. They got lemons instead; hollow laughter?

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/marginal-profit.asp
If a firm cannot compete on cost and operates at a marginal loss (negative marginal profit), it will eventually cease production. Profit maximization for a firm occurs, therefore, when it produces up to a level where marginal cost equals marginal product and the marginal profit is zero.

And the country drifts on looking to the left and right, under tables, and on top of wardrobes (old hiding place used in last century novels), but actually looking directly at restructured capitalism and treachery is slow to occur from politicians who have risen on the Peter Principle. And why, because it is comfortable up there looking down on the confused masses whose opinions change from day to day played to by media mouth organs.

greywarbler said...

And Chris Your heading - should it be 'Than' National Expects.

Shane McDowall said...

FREE THE WEED ! Less income for the gangs, more income for the government.

Daniel Copeland said...

There's a bit of a leap to get from "the state has not been very good at fixing social welfare problems" to "social welfare problems are largely self-inflicted".

I was in the income support system for a large chunk of my adult life. That taught me a couple of things. One is, any movement to take away that support is fundamentally wrong. Sure, you can generally draw some kind of connection between the misfortunes someone suffers and the mistakes they've made in their life. But no-one would suggest (for instance) that a person who fails to secure a ladder properly to paint their roof, and falls and breaks their leg, deserves to be disabled for the rest of their life. They get hospital treatment same as everyone else.

The other thing is: those who argue for taking away government income support on the grounds that the government isn't competent to deliver it... have a point.

I understand that the Scandinavian countries have the trade unions involved in the delivery of social support services in some capacity; I'm not sure exactly what. And not only are their social support services greatly superior to everyone else's, but their union movements didn't implode when everyone else's did in the 1990s. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned there.