“In a sense, culture is everything; it is who we are; how we see each other. It is not just an add-on to life, but the way our lives express themselves”
Judge Albie Sachs, Constitutional Court of South Africa
In New Zealand we have an election at the end of November. The parties are putting up policies and presenting their manifestos. They are a pick and mix of ideas, most designed to collect enough votes to win the treasury benches. None of the parties are looking at cultural well-being and none are showing a concern for our New Zealand identity and our place in the world.
Like most countries in the world economic well-being is the main discussion point. How do we balance the books and at the same time build infrastructure and provide social, environmental and cultural well-being?
Do we sell the family silver and pay off the mortgage or do we keep the silver and borrow more, or design new tax systems, or do we create jobs, become greener? Or do we try to hold the balance of power by influencing whichever party gets the majority of the votes?
There is also an interesting different development this year. One party is determined to have an election that is based on a President – one leader - and leaves us to forget the others in the team who may or may not be popular. The other party is ignoring this philosophy and placing a range of people in the team in front of the electorate. The media loves the President – he smiles and sets up photo opportunity after photo opportunity and this sells - well (they think) the newspapers.
The challenge for all political parties, in New Zealand and internationally, is that the landscape is just so different, and the culture has changed.
Media communication is dispersed. Internet and SKY makes it so easy to turn off the TV. One Friday night we had the opening TV presentations. The first was National and John Key talked and talked and staged a few questions. Labour followed and we had the history of the Labour Party and the key policies. Then Green profiled their policies and wandered around the country showing us that the rivers are dirty and the children are hungry. The next day I conducted an informal poll. What did you think of the opening presentations for the election? Everyone I talked to had switched on the TV to listen to the presentations. BUT everyone I talk to had listened to the first few minutes of John Key’s talk fest and switched to another channel. Several joked about John Key’s clothing, but no-one waited to hear the other presentations. That was sad because the Labour and Green presentations were not only interesting, but beautifully presented.
These three presentations showed a significant contract in all the things that make our culture here in New Zealand. The past represented by the National Party talk fest, Labour Party history selected history as interesting and showed the values we have now and would appeal to the middle group of voters. Green was about the future.
How these presentations will fit with the wider political presentation will be shown in the voting at the end of November.