Friday, June 16, 2017

The Boomers are afraid

The performance of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK election has highlighted the impact if young people turn out and vote. And judging by Boomer curmudgeon Martin van Beynen's column in The Press, the Boomers are afraid:

Corbyn's United Kingdom would see a return to collective bargaining, nationalised rail, post and water, a free national health and education service, high taxes on the rich and massive Government investment in infrastructure. It sounds very much like New Zealand pre-1984.

Young New Zealand voters won't remember the endless strikes and ubiquitous regulation. Yes wages were high but only for workers with unions who could hold the country to ransom.

If school holidays were coming up, the seamen would stop the ferries across Cook Strait. When stock was banking up at the freezing works, the freezing workers would go out. The wharves were centres of industrial blackmail, pilfering and inefficiency.

It took weeks to get a telephone installed and New Zealand set world records for the length of time it took to construct anything. Yes we protected our industries but that led to cronyism, high prices and lousy quality. We had about one per cent unemployment but how many people actually worked?

To which the immediate response is freezing works, wharves, ferries? Next he'll be talking about sticking his feet in a cow-pat and wearing an onion on his belt as was the fashion in the day. The right's old scary mythology about the horrors of the past is about as recognisable to modern New Zealanders as ancient Rome - and about as frightening.

(As for phones, I guess van Beynen has never tried to get broadband installed recently...)

Still, van Beynen is right about one thing. If you're under 40 (or even 45), you've never really known anything but NeoLiberalism and austerity. And its pretty clear that those don't work for anyone but greedy old Boomers. Boomers like van Beynen would like us to accept this as unchangeable, but its not. Low wages are a political choice. A housing crisis is a political choice. Low taxes on the rich and shit public services are political choices. And we can vote for politicians who will make different ones - ones which won't pump up and protect the paper wealth of the greedy old, but which deliver benefits to the many. All we have to do is tick some boxes on September 23.