Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

23rd December 1999 - Imagining the Era of Inclusion

Copyright © 1999 Russell Brown

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it's just over 10 years since the Berlin Wall was opened, effectively ending the partition not only of the German capital, but of Europe itself; and just short of 10 years since Nelson Mandela was released from internment, setting in motion majority rule for South Africa. Both gave weight to the belief that justice will out, and both were brought live to a global TV audience.

Back then, many people saw those two events as symbolic of a new era; of better, freer times for humanity. Whether that came to pass is probably a matter of how and where you spent the decade - at the crest of America's "long boom", or re-living history in the weird, bloody conflicts of the Balkans or Central Africa.

There weren't many people predicting then that the Internet would, in the second half of the 1990s, become one of the most remarkable phenomenon not just of the decade, or of the century, but of human history. Nothing is the same any more and it will be even less the same in the next few years.

I came back to New Zealand after five years in London in July of 1991. This meant two things - firstly, I missed the degeneration of the fourth Labour government; an administration that sought to save the nation but lacked the moral and structural integrity to do it well.

The second thing, of course, is that it meant I lived through nearly a decade of National-led governments whose mandate and whose style and standard of governance were worn away to the point where they were clueless and awful.

That all ended on November 27, when, for some of us, the festive season began. Since then, it's been drinks on boats and in bars, that thunderous Shihad gig at the Power Station and, last Sunday, a humble Christmas barbecue at our house that really got quite out of hand. All the while, our new political landscape was assembled.

The New Deal will be a challenge for Hard News - which, has, after all, spent the decade cheering for the trailing side. But the mere fact of change is enough for me right now. I can't imagine how I'd be feeling if what was essentially a bad hangover from the 80s somehow contrived to last into the naughties.

Keeping in mind what befell the fond expectations of the 90s, I still can't do other than other than hold hopes for the new year, decade, century and millennium.

I do have a Millennium Wish: and that is that, not too far in, the new millennium will foster a new spirit of inclusion and co-operation. I could never stomach the idea that excellence can only be achieved by allowing deficit all around it; that you must tolerate many losers in order to be pulled forward by the winners.

Whilst I admire the surging prosperity of the Americans, I'm always unnerved by their Dickensian underclass. I enjoy the global culture industry but I sometimes worry about who owns it. I'm hearted by the recent actions of European countries in conditionally scrapping Third World foreign debt, but I don't think it will be enough.

I regard global trade as a good, not a bad, thing, but I think what happened around the Seattle WTO round cannot be ignored. I hope companies like Monsanto can find a moral compass that works as well as their business processes. I believe democratic government will be more important than ever in a global economy.

As I've said before in this bulletin, I don't believe in some past golden era of New Zealand - I lived through the 70s and most of 60s here and there were as many things wrong with the place as were right. I still think that in many respects, New Zealand is a better and more open place than it used to be.

But we haven't been taking everyone along - and, worse, we have watched while too many people's ability to participate, to even be included, has been worn away. On the other hand we have seen the rise of a bitter and selfish culture amongst some of the winners.

Anyway, it has been a long decade, a long year and, quite a frankly, a bloody long week. I'm tired and I want a rest and some days at the beach.

I hope all the readers of and listeners to Hard News - and I reckon there will have been about 100,000 in cumulative this year - can find a way to make the festive season a happy time. Sentimental fool that I am, I still love this time of year.

It remains only for me to bid you all best wishes and to note that locally, nationally, globally and morally we're all in this together


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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Last update: 23 December 1999

Text Copyright © 1999 Russell Brown.
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