The times are a-changing

Guest post by Alison Dormaar, Pegasus resident and author

Let’s face it, for many of us 2010-2011 has been, to cite Queen Elizabeth’s famous words, an “annus horribilis”. We have had a glut of worldwide disasters both man made and natural, that have included mine explosions, oil slicks, tsunamis, earthquakes here at home and abroad, volcanic ash clouds, snowstorms etc etc – and to top it all off, a global economic recession that only seems to get worse.

If you are anything like me, you would have seen this latter evil coming years ago. We had the system all wrong of course – even back in my darkest, dimmest days in school as the teacher droned on about economics, I had a sense that somewhere, somehow, society had its values twisted. I was a teen of the 80’s when, to cite the infamous Gordon Gecko from “Wall Street”, “greed was good”, the width of one’s shoulder pads warned one and all that you were a force to be reckoned with, and the prominent display of your brick-sized cellphone indicated to the world that yes, you were going somewhere. Money replaced God, and as long as they were classified as “good business”, it seemed that even the most appalling travesties were legally and socially acceptable, even to be admired.

Unfortunately, even though the outward show of “gimme gimme gimme” has become less vulgar over the successive decades, capitalism has taken on an even more insidious form of its own. Studying economic history at school all those years ago, I remember reading about the rise of the unions at the turn of the last century, realizing even then that there is so much inequality and injustice people will take. In recent times it has become fashionable to laugh at the efforts of our forefathers of yesteryear who fought to build a fairer, more just world – but now, with the Occupy Wall Street movement gaining momentum and with the increasing numbers of ordinary people suffering from economic injustice around the globe, I hope people realize now just what their grandparents and great grandparents had to fight for so bitterly over eighty years ago.

Freedom and equality may be a fundamental right, but it never comes easily. From the dawn of human history, we have always had those who have managed to make good through the misfortunes of others, convincing themselves in the process that they somehow deserve it more than anyone else. Since the dissolution of the unions around the world, many major employers have become increasingly ruthless once more, working their existing staff into the ground rather than, God forbid, hire extras to take up the overload. And over recent days I have been incensed by persons in authority sneering at the protesters on the TV, saying inane comments such as “they’re just jealous” or “if they didn’t make it, it’s their fault”. This is the typical smug mantra of the self assured wealthy who managed to cream the system for all it was worth before it crashed. If they can do it, they reason, hey, so can everyone else. But come on, the vast majority of people in this world have absolutely no opportunity or ability to claw their way up the corporate ladder. And what about the millions of prudent investors who indeed did do all the right things, only to have the investment carpet pulled out from under their feet, their mortgaged homes come crashing down (in Christchurch this was literally!) around their ears and their jobs disappear into the bottomless maw that is the cheap Asian labour market? People can only help themselves for so long.

The time has come to look at another social way. If you examine history, economic downturns are no stranger to us all, but unfortunately each new generation seems to think it will not happen to them. I am not through on this topic. There is too much to say to be encompassed in this one epistle. But for now, let’s just say that the time has come for society to live and learn rather than just live and earn.

The views, opinions or positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or position of Pegasus Town Ltd.

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