Falling deeper into the mire

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

The social climate of New Zealand was once one of collective responsibility, but has been replaced with the cold winds of individualism, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes.

A front page last week declared: ''We're failing our children''. It's a headline that is dusted off every five years or so as yet another report is released and we come to the realisation that still nothing has changed.

This great little country is near the bottom of the list of developed countries as being a great place to bring up children.

A country where a sizeable group of our children live in poverty and where it now seems acceptable to have a growing underclass where extreme violence, particularly against women and children, is the norm rather than a horrifying exception.

While everyone does have to take a level of responsibility for themselves and their families, there have been forces at work, from government policies to broader economic and employment influences and social attitudes, that have made it difficult for many to do this adequately since the 1980s and 1990s.

The social climate of this country has moved from one of collective responsibility to one where the cold winds of individualism chill many of its corners.

We are also reaping the consequences of parenting by parents who were not parented well themselves.

And we are reaping the consequences of our booze culture.

Inadequacies in parenting skills lead to frustration and anger, which easily leads to violent action.

Drunkenness and abuse of other drugs is a proven catalyst for violent action towards anyone around, usually the partner and the children.

Can this still be reversed or have we gone too far down this road? I'd like to think it it's not too late, but it would take hard work on the part of many, many people and several generations.

It would have to be done community by community with residents, employers, schools, police and local body politicians deciding to change the way we operate as a society.

And that's not to deny the work of those who have never stopped striving to make a difference. At times they must feel like Canute trying to turn the tide.

Child, Youth and Family is destined for yet another overhaul but will probably still be left without sufficient resourcing.

The Government seems to be hanging its latest approach on the ''philanthropic sector'' and on the private sector to ''to deliver social outcomes''.

It's hard to see many of our predominantly offshore-owned businesses coming to the party. ''The market'' has no social conscience.

Like dealing with climate change, it can all seem too hard, but if each individual fails to do their bit, be prepared for an exponential increase in all the things you currently see wrong.

They will eventually overwhelm our ability to manage, and it will be the New Zealand in which our grandchildren will grow up.


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