The Ardernian delusion

Too Right
A regular column by John Black
The Black Sheep Blog

A fortnight ago our government took on an awesome responsibility: the wellbeing of 4.8 million souls. The ‘wellbeing’ budget, after suffering more leaks than a hedgehog’s raincoat, was unveiled to the world and immediately received breathless approval from progressive international media such as the Guardian. Back here, amongst the people who actually have to pay for the 3.8 billion dollars spent over four years (1.9 of it on ‘mental health’), support was more tepid. Many of us were simply confused. I for one had been labouring under the misapprehension that I was responsible for my own wellbeing.

That’s what my mum told me, anyway.

The trouble with the concept of ‘wellbeing’ is that we all have our own version of it. For me a plunge in the price of single malt scotch, a sudden outbreak of infectious female nymphomania and the entire Australian cricket team developing explosive diarrhoea on the eve of their next World Cup game would all improve my wellbeing immensely. For others it’s all about family, community and world peace.

The freaks.

However, here at the John Black Institute for Sensible Suggestions we have been working on some measures to improve national wellbeing which we think all New Zealanders can agree on. What’s more, unlike the budget they won’t cost you, my fellow taxpayers, one red cent.

Let’s start there. Taxes. No one likes them. The biggest boost to the nation’s wellbeing would be letting us keep more of our hard earned money. Much has been made of previous government budgets narrowly focussing on GDP. Economic growth (more money), critics say, doesn’t buy you happiness. While anyone who’s had the misfortune to watch a Kardashian reality TV show will know the truth of this, I wish those who served up this platitude weren’t so comfortably off themselves. To them I say ‘Let’s do an experiment. You give me a lot of money. Your money. I’ll see how happy it makes me. I’ll text you the results from Jamaica.’

Of course the current government is ideologically opposed to letting us keep and spend more of our own money. They are afraid we’ll only spend it on dumb stuff like expensive scotch and trips to Jamaica and not smart stuff like solar panels for our eco-scooters or gender-theory classes for our five year olds.

What they aren’t ideologically opposed to is women and babies, judging by the fuss made of Jacinda Ardern’s unremarkable ability to give issue. Experts tend to agree that the bonding of infants with their mothers (‘primary caregivers’ if you are trying to pretend mothering is gender neutral) is vital to future mental health. Here’s something that could help this: St Jacinda and the woke brigade could give the ‘you can have it all, ladies’ message a bit of a rest and acknowledge that for most women not on half a mil a year motherhood involves a choice between their career and their families and it’s Ok to choose your family. Staying home with the kids is good, noble and natural. There’s a reason you’re serving the drinks, ladies. Doesn’t mean you can’t be CEO of Fonterra once the kids are in school. Although why you would want to is beyond me.

While we are on gender, the high rate of (disproportionately male) suicide has been one of the reasons given for the massive increase in the mental health spend. Here’s something that could help male self-esteem and it doesn’t have a price tag. Every time I turn on the TV some male is being humiliated. Straight white guys are the buffoons of the modern age. Two current ads running on TV are prime examples.  The spectacularly unfunny Uber-Eats one with Rachel Hunter in a spa pool lording it over a cringing Dai Henwood and another (can’t remember the product) of a prize knob head showing his wife a large tattoo of her face he has had etched into his back, and being rewarded with a look of such utter testicle-retracting scorn that it would have most men considering the benefits of homosexuality.

Now I’m not saying that TV ads alone are sending men to their bathtubs with their toasters. But as a barometer of the status of men in our culture, it’s a worrying sign. Ease up on the male bashing and we might find men, particularly the fragile ones, not so bewitched by negativity.

Another major mental health concern is anxiety. The major worry of the age if you read the papers (I wouldn’t) is climate change. There is a rational argument that the climate is changing and will present us with challenges. There is an irrational argument that the climate is changing and therefore the world will end next Tuesday. The government is supported by a party that promotes the latter. The PM allowing a little more daylight between her government and the Greens’ brand of climate catastrophism might do our national anxiety levels a power of good. The exile of the entire Green party to the deepest jungles of Africa to experience the nature they love so much ‘red in tooth and claw’ would be even better, but I’m not hopeful.

In the end, the Jacinda delusion is that government action can make people happy. But she’s got it arse backwards. Happiness, if it’s achievable at all, comes from within and integral to it is a sense of achievement and esteem a culture can do a lot to support but a government just can’t help you with.