Hooton on snowflakes and parliament

Matthew Hooton worries about snowflakes entering parliament:

Much has been written about the character flaws of the venal baby boomers but much less about the 20-something millennials.

This is the first generation in perhaps more than a million years of human evolution that is likely to be more stupid than its parents. This is not necessarily their fault.

Those born after 1990 are the first to have lived their whole lives with the internet and – perhaps worse – have been brought up by a generation of helicopter parents and a teaching establishment convinced skills are more important than knowledge and self-esteem and safety most important of all.

From when they started school and certainly since they were given their first iPhone, 20-somethings have been able to access the sum total of all human knowledge instantly from pretty much anywhere in the world. This, at least in a high-school context, has massively reduced the value of knowing anything compared with being able to google and cut-and-paste.

Consequently, there has been far less need for them to build up an inventory of basic background knowledge with which to navigate the world.

Mainly left-wing educational theorists have responded. In the 1990s, for example, New Zealand removed most actual content from the school curriculum and replaced it with an almost exclusive emphasis on themes and skills. The curriculum would no longer say students should learn about, say, the Cold War but should instead develop skills in analysing conflict.  The problem is that analytical skills aren’t that useful if you don’t know anything worth analysing and lack a broad knowledge from which to draw when doing so.

The millennials’ parents, meanwhile, were also the first generation to bring up their children in an internet era. Thus, when a single child goes missing or worse anywhere in the developed world – think Madeleine McCann – parents respond by becoming even more overprotective.  When confronted with such news daily on their iPhones, it is difficult for even the most rational parent to recognise that the reason a McCann story goes global is because it is so rare.

The chances of your child being kidnapped, raped and murdered by a stranger sit roughly alongside them being struck by lightning or eaten by a shark. Statistically, if they are to be raped or murdered, it is much more likely it will be by you.

Totally irrational fears about children’s safety when out in public are a global phenomenon. In 1971 in the UK, for example, 80% of seven-year-olds walked to school. By 1990, it was 9% and it is now approaching zero.

That is an interesting premise, one I mostly agree with.

But, how is that affecting parliament?

It is true that children are infinitely precious but it is probably a bad idea to keep telling them that. Already, an extremely high level of self-esteem is the most widely recognised trait of the millennials. For instance, the Green Party’s new high-flyer, 22-year-old Chlöe Swarbrick reports that she decided to go into politics after banging her head on the wall when interviewing politicians for Auckland University student radio station bFM as an 18-year old, and discovering they talked a lot of nonsense.

It seems not to have occurred to Ms Swarbrick that the feeling was most probably mutual.

Outgoing 27-year-old National MP Todd Barclay was probably a lot tougher and more worldly than most, growing up in Gore rather than Grey Lynn. Moreover, unlike Ms Swarbrick, he had worked in Parliament and as a social outcast in the tobacco industry.

Nevertheless, the fatal flaw that brought him down was a typically millennial lack of worldliness – his failure to sense intuitively that as the new MP for Clutha-Southland he was perfectly entitled to get rid of Bill English’s old staff for any reason at all.

Hence, when the then-25-year-old learned or suspected that his own staff and other long-time party officials were spreading outlandish rumours about him to constituents, it seems he responded not by getting rid of them but – fatally – by secretly recording them.

Parliamentary Services, the National Party whips, John Key and his senior staff, and Mr English need to share some of the blame. When hearing what their naïve millennial colleague was up to, none seems to have said, “hang on, that’s illegal and you can get rid of them for any reason you like anyway.” They left him to place himself at enormous legal risk and the National Party at such reputational risk that by Wednesday it could only be solved by Mr Barclay falling on his sword.

 

I’m not sure they did leave him to his own devices. I have not known of any young MP allowed to even think for themselves much less handle complex staff dismissal issues.

These are people who, despite having little or no life experience, want the power to tax us, regulate us and even decide when we can live or die. The fact they know nothing about anything is no excuse. They should be treated the same and held to the same standards as anyone else who seeks power. Mr Barclay is only the first snowflake to melt.

I heard Chloe Swarbrick on radio the other day, and I’ve seen her angsty videos and interviews. I suspect she will be the first MP to run from the chamber crying a river of tears, if she makes it that far.

 

-NBR


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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