Getting the language right


    There have been a couple of interesting facts as the world press dissected France’s atypical leadership election result and the implications for a world finding itself with an increasingly full house of world leaders whose public personas would seem overblown even in Sean Connery’s James Bond world.

    The haughty French public (or the largest percentage of it) is pretty picky about its news sources. The French newspaper industry is characterised by a lack of mass-market national dailies, fewer heavyweight Sunday newspapers than found in English-speaking countries and an absence of the kind of frivolous, muck-raking tabloid press that’s  omnipresent in the UK and paralleled in the US by Fox News and Breitbart.

    The second factor was, as one commentator pointed out, that French readers speak French – something that had apparently been overlooked by the alarming forces of algorithmic voter targeting that have had such a devastating effect on the UK Brexit vote and the American presidential elections.

    In France’s runoff between centrist Emmanuel Macron and right wing extremist Marine Le Pen, the murky network around  Cambridge Analytica and US billionaire Robert Mercer was probably shouting into the thin air of English-speaking cyberspace.
    Our own single national daily was taken offshore in the 90s in a hostile takeover by Irishman Tony O’Reilly and its newsrooms have been inflicted with shareholder priorities ever since.

    By its own admission, it’s struggling for relevance in the tech world, though those of us in more accountable, more agile and more adaptive reaches of the print news media are demonstrably picking up in numbers and relevance.

    As a nation, we, too, are in the throes of an election, though you wouldn’t know it by the ominous shutdown on debate in public life.

    “Breaking news: The National Party has admitted that there is a housing crisis,” the leader of the parliamentary opposition Andrew Little said wryly this week.

    The NZ Herald, far from exploring the possibility that we have had an exceptionally long run of morally sickening inter-generational theft foisted on the city, rather too obviously has the Property Council on speed-dial to inoculate readers against Labour Party proposals that should generate debate on the country’s arguably most pressing problem, the Auckland housing crisis.

    That it has exported itself to the rest of the country will be a nasty surprise all round but maybe not soon enough for this election.

    The paper sounded rather aggrieved that young people weren’t now loading themselves up with mind-boggling debt, though why intelligent youngsters – wise to the ways of their elders, if not always their own – would ever let themselves be the patsy in the pass-the-parcel horror stories of how such a crisis might end is pretty obvious.

    We’ve topped the OECD figures for unaffordable housing.  Our reputation is toast and the lessons to be learned from discounting, deriding and disinheriting large sections of the community are writ pretty large at the present.

    Like Little, deputy party leader Jacinda Ardern is fighting entrenched media’s attempts to keep debate at the schoolyard level of popularity and personal derision.

    “I don’t believe we are immune to the ructions we have seen internationally from those who have felt disempowered and disengaged with political institutions,” she said at this week’s Labour Congress. “If we are looking for what that disempowered, disengaged group looks like in New Zealand, I would argue that it is our next generation; it is our young people.”

    Herself on the cusp of that generation, she said children of the 80s and 90s, Generaton Y, also called the e-generation (given they will spend up to a third of their lives online), may not have grown up through a depression, or a world war but “social researchers have still determined them to be powerfully resilient,” she said.

    “Generation Y are the product of social breakdowns and two decades of rapid economic and global change.” In New Zealand that meant that basically, they are the product of a time where politics and politicians  told young people we didn’t owe them anything.

    “We sold their assets. We told them their education wasn’t a public good anymore.
    “We traded on our environment while we polluted it for those who follow.
    “We stood by while home ownership amongst young people halved in a generation and is now the lowest since 1951.

    “Generation Y have been the ones to watch inequality rise, they have been the ones to watch poverty rise, and they will be the ones who’ll see it compound even further as they become those who inherit.” she said. “I think this next generation are nothing short of remarkable.”

    “In the face of crushing automation based insecurity, where multiple different careers will be the norm, and where competition is increasingly borderless, our workers of tomorrow are showing they are motivated by collaboration more than competition,” she said.

    “They get job satisfaction out of purpose, not just wages. And they are perhaps more aware of the world and environment around them than any other generation.” – Liz Waters

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