One hundred years hence

By Robert Hickson 19/04/2015


Over the next week New Zealanders (& Australians) are looking back a century to remember and honour a tragic battle in a foreign land. There are a lot of activities and discussions happening about Gallipoli and how it subsequently influenced New Zealander society.

It is right and important to reflect on our history, both the good and the bad. What is missing, however, is discussion about our society’s future.

“Study the past if you would define the future.”  ― Confucius

What do we want New Zealand to look like in 2115? That we aren’t looking forwards as well as backwards now seems a lost opportunity. Many of those who went off to war did so with some regard to protecting our way of life and ensuring future well being.

Looking to the future, particularly as a society, is always harder than looking to the past. But if not now, when?

Now is opportune, given the impetus of Gallipoli and other factors. The Constitutional advisory panel started a “conversation”,  that appears to have reached an awkward silence. And, whether we like it or not, we’ll be considering our national flag.

In 2012 the Transit of Venus Forum looked at New Zealand’s future through a science and technology lens. And the Royal Society of New Zealand, following the last census, has looked forward at what our society may look like based on demographic changes. Meanwhile, Generation Zero is helping to involve younger people in future decisions.

These should stimulate us to look ahead, connect more across different groups and interests, and talk more broadly about aspirations for our society – how egalitarian, independent, “high tech”, bucolic, wealthy, caring, or whatever, would we want the place where our ancestors will live? What will it really mean to be “the place where talent wants to live “ many decades from now?

New Zealand appears good at holding fora, but poor at sustaining meaningful actions from them. How do we change that?

We are facing fundamental changes in our energy and economic systems, along with other substantial technological  geopolitical, environmental, and social transformations. We won’t be able to control many of them, but we can be better prepared to anticipate and respond to some of them.

A fitting tribute to those who fought for us in the past would, in addition to dawn services and other commemorations, be more active contemplation of what we’d like our country to be 100 years from now, and what we can do to help achieve it.  Shouldn’t we putting more effort into shaping our future than we do in memorializing our past?

By the time the 100th anniversary of World War Two comes around we can have more securely set New Zealand on the path to an affluent, equal, happy and sustaining society.