Yeah, it is okay. Now. After decades of paying mortgages of more than 18% we only have the rates to pay on our overvalued houses. Rates that come out of the pension we get because when the rules changed we had nothing to save and with inflation the way it was, we couldn’t, even if we’d wanted to.
It’s okay though. After years living in caravans and garages while we built and sold and built and sold, we own a good house. It was a hard slog on a single income after work and in the weekends and we thought the big crash of ’87 was going to finish us, but it’s paid off. No more single-glazing and possums living in the roof.
It is okay now but back then buying school shoes meant spending a quarter of the food budget for the week and new clothes were special because they were made in New Zealand and cost what they were worth.
It was okay too staying home for the first 5 years of my children’s lives. Money was tight but there was time to watch the caterpillar climb up the flowers and talk about the things that mattered. Like how far it was to the moon and why the flowers needed washed everyday.
It’s always been okay for us Boomers because we appreciate what we have. New Zealand is a beautiful country and to enjoy it we built batches in places that had lakes, mountain lodges for skiers to share and huts on wild bush tracks. Anyone who went overseas was an adventurer with more money than we ever thought possible to have, but we were okay at home where the shops were closed for the holidays and everyone could take a break.
And as a nation we began to heal the wounds of the past by listening to the Tangata Whenua and addressing the wrongs brought about through the Treaty of Waitangi.
It hurts to hear we are now considered unscrupulous and irresponsible and we all wonder what we did that was so bad? How did our choice to work hard and make personal sacrifices turn out so badly?
Well, we listened when politicians told us to think big, to build dams and power stations and bring natural gas up from the ocean floor. On one hand life was better but on the other we saw the loss of things we’d assumed would always be there. Not only the land but the birds and so many other species that stood on the brink.
We never thought about the water.
We did think about the people when we put seatbelts in our cars and helmets on our heads and made it against the law to drink and drive. We understood that we couldn’t pay for everything and decided if you wanted extra education it was a sacrifice like the ones we’d made, and it would pay off in the end. To make it easier, we didn’t add tax unless you left the country. But we kept the free health care because we’d been told smoking would kill us in the end.
We also stood by while dumb things happened. For the sale of the railways, the loss of state housing and the privatisation of electricity and damned near everything else, I apologise.
We spread our waste over the earth with no thought of where it would go and what it would do. It was ignorance but we are making amends in our daily lives and hoping it will help.
But perhaps our biggest fault was to create the kids who craved the consumerism they saw on TV. Who knew that their kids would come with built-in anxiety about a world that has never been safer? In this plastic, continually changing world, perception is everything and we understand why you think we’re all living it up. It’s not what it seems. We are making the time to look after your children. We are talking to each other and keeping our communities alive with voluntary labour. And yes, some of us are travelling, to see a world we couldn’t afford to see when we were young.
Live long enough and you know no-one knows anything and nothing is ever perfect. Everywhere I look I see people old and young, making considerate choices not only for themselves but also for those around them and for the world in which they live.
It makes me want to live for a very long time and see how it all turns out.