Social solutions

I don't think it's too controversial to say there are many issues in Kiwi society today. Sadly it is controversial to put forward solutions. As a young person I had the answer to each and every one of the issues I saw then. Today i'm a bit older - and hopefully a bit wiser.

An example is family support. I believe this is weakening our independence by strengthening our reliance on the state. However if we tried to revoke it, it's not hard to imagine political difficulties - but more importantly real difficulties for ordinary Kiwi families. It's a policy that makes poor sense - but is so much a part of society I can't see any easy way to get rid of it. This is just one small example - there are many more in society - and of course all have the extra difficulty of getting agreement in the first place.

I came across a TED talk on addiction / human connection which actually seemed to make sense (not to imply that TED talks aren't usually insightful and sensible). In particular it promoted an approach which, while related to drug addiction, seems to offer potential solutions to a broader range of issues.

The key example that really challenged my views is Portugal. Richard Branson (who has said some great things about business) made a recent comment about drugs and cited Portugal. He said "Combined with harm reduction programmes, decriminalisation will save lives". What is a harm reduction programme? That phrase is at best trivialising the human connection element in this discussion. Without that to accompany it, I fear a total liberalisation as Portugal did would, as the Portuguese police chief feared, increase the chaos. He was wrong - because he didn't appreciate the importance of the social connection aspect.

The current "war on drugs" is at the very best not improving things. The Portuguese chief of police was absolutely opposed to decriminalisation at the time, but more than a decade later he is a true believer.

That's not to say every problem has been solved in Portugal, all addicts cured, etc. But their society is much healthier than it was, and problems associated with drug addiction were much reduced and easier dealt with.

I wonder what could be achieved in NZ if we did things like regard the Treaty of Waitangi as more than a cash deal. And drew gangs back into society? And drew many young people out of hopelessness into society. And ....

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Last modified: 05 December 2020.