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I have a unified vision for Aotearoa New Zealand – Boris Sokratov

Editor Written by Editor · 4 min read >

Waitangi Day – A day to celebrate cultural unity. Photo / NZME


Those who lead us politically appear to have lost their way. By this I mean politicians of every political persuasion – not just our elected government.

Here’s my unified vision. It’s a vision built on we, not I, or me.

Together as a nation, at the very least – we all need to elevate productivity by becoming strategically better educated (not just higher academically educated), well paid, work balanced middle class, otherwise all we do is risk becoming highly educated unemployed.

Just like Cuba. In Cuba literacy is high and unemployment ridiculously low. Cuba spends almost 13 per cent of GDP on education – ranking it number 1 in the world. It also boasts a 99.7 per cent literacy rate. Higher than both the USA and New Zealand. In health, Cuba ranks 13th in the world. Compare that with the USA at 69 and New Zealand at 24.

For a country that struggles economically, Cuba has surprisingly low unemployment. Sceptics suggest it’s because the Cuban government fiddles the figures; others say it’s because Cuba doesn’t have a minimum wage (which is probably closer to the truth). In 2022, a report by the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) stated more than 72 per cent of Cubans live below the poverty line. Go figure.

Superior literacy and higher academic educational attainment have not helped the Cuban people.

In isolation, education in New Zealand isn’t going to cut the mustard. Education comes in many forms, academic excellence being but one. And yet as a society we over-emphasise academic educational excellence to the detriment of life skills. Like, how to cook – so you can live healthily. Financial literacy – so you can learn how to manage money.

Exam season has finished for New Zealand students.
Exam season has finished for New Zealand students.

The importance of “movement not exercise”, because there is a negative associated with the word exercise. And the language of conversation – so that you can actually talk to people with confidence. I could also spout on about trade training and apprenticeship training, but what’s my point?

All I’m really saying is – our “education system” isn’t fit for purpose and probably hasn’t been for some time because it focuses too much on academic excellence and not “life skills excellence”.

Sadly the politicians’ new mantra seems to be, “say and do whatever needs to be said and done to gain or retain power”. When it should be – “put aside my and the party’s individual self-interests and work backwards from what needs to be done, for the greater good of all our nation’s peoples”.

Working backwards from outcomes not forwards from self-interest is the way to move New Zealand forward.

Boris Sokratov. Photo / Supplied
Boris Sokratov. Photo / Supplied

The way to do that is by correctly identifying problems not the symptoms of socio-economic deprivation. Then applying appropriately-targeted community-driven solutions; because communities actually know what’s best for their community. Not by imposing bureaucratic central government “policy” from on high. That hasn’t worked and will never work.

The definition of stupidity is continuing to do and fund what hasn’t worked with the expectation of a different outcome. Far too many government departments are good at that.

I remain forever hopeful that a genuine (people-focused) political leader will appear. Someone with the conciliatory unifying wisdom that Dame Whina Cooper had.

An authentic leader who wants a better future for our nation’s kids. Be nice if that person appeared in my lifetime. Someone who understands that by improving outcomes for rangatahi Māori we improve future outcomes for all of our nation’s children. Not just Māori.

Isn’t that the essence of the outcome we all really want?

Maybe it’s time we bravely (not fearfully) looked back in order to go forward we just might be able to lay the foundations of a brighter future for all of our children. Delve into our past in a conciliatory way and learn the lessons of history. We need to all collectively take a breath and stop being confrontational. My mum taught me, “being right does not necessarily make it right. It’s more about getting along; than being right or wrong”. There’s more than a spoonful of wisdom in that statement.

As there is in these two from Daryl Davis, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?… “When two people are talking to each they aren’t fighting. It’s when the talking ends that the trouble begins”.

Davis is an American Jazz singer who through dialogue and conversation has built mutual trust, respect and enduring friendships with Ku Klux Klan leaders. As a result of their friendships with Davis, those KKK clansmen have gone on to publicly renounce their allegiance to the KKK. Truly incredible.

Why I, as a black man, attend KKK rallies. | Daryl Davis | TEDxNaperville

A chance encounter with members of the Ku Klux Klan led black musician Daryl Davis on a quest to determine the source of the hate. His unorthodox, yet simple approach, has wielded surprising results and just might be the solution for all racial discourse. Daryl Davis graduated from Howard University with a degree in Jazz.

That leader will need to be bold and conciliatory. Not driven by fear – or worse, be confrontational. Prudence and pragmatism will move our country forward; not emotionally stirred-up anger. They will need to quickly cauterise the festering flow of stink sludgy mud currently bubbling away below our societal skin, before it breaks through the surface and a violent socio-economic-driven volcano erupts.

Sadly, all of our current crop of political leaders appear blind to this fact – Māori are worse represented in all the socio-economic statistics. Truth is, as a nation, if we have the courage to raise the socio-economic status of Māori, we will substantially reduce long-term intergenerational social welfare dependence and improve Māori health outcomes.

Doing that will substantially reduce the cost of healthcare, relieve the pressure on our overworked doctors and nurses, help address our broken hospitals and stem the outward overseas flow of healthcare workers to Australia. The other economic plus is we’ll get more healthy work-ready Māori into the workforce, off welfare and sickness benefits, and out of jail (no need to build more prisons). Even more importantly – enable Māori to become nett positive tax contributors.

That’s got to be a good thing.

So why the emotionally charged political reluctance to do it? I guess it’s because we live in a chaotic, individual-centred world. We’ve lost sight of our humanity. We’re chasing the illusion of a fabricated marketing-driven dream. To quote Roger Whittaker from his 1970′s hit song: “I don’t believe in IF any more, It’s an illusion.”

I Don’t Believe In If Anymore

Roger Whittaker – I Don’t Believe In If Anymore (Ivor Novello Awards

We’ve forgotten people were created to be loved and things created to be used. Not the other way around where people are being used and things are being loved. For we all know the greatest thing of all is people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao

What is the most important thing in the world?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

On that note, I’m off for a swim and I may be some time.

Boris Sokratov is a Bulgarian-Māori and has whakapapa to Te Rarawa, Ngati Haua. He was the producer of the Nutters Club Radio Show. He helped establish the Key to Life Charitable Trust that supports mental health advocate Mike King.

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