This article is part of the My Generation topic. Below are more articles in this topic.
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My brother phoned up the other day to tell me he remembers being taken to school on the day I was born which, assuming he must have been at least five years old, would make me a year younger than I think I am. You might assume I’d be delighted, but all I could see was my superannuation retreating another 12 months into the distance. I felt an immediate and wholehearted empathy with the French.
There’ll be accusations of racism here, but I was never that much of a fan of the French. The clothes, the food, the perfume, some of the cars, yes, but travels in France a few decades ago did not endear me to people who wouldn’t speak English even though they could, while I struggled desperately to make myself understood in schoolgirl French and ate plates of boiled raspberries ordered in error and blithely asked young men how old their donkeys were, thinking I was saying something else entirely.
But – I’ve had a change of heart. The recent behaviour of the French over raising their retirement age has endeared them to me forever. Taking to the streets to get what they want is a habit as old as the French Revolution. Ever since 1789 there’ve been protests, barricades and violence, and before that the peasants were at it with pitchforks. (Best Sarkozy not forget, either, that they cut a king’s head off.)
Sadly, most New Zealanders are pussies when it comes to making a fuss. Last big fuss I can remember? The Springboks. (No, the skirmishes over the bloody Hobbit do not count as a big fuss.) Yeah, we’ve also waved a few banners over mining, Waitangi Day, homosexual law reform and the security intelligence bill but ironically, the biggest recent fuss was the Queen Street riot in 1984, which wasn’t even about anything. The power went off during a concert, a few people got grumpy, Dave Dobbyn was mean to the police, the concert was stopped and people went nuts.
You’d have to hope that if we can erupt to such an extent over a failed rock concert, we might be able to get out there and cause serious ructions if we’re threatened with the postponement of our pensions.
I’m doing a bit of forward planning to put a decent protest together when the time comes, but it’s my great fear that when our government decides to increase the retirement age to 103, I will be the only person pushing my Zimmer frame up Queen Street trying to remember what I’m protesting about.