Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972
The Values Revolution
The Values Revolution
The inaugural meeting of The Values Party was held here at Victoria early this year. Their policy is one with emphasis on a humanist approach to politics, rather than having an obsession with economics. In the coming election Tony Brunt, the party's leader, will contest the Island Bay electorate, and other electorates in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland will be contested too. The Values Party address is Box137 Wellington.
Tonight I do not want to talk about women's liberation. I want to put it in perspective and outline its place in the Values revolution which is going on at the present time. That term is a rather dramatic one but it is a fact that at the moment we are going through nothing less than a revolution in social values and there is no precedent for it in human history.
Firstly I should define what I mean by a value. A value is that which acts as a guide to human behaviour. It may be as lofty as a principle or it may be as ill-defined as a basic human urge. Now the primary motivating forces of man in western society were, until recently, the need for physical security and the need for economic security. Physical security involved protection of oneself and one's family from fellow man-thieves, invaders, hostile tribes and armies - protection from dangerous animals and protection from nature—the elements. Economic security involved adequate food, adequate clothing, a comfortable home and a good standard of living and reasonable assurance that this would continue into the future. Although physical security must have come first, for the most part the two values systems co-existed side by side. There was never a time in history when you got a transition from the quest for physical security or survivalism to economic security or materialism, and I do not mean materialism in a derogatory way. There was no clear graduation from one need to what psychologists call a higher-order need. Perhaps after the Middle Ages physical security declined in importance relative to economic security because of a gradual reduction in the number of wars and the development of a law-and-order system. But there was no clear historical cut-off point.
The Drive for Security
Now let's move forward in time to New Zealand of the late 19th and early 20th century: an egalitarian society a fairly prosperous one, one in which there was an increasing standard of living and increasing expectations about the future. But then came that incredible phenomenon which was to shape the lives and outlook of a generation: the depression. The depression involved not just a decrease in the rate of increasing wealth; it involved an actual deterioration in the standard of living. People were deprived of things which they had previously had. This could only serve to increase the drive for economic security a hundred-fold. And this was further reinforced by the rationing of the Second World War. So man sub-merged himself in the push for affluence, and it coincided with another startling development of the 20th century the Technological Revolution. This supplied him with the means to achieve that affluence in a very short time. Within a period of about thirty years after the depression man had achieved something which he had been struggling for for centuries and centuries. It was a momentous period in human history.
Too Much Technology
At the end of it we started to get the first signs of a transition from the goal of economic security to the goal of what one might call psychic security. A transition from materialism to humanism, quality of life. But it was not that simple. It wasn't only brought about by the satisfaction of one need and a natural progression to a higher one. It was also hastened by a rejection of certain aspects of the system we created to give us affluence. The society that developed out of the depression was an increasingly urbanised one. People came together to service technology. And unfortunately where you get large concentrations of people in a technological society unless the cities and towns are extremely well planned, you tend, paradoxically, to get a decline in the sense of community. People become used to the sight of other people. A certain impairment of consciousness results. People become insensitive to other people. You get a lowering in the emotional quality of human interaction. A second aspect of the society was the pervasiveness of technology. And unfortunately too much technology in life tends to crush and limit the human spirit and its freedom of expression. Now that sounds rather religious but it is true nevertheless. So in America about eight years ago you got the start of two movements which posterity, I am sure, will judge to be quite momentous —the Hippie Movement and the Anti Vietnam Movement. Both, in different ways, rejected the old values, although the hippies' was a more comprehensive rejection. What the hippies were saying was, basically, this: We have to drop out of society to recreate our links with other people on a more spontaneous and warmer basis than is the norm in society. This was summed up by their four-letter word. Love. They said, there is too much technology and organisation in our lives. We have got to get back to nature. This was symbolised by those two words. Flower Power. And, thirdly, was their involvement with drugs. They used LSD as a means to expand consciousness in a society which was neither vibrant nor stimulating. They used marijuana in the way that people mainly use it today- as a group thing; something you share with people; something that increases rapport—an aid to communication in a society which builds subtle barriers between people. The Hippie Movement overlapped with the Anti-Vietnam movement but the two were really separate. What the Vietnam protesters were saying, in essence, was this: We reject the conventional military strategy of forward defence, especially in this case. It is a strategy with roots in old value systems containing all sorts of irrational fears about physical and economic insecurity. Your picture of how America is threatened from abroad is completely out of keeping with contemporary realities. We don't believe in your war. We don't want to fight in your war. We don't want to kill innocent people. We don't want to kill people.
The Burgeoning Bureaucracy
It was these two movements which really began the quality of life ball rolling. In the 1950s there had been the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the publication of Rachel Carson's pioneering anti-pollution work, "The Silent Spring," but neither really gripped for long at the grass roots level because people were still preoccupied with achieving the Good Life. It was not until the mid-1960's that the emergence of a new value system began and it is only now crystallising.
Let's go back and have another look at the society which grew out of the depression. I have already mentioned the growth of cities and technology. We also saw the growth of bureaucracy. The first Labour Government said: We don't want another depression therefore we will control the economy. This meant Government regulation and bureaucracy. They also said: We have to redistribute wealth on a more equitable basis. This meant more bureaucracy. So with the growth of the population, the economy and cities, you got expanding bureaucracies and the unfortunate thing about large bureaucracies is that they tend to become fairly ponderous and unresponsive to the changing needs of the times.
We also got the adoption of the goal of economic growth. We got it at the Government level, with the preoccupation with increasing gross national product, and we got it at the level of the businessman with his belief in expansion as maintaining the viability and profitability of his business. John Kenneth Galbraith, the American economist, believes it 'began first at the level of the businessman and was gradually adopted at the political level in order to serve the needs of industry.
Shaping the System that Shapes Us
So we got all these inter-locking features of what I will call, for want of a better word, the system. The children of the depression learned to love the system because it brought them out of the depths of despair, in many cases, and gave them economic security. They were reluctant to tinker with it because they worshipped it. But in allowing full-rein to these non-human goals and non-human aspects of the system-economic growth, increasing productivity, increasing profits, technological advance, bureaucracy, individualism and competition between people-society allowed them to take on a life of their own and run out of effective control. The system, to too great a degree, is now shaping us to meet its needs, and its demands and its goals. What we have to do is reshape it to meet not only our material needs but our deeper, non material needs.
And the movement has begun. It can be seen at work in a number of different areas in society.
In the industrial field it is under way in the form of job improvement programmes to produce what management theory boys now call occupational self-actualisation. Basically what it consists of is making jobs less grinding and boring and more satisfying, more interesting and more fulfilling. It is something you can apply at most levels of industry but it is making its greatest headway in production line firms overseas. Production line industries tend to produce much worker frustrations and unrest. Docter Fuchs, an American economist, has this to say about the production-line blues:-page 13
"For many decades, many psychologists and sociologists have maintained that industrialisation has 'alienated' the worker from his work, that the individual is deprived of contact with the final fruit of his labour, and that the transfer from a craft society to one of mass production has resulted in depersonalization..."
It is this depersonalisation that job improvement is attacking and its main thrust, at least on the production line, is in the direction of giving workers more responsibility, more tasks to perform and reducing the monotony of narrow specialisation.
Re-Routing the Grind
The companies which are introducing the concept include Ford. Chrysler, IBM and Philips Electrical. But job improvement has applications in other areas of industry. A very successful American businessman called Robert Townsend wrote a book called "Up the Organisation" which outlined how it could be implemented in ordinary business firms. Here are a few things he said:-.
"In the average company the boys in the mail room, the president, the vice-presidents, and the girls in the steno pool have three things in common: they are docile, they are bored, and they are dull. Trapped in the pigeonholes of organisational charts, they've been made slaves to the rules of private and public hierarchies that run mindlessly on and on because nobody can change them.... (we have got to) start dismantling our organisations where we're serving them, leaving only the parts where they are serving us."
The quality-of-life movement has its most popular expression at the present time in the environment band-waggon. We all know about it so I won't go into it. Except to say that I think the movement to control our present technologies is motivated by something more than the desire to lessen their damaging impact on our environment. People don't realise it, but man gets one of his most sublime satisfactions from mastering and beating not his fellow man — but technology. When I worked in Auckland I wrote several stories on acts of vandalism against cars. I actually saw a new car that vandals had worked on after the owner left it on the side of a country road one night. They jumped up and down on the roof and bonnet, kicked in the doors, smashed the windows, lights and grills, slashed the tyres, smashed the dashboard, ripped up the seats, and ripped out all the movable parts from the engine. When you see something like that you can't help feeling the causes go deeper than drunkenness and mindless antisocial behaviour. Why do we love watching movies of cars crashing against brick walls at 70 miles an hour? Why do crowds gather round a property where a building is being demolished? It's because we love seeing man take on technology—and win for once. Have you seen those photographs of New Yorkers walking along streets which have recently been closed to the traffic for a few hours each day? They all seem to have nervous smiles on their faces. They are getting a real kick out of it but they feel they are doing something wrong. These people are going through the first stages of liberation from technology, a certain rediscovery of self, and mastery of their own environment.
Cutting the Dogma
The new humanism can be seen in the decline of organised religion. People, especially young people, are rejecting ecclesiastic bureaucracy in favour of a personalised morality. They are rejecting institutionalised religion, with all its ritual and all its dogma, and recreating and enriching their links with other people on a more direct basis. Instead of harmonising via the church they are cutting out the organisation for a more humanistic approach. I don't think it is a rejection of the Christian truths of kindness and brotherhood. It's a rejection of the organisation. The new humanism in religion can also be seen in a number of areas.
The growth of communes in our cities are an attempt to create a community in microcosm. Our most progressive town planners are now decrying urban sprawl and calling for housing development which fosters a sense of community. The movement to get one per cent of our gross attempt to do on an international scale what we must do internally, create a greater sense of community.
The Values Revolution also manifests itself in our community through such groups as Care and Hart, Gay Liberation, Nga Tamatoa, the Vietnam Peace Movement, Coenco, the revitalised penal reform movement and the Women's Liberation Movement.
But the Women's Liberation Movement differs fundamentally from most of the other groups. It is more ambitious. In order to gain the fulfillment you want you don't just have to reshape a system which developed this century. You have to change aspects of the system which have been in existence since time immemorial.
So the chaos in our society at the present time is not really a chaos at all. It is the emergence of a new set of values. The chaos is occurring because of the inability of many people to comprehend what is going on. This lack of understanding, and the fear to which it gives rise, is quite understandable. There has never been such a sudden valued change in the history of man. Many people in our community are suffering from what Alvin Toffler has called "future shock". It is the result of too much change in a single lifetime. The future is unfolding so quickly that people become disoriented.
We have got to show people the new social synthesis which is forming in our community today. It is a new political synthesis too. It is almost a new ideology. It is a set of ideas with a common thread which act as a guide to political action. The common thread is humanism, although without the atheistic overtones usually associated with that word. We have got to meet the needs of people and not the needs of the system. It is not social ism or conservatism—it is humanism.
And there is a great desire for change in our society today. I can see signs of it in our newspapers every day. I can feel it when I talk to people They want change because they realise New Zealand has been drifting for too long. But they can't put their finger on what they want. 1972 is not like 1932. There is no clear pointer for the direction to change. There is a pointer but only those who are thinkers and sharp observers can see it. They must clear the mist from the sign which points to a warmer and more compassionate society.
New Zealand is once again restless and when that happens the world should sit up and watch. For great change in our society seems to come in 40-year cycles. It was 40 years after we really began developing in earnest that we had the industrial reforms of the 1890s. It was 40yrs. after that that we had the great social reforms of the first Labour Government. The pattern seems to be that we go forward and then we consolidate. And when we go forward we lead the world.
That third 40 years is almost up.