2022: It just feels different


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Is it just me, or does the world feel different? Really, weirdly, different?

“Different from what?” you may ask.

Different from how it felt five years ago; For me, there’s now a permanent sense of impending doom.

In the immortal words of The Castle’s crusading lawyer Dennis Denuto, “It’s the vibe.”

Dennis and I are similarly challenged finding the right words to describe our feelings of disquiet at the state of ‘things’.

Five years ago, we were confronted with a fairly manageable, relatively slowly emerging, set of challenges – even if they didn’t seem very manageable at the time:

Trump was on Twitter and that seemed appropriate, even if he didn’t; Face-masks were only worn by people from East Asia, and doctors and dentists – no real problems there; 96 hit $2.10 per litre – that was almost certainly an aberration that would probably go away (shortly); Unemployment was hovering at around 4% – if you wanted to be a waiter, or a shop assistant, or a fork-lift driver, you had to apply, upskill, and cross your fingers that the minimum-pay job you had always dreamed of would one day be yours; If you had an illogical conspiratorial view on any issue, you were politely encouraged by the general populace to shut up and sit down; The cold-war was over and obvious lessons had been learned long ago – Gen Z history majors would look incredulous when discussing the Cuban
Missile Crisis of 1962: “Like any world leader would actually threaten to use nuclear weapons nowadays … pffft … seriously.”

In 2017 school truancy rates in New Zealand were in the news. Only 63% of students were attending school more than 90% of school days: “Something needs to be done. It’s totally unacceptable. It’s a road to disaster.”

Come 2022 and 46.1% of students are attending school more than 90% of school days – ouch!

In 2017 I bought a new car. I was disappointed that I couldn’t pick it up from the showroom for three days. It was like Santa texting to say, “I’m running late this Christmas, but your pressies should be there by the 28th though.”

Fast-forward 1825 days (give or take a leap day) and I am forced to ask, “WTF happened?”

The Russians are threatening to nuke the world, China doesn’t seem perturbed, and Kim Jong-un is in a “way to go bro” mood.

The ship carrying my on-line purchase, a 70’s retro fondue set, is not coming, and no one can tell me exactly why: The fondue factory staff in China are on Covid lockdown, they can’t get microprocessors to run their fondue set making robots, and they can’t get containers to ship my fondue set in; If they could, my importer couldn’t afford them because containers now cost $1m each, if you can get them. Ships can’t berth anyway because there are not enough crane drivers to unload them – did they all die? And not enough truck drivers to deliver the $1m containers – did they all die too?

The take-out message: Don’t plan to come to our place for fondue evenings this summer.

The world is now more polarised than ever as moderates are replaced with extremists.

The big players, the influencers, don’t need to have the best ideas, just the strongest opinions, the most followers, the loudest voices and be the most polarising. If you’re not with them, you’re against them.

The middle ground has evaporated, and tolerance is now weakness. Pick a side! Don’t listen to the doctor or the scientist, just go with the tribe.

The old rules have changed. Now governments can spend as much as they want on emergency ‘things’ and it’s ok to print money.

There aren’t enough workers for the jobs in almost every industry, but five years ago there were too many … how did that happen so fast? Did half the workforce expire? Was the big resignation actually the ‘enormously huge’ resignation? And if so, where have all the ‘resignees’ gone and what are they doing now?

Yes, a lot can change in five years.

Interest rates have doubled; Petrol is now $2.55 per litre.

2017, you posted a letter and it arrived; Now we don’t have a postie, or a post office, or anyone to work in the post office; And there’s no one to complain to when it doesn’t arrive.

We can’t go on holiday because they lose bags because there are no workers overseas either to be baggage handlers – where’d they all go too?

One-in-one-hundred-year floods, every month now. They need to do new 100-year calculations, I guess.

As for the new car, ‘buy now, pay later’ has morphed into ‘buy now, pay now, wait.’ How long? Well, that’s the thing with pieces of string … who knows?

So much seems to have changed in five years.

Should I be scared?

Or will she be right mate?

The world feels different. Really, weirdly different. Maybe it’s just the vibe.

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Alan Neben
Alan Neben
Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders

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