OPINION: I’m a child of the 70s who grew up steeped in the media and mayhem of the 80s.

Big hair, big shoulder pads, boat shoes with no socks and the unfailing rise in share markets (until, of course, they did fail to continue the rise on Black Friday, 1987) were all in the story of my teen years.

It was an interesting time, and the popular culture did a good job of representing teen angst at a time when teen angst was far simpler than it is today.

Films like The Breakfast Club, Fame and even War Games told the story of my generation – a story of a generation with more time and more money but far less certainty.

A generation where technology was suddenly something to think about.

A generation for whom issues close to home were the centre of mind – unlike today’s young people who have a far more serious list of issues to deal with – climate change, postcolonial impacts and global inequity.

One of the movies that best captures the zeitgeist was The Karate Kid, a film that could be seen today through the lens of rampant cultural appropriation.

Of course, cultural appropriation wasn’t a common topic back in those days, so we just watched it for the cool fights, the nerdy kid making good, and the faint whiff of the geek finally getting the hottest girl at school.

At the heart of the film lies Mr Miyagi. Mr Miyagi helps the film’s hero, Daniel LaRusso, to find himself, his voice and gain his own kind of equity through karate.

The underlying theme isn’t one of violence, however, but oneness. Of how balance and poise and focus can overcome more blunt traits. The Karate Kid essentially tells us that zen drives a balance that keeps a confusing world in check.

Now, readers may be surprised to hear me talk about zen Buddhism in an article about National leader Chris Luxon.

After all, beyond his stint at Air New Zealand, what most people remember about Luxon is that he subscribes to some kind of fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

While I’m no theologian, I’m fairly certain that zen and fundamentalist Christianity are as far apart as one can get on the religious spectrum.

In fact, Luxon’s religion is probably irrelevant – he’s emphatically stated that there should be a division between church and state. That’s a view that seems to be ignored, with many people expecting that Luxon will charge off and take us back to the time of the Crusades.

Anyway, my reason for bringing zen into this article is that Luxon, in my view, may well bring a much-needed political balance to Aotearoa.

I have pretty liberal social and economic leanings. At the same time, however, I’m also a huge fan of checks and balances, of strong opposition to whichever party is in power. Those checks and balances help to ensure we don’t stray too far from common-sense policy and law-making.

We’ve had a year or so of a veritable vacuum of solid debate. True, in the middle of a global pandemic it’s hard for any opposition party to find a voice, but the past year of petty politics and sniping from Luxon’s predecessors hasn’t exactly helped.

Political balance is needed at all times, and it was only a few short years ago that many were bemoaning the lack of a credible and coherent Labour opposition to the then-dominant National government of John Key. Plus ça change as the Francophiles say.

And so we move on to the reaction to Luxon’s promotion to leader. This has been cast by many as a travesty for two main reasons: his aforementioned religious views and the fact he is fairly wealthy.

On the first count, sure, his religion means he has some personal views, especially as it relates to abortion.

But he’s also gone on record as saying that his religion won’t get in the way of him making decisions that are right for the electorate. He’s already ruled out changes to legislation around abortion, so that concern should be resolved.

As for his wealth – I’ve interacted with Luxon back in his airline days. He’s well aware of the reality of the everyday New Zealander and what life is like across different demographics. He doesn’t need to experience homelessness himself to understand the impacts of homelessness.

Leadership, of a business or a country, is fundamentally about being able to connect and communicate with people.

Luxon, of all people, knows that he tangata, he tangata, he tangata is what is truly important.

Neither should he be made to feel guilty that he has had a successful business career. This demonisation of Luxon’s wealth (and, at the risk of getting the hordes riled up, his wealth really is modest in the greater scheme of things), he’s worked hard, put in the mahi and has obviously been a focussed and ambitious individual.

In the context of capitalism, it is the role of the tax system to drive economic equity. On the economic system du jour I have some strong opinions that likely stand in opposition to Luxon’s view – maybe that should be the topic of debate and not his religious views or bank balance.

I might be wrong, and Luxon may flame out in the style of a Dick Hubbard or Todd Muller. But I reckon there’s a pretty good chance that, even if we don’t like the economic and social focus of the party he leads, he will bring a balance to parliament that even Mr Miyagi could appreciate.

– Ben Kepes is a Canterbury-based entrepreneur and professional board member. He’s had a couple of Air New Zealand CEOs serve him wine on long-haul flights.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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