Remember the good times of the mid 2000s? When things were on a roll, the country was growing, cultural development was happening, and there was a generally upbeat feeling around?
I do, and it's one of the great tragedies of the Global Financial Crisis and its ongoing recessionary effects that people don't feel so much like that any more.
I had forgotten tho how it felt. So I was catapulted back to that time by having a read of this paper which UK thinktank Demos did for the Public Service Association back in 2006.
It is almost like it comes from another world.
Being a social democrat means I am an optimist about people and about our community: I believe that when we work together we can make the world a better place for all of us. Nothing saddens me more than that the current government, while maintaining a superfically smiley upbeat posture, has actually done its best to scare Kiwis and to turn the national mood negative.
That is why I really like Labour's "Own Our Future" motif which we launched with our capital gains tax proposal on Bastille Day last month. It's a positive, optimistic foundation for an argument about how to build a better country: a country where everyone has the chance to get ahead, and where we look after those who can't.
Being in opposition means balancing that positivity against the need to critique and attack the government. That's fine, it's the job we have to do - but it does create some risks about perception.
If we are not --- and are not seen to be --- truly and deeply optimistic about New Zealand's future, then why would people vote for us? Answer is they won't.
Owning our Future is positive indeed. There's more good ideas on the way which are about building that future for all of us. Yes, the global situation is difficult. Yes, the economy is behind, unemployment is high, and the cost of living is a real concern.
So many of the things that can help us tackle those things though are within our own control: we can choose to tackle our hardest problems and make things better, if we want to.
That's the true choice people will face in November: between doing something to sort the country out, and smiling our way to dismal irrelevance.