Misty-eyed grey heads reminisce over times gone by, when a handshake was an unwritten guarantee, when people would give you the shirt off their back, and when we left our houses and cars unlocked.

Did such a time ever actually exist, and if so, what happened to it? Our current society seems full of watertight contracts, pre-nuptial agreements, small claims courts and unending demands for 'rights.'

Catastrophes and emergencies are glimpses of the past as individuals place themselves at huge risk for the sake of others. We have seen this recently in the White Island eruptions, and the responses to the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes, where people without capes or superpowers returned for survivors and climbed into collapsed buildings for their fellow man.

Alas, this is not the norm in everyday life as we fight for carparks, ignore merging traffic, install security cameras and hardly know our neighbours. What has changed?

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Selfishness or self-centredness, where we see our rights and desires as paramount and deserving of all of our efforts and resources, as opposed to selflessness, where we saw our role as supporting and helping others.

Our heroes from the world wars were selfless in giving all they had for the folks back home and asking nothing in return. Our favourite teachers were those who gave above and beyond their job description, and the people we most enjoy being around are those who give more than they take.

As a society we seem to have put rights before responsibilities, and that reversing of order is seen in people demanding benefits while offering no work, in offenders who have totally ignored others' rights demanding their own, and in individuals with no experience requiring obedience from those who elected them. We see the same mentality in the pushing of the sexuality ideology, which demands recognition of an individual's self-perception above science or physical evidence, and a belief that sexual pleasure, in whatever form you desire, is a human right.

Selfishness does not work in any successful relationship, and as long as we promote this mentality we are condemning people to failure, as the inevitable result of such behaviour is loneliness. Test this theory yourself, and see if the most contented people you know are also the most generous.

Now we are not talking about martyrdom or self-flagellation. Quite the opposite. When we take the opportunity to meet the needs of others then they, quite often, turn and do the same for us, and that is where the joy of being in community comes to play.

Conservatism recognises the lessons of the past, and the value of altruism, as it looks to success in the future. We do not need to reinvent the wheel, we simply need to understand why the wheel has worked so well.

This holiday season we would encourage everyone to look at how they can invest in others and enjoy the sensation of real giving. and, just maybe, we can, as a nation, remember what it is to be a Kiwi.