With a pandemic, climate change, entrenched inequality, and a darkening picture internationally, it's pretty easy to feel cynical about our ability to make the world better at the moment.
It seems like the job of our political leaders these days is just to rush from crisis to crisis trying to fight fires. As the PM bluntly put it this week, "The world is bloody messy."
This has been the trend for a while, but I'd argue it's getting worse.
And as we're seeing in Sydney at the moment, climate change means we're going to be living in a world where natural disasters are much more common – from floods to droughts to fires.
The job for any government is increasingly going to be one of disaster management and response.
It's tempting to be pessimistic about this, to get so overwhelmed by the big disasters in the world, to switch off the news and check out, that you forget all the good that governments can do to make a difference in people's lives.
I think that would be a big mistake.
Because for all that the modern world is beset by big problems, our collective choices still matter. Government can still be an instrument of really positive change.
There are a few examples recently that come to mind.
Look at what's happened with the new food in school's policy. More than 220,000 children are getting a guaranteed healthy meal each day; more than 45 million meals provided to hungry kids so far.
And principals and teachers are raving about what a difference it's made for students' ability to learn and focus in the classroom.
One principal was reported this week saying it was "a real game-changer" for their kids, while another said, "In all the years of educational initiatives, this is the one that has made the single biggest difference."
Or here's one of my favourite ones: remember the dreaded "Ute Tax"? If you'd listened to the cynics and talk-back hosts, it was going to be the end of the Kiwi ute. Tradies were going to be forced to catch the bus with their tools on their backs.
It all turned out to be nonsense of course.
Huge numbers of people are still buying utes, it's just that the extra money raised went to give a discount for cleaner cars and it's worked extraordinarily well.
Last year, before the discount came in, hybrids and EVs were just 8 per cent of new car purchases in New Zealand. Now that number is 20 per cent. That's more than double in less than a year.
That means thousands more people saving money on petrol and reducing their carbon emissions.
Or how about mental health? It doesn't get talked about nearly enough but after the big investment in mental health in 2019, more than 330,000 people have been given mental health support at their GP.
For people in those situations, that intervention can stop minor mental health issues spiralling into something major – it can literally be a lifesaver for some of those 330,000 people.
Likewise, look at the huge difference made by the wage subsidy. It's likely that hundreds of thousands of Kiwis would have lost their jobs during the lockdowns without it, tens of thousands of businesses would certainly have gone under.
Imagine if we'd had our current covid inflation spike while big numbers of Kiwis were out of work? Instead, we've got the lowest unemployment on record.
I'd argue that all of this should be an antidote to cynicism and hopelessness.
Yes, the world is a darker and scarier place than it was 20 years ago. But if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of kids who are learning better because their stomach is full, or one of hundreds of thousands of people who received mental health support exactly when they needed it, those changes can make all the difference to you.
Apathy or hopelessness doesn't actually fix any problems. Pessimism doesn't make anyone better off.
And if we look around, we see that with concerted effort, things do get better. Good ideas still make a big difference.
Hayden Munro was the campaign manager for Labour's successful 2020 election win. He now works in corporate PR for Wellington-based firm Capital Communications and Government Relations.