They reckon it takes a village to raise a child ... but what if the village is reluctant to have anything to do with the child because it would rather pretend that child didn't exist? What if it was born on the wrong side of the tracks and all that?

Seventy-five per cent of people believe that it is the responsibility of the public to look after children in their community, but only 18 per cent say they would be interested in helping a child they didn't know.

Some children are born with more currency than others. There is far more public interest in the child of royalty than in the child next door born to a mum whom we would rather lived elsewhere.

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Yet there is no need to be invested in the outcome of the royals' baby, because the weight of that institution and the whole nation — even the Commonwealth will — stand in line to offer whatever support that child will need.

Do we really think that Prince George or Princess Charlotte will ever be in need of a raincoat, new sneakers or miss lunch? Yet this interest comes from circumstance and is not generated by the hard work and aspiration of their parents, or even their parents' parents, but because these children were born to rank and privilege.

The children we would rather believe did not exist, that we would rather forget about, are born into a lack of privilege because of circumstance, too. Maybe it was the decisions made by others within the same timeframe of Charlotte and George's forebears, who set in train their favourable circumstances but, in turn, created unfavourable ones for others.

Maybe it was the effect of government policy 100 years ago or 200 years ago and choices and decisions, both individual and collective, made since then which led to that circumstance. The baby royals are no more responsible for the decisions of their great-great-great-great colonising grandparent as they are for their current success.

When we all lived in a village, or six miles from the closest dairy factory, we knew everybody. Took scones to new neighbours, attended working bees at schools, attended the dance every Saturday night, held summer passes to the school pool, helped bale each others' hay and were completely invested in each others' lives.

We knew the name of every kid in the village. An urban example was the local cop — he knew every name of every kid, too, regardless of whether the village was Castlecliff, Gonville, Waitotara Waverley or Brooklyn, Newtown or Miramar.

The country or local cop found creative ways to keep his villagers from going to court. Victims could understand extenuating circumstances that lay behind offending because they knew the culprits and didn't see prosecution as the answer. And it wasn't.

Then the police centralised and the officers swung by in patrol cars from central police stations and knew nobody. Responses were formulaic and pre-ordained.

The arrest and prosecution rates went sky-high after centralisation and it coincided with other societal changes and modern inventions that all conspired to work against the concept of the village. Lock-ups were notches on a belt and not to be avoided if possible.
Television kept us inside our homes instead of chatting over the fence.

So-called equal pay and the pill got women back into the workforce. Higher household incomes made cars more affordable so nobody took the bus and they worked outside the village.
Mechanisation and computerisation gutted the workforce in big companies and farm, school and dairy company amalgamations removed the community feel from country districts.

The more home appliances we were able to buy on hire purchase the more the "haves" had and the "have nots" didn't.

The changes brought about by government and other agencies were implemented to save money, and those agencies had no imperative to protect the "community", and so didn't bother.

Now we find ourselves in a situation similar to the biblical Prodigal Son where we are socially and possibly morally bankrupt and can't find our way back to the village. But even if we knew the way, would we really want to go back there and mind those neighbours' kids?

Mind you, Charlotte and George are welcome to come and play at any time.

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government.