Friday, January 27, 2023

Why Is So Much Of Our Media Determined To Make Us Seem More Divided Than We Really Are

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Opinion

Truly, at this stage, to be complaining about our country’s restrictions – given the global Covid-19 climate – is like driving past a never-ending sea of fatal car accidents and being mad at your own safety belt.’

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where comic villain/fool Sideshow Bob appears on a giant TV screen to talk about the dangers of television before drily admitting he appreciates the irony of using a television to deliver this very message. By the same logic, I – the Sideshow Bob of this story – know the irony of writing a negative column to complain about negative columns. 

But life makes comic villains/fools of us all, I guess. 

There have been so many weeks when this pandemic world has blown me away with left-field insanity but even I didn’t have ‘Taliban’ and ‘Truck Convoy’ on my Early 2022 Bingo List From Hell.

If you are inconvenienced by Covid, you’re in good company – and I mean that literally, because if you are inconvenienced by Covid-19, you are, at least, alive.

As I write this, a loud but feeble convoy is currently working its way around Wellington to protest vaccination mandates and the restrictions that Aotearoa has lived under for the past two years. Truly, at this stage, to be complaining about our country’s restrictions – given the global Covid-19 climate – is like driving past a never-ending sea of fatal car accidents and being mad at your own safety belt.

If you are inconvenienced by Covid, you’re in good company – and I mean that literally, because if you are inconvenienced by Covid-19, you are, at least, alive. There are minimum five million people who would love to be able to complain about being stuck at home for another few months but they’re actually the reason we refer to this as being a fatal pandemic.

In the early years, when people would complain about how hard life is in Aotearoa with Covid, I would mutter under my breath that they should go and read a newspaper, to perhaps provide a little context as to how good we had it, comparatively.

Well, it’s a (passive aggressive) line that doesn’t really work anymore, because if you were to pick up our biggest national newspaper, or tune into our nightly news, you really would assume that Aotearoa is doing it tougher than anywhere else in the world. Heck, even the Taliban are apparently nicer than us!!!!! (To one specific white woman, with a NZ passport, who is of absolutely no threat to them, but never mind that context). I’ll guess we can just add ‘Meaner than the Taliban’, to the descriptors used for our country over the past two years, right alongside ‘Smug Hermit Kingdom and ‘NZ Hellhole.’

If you were to pick up our biggest national newspaper, or tune into our nightly news, you really would assume that Aotearoa is doing it tougher than anywhere else in the world. Heck, even the Taliban are nicer than us!!!!!

(I will admit to using the term ‘hellhole’ to describe Auckland over this last long weekend but that was purely due to the humidity, not the pandemic).

The exhaustion – and the anger – is, at times, understandable. The pandemic has stretched on long enough now that I know very few people who haven’t been hit by a ‘normal’ crisis, or stressful life event in this time. There is no doubt that Covid-19 – and the global restrictions around it – make every single thing more difficult. I am certainly not going to tell you to be ‘glass half full’ about this stage of the pandemic; I mean, the crux of this entire story is ‘at least more of us aren’t dead (yet)?’ Pollyanna, I am not.

But there’s a big difference between being inconvenienced because of Covid-19 and being buried from it. For the many people who are quick to criticise this government on their Covid response I would ask: which 14,000 members of our society would you have been happy to sacrifice? Because that’s the estimated number of deaths we’d be looking at if we hadn’t locked our country down.

Would you knock off our elderly? Would you take out our children? Would you besiege our rural communities? Would you write-off the thousands of Kiwis who live with health conditions which can already make life more challenging, never mind a global pandemic? 

MIQ is a brutal, black and white and unpredictable system. It is also the main measure we have had to prevent mass death. You have to wonder, how many of the people complaining about it actually know someone who’s died of Covid? Because it’s hard to argue with MIQ’s dogged effectiveness if you’ve seen the alternative.

It’s been four years since my husband has seen his family back in Iran – a problem shared by tens of thousands of people living inside New Zealand, who also aren’t able to see their family due to MIQ but aren’t given front-page op-eds to complain about it. Every time we have made another promise to try and visit Iran – weighing up the risk, weighing up the MIQ battle – his family tell us the same thing: ‘please don’t leave New Zealand. You are in the best place in the world for the pandemic’. 

They see it, all too clearly. You don’t have to tell people who have watched so many of their colleagues, family and community die that this is a disease to be taken seriously. But apparently we do keep having to remind our most privileged New Zealanders, over and over again.

There’s a big difference between being inconvenienced because of Covid-19 and being buried from it.

I don’t know what stage we are at of this pandemic – I feel the resigned gloom settling back in around us, that we are in for another ‘things will get worse before they get better’ few months. But one day, this will all be over. And as the smoke and the anger clears, I hope we remember how lucky we were to have a leader and a government that prioritised saving as many lives as possible, for as long as they could. And I hope we long remember the people, and the platforms, who tried to convince us otherwise.

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