Tuesday, September 26, 2023

It’s a Dangerous Day in NZ When Our Pragmatism Gives Way to Fear

OPINION: This morning I woke up and saw a story that claimed there were ‘cracks in the team of five million’. 

A study had analysed Kiwi’s language and social media habits, which found people were more anxious and angry about this second rise in alert levels ‘amid growing frustration and despair’. 

Well no shit. 

This second round has been awful for so many people, myself included. Any novelty factor from our first lockdown had well and truly vanished, and we’re stuck home once again trying to figure out how to pay bills and keep sanity. 

But this time is very different for one very annoying reason – politicking. 

It’s an annoying inevitability that politics was going to get in the way of this second Covid wave, with one side trying to hang on to power and the other throwing everything they have at seizing it, and in a normal election campaign, sure. Bring on the popcorn. 

Kiwis, at the best of times, don’t have a lot of patience for politicking, we’re too pragmatic. ‘Just get the bloody job done’, we collectively yell at the news. 

Stirring the pot is what the opposition is supposed to do. Well, actually they’re supposed to hold the government to account, which is a crucial facet of democracy. But I don’t know how any politician with an iota of a conscience or a smidge of compassion can do that when it will directly – and crucially, needlessly – impact people’s mental health. 

Gerry Brownlee’s classic – “It’s an interesting series of facts” when speculating upon the timing of the Prime Minister visiting a mask factory, then days later announcing we had community transmission once again. 

The deputy leader of the freaking opposition seemingly put forward the idea that the government was keeping information from the public. He later apologised if his comments were “misinterpreted”, and admitted on the radio that he’d got himself into a “bad spot” and “certainly didn’t intend to create any fear”. 

But you did, Gerry – you did. And it was low, it was dirty, and it was dangerous. 

It’s a point of pride for many New Zealanders that our politics registers pretty low on the scale of scandals – all we have to deal with are flying sex toys, some hotel porn and that odd bloke who took those weird photos in the long grass that time. 

But right now, if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. 

I don’t see value in Judith Collins telling us that if her party was in power, no one would have breached border security protocols. Because, how the hell could you know that?

I don’t see any value in cute little quips and a suggestive eyebrow raise. And I certainly don’t see any value in scaremongering and encouraging conspiracy theories. Leave that shit to America, kthanks. 

Public health is more important than politics – even during an election year.

I read another column a few days ago with the headline ‘I like you Jacinda – but please shut up about the team of five million’. Have we honestly got to a point where we’re criticising our leaders for promoting kindness and unity? 

I get it – some people are just over it, and that’s fine. We’re all over Covid, actually. But it’s also not just about you. There are people who need reassurance, and kindness, and a call for unity. And if you have a problem with it, scroll on through and find what you need elsewhere, and leave the positivity and optimism for the people who need it. 

I do see value in the Opposition asking questions and proposing alternative solutions. I don’t believe there is a single politician in New Zealand who doesn’t want us to get through this as quickly as we can. 

We were always going to struggle with this second wave. It’s a double blow for the country’s biggest city and the economic ramifications are bad enough. But it’s winter. It’s cold, it’s miserable. Not to mention the whole pride thing – we’re a nation who bloody loves a favourable international headline – “Omg they mentioned NZ!” – and we lost our ability to say that yet again, we’d bested the world. 

And now, along with the politics, we have the nutcase conspiracy theories. Covid is a hoax. No, it’s caused by 5G. 

That’s something to be ‘over’.

All of it is fuelled by fear, and anxiety, and misinformation, and it’s up to everyone – The Government and the Opposition – to unite to stamp that out. 

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

Because it’s a dangerous day in Aotearoa when our beloved pragmatism gives way to fear. 

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