Friday 14 August 2020

Here We Go Again.

A Heavy Burden: At times such as these, our prime minister could be forgiven for wondering whether some malign political spirit has laid a curse upon her. As if everything that she is, and everything of which she is capable, can only ever be revealed fully at moments of harm and horror and national crisis. As if, on some divinely wayward whim, this daughter of the House of Sunshine has been sent to rule the Land of Storms.

 Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

 William Shakespeare – Henry V


 THERE I WAS, halfway through an episode of Vera, when my wife bursts into the sitting room, cellphone in hand. Jacinda and Ashley have called a special media conference for 9:15pm. It could only mean one thing. Community transmission of the Covid-19 virus had resumed. Our 102-day run of luck had run out.

 Jacinda Ardern is much younger than the British actor, Brenda Blethyn, who plays Vera Stanhope, the shrewd and indomitable Geordie police detective, but both women possess the special quality which allows them to demonstrate leadership and compassion simultaneously. Jacinda’s performance on Tuesday evening was distinguished by something else, however: sadness.

 She must have known, from the moment she received the “sit-rep” from the Director-General of Health, that her country and its people would be required to draw upon what scant reserves of courage and tolerance remained to them after their first encounter with Covid-19, to do battle with the monster a second time. She must have known, also, that she had no choice but to ask them, as Shakespeare’s King Henry V asks his exhausted troops, to make one more heroic effort against the foe.

 So, as always, there was clarity and forthrightness from New Zealand’s prime communicator, but there was sadness, too – and just a hint of weariness. As if the burden of leadership which she has carried so steadfastly since 2017 has suddenly become a lot heavier.

 At times such as these, our prime minister could be forgiven for wondering whether some malign political spirit has laid a curse upon her. As if everything that she is, and everything of which she is capable, can only ever be revealed fully at moments of harm and horror and national crisis. As if, on some divinely wayward whim, this daughter of the House of Sunshine has been sent to rule the Land of Storms.

 Then again, the acceptance of one’s fate: the understanding that Fortuna’s judgements can neither be appealed, nor deflected, but only borne with such stoicism and grace as one can muster, has always defined the classic hero.

 Perhaps that’s why so many New Zealanders hold their prime minister in such high regard. Because whether it be the Christchurch Mosque Shootings; the White Island Tragedy; or the Covid-19 Pandemic: Jacinda Ardern has consistently raised her shield against the slings and arrows of her outrageous political fortune, drawn her sword, and marched forward unflinchingly. Perhaps it also explains why so many New Zealanders have been willing to follow her.

 Many, but not all.

 It is the dirtiest of Humanity’s multitude of dirty secrets: that any display of genuine and unselfconscious excellence is bound to inspire the envy of those who, deep in their hearts, know they cannot – and will never – match it. This envious response to demonstrable talent is so deeply ingrained in a certain type of New Zealander that our culture has given it a name: “The Tall Poppy Syndrome”. It is our country’s curse: so few lofty flowers; so many secateurs.

 How much better off we would be as a country if in this – as in so many other matters – we allowed ourselves to be guided by the wisdom of the Maori. Though by no means immune to the injuries inflicted by envy and jealousy, Maori culture recognised that there are some values that  should never be sacrificed; some aspirations – and individuals – too important to abandon:

 Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.

 Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

 The resurgence of Covid-19 in the New Zealand community is a grave threat, not only to the lives of the elderly and vulnerable, but also to the businesses and livelihoods of millions of New Zealanders. Short of war, it is difficult to imagine a more profound challenge to the resilience of our state, its institutions and citizens.

 That challenge can be met in two ways: as a united people, determined to do all within its power to once again stamp out the virus; or as a disunited rabble, riven by envy, jealousy and malice.

 Once more, Jacinda Ardern is asking New Zealanders to wage war upon the Covid-19 enemy.

 Let’s knock the bastard off.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 14 August 2020.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Given that every electorate billboard I've seen shows Jacinda Arden standing in front of the actual candidate, it's obvious that the Labour Party has figured out that she has more appeal than all the rest of them put together. :)

Kokila Patel said...

And in another 100 days again?

oneblokesview said...

As I stare 75 years old in the eye I have noticed that as I get older I get more emotional more easily.

Reading this ""piece" of emotional out pouring I suspect that the author must be approaching 90 years old.

Anonymous said...

I think this could be classified as one of your more "elegaic" musings.

Simon Cohen said...

Newshub can reveal that just one week before our current community outbreak, 63.5 percent of all border and hotel isolation workers in Auckland had never been tested for COVID-19.
The Prime Minister says all staff will now face compulsory tests, but a public health expert says it beggars belief this wasn’t already happening.
They’re part of our most high-risk group: airport staff like Customs and Immigration, hotel workers like security.
All work in the vicinity of recent returnees, yet only a fraction had been tested prior to this outbreak.
“It beggars belief that in an environment where the border is your major protection against a second wave that you are not exhausting every possible opportunity to mitigate risk,” said Professor Des Gorman, Auckland University public health expert.
Auckland University Professor of Medicine Des Gorman rated the Government's response as "somewhere between two and three" out of 10.
"I've seen health systems manage medical emergencies worse than this but it takes some doing," "It's like we're living in a parallel universe."
It is pretty much the sole point of entry."

One would have to say that the Govt has to accept the blame for this second out break.They had 100 days to put in place protocols to prevent this from happening and it is apparent that they failed.My grandson [an unemployed tour driver]has two friends who have secured work driving coaches with returning NZers to quarantine and despite doing this for the last two months they have yet to be supplied with PEP gear or have been tested.The mind boggles at such bungling.

Kat said...

@Simon Cohen

"Newshub can reveal............" the opinions of yet another "highly qualified" critic that has ALL the information that the govt doesn't have......right.

Taking your "have to says" to there logical conclusions would it also be fair to blame the govt for all the other criminal and anti-social behaviour in the community. Would it not be fair to lay a good proportion of blame on people. Do you want a completely totalitarian state to control "such bungling".

Filmfinder4u said...

What a beautifully written article, highlighting both the good and bad about our country. Thank you Chris Trotter.

Woodbrook said...

Thank you for the Henry V quote

I can picture our PM giving this speech:
St. Crispins Day Speech - Henry V 1989 Film

And the following words from the Duke of Exeter to the Dauphin are the kind of messenger and message that should be sent from the PM to Brownlee in response to his conspiracy utterances

Scorn and defiance; slight regard, contempt,
And any thing that may not misbecome
The mighty sender, doth he prize you at.

Pat O'Dea said...

Open letter to the Prime Minister

Morena, Prime Minister

Elimination is still the best strategy, September 19 is still the best date for the election.

New Zealand is at a crossroads.

There are two crucial matters at issue: one is our public health response to the Corona Virus. The other is our democratic norms.

Will we go for elimination?

Will we go for elections on the 19th of September?

The two questions are inextricably linked.

Today, at 10am, as I understand it, you will announce whether the New Zealand General Election will take place at the scheduled date of Saturday, 19 September 2020.

How can an election be safely held if the Sars Cov3 Corona Virus is still circulating in the community?

The fact is it can't.

There is only one way that the 2020 New Zealand general election can be safely held on the scheduled date of Saturday, 19 September 2020.

That is when the virus has been stopped from circulating in the community.

To hold elections on the stated date the virus must be eliminated from our nation before that date. We did it once we can do it again.

As some commentators have asked, if we don't have the election on Sept 19 when will we have it?

If we don't eliminate the virus now, when will we eliminate it?

The science says that going hard and fast now is the best strategy to avoid having to do it again, later.

At an earlier briefing you stated that the Government is prepared to drop alert levels, even if the virus is still circulating in the community, such a step, if taken, would signal that the government has given up on 'elimination' of the virus in favour of 'suppression' of the virus.

However experts say that elimination is still the best strategy.

To eliminate the virus from circulating in the community by the 19th of September, - a Level 4 Lockdown must be scheduled to start at the latest, on the 24th of August, (a week from now), and finish on the 18th of September. (the day before the election).

To go to Level 4 for a second time the Government must have the people with them.

Already people, especially small proprietors, are hurting under Level 3 restrictions. As much as possible the government must alleviate this economic hurt. The 2nd Level 4 Lockdown must include measures to alleviate people's economic suffering as much as possible.

The continuation of the wage subsidy has already been agreed.

But more is needed.

A total moratorium on all rents and mortgages for the period of the second Level 4 Lockdown is a must.

Cabinet Member and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has resolutely refused to support any sort of rent relief measures. Describing them as using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

If Peters still refuses to allow rent relief for suffering New Zealanders, then the Deputy Prime Minister must be removed from cabinet and relieved of all his ministerial responsibilities by majority vote in cabinet and/or government. The government will continue as a minority 'caretaker' government until the election is held on the scheduled date.

All campaigning to be on line, and on Broadcast TV and radio. Postal voting should be started as soon as possible negating the need for elderly and immune compromised to go to the voting booths. As most people will be stuck at home with their devices, the level of public engagement debate, and the ability to cast an informed democratic vote will be at the highest levels ever.

Stay safe. Be lucky.

Let's do this

Patrick John O'Dea

Simon Cohen said...

Dear old Kat. Once again she posts a totally irrelevant response to my post without once providing any arguments against what I have posted.The Government is rightly being criticised for saying something was being done when it patently wasn't. To use her own example the government has never stated that it will stop all criminal and anti social behaviour in the community and therefore it cannot be criticised for criminal and anti social behaviour. This is a perfect example of her muddled thinking which is exacerbated by her idolisation of the current prime minister.To paraphrase another world leader Adern could shoot someone in Queen Street and Kat would make excuses for her.But of course we will never know if she would because she persists in hiding her true identity behind a nom de plume.

Kat said...

Careful young Mr Cohen you are making a fool of yourself as well as putting words in my mouth, and that is not very gentlemanly now is it. I suggest you do your homework more thoroughly on exactly what the govt actually did say it was doing, not just what it was reported in some media.