Friday, 20 March 2020

The Only Way Through This Crisis Is Together.

Together: In leading New Zealand through the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Prime Minister could do a lot worse than allow herself to be guided by the spirit of collective sacrifice and co-operation that animated the New Zealanders of 80 years ago. Most Kiwis alive today have had no opportunity to prove their mettle in the way their parents and grandparents did during the global struggle against fascism. In the weeks and months to come, Jacinda’s Government must do everything it can to ensure that we are given our chance.

THE COALITION GOVERNMENT’S greatest political challenge over the next 6-12 months will be keeping up morale. If it fails to hold the nation together, then it will be swept out of office on a tsunami of fear, anger and recrimination.

Only a very small number of New Zealanders can draw upon historical experience to help them through the unfolding Covid-19 crisis. Assuming people’s coherent memories kick in from around the age of 7, to recall the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 you would need to have been born in 1922 – making you 98! To have clear memories of the outbreak of the World War II, in September 1939, you would need to be 88. Most of us have never experienced anything like the present crisis. If our morale is not to crumble in the face of mass illness, a rising death toll, and something pretty close to economic collapse, then the Government will have to box very clever indeed.

It is, therefore, to be hoped that Jacinda and her colleagues, in addition to being briefed by scientists, physicians and senior civil-servants, call upon the services of New Zealand’s historians – especially those with knowledge of “The Home Front” during World War II. The Government needs to know how this country kept up its morale during six long years of war. Especially important to understand, is how we coped with the first three years of the war – when nearly all the news was bad. What prevented us from falling to pieces when the Germans and the Japanese were winning on just about every front?

Critical to the maintenance of public morale was the near complete control exercised by the wartime government over information and the means of communicating it. The daily newspapers, radio broadcasts, cinema newsreels – even private letters – were strictly censored. The Government’s key objective was to ensure that every citizen received the same information about the war.

While no government can prevent people spreading rumours and speculation, the state does have the power to punish those responsible. During World War II, persons found guilty of spreading “alarm and despondency” faced harsh penalties. To be convicted of attempting to undermine the government and/or the war effort, or, even worse, give “aid and comfort to the enemy” – i.e. commit treason – could mean execution.

There can be little doubt that had the Internet existed in 1940, one of the first things the Labour Party leader and wartime prime minister, Peter Fraser, would have done is bring it under strict state control. Inevitably, Jacinda Ardern will have been briefed by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on the practicalities of controlling the Internet, should the situation deteriorate to the point where such action becomes necessary. If that sounds fanciful, just consider the fact that in 2019, governments around the world shut down the Internet on nearly 200 occasions. Given the Internet’s crucial economic role, the NZ Government would be loath to take such a drastic step. But, if fake news was inciting major unrest: rioting in the streets; a run on the banks; or massive and prolonged panic buying; Jacinda and her colleagues would be left with little choice.

Controlling the crisis “narrative”, however, is just the start. Keeping up public morale is best achieved by encouraging all citizens to “do their bit” for victory. In the present circumstances, “doing our bit” might involve joining neighbourhood units dedicated to assisting the elderly and those in “self-isolation” with food and medicine deliveries. Such groups could also serve as the Government’s “eyes and ears”: reporting possible new cases of infection and enforcing the quarantine. “Doing our bit” might also involve working in the “instant factories” set up to manufacture protective masks and clothing, and construct additional ICU facilities. This sort of state-directed production is already underway in the United Kingdom and the United States. If New Zealanders could lead the world in medical equipment innovation; protective gear, and electrical appliance design, then this manufacturing proposition shouldn’t be beyond our powers!

During World War II, the NZ Government gave itself more-or-less unlimited powers to intervene in and control every aspect of the market. Obviously, this included the labour force. Just about anyone could be “manpowered” (sorry, but this was the 1940s!) anywhere. In 2020, with the supply of immigrant farm labour shut off, keeping up agricultural and horticultural production (our principal source of overseas funds now that tourism and education have been taken out of the export mix) may require those without work to accept being “person-powered” to the nation’s orchards and dairy farms.

When World War II came to an end in 1945 the sense of collective achievement was huge. Clearly, the suffering and dangers endured by New Zealand’s soldiers, sailors and airmen in direct conflict with the enemy could not be shared by everyone, but just about everyone contributed something to the war effort. The women who worked in factories, offices and on the land; the kids who collected waste paper and scrap metal; the grandparents who tended “Victory Gardens” and knitted socks for the “boys overseas”. There had been shortages, rationing, deep fear and agonising loss, but New Zealanders had come through their national ordeal, together, and they were enormously proud of their resilience. Moreover, most of them were equally proud of the government that had guided them through – re-electing Fraser’s Labour Party in 1946.

In leading New Zealand through the Covid-19 Pandemic, Jacinda could do a lot worse than allow herself to be guided by the spirit of collective sacrifice and co-operation that animated the New Zealanders of 80 years ago. Most Kiwis alive today have had no opportunity to prove their mettle in the way their parents and grandparents did during the global struggle against fascism. In the weeks and months to come, Jacinda’s Government must do everything it can to ensure that we are given our chance.

A top-down, government-knows-best approach will not secure the public “buy-in” crucial to keeping the people of this country together. If the response to the Covid-19 Pandemic is not crafted and delivered by all of us, working together, for all of us, then the many hardships and wrenching tragedies that lie ahead will not bind our communities more closely together, they will tear them apart. Good leaders do not attempt to carry their people, they allow themselves to be carried by them.

We can be strong, we can be kind, and we will be okay, Jacinda. Count on it.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 20 March 2020.


Trev1 said...

For three years this government has sought to divide people. With the aid of a compliant and often fawning media, it has targeted farmers for alleged environmental crimes and smeared people who hold conservative opinions on social issues, particularly in the wake of the Christchurch shootings. Ardern says New Zealand has been fundamentally changed, except we weren't. That perception is entirely of her own making.

People now expect competence from the government in addressing this crisis. There are many questions about the adequacy of its response so far eg the restricted availability of testing and the wisdom of "self-isolation" as opposed to quarantine. New Zealanders are always ready to look after their own communities regardless. But you can no longer pull the wool over their eyes with simplistic, self-serving propaganda, especially if the casualties begin mounting, needlessly.

Patricia said...

I consider one of of the best movements was the volunteer student army in Christchurch during the Christchurch earthquake. They were just wonderful.

Kat said...

There most likely wasn't the troupe of moronic commentators such as Mike Hosking back in WWII, and if one had emerged they would have been quickly dealt with. Mike Hosking continues to publicly rant on radio and newsprint, its time he was put in isolation.

David George said...

Nature will always challenge, that is it's "nature", you could say. It's always trying to test us, even to kill us. Eventually it wins and we lose.
Let's all show our fortitude and community spirit. We're organising a look out and shopping help for the elderly on our street, it's not much really but it's opening contact and helping instil the most valuable thing there is:Trust.

Interesting change in attitude with fifty years ago:
"Destructive floods in 1952 and 1953, which led to serious loss of life, were perceived through a very different cultural frame to the far less destructive floods of 2000. In the 1950s, the cultural script contained an expectation that communities and individuals would be able to cope with calamities that they encountered. Indeed, people were encouraged to interpret disaster as a test, as a challenge to be overcome.

By contrast, in 2000, floods were represented as uniquely threatening events that were likely to overwhelm the coping capacity of individuals. This difference in emphasis can be seen in the following excerpts. In 1953, a report for The Times on the queen’s visit to flood-afflicted areas clearly communicated the officially sanctioned view that people would respond to the flood with ‘courage and fortitude’. It was reported that the queen was ‘impressed by the stoic and heroic manner of the people who had obviously been through a bad and trying time, suffering heavy losses’ (The Times, 4 February 1953).

In contrast, newspapers in 2000 constantly sent the message that flood victims would suffer serious psychological damage."

greywarbler said...

Trev1 You appear to think farmers should get off scot-free from any affects from their trade, and because they are superior, wonderful beings in their own minds. No-one else comes close and farmers are super-natural so they don't have to fit into normal earthly constructs. You are full of hot air and will, without warning to you, one day reach a state of inflation where you rise up to your Cloud 9 without even having time to say farewell to your loved ones, if you have any.

David George said...

Can't help but agree, Chris, with your plea for us, individually and collectively, to take on the responsibility we all have towards those in need.
We are in a very different social environment from fifty or a hundred years ago; families are small, isolated, scattered, and weak; local communities, churches and institutions likewise. The individual, familial and local lack the strength and cohesion they once had but there are huge problems in trying to fill the void from the central, national or global.
Perhaps it's time we reexamined the conservative values we've so casually cast aside - the real basis for a strong nation resides first in the responsible, honest individual and the unconditional love of the familial. Strength and resilience in the local and then the national flow from below but can be encouraged and enabled from above.
Perhaps this is a time to heal fractures with the family, friends and neighbours and to reengage with our local institutions such as church, meals on wheels, Rotary and so no and make this a time of renewal not regression.

David George said...

That was a graceless, nasty post Grey, ill befitting someone of your professed compassion.
Perhaps it would be wise to consider the other.
My son in law and daughter are soon to be parents and farmers; fine, generous, honest, much loved and loving people. They supplement the farm income with agricultural work around the district. The long inconvenient hours, the level of shear hard work and risk (personal and financial) they willingly face would horrify most people. All that to put food on the table of the world.
It's worth considering that without modern agriculture we would need twice the land to produce food that's twice as expensive (roughly speaking) and that the world has never had so few, proportionally, hungry people.
A little humility and gratitude wouldn't go amiss.

John Hurley said...

NZ's historians are rather selective:

The immigration policy review in 1986 was part of a much larger agenda for change in New Zealand (Bedford 1996). It was not essentially a change in state policy with a primary focus on one region of the world, as Parr (2000:329) suggests, although clearly through the 1980s and 1990s immigration from countries in Asia was a highly topical issue for both politicians and the public. The attitudes of New Zealanders in the mid-1990s towards immigration may not have reflected the positive perspective on the value of diversity in our society that is contained in the Review of Immigration Policy August 1986. But this does not mean that the globalisation of immigration to New Zealand was an “unintended consequence of policy changes in 1986”. It was a deliberate strategy, based on a premise that the “infusion of new elements to New Zealand life has been of immense value to the development of this country to date and will, as a result of this Government’s review of immigration policy, become even more important in the future” (Burke 1986:330).

Parr (2000) writes “[T]he views of New Zealanders are not conducive to the population of New Zealanders becoming more diversified globally.”
From localism to globalism? New Zealand Sociology, 15(2), 304-. 335

All of a sudden our communities are us?

Does ethnic diversity erode social trust? Continued immigration and corresponding growing ethnic diversity have prompted this essential question for modern societies, but few clear answers have been reached in the sprawling literature. Taking this as point of departure, this article reviews the existing literature on the relationship between ethnic diversity and social trust through a narrative review and a meta-analysis of 1,001 estimates from 87 studies. The review clarifies the core concepts, highlights pertinent debates, and tests core claims from the literature on the relationship between ethnic diversity and social trust. Several results stand out from the meta-analysis. We find a statistically significant negative relationship between ethnic diversity and social trust across all studies. The relationship is stronger for trust in neighbors, and when studied in more local contexts. Covariate conditioning generally changes the relationship only slightly. The review concludes by discussing avenues for future research.

John Hurley said...

German soldiers didn't fight for fascism they fought for their country - a nation.

Powell: No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.
Thatcher: Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.
Powell: No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Our Kiwi Dave, those good old conservative values of helping each other when we're down – the ones that conservatives made illegal in the 1951 waterfront dispute.:) And the ones that are causing nutty religious people to gather in large groups to try to pray the virus away – which will do us a lot of good right? Aside from spreading the virus quicker.

Anonymous said...

meanwhile, in the alternative reality, the USA is seeing panic buying of guns...

David George said...

Thank you for your comment Guerilla Surgeon, you don't seem to have much of an idea about the philosophy. A bit of a clue, it's essentially not a political theory or ideology nor is it a fixed prescription for society. Conservatism is a bottom up, consensus and consent driven set of values as alluded to in Chris's essay above. Quote:
"A top-down, government-knows-best approach will not secure the public “buy-in” crucial to keeping the people of this country together. If the response to the Covid-19 Pandemic is not crafted and delivered by all of us, working together, for all of us, then the many hardships and wrenching tragedies that lie ahead will not bind our communities more closely together, they will tear them apart. Good leaders do not attempt to carry their people, they allow themselves to be carried by them."
Sir Roger Scruton has a very good wee book out "Conservatism, an invitation to the great tradition" that I can thoroughly recommend. I suspect you will be surprised with what you discover.

greywarbler said...

kiwidave quotes from academic writings on immigration. Bad old commonsense can be applied here for some direct opinions based on observation from the peeps themselves and has boon noted as negative in one reference.

I consider one branch of my family ended up becoming so angry at a perceived insult from his father to his wife that he ended up completely estranged from everyone, and breaking the family up. That is in an apparently ordinary pakeha family (that had trauma in the young life of the man). In some countries there may be guidance in how to deal with differences of opinion, learning to understand and develop empathy so as to find ways to understand and come to agreement. Not much in NZ. A lack that probably will never be repaired, as we go further from each other, and put machines, cellphones, chips, computers in the place of humans inter-acting and learning to like each other.

Then there is the lack of co-ordination between numbers of immigrants and housing and jobs. Both of these are important in being able to settle and make your place in our place. Then there is historical precedent; the Jews would probably always have been careful, hard working, educated and capable citizens - it seems to be their way - and yet in Europe in various countries they would be attacked. On the spurious grounds that they were the cause of the death of Jesus centuries back. Probably, in truth they were too clever-by-half for the other inhabitants of the country they lived in and their wealthy and wannabes turned on them to steal, or use as scapegoats; an unhappy animal in any form. So these are factors in immigrants feeling and staying happy, and if homes and jobs are dealt with and made accessible, what groups struggling with hopes of getting better arise, as they are bound to when someone 'jumps the queue' for assistance to better their condition?

Then there is 'chaos theory'*, which is a way of saying that every change, even a small one, has a potential to make a bigger effect than imagined, theorised, calculated, or planned for. Immigration would be bound to have such effects; anyone thinking anything different would be a fathead who simply wangled his/her way into a responsible position.

*Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics focusing on the study of chaos—states of dynamical systems whose apparently-random states of disorder and irregularities are often governed by deterministic laws that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. Wikipedia

The NZ neo-lib governments and officials are so bloody-minded about measuring success in money and others' critiques as measured on the stock exchange and our currency price, they have pressed forward with immigration for money and honey-traps to benefit NZ in a way that lacks integrity and honesty. Yet every query and hesitation turns into a twisted gambit by saying that disagreement is racist. Actually those for uncontrolled immigration are into laissez faire which seems to mean getting what I want, how I want and bugger you that would say taihoa, let's have some good and fair practices here.

David George said...

We all need to see this to get an idea just how much effort has gone in to protecting us from the arrival of the virus from overseas.
Absolutely amazing.

John Hurley said...

One embarrassment for Labour is promoting diversity as a primary goal when the evidence is strong that a homogeneous society is most interested in the well being of the whole. Social cohesion has come to mean censorship and "stories" and endless media propaganda. It is a times like this that they trot out "nation" (John Key used it after Pike River). Demographic change should happen organically (trade/skills/intermarriage). The Media have become so unhinged they are rediculous EG

Okay. From research that you’ve done – and I’m looking toward the March 15 anniversary here – but what role do immigration settings have on breeding or preventing extremism in a country?

A lot, really, because if you’re bringing in migrants who are creating anxiety, then at the fringe of that, you’re getting people who are radicalising the message about the Great Replacement, which is one of the key messages of the far right, and that is that somehow we, the host population, the white population, the Pakeha population, is being outnumbered by people who are not of our culture, not of our ethnicity, not of our religion. And so that produces not only a generalised anxiety; it also produces a fringe who are prepared to act on that.

That fringe isn’t based on fact because research out this week shows one in three New Zealanders were probably born overseas already.


BlisteringAttack said...

A new word for our times: 'burring' after Senator Richard Burr who sold shares at a very great advantage to himself after a Covid-19 briefing.

A modern day twist on 'I'm alright Jack!'

Simon Cohen said...

Dear old Kat. So little tolerance for other points of view and so blinkered that she cannot accept that her beloved Labour Party can ever be wrong.
When I read her comments I am reminded of the knitters at the base of the guillotine.

David George said...

A correction; that was John Hurley that posted on immigration Greywarbler.
And an apology, I forgot to include the link to a short clip on entering our country and the procedures elsewhere. Classic "she'll be right"; why bother quarantining (or even checking) a few thousand when you can quarantine the whole Kiwi population. Genius!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Kiwi Dave. Interesting to read your take on conservative philosophy. A pity that in practice it is nothing like that.

Kat said...

One comment that Hosking made to the PM this week was the country is full of idiots. Considering some comments on this and other media we needn't have to rely on his inside knowledge on that one.

David George said...

Thank you Guerilla Surgeon. Perhaps the problem is that conservatism gets confused (and lumped in) with neo-liberalism or libertarian capitalism etc.
Anyway here is a rather good essay on Roger Scruton; an outline of his life and philosophy written after his recent death.

Simon Cohen said...

Looked in a mirror lately Kat.

Kat said...

A classic dedicated to MTM Hosking and all his disciples.