Resuming Normal Service: The Republican Party's nominee for President in 1920, Warren Harding, promised the American people: “not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration”. If she wishes to remain our prime minister, then Jacinda Ardern will offer New Zealanders the same.
HOW EDUCATED AMERICA snickered when the Republican Party’s nominee for President campaigned for a “return to normalcy”. Clearly, the poor rube was unfamiliar with the correct noun – “normality”. What more could be expected, they sniffed derisively, from this undistinguished Senator from Ohio?
But Warren Gamaliel Harding had got it right. In the aftermath of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history, yesterday’s nouns were no longer fit for linguistic duty. In 1920 “normality” just didn’t cut it. “Normalcy”, however, struck just the right note with an American electorate bone weary of war, influenza, strikes, Justice Department raids, race riots and entangling foreign treaties. Harding became the twenty-ninth President of the United States, with 60 percent of the popular vote.
It was “normalcy” wot won it.
It is ever thus. After an extended period of heightened emotions and devastating experiences, the one overwhelming desire of the overwhelming majority of human-being is for everything to go back to the way it used to be – before everything got upended. Yes, there are lessons to be drawn from these traumatic events. But not now. And, yes, if we are to avoid something similar happening to us in the future, then, of course, things will have to change. But not now. Right now, all we want is some peace and quiet – and for our lives to return to normal.
It a facet of human nature to which all those leftists currently urging Labour, NZ First and the Greens not to “waste” the Covid-19 crisis should pay close attention. New Zealanders old enough to have participated in the massive protests that accompanied the 1981 Springbok Tour might like to cast their minds back to how quickly all that activist fervour and commitment evaporated. It seemed preposterous that after such a pivotal political event the people who’d made it happen could simply pick up from where they’d left off prior to the Springbok’s arrival – but they did.
If the Left does not formulate its strategies with the political potency of the “return to normalcy” slogan uppermost in its mind, then its representatives are certain to pay a very high price. Whenever the next general election is held: 19 September, 28 November, or sometime in 2021; any party not promising the voters a well-earned holiday from fear, sorrow, frustration and anger will crash and burn.
After weeks in lockdown and months of economic anxiety, the voters will be in no mood for grand schemes and novel experiments. They will vote for the parties that ask the least of them. The politicians who make it clear that the New Zealand people, having done all that was asked of them – and more – have every right to expect their Government to say: “We’ve got this.” Essentially, the winning message will be: ‘You’ve done enough. Now, leave it to us.’ Grand schemes and novel experiments will not win votes, but a promise to “return to normalcy” will.
Left-wing radicals will howl with frustration if the Labour-NZ First-Green Government allows itself to be guided by Harding’s example. The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is, however, well enough attuned to the needs of New Zealanders to let these grey-muzzled old dogs of the Left go on howling. She, too, must feel the need to call ‘time-out’ on unrelenting crisis management and endless decisions – each one more important than the last. She, too, must long for an evening-in with her baby and her man. More than anyone, she must feel the planetary attraction of “normalcy”
She and her colleagues must also understand that if they don’t offer a “return to normalcy” then Simon Bridges and his National Party most certainly will. They must understand that “normalcy” is the meat and drink of all conservative parties: that what people crave most in life is predictability; a world they can wake up to with confidence and enthusiasm. Nothing frightens people more than a world out of joint: a world that no longer works. Mr Bridges need convince Kiwi voters of only one thing: that he has the ability and the determination to restore predictability to New Zealanders’ lives; to make their world work again.
Warren Harding promised the American people “not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration”. If Jacinda is wise (and she is) she will promise New Zealanders the same.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 3 April 2020.
Any Politician promising normalcy by any time in 2021 will fail spectacularly to deliver.
Jacinda must surely be wondering whatever possessed her to "do this". She has had a terrible time of it and it isn't over yet. I must say I admire her more and more as she rises to each unprecedented challenge each one seemingly worse than the last. But I'm afraid I can see it telling in her face and her emaciated figure.
D J S
Normalcy won't be the same as pre Covid. For years to come there will be less tourism and less travel. Many of the people in these sectors will be looking for new jobs. What will they be?
I agree, that radical new and expensive ideas are unlikely to be welcomed (no UBI). But some big ideas will be necessary to change the economy to recognise the new reality. Maybe a bigger role for state funded infrastructure. I would note there won't be quite the enthusiasm for all sorts of public transport projects. In a country as small as ours trying to force people onto public transport in a post covid world unless there is a compelling need is going to be quite hard. High rise dense living won't be nearly as appealing as it once was.
Maybe a comprehensive four lane roading system. We lag behind virtually all developed countries in this regard, and at least in part explains our relatively high road death rate (much higher than the likely covid deaths) For instance Whangarei to Christchurch. and to Tauranga. With lots of electric charging stations.
It is going to be real hard for the new economy to provide work for the hundreds of thousands in the tourism and hospitality sector, many who are relatively unskilled. Immigration will need to be drastically reduced, especially for short term work visas. At least that will provide seasonal work in the primary sector. Also there will need to be a lot more incentives for onshore processing, so that instead of logs being exported, it is sawn timber, etc. Some modification of FTA rules may be necessary for this to happen.
Surely the activism apparent during the Springbok Tour disappeared largely by dint of the fact that, contrary to received opinion, protesters at the time had an overwhelming sense of failure. The Tour was not cancelled, Muldoon won the next election, apartheid remained (at that time) in place.
Over the last few decades there has been an oft repeated observation, in the western world at least, of a loss of community both locally and nationally. One positive spin-off of this common catastrophe has been the sense that "we're all in this together." The world really does feel like a village right now.
Can one dare to hope that a collegiality of humanity may continue into the future? Or will we quickly revert to our ingrained, neo-liberal default of, "Stuff you. I only want what's best for me and my tribe."
The Covid 19 crisis should be seen as a correction, not the end of the world (that may arrive with a more lethal cousin like Nipah virus which is also carried by bats if China allows its vile wet markets to continue).Tourism was always likely to prove a chimera as a vehicle for long-term growth; food production remains New Zealand's real strength. The government needs to recognize this fundamental point and do everything it can to encourage agriculture/ horticulture along with their associated industries and invest in their infrastructure needs, especially R&D, training and transport. This has to be the new "normalcy".
I take it as a truism that New Zealand post Covid-19 will be quite different to the way it was before. The virus will see to that. As will the government. And for that matter so will the people of New Zealand.
The changes being made to the social and economic structure by the emergency administration deserves more attention than you have given it Chris. National daily newspapers are classified as essential, but local weeklies are forced to close. The supermarket chains are allowed to trade, but small green groceries shut down. Commercial food production is maed an essential industry but private hunting and fishing are prohibited. (That last won't happen of course, despite the government decree).
So Labour is doing what it did in 1984, and what it always has done in a crisis, real or contrived. It is tilting the playing field in favour of large scale enterprise, and centralized power.
But there will be a reaction. There always is, and if the measures put in place by Labour fail to cope with the crisis, then the reaction will unseat and overwhelm the government.
Most of us know that the government made a catastrophic blunder in the few days preceding 15 March.
For the reason why, look to the avuncular figure in the portrait hanging on the wall behind Prime Minister Ardern as she addressed the nation.
Michael Joseph Savage. The man who declaimed "With gratitude for the past and confidence in the future we range ourselves without fear beside Britain. Where she goes, we go; where she stands, we stand. We are only a small and young nation, but we march with a union of hearts and souls to a common destiny."
Stirring words, and Labour has never departed from them. The party and its supporters have been culturally and politically fixated on Britain in a way which the National Party has not. (National has been more open to the influence and largesse of rival powers such as the United States and China).
Peter Fraser was born in Scotland, Walter Nash in England. David Lange and Jacinda Ardern both won their political spurs in the United Kingdom.
Does any of this matter?
It does because, almost as a habitual reflex, Jacinda followed the lead of Boris Johnson at the beginning of this crisis. When Boris did his U-turn, so did Jacinda. But too late. Britain and New Zealand are now in dire straits with the Covid-19 epidemic.
The politician who gets her country into a mess, and then gets it out, is a hero. If Jacinda succeeds in eradicating the Corona virus few will remember why and how Covid-19 got away in this country, and the opposition parties have nothing to gain by making the point in public.
But if she fails do not expect the New Zealand voter to return her to power on the strength of an engaging smile and a turn of phrase brimming with compassion. Then "normalcy" will not be an option for her. She will have to offer the voters something more than a serving of Roger Douglas' "unfinished business" from 1987.
@Geoff Fischer: yes I agree with you that Ardern and her government appear to have been following the UK playbook. At the beginning of the crisis the mantra was "contain and stamp it out". But then it suddenly morphed, without explanation, to "flatten the curve", which was the same slogan being used by the UK government in pursuing its "herd immunity strategy" from which it has since resiled. As public disquiet here increased with the likes of Sir Peter Gluckman advocating a lockdown to try to eliminate the virus and 120,000 people signing an online petition started by a doctor on 15 March the government abruptly changed tack and within a few days took us to Level 4 "Eliminate". But we are still not quarantining ALL arrivals at our border, nor are we doing community testing around the country to get a handle on the virus' reach within New Zealand, by region. The economic toll will be enormous, about 50% of GDP through the lockdown. The constraints on civil liberties and the capricious decisions on what constitutes an "essential" service, like the banning of periodicals, are grating on many. Is democracy still an "essential" service?
Mark: "hope that a collegiality of humanity may continue into the future"
Fair enough, that's something to hope for but where does it spring from.
I suggest it comes from the foundation of society, the family, the community then upward to the nation.
The thing that scares me more than anything is to see the rise and acceptance of arbitrary, group based judgements of good and evil; the just and the unjust. Whenever things turn really ugly this type of "thinking" is behind it. To make things worse there's a nasty anti-human vibe about; the whole of humanity dehumanised to the level of a cancer on the planet. Even Hitler only went so far as to dehumanise the objects of his hatred to sentient beings - rats and cockroaches.
The idea of a generalised love for humanity can't begin on a planetary level without a basis in the individual, the familial and the local and that can't just spontaneously arise or be forced by diktat.
"Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity. Mr. Shaw (insert Utopian of your choice), not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake. If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby.”
G.K. Chesterton, Heretics, 1905.
This was just before the 1929 crash, the Great Depression, the victory of FDR and the Keynesian Revolution. Nothing normal about all that.
Have ye not noticed the upcoming surf? While we're footling around in the sand? The behindest back-bencher with an idea will overcome her. Detail gets in the way of demo-cracy. See the major oligarchy in our view.
and also Jacinda Ardern is not wise. She is a Socialist, Wisdom and socialism don't go together at all.
Interesting that people who are accusing Arderne of being lax about the coronavirus never seem to think what would have happened if National had been in power – or at least they seem to think it would have been more "competent". I think it's far more likely that National- being run in the interests of farmers and business people, would have delayed closing the borders because farmers and business people would have been screaming about trade and the economy. Some of you might like to think about this?
@GuerillaSurgeon One only had to watch Bridges on Q&A Sunday so see the parroting of vested interests & blatant "well some poor people will die anyway so we rich may as well stay open for business" propaganda. Thankfully National are not in power at this critical time.
Kiwi Dave. Glad you're here. I have now spent a few days reading about, and trying to find works by the various conservative pundits you suggested. I will try to give you my appreciation of their work while remaining polite.
Scruton – an original conservative, apparently an admirer of Burke and disinclined to support Margaret Thatcher’s nutty monomania about unregulated markets, so some points in his favour. And of course he is actually a recognised philosopher, and seemingly thinks reasonably deeply about conservative politics. I disagree with much of what he says, particularly about religion being the foundation of a stable society for instance – given that he doesn’t seem to recognise that the less religious the country is the less crime it generally has. But I can at least respect his point of view.
After him it goes steadily downhill.
Melanie Phillips – commonly known in left-wing circles as Mad Mel and apparently fired from at least one right-wing newspaper for being too right wing – Jesus the woman is almost beyond description. Why would I take any notice of someone who dismisses the scientific consensus on climate change, believes in something called “intelligent design” which if my memory serves is anything but, and is a supporter of Andrew Wakefield and his anti-vax hysteria? The woman is obviously gullible enough to believe anything. But I guess she tells you what you want to hear.
Jordan Peterson, you know my opinion of, and of anyone who doesn’t take his prescriptions with a pinch of salt – one of the two ingredients of his diet I do believe. However I will briefly reiterate, he plunders other people’s work, misinterprets it badly – and has been pulled up on this numerous times by people whose work he has misinterpreted – to construct a political philosophy which is favoured by AFAIK, young men who need something to blame for their lack of ability in integrating into society. Again, someone who tells you what you want to hear. To the extent that you haven’t considered his lack of knowledge outside his own area of expertise, that’s the exact amount of respect you lose from me.
Douglas Murray. Interesting, a philosopher I met online described him as a “neocon clown”. However from what I can see of his work he writes very well, and is quite witty. Unfortunately though, much of his writing seems to consist of anecdotes cribbed from the Daily Hate about migrants committing crimes. He is either unaware of the fact that migrants commit crimes at a lesser rate than native born people, and that countries who import migrants tend to have their crime rates go down – in which case he hasn’t the ability to separate anecdote from data – or he is deliberately ignoring this, in which case he is disingenuous. He also seems to think like many conservatives that the problems faced by women, gay people and other minorities have gone away, in which case he is just wrong. I do remember at least two of our regular conservative contributors – Charles and one other – might have been you – suggesting that women’s problems have gone away, just before #metoo began?
So, to sum up. You get points for Scruton, but lose them all because obviously you haven’t figured out the difference between anecdote and data, the difference between experts and laypeople, and the difference between good scientific research and pseudoscience. But thanks for confirming my belief that your sort of conservatism is nonsense.
lolitasbrother, you are totally wrong if you think Jacinda is a totalitarian State Monopoly Capitalistic Socialist, because her socialism is of the Social Democratic socially concerned variety (which includes also opposition politicians with public welfare in mind), and I understand she served her political apprenticeship under "Third Way" advocate Tony Blair in England.
If Labour under Jacinda manages to move towards the "Third Way" (UPWARDS for all) Center of the political spectrum, New Zealand will become a socio-economically leading country again, a truly property owning democracy when there are no more mature citizens without at least home ownership potential of wealth ownership, and all newborn babies start their lives with a life-long retirement wealth "seed grain" kick-start.
We don't know what the National Party might have done "if in power".
We can be sure that they will not criticize Labour for following the lead of Boris Johnson's British government because colonial governments are expected to follow the lead of the "mother country" and to suggest that they should not would be to take a revolutionary stand.
Fortunately we don't have to choose between Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges. In the face of the Corona Virus crisis we and thousands of others in this country have been following our own counsel and putting in place our own procedures.
That is the way out of the Covid-19 epidemic and all other afflictions.
There is no more normalcy, which is for the elite 10 % anyway. This Covid 19 response is the model for looking after our children and grandchildren. Labour never did enough but they believed it was because they couldn't but now 'can' is wide open. We'll see.
Guerilla Surgeon, you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel with that one.
I think we can all agree that a far tougher line at the border would have saved a lot of this, that waving a card at arrivals was hopelessly inadequate. But, of course your lot would have been worse? Because!
It didn't help that Siouxsie Wiles or smug, expert on everything, Nigel Latta had the ear of the PM early on with their "nothing to worry about, wash your hands and don't be mean to the Chinese" nonsense.
Er...If that's the way you feel Kiwi Dave, then prove to me that the National Party would have reacted differently. Particularly as Bridges is now urging a swift return to "normality" because of the economy. I think I made a reasonable speculation there. Difficult for you, and yet another nail in the coffin of your appreciation of science – social or otherwise.
I don't feel so sorry for Jacinta today.
Having watched her deal with the press conferences and questions. Including those in relation to her minister of health. She isn't pitiable in the unfair series of events that "doing this" has thrown at her. She's in her element!
Not to suggest she would ever have wished for these events to happen on her watch, but we would never have known what she was made of if it hadn't happened like this. And she would probably not have realised either.
The role she has taken on is not to be the expert on every matter , and I would like to have seen a wider testing start earlier myself, but her role is to seek and listen to the best available advice from more than one source, consult with her colleagues , make a decision and then articulate it to the people. Honestly, clearly and empathetically. She is doing fine.
It is unfortunate that she does not have a team of the quality she deserves to lead, but she is certainly going to get the best from them that they can produce.
D J S
Thanks for the comments re conservatism GS.
Do you really think that regurgitating the biased opinion of detractors qualifies as an investigation? Or that their use of childish nick names has any value whatsoever.
Your last line says it all really:"thanks for confirming my belief". Thank yourself GS, it wasn't me, you did that.
Kia ora Chris
We are now nearly three weeks into our rahui, and two weeks into the "lock down". Things are going well at home. The local marae trustees are now able to supply water, food, rubbish collection and shopping services to those in need. They keep everyone informed of developments, and involve the entire community in the work necessary to maintain the rahui. Scores of households and many hundreds of individuals are now covered and protected by the cloak of the marae kuia and kaumatua. In turn we are assured that we can keep our kuia and kaumatua safe, along with the tamariki and rangatahi.
Some of us have now moved to first level clustering of households which is also our front line test of trust and wellness in whanau, believing that if we do that with wisdom and judgement then we are no less safe than those who rely on testing with swabs, reagents and RNA analysis.
By joining together safely we begin to restore the social bonds which are so vital to our physical and spiritual life.
There are no guarantees of good health or longevity, no one can know the time or manner of their passing, and in the end it is well to remember that despite all human efforts our lives are held in the hands of God.
May Ihoa o nga mano bless you all.
Re conservatism GS. I'm disappointed that, when purportedly considering ideas or philosophy, you have chosen to restrict yourself to what are little more than ad hominems of some of it's leading thinkers. That's no way to conduct a discussion, it's deeply unpleasant for others and possibly suggests a lack of genuine courage and a willingness confront something that might question your thinking.
"The greatest treasure can be found where you least want to look". Dr Jordan Peterson.
FFS If you think my investigation involved simply reading their critics, you obviously haven't read my post. Not to mention that the people who criticise Jordan Peterson are experts in their fields – and he is not.
Tell me – I used to ask this a lot – I know what would change my ideas on Jordan Peterson. Actual experts in the fields that he plunders for information confirming that he is correct in his interpretation of their knowledge.
What would change yours?
"The key to joy comprehends cosmic marvel."
"Good health is at the heart of the light of space time events."
"Intuition grows through immortal miracles."
Makes just as much sense as Peterson i.e. none.
Kiwi Dave. I have not as you maintain can find my readings to your heroes' critics. I have read at least some of the writings of Jordan Peterson, and listen to at least one of his YouTube videos. I have read something by your man Murray, and by your man Scruton. I confess I have not read anything by Melanie Phillips, because the woman is batshit crazy in my opinion, particularly in her anti-vaccination beliefs. I'm afraid I can't have any respect the intellectual capacity of anyone who is against vaccinating kids. Anyway, do me a favour and listen to a proper expert on lobsters and evolution explain how Jordan Peterson gets them wrong.
It will take a lot less time than I spent looking at conservative thought.
Oh, letter-writers, worthy of the contempt of Monte Holcroft.
Forgive me for jumping to conclusions GS; understandable, I think you'll agree, given your failure to present a single critique of the conservative philosophy and, instead, merely a focus on the foibles, real or imagined, of the various protagonists. I've no inclination to engage further.
Something to think on re responsibility:
“We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world. We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated. It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons the world. It’s asking a lot. It’s asking for everything.”
― Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Kiwi dave. These "protagonists" are the people you look to for your conservative philosophy right? And the foibles are not actually imaginary. I'm glad that you at least admit that some of them are real. If someone bases their – I hesitate to even called Jordan Peterson's ideas a philosophy – ideas on a gross error, the idea itself probably cannot be correct. I'm rather disappointed that you don't feel the need to check on this. But not surprised.
"Look for your inspiration to the victorious lobster." For a man to emulate a lobster is like a woman treating the existence of the praying mantis as a license to eat her husband.
If there is to be a "return to normalcy" I do not see how it can come from the present government. Having signaled that it will take away the people's legal right to a voice in how their physical environment is managed and developed for at least two years (and almost certainly for much longer than that if the regime remains intact) the government is clearly on a track to use its emergency powers to push through far ranging changes to the society, the legal system and the economy. They will empower capital and its "experts" while sidelining and silencing the voice of the people.
As argued by Dr Liz Gordon, a trenchant supporter of Jacinda's government, "there was such a strong support for a rationally argued programme of action that the legal base did not matter. Politics, not the law, reigned supreme ... New Zealand was remarkably free of the ‘freedom’ virus that has attacked other countries and jurisdictions."
To the Labour government and its supporters on "The Daily Blog", "freedom" is a virus which must be stamped out, and "the legal base" of the government's assumption of extraordinary powers "does not matter".
Others on the left who are less willing than Dr Gordon to openly flirt with fascist contempt for legal process and constitutional rights (such as they are) agree that the "police state" or "peoples dictatorship" is justified for the moment.
But autocracy is set to go well beyond "the moment", beyond the sphere of public health and even beyond the "health of the economy".
Jacinda cannot go to the electorate promising normalcy when she has already promised capital extraordinary powers and privileges for the next two to ten years. Neither can Simon Bridges.
It follows that no party in the present parliament will have an appetite for a general election in 2020, and given the present course of the regime I don't expect to see one. Rather, expect the present parliament to vote itself an extended term during which it can legislate for the dictatorship of capital free from public interference.
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