A Brave New World

Today is Tuesday, May 12th. Kia kaha!

This morning the news is a bit unsettling.  Soon after I awake I hear the sound of earthworks, and a plane flying overhead. 

Overseas, there seems to be a general acceptance that the novel coronavirus will be around for some time to come, and that the consequences, fear, illness and death, will be around too. In the US evidently Trump has handed control over development of a vaccine to Big Pharma, (and there’s no rush, now), but I am reminded that there is still no vaccine for malaria, dengue fever, and HIV-Aids, despite all the progress that has been made. Now, wonderful as this progress has been, we have the anti-vaxx brigade to deal with. 

It seems people have very short memories these days – the Great Depression is not the depression of the 1930’s, which helped give rise to the fascist governments of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and World War II, but the Global Financial Crisis (the GFC) of 2008; most people certainly don’t remember those crippling childhood diseases, (such as diphtheria, whooping cough, and polio) where children were likely to die, or be weakened or crippled for life. Their parents and older siblings were at risk of contracting tuberculosis, then, in pre-vaccine, pre-antibiotic days, usually fatal.  And it seems there is little memory of World War II. The Great War (World War I), the Great Depression, and World War II were uppermost in the minds of my parents and many of their family and acquaintances, and these events were reflected in much of the literature I read. I guess different events leave their mark on different generations, in different ways.

There is also an acceptance overseas, that while Trump and his administration have no plan at all as to how to manage the novel coronavirus, people need to get “back to work” and back to “everyday” activities, despite their fears. Most people cannot live without sport, whether playing it or watching it. Everyone (here too, in New Zealand) has had quite enough of restrictions.  It seems few of us are grateful that our suffering here has been paltry compared to that overseas, although there is a nice letter in this morning’s newspaper commending Jacinda Ardern for her government’s handling of this crisis.  I personally think we all owe her a debt of gratitude, especially after watching videos and figures from overseas.  The letter in this morning’s paper also points out the dire situation we could have been in by now, if there had been little control displayed. When the level 4 lockdown was put in place, although the borders had been closed, we had passengers flying in to “self-quarantine”, cruise ships still stopping at various ports, and covid-19 cases’ family and friends not isolated in a safe isolation; it was also very difficult to get tested for Covid 19, although there were already several clusters of infection. There was a general air of frustration and desperation here: you were either being reckless or ultra-cautious, and you could be ridiculed for actions indicating either stance, rather than being respected for making a decision that potentially respected the safety of oneself and one’s family.

So, there is relief here, but overseas people are very “antsy”, and some are fearful, too. It must be pointed out though, that all your economies are sick too, some far more than others, as international travel has virtually stopped, tourism has stopped, eating out and entertainment and the consequent services have stopped, and demand for manufactured goods and services has greatly fallen. There is, of course, a growing demand for PPE – masks, gloves, and other protective equipment.  The worlds’ economies are, one hopes, having a “rethink” about these activities people are so anxious to get back to.  While there are always some with a greater appetite for risk than others, think about who you may pass disease on to, and who will look after you, if you get sick? The best way to show your appreciation, of everyone and anyone, is to stay well.

The figures early this afternoon are as follows: the US has 1,385,834 cases of Covid 19 infection, and 81,795 (almost 82,000) deaths. The UK has 223,060 cases of infection, and 32,065 deaths. Neither nation has a method to manage this crisis.

In New Zealand, there are no new cases of Covid 19 today. The Prime Minister explains more about re-opening most venues, at midnight tomorrow, while still limiting gatherings such as weddings and funerals or family groups to ten people. She explains that, while it is hard, the rationale is that at gatherings, especially funerals, we want to hug and embrace people, and to comfort each other. While that remains risky, numbers are limited, while we’re in Level 2.

I look forward to hearing from my local medical centre, and my singing groups and Tai Chi tutors, as to how and when we may meet again. It will be quite a change, to go to things, and use public transport, and cafés again. The old dilemma recurs – whether to buy books from a store here, or get them sent from the book depository (which is cheaper, with free shipping). In the meantime, I should finish reading “Stalingrad”. It is from the library, but it is quite a new copy, and I doubt it has been read by many other people. Goodness knows I don’t need any more books, but I should love to have my own copy.

I think New Zealanders should be encouraged to explore more of their own country, and for things that are chargeable, the fees should be more realistic for locals. We can grow plenty of food here, and anything we export should be attractive overseas, as coming from a relatively clean, green environment. Talking of that, we could and should clean up our environment, and provide more incentives for not relying on fossil fuels.  There is plenty that is attractive here, and New Zealand should be an inviting place for overseas students in the future. And, surely, we can address some very sad issues of homelessness and child poverty, or poverty at any level, and get back to being a more egalitarian society. This pandemic has reduced us to basic priorities – to stay alive, and to have enough to eat. Let’s maintain this kinder, gentler society.

Nga mihi nui

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