Just Calm Down

Today is Tuesday June 9th. Kia ora katoa.

We are now at Level 1. Activities are getting up and going again – hymn singing, my normal singing group, painting, and I’m waiting to hear from the Tai Chi folk. I will have to get up early again! And it’s cold now! Back to – the future. But things have changed. Somewhat surprisingly, we survived the restrictions engendered by the novel coronavirus quite well. Many of us enjoyed the peace and quiet, and found that we could do quite well without the things we thought we couldn’t do without.

The general feeling of kindness helped immensely. At first it was strange, but the fact that the government “had our back”, understood and thanked us all, and gave us honest information, made a huge difference. New Zealand was a much more egalitarian society – we were all levelled down to the basics of survival. There were some great acts of generosity, too: the buses being free to ride, the libraries extending all due dates, the deliveries of goods and friends and family ringing to check that we were all right. Amazingly, we stayed well-ish. There were no nasty flare ups or attacks of colds or flu or bronchitis. And the weather was kind, too. We got used to pay Wave, to not using coins; and we marvelled at the sights of empty cities and cathedrals and tourist sites that used to be full of people. We read, too. And walked. And listened to wonderful music. And marvelled at the kindness of food store workers.

Now we are getting on with our lives, in a different way. Some activities we will enjoy again, but with a difference; I trust we will all take more care to wash our hands, to be considerate to others, and to be especially kind to folk who have been hit hard financially. Unusually, for we have weathered many crises, we came through this one rather well, hoping that some of that spirit – of kindness, of non-violence, can be carried forward: that Labour will be re-elected, and can address issues like housing, child poverty, treating all workers well, encouraging local authorities to clean up our waterways, and realising that well-being matters just as much as having a good economy; having a sound economy enables the government to ensure a good lifestyle for all, but we don’t want a great economy based on environmental damage, and the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many. The progress made with Maori people, and the ever-widening use of Te Reo, are strong steps that have been taken, and can be built on. There is much here to celebrate and be thankful for.

Overseas, there are still protests and marches for Black Lives Matter; they continue, in many countries, especially in the US. But the tone has changed, it seems. The protests/marches are by and large peaceful. Curfews, imposed in some American cities in an effort to control the crowds, have been lifted. And the police, for the most part, are not being violent. There are calls to “defund the police”, but what these really mean is not to do away with security or protection, but to allocate funds instead for social programmes, rather than being aggressive towards black people. It seems that years of racist practices, and of discrimination towards black people, and their extreme difficulty, almost impossibility, of getting out of a negative situation, has erupted into one demonstration after another.

This BLM movement is really serious. Many have tried to change American policing methods over the years, with some local success but little overall, where a “warrior” culture prevails. They should try being doves, instead, methinks. There are calls to “Defund the police”. By this, they mean, fund social and mental health problems, instead; keep police for policing, not for addressing social issues. Oh, and don’t pick on black people! There is a lot for conservatives to get used to, here. Systemic discrimination, unrealised by many, is now being called out. Years of anger and rage are now coming to the fore, now that some of these events can be recorded on film shot by any camera. Many black people have pre-existing health conditions. Some wag noted that many have high blood pressure, because they’re angry all the time. It’s also noted that America has a pre-existing condition: it’s called racism. Black people have had enough, and everyone should be sensitive to this moment, and take note, and act accordingly.

A profound change seems to have taken place, in that the marches, mostly peaceful, are now being met with a peaceful, non-violent response on the part of the police. There are still some dreadful incidents, like a car being driven into protesters in Seattle and a man shot, but such incidents seem to be the exception. In Washington, it is said that Trump has called off the National Guard. So what is left, one wonders? Armed soldiers with bayonets? Helicopters to scare people?

With regard to the pandemic, leaders like Trump, Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin now give this crisis scant regard. After all, you can’t stay in lock down forever, can you? Well, it’s certainly much harder if people don’t see results. There is talk that in some places sickness and death would have been much worse if they hadn’t locked down; but it really seems that you need readily available testing, contact tracing, and isolation for a lock down to be truly effective. You also need to house homeless people, ensure a basic income and food supply, and make adjustments for people in care, be they elderly, “special needs”, or incarcerated, or working closely together as in meat processing plants. The greatest gift to anyone working in healthcare, or a first responder, is to stay well, to not get sick!  After all, as has been said many times, you may be fit and healthy, but you wouldn’t want to pass the disease on to anyone else.  The US figures are terrible indeed, with now well over 100,000 dead (that milestone was reached back in May), but Brazil is catching up, and now refusing to allow their figures to be published. The UK, given Dominic Cummings’ shortcomings, further portrays an attitude of not really caring, having failed to meet their testing targets, having vague rules, and general confusion and chaos. A number of songs have been recorded ridiculing Cummings: “I can see clearly now, the Covid’s gone”, and “600 Miles”. Even when protesting in the UK, people do not appear to have the same regard for social distancing as they do in the US.

Regardless of other pressing issues, no one should feel that getting sick doesn’t matter. It does matter – to them, to their loved ones, to those marching or protesting with them, and to any health-care workers they come into contact with.

I walked to the local store this afternoon. It was about 3 pm, the children were out from school, and although it was sunny, there was a real chill in the air, very different from summer. You can’t help knowing it’s winter now.

At the store, the Perspex put up at the checkouts has gone, as have the social distancing/queueing lines. It feels very strange. Still the checkout operator won’t pack my bags, and I really buy too much heavy stuff to carry home.

Before I go to bed, I watch a Washington Post visual compilation of the events of Thursday June 4 that led to Trump’s photo-op before the Church, holding a bible. Seeing this just adds to one’s cynicism about the whole event. 

That’s it for now. Nga mihi nui.

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