Accountability

The Primavera | painting by Botticelli | Britannica
Bottivelli’s Primavera

Today is Tuesday March 2nd. Kia ora.

Yesterday morning I was listening to an American conversation, and contemplating NZ’s housing situation. The speaker, Dr Stephen Kotkin (a historian for whom I have great respect), noted that the elites are not accountable. This remark greatly struck me at the time; and then I thought, well of course, the elites own most of the land, they have rarely if ever been held accountable. If overthrown, they’ve generally been overthrown by revolution, an end result being if they are allowed to remain alive, they no longer own stuff, and are forced to “share”. So why are elites always so reluctant to share?  Why would they not want others to enjoy some comfort and ease in their lives? Why why why? Doesn’t it make sense for all children to be vaccinated? For everyone to enjoy good roads and footpaths and safe bridges? For everyone, not only children but their parents too, to enjoy somewhere safe, warm and affordable to live?

When NZ was first colonised by white people, there was a sense of compatibility, that although there was wealth, and “old money”, things by and large were quite egalitarian, although to be sure there were elements of conservatism and privilege. It strikes me that the situation preceding the Spanish Civil War was similar, inspiring many to join the International Brigades in the fighting to preserve the Spanish Republic. Sadly, this war was taken over by other elements, including anarchists and communists, and became a weapons testing ground for the Second World War that was to follow. Australia was colonised largely by so-called criminals deported from Great Britain, and that has greatly affected their history too. So New Zealand was a bit of a training ground for the egalitarian society, where, when I grew up in the 1950’s, everyone was a lot more equal than they are now. Sadly, American influence has crept in, not in a good way.

At this time we are noting many anniversaries, as we remember our growing concern a year ago as coronavirus cases spread around the world. It was a relief when New Zealand went into a strict lockdown on March 25, at alert level 4. Since then, regimes for testing, precautions, and managed isolation have been modified to adjust to changes in what we know about the virus, but it would be safe to say that NZ’s situation has been very well managed, and the four level system is a big relief – we have a pretty clear idea of what happens at each level. Many organisations react accordingly, advising what precautions they are taking. It is extremely ironic that there have been no new community cases of Covid 19 diagnosed since Auckland went into its latest level 3 lockdown. I assume the government had good reasons for acting as they did, to re-impose restrictions.  People up North have found it very frustrating; I expect here in Wellington we accept restrictions and we just get on with it.

Young people are said to be angry with Jacinda Ardern, about her communication. She’s an excellent communicator, in my view; but some people are saying they didn’t realise they needed to self-isolate after taking a Covid 19 test; or they didn’t need to isolate when Papatoetoe College was closed.

Today I caught the Guardian newspaper, usually a sound purveyor of news, having it both ways. They claimed the other day that the NZ birth rate was the lowest it’s ever been; then today they were claiming that the pandemic has been good for the birth-rate.  I don’t think both can be true.

The weather her has been extremely weird. Some days it’s been quite warm (though seldom rising above 23֠C). Sometimes it’s been very muggy. Although officially the humidity rate is around 70%, it sometimes feels much stickier than that. Then it usually gets cold at night, so it’s worth having warmer stuff to hand if you wake up cold and need to warm up.

Tonight JD and I went to see a very good  film about Botticelli. It was fun to share thoughts about this afterwards, and, of course, a luxury to see his wonderful paintings, many of which we have seen.  I have always thought he was a marvellous artist. I first saw the two most famous paintings – the Primavera and the Birth of Venus – in the Uffizi Gallery in early 1974, when we first went to Europe. They were quite hard to find, and not well displayed – a big contrast to our next trip to Europe in 2010 when we had to pre-buy tickets to a revamped Uffizi, and share these beautiful paintings with the crowds that were there.  The women are so beautiful – they don’t look unhappy, and nature features – the Primavera is in a rustic setting.

It’s now Friday, and there have still been no further community cases or Covid 19 reported. While this is good news, I guess there is a sense of fear about other cases that  may be lurking out there. It seems that some folk catch the coronavirus very easily, while others are resistant.  Vaccine delivery continues, and is expected to be transformational; meanwhile, people are still getting very sick and dying from Covid 19, and the variants are scary. Some say we will have to have an annual injection to counter different variants as they emerge.

It’s clearly unwise to make plans. Nevertheless, we have made a booking for a party later this year. I need to lose my “Covid curve”, so that I can fit into a party frock. I think that even if people can’t come from places like Australia, we can still have fun and celebrate and commemorate here;  there are big birthdays, deaths, a wedding anniversary…

We return to the question of accountability. For years we have been told that rich people deserve a good return on their investments, such as retirement “homes”, technology companies, weapons-related industries. This argument justifies the high remuneration paid to chief executives, and the minimum hourly rate paid to most workers. Yet surely investors always take risks, and their  wealth should not be at the expense of those who should earn a “living wage”.  Texas recently experienced a major power outage, and desperate situations in which many people didn’t have access to water. Yet their mainly Republican politicians take no accountability at all for this situation, and fail to represent many of their citizens. Ted Cruz was seen to skite at the recent CPAC conference in Orlando about his (much derided) trip to Cancun. Governor Greg Abbott has declared, prematurely, that Texas is open for business, and that any existing mandates are to be lifted.

In Sunday at 6 am Auckland is to come out of Covid level 3, and into level 2. The rest of the country goes back to level 1. No new community cases of Covid 19 have been found, yet I’m sure the government made the decision to go to level 3 for a week based on information they received.  That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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