Sunday, June 7, 2020

Clive Bibby: The difference between us and them

As we try to extricate ourselves from this, as it turns out - unnecessary "total lockdown", we should try and salvage what we can from the smouldering embers - at least so we are better prepared for the next time when we will have a lot less number of options to use in mitigation.

In the time between now and then, countries desperately trying to re-establish their economies as something approaching its former self will be hoping that their respective constituencies have accepted the lessons we should have learned from the calamitous experience. Unfortunately, history suggests that might be a forlorn hope.

As a species, one of our less endearing qualities is that we never learn enough from these dramatic episodes and that is why history has a habit of repeating itself, leading us to the inevitable conclusion that the next virus pandemic may well be the thing that finishes us off.

The "History Junkie" side of me suggests we are in for some rough times ahead and sadly much of it will be of our own making.

However, there is some good news as we train the mirror on ourselves after the event.

In some areas, as a sovereign nation compared to other similar democratic societies, we have performed during this crisis, at least as well, dare l say, better than most.

While not getting too carried away, it is noteworthy to give credit where credit is due and recognise that there have been a couple of things that have worked in our favour albeit often more from good luck than good management.

The following two might be obvious but are worthy of note.

We have taken advantage of our relative remoteness as an island state to quickly isolate ourselves from the possibility of widespread infections and have benefitted from the communications skills of our Prime Minister which has been an equally important part in the "total lockdown" strategy to keep us all informed. As a result the nation has responded with a general compliance of the rules.

May l also suggest that our type of democratic oversight has been a key element in setting us apart from those countries who have struggled under similar circumstances.

I believe the outcome could have been so much worse, leaving us much more vulnerable in the recovery period, if our forefathers had adopted a similar governing format to our friends in the United States and Australia who both operate a Federal version of the democratic system.

It is interesting to note that both countries have and are still experiencing huge difficulties managing the crisis that are directly attributable to the power of the States under their respective constitutions.

This problem is particularly acute in the US where the Federal Government is limited to being only a bit player in some states that are governed by politicians who are using this crisis to their own benefit. 

The same is happening in Australia where State Premiers are individually deciding how much they cooperate with both the Federal government and other neighbouring states when opening borders or lifting restrictions on individual movements and cross state business operations.

The end result is chaos that thankfully has been avoided here in New Zealand.

For that fact alone, we should be grateful.

Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.

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