Friday, August 14, 2020

Clive Bibby: A poem for the times

The opening couple of lines from Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If" says it all.

It has an Orwellian ring to it that is both prophetic and a common sense observation of our modern society - particularly with reference to those who are in leadership positions upon whom we depend.

Here it is: "If you can keep your head when all about you are loosing theirs and blaming it all on you,...."

I reckon those words are perhaps Kipling's greatest legacy to a world he would have trouble recognising, not so much the failure of mankind to learn from past mistakes but more about our rush to act precipitately during times when cool heads should prevail.

Kipling is literally advising humanity in a time of crisis to, if possible, limit ourselves to dealing with information that we know to be true. He suggests that in these critical times, we simply can't afford to base our future on a hunch even if it is supported by some of our more celebrated scientists. In these circumstances, the consequences of getting it wrong are simply not acceptable - it is a long way back from one tragic mistake that could have been avoided.

While it is true that some decisions have to be made on the best information available because to wait is considered untenable - eg the government's decision to close our borders when news of the virus first reached our shores. In hindsight that decision has proved to be justified and as a nation we are benefitting from that quick calculated response. Well done Government.

However, the other part of the Government's initial strategy - the total lockdown of all parts of the economy considered to be "nonessential" was avoidable and our reaction to subsequent outbreaks, including the latest this week, would appear to be unnecessary overreactions at best.

We knew enough about this virus when we made the initial decision to destroy much of our economy. We could have and should have restricted activity to those who were most vulnerable - the 70 plus age group and especially those in aged care facilities. On close examination, most of that initial incoming information should have told us that the total lockdown was an unnecessary overreaction to the more hysterical misinformation arriving on our doorstep.

We should have waited until we could be sure our decision to put our economy and the lives of many business owners at risk was justified.     

Unfortunately, we now know that many more people are likely to die from non virus related health issues than from the disease itself even in the countries where the virus casualties are breaking records. And those deaths won't end when and if a vaccine is found. Viruses rarely go away- they either mutate or come back in some other form. History tells us that when this outbreak subsides, it is only a matter of time before another one takes its place. What do we do next time when we or our descendants can't afford to defend against it by simply printing money.

The people most vulnerable to the disease will continue to die in greater numbers because it appears that we will have to learn to live with it just as we do with annual bouts of the flu but even those tragic statistics will be outstripped by the growing tally of people who have lost everything. Recent events suggest that the misguided pursuit of this mindless eradication policy is an unattainable objective yet our leaders continue to operate as if they are genocidal maniacs.

Sadly by rushing to overreact, we have sown the seeds of an unmitigated disaster that will haunt us for generations.

I suppose the one bright spot on the horizon is that we here in NZ have geographical advantages that should limit the post virus carnage most other countries have to deal with but unfortunately, that advantage has been largely wasted.

And it is adding insult to injury for those from families where lives have been destroyed to hear politicians dismissing any suggestion that things could have been handled differently. What arrogance!

I wonder how many of these guys have been pall bearers at the funerals of the innocents for whom it all became a bit much.

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

1 comment:

John Penman said...

Congratulations Clive. Thanks for taking a strong stand on behalf of what I sense is typically a silent majority of Kiwis. Resurrecting common sense as a guideline for decision making is something our PM and her key ministers would do well to heed. Sadly the "cone of silence" has condescended around them, when their listening skills should be at their keenest. Keep up the good work with your honest journalism and meaningful contributions.
Regards John Penman