The most consistent message we are getting from the Prime Minister’s daily press conferences down to and including every cabinet ministerial announcement is that every effort is being made to ensure no one is left behind as we chart a course through these tumultuous times. The catch cry has always been - “We are all in this together”
Yeah right! The evidence suggests otherwise.
Continual repeating this daily chant is wearing thin on a populace confronted with events that are proving that line to be just another lie.
Try using it with those kiwis and supporters who have been left behind in Afghanistan or in other parts of the world simply because they are considered low priority in the battles we face as a nation on a multitude of fronts.
Try using it with the business men and women whose lives have been destroyed simply because they are considered acceptable collateral damage in pursuit of the unachievable objective to eradicate the Covid virus in this country.
Try using it with those who are likely to miss out getting vaccinated as stocks run out simply because they are considered less important than those who claim Maori ancestry.
Try using it with the families of those who were stabbed and are in a critical condition as a result of failure to protect the citizens of New Zealand from the terrorist attack of a known foreign national acting out a fantasy inspired by the most violent terrorist group on the planet.
Why then would any seasoned politician with one eye on the poll numbers, continue to parrot this ridiculous misrepresentation?
The answer is simple.
One of the most important characteristics determining survival of any nation under siege is that the leadership inspires unity. In turn, the public must be able to recognise that “unity” as reality - not an embarrassing figment of the Prime Minister’s imagination.
In fact, here in Godzone, the opposite is true. We are living a lie.
Here’s more proof.
The Government should have known about the importance to act quickly to ensure all our people and those Afghan nationals who had served us well during those years when we had been part of the coalition were safely evacuated long before the need arose to do so. What were our troops on the ground telling them months before the capitulation of the Afghan army during the last week of August? The British appeared to exit with all their horses. Why weren’t our whole squadron of Hercules transport planes over there a month ago as soon as Biden indicated he would be gone by lunchtime.
Too little, too late isn’t good enough. 300 or more kiwi nationals plus untold desperate Afghan refugees are cast adrift to fend for themselves in a hell hole where they must constantly fear for their lives.
And what about those kiwis who have been waiting years to return home who must now continue to wait for who knows how much longer until applications for MIQ positions are available again. “Sorry chaps, the rights to re-enter New Zealand determined by your citizenship have temporarily been extinguished - you are now considered less important than refugees.”
And here’s another thing.
Who can honestly say that the burden of survival during this and previous lockdowns has been shared equally throughout the country.
Whether intentional or not, the truth is that the nation has been deliberately divided into those classified as essential workers including all those employed by the State on the one hand and all the rest involved in non essential industries on the other.
In spite of billions spent on wage subsidies, previously viable businesses go to the wall daily as the effects of lockdowns lead to inevitable consequences. Yet “an inconvenience” is the worst description of most public servant’s experience of lockdown. We should be requiring more of these selectively protected individuals as their contribution to the nation’s plight.
Sometimes, it is the gesture more than the amount involved that sends the message to those who are suffering through no fault of their own that we are all sharing the burden. Alas, a public service version of hardship is little more than suffering from boredom as they run out of movies to watch on the TV. Poor buggers!
Us old folks are much the same. We could be doing more.
The cracks are really starting to show when we see a cabinet minister abandoning any pretence of serving all constituents equally during this crisis when he is seriously promoting the idea of exclusive incentives to get Maori vaccination numbers up to something approaching those in the rest of the community.
Concert tickets for all who have been slow on the uptake should do the trick.
It is astonishing that this desperately offensive idea is being promoted as a viable option at all.
Unfortunately, this government has put all its eggs in one basket. The policy of eradication (particularly when dealing with the delta variant) has been or is being abandoned by virtually all countries and states of the free world. Most have learned through hard experience that the virus is here to stay and the sooner we learn to live with it, the sooner we can all get back to normal.
These countries have adopted the strategy of working towards herd immunity as fast as possible. That usually means at least 80% vaccination of all citizens over the age of twelve.
We seem to be the last country on earth who still thinks we can afford to be different.
Our current fixation with the eradication strategy (with the attendant lockdowns) appears to be designed solely to draw attention away from our woeful vaccination rollout performance.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
In spite of all the propaganda we are being force fed, kiwis are pretty forgiving when governments come clean and admit to getting it wrong. We will be quick to respond to and support any credible change in strategy. It is in all our interests to do so.
But we will not continue to accept a daily diet of lies about our limited options.
We simply want the truth.
A good start would be to accept that unity only comes when we acknowledge and respect our inherent differences. In the end, we will see that those unequal contributions from different sectors of society are the strengths that bind us as a nation whether they be big or small. They make us who we are - A caring nation of diverse ethnic backgrounds that share a commonality of purpose. At least that is how it has always been.
We don’t need to pretend that we are all equal when some are more equal than others.
That will always be true but as long as equal opportunity is available to all, those inequalities are acceptable facts of life because the strong can afford to support the weak and we all benefit. United we stand - divided we fall!
In that context, there never is a need to try and be something we aren’t.
Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.