• The National Consensus

    As we awaited confirmation that we would move to Level 2, my wife and I reviewed our experience of lockdown so far. We reached similar conclusions – that the lockdown had been a bore and a bind, but that we have been – living where we do – among the lucky ones.

    We felt very constrained by the rules restricting travel and social gatherings, and by the prohibitions imposed on the over-70s – and we were accordingly not able to do our own shopping or get to Tauranga to spend any time – even for birthdays – with our daughter and grandchildren.

    But, sitting on our deck and looking out over the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, it was hard to complain too much. There was always the possibility of a walk on the beach in the sunshine with our little dog, and of coming across friends on the beach and having a chat while maintaining the correct social distance – and one of our lovely neighbours kindly did our shopping for us. And, as retirees, we did not have to worry about our jobs or getting to work or our incomes or businesses.

    None of this means that we weren’t glad to see the move to Level 2. Easing the lockdown will take away a psychological burden that, no doubt, many people will have felt – that sense that we are not free to do what we want or are normally able to do. And, paradoxically, the inability to keep busy and the need to fill our days in other ways made us feel more tired and lacking in energy than we usually do.

    But we were comforted by the knowledge that we, and our family and friends, were engaged in a great national effort – one that requires self-discipline and a sense of social responsibility and of keeping faith with others in a similar plight.

    It is not just the feeling of making common cause with others that has sustained us. A modicum of thought and rationality is enough to convince us that the lockdowns have not only been socially and morally required but are also the most effective response to the real prospect of economic damage to our country.

    We are sure we are not alone in recognising that the best and quickest – perhaps the only – way of minimising the economic price we must pay for the pandemic is to bring it to an end – and if that requires the lockdowns, then so be it.

    It is that realisation that makes it so difficult for us to understand the mentality of those who continue to criticise and snipe from the sidelines, in an apparent attempt to weaken, fragment and unravel the national consensus we have established as to what is required.

    Such critics cannot seem to grasp that the virus brings with it the threat of real damage to us in a variety of forms, not just the obvious immediate impact it has on our health and fatality rate, and that the cost – economic, as well as emotional and social – of defeating it is is part of the price it demands of us.

    Every attempt to weaken the national resolve, or suggestion that we might give up the battle, represents a victory for the virus, and ensures that the price it will make us pay grows larger. The national effort is a collective one; the more united it is, the more effective it is. It is weakened every time the claim is made that an individual interest has a higher priority and should take precedence.

    That is why it is regrettable that the Prime Minister, engaged as she is in a life and death struggle to help save us from the virus and from the damage of various kinds that it causes, was recently grilled by the Leader of the Opposition, without anything other than pure speculation to support him, on supposed plans she may or may not have to raise taxes of various kinds after the virus has been contained. This was merely an attempt at political point-scoring, more suited to a general election campaign rather than a campaign against the virus.

    The time for politicking will come in due course. It Is not now.

    Bryan Gould
    19 April 2020

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