Don’t get snug with the new normal
Like a weird version of Stockholm syndrome—where those are held hostage develop a bond with those keeping them there—we have quickly become accustomed to our new normal. Let’s not get too comfortable.
Our daily lives have been extremely limited, and the ongoing COVID response … comes at a serious cost to our freedom and our national unity.
Our government has more power than ever with the passage of last year’s COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill, which, as the Ministry of Justice put it, constitutes “arguably the most extreme and significant limitations on New Zealanders’ ability to freely go about our daily lives as has occurred in modern New Zealand history.”
The whole captor/captive analogy doesn’t fit perfectly, of course. I believe the Government is well-intentioned, doing all it can to keep us safe. But our daily lives have been extremely limited, and the ongoing COVID response, partly a result of an underprepared health system and an overly delayed vaccination rollout, comes at a serious cost to our freedom and our national unity.
Our freedoms are not bestowed on us by government, they are there to protect them. When the traffic light system and vaccination certificates were announced, the Government’s rationale was incentivising the unvaccinated on one hand and rewarding and keeping safe those who have “done the right thing” by being vaccinated on the other.
New Zealand is known as having “the fastest law in the west,” and is only accelerating in response to the pandemic.
But this approach belies a misguided understanding of the role of the state. Being “allowed” to be able to have a haircut is not a reward, wrote commentator Ben Thomas, and is like “your parents wrapping up things you already own and giving them to you for Christmas.”
The two-class society created also shifts the blame from the government to other New Zealanders. The unvaccinated are now the ones being pinned as holding those of us who have been vaccinated hostage. Democracy is great, but the tyranny of the majority is a real thing, and now more than ever, we need civility and grace with one another.
Political decisions are exacerbating this. The decision to set the 90 percent DHB vaccine goals instead of waiting for Māori vaccination rates, for example, is a political choice that will keep the voting majority happy. The experts the Government’s Chief Science Advisor pulled together advised against this, but the Government proceeded anyway.
We can’t become captive to complacency—our freedom and national unity depend on it.
Divisive policies like this need to be limited. National’s proposal for a sunset clause (a set time when the law would be revisited) for vaccination mandates was dismissed as “absolute nonsense” by Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood. The details need to be worked out, but proposals like this should be taken more seriously.
New Zealand is known as having “the fastest law in the west,” and is only accelerating in response to the pandemic. Submissions to the Select Committee on the amendment bill that would grant even more power to the Government and extend the original Act until May 2023 were open for a mere 12 days. We need more consultation and consideration.
Desperate times require desperate measures; I get it, but we can’t become captive to complacency—our freedom and national unity depend on it.go back