It might not seem like it right now, but this is a victory for humanity.
“How can this be?” you ask. How can this be, when I’m scared and worried about the future? How can this be, when I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills? But that’s what it is, absolutely. It’s a victory for all that’s decent in us; for an altruistic spirit that exists alongside our more selfish instincts.
Think about what we’re doing in New Zealand. Think about what people of different ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities are doing all over the world. We’re stopping everything at a high cost to the global economy, so lives may be saved. Mostly elderly lives, those we might be tempted, in a worse world, to say are expendable.
An economic rationalist could interject right now and say that the cost-benefit analysis of the situation means that we should do nothing. Let coronavirus run its course. The economy is more important.
But our government, to its credit, has said no. We have a chance to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of New Zealanders loved by their friends and families.
This decision will come at a cost. It will have political and economic ramifications for years to come. Still, we do this because it’s the right thing to do. Because there’s something in us that says to do otherwise would be abhorrent, would be inhuman.
This is a victory of human decency. It’s a victory of human society over economic society. No matter how we got there, something good has kicked in that has allowed us to arrive at decisions that will prevent untimely, early deaths. This is incredible when you think about it. We’re participating in something decent, honourable even.
My personal freedom is being restricted, yet somehow I’m liberated. I can see clearly how what’s good in us can enable our often clumsy and flawed institutions to make a noble decision.
In the days, weeks, months ahead, we can remind ourselves that this is what it feels like to make a sacrifice for the greater good. Can a monetary value be put on that feeling?
Unfortunately, there will still be deaths from coronavirus in New Zealand over the next four week period and beyond that. But we can expect the number to be less than what might have occurred if the lockdown was not put in place. This is our achievement.
In recognising the enormity of what we’re embarking on, doesn’t mean there aren’t issues to debate, new decisions that need to be made which flow from the ones already made.
There will be wrong decisions. There will be contention, differences of opinion, great and small. Politics can never be suspended. Politics is about different ideas for the way forward. Politics is about different interest groups applying pressure to the decision-making processes of society.
There will be political battles fought in the months and years to follow. If I have the opportunity, I will certainly push to expose and argue against the control of economic society by an elite few. The interests of the global class of capitalists and bankers are still behind many of the decisions made by Finance Minister Grant Robertson and the Reserve Bank.
The forces that control economic society are, however, on the back foot, which will help the side of human society. Those struggles are ahead of us. Kia kaha.