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Terra Incognita

Written By: - Date published: 7:51 pm, October 9th, 2021 - 25 comments
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Once upon a time, before Google Earth, GPS, and the Internet, we were avid explorers and discoverers. This is not just ancient history, as many presently living in NZ have emigrated here in their lifetimes. We knew risk and danger and did it anyway and we faced things head-on if/when they appeared in and our way.

After we broke away from our mooring in the relatively tranquil and familiar haven, we have been sailing in unchartered waters. We have all the usual navigational tools at our disposal, but even a compass is of little use without a map.

The crew of five million is starting to become restless and showing signs of stress after the long journey. They impatiently ask whether they are there yet without even knowing what or where there is; impossible questions have no absolute answers.

There is a perception among some that the ship’s Chief Medical Officer spends too much time near the helm when he should be focussing more on the crew below deck who have only a faint idea of what is going on. They are strapped in their hammocks, like the humans cocooned in small pods in The Matrix experiencing a virtual world, while their mental energy and life force are consumed and dissipating for no apparent good cause. The Daily Announcement from above makes them feel more like prisoners in a cave watching shadows projected on the cave walls by invisible fires and listening to strange unworldly noises coming from unknown sources that cannot be pinpointed either. The odd bat flies by, free as a bird.

The growing feelings of discontent are making many fearful and/or angry, but because there is little headroom below deck much stays suppressed and almost nothing reaches the upper deck where the Officers yell out confusing instructions to rearrange the ropes on the slippery deck while the ship rolls from Left to Right – steady as she goes.

Some malcontents are trying to incite rebellion and riots but not mutiny yet; the chicken entrails are looking ominous. There are attempts to make holes in the hull below the waterline for the ship to take on water and to slow it down, but these only weaken the ship’s hull and overall structure endangering the whole ship and its crew. There are attempts to tamper with the rudder. There have been several attempts to escape the hammocks and crew leaving their quarters when they should not. All is not well in the Underworld below deck, but it has not been since before the ship’s logs started.

With the limited information coming from other ships out on sea, a vague course is being mapped out. Other ships have suffered major casualties before they reached a relatively safe inlet while others had to leave inlets and temporary anchoring sites and go out to open waters again to avoid running ashore or being smashed against the rocks.

When they finally reach new foreign land again, things will settle down again, by and large. Much will be forgotten. Many anecdotes will live on, for a while at least. Stories will be written, not just for the History books, but also for the human collective psyche, and some of those stories will be more correct and factual than others albeit mostly indistinguishable. Lessons will be learned and forgotten, buried under the daily burdens of life and lost in the race for fame and fortune.

In years to come, scholars and intellectuals will pore over the data and stories and try making sense of it all – facts and reality always beat fiction, hands down. Black swans are mythical creatures, like unicorns, until they are discovered for the first time. This may also be the reason why some cannot get their head around the fact that a bat from of a cave may somehow have triggered a zoonotic event, possibly via a wet market and pangolins, and prefer to believe the more ‘familiar’ story of human construct in a lab and mishap in the safety protocols or conspiracy theories involving GOF research for benevolent and/or malevolent reasons (these are not mutually exclusive).

Surprisingly, they should know better by now that there are many black swans out there to be discovered for the first time, but they seem more intent on discovering evidence that water once existed on Mars. BTW, please do not tell Government, as they may want to incorporate it into their centralisation ideology of the Three Waters Reform Programme.

The future always has been and always will be uncertain; it is not called the future for nothing. It is not a fathomless black abyss in which we will free-fall for all-eternity, not even the Universe is like that. It is not like a bright light at the end of a tunnel either. It is more like a constantly changing perception of a shadowy dance of light(er) and dark(er), like cloud formations in the sky or the colours of water and water spray in a waterfall. Some fear it, some find it beautiful, but nobody really understands it at an intellectual rational level. Such is life, as we know it.

25 comments on “Terra Incognita ”

  1. Ad 1

    You've used the same metaphor as Act did 5 days ago. It's called:

    The Speech Ardern Should Have Given Yesterday

    https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA2110/S00055/the-speech-ardern-should-have-given-yesterday.htm

    Speech from David Seymour to Central City Business Association, Christchurch, 5pm Tuesday October 5th.

    The Great Tack

    Kia ora tatou,

    We have reached a turning point in our COVID response.

    Our earliest ancestors were navigators. Through extraordinary feats, they found these Islands in the Pacific like distant stars in outer space. It’s a tradition that’s never left us.

    When our great sailors in Team New Zealand decide to tack, they tack. They don’t hesitate, they don’t half tack, they tack. The whole of Team New Zealand works in unison to sail off in a better direction.

    Our direction to date has served us well. Three times we eradicated COVID from our shores with short, sharp lockdowns, then enjoyed a great summer of freedom. We killed it off with the March to May lockdown in 2020. We snuffed out the August lockdown, and again the Valentine’s Day lockdown.

    Now our strategy has reached a lay line. Today’s lockdown is no longer short, nor sharp, and yet the case numbers are still rising. If we don’t change course, we will miss the mark.

    In this case missing the mark is a lot more serious than losing the America’s Cup.

    The worst-case scenario is the team loses its composure. People stop following the measures that are barely containing the outbreak, and it erupts.

    The hospitals would be overwhelmed with unvaccinated patients, and doctors would have to make triage decisions New Zealanders have only ever seen on TV. One patient will make it, and gets a ventilator, another is sent home to die.

    The best-case scenario is that we strangle our largest city, its healthcare, education, and business life throttled for an indefinite period. The pain is not the worst of it, it’s the uncertainty of knowing when it ends.

    Some choices.

    Therefore, we must tack away from the elimination strategy.

    (…)

    We will host a series of all in ‘sprints.’ We will ask hospitality how to minimise transmission. GPs how to care for patients in the community without hospitalisation, and transport how to keep drivers safe. We will ask every sector of society to bring their best ideas so that we have the best protocols and technologies available to achieve our goals by December 1.

    The two months ahead will be challenging. We did not want to be in lockdown this long. We will now make the resurgence payment weekly for all businesses at Alert Levels 3 and 4, and Hospitality Businesses at Alert Level 2.

    However, we now have a certain plan. Today we are at Alert Level 3, on the First of December we will be at Alert Level Free.

    It does sound like the government was happy to take those ideas and use them.

    • SPC 1.1

      The crafting of a new narrative for the folk of middle earth.

      The failure to eliminate this outbreak was sort of inevitable after the government buckled to pressure to have a plan to open up – the cognitive dissonance between the hard work of eliminating and then taking risk of spread with the opening up (business worker home isolation etc) was too much, even for this government.

      Those who placed pressure to have a plan will now have to face restrictions for longer than via elimination, and then face the era of vaccine passport mandates – and lest we forget Christmas time and all those who may need booster shots to survive it (and health staff who face a less than comfortable summer "break" – our attractive vista for gathering in extra ICU nursing staff is fading away).

  2. Sans Cle 2

    A little heavy reading to address your last paragraph! <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Philosophy-of-Time-A-Contemporary-Introduction/Power/p/book/9781138240490">Philosophy of Time</a>

    Reminds me of David Byrne's lyrics – "the Future is certain, give us time to work it out"

    "Questions this book investigates include the following. Can we know what time really is? Is time possible, especially given modern physics? Must there be time because we cannot think without it? What do we experience of time? How might philosophy of time be relevant to understanding the mind–body relationship or evidence in cognitive science? Can the philosophy of time help us understand biases toward the future and the fear of death? How is time relevant to art—and is art relevant to philosophical debates about time? Finally, what exactly could time travel be? And could time travel satisfy emotions such as nostalgia and regret?

    • SPC 2.1

      If time is finite will there be enough?

    • Ad 2.2

      I prefer time as cycle rather than time as series or time as lived flow.

      • Simbit 2.2.1

        Nice try but events unfold, hence disaster response and recovery always suffers for a lack of preparedness. There's no cycling back to strengthen that building etc.

        • Ad 2.2.1.1

          Yours is not a useful view of time if you are keen on innovation, invention, research, preparation, resilience, systemic learning, and in general any kind of precedent. I think you'll find that a cyclic view of time is the reason humans are so successful. It's all in the rhythm.

  3. Stuart Munro 3

    Never a particularly forward-looking country, a lot of our energy is presently directed into obsessively analysing the recent past. Were we at the wrong supermarket, did ladies of negotiable virtue visit Northland, where is the homeless man?

    More important questions, like how we are to reform the media landscape away from gotcha clickbait towards more important questions, are being neglected.

    There is no engagement with the issue of rising inequality and declining home ownership. Neo-liberal gruel is the only pap on offer – and no-one wants any more of that. Even the lip-service the Paris climate accord requires isn't being paid. We used to be a more grown-up country, even in the days of Muldoon.

    Life is possible in the space between entropy and creativity – and we're not being very creative. Why not look at Mars? A fruitfly culture is more adaptive than the current human one.

    • Ad 3.1

      We are remarkably adaptive to have responded to a new global pandemic. We rise to complex challenges very successfully.

      It's still very hard for any government to think and act too far ahead, because since the late 1990s it's no longer had the state capacity to do so. Bits are slowly being rebuilt.

      It would be useful if our universities had Incognito's "scholars and academics" with the energy to organise and sustain such debate. Nothing so far.

      Every time we come out of a lockdown we often complain "where's the plan"? Ingognito's post is a flowery version of the same question with a journey metaphor tacked on.

      Unfortunately all our government has the capacity to do is cope. Like most of us.

      • Stuart Munro 3.1.1

        We are remarkably adaptive to have responded to a new global pandemic

        Something to be proud of. More responses of this quality please.

        useful if our universities had Incognito's "scholars and academics"

        Between the chronic underfunding of humanities and the rise of post-modernism, we should not be surprised if the principle product of our universities is now sophistry.

        • Ad 3.1.1.1

          Agree! An awful lot of STEM graduates and a whole lot less useful critique to improve our governing structures.

        • Ad 3.1.1.2

          And to add… the strong impression I get on The Standard is that this is the last strong NZ audience for educated left critique. Sure don't always agree with them, but certainly appreciate that you all exist.

  4. Robert Guyton 4

    Regarding ship-travel; remember the importance of greens in preventing scurvy.

  5. Patricia Bremner 5

    Too much credence is given to the Leader of Act in our future. He has not been blooded yet. He comments from a position of no accountability. There is no clear vision of future goals though they appear to involve guns money and commercial decisions. He is currently flattered by how poorly the National Party is performing.

    National see a future of small government and pay as you go dressed up as freedom and personal responsibility. That doesn't apply to them though as they plan to gain through property ownership, trusts and low wages for the rest. They are currently stuck in the present and have little coherent vision about the future, except the need for a popular leader.

    The true Left are disappointed by the current Government's view of a middle way to our future, and they are frustrated that the nirvana of equity has not been attained in a pandemic. They see a need for revolution in our future, or see the future as a choice of lesser evils.

    The Greens are having some growing pains balancing human rights with the dire state of our planet, and making choices that are often compromises. They show many ways in which we could have a more harmonious future, and how to cooperate both with nature and people but influence to implement is difficult when their client base still is heavily wedded to meat and oil. Signs of divorce giving a tantalising glimpse of a different future with local and more donut economies.

    The current Government, at first a hybrid of old and new, discovered a lack of supports in the public space. This was a handbrake on their vision for the future and while trying to overcome that stumbling block several serious crises arose and were handled well by the fledgling team, but progress was two steps forward, one back- then regroup.

    They held a stocktake at the beginning of their majority second term, a plan of repairs and investment needed to improve future prospects, promptly labelled a list by the opposition. While a Pandemic rages, the iterations of the virus growing more infectious, the development of plans and groundwork continues.

    Sadly many feel threatened by the huge changes we face in future health pressures and climate effects on sea levels, and those with little continue to be badly impacted.

    With a growing sense of unease, we see a future full of shocks, and we yearn for more certainty. We have rediscovered family community and good leadership. In a democracy trust, a mandate and rule of law must guide us to our future, it is coming ” ready or not”.

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