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The top seven things Covid has changed

Written By: - Date published: 7:45 am, August 14th, 2020 - 47 comments
Categories: climate change, covid-19, economy, health, immigration, internet, interweb, uncategorized - Tags:

Change 1: Health Overrides Economy

Recently, the German philosopher Markus Gabriel said “The pandemic has shown that we are capable of not always making economic considerations our first priority. We have done the right thing morally, and decided to prioritise health at almost any economic price.”

2020 has been the year of people before profit. We have gone through six months of decisions from the government that show that if they needed to, they can overrule the entire economy in favour of health. As New Zealand has lurched from economic crisis to economic crisis since the late 1960s, we’ve become accustomed to seeing welfare as the stuff you need to soften the damage to the economy. The economy was paramount.

But this year we made public health the most important priority of all.

So this tells us that the economy can be overridden, and sometimes should be.

Change 2: Climate Change Capacity

Can Covid-19 help us think better about climate change? Signs are good.

It is already uniting the right and the left against globalisation even better than anything the Battle for Seattle or Stiglitz’ Globalisation and its Discontents did over a decade ago.

The speed and force of the Covid-threatened state to command-and-control society and the economy to specific and far-reaching ends shows that government really can act effectively on the most major of policy problems, and with all the funding it needs. They’ve proven it inside half a year.

So there is no longer any excuse for government not to massively transform society to prepare for accelerating and deepening climate change. With the same force and scale.

Can it help us as individuals and consumers think differently about climate change? Too soon to tell.

Change 3: Borders Are Permanently Stronger

New Zealand is usually considered disabled by its distance from markets and the borders to entry this produces. But here we are, standing at the global AA meeting, clean for 100 days. Finally, the title of our historian Keith Sinclair’s book rings true: “Distance Looks Our Way”. Who knows how long this will last, but the world looks to us to chart a way out of this.

Covid 19’s effects have been to accelerate anti-globalisation. Trade walls are going up alongside physical walls, airport shut-downs, cruise liner halts and travel bans. The borders of our nation, and the strength of our state to define and protect those borders, are waaaaay more powerful than they used to be in February this year.

Our ability to seek our fortune and opportunity away from New Zealand has been deadened and we are forced to look to ourselves and to each other. It is a cold and heavy limit on us – and a different kind of society and economy will emerge to what we have now. We won’t be able to move as much.

Change 4: Digitisation Massively Accelerated

In the post-coronavirus era, digitalisation replaces globalisation.

The world of trade and of the exchange of ideas is putting a huge premium on dematerialised goods such as gaming and on-line services and shopping. We’re not well placed for this yet, but we’re learning fast: currently too much wealth is tied up in airports and not enough in independent broadband. It’s not that hard to imagine secondary schools, universities, and downtown retail as increasingly stranded assets. For anyone needing to track the share price of Amazon or Microsoft or Xero or Jade, that’s good news.

Will Zoom and Teams replace the numbing Dilbertean hell of the open plan office and of meetings? We certainly will keep tablets beside us nearly all the time, for everything.

Change 5: Home and Work Shifted

The premium on being home just shot up.

You can see the real effects of this as people travel less to work and school: already, a massive decrease in the use of petrol has punched a hole through the accounts of NZTA, requiring a billion in loan facility from the government. If enough people work from home and claim percentages of their home for it, the IRD will feel the loss in their tax take.

We could do with a bill through parliament that gives people the right to work from home if they can. That would weaken our mechanisation of the childcare industry into something better resembling actual parenting of actual human beings we gave rise to ourselves.

Maybe this context makes work and home life unbearably messy. But the old separation of life and work and education isn’t coming back.

Maybe we’re foolish enough to make New Zealand the very last place in the world that holds on to all the old structures for living, because we were the first to defeat the wave/last to get the wave. That would make us both free and conservative at the same time. Maybe we’ve come back home.

Change 6: Carers Finally Matter

All those in rest homes who were on the front line between life and death – maybe the entire pay structure for the risks they face is out of whack.

But we all know we owe them such a debt of gratitude. In fact there’s a tilt away from showering attention on celebrities and sportspeople and other entertainers, towards doctors, security guards, nurses, border security and biosecurity staff, Police, Ministry of Health staff, and others who do a public service.

Change 7: We Know We Need You

We need to be near you when you are dying. We need to be near you when you are born. We need to be near you when you are lonely, afraid, unable to go shopping, and sick. We need you as real parents. We need you as real children. We need you to live. Just maybe we know our neighbours a little more and find reason to do so.

We didn’t know that before, not like this.

Covid 19 has made us more human.

More human I suspect than we have been since the end of World War 2.

So how has it really changed us?

Our reaction to Covid 19 shows that we are more human than we knew.

47 comments on “The top seven things Covid has changed ”

  1. Andre 1

    Addendum to Change 1: So far the evidence seems to suggest that prioritising health over the economy is in fact the best choice for the economy as well.

    • Robert Guyton 1.1

      Good to see health as the No.1 issue; it is for the country as it is for the individual; a bout of life-threatening ill-health sharpens the mind, activates the heart and brings into focus those things that are immediately important, from the strength of the ties between the person and their family, friends and society, as well as with the life-giving elements of the environment: air, water, food, shelter and community.

    • Sabine 1.2

      Good for whom?

      Just asking.

      I don't disagree wholly with your point, just that sometimes we seem to be cavalier with the sacrifices we are happy for others to take so as long as one is not affected. I.e. i can work from home, so all is good. I work on a shovel ready project, so all is good.

      there are many right now that suffer depression, look at financial devastation, with no way out and very little help in the pipeline to them.

      So you might want to rethink this. Specially for families that only have one income earner. Just saying.

      Now if you were demanding an increase in unemployemnt benfits for the current losers of the economy you may have a point, but until then, the losers are on their own as always with all others happy that it ain't them – so far.

      • weka 1.2.1

        two things. One is the theory that we would be worse of economically without lockdown, so the comparison isn't covd/no covid, it's lock down recessions vs no lockdown recession.

        Two, what you describe has been routine for many NZers for my whole adult life starting with the mass redundancies in the 80s. From my perspective as a welfare activists, the things that have changed are the suddenness and the numbers of people affected.

        We need a new model. Labour want a two tier, partial user pays welfare system. This isn't going to help long term beneficiaries, or those that didn't have employment insurance. And it sure as hell won't make NZ more resilient, it's just short term adapting neoliberalism around a crisis neoliberalism isn't equipped to deal with.

        Hmm, I wonder if we have a political party that would both raise benefits, make it easier for people to top up their benefit from part time work, and create new systems that are more resilient in a covid world.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1.1

          Labour want a two tier, partial user pays welfare system.

          That's got to be the worst idea ever. All it is is another way for shareholders to bludge off of the rest of us.

          This isn't going to help long term beneficiaries, or those that didn't have employment insurance.

          IMO, It's not supposed to. All it will do is become another drain on the economy just like capitalists have always been creating even more poverty in this land of plenty.

          • weka 1.2.1.1.1

            totally. It fits perfectly with Labour's kaupapa of pull some people up and leave the rest behind.

      • Paddington 1.2.2

        Good points.

    • Paul 1.3

      Yes and this transfers so easily to things like welfare, quality housing, etc. The priorities that once made New Zealand the best country to live in and bring up children.

  2. Ad 2

    And you can see I wrote this a couple of days ago when we were still transmission-free.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Doesn't really change the core of the message – that there are better ways than the standard neo-liberal focus on the economy and making rich people richer.

  3. Sabine 3

    Change 5: Home and Work Shifted

    and all those that can't work from home and don't work in shovel ready jobs can get fucked.

    Mind currently the worst hit by this pandemic are women, the older workers, those who are differently abled so its all good, Right? Right?

    Fuck this is dumb.

    • left_forward 3.1

      Take a deep breath Sabine.

      Ad is not saying, therefore its all good – of course it isn't. There is so much we cannot change and the impact on the economy is indeed hard and it will effect all of us particularly the most vulnerable. However, if we focus as we are on health and welfare, and we work together, we can care for those most impacted and as a result not only soothe the pain, but re-assess our lives in the light of these more positive changes.

  4. gsays 4

    In regards to No.2, I feel there is a willingness and enthusiasm for change.

    From our food security through to the way politics is done eg inclusiveness and compassion as opposed to partisan and othering.

  5. We like others had considered visiting our family in Australia as "Normal"

    Now we think of Norm's family who came out from Scotland and could not go back to visit family and friends attend family functions or funerals. This is now our reality as well.

    Yes, some changes have improved the human climate, but others have hardened attitudes towards those who left NZ in the Key years. "Bugger them!! They left…now they want to return, bringing the virus with them."

    Those people who left were looking for better than $10 an hour no breaks on call shift work, and a climate of winners and losers.

    An attitude of "It is the Economy stupid" “You must have made bad choices.”

    We have learned there is very little "economy" without "healthy community".

    We have learned individualism is not healthy, and we do better working together.

    We have learned good governance supports health and community, which supports economic functions.

    We are now learning that money needs to be spent fixing the holes in services border protections and personnel. This patched up effort may well turn out to be a problem caused by a failure to pour funds into strengthening our border procedures quickly enough

    "Small Government" has come home to roost with all the resulting difficulties like services by poorly trained private providers patchy equipment and mixed methods of communications. It is amazing that Jacinda Ashley and the team of 5 million did so well. Fixing a broken system while you use it takes real skill.

    We have come to see the Government as our collective way of managing and meeting this challenge, and we want a larger role for our Government. There is a fund of goodwill as New Zealanders watch the huge efforts being made to assist people and improve our responses.

    We are now being bombarded by "Opinions" from those who stripped the system originally. After weakening the systems over years, they still have hubris..They "could do better" They would have "been better prepared" "Just asking questions’ they are….. We will crush the Government and take the country back”…We have your number and we are NOT calling on you.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Those people who left were looking for better than $10 an hour no breaks on call shift work, and a climate of winners and losers.

      That's overly simplistic. Many were looking to work in fields that just don't exist in NZ due to the economy not being developed. Fields other than farming.

      An attitude of "It is the Economy stupid" “You must have made bad choices.”

      It is the economy but the ones making bad choices have always been the ones in power and then they blamed the victims of their choices.

  6. Descendant Of Smith 6

    I'd be happier if work (and incomes) were more fairly distributed. More leisure time for those who have jobs by giving hours to those who don't. Time for a 30 hour working week with penalty rates after 30 hours to encourage taking on more employees if there is more work.

    One thing that has changed in an increased confidence in Maori being able to organise and take care of their own. Those skills and expertise were always there and the pandemic enabled the unleashing of these. Whether it was roadblocks to protect their communities, the distribution of food and resource and well being checks or the engagement and networking throughout communities Maori stood up and said we can do this.

    Employers and government agencies should take note and work out how to partner with Maori to achieve both economic growth and healthy communities.

    While there were small mis-steps along the way by both government and iwi at times one couldn't help but be impressed at iwi messaging, empathy and delivery. Many do not want to go back to how it was before and we as a society need to work out how to both be more inclusive and actually share power. Those structural changes will make far more difference to individuals than focussing on individual change. Employers should take note and start valuing the diversity of thinking and approach that Maori can bring to their workplaces. As the world changes at a rapid rate more than one thinking approach is needed.

    • Tricledrown 6.1

      That is one of the best ways to recover the economy.

      This was how the 40 he week came about.

    • Janet 6.2

      Yes a change in the way we view hours of work per week could be a very fair and constructive way to help the current situation. I have wondered if a job could be shared over six days . Each working 3 days in the week Monday to Saturday. We need to just be able to live through these times, met the weekly basic needs.Would a three days work week do this ?

      • Tricledrown 6.2.1

        110% especially with more online business and robots taking over in more work places.

  7. Descendant Of Smith 7

    "We are now being bombarded by "Opinions" from those who stripped the system originally."

    Aye frankly it is pissing me off – let us remember too that many of those people are still round in all sectors – private, NGO and government. It is time a bit of listening was done to hear those marginalised since 1985.

  8. Stuart Munro 8

    One of the features of Covid is that it has revealed who in politics has some concern for the public good, and in whom such instincts are utterly extinct.

    It might also be a good time for some professional bodies to rein in the excesses of their members, and for a second stage of self-regulation among social media along the lines of what they came up with after the Christchurch shooting.

  9. swordfish 9

    .
    UMR polling in April & May suggested " New Zealanders expect to see the environment take a back seat to economic recovery" & "they were not of the opinion that the environmental movement would be strengthened." with "62% believing people want economies to boom again and will not worry too much about the environmental consequences”.

    https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/27-06-2020/we-asked-new-zealanders-what-the-country-will-look-like-post-covid-19/

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      New Zealanders expect to see the environment take a back seat to economic recovery

      Without the environment there is no economy – as we'll all be dead.

  10. Byd0nz 10

    No doubt pandemics when they happen, jolt people hard and we realize our human frailty and that we are all, world wide, in this together and so we regain the emotion of empathy to a degree, but political bias remains under the surface and that still divides us. Thankfully the sciences work internationally for a common benefit and in the main rise above the politcal BS. But for the bulk of humanity we are coloured by the politics of our own country and so still have the prejudices of our ' Money System'. That is a world divided by its own capitalism where countries compete against each other for the benefit of the local elite. This corruption curtails progress, an example of this can be seen by the poo pooing of the Capitalist West against the Capitalist Russian Sputnik V Covid vaccine that could lead to a viable safeguard against this current pandemic. The only saving grace here is, that world scientists ignore the BS and work together and support the combined efforts. So, in short, until money systems become a thing of the past, empathy is short lived.

    • Stuart Munro 10.1

      It is not merely the capitalist West poo-pooing Russia's vaccine, plenty of biologists have concerns. It is usual for vaccines to undergo more and larger scale tests. This was perhaps most economically expressed by the joke:

      "In Putin's Russia, vaccine tests you."

    • Andre 10.2

      To my knowledge, there have been zero published reports about trial methods and results from Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. None. It appears it's just a mass rollout with the entire population as the guinea pigs.

      If, in six months or a year's time, there was reliable information coming out of Russia about the vaccine's safety and efficacy (that's a huge if ) and there were no reliable options from other more reliable sources, I might consider it worthwhile for Pharmac and Medsafe to evaluate it for potential use here. Particularly if it could be licensed for production somewhere with better quality control and higher regard for the well-being of citizens than Russia has. I've had experience with stuff manufactured in Russia, it's terrifying for any safety-critical applications.

    • Gabby 10.3

      Well it could, but we'd have a better idea if it was trialled wouldn't we.

  11. Dean Reynolds 11

    The GFC kicked neo liberalism in the balls & Covid will finish it off. 8 years ago, Russell Norman, the Green's leader advocated quantative easing (QE) & was laughed off the stage. This week, the Reserve Bank was given the authority to put $100 B worth of QE into the economy over the next 2 years & not even the loony Right reacted adversly.

    During WW2 we were forced to become self sufficient 'Fortress NZ' & it worked. The social democratic foundations laid down at that time, sustained NZ's post WW2 growth & humanitarian development for the next 40 years.

    Yes, Covid is a crisis, but the flip side is that it gives us the opportunity to rebuild postively & consign shitty neo liberalism to the dust bin of history.

    • Phil 11.1

      8 years ago, Russell Norman, the Green's leader advocated quantative easing (QE) & was laughed off the stage.

      From the GFC onward, the OCR fell from over 8% to 2.5%. Norman was, correctly in my view, "laughed off the stage" because:

      1) New Zealand still had ample headroom with conventional monetary tools to cut further if needed.

      2) our economy wasn't in nearly as bad a state as elsewhere

      3) the scale of any NZ-QE at the time would have had zero impact on the high value of the kiwi dollar (which was oft-stated at the time as a crucial reason for needing to undertake QE.

      None of those three things hold true in the same way today.

      • Draco T Bastard 11.1.1

        All of that would apply if the present neo-liberal paradigm was correct – which it isn't.

        We know that the private banks create money whenever they make a loan. This proves that the government creating money isn't the problem.

        The private banks create most money through house loans. This has pushed house prices up at rates of inflation that had government and the private sector screaming in the 1970s/80s. Why is it that such massive inflation in house prices is seen as good especially when we consider the increasing poverty that its created?

        See, the way I figure it is that if the government started creating money it would prove the apparent need for rich people that is inherent in the capitalist paradigm to be BS.

        Want to start a business? Get together with your friends, put together a viable business plan and go down to Kiwibank to get a 0% interest loan.

        Already have a viable business but need some more for expansion then head down to Kiwibank to get a 0% interest loan.

        Want to buy/build a house? Kiwibank to get a 0% interest loan.

        The problem that capitalists have with the government creating the money instead of them is that they'll no longer be able to bludge off of the rest of us.

      • Tricledrown 11.1.2

        Phil our economy would have as bad as else were it not for the $86 billion pumped into the economy 2010 onwards from the Canterbury earthquakes insurance payouts etc

        QE works best in low inflation times and when productive capacity is low

        Those were the conditions at the time.

        John Key was PM a former merchant Bwanker would not want to cut his buddies out of huge profits of his former employers who were insider traders fraudsters and ponzi schemersMerril Lynch Bof A Robertson has cut $60 billion out of their dirty little hands.

        Your Fake news doesn't add up.

        National would never use QE as they are beholding to the big banker's ,look at the ANZ Simon Power,John Key etc

        They would rather fleece NZ than look after NZ.

        Yet now you here no complaints about the $60 billion of free money being given to the banks to make massive profits yet pay no tax in NZ.

      • SPC 11.1.3

        He proposed it as a way to rebuild the EQC Fund, QE the money and invest it offshore in assets that could be liquidated at the next earthquake. Debt free refinancing when we had government debt issues.

    • Grafton Gully 11.2

      Stats from the 1945 yearbook show NZ was not self sufficient during WW2.

      "DATA regarding the overseas trade of New Zealand possess a special significance in view of the Dominion's relatively high degree of dependence upon its external trade. According to figures compiled by the Secretariat of the League of Nations, New Zealand's total trade per caput is the highest in the world."

      https://www3.stats.govt.nz/New_Zealand_Official_Yearbooks/1945/NZOYB_1945.html#idsect1_1_79672

  12. Phil 12

    It's not important in the grand scheme of things, but can we all just take a moment to appreciate that Covid-19 meant we didn’t have to put up with corporate or social media influencer bullshit on April 1st.

    How fucking great was that?!

  13. karol121 13

    Hello World

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    It’s not that hard to imagine secondary schools, universities, and downtown retail as increasingly stranded assets.

    I been wondering for awhile why new and bigger shopping centres keep going up while old ones are revamped. Its like the business leaders are refusing to accept the new paradigm that people are going online to buy. Its so frustrating trying to buy online in NZ as so many online stores tell the buyer that they can sell a product to them but then tell them to contact sales – often through a bloody phone.

    From where I'm sitting NZ business leaders have been trying very hard to prevent us moving into the 21st century and I'm pretty sure that, once the covid pandemic is over they'll be trying hard to take us back to the way it was before. They know that the old ways worked (for them) and so they will hang on to them.

    So, yes, the pandemic is a chance to make things better but be sure that the business leaders will be trying very hard to prevent it.

    • greywarshark 14.1

      The big businesses are creating malls because the land is there and the interest rates are cheap, and it keeps the money turning over, and it stops any other mall owner from getting that position. And it looks as if they are doing something when viewing the balance sheet, and the future investments report.

      It also means that micro business owners need to rent from them for a shopfront as they have commandeered all the available central land. As the small guys are probably NZ and the mall owners are probably living in Oz, or the USA, it means they have pretty well tied up all paved commercial space as overseas landlords.

      That's why it is important that Councils keep Town Squares big enough for people to mill about in. In Nelson there are two parking areas that are excellent for turning over to public space, and there are more, and a mall has just recently been turned down by residents negatives, and Council second thoughts.

  15. CO-vid 19,,climate change, China.

    We live in "interesting times".

  16. froggleblocks 16

    We already have a right to work from home. It's called workplace flexibility. You can apply to your employer to vary your working conditions, including working from home. They must consider your application and respond to it. Your request for varied arrangements needs to be suitable for the employer, but they aren't forced to grant anything you ask for.

    Suggesting we have a law that allows an employee to work from home regardless of the impact it may have on the employer isn't fair and is unlikely to fly.

    • McFlock 16.1

      I didn't get a law change vibe from the post. More that covid is actually forcing people to figure out the issue of a distributed workplace as a systemic issue – who needs to come in, who can work from home (and how much to expect from them), and who is basically on leave for the duration.

      Many woekplaces still have the "be at your desk by 8:30, leave at 5" mentality, regardless of how productive that actually is, or how necessary. Face to face meetings have a different character to zoom, but that doesn't mean every meeting has to be f2f. Some managers still feel the need to judge apparent activity rather than outputs, and seem to feel uncomfortable if you're not within an arm's length every moment of the day.

      The current unpleasantness forces unadaptive employers to try a change. Many will go back to the old ways, but some will find out that wider tolerances help their machine run better.

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