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Top ten things we have learned already

Written By: - Date published: 7:49 am, May 6th, 2020 - 53 comments
Categories: australian politics, health, health and safety, poverty, workers' rights - Tags: ,

  1. We can do without fast food and coffee made by someone else, but not forever.
  2. What seems to be out of control can be brought under control. This provides a good level of comfort. Even at another extreme event and future policies start to fail, New Zealand can recover the situation.
  3. We’re wiser. Comparing our own recovery with others, there is more than one right way to achieve and maintain control. The most enduring form of globalisation out of this is that countries who learn from each other and increase their implicit trust in each other, and use that shared knowledge to suit their own circumstances, are coming out ahead.
  4. We trust. We trust our government to get us to do the right thing, and have been rewarded for that trust. Our social contract is more explicit and it is very strong. When asked for total obedience and self-control in the face of a national crisis, we deliver. Government is dependent on us, and we on them, and that realisation hasn’t freaked anyone out.
  5. We are going to move closer to Australia. We’ve been doing it for years and it’s not scary.
  6. We’ve seen a truth. We’ve caught a glimpse of life without commuting and pollution and offices and it’s like a balloon that expanded in our imagination, popped, and the shape is still there.
  7. We are throwing everything at housing and infrastructure to keep ourselves employed and internally strong, but we’re not making ourselves any wealthier or productive.
  8. The things in life that are actually frivolous and a bit of a waste of money are now really obvious – even if we return to them next year. If we never tell another soul, we know those things that have held us back.
  9. The patterns that were changing already – digital work and communication, dying mainstream media, property, regional trade blocs, teaching and learning, healthcare, regional and personal inequality – just accelerated massively under our feet.
  10. We’re strong. All that is solid has melted into air – except actually it hasn’t. The entire country is changing so fast – in parts damaging and in other parts for the long term good – but there is no panic to it. We’re accelerating in high country roads, without loss of traction.

53 comments on “Top ten things we have learned already ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    I have learned New Zealanders by and large love appeals to collective discipline. Stadium of five million, team of five million, we can't get enough of that kind of thing.

    I was reading a British account which expressed surprise that our nation of "rugged individualists" had been so disciplined. But Austin Mitchell long ago described an earlier generation of New Zealanders as the Prussians of the South Pacific, and it seems that beneath the surface a lot of cultural behaviours can be remarkably persistent in any society.

    • Blazer 1.1

      'Prussians of the South Pacific'….or 'Mexicans with…cell phones'…you choose.

      • Sanctuary 1.1.1

        I guess one was coined by someone (Austin Mitchell) who actually had a deep fondness for our people while the other is simply a dismissive insult, so if you want to be insulted I guess that is your choice.

        • Blazer

          Well you just inspired me to go and watch the Paradise Revisited series by Austin Mitchell .

          Wonderful .yes

        • Brutus Iscariot

          Prussians were also viewed in Europe as regimented, narrowminded, militaristic, and petty.

      • KJT 1.1.2


        One of the first States to introduce formal, social welfare.

        • greywarshark

          What a mixed up lot we humans are. Could we extract essence of rationality and spirituality of being and find a sweet spot where we can join those things, and keep the stink bugs of negativity and greed to such a low level that we could pick them off and deal with them personally, squash them like shield beetles?

  2. Tricledrown 2

    Our health systems have been run down for 30 years and we have the lowest number of ICU beds in the developed world.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    3. We’re wiser. Some of us, perhaps. The day the average punter gets wiser pigs will sprout wings.

    4. We trust. We trust our government to get us to do the right thing I suspect `our' was intended to mean `this'? Some naively, some suspiciously, given the track record of betrayal in the past.

    5. We are going to move closer to Australia. Fortunately plate tectonics reversal is unheard of, and would be extremely slow even if it happened, so I think we can discount your threat.

    6. We’ve seen a truth. Hey, don't tell the postmodernists. They'd become catatonic & would have to go into therapy.

    8. The things in life that are actually frivolous and a bit of a waste of money are now really obvious Such as the Leader of the Opposition.

    10. We’re accelerating in high country roads, without loss of traction. Looking down from his cloud (beer in hand) Barry Crump will be proud.

    • I suspect `our' was intended to mean `this'?

      You bet. I trust Ardern, Robertson and Bloomfield. I would mos def not trust Bridges, Bennett and that accountant National appointed to Bloomfield's position.

      Hey, don't tell the postmodernists. They'd become catatonic & would have to go into therapy.

      Lol – it's funny because it's true…

    • Sanctuary 3.2

      10. We’re accelerating in high country roads, without loss of traction.

      We can see the red-gold cirrus, over snow-mountains shine. 🙂

      • Ad 3.2.1


        Hat Tip to James

      • mac1 3.2.2

        Don't forget the next bit about surrendering your heart of anger on that upland road.

        I quoted that poem to the custodian of the Church of the Good Shepherd at Tekapo once as it seemed so apt looking up the lake to Aoraki/ Mt Cook. He had not heard it.

        Our nation has more to learn about that surrender. "On that upland road ride easy, stranger/ surrender to the sky your heart of anger". I hope we do in our post-covid country.

  4. roy cartland 4

    I can't tell if you're being facetious with the first point, but is it really the product itself we're desperate for? Maybe it's some – any! – feeling of normality and/or social contact that we crave after isolation.

    • Ad 4.1

      It's both the product and the contact.

    • Phil 4.2

      but is it really the product itself we're desperate for?

      I'm very fortunate to have a good quality coffee machine at home. My home workspace is open plan and the machine is visible in the background when i'm on a video call. Roughly once a day in L4 I had a colleague or client mention how desperate they were to have a 'real coffee'.

  5. RedLogix 5

    Love it. I can tick all of these boxes.

    One small data point from here in Brisbane. In some Bunnings stores turnover is up 40% … people not spending money on bars, cafes and commuting are spending it on their homes.

    Lots of people are not in a hurry to return to work. Or at least work on the same prior terms. The insane treadmill of the multi-income family with both parents compelled to work long hours is going to come under particular pressure.

    More people will demand to work from home more often. Instead of one day a week, two or three may become the norm. The expense and time cost of commuting is way too high for many.

    Local and regional will become the big priorities. As the resident globalist I'm looking at the silver lining here; the current system had run into it's limits and needed a reset.

    But we are not through this event yet, I believe it has many ramifications that are yet to play out. The high country road we are speeding along may well have some nasty washouts we're yet to discover.

    Oh and we need a better media to reflect these truths more faithfully back to us.

    • tc 5.1

      We most certainly need better media and a revitalised local production scene.

      Content is gold more so than ever, were good at it. C'mon faafoi grow a pair

    • AB 5.2

      "Lots of people are not in a hurry to return to work. Or at least work on the same prior terms. The insane treadmill of the multi-income family with both parents compelled to work long hours is going to come under particular pressure."

      I do hope this is true. I sense it, but wonder if it will fade too quickly once things get moving again. It's essential to driving bottom-up change, the sort of change that has the best chance of survival across election cycles.

      • Phil 5.2.1

        wonder if it will fade too quickly once things get moving again.

        My sense is that most office-based businesses are already accepting of a more distributed workforce and planning accordingly. Realistically, social distancing restrictions of some form or another are likely to be in place through all of 2020.

        That means commercial offices will only be able to run at 50%-ish capacity. Once the new-normal routines and processes associated with this style of work are settled and well understood across a workforce, it may be very hard to move the working culture back to being entirely office-based.

        Plus, if you're a CFO, the prospect of halving your office rental costs in 2021 must look incredibly attractive.

      • RedLogix 5.2.2

        Yes I had that in mind as I was writing the above; it could all too easily fade as we move back to 'normal'.

        Yet two things come to mind. One is the new normal may look quite different to what we expect. We could yet see some dramatic consequences fall out of the COVID19 destabilisation on a global scale. TBH I am expecting a permanent change in our oil supply security within 18 months for instance.

        Major food supply security issues could play well for us, or not.

        Events in China are exceedingly uncertain at present. I think the CCP is going to come under extreme domestic pressure, but how it reacts and the timing is totally unpredictable. At present it looks like they are playing the hyper-nationalism card to consolidate loyalty to the party, and this does not bode well for Taiwan or regional stability at all.

        Brexit has yet to play out the end game. Europe and the EU are not going to look the same in five years time. As the US pulls back from providing the defacto security power in the ME, the Iranians and the Saudi's are going to make their own hostile moves. Russia needs to consolidate it's geopolitical defense while it still has the capacity to do so.

        And the climate story will continue to unravel, grim para by para.

        So I'm not seeing a reversion to the old normal. What we should be telling ourselves, as a nation, is that we have discovered our real capacity for dealing with adversity as a nation, and we're going to be needing to exercise it even more of it in the coming decades. Maybe we could get as good at this national teamwork thing as the All Blacks have been for so long.

    • Ad 5.3

      It's a great moment for both Australia and New Zealand to recognise how much we need the rest of the world – our society is just an outworking of all the blocs and allegiances and networks that sustain us.

      And the world needs us a whole lot less than we need them.

      • RedLogix 5.3.1

        our society is just an outworking of all the blocs and allegiances and networks that sustain us.

        Indeed, imperfect as they are, we depend on them more than we like to think.

        Our big challenge is that the US defacto security guarantee we have taken quite for granted since the end of WW2 is now having the terms re-written. The Australians are far more conscious of the threat than we are. NZ is in for a bit of a rude awakening on this front quite soon.

        And any hope of appealing to multi-lateralism (Helen Clark's favourite word) is rapidly crumbling from under us.

        Right now if I were Winston I'd be working very hard to win the budget to employ some of the best minds and most experienced foreign policy workers I could lay my hands on, and set them to working their contacts and quietly setting up terms for a regional trade and security alliance conference late this year.

  6. Tricledrown 6

    Life is fragile the world's economies are fragile.

    Team play overcomes disasters the individual can't.

    NZers are team players mostly a very small percentage are selfish.

  7. Peter 7

    We didn't learn that people throw tantrums when they don't get their own way. We already knew that. We just got to see it in action.

  8. Ad 8

    And in the vein of truths revealed, here's the poem from Tom Foolery that everyone's talking about:


    • RedLogix 8.1

      Very, very good.

      The clever part is how it gets us to look forward, by imagining looking back.

  9. bill 9

    5 We are going to move closer to Australia. We’ve been doing it for years and it’s not scary.

    Might also be on the cusp of learning that, given a tanked and crazy USA, there's actually not anything too scary with regards China. (Might take a while to unravel the sinophobic propaganda we've consumed though)

    • Ad 9.1

      We've been fine with accelerated and overt Chinese influence in Auckland for 25 years now. It's got its good and bad sides.

    • RedLogix 9.2

      there's actually not anything too scary with regards China.

      Ask my Chinese friends on this.

      Look I do get it. For years I've seen you and some others basically trotting out the barely disguised pro-Marxist lines that are loudly, reflexively anti-US and quietly uncritical of anything the Russians and Chinese govts do.

      If only the world were so simple I'd probably agree with you. But essentially you're trapped in the ideological battles of the last century; ideas you absorbed in the 80's are still in the driving seat as you navigate using political maps long out of date.

      Here is my claim, unadorned and plain. Underlying all these events are two distinct processes. The age old world of empire and the great power game is ending; it started with WW1 and we are now seeing it enter a late and dangerous phase where both the two major powers left standing are drunk with hubris, both clinging to rotting ideological lamposts yelling mad provocations at each other.

      At the same time there is another force at work; inevitably, for fear of the consequences, a reset, refreshed global order will have to be constructed, one that expands our moral horizons and brings to a final end the rivalry of nations.

      • KJT 9.2.1

        Do you really believe that being critical of the USA, means that anybody supports the CCP?

        A lot of criticism of the USA, is disappointment at our "friends" being arseholes.

        The chief supporters of the CCP , in New Zealand appear to be NACT , supporters, following the money.

        Most of us are suspicious of both, Oligarchic empires. The USA and China. And Russia.

        • RedLogix

          By the standards of modern political mores, all great powers inevitably act like arseholes when they exercise their oversized influence. It's just comes with the job description.

          While I've outlined my ideal vision above, I'm also aware NZ has to live in the real world today. No point in dreaming of a beautiful tomorrow, if an ugly bus runs us over today.

          That pragmatically means we need to consider that while our friend does do arsehole things from time to time, there may well be bigger arseholes out there we need to guard against as well.

      • Unicus 9.2.2

        The classic photograph of United States Marines marching in ceremonial uniform up Queen Street from the Auckland docks in 1943 should be a constant reminder that when it really mattered our grubby friend was there for us .

        New Zealanders watched in utter dread the inexorable approach of a facist racist military cutting its way toward them through the pacific . Pausing at Rabul where it established a military base of one hundred thousand personnel

        Horii's army never made it to New Zealand because the American and Australian armed forces stopped it in its tracks .

        Bent broken and flawed they may be but the Americans were our saviours in that dark and menacing hour .

        Lest we forget .

        • Ad


          My grandfather was a cook in WW2 for the US and NZ brigades in Wellington

          • joe90

            As a 15 year old my dad was part of the family business man-powered to construct barracks and hospital wings in Paekākāriki.

            He always reckoned US veterans of the campaigns were brought here to recuperate and recover because had they gone home in the pitiful state they were in, the US public would never have allowed another troop ship to embark to the Pacific.

            Himself, my grandfather and uncle carried a profound debt of gratitude for the rest of their lives.

            • Ad

              Good story.
              For some reason you’re older than I expected. Or you’re an autumn leaf.

        • KJT

          Those troops fought, fascists.

          I don't think they would be impressed with their grandchildren, voting for them..

      • bill 9.2.3

        For years I've seen you and some others basically trotting out the barely disguised pro-Marxist lines that are loudly, reflexively anti-US and quietly uncritical of anything the Russians and Chinese govts do

        sigh – I'm neither reflexively "anti – US" nor a Marxist.

        Living in NZ, I'm subjected to propaganda that's invariably pro-Washington Consensus. And I evaluate it as best I can.

        Living in NZ, I am not subjected to Russia-centric state propaganda or China-centric propaganda – everything I get about China or Russia is filtered through that Washington Consensus lens before it reaches me.

        And although I've said before, I'll say it again (maybe this time you'll let it sink in?) I do not believe in the notion of having a small clique/cadre or caucus of people making decisions that affect other peoples' lives – and that applies whether the decision makers are voted in or not voted in. And I despair the existence of any and all bureaucracies.


        • RedLogix

          I'm subjected to propaganda that's invariably pro-Washington Consensus.

          Well you are connected to the internet and can sup with any devil you choose these days.devil

          Ideally we'd all prefer a world which had moved past the perils and predations of the great power games.

          But pragmatically I'm pretty clear that of all the scenarios that could have realistically played out since WW2, the Washington Consensus was probably the least worst of them all. Anything to do with Stalin, Mao Zedong, or now Xi Xinping's CCP is comparatively much worse.

          By all means the USA is fair game for criticism, hell they manage to do that for themselves just fine without us chipping in, but let's not pretend everything American is the spawn of the devil.

          I'd suggest that from our remove, us kiwis tend not to appreciate just how intense the Cold War was for the USA. It consumed their foreign policy for the better part of four decades, and it's paranoid overhang is still with us. The nuclear threat was palpable and existential, and drove a wild over build of their military. It was also the driver of the many mistakes they made, over-reacting to events and interpreting events through the monochromatic lens of anti-communism. It was after all a war of sorts, and wars are never clean honourable affairs.

          But you know what, in the final analysis I am glad the USA fought it, and even more grateful they won.

          • bill

            Well you are connected to the internet and can sup with any devil you choose these days.

            Well no, not really. For a start, I only speak English. So even getting a handle on the Yellow Vests in France, or events in Spain is difficult. For the most part, I have to rely on reporting from others, and as you well know, google algorithms and youtube algorithms are anything but neutral – meaning that a small stable of barely paid, under resourced, and often censored but trusted sources have had to be sought out over time (them and their reporting doesn't tend to just 'pop up' in searches). And those sources have to have covered whatever it is I'm looking to dive into.

            Granted, unlike others, I've got the time to do that.

            But try bringing any information that isn't an integral part of the highly propagandised information tsunami to a forum like this and…well sadly it's apparent that most people believe what "legacy", corporate and mainstream media tell them and will rush to parrot received lines regardless of any evidence or lack thereof.

            Syria, OPCW, China, Russia, Venezuela…maybe slightly less so with Iran (but then, there's a slight disconnect in the "official" line between the EU and the US on that one).

            Of course, if you simply mean that people can find thoughtless stuff to bolster their own prejudice and bias, then sure, the internet's very much a "sup with any devil you like" kind of a place.

            btw – a lot of the sources I use are US sources 😉

  10. E. Campbell 10

    The lock-down period has also exposed the fallacy of 100% online learning as the future of teaching, learning and education. I remember Minister Parata telling us a few years ago that this was the future…everyone could learn at home and schools, pffft, who needs them with their expensive buildings and expensive unionized teachers creating and sustaining real-world relationships with learners…

    • Anne 10.1

      Oh yes, Minister Parata. Had forgotten about her. My abiding memory was the occasion she sat with a group of teachers around a table and read them a children's story. I wish I had been a fly on the wall. The looks on the teachers' faces would have been a glorious sight.

      What a silly woman she was.

  11. Obtrectator 11

    "5 We are going to move closer to Australia. We’ve been doing it for years and it’s not scary."

    Lately, Australia has greatly accelerated the movement of its less desirable elements over to here. And it bloody well IS scary.

    • Ad 11.1

      That's not a learning from the shutdown at all. It's been happening for well over a year now.

      Those 'less desirables' are 99.99% our people. You are right the growth in gangs that they have generated is truly scary.

    • patricia 11.2

      Yes, closer but…They can be bad sports. Australia has armed police, a variety of State laws, plus Federal laws, expensive Body Corporate costs, a propensity to give unflattering nick names, and Aussi -isms "barbie thongs and esky" to name a few, some awful gangs, snakes, two kinds of crocodile not to mention poisonous spiders!!

      Further, ross river and dengue fever carried by their "mossies" and don't forget the dust and the bloody flies.

      They possibly have a list about us lol

      • Adrian 11.2.1

        Calling us the Shakey Isles and sheepshaggers just about trumps all their nasties, Patricia.,

  12. AB 12

    11.) That an economy is inseparable from the people that inhabit it. To separate it out is to create a murderous abstraction

  13. Wensleydale 13

    12. Some people are so selfish and devoid of common sense they will put at risk entire communities… so they can go surfing. Or for a tiki tour. Or so they can get drunk with their bros at the gang pad.

    13. David Clark is only half aware of what's going on around him at any given moment.

    14. Simon Bridges’ favourite food in all the world is his own shoes.

    15. When things get really, really bad… at least you have 120 rolls of Purex 2-ply to console you.

  14. Adrian 14

    Good stuff Advantage, a point about Item 4, I don't know if it was so much about blind obeidience as much as the lucky fact that even at 4.7 million we "know " each other and by not behaving we may harm someone we know or someone they know, it's probably also a heightened sense of responsibility, and that great Kiwi attribute of helping someone who needs it. I also suspect that our collective intelligence is a fair bit above the average. Plenty of evidence from overseas on TV news each night is evidence of that.

    We need to congratulate ourselves a bit more too.

    • Ad 14.1

      Yes it's such a tightly networked little country – that might be the 'collective' in collective intelligence. It's helped no doubt.

      And yes congratulations is a part of kindness.

    • RedBaronCV 14.2

      I see it as "informed consent" rather than 'blind obedience" . We had a clear community plan to follow, it was put to us as fellow adults, we had seen what was happening overseas and saw this as our best chance. There are still businesses and individuals who are adhering to higher lockdown because they see that as their best option for a little longer.

      The statistics that we have indicated compliance rates up in the high 90%'s. We have only about 8000 cops so they would have been unable to enforce anything like 90% if this didn't have widespread buy in. Lets face it – even tanks in the street would struggle to enforce it without buy in.

      It helps that we have a welfare system to access and back up civil defence and other organisations to deal with those outside the mainstream systems.

      I'm sure there are a lot of countries who would have done just as well with our basics in place.

      That's what I think Bridge's just doesn't get. He's left representing the tiny group that I really would like to condemn. Second home owners who decamped to them under the dead of night. If they did this under darkness then they knew they were breaking the rules but they think they are too wealthy and privileged for the those rules to apply to them

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