by Dr John Robinson
The absence of much activity during the enforced shutdown can provide a time for thinking, to set aside the bothersome everyday problems that occupy most of our thought, and to ponder where we are as a nation, where we are going, and what to expect. Once it is over can be the time for action, so we no longer drift with business as usual, as a great ship speeding full steam ahead for the rocks without pilot or captain.
Two big picture issues concern me, one being global – the looming collapse as the human plague overwhelms the world – and the second particular to New Zealand – the acceptance of separate identity and blatant official racism in the national way of life.
Humanity has always damaged and destroyed the environment and driven rival species into extinction. Back in the 1970s as I began a career in futures research, I wondered at forecasts of a tripling of the world population in one lifetime – it seemed impossible. Now at the age of almost 80 I find that the global population has increased by a even greater factor – 3.4 – since my birth. We (all of us, across the planet) have entered into the time of collapse, having gone past the limits to growth, collectively still wedded to growth, quite ignorant of the absurdity of a supposedly intelligent species that cannot consider the reality of life on a finite planet, the advisability of keeping numbers to a sensible level, to allow for the life of other species and the natural environment, and to provide a secure and prosperous life for all – including the time for leisure that became possible in the 1960s before being forgotten in the inequality of Globalisation that was forced on us in the 1980s, to become a religion supported by the brainwashing of ubiquitous advertising.
This critical period has been signalled by a series of foreshocks, problems that were identified in advance as the long-term trends became clear. These include the 2008 economic crisis (foretold in my 1989 Excess capital), the coming of the oil peak in conventional oil production, the waves of refugees (with no recognition that a major cause of them was the overpopulation of many regions well past their carrying capacity), the climate change resulting from greenhouse emissions (the record of New Zealand is dire, despite decades of empty posturing), and now a global pandemic. It has always been obvious that packing too many people in, with ready contact across the world, would allow disease to spread easily. Thus, Barbara Tuchman wrote in 1978 of the plague that killed one-third or one-half of Europeans in “the calamitous 14th century” as A distant mirror for our time. There are no surprises. Nor is it any surprise that we are ill-prepared and that the question of overpopulation is off the radar. Our rulers thrive from the work of citizen ants, as globalisation has destroyed self-sufficiency and removed the option of a leisure society – all dreams of the far-off 1960s.
Now here we are in this situation of lockdown, with calls to work together, that “we are one”. This became a national mantra following the Christchurch mosque shootings, a remarkable hypocrisy given that those who had previously been calling for equality, to honour the call that “now we are one” at Waitangi had been denigrated and labelled as racist.
Are we “one” in reality? It clearly is not so, even now as we together face this critical situation. The nation is divided in law by race, separated into two peoples. This is shown clearly by the definition of Maori as “a member of the Maori race”. Here is race explicitly referenced in a definition that shows the stupidity of New Zealand law, for “a Maori is a Maori” is no definition at all.
That division is acted upon even now as we are acting together, cheerfully doing the best we can, waving and greeting while keeping apart, taking out teddy bears from our youth to amuse passing youngsters. Each bubble doing its part to keep people safe. Yet emergency funding has been channelled into specifically Maori groups – $25 million, being $10 million for local iwi groups and $15 million for Whanau Ora providers – when resources should be based on need, not to groups identified by race, when lives and livelihoods are at stake.
Then too, the separatism and formation of alternative government and private policing is allowed, called “partnership”. Organised by former politician Hone Harawira, three checkpoints have been operating from Rawene, in the Hokianga, with more coming in the next few days. Harawira said that the North needed to “close its borders”, and that these “medical checkpoints” have the support of iwi leaders and police. The Police responded to a complaint against this group taking the law into its own hands with the comment that “Iwi are taking a strong leadership role and we want to model what it looks like when iwi, police, councils and other agencies work in partnership.”
Most of us limit travel and follow the rules. So should members of this iwi. They should stop bothering motorists, and the authorities should change their tune to one of impartiality and tell them to go back home and stick to their bubble as the rest of us are doing.
Once this is over the nation could take a deep breath and consider carefully what we have learned and what we have realised as our thoughts range wide, and then take suitable action. One obvious step would be to open up the debate. Past experience shows that this is unlikely, and that the previous status quo will be re-established, as we drift onwards to the next crisis.
Waikanae, 4 April 2020