Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown has seen human nature in its various forms. Some of it has been unpleasant, but a lot has been inspiring, writes Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.

Somebody once observed that the moral order we call civilisation is a delicate skin-deep thing that, left untended, peels away to expose us for the amoral savages we really are.

Even as the Prime Minister tended to this delicate skin of kiwis by extolling the virtue of kindness as a community value, to help us get through this pandemic crisis, we saw glimpses of the amoral savagery.

We saw examples of the horrible treatment meted out on the frontline staff at some supermarkets.


As the panic buying started, and supermarket shelves were emptied, some customers in their panic took out their frustrations at the workers.

They were shouted at, spat at, and even racially abused.

What's worse, is that these workers are generally low-wage earners, who, as essential workers in an essential industry, had to face a higher risk of infection in their work place.

Serving the greater community good during a national crisis.

As the lockdown was announced, these workers were catapulted to service the irrational and panicked masses and the underlying amoral savagery that periodically reared its ugly head.

When these low-wage earners are also members of communities like Māori, Pacifica, or new migrants, the panicked reactions can take on a particular tenor.

What was heartening, however, was the reaction of the general public after the media highlighted these ugly incidents.

The fact that the civilised skin was held intact by this public reaction against these idiots is our saving grace.


I think it was a Green Party politician who made the interesting note that low-wage earners were in the forefront of some of the high risk jobs.

In Kāpiti, I can think of the health care workers who keep the multi-million dollar retirement industry going.

Kāpiti has a sizeable retirement industry.

Aged care requires close contact.

In particular, a large number of our workers are migrants, especially from the Phillipines.

At a recent forum on the retirement, organised by the mayor's office, Cr Angela Buswell and council's economic development staff, we saw the presentation of a survey on these health care workers.

It provided a sobering insight to the discriminations and racial abuse experienced by these workers.

Thankfully, it's not the majority experience but significant enough to register concern.

Today, the irony is that the same workers are going the extra mile to ensure the safety of both themselves and the residents.

Then there are the home care workers working for companies contracted to district health boards.

Kāpiti has a high number of seniors living alone, many with health and home care needs.

This is a high risk area.

I'm glad they have publicly alerted the health authorities for personal protection equipment.

Last week, I focused on the outstanding work being done by our medical staff at the coal face of the pandemic in GP surgeries, hospitals and testing centres.

We can add a growing list of other essential workers, like our police.

William Golding in his famous book Lord of the Flies wrote about how quickly the veneer of civilisation, even that of well-bred British boys, can deteriorate and descent into savagery.

What Golding's story highlights is the importance of reinforcing civilising values repeatedly.

That's why telling the stories of our essential workers fighting the good fight for the common good is important.

That's why the negative public reaction against idiots who endanger the public is important.

That's why the Prime Minister keeps pressing the public button on being kind.

We need to keep reinforcing these public messages on civilising values.

And there are those spontaneous messages.

The great story of some of New Zealand's wealthy private sector elites coming together, and with the help of China-based Kiwi Anna Mowbray of Zuru Toys, sourcing millions of medical equipment from China.

The winner for me is the teddy bears popping up in home windows.

The iconic teddies are a deeply imbedded symbol of care, kindness, safety, family, love etc.

I had little idea on how widespread this childhood symbol had been adopted until I recently dusted off my bike to cycle around my neighbourhood.

There, house after house, home after home, window after window, had their teddy bears on display.

These cute teddies in my neighbourhood signal civilising values deeper than skin deep.