Is it today or tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow ...? As life on Planet Auckland creeps in its petty alert level 3 pace, talk is of what life might be like on the other side, in a vaccinated, post-lockdown world.
For those grown weary of listening to experts who know what they are talking about, some apparitions from days of yore have trotted in to save us. Or, possibly, the National Party.
Cue great excitement from the media. John Key managed to get the same reckons published by multiple newspapers, as if it was the Queen's Christmas message. The AM Show's normally cantankerous Ryan Bridge went for some sort of record for purring the words "Sir John".
Key doesn't seem to think much of his fellow citizens, a trembling proletariat ruled by inexplicable failure to be as relaxed as he is about a virus that has killed one in every 500 Americans, surpassing the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. "The health officials want to peddle fear," he said. Though Key wasn't above a bit of peddling himself, painting a picture in his opinion piece of the nation as a "smug hermit kingdom" closely resembling North Korea. Yikes.
His piece launches itself with Apollo 13. "Suddenly, with diminished oxygen supplies, a frantic process began to try to return the three astronauts to Earth in their damaged spacecraft." As a metaphor for what Aotearoa faced, successfully by global standards, when Covid exploded like a ruptured oxygen tank on a spacecraft, that's not bad. But apparently, we're not "creative" and "inventive" enough here in North Korea south. Never mind. He has a plan.
In each of his five proposals appears the word "vaccinate" or, in one, "get jabbed". Well, that's happening, give or take $25 vouchers for 12 to 29-year-olds. He rails against our hermit-like, North Korean willingness to accept "multiple restrictions on their civil liberties", except for the ones he approves of: he'd ban anyone without a vaccine from licensed premises.
Paul Henry. I interviewed him once at his country estate. He talked about the joys of blowing up caravans and shooting pūkeko. These were the days when his opinions on breakfast television generated such headlines as, "Henry apology for Governor-General race comments" and "Paul Henry scolded for comments about Hilary Barry's breasts".
Like Key – something in the water? – Henry's opinion piece also began with a blast of nostalgia about a blokey, heroic past: "Only handfuls of generations ago, pioneers, adventurers and dreamers came to New Zealand's shores …" That adventurous spirit and work ethic has been lost, he says. So, we're timid and lazy. Oh, and "willing lapdogs suffering from Stockholm Syndrome".
Do dogs suffer from Stockholm Syndrome? People on the frontlines, who can't work from home and risk themselves for his safety every day probably won't be much troubled by his contempt.
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In other news, Bridge asked the be-knighted former Prime Minister how lockdown was going, chez Key: "We have a very nice set-up, let's be honest," he said, laughing merrily. "I can work largely from home ... Things all work for me."
Not smug at all. Key's plan demands we "open the borders soon". Bridge wondered how many deaths he would be willing to stomach if he was in charge. He batted that question away, as do most of those who are simultaneously demanding exact details and dates for every other aspect of the post-lockdown blueprint. Key later volunteered that people die on the roads all the time. "At some point," he declared breezily, "life is a calculated risk."
So far, our leaders haven't made that calculation with lives. Polls suggest most of us agree. Even in our hermit kingdom we can read the world news.
There's plenty to criticise – the MIQ quagmire, immigration settings … But for high-profile commentators to keep insisting there's no plan because it isn't the plan they want is tiresome. Charting a steady, evidence-based course through a volatile worldwide public health emergency is a plan. And, so far, as Key and Henry have demonstrated, it's pushing it uphill to try to scare us into throwing it away.
Next weeK: Steve Braunias