Captain's log, Stardate week five. Level 4 on Planet Auckland dawdles on. Floating in a most peculiar way, we seem to have carved out our own place in the space/time continuum. Days flash by with little achieved beyond taking a toothbrush to the grout in the shower - desperate times, desperate measures - or finally learning to meditate because I'm almost in a coma anyway. Weeks are interminable. Too much time to fill with radio, television, Twitter, that Facebook contact with the increasingly Byzantine conspiracy theories …
Don't go there, people say. It's all a distraction from the vast intractable problems we face. Well, exactly. So, you find yourself pondering what's up with the eels and that unnerving tooth on One Lane Bridge or the latest unnerving pronouncement from David Seymour. He famously tweeted a vaccination priority code for Māori, telling followers they could use it. You wouldn't want a health system identifying areas of need in a pandemic and targeting them in a way that has no impact on the access of others, apparently. Amid a hail of derision Seymour attempted to explain his tweet via an article in old media, briskly headlined, "Why I published the priority access code for Māori." In it he further rails, "The new history curriculum teaches the next generation that 'Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of New Zealand." To which you can only respond, "And your point is?" I'll wait.
Also incomprehensible is the level of vitriol from some quarters directed at microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles. Some of it resembles what's directed at the Prime Minister: she's a shameless publicity hound, she's a communist, variations on Rage Against the Machine's teen tantrum, "F*** you, I won't do what you tell me". Wiles' latest sin is not having broken any actual level 4 rules on an outing.
In a country that has proved valiant at dealing with Covid, some citizens can't deal with a scientist with unconventional hair. Wait till they see a photo of Albert Einstein.
Amid all of this came the 20th anniversary of 9/11. That day in 2001 I went first thing to pick up my 10-year-old from her nana's. Ashen-faced, they were watching unbelievable scenes. 9/11 is to her what the Eichmann trial or the assassination of JFK was to me.
Despite my better judgement, I read a blog about the anniversary by John Minto. "Why did these young men give their lives in attacks on the most important symbols of US global power?" he wrote. "I remember writing a letter to the paper at the time saying that the schoolyard bully has got a bloody nose." Serenely reducing 9/11 to an understandable slap to America was an awful take in the immediate wake of the horrific mass murder of innocent people 20 years ago. It's an awful take now. The people who boarded those planes trusted in the humanity of their fellow passengers. Without that there is no society. Our fates are in each other's hands.
Isolated in our lonely lockdown bubbles, that human interdependence has seldom been more vividly demonstrated. On TVNZ's Q+A, Jack Tame spoke to Covid-19 modeller Rodney Jones after some worrying level 4 numbers. "Neither of us want to be the archangel of pessimism," noted Tame enigmatically. Talk turned to inequities in our society, compounding steadily since the reforms of the 80s and 90s. "Where you get into trouble is where Delta is spreading in socially deprived communities where they face challenges that most New Zealanders can't imagine," said Jones. The cost of inequality manifests over long periods of time, he said. "The thing with Covid is that the cost appears over three months."
Level 4, for those in the fortunate position of being able to survive it, has offered opportunities for a personal audit. If we're ever to really get out of lockdown there needs to be a communal reset. Out of the Great Depression, said Jones, came our welfare state and America's New Deal. "Well, in a way we need a New Deal. We can no longer ignore inequality." As Covid demonstrates every day, no community is safe unless every community is safe.
Next week: Steve Braunias