None of us are perfect citizens. In the past 12 months, I doubt anyone could confidently say they'd done everything by the rules, not transgressed any law, and engaged their common sense 100 per cent of the time.
Many of our everyday acts of uncitizen-like selfishness, absentmindedness, or just plain "can't be bothered," would reflect badly on us if put under public scrutiny.
Maybe there are a few Covid-19 angels out there, but I'm not only thinking of strict observation of the Covid rules.
There's bad driving, pocketing cash from the business, watering the garden during a drought. There are endless petty transgressions that wouldn't look good if, for some reason, they were turned into a media story.
That old biblical saying, "Let him [or her] who is without sin cast the first stone," is worth keeping in mind.
Still, public anger and a Prime Minister's admonishment can have the desired effect.
It would have worn better if the Covid cases were more clearly at fault and not the bureaucracy at least partly to blame.
Having some of her facts wrong was unfortunate (an apology warranted), but as Covid-in-chief, the Prime Minister's intention was to remind us of our responsibilities to the team of 5 million.
I've certainly been more rigorous of late signing in at every location. Not just because I'm afraid of being made an example of. I care about doing my bit to keep Covid at bay.
That's what's keeping the team of five million somewhat together still. Since the majority of us care, we're prepared on this issue to be good citizens.
There is, however, the ever-present danger of caring a little less because of what's happening in your life.
It's more difficult to care about obeying the Covid rules when you're out of sick leave, and missing work means you're unable to pay the rent.
Recognising this, the National Party has suggested paying people who are forced to self-isolate. Very sensible.
We need to do more, though. Much, much more.
If we want young and poor New Zealanders to do what's best for the rest of us when it comes to Covid or some future universal threat, then we have to do what's best for them when it comes to housing.
We shouldn't be relegating them with each passing month further into second class status because they're impoverished by housing costs.
Being a responsible citizen isn't something any of us can maintain all the time and with unqualified enthusiasm. You're understandably even less inclined if you don't perceive you have equal status.
In unequal societies, law-abiding is a greater problem. To expect otherwise goes against common sense.
There are no magic solutions to the housing crisis and the accompanying infrastructure deficit. All roads lead to more taxes targeted to our wealthiest citizens.
As Covid has shown us, responsible citizenship means thinking about your fellow citizens, even if we're inconvenienced, and it hurts us in the pocket.
Our young people, our Māori and Pasifika communities, our unhappy renters, have been asked to see themselves as part of a team of five million.
When the dust of our Covid experience settles, our disadvantaged citizens are likely to be vocal (and perhaps organised) in demanding to be treated as equal members of that team.
I hope that proves to be true. And I hope the rest of us are listening and prepared to grant our politicians the power to do what's right to close the gap between citizens who have and citizens who don't.
• Northern Advocate columnist Vaughan Gunson writes about life and politics.