These are not the best of times, merely the worst. Against the foreign horror and the dread and the explosions in Kyiv, and against the domestic gloom and threat and infectious awfulness of Omicron, there was something inevitable about the occupation of the Cenotaph descending into the spectacle of people burning down tents.
Things are f**ked up. Things are scattered, broken, insane. There was something obscene or at least profoundly petty about the Wellington occupation happening at the same time as the actual killing fields in Ukraine. Freedom means different things in different contexts but Ukraine's sudden and devastating loss of freedom made the Convoy concept of freedom look pretty goddamned meaningless.
The carnival is over. Farewell, then, to Camp Covid. It was insane while it lasted but it had other qualities, too. It was definitely ingenious. The spirit of Kiwi DIY kept it in good shape and good cheer, and the sight of hay bales being brought in to dry the flooded lawns was a reminder that despite the bureaucracies of Wellington and the unitary housing plans of Auckland, we live in an agrarian society. There was something sweet about it, too, with its barbecues and creches, its sausages and sausages and sausages.
They were having the time of their lives. They were having fun. Plain wrong to dismiss them as a lunatic fringe. They were more mainstream and less interesting than that, neighbours and colleagues who felt disenfranchised and pushed around, Kiwi battlers wanting to lead decent lives. But actually the so-called lunatic fringe was also comprised of a genuine lunatic fringe, and on Wednesday they ran the only way they could: amok.
The revolution was live-streamed, and it made for compulsive viewing to watch the awesome clobbering machine of the state go about its clobbering. Shane Te Pou, one of New Zealand's numerous Commentators about Everything, got on the Twitter machine on Thursday morning and said many people owed police chief Andrew Coster an apology. It's true that Coster looked hopeless and inert during the earlier weeks of the protest. But last week's police tactic of narrowing the spaces was effective, and Wednesday's dawn raid was spectacular. It worked. The protesters wanted freedom, and they got what Coster was charged with delivering: suppression.
Strange to cheer on the cops and even stranger to cheer on the apparent presence of a police state but a little bit of totalitarianism has its place. "Occupations don't improve with age," Coster very wisely observed, and the only way to restore law and order was to rip it out of the ground.
"All changed, changed utterly," WB Yeats wrote of the 1916 Easter uprising in Ireland. "A terrible beauty is born." No one was on hand to make artful statements supporting the 2022 uprising in Wellington. It had purpose (Yeats also wrote of the Irish rebels, "Hearts with one purpose") but it lacked reality. Nothing was ever going to change as a result of their demands, their placards, their sausages. There was nothing beautiful about torching a playground.
"You have no idea what you've done to us," one of the protestors was reported saying on Thursday morning. Good quote. It spoke of a Them and an Us, the chasm between an uncaring majority and a minority with strong convictions that are routinely dismissed as conspiracy babble. Many on social media and news media spend a lot of time trying to tell the protesters of their stupidity. It's always galling to put up with those who claim superior intellect and it's a waste of breath. It strengthens the protesters' convictions about mandates, viruses and whatever else, and it strengthens the perception of a liberal elite, on account of the fact there is a liberal elite.
The smoke is clearing on the lawns of Parliament. News report: "The earth is either scorched or yellow with hay and mud." This is how a revolution ends: not with a successful revolt against the liberal elites, but with a litter patrol. It's back to wondering who's next to get Omicron. It's back to keeping up with the war in Europe. May we live in less interesting times.