"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance".
These are the words of Franklin D Roosevelt at his inauguration into the office of President of the United States of America (March 4, 1933).
I am no student of history, but I found myself reaching for and reading this speech late last week after a particular 1pm "podium of truth" press conference featuring the modeller extraordinaire and, in my opinion, doom merchant, Shaun Hendy.
If you were naming these 1pm broadcasts like Friends episodes you would call it "The One Where They Tried to Really Scare Us".
Fear, particularly in markets, is a killer of growth, innovation, and progress. Fear also breeds uncertainty which is Kryptonite for even the strongest businesses (let alone those that are struggling).
And I have to say that last week's "presser" left me more sad than upset because it was a backward step in our fight against the pathogen of Greek letters.
But back to FDR, the inauguration speech was one of a number of landmarks as America and the world was working to rebuild after the great depression.
But it was also the signal for a significant change in policy and the emergence of the eventual "new deal".
And, while critics argue that the depression was truly halted by World War II, the policies taken together worked.
But all policies which are a clear change of direction require the buy-in of the majority of the public, and FDR's inaugural speech can be seen as a true marker of a change of public attention, direction and where the recovery actually began. Because it was clearly built on a plan.
Fast forward to 2021 and the world is moving on. Governments around the world are well beyond unveiling plans, many are actually implementing them and opening up.
In two weeks, New South Wales will commence a quite clearly described and easy to understand withdrawal from hard lockdown and other Australian states will follow suit. Even socialist bastion Norway, so long held up as the poster child for "not being Sweden" is opening up completely.
And yet here, in the one country with the greatest geographic isolation and population spread advantages in the world, we appear to have moved from mastering Covid through to stuck in the mud acceptance without a clear plan of what to do next.
So out comes the card which has worked so well but is "so 2020" – fear.
And, unfortunately, fear does motivate – but it is a motivator of retreat rather than advancement. To quote FDR again, it "paralyses" and in this case makes us crave the security of isolation.
And, while I feel the recent comparison by Sir John Key to North Korea was a bit of a stretch, the description of us becoming "hermits" is unfortunately close to reality – because the rest of the world is starting to see us as that.
And all isolation does is force more of our trade and currency into the arms of big corporates and tech companies and away from local businesses who either are shuttered like in Auckland or operating at enforced low capacity (level 2).
None of us (or very few) is in denial here, "Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment" (FDR again).
And no one is saying that the Government's decisions are not hard.
The much relied upon modelling appears to be qualified by numerous assumptions and what the Big Lebowski would term as "you know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous".
And if we really are committed to the narrative of fear, then we need to also talk about paying back the debt currently sustaining these lockdowns and the inflationary impacts from quantitative easing which is juicing the economy and making life more unaffordable for our most vulnerable.
Ironically, from talking to people I know (some who are still not quite in the headspace to take the vaccine) Hendy's performance last Thursday had the opposite effect.
One astute friend asked why "aren't we having 1 pm pressers modelling deaths from obesity or heart disease or worldwide fatalities from malnutrition or tuberculosis?"
I didn't have an answer, but I encouraged them to get the vaccine anyway because it is proving effective in mitigating the very things that are the cornerstone of the fear argument – deaths and hospitalisation.
And perhaps that should be the focus, more of an actually defined vision for a future in which the tools we have can deliver us security – rather than a fixation on the negative of what might happen.
Especially dangerous without a real plan or making do with patchwork initiatives.
Interwoven through FDR's 1933 speech is a clear plan, and you don't have to look hard to see it.
In 2021 the message is simple - we now need a plan so we can also "….aim at the assurance of a rounded, a permanent national life" (Franklin Delano Roosevelt).