Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeCOVID-19Covid has made us forget how democracy works

Covid has made us forget how democracy works

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The writer is in New Zealand

JACINDA Ardern has announced an end to vaccine mandates for just a couple of government departments including education, a decision that she was probably about to lose in court anyway, but she allowed private employers to continue to require vaccination for their employees. No one already sacked through her mandates has to be rehired. The confusing traffic light system, mask wearing, hand washing, and general hand wringing is set to continue. Mainstream media bewailed the minor loosening of restrictions.

The level of government misinformation, projected through saturation advertising over two years, has cemented primitive fears. Predictably Twitter was filled with thousands of paranoid parents who fear their children may now encounter an unvaccinated teacher. One said: ‘Hell knows no fury like my hatred for the willingly unvaccinated’.

The NZ Herald inexplicably advised its readers: ‘Most Covid patients in the Omicron outbreak are vaccinated, but that is no reason to doubt vaccine benefits.’

NZ data shows the percentage of hospitalised vaccinated patients is higher than the percentage of vaccinated among the general population. But the unvaccinated are being blamed and hated. Why? Government propaganda and distortion of science is to blame for a lamentable level of ignorance and fear in a small country a long way from anywhere else.

Hard-won rights are being forgotten

Perhaps employment ‘rights’ were not so hard won here as they have been in the US and the UK. Maybe we have too few collective cultural memories of past struggle for recognition and fairness to call upon. Will no one stand up and remind us all that freedom did not grow on trees?

The problem is not confined to New Zealand. The pandemic has led us to forget how democracy works. The idea seems to have taken hold that, rather like a reality TV competition, there should be only one winner. ‘My way or the highway’ is the order of the day. Prime ministers are flexing their muscles and telling us that they alone control the truth. In the background, pharmaceutical companies are pulling the strings.

Historically democracy has had stakeholders. No government rules alone. Scientists and inventors heralded the industrial revolution which increased comfort. Doctors and nurses improved hygiene which helped us all to live a longer life. Educators, artists, and writers inspired the Enlightenment. Farming efficiency nourished us. And let us not forget the sun, the seasons, the rains, the soil, plants and animals; without these no government can function. 

Governments are gathering more power to their inept hands

During the pandemic we have been treated like kindergarten children: ‘Do as I say or else’. In fact, not even a kindergarten child should be addressed like that. In the hands of politicians, science has become dogma, and fear has become the means of enforcing compliance. This is a curious turn of events. Just when modern technology offers the means and prospect of greater communication and participation in democratic processes, our politicians want to control or shut down our conversations. And ‘social’ media giants are willing conspirators.

The courts, the independent regulators, the media and the medical profession have all forgotten their respective roles.

Democracy has forgotten its roots

Now democracy truly has forgotten its roots – this is the stuff of social unrest and instability. This morning former NZ Prime Minister John Key pointed out that no society can survive if it excludes a significant percentage of the population from employment and the economy, as Ardern has done. It should be obvious, but somehow it is not.

Justin Trudeau, Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern have demonstrated that they come from immature democracies. When these Commonwealth countries loosened their ties with Britain, they forgot to strengthen their ties to concepts of common law which go right back to the Magna Carta when King John realised he had to rule with the barons, not over them. Boris Johnson and Joe Biden are not far behind.

Constitutional safeguards, if they did exist, have been ignored. International agreements forgotten, especially those dating from the Second World War. Medical ethics abandoned. Exorbitant price fixing, as enforced by vaccine manufacturers, is taught in business schools as best practice. The most underhand of exploiters are lauded as heroic figures in a culture dominated by the pursuit of money without morality.

Young people today want to enjoy themselves, they value freedom, they travel and realise that they have more in common with people of all nations, and less that divides. Yet leaders delight in creating division and demonising whole populations. Jacinda Ardern smirked when she conceded that NZ was now a two-tier nation. Our leaders are engaged in a psychological, ideological, military and economic struggle in competition with the leaders of other nations, in a theatre far removed from and irrelevant to our everyday life.

The pandemic has brought out the worst in democracy. Now that it is coming to an end, it is time to regain our memory and reassess our priorities. Modern communication technology can be harnessed to extend democracy to be an inclusive process that echoes the voices of many. Centralisation of power has failed us. Co-operation, truth, and public service are the forgotten principles of democracy. There is no shortage of tasks, but lots of means to accomplish them if we reopen the door to rational thought, shared responsibility, and individual initiative. 

It is time for democratic and constitutional reform and the restitution of rights of medical choice. Instead our government has gazetted new laws to restrict the availability of traditional natural products and remedies. The puppet masters are still pulling the strings.

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Guy Hatchard
Guy Hatchard
Guy Hatchard PhD is a former senior manager at Genetic ID, a global food testing and certification company. He lives in New Zealand.

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