I was out at two businesses yesterday where at both places the owners said to me ‘what do you reckon? Will we get to Level 1 today? Are you excited for it?’ Now these are smart people whose businesses have been affected by lockdowns, who hate lockdowns, yet they’re reverentially waiting to hear the obvious: that we’re coming out of it. That we’re back to normal. They’re so grateful, which is the part of all this I find most galling. Switching down alert levels is a no brainer, so why are we so grovelling with gratitude over it?
I mean of course, we’re happy to be out of Level 3 and 2, of course we are, but the point is, we should never have been there in the first place.
Lockdowns cannot possibly be the only way to deal with outbreaks, especially when, like today, we are still no further down the track of knowing where it came from or how it started. Much like the Americold cluster, we will probably never know.
But freaking out and plunging us into lockdowns is costly and anxiety provoking. It scares people, threatens livelihoods, endangers the most vulnerable, costs businesses and creates uncertainty. The government is defending the decision of course, it has to, it couldn’t not. It’s claiming success in containing the cluster. But what if the cluster was never going to get bigger than that anyway? It did after all only affect one family and their close contacts. So did the whole country need plunging into Level 2 and Auckland into Level 3? Really?
One of the side effects is scaring people - there're those who don’t want to shift down alert levels, who think it’s too soon, who've had all their anxieties prickled back up. That’s a crying shame to do that to people.
But the intense level of gratitude from most, as if the government has done us all a giant favour, is surely bordering on some kind of psychological condition – almost like a version of Stockholm syndrome. We didn’t ask to be put into captivity, but when we get our freedom back we’re so happy we've been granted it, we’re almost deferential to the people who took it off us.
We’ve willingly gone into lockstep with our leaders and started to believe our freedom wasn't ours anyway - which by the way is a good thing, because not following instructions would be end up with anarchy - but I just wish in doing so, we'd keep our heads.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not anti lockdowns at a ‘protest down Queen St’ kind of level, I’m just aggrieved that we so easily forget that this fresh freedom we’re being granted, is not some overtly generous gift we should be bowing and scraping with gratitude over.. but something that was always ours to begin with.
I get it, it’s good to be back to Level 1, but let’s not get de-sensitised to the value of our freedom, every time this happens.