GUEST BLOG: Pat O’Dea – The Big Lie

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“There is no such thing as bad soldiers, only bad generals” Napoleon

I imagine that there were just as many drunks, deserters, trouble makers and bad soldiers in Napoleon’s army as in any other. The point Napoleon was making, is that good commanders don’t blame the setbacks caused by their bad decisions on their soldiers.
(And Napoleon would know, after the disaster that overcame his soldiers after he ordered them into Russia.)

In a different time and place German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote;

 ‘The people have forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only by redoubled efforts’.

‘Would it not be easier’ Brecht wrote

‘For the government, to dissolve the people
And elect another?

 

I was going to write a completely different essay.

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I wanted to write an essay on climate change.
I was going to base my essay on Chris Trotter’s earlier essay in praise of the government’s courageous leadership during the Covid crisis. I wanted to write that the same ‘science-guided, humanitarian responsethat Trotter wrote of, ‘of putting the interest of ordinary people first before business interests’, to successfully eliminate Covid-19, could also be applied to the climate crisis.

Why the Right-Wing Media Hates Jacinda’s Covid Elimination Strategy.

By Chris Trotter – August 26, 2021

……Had Ardern followed the Swedish prime minister’s example, her country would have sustained upwards of 7,000 deaths. By following its leader’s strict elimination strategy, however, New Zealand’s “Team of Five Million” kept their country’s Covid death toll to 26.

On the Right, however, this sort of science-guided, humanitarian response to Covid-19 just doesn’t compute. Conservatives around the world react by accusing Ardern of political cowardice. She simply doesn’t have the balls to adopt a strategy that will lead directly to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths. Look at the Brits; look at the Yanks; they had the courage to condemn tens-of-thousands of their people to early and unnecessary deaths; they know that “you can’t live in a cave forever”; that, in the end, the economy must come first…..

What I wanted to write was how much I admired the government for standing up to the businessmen and financiers, by prioritising public health over the economy. I wanted to write that I thought Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the best Prime Minister of my lifetime. I wanted to write how her example of standing up to vested interest to fight Covid-19 was an example that could be followed in the fight against climate change.
Unfortunately following the government’s “move away from the elimination strategy” and surrender to the business lobby. This will not be the essay on climate change that I wanted to write.

The Big Lie on the climate and environment

From the early 1990s when climate change first became a mainstream issue. We were all told that we, You and I, were the problem.
It was our fault because we drove petrol cars, and used electricity generated from fossil fuels, and lived wasteful consumerist lifestyles.
Yes the people are the problem.
Not government policy. Not the out of control polluting corporations. These powerful forces in society that give us no other choices but the ones mandated by them.

Recycling and sustainability and climate protection is not profitable so it is not done.

The big oil companies, the big coal companies the big plastic manufacturers of one use disposable products. The big advertising companies that prey on our insecurities to make us dissatisfied with what we have, and encourage us to consume and throw away the one use disposable goods they can sell to us over and over again.
But the profit driven polluters are not at fault. You the people are!

Maybe Brecht was right, our rulers in business and government, need to elect another people. (sarc.)

The truth is, you and I are pretty much powerless as individuals to oppose these powerful vested interests.  Each week as we conscientiously sort our recyclables from our disposables. Compared to our individual efforts to do the right thing, the big powerful corporations and industries, (with the complicity of government0, are pouring out a tsunami of pollution and waste as much as they profitably can. You and I might even find ourselves working for them in their factories, or on their production lines, to earn the wages we need to pay our bills and rent, or mortgage and raise our families.. Feeling even more powerless and despondent trapped in these jobs. Especially when at the end of the day we go home and turn on the TV, and the big media outlets and the government continue to berate us. “It’s all your fault!”

The Big Lie on Covid-19

The TVNZ graphical chart above, shows it all.

A peak of 83 cases a day on October 27, by the end of September, the spread of the infection had been all but eliminated by the Level 4 Lockdown.

By September 29. under Level 4 Lockdown, Infections had fallen to below 10 cases a day, and were close to being eliminated entirely.

However, it was not to be.

Under pressure from business, on the 22nd of September, as marked on the graph above, the government had dropped the Level 4 Alert.. The next day, 200,000 working people in Auckland who had been isolating at home went to work. One week later after the incubation period of the virus, around September 30, infections started rising sharply and have continued rising steadily ever since. From below 10 cases a day, to over 100 cases a day currently.

This turnaround represents a huge triumph for business over public health.

To explain away this sudden rise in cases, the media and the government went into overdrive to blame the public, especially the most down trodden and marginalised members of society, the gangs, the rough sleepers, sex workers, the homeless. A lot of these accusations turned out to be false.

What these government and media liars can’t or won’t explain, is why the actions of society’s marginalised minority of rule breakers had no effect on the falling numbers of infections under the Level 4 Lockdown.

The Level 4 Alert could cope with the small minority of rule breakers, the Level 3 Alert couldn’t. And the government and the media knew this would happen because they had been warned by health experts and pandemic modelers, whose advice had been ignored.

Despite the propaganda blaming gangs and sex workers as the cause of the rise in infections. It was not the small minority of rule breakers, but the government change in policy away from elimination to suppression.

The ‘Roadmap out of Lockdown’

On the 22nd of September the day the government lowered the Level 4 lockdown, the government announced a Three Step ‘Roadmap out of lockdown’. Which was to be implemented, even if cases of infection kept rising. The first stage of the three step ‘Roadmap’ was applied. On October 6. You can clearly see on the TVNZ graph above, that the Stage One of loosening restrictions of the Roadmap Out of Lockdown, was applied, despite a continued rise in infections. This is not a mistake, this was deliberate. Again the health experts warned against it.

But only the first stage of the 3 Step Roadmap was ever implemented. Since then the three step roadmap has been abandoned as ‘unworkable’ and ‘confusing’ and has now been replaced by a so called ‘Traffic Light’ system. The ‘Traffic Light’ system and the Roadmap Out of Lockdown, have both been criticised as being confusing and unworkable. Both these systems were opposed by the health experts and pandemic modelers, who recommended sticking with the 4 Level alert system.

The traffic light system will not work, it is not meant to work. The Traffic Light System is not designed to halt infections. The Traffic Light system, like the ‘Roadmap Out of Lockdown’ before it, is a scheme to get us back to Business as Usual as soon as possible, despite rising infections and deaths.

So when did things start to go wrong?

When did the government begin its change away from its successful policy of elimination to the current failed policy of suppression?

When did the “interests of business, [begin to] 
The days and dates can be pinpointed exactly. And the evidence is damning.

Preamble:

March 25, 2020, the contagion first reached our shores, the government quickly imposes a hard nation wide Level 4 lockdown and eliminates’ community transmission of the Covid-19 virus, to world acclaim.

The opponents of lockdown, or any other form of restriction or interference in the market, were caught off guard by the government’s swift action.

But it didn’t take them long to regroup, and let the government feel their displeasure, funding a sour rear guard action to retroactively declare that the government’s mandated lockdown was illegal.

But it made little difference, as the plaudits for government’s swift action kept rolling in from a grateful people, and overseas admirers.

Later that year the right wing opponents of lockdown and border closures were delivered a sharp rebuke by the electorate in the general election of 2020, returninga majority Labour Government for the first time in MMP history.

Covid Returns: 

On August 17, 2021 the newly evolved and more virulent Delta strain of the virus reappeared on our shores. Ignoring the warning shot they had received from business. Off the back of the successful actions of the previous year, the government swiftly imposed another level 4 Lockdown for the whole country. The nation-wide alert gave the government’s scientific and medical advisors time to determine that the infection had been caught early, and was limited to the Auckland region. The level 4 alert was maintained for Auckland but was able to be lowered in the rest of the country to Level 2.

Because the actions of the government were widely supported, the business opponents of lockdown acted more subversively, many by flouting lockdown

A number of companies that had stayed closed during the first Level 4 lockdown in 2020 stayed open this time. With many reports from workers of being ordered back to work, when in the last Level 4 Lockdown, they had been sent home.

Despite higher non-compliance from business, the Level 4 Lockdown was working.

One case of infection on August 17, had by August 30 ballooned to a peak of 83 cases, after a short plateau, under the influence of the Level 4 Lockdown. the number of cases began to plummet precipitously. (see graph above).

On August 30 still under Level 4 Lockdown, the Prime Minister identified businesses still operating in defiance of the Lockdown, as a source of infection and said she would look at tightening up restrictions on them.

Auckland lockdown extended as New Zealand Covid cases drop to 53

Mon 30 Aug 2021

….On Sunday, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said there had been a small number of workplaces operating under level 4 that had seen transmission within staff – four to date.

“If we need to tighten up our restrictions further we will,” Ardern said.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said the worksite transmission was a worry,….

e​​​​​​​This is point where things started to go wrong.

Instead of tightening restrictions on “workplaces”.

On September 7 following an “outcry” from manufacturers, despite still being under Level 4 Alert, the government did a “U-turn” and loosened restrictions on worksites.

September 7, 2021, marks the date that the government first gave in to pressure from business.

Govt’s Auckland manufacturing u-turn

 

By:Anne Gibson Property editor, NZ Herald

….Auckland residential construction manufacturing will be allowed to resume even though the city remains at level 4 alert.

Grant Robertson, Finance Minister and Poto Williams, Building and Construction Minister, jointly announced the u-turn today.

 

The government surrender to the pressure from business that began under Lockdown on September 7, became a landslide 14 days later.

On September 21, 2021, the government removed the restrictions on non-essential worksites, The next day 200,000 Auckland workers who had been isolating at home, were ordered back to work. The Level 4 lockdown was over.

Eight days later, (which is about the period of incubation of the virus), the numbers of daily infections which had been approaching close to zero under the Level 4 Lockdown, started rising again, and haven’t stopped rising since.

The Prime Minister breaks her word

On September 21 when the Level 4 Alert was lifted, (see graph above), there was a total of 22 cases in the community .Two of those cases could not be traced to any known source of transmission. This was proof that cases of covid infections were still circulating undetected in the community.

On August 30 the Prime Minister, (as well as saying that she would tighten restrictions on worksites), had also said that the Level 4 Lockdown in Auckland would not be lowered while there were still undetected cases of Delta Covid-19 circulating in the community.

The government did a U-turn on this policy as well.

At the same time as announcing the drop from Alert Level 4, the government announced the beginning of the end for Alert Levels and lockdowns, and their replacement with a stepped system out of lockdown even as numbers of infections keep increasing, which just as predicted, they have..

From the start of the outbreak on August 17, to the peak of 83 cases of Covid-19 on August 30, to the precipitous drop to almost total elimination by September 21, and then the abandonment of the Elimination strategy, followed by the rise in infections 8 days later. And finally, on October 5 the implementation of the first stage of the ‘The Three Step Roadmap’ for loosening lockdown restrictions, even as numbers of infections keep rising. Then abandoning the Roadmap as unworkable after only implementing step one. Replacing The Roadmap Out Of Lockdown, with the Traffic Light system, and the official announcement that there will no return to Elimination or lockdowns no matter how bad things get.

What does all this indicate?

Child poverty, climate change, biosphere collapse, unaffordable housing, homelessness, not even a deadly global pandemic. Nothing will be allowed to impede the flow of profits to private business.

Climate change is a classic example. Business leaders and government make all the right noises about being carbon neutral in 2050, while supervising a year by year increase in emissions in the present, especially here in Godzone..

“Net Zero by 2050, Blah, blah, blah,” Greta Thunberg, commenting on carbon neutral promises by business and governments by 2050.

And when the country doesn’t reach these fictional targets, who will be blamed?

That’s right. You and me.

 

Pat O’Dea is a unionist and human rights activist.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Pat.
    It seems that when the chairman of the ANZ criminal cartel came out of the shadows and said “jump”, our government meekly responded “How high?”.
    And when the traffic light goes green we can continue marching arm-in-arm to oblivion, pronouns correct.

  2. Business profits before peoples health about sums it up. Neo Liberalism rules. The end.
    Jacinda’s magic is gone, she is just another neo liberal politician fucking over the people. The kindness went out the window with L4, the rest is a smokescreen. There will be no more kindness just more neo liberal economics as we all get back to “normal”. The “righties” will delight in the “I told you so” and so it proved.
    Enjoy all you righties you got your way over one of the best PM’s we used to have. Covid will now take over NZ and not only wreck peoples lives with sickness and death but the economy will also get sick. What a mess, we are joining the other clusterfuck countries around the world and we will probably be worse as well.
    Fuck the Politicians and their greedy business masters.

    • GreenBus – What magic ? After Nat’s dirty shadows were swept out, anything was going to look magic, including words about kindness and hungering kiddies. We needed a breathing space – cute pr – that was it really. Most of us did pull our weight virus -wise. It is not our fault that government let us down again, thinking that we’re all too stupid to notice. The Nat scenario would have been worse – sooner

      • the problem with these liars on both sides is, people know they’ve been lied to for over 30yrs, they understand and they don’t like it but when only cooperate pollies are on offer….well then you get trump or brexit etc…anything that might change something, I don’t know who or what will be our ‘disrupter’ but it’s on it’s way..this is the real danger for NZ democracy..not having to wear a mask(though it maybe used by a disruption candidate) the danger lies in pollies who are basically liars with no policies.
        …rinse wash repeat
        is not a radical or kind programme

  3. To SOLELY blame business interest pressure that resulted in the lowering of the alert levels in Auckland is wrong. It was people pressure that led to the reduction.

    People are over lock down’s. They don’t work in regards mental and physical health. They don’t work in maintaining a cohesive social infrastructure. They don’t work in providing education. They don’t work in providing non covid health care. They dont work in putting disposable income in the workers pocket. They don’t work at anything but totalitarianism.

    Yes there was self interest business pressure (especially around the MIQ mandates) to keep business afloat.

    The state also knows that to keep the taxation (including GST) income flowing requires business to function. No, state servants don’t pay taxes (except GST) so increasing state servants (or business beneficiaries through subsidies) will, sooner or later, result in the state itself having to open up New Zealand. Just to gain revenue to enable core functions. One cannot borrow for ever more by stifling trade (even farmers markets are verboten) within a community.

    The community decided lock downs are no longer viable. The state can pretend to lock down but the community is generally ignoring the rules. Anarchy lives. Or as someone said. Better to die of covid standing up face to the sun, than live on a bend knee facing the dirt.

    The state has lost the people.

  4. If we’re going to open up and let C-19 rip through our community, stop the block on human Ivermectin and watch the results. What have they to lose, except saving life’s whilst opening up the country.
    Check out India, Mexico, Zimbabwe, South America, half of Africa. The parts of those countries using Ivermectin have a HUGE benefit to those not. Links available if the censor on here every allows.
    I guess werever Big Pharma has little control, as it wasn’t worth it previously, the people are doing infinitley better than us in the ‘western controlled-world’.

  5. I guess not many of you have been to ‘Stabba City’ lived in Scotland?

    When you travel through Scotland and take in the country you get this sense of its proximity to the polar cap a few million maybe years ago. The landscape is contoured into a polar floor of what may have been under sheets of ice hundreds of meters thick?
    Lochs that are carved out by glaciers and Ben Nevis, the highest mountain looks like a compressed bolder stuck on a hill.
    Where I lived for a couple of years in Fort William about 100 miles north of Glasgow. That 100 miles was a time warp in the sense of the new world meets the old.

    Stabba City today will only highlight the dystopia between the COP26 talkfest is and what the reality and the affect it will have to the people of Glasgow.

    Absolutely nothing.

  6. I agree the TVNZ chart shows it all. It shows that the case numbers plateaued from early September somewhere around the 15-20 per day and didn’t really budge from that over the next 2-3 weeks. Sure there were single digit case number days in that period, but there were also days over 20. The average daily cases were barely trending down at all. Point being, it would have taken many many more weeks – probably months – at level 4 to have any chance at eliminating. And I’m sorry to have to tell Pat, but people weren’t going to stay in level 4 for that long. Imagine we spent 2 months or longer at level 4 and eliminated, then 3 weeks later another case broke through the border. Would we do the whole thing again? Its time for people to realise we’re on to a new stage in our fight against covid. It was inevitable we would find ourselves here, but that doesn’t mean we’ve failed. Measured against the rest of the world, we’re still doing really bloody well despite what some in the media/opposition would tell us.

    • “Measured against the rest of the world, we’re still doing really bloody well despite what some in the media/opposition would tell us.”

      You wait till the shit hits the fan. It’s not too hard to see what is going to happen. The Govt’s own medical experts and others know what’s coming, advised against, and were shut down. This is the politics of slimeball business lobbying. The Gov’t has given up looking after the people and now is sucking up to vested interest. Vaccinate and repel all borders. Jacinda is yellow right thru and is faking sincerity. When Aucklanders break out of Level 3 restrictions the virus spread will overwhelm contact tracers in the first week and then it will be “let it rip” from Jacinda. I’m picking she won’t handle it and resign.

    • Brad Cooke October 28, 2021 at 9:48 am

      I agree the TVNZ chart shows it all. It shows that the case numbers plateaued from early September somewhere around the 15-20 per day and didn’t really budge from that over the next 2-3 weeks. Sure there were single digit case number days in that period, but there were also days over 20. The average daily cases were barely trending down at all. Point being, it would have taken many many more weeks – probably months – at level 4 to have any chance at eliminating….

      Hi Brad,
      Yes the graph goes up and down. So what? Each peak is lower than the last peak, this is the important measure, indicating the downward trend toward zero cases, though slowing, was still continuing.

      But this is not a post about covid elimination as such, this is a a post detailing the evidence that this government caved in to pressure from business.

      Brad, you are right in pointing out, that after the precipitous drop from 83 cases a day, there was a two week period where even though the peaks were still going down, they weren’t dropping at the same rate as they had been, (and should have continued to). The modelers and health experts referred to this slower decline to zero as ‘The Tail’. Suzy Wiles and the Prime Minister in public statements clearly identified the cause of this lingering ‘tail’ as business and worksites still operating under Level 4. The Prime Minister said if  she needed to “tighten up restrictions” on these worksites, she would. But then went back on her word, after what Herald property editor Anna Gibson, called an “outcry” from business.

      This is where the rot started to set in.

      The Prime Minister had also said that the government would not lower the L4 lockdown in Auckland until the country could be sure that there was no unidentified community transmission. Under pressure from business the Prime Minister went back on her word on this assurance as well.

      What this indicates is that when Prime Minister Ardern said, “Climate change is my generation’s nuclear free moment”, what she meant  is, if it is alright with business.

      Even during lockdown highest Level L4 coal mining and coal importing were given essential status. When the most dangerous fossil fuel of all is considered by the goverment and business to be essential then you kniow that there will be no serious moves to curtail it.

      Especially if there is the sort of “outcry” from business that made the Prime Minister go back on her word to “tighten” restrictions on business during the L4 Lockdown.

       As Greta Thunberg pointed out, there is lots of “Blah, Blah, Blah”, about being carbon neutral by 2050 but the restrictions on business needed to cut fossil fuel emissions in the present are not happening.

      Just as the Prime Minister’s proposed restrictions on business needed to cut transmission of the virus under Level 4 never happened,

      For all there talk about being carbon neutral by 2050 this government approved an expansion of coal mining onto Crown owned land in Huntly. As well as supervising a large increase in coal imports.

      You pointed out Brad, “Measured against the rest of the world, we’re still doing really bloody well….”  Measured against Tasmania or Taiwan we are doing poorly. But generally I agree with you, we were doing well against covid because of the hard level 4 lockdown. The health experts and pandemic modelers didn’t ask for months of Lockdown to achieve elimination. That is just your spin. But your spin has no basis in fact. The public health experts and scientists asked for one, maybe two more weeks at most of L4. But their calls were ignored, the calls of business to end the lockdown, were the calls the government listened to.

      Maybe elimination could have been achieved in that extra two weeks, maybe it couldn’t. We will never know. But what we do know is that the L4 Lockdown was called off early against the advice of the health experts because of pressure from business.

      It was then that the Prime Minister started going back on her word and the government and media lying blaming marginalised communities and rule breakers 

      We can take from this, that the government will not take any measures to quell climate change it it negatively affects business.

      And if you think covid-19 is bad, wait to the full effects of climate change start to kick in. Based on current trends of increasing green house gas emissions, climate change  will be even more deadly and destructive than the pandemic.

  7. I’m tired of seeing articles like this, that patronize and talk-down to the common people, as if they don’t know their own minds, as if we were being led by our noses and not following our own hearts, as if we’d be happier in a cage … as if we’d read this Pied-Piper polemic and suddenly the scales would fall from our eyes, and we’d all cheer and crawl back into our dark holes just to stick it to The Man and give these pious busybodies some warm fuzzies as the bourgie meanies crumbled into dust.

    You don’t speak for us, you don’t tell us what to do. We’re not acceptable casualties or collateral damage in this ideological slapfight. I don’t care who’s talking – we’re human beings, not pawns. One of the few things I’ll truly commend Labour for in this fiasco is clearly recognizing when they needed to just let the tail wag the dog a bit – it definitely bought them time without having to crack skulls over it.

    Put your ears to the street and listen – the sound is a deafeningly booming ‘NO’. Maori/polynesian, pakeha, asian, rich, poor – all agree, so be quiet and count your blessings that we bought enough time for NZ to vaccinate. One of the stranger things to come of all this is Crusher looking for the first time in her life as if she’s got her finger on the pulse of the people when she said she wouldn’t tell Aucklanders to ‘be kind’, because ‘somebody will probably throw something’.

    • He speaks for me. He got it spot on too.

      You can “follow your heart”, it’s no skin off my nose as long as you don’t come near me or those I value. I prefer to follow my head, and the evidence and conclusions of scientific consideration.

      “We’re not acceptable casualties or collateral damage in this ideological slapfight.”

      It seems that you are doing your best to argue that you wish to allowed to be exactly that: collateral damage.

  8. Or more realistically, elimination can’t work. Vaccination for the inevitable spread is the only strategy. It’s not just about business interests.

  9. It is true enough to claim that the economic and social pressures of lockdowns eventually forced the government to go against their own best judgement – ease restrictions and open borders – and suffer the consequences.
    During the first lockdown in March last year it was all new, we didn’t know about this new viral scourge and we were prepared to knuckle down and do what we were told, in the main.
    But now we have grown weary of lockdowns. Most of us do the right thing but still the bloody virus leaks out.
    Just one border worker who was unvaccinated and was careless has been responsible for the latest trouble.
    I think the government realised that if they didn’t start easing restrictions then there would be mass disorder, rampant disregard of restrictions and the prospect of delta spreading throughout the country.
    In effect the government gave in to a lesser degree of mob rule in order to prevent complete mob rule.
    The government was really in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, and while opposition groups may revel in any mistakes made, they are not the ones faced with the hard decisions.
    So many people I talk to now think that COVID is going to become part of the norm, it will be a threat for many years to come. As time goes by and medical technology advances it will become a lesser threat, but still a threat and we will have to live with it, like it or not.
    The government cannot force people to be vaccinated.
    There is an old saying that “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”.

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