Making and Breaking

I don’t often get angry online, the mere thought of it seems fruitless and feels exhausting. But I’m having a harder and harder time keeping my silence.

Politically I’m a boring one-trick pony. The only thing I deeply care about is how we treat our planet’s ecosystems. As far as I can see, however terrible the other issues might be, everything else can wait.

That aside, this is about something else.

As a country, we just went through something amazing. For the first time in my nearly 50 years, I saw my government work through something big and hard together. A few weeks ago, a friend who was very involved in NZ’s pandemic response said that she thought the “NZ government would be kinder for years because of COVID”. Based on my experience in the crucible of the film industry, this makes instinctive sense to me. The bigger the crisis, the tighter the team afterwards (provided the crisis doesn’t blow the team apart).

As a country we pulled together, temporarily shelved our differences, and got on with what needed doing. No doubt it was an imperfect response, but it was an effective one. NZ is one of the few Western countries with a success story about how we collectively responded to COVID. For one of the few times in my life, I’m proud of how my country collectively responded to something important.

There are two basic ways we can individually and collectively act. We can be Breakers, or we can be Makers. Making is the work of life, it is what we are all capable of, and hopefully, what we all aspire to. Life, powered by the Sun, is the only force on our planet that resists entropy. For as long as the Sun heats our planet we can be Makers. In my opinion, Wise Making is the noblest of acts and is within the reach of everyone.

As a country, we just performed a collective and heroic act of Making.

I know that lockdown was somewhere between stressful and traumatic for some people, but my experience of lockdown was nearly ecstatic. Without kids and with a part-time job I could do from home, each day stretched out gloriously in front of me. But the only reason I could relax and enjoy those days was that I felt safe. I felt safe because our government seemed to be responding in a sane way.

Was the government response perfect? Of course not, but there was approximately zero chance that it would be. Even if, against all the odds, we stumbled into the “perfect response” we would have no way of knowing that.

I’m all for constructive critique. Let’s talk about how we might be able to do it better next time, but let us also honour what we just accomplished. Let us honour the people who did the work, who put our collective safety before seeing their families. Let us remember all the people who weren’t on TV who worked invisibly to put in place systems which kept us safe. Let us remember that nobody in NZ had ever done anything like this before, and while we could spend hours on Twitter comparing the details of different countries responses, they were up to their eyeballs dealing with the messy reality of actually implementing lockdown in our wonderful and deeply imperfect world.

Now, back to anger. Here’s where I’m about to throw in my towel out of disgust. Where I loudly declare that Project Humanity deserves the ignominious end which it is working so tirelessly to achieve.

At the end of this beautiful and imperfect act of collective Making, some of the leaders of our country are acting with deliberate malice to destroy what we built. Instead of blinking in astonishment at the unlikely and beautiful thing we just collectively Made, they are trying to tear it down. Instead of joining in and contributing to this act of Making, they are deriding their opponents. Instead of telling us about their vision for all the wonderful things we can Make, they are lying and manipulating facts.

And we, the punters at home, are going along with this in soul-crushing numbers. We, the ones who just got handouts to keep our households and businesses alive. We, the ones who literally don’t know a single person who died of COVID (with condolences to the friends and families of the 22 people who died of COVID in NZ). We are cheering and jeering as we tear down what we built.

Fuck us.

What’s it going to take for us to collectively and individually realise that the only worthwhile thing we can do with our brief and precious lives … is be a Maker?

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