When Jacinda Ardern told us to be kind following the new community transmission of Covid-19, she was accused of being “patronising”. In my opinion, it was a much needed reminder.
When Covid-19 re-emerged in New Zealand just a few days ago, the anger was there again. I felt it. “How did this happen?” and “who did this?” we asked. We wanted someone to blame. It is very easy for us to turn our fear into anger.
New Zealand went into Level 1, we enjoyed our freedoms, and we promptly forgot about the rest of the world. Covid-19 felt very distant and not like a threat, not for us anyway. In the small places where it did feel like a threat for us, in the hotels being used as managed isolation facilities for other New Zealanders returning from overseas, we were outraged. We poured all of our fear about the virus re-emerging onto those people who could be a risk, because they had come back from overseas.
It’s completely normal that we were scared. This is a global pandemic and it has already had devastating consequences everywhere. But there was no kindness in our concerns about the managed isolation facilities or the new cluster of Covid-19.
Those concerns – the cries of “not here, not in our town” – came from a place of anger. We blamed the people returning from overseas for bringing back a possible risk. Why are these people even returning, people asked, as if it is not understandable to want to come to a safe home after being somewhere that an uncontrolled virus is killing people. The impulse to exclude the people that might make New Zealand unsafe was a reflex, but it was not a kind one.
Our fear did not come from a place of concern for the people returning who may have Covid-19. People didn’t want managed isolation facilities near their homes. Some people didn’t want managed isolation facilities at all. People should not be able to return home from overseas, some people said.
Even after Jacinda’s reminder that we should be kind, and Ashley Bloomfield’s spiel about why humans who get Covid-19 are not to blame, people are still searching for a scapegoat. We treat the virus like it’s a human error, a flaw, something that we can hunt down and stamp out. But it’s just a virus looking for a host. Individual people are not to blame for it.
Blame overseas governments who have done a poor job, but don’t blame the individual people who chose to live overseas or caught the virus. They did not try to bring Covid-19 back into New Zealand, their home. We all want to live in a place that is safe from the virus.
“Be kind” is important. It reminds us that we are a community. It reminds us that everyone is being affected by Covid-19 in ways that aren’t necessarily obvious. It reminds us that no one is trying to make this hard for other people, but we all just want to live in a country that is safe from the virus. For some reason, that’s easy to forget.Support Villainesse