Opinion: What we learned in 2020

The Age of Reason

By Peter Carr

Moving towards the Christmas season it is perhaps timely to be reflecting on the year past – a year that has been full of surprises, difficulties, change.

And a year upon which we can look back with pride as to how the nation has accepted that change and learned to live with several restrictions thrust upon us.

Clearly Covid is the main culprit but the very being of it amongst us has seen everyone pull in their horns – at least regarding travel and learn. To learn that treating one’s neighbour with respect, understanding and kindness is a long-overdue new norm. To learn that the simple action of rubbing your face can result in the spreading of germs when you then shake the (unwashed) hands of friends. To become accustomed to being told what to do by government officials for whom one perhaps did not previously have any regard. To electronically sign in when visiting retail establishments.

We learned (at least we oldies did) to listen to, respect and act upon the suggestions and directions of a young political leader possibly at least 10 years younger than my own daughters. Who, day after day, stood resolute at a lectern in Wellington beseeching us to conform, fall into line and listen to those with scientific knowledge.

To expect, daily, the measured tones of the senior medical official in the country – supported by the flame-haired biologist who most certainly did her homework.

And there was an obvious price of a non-fiduciary nature. A restriction in personal freedom. A gap appearing within families where the main contact is overseas. A marked change to how we will affect our Christmas interface with loved ones. An appreciation that there is still much to see in our own country and that just setting foot on Australian soil is not, of itself, the pinnacle of social achievement as many would have it.

And sad examples of industries forced to shed staff when their regular income dwindled, and they could not rely further on government handouts – generous though they are. The nation cannot just keep on shelling out large dollops of freshly minted cash – the very creation of which has a long-term debilitating effect on the economy.

But reflect upon 3000 deaths each day in the USA. The UK in crisis mode gripped by over-full hospitals with an overlay of panic associated with the reducing success in the final Brexit trade agreement with the EU. And the swift grasping of straws that there may be instant salvation with the arrival of wonder drugs to be implanted in the arm. Where the official acceptance of these drugs at an alarming rate by a scientific bureaucracy – pushing aside what would normally take two years to peer review – reflects the hastily drawn-together panacea for halting the virus in its tracks.

Not wishing to sound like the Angel of Doom but be aware that with haste in the laboratory comes downside risk.

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