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We won’t go back to normal because ‘the normal’ is the problem

Coronavirus lockdown day 3

I saw this on twitter and it struck a chord. There’s massive social and economic change ahead; the carnage will be painful but it also gives us a chance to rebuild differently.

After Christchurch there was massive engagement with the city rebuild. The Share an Idea campaign (where anybody could put an idea on a digital wall like a sticky note) drew over 100,000 suggestions. Never had the city seen civic engagement like it. Sustainability, green city, with good public transport, a city that worked for its people, was friendly for all ages and innovative – that was the overwhelming desire. Unfortunately, the government of the day stepped in and said ‘yeah, nah’. Their blueprint got the go ahead – a conference centre and a stadium were the anchor projects.

Neither are finished yet, more than nine years later. And sport and tourism are in the toilet thanks to the virus. Even the magnificent TÅ«ranga, the public beacon of hope and ideas also known as the library, is now closed to the public. At least that will re-open and be used for another 150 years.

But something else changed after the earthquakes. People reviewed their lives. Many changed career, moved suburbs or towns, went back to study, or started chasing their dream of writing, or singing or building or inventing or whatever. The knowledge that life is all to short and precious got replanted in thousands of people who all decided not to wait for ‘some day’ and just get on with it.

For this emergency, the rebuild won’t be of buildings. It will be of the economy, and of social conventions. Who are the essential workers? Should we pay them properly? Do we need to have offices? Why don’t we go back to the old days of neighbourhood shops. How we work will fundamentally change – people will see possibilities and new approaches will spring up.

My hope is that we reset some fundamentals, that the relentless growth and exploitation of late stage capitalism is replaced with different imperatives. There’s already talk of a Universal income. I’m all for it.

So how did we spend day 3?

I had cereal, did some work, and watched a rat climb over the fence and die while I was on a phone call. Later the neighbour phoned to say he’d laid some posion.

I cheered when I heard Ashley Bloomfield got the day off.

Other than that it was a fine day, so normal chores. Cooked a nice casserole with rice (the red wine vinegar with the beef kind). Watched a silly movie.