The power of cooperation, empathy, and warmth: New Zealand
The power of cooperation, empathy, and warmth: New Zealand.
New Zealand’s stunningly successful response to Coronavirus was a product, I think, ultimately, of that: those deeper values. Ardern isn’t a dictator. She couldn’t have ordered people to do much of anything. It was people themselves, who, seeing the gravity of the threat, cooperated with one another. But to see the gravity of that threat requires a people who have matured emotionally far beyond, say, Americans: who possess a greater degree of empathy, warmth, courage, wisdom, purpose.
For New Zealanders themselves to have taken on Coronavirus says they are a people who have cultivated greater maturity in themselves.
Societies like America have a grim, grim future precisely because their Darwinian values — let the weak perish, so the strong survive! — are going to produce more and more grotesque dystopias in an age of existential threats. By contrast, societies like New Zealand and Canada are far, far better prepared. They understand the mathematics of catastrophe: pay a little bit now, to stop the problem getting much worse, spinning out of control, later. Lock down now — prevent death from reaching American levels. Do the right thing — because the right thing is how we have more of a common good. There is more to go around for everyone when we mostly do the right thing, the good thing, the natural thing.
America, by contrast, has had its entire vision of good and bad, right and wrong, perverted. What’s good? What’s right? Greed, cruelty, aggression, enmity. You’ve got to be a killer. If you don’t display those values from a very young age, you’re written off as soft, weak, useless, a liability. Greed is good, selfishness is perfectly fair, and what’s good is me being ruthless in my pursuit of self-gratification, and indifferent to everything else. Americans might not agree with that, but the truth is that’s what they’re rewarded for, from school through college to the day they find a job to the day they die, because they never retire. Good guys don’t win in America. Trumps do.
These qualities that Jacinda displays so abundantly — compassion, warmth, wisdom, empathy, cooperation — what are they, really? They’re the precise opposite of patriarchy. Patrarichy: a system where men submit in order to the more violent one. Hierarchies of violence made of bands of brothers are formed this way. They carve up everything in society for their benefit — land, women, money. The brothers bond through and with violence.
Sound like America to you? It should. Think of the hazing ritual of the fraternity, like a gang beat-in. America’s one of the countries in the world never to have had a female leader — and also has worse female political representation than Pakistan. America is patriarchy writ large. The bands of brothers control everything, and they do extreme violence to maintain their grip — whether needless war, or making sure a whole country goes without decent healthcare.
The result, though, is what happens in patriarchies: the most violent, stupid, brutal, idiot rises to the top. That’s Donald Trump. Trump personifies the values of patriarchy. Everyone’s a commodity. The point of life is personal agin, acquisition. You keep your underlings in line with intimidation and threats — and that includes a whole society. Any level of brutality and violence hundred thousand dead — isn’t just acceptable, it’s desirable. How else do you prove how tough and indifferent you are?
You can have a democracy, or you can have a patriarchy, but you can’t have both. The results for Americans have been disastrous — mass death, economic ruin, social breakdown.
A society of people — enough of them only concerned with private interest can’t fight a pandemic. It’s a pandemic’s perfect breeding ground.