Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Family Matters: a post about 2020

16 Responses

  • Soon Lee,

    2020 has been a shit year. What I have learned is that a pandemic crisis is a revealer and amplifier. It revealed the strengths & weaknesses we have as a society. Can't paper over the cracks during a crisis; you'll get found out real quick. The kindness and compassion got amplified. But so did the extremists and the grifters. Thankfully in Aotearoa we got very little of the latter.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2013 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Soon Lee,

    It revealed the strengths & weaknesses we have as a society.

    There wasn't really room for it in this post, but I've been thinking about that in terms of the people who've succumbed to conspiracy theories. We reveal our individual vulnerabilities too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    David Farrier has done some sterling work in this area this year...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I think Soon is right - the pandemic revealed people.

    As a scientist doomscrolling the scientific literature I was aware of the pandemic a couple of months before it really hit us here. It revealed my own low tolerance for folks who were ignoring the coming problem or pretending they personally didn't need to do anything about it. I sent some terse and probably career limiting e-mails during that time.

    As it became clear that NZ wasn't magically immune to the virus spreading, it revealed a health system that was remarkably underprepared. Who knew that a couple of decades of underfunding would make us particularly vulnerable.

    Fortunately, and somewhat to my surprise, the politicians in charge listened to the scientists and health professionals and acted on their advice. NZ had to respond that way we did because we simply had fewer ICU beds and fewer trained staff than most of the developed world. And remarkably that pressure revealed a leadership capable of making hard decisions quickly and willing to change tacks as new information came to hand.

    It revealed a science community willing and able to drop everything to contribute. Yes there were naysayers, but for the most part scientists made themselves available to help, to explain, to support, to explain again and to just be part of society. We know many of their names now, for some that's proven to be unpleasant as some trolls came out from under the bridges, but for the most part it's nice to see experts treated with respect and their expertise valued.

    On the local front as lockdowns came into force we suddenly saw what our city could be like without cars - families out walking and cycling - people just calm and willing to smile and wave - from a social distance. And yeah that distance actually felt social.

    Sadly we've lost that again as Auckland drivers reassert their control of the city. I find it strange that the same people who smiled and waved from a bike are now swerving in front of me to get wherever a few seconds faster.

    And now we wait for us and the world to get vaccinated. In some ways I think the next 6 months will be harder. We have friends and families in places where the virus is effectively uncontrolled. We watch as leaders around the world with less skill than our own make appalling decisions that will result in thousands of deaths. Our lives are a weird kind of normal, survivors guilt might be overstating it, but there is something wrong about being able to have our holidays while this continues.

    Sorry shouldn't end on a down note. I think NZ has come through this so far stronger than it was a year ago. I think we value things a little bit differently now and I think that's a good thing. Yeah there are things about NZ that are still badly wrong but it feels like there is confidence we can fix shit that is broken - is that revealing a covert optimist?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    NZ had to respond that way we did because we simply had fewer ICU beds and fewer trained staff than most of the developed world.

    Amazing what got us here, eh. Hoping the new Minister Andrew Little does not squander the opportunity to reshape our health system now in ways that count.

    Russell, I really feel for what you have gone through advocating for your mum. Nobody should have to do that, and certainly not this year. Thank goodness for family.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    Russell, I really feel for what you have gone through advocating for your mum. Nobody should have to do that, and certainly not this year. Thank goodness for family.

    Thanks buddy. I pondered one more complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner for a bit too long, but I realised last night that an OIA request, to check whether CCDHB actually made the changes they promised, would be a good thing to work on over the break.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    I guess I’ve been a little insulated from the (justified) existential angst many have been feeling this year. This is how I normally live. Apart from having to queue 2 metres apart to get into the supermarket, Level 4 was barely noticeable for me. I’m not the social type, preferring to connect online and that didn’t change, though it became a lot more strident. What this year revealed for me was the deep streak of stupidity that runs though our country (and many others) and what it revealed in me was an ever-lessening tolerance for its practitioners.

    Kia kaha, Russell and Fiona, and Sunset Sam – oops, I mean James and The One Who Does Not Like Being Discussed.

    Have a great summer.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2934 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    Kia kaha, Russell and Fiona, and Sunset Sam – oops, I mean James and The One Who Does Not Like Being Discussed.

    Heh! He did once discover I'd written a blog post about him. He was okay about it :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    an OIA request

    Then do a follow-up one about the process of creating their response. Nippert's M.O. I think.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Fiona Mckenzie,

    I want to thank YOU for your posts, both incidental on social and long form, like here. The community that social media provides, the voices we trust who can articulate better than us how we feel and what we can do, have been so very important this year. You are one of the most reliably enjoyable and - omg I’m going to have to say “relatable”

    Christchurch • Since Jun 2015 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • Pharmachick,

    I have had an account here forever, and although I scan the content semi-regularly I haven't commented in, well, ages. Russell, I know this was a deeply personal post, but also found it outwardly looking and very helpful for others. Also wanted to let you know, that NZ has its challenges (including lockdown) but please don't forget how normal your lives have gone back to being... I am in Canada and in my 10th month of working from home and only leave the lifestyle block for grocery shopping and takeout once a week. We're limited to household bubbles still, and even over summer where "in person" dining was allowed, we did not (we're both Biomedical Scientists - that crazy thing led to our current second wave). Kia Kaha to you and your family Russell and wishing you and planet earth peace, health and happiness for the Christmas season and beyond into the New Year.

    Since Apr 2009 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    It’s been a year for the history books, eh? Hoping your mum is ok and things settle down, for all of us personally and collectively. Lots of bad, but one or two good things from 2020 too. NZ publications crawling out of the hole, the dark leveraged shadow of international hedge funds is definitely hopeful.
    I miss this “place” a lot. The very best net life. Arohanui PA whanau.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Certainly a mad time for everyone, although great to see life returning to NZ media that looked down for the count.

    It is quite weird, still, to see how widely NZ/Aus/Taiwan have diverged from everywhere else. In London we are once again under a stay at home order and presumably by tomorrow the rest of England will return to that and things are similarly bad in Northern Ireland, Wales and much of Scotland. Let's hope those vaccinations continue to roll out quickly!

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1025 posts Report Reply

  • linger,


    Meanwhile in Japan, Suga is continuing to deny the need for a lockdown as the third wave continues to spike out of control at levels that will overwhelm the healthcare system within a few weeks. Vaccination may start for healthcare workers in February, but at projected rates of rollout, won't reach the full population for another year, while pressure mounts to reopen face-to-face classes with the population sector currently most actively involved in spreading the virus. And true to form, Japan has just closed its borders to nonresident foreigners again to "keep out the new strain", after it's already here and spreading.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1931 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Thank you for these thoughts, Russell. I rather regret that I have drifted away from PA, when it once used to be an important part of my online life. I recently read an interesting book ‘Online Afterlife’ and I must not let this site become one of my digital ghosts.
    It was an interesting end to a vexatious year; the most unusual moment was when we sat on a Northland beach, under a pohutakawa in full bloom, and watched a live stream of our daughter Catherine Rose marrying her Japanese boyfriend Kaggy in an anonymous office in Tokyo, Lots of signing of forms and stamping by a fellow who looked rather like a janitor.
    Regarding the NZ response to the pandemic: I am contributing to a book on children’s experiences of COVID and it is very tempting to celebrate the NZ experience, especially when I also need to comment on the response in countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Australia. But I do feel proud to be a New Zealander.
    Good that Fiona is now ebike ready; I am attempting to persuade Josephine to get one, Did some great riding up in Northand in December.
    nga mihi nui

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2560 posts Report Reply

  • Recca Dimi,

    Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts at Deck Cleaning Chicago.Topics about Family matters are indeed needed these days.

    Czech Republic • Since Jan 2021 • 0 posts Report Reply

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