75 years after V.E. Day 1945 has the world learnt its lesson?

This is a special article to acknowledge the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. It does not replace the “N.Z. In Lock Down” diary. It is timed to publish 75 years to the minute that the German surrender took effect in Europe.

World War 2 in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. 5 years and 8 months of the most destructive war known to man had finally come to an end. Millions were dead. Cities, entire countries were wrecked from end to end. Millions more were transient, bombed out of their homes with nowhere to go. Prisoners of war going home to countries they no longer recognized and concentration/death camp survivors wondering how they had survived a special kind of hell, now wondering how to restart their lives.

Europe in May 1945 was also a continent about to undergo massive geopolitical upheaval. The fighting to rid the Germans and their allies from occupied Europe was on a scale perhaps only matched by the stand off between the democratic western bloc and the Communist eastern bloc that then consumed the continent for 46 years and on at least one occasion very nearly brought the world to its nadir.

For a time the international order that was established to prevent World War 3 or any of the atrocities that made World War 2 a particularly horrible war worked relatively well. However, in line with the valedictory speech of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the advent of the military-industrial complex whose needs – and wants – began to feed off each other, the world was introduced to wars that are more about providing an excuse for manufacturing new murder machines.

Just as Adolf Hitler sought lebensraum (living space)in the Middle East, the U.S.S.R. sought it in neighbouring countries. Major industrial powers – and smaller ones, including Australia and New Zealand – sought raw material (in N.Z.’s case phosphate from Nauru to make fertilizer with)to manufacture things with, showing scant (some might say callous) disregard for the third world nations that it was sourced from. Now we wonder why many of those nations have low regard for the western way of doing things.

Now we watch the European powers – France, Spain, Britain, Italy and others – struggle with the devastating effects of COVID19. Tens of thousands of their civilians have died and probably hundreds of thousands more were made sick. For countries that are meant to have some of the best health care in the world, their response was surprisingly poorly organized.

Will COVID19 make the developed world dunk its proverbial head in a bucket of cold water? I do not think so, but it would be nice to think that if one of the most economically destructive things in 100 years has done any good, it will be to make we might not need W.W.3 to destroy ourselves.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 44

Yesterday was DAY 44 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

This has been a highly contentious week for the Government as a number of legal and procedural challenges to how it is handling the COVID19 emergency have come out. There are two particular issues that I want to mention in this article:

  • A challenge to the legality of the LEVEL 3 and LEVEL 4 lock down is underway
  • The Government, following a trend set several Governments ago – and which has been going on for at least my entire adult life – has done a massive document dump to distract New Zealanders

Many New Zealanders – but certainly NOT all – probably do not care too much at the moment about the perceived illegality of LEVEL 3 and LEVEL 4 lock down. They are just grateful that the Government has taken firm and decisive action to minimize COVID19.

But certainly not all New Zealanders are in that category. Nor should people be. If the lock downs were illegal, then that points to failings by the Clark, Key/English and now the Ardern Government to make sure that the legal grounds were proverbially rock solid. I doubt though that one could justify some of the suggestions that have been made by the most aggressive right-wing commentators, including sending the Prime Minister to trial. But there would be an absolutely expectation that the Government would make appropriate amendments to legislation to ensure that this cannot happen again.

My concerns in this case stem from a grubby tactic that successive Governments have used and which seems to be finding rare consensus across the political spectrum when it comes to condemnation of it. I am talking about the habit of massive document dumps on Friday afternoon’s where, perhaps under pressure as it has been this week, or because they think no one will be paying attention as they look forward to the weekend – or hoping that if anyone IS paying attention, that they’ve forgotten by Monday why they were grumpy on Friday. It is not new. The fifth Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark did it. The fifth National Government of Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English did it. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Government is just the latest.

Because of the latest use of this tactic, I wonder if a Cabinet Manual update is needed to provide guidance on how and when the Government should release documents in the manner that it tends to. I certainly believe it to be a questionable tactic and New Zealand political commentators across the spectrum seem to think that it should be frowned upon.

More critically it reinforces in my mind why New Zealanders need to be taught civics in high school. I personally see no reason why it cannot be taught. People might say “oh, but you are teaching politics”, to which I reply, how do they expect to learn about the political and legal systems if they are not properly taught?