CNN ran a story recently advising the world to learn from a tiny windswept Pacific island, in the middle of nowhere. A high profile piece is run about New Zealand’s admirable COVID-9 response in The Washington Post.
International compliments in a time of global difficulties.
New Zealanders have long chuckled or been rankled about being left off world maps. Our Prime Minister famously made a comedic video about the fact. Rhys Darby (of Conchords) fame discovers our little nation is missing from a John Lewis tablecloth. Places like the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC, the UN, Starbucks, Ikea, and Central Park Zoo all have maps without any sign of New Zealand.
It’s funny and worth a rewatch what with the current global theme of isolation. Personal distancing is saving lives. National distancing is saving lives.
National isolation has historically been about conservative politics. Walls, fences and moats. Protection from marauding hordes. Keeping the “others” out. Keeping what you have safe.
From the outside, it seems reactionary and misanthropic but currently its a way of protecting the human population from itself. Withdrawing behind our national lines to save everyone globally.
What about unintentional national isolationism?
Kiwis have long regarded themselves as a friendly bunch, less sun-kissed than the Aussies, but along the same lines. Venture to the most remote places on earth and you will find a Kiwi or two. International travel is culturally a goal. This is partly economic. Flights from here ( and domestic ) are incredibly expensive. It takes a lot of saving and scrimping for the average New Zealander to get out. When they do manage that, they really do travel.
The global view of New Zealand is contrary to the local one. Us antipodeans are well aware of our distant location, but we only see that as geography. Literally a distance you can climb, sail or fly over. If you have the means. It’s not a big deal. Tramping and hiking are big here.
We are now about halfway through the official lockdown. People are wearing more masks. A neighbourhood run includes stepping off the pavement as people maintain their distance. School holidays are wrapping up with a return to online learning in a week.
The nation waits to hear if the four weeks were enough. One cant help but wonder. Even with a small population, can a virus really be stamped out?
It only takes one person to get it going again.
Tight border controls going forward, surveillance testing, and a vaccine are all mooted as the way forward.
Perhaps it can be beaten. One thing is for sure, as an island looking outward, travelling would have to start up again.