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The old priest & the young councillor

Coronavirus & the ignorance of privilege

Simon Jackson (2)
Simon Jackson; Will coronavirus forge a new realisation of the world as it is, or reinforce the bastions of privilege?

SIMON JACKSON

AUCKLAND - Like many people who have lived deeply in developing countries and been exposed to crises people in 'developed' nations see only on TV or at the movies, an observation by Chris Overland in PNG Attitude yesterday hit home for me.

Amongst much else worth thinking about, Chris wrote in 'Coronavirus: A warning from history', that whatever else awaits us in the aftermath of this coronavirus epidemic, “we will not be able to sit here, fat, dumb and happy, while bad things happen to other people."

As the coronavirus spreads in Australia, cases currently doubling every 3-4 days, and people are urged to isolate themselves, Bondi beach is packed.

The privilege of ignorance, or perhaps the ignorance of privilege.

When I moved to Australia in the late 1970s, after spending most of my childhood overseas, I felt like I had landed on a different planet.

There were hospitals, TV, toilets, cars and petrol stations, shops, and I could drink safely from almost every tap.

The rest of the world was the 'news', usually mentioned only when something really bad happened, and then only as an 'oh dear' moment, and then back to sport and weather.

It was a bubble I could not, and still cannot, fully comprehend.

The coronavirus is putting a pin in that bubble, proving that the real world is still there, was always there, and can be a scary and dangerous place.

Climate change is another pin, but it has not yet pierced the thick defences of ignorance, privilege, and nationalism and racism.

In some ways I feel sorry for my age-mates who've only known the insular bubble. It hasn't prepared them for the realities of life on this planet.

Even Malcolm Fraser got it: "Life wasn't meant to be easy," he said. But then there's hard, and there's real hard.

Coronavirus, climate change, our ageing public infrastructure and loss of public discourse (for example, politicians who run on lies) all attack the ruling paradigm of invulnerability, security, and certainty.

The world can be a difficult place, especially if we don't cooperate and lack leaders who inspire and instill shared purpose and care.

As Chris Overland writes, hopefully coronavirus is a wake-up call to the fact that we are all deeply connected, and that we must respond appropriately with joint action and care to this and other immediate dangers, such as climate change.

We must respond collectively also to the wicked problems of poverty, disease, famine, and war. Imagine.

But the early signs evoked by the virus, like the sacking of supermarkets or the packing of Bondi beach, suggest the bubble of privilege is still strong.

Perhaps until it isn't.

Like the quote attributed to Hemingway: 'Gradually and then suddenly.'

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