In light of ongoing events, both national and international, it seems almost inconsequential to be relating the trials and tribulations of Auckland Council at the moment. In NZ, Omicron is sweeping the country with positive cases running at over 20,000 a day. While a less harmful variant we’re informed, the number of people hospitalised has risen alarmingly giving rise to the sorts of statistics previously only witnessed overseas.
Elsewhere in the world, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has reduced large parts of that country to rubble. Within the space of a few short weeks, over two million people have had to flee bombed out homes and neighbourhoods in freezing conditions. What has struck me is the sheer wanton destructiveness of the Russian invasion – vital public infrastructure built up over generations obliterated and even nuclear power plants shelled recklessly. The scenes playing out nightly on our TV screens are reminiscent of the worst days of WWII where entire cities were razed to the ground and civilian populations bombed mercilessly with the intention of terrifying them into submission.
Overnight, the lives of 40 million have been changed devastatingly by the actions of one. The Soviet Union lost 27 million people in WWII (Ukraine seven million) but there is nothing in this invasion that can be justified in terms of national security. There’s an old saying the first casualty of war is the truth and we are witnessing that too. In Russia, imprisonment of up to 15 years awaits anyone spreading ‘fake’ news, with any reference to the war as an ‘invasion’ strictly prohibited. Despite this, brave Russians have also taken to the streets in protest but most remain indoctrinated by their state media.
If there is a lesson for our city in this it is to attach more value to the democracy others have fought so hard to preserve in the past. In this respect, we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who have preceded us, as well as a duty to those who will come after. In times gone by, democracy has been hard won but it has also been just as quickly lost … and not always through men with tanks and kalashnikovs.
Wars can bring out the best in people and they can bring out the worst. At the moment we’re witnessing both – the best in the heroic and stoic resistance of the Ukrainians and the worst in the abhorrent inhumanity of ex-KGB operative Vladimir Putin and his enablers. It can only be hoped that greater forces intervene on both counts, for the sake of Ukraine and the world.