Two books and the best ever documentary: What to do in a personal, national and international emergency.

In the House on Tuesday in answering a question the Prime Minister said something that filled me with deep concern:

“We have always taken our own approach on Covid”

This is close to the equal of her ridiculous earlier statement.

“Do feel free to visit covid19.govt.nz – otherwise dismiss anything else. We will continue to be your single source of truth. When you see those messages, remember that unless you hear it from us, it is not the truth.”

We have had no apology for the highly inactive/arrogant/little-dance approach to the 100 days Covid-free. We have had no apology to the lack of plan – facilities/treatments, etc during that time. We have had no apology that the government let delta in and facilitated its spread.

Matthew Syed wrote a brilliant book called Black Box Thinking. The premise is that in an emergency you have to listen to all voices and perspectives – without hierarchy. He begins the book through telling two stories. One is the death of Elaine Bromley in an operating theatre during a very routine operation. He delves into the stats and finds that annual deaths from medical mistakes in the UK can be above 34,000.

Syed notes: “With open reporting and honest evaluation, these errors could be spotted and reforms put in place. We are so worried about failure that we create vague goals so no one can point the finger when we don’t achieve them.”

He then writes about the tragedy of United Airlines 173. Why did it crash? Because the pilot could not distract himself from one alarm (landing gear that was – in fact – down) to hear another (fuel) and listen to an engineer. He lacked “situational awareness”. In the death of Elaine Bromley it was the inability of hierarchical medical experts (the surgeon and anaesthetist) to listen to a nurse who had a more wholistic understanding of what was happening and a better time-frame.

The author then goes on to explain how the medical sector has remained in a state of hierarchical and money driven funk (e.g. 100% trust big pharma) … while airline travel has massively improved it’s safety protocols by listening to ALL voices – dissenting included.

If I ever read the word “expert” in our media again it will be too soon.

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book is The Bomber Mafia. He tells a story, without judgement, of the attempt to develop precision bombing in WW2 that failed and ultimately morphed into fire-bombing 67 Japanese cities with napalm and Hiroshima and Nagasaki being nuked. 100,000 people burned to death in one night in Tokyo. It speaks of intransigent people – in a bubble – reinforcing each other’s theories and discounting other options.

Gladwell’s book remined me of the great documentary; The Fog of War – on aspects of the life of Robert McNamara. It is a deeply disturbing account on parts of WW2 and the course of developments in Vietnam. McNamara is a remarkable human but the documentary leaves you to do the thinking on morality. One huge value is the 11 lessons that McNamara stipulates. They seem to apply in our current situation:

Lesson #1: Empathize with your enemy.

Lesson #2: Rationality alone will not save us.

Lesson #3: There’s something beyond one’s self.

Lesson #4: Maximize efficiency.

Lesson #5: Proportionality should be a guideline in war.

Lesson #6: Get the Data.

Lesson #7: Belief and seeing are both often wrong.

Lesson #8: Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning.

Lesson #9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.

Lesson #10: Never say never.

Lesson #11: You can’t change human nature.


Like the documentary does I will leave you to judge if our government is applying any of these.

Today’s announcement cloaked some things.

  1. There is no chance of Auckland coming out of Level 3 prior to November 29. Personally – I will now miss 6 of the first 7 months of my grand-daughters life in Auckland. I have already missed the first year of my grand-son’s life in the USA and there is no light in the tunnel due to the MIQ situation. No nuance or consideration of situation.
  2. There is very little chance that all DHBs will get to 90% double-vaxxed – for some the possibility is many months away. Blamings the population when you, as the government, have stuffed up is poor politics 101.
  3. Personal freedoms are being sucked out like only the best Dyson can do.
  4. There is no major push towards alternative vaccinations or high-quality therapeutics/treatments.
  5. Stating the “Auckland has done all of the heavy lifting” shows a complete lack of empathy for all of the separated families and all of the provincial businesses smashed by a complete lack of tourism. Not only does this government lack empathy for Auckland – including education – but it has very little idea about the provinces either. The South Island really should secede.
  6. There seems to be no plan, or statistical change of status, in respect of the fact that the Pfizer vaccine is losing over half or its transmission protection within 6 months. People who received their second dose in May or before should start coming of the fully vaccinated list. In terms of passing the disease to children I have little interest in the vaccination status of teachers – I want to know if they have the virus and there is no hint of rapid antigen tests being provided in education.

I am a very distracted driver so Karen, my wife, drives on most of our long trips. There is too much great stuff to see out of the window. When ever we are driving, though, we have one clear agreement – the passenger always has the right to speak up whenever they perceive a hazard – with no grumping back! It has prevented a significant number of fender benders.

I have completely lost confidence that our government is listening to any of the passengers – or people world-wide who can help.

Alwyn Poole

alwyn.poole@gmail.com

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