Great article Umair,

Just adding my two cents to provide more context around New Zealand and it’s approach to the pandemic.

The British settlers attempted to establish NZ as a society that entitled all citizens, including the indigenous Maori, to self-appointed government and equality for all under the law. Their vision was for a society that was fair, equal and honest for all.

There is still debate over whether they succeeded in achieving this vision, but, in general, New Zealanders’ view equality (rather than individual freedom) as the most compelling goal for a society to strive for and protect.

We aren’t perfect and we don’t have complete equality in our society, but this is the frame of all our political and societal debate.

To evidence this assertion, we as kiwis lay claim to being the first nation to advance a number of ‘equality’ lead social and political changes. These include but aren’t limited to:

Creating indigenous parliamentary seats (1857), granting women the vote (1893), advocating an eight-hour working day (1840), state-funded old-age pensions (1898), the world’s most extensive system of pensions and welfare (1938), no-fault accident compensation scheme (1974), and even decimalising prostitution (2003).

Here in NZ, we aren’t socialist, but it’s not about the individual. We are all about society first because we understand that without a healthy and happy society, the individual can’t ‘win’.

Furthermore, we are a secular society (we don’t have an official church) which is how we have complete freedom of religion.

We trust our government, and trust we can change it, which gives us fair representation as a population.

We also accept that in certain circumstances it’s important for us to act in the interest of society, not the individual, to ensure our rights as individuals are protected.

Hence why we all gladly acted as a ‘team of 5 million’ and isolated ourselves as a from each other for four weeks to stop a pandemic.

I can’t speak for all of America, but I get the sense the collective understanding of what it means to be an American is heavily rooted in the idea of personal freedom, which often seems to conflict with the needs of an entire citizenry.

I get the sense this is the root of a lot of the debate we see around the rights of the individual vs the needs of the population. We in NZ understand you need to work as a population to have personal freedoms and maybe this is where the world (and hopefully America) ends up after all this settles down? Just a thought.

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