• Peter Lyons

Meeting our basic needs. The Real Winners are Stepping up.

I am more concerned about the economic impact of this current situation than the virus itself. As a near blind older man I have had several near death experiences in my life. It has made me embrace living and fear death less. Just go for it. Enjoy people and experiences. Don't worry about status and wealth or trivial concerns. They are ultimately irrelevant. I have learned not to take myself too seriously. No one else does.

I follow a practical ancient philosophy called Stoicism. It's not about being a hard man. That is a bastardised interpretation . Its core belief is recognising what you can, and can't control. My particular hero is Marcus Aurelious. He was the emperor of Rome. He kept a diary of how to live a good life during a period of deadly plague and constant warfare. It wasn't meant for publication. Yet it has become a classic. The most powerful man in the world often dreaded getting out of bed each morning. But he knew he had to do his duty.

Stoicism teaches the key thing within our control is our own thoughts and attitudes and how we respond and treat others. We have choice and control over our own responses and interactions with others. I have a big tattoo on my shoulder. It's says " Momento Mori.". It basically means , keep perspective that we are all mortal. Live a dignified life. I got it After a nasty fall in Nepal a few years ago. Don't be an arsehole to others especially in times of crisis. It's easy to be nice when things are going well. It's when the pressure goes on that really counts.

In the past week I have felt the evolutionary effects of stress and fear. I am scared. I am uncertain about the future. I am worried for myself, my family , friends and our community. But we have to deal with this situation as a community rather than as individuals. Otherwise we all lose. We need to understand We are social beings. Our leaders are under huge pressure. We need to support them. We define ourselves by our interactions with others. Our individual survival depends on this. Otherwise it's anarchy. We are better than that. Now is the time to step up as a Kiwi. Otherwise you are full of shit.

I have felt the andrenalin kick in at the base of my neck in the past week. This is an evolutionary reptilian response to fear and panic and uncertainty. We are all feeling it. We need to understand that we are all feeling it. We are not alone. We aRe in this together.

My specialty is Economics. We can't deal with the enormity and suddenness of this crisis on our economy as individuals or households. We must act collectively. We can't sort this individually. This is a crucial lesson from Economic history. We must ensure that the basic needs of everyone will be met during this crisis. People must be assured of this. We are very fortunate as a nation that we can provide the necessities for everyone if we choose. People don't need to go hungry or lose their homes.

It requires that as a society we ensure that all of us have access to our basic needs while this crisis unfolds . This crisis will ultimately pass, but in the meantime we need to look after each other as a society . This means ensuring everyone has shelter, food, water, electricity , telecommunications and healthcare and a sense of being connected to others. We are very fortunate as a country that we can do this if we are determined enough. We make all this stuff. We don't need to go without the basics. We can look after each other. This is our defining moment as a country. We all need to step up together.

We have deluded ourselves for too long about what is truly important in life. The real measure of a person is how they treat others in times of extreme crisis. These people are the real winners in our society . They are currently stepping up in all facets of our society. From rest home managers and staff to supermarket workers and delivery drivers and medical staff and police or ambulance staff and other essential services. Really cool people doing their best, looking after others during an extreme time.

We need to do the same in whatever capacity we can.

Peter Lyons (M.Comm) teaches scholarship-level Economics and has authored several New Zealand curriculum economic texts. His inspiration often comes after a dram of whiskey. Just one mind you. So if you're ever stuck in a room full of economists, grab the seat next to him. For a conversation peppered with wit, wisdom and weirdness.

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