Friday, 27 March 2020

This pandemic is a top-seven moment in NZ's history. Discuss. [Updated]


[UPDATE: For those trying to get down to seven key events, I'm conceding defeat for the moment. I have a list of eight Anchor Dates -- as I'm calling them -- which I've posted over at my Politically Incorrect History of NZ blog. Enjoy!]

You know, I've started writing a book. A book on New Zealand history. A book that describes New Zealand history from birth to today, telling the story through this place's most important explanatory moments.

The idea to tell the story that way is that our brain is only capable of holding so many particular facts in our head at one time as one "mental unit." Some suggest seven as the maximum number of facts at one time; that we can integrate and hold in our minds seven discrete facts as one mental unit, but after this (for most of us) the integration becomes more difficult if not impossible.

This is one reason that housing set-ups -- flats, co-housing, apartment complexes -- generally work well with up to seven people or seven units, which means everyone knows each other, but very badly thereafter. Above this number, the "mental unit" of "us" as begins breaking down into smaller clusters of "us" and "them."

Seven is the magic number then. Which is why I've been working on seven major facts by which to explain the history of this place. Seven events that in themselves are so causal -- in that they either caused so much in turn, or were caused by a whole stream of ideas and events -- that just telling the story of these seven events (and what they caused and were caused by) would be sufficient to tell the story of this place in a way that the reader can then hold out history as a single mental unit.

The technique has been called "History Through Induction." Allowing the reader to induce for themselves the nature of the place or period discussed. And so, based on this idea, I've been assiduously researching and investigating our own place's past so I can narrow all the stories down to telling all about the seven most important, most causal, events.

And I was nearly there! At the start of this week, I was down to just ten.

Now I'm up to eleven!

I'm up to eleven, because we now have a new event to add to the list: this pandemic -- our reaction to it, what caused the virus and our own reaction(s) to it (or lack thereof), and what might happen next to us.

Like WWI, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, WWII, the Fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11, this pandemic is one of this century's world-historic events. Not all of those other events make my top seven. Not even my top ten.

But I think this pandemic, and our reaction to it, probably does.

What do you think?

Would this pandemic makeyour own list of the top-seven events in New Zealand history?

And what would be your other six?

If you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine...
.

22 comments:

  1. According to Hans Hermann Hoppe WW1 was partly instigated to remove the old system of monarchy rule and replace it with democracy . Point being , world events are often used to usher in a new political or economic system . Corona just maybe the catalyst in encouraging people to be more allowing of governments to take care of their materialistic needs - communism .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Hoppe said it, then I'd have to disagree. ;-). WWI wasn't started with that purpose -- no-one knew it would end with the fall of 3 empires -- but it was part of the result. I think he's confusing Woodrow Wilson (who took advantage of the war) with the folk who kicked it off.

      On your other point, yes, agree: and the idea that folk "never let a good crisis go to waste" has been made by Naomi Wolf, and made well by Robert Higgs. The evidence for it is sound. And in the current context, concerning.

      Delete
  2. The ag-sag of the 80s would be in my seven. When the Farm Gates Opened, the impact of Rogernomics on rural New Zealand by Neal Wallace would be a good resource for researching it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Ele. Library's closed, but I've already been able to download the e-book on Overdrive. :-)

      Delete
  3. 1. Europeans arrival. 2. treaty...at different stages then, then again in the late 70's 3. Independence 4. WW1 - world stage debut 5. Welfare - the relationship between people and their government 6. economic reforms of 84 - an good attempt at a new way forward. 7. This current thing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm. Interesting. I won't say much more until (hopefully) others post their own.

      I'd combine 1 and 2, which offers more openings. By "independence," are you meaning self-government? The 1852 Constitution Act, for example?

      Delete
    2. Dominion status, the beginnings of self-rule yes

      Delete
    3. No disrespect ... but why did that matter?

      Delete
    4. I don't recall you ever saying 'no disrespect' before - are you ill? Anyway, I think the sense of self that came from that, the localizing of decision making, meaning it made (i'm guessing) NZ start wearing big pants.

      Delete
    5. It's an argument. Let me think about it some more.

      Delete
  4. Google Account27 Mar 2020, 17:49:00

    Polynesians settlement
    British settlement, laws, musket wars
    Womans suffrage
    WW1
    1930s economic depression + welfare state
    Ww2 – Pacific war – end of Empire then into America vs Marxism
    Post war – Muldoonism, oil shocks, Neolib economic reform into economic stagnation, end of Keynesian Marxism played out – this month as interest rate cuts to almost zero.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hard to get it down to 7 isn't it. I like your selection, but which one do you drop?

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. I think you'll have to argue harder for that one.

      Delete
  6. "This current thing" needs to finish before we can judge it. Much like the outpouring of emotion that accompanied the election of Obama that turned out to be a non event, we need to be more than a week into it to decide.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, possibly. But with nearly 1000 deaths a day in Italy -- at the same time as economic collapse -- it's already looking like something of an event. Perhaps on a par with the Great Depression.

      Delete
  7. My list follows, but first: (i) I assume that "New Zealand" refers to the collection of islands, not to any particular geopolitical entity etc; (ii) I think wars are overrated in terms of their importance - their direct effects usually dissipate within a few years of the cessation of hostilities; and (iii) the concept of an "event" needs to be viewed loosely - most of the significant historical 'moments' were more than one-time events.

    Anyway, my list:

    1. Arrival of first humans. Made this place inhabited.

    2. Arrival of European settlement - late 18th century and into 19th century, up to and including the Treaty and introduction of self-government. Made this place a 'place' in terms of the rest of the world.

    3. Otago Gold Rush - 1860s. Relatively minor on the world stage, but a major burst of commercial activity with many flow-on effects (NZ's first university for example).

    4. Introduction of refrigerated shipping - 1880s. Effectively created the nation's economy for the next 100 years.

    5. First Labour Government - 1930s. Introduced the economic and governmental philosophy that prevailed for the next 50 years.

    6. Post WWII immigration - the 1940s/50s Ten-Pound-Poms et al. Introduced a (stultifying) British working-class ethos which solidified about 40 years of cultural stagnation until liberalisation and diversification in the late 1980s and 1990s.

    7. The Fourth Labour Government - 1980s. The reformers - set aside 50 years of atrophy and set the economic and cultural tone for the next 30+ years (imperfectly, but some improvement on what came before).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice. We're thinking along similar lines.

      As I ask this question of more people, I'm noticing that more South Islanders are suggesting gold as one of the important dates. It's important, but is it more important than, say, Gallipoli?

      'Cos I do think wars have more impact than you credit. Mainly to their *dis*credit: i.e., more debt, rising nationalism, increasing statism, diminished prosperity, tragic deaths and destruction -- and, with civil wars, increasing division. So I'm inclined to include two wars at least.

      Delete
    2. I think it depends on where you want to put the focus.

      Perhaps wars are more important than I give them credit for, but the big ones affected the whole world and in much the same way for everyone (give or take - obviously different outcomes depending on which side your country fought for, but everyone got death, economic upheaval and increased statism - hard to think of any exceptions to that). To that extent the big wars were humanity-shaping events, rather than just NZ-shaping events.

      Everyone mentions Gallipoli as a huge nation-forging event but I think it is overrated in that regard. Terrible event for those that were there. Terrible for the families of those that were there. But what did it change? 25 years later Britain got itself into another war and all the young men signed up yet again and went off to die (largely under British command). In that sense it had very little effect on life in NZ, especially when compared to the many other events which shaped decades or whole centuries of life for NZers.

      Delete
  8. ...and it's bloody hard to to get it down to 7!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ... this is very true. But it's fun trying.

      Delete
  9. For those trying to get down to seven key events, I'm conceding defeat for the moment. I have a list of eight Anchor Dates -- as Im calling them -- which I've posted over at my Politically Incorrect History of NZ blog. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete

Comments are moderated to encourage honest conversation, and remove persistent trolls.