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Reflections on COVID-19, Freedom, and Referendums

by Peter Conaglen

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I’ve enjoyed 30 years of auditing the charities of NZ. The opportunity to meet people who passionately endeavour to improve the lives of those struggling with misfortune, is an everyday meeting with “Good Sorts”.

I am equally amazed by New Zealander’s acceptance of the compassionate response to COVID-19, whereby the lives of the few vulnerable people mattered more than the personal freedom of many with healthy immune systems, as the team of 5 million accepted lockdown.

Lockdown was certainly easier to accept because it appeared most people saw, in the global picture, being the quick correlation between the freedom of a few COVID infected people, and the devastation on many, especially the weak, who caught the virus from those who didn’t care to isolate. Today, we accept that the restricting of the freedom of a few returning New Zealander’s (quarantine) is maximising the freedom of all, and the ability for NZ to remain at a Level 1 freedom. We see the working of good laws that restrict the freedom of a few, so as to maximise the freedom of many. We’ve been justifiably annoyed at the quarantine bust outs, who could not accept minor restricts for the good of all.

I’m glad to be part of supporting five decades of the ideology of the freedom of the individual. Great gains have been made in accepting and impowering people, in many different ways.

The question I ask, in reference to COVID-19, and the two referendums on assisted dying and marijuana is, “Would a “yes” to the referendums be freedom for a few strong articulate individuals, yet a harmful bondage to many young and vulnerable people?

The speed of the COVID infection by a few, onto many people, and the resulting hospitalisation, and death, had such an obvious correlation, that we accepted the Level 4 lockdown and a loss of freedom. However, understanding the correlation between assisted dying and suicide, marijuana and mental health, is not going to have an obvious fast correlation. On COVID, we had the advantage of watching what the world did wrong, albeit only over a few weeks. On assisted dying and marijuana, we also have the opportunity to first watch those countries that have enacted such freedoms for a few, and what the follow on affect this will have on the many vulnerable people such as the young, disabled, depressed, uneducated, poor, elderly, or unemployed. These vulnerable people seem to so quickly get caught in a destructive despair or addiction, while a few strong individuals enjoy a new freedom.

Alcohol and gambling law makers, along with the education and charity sector, have had many years to develop better laws, improved education, and rehab programs, for the vulnerable people who could not manage a new freedom with alcohol and gambling. It would be wise to watch and assess the overseas effect of these assisted dying and marijuana freedoms. However, not over a couple years, but over a couple of decades. It will not be possible to always say no to assisted dying, and marijuana freedom, but we can still say, not now. Not until those countries, who have this freedom show what improved legislation, education, and charitable activities, are needed to protect more of the vulnerable from the inevitable harm.

Peter Conaglen is a qualified auditor and chartered accountant. He is the director of Charity Integrity Audit, a specialist accountancy firm providing assurance services to charities and non-profit organisations.

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elocal Digital Edition – September 2020 (#234)

elocal Digital Edition
September 2020 (#234)

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