This pandemic sets in stark contrast the major cultural differences between Kiwis and Americans. Jeremiah and I have joked that Kiwis are basically socialists, with the largely tax-payer funded medical system, more paid holiday time for all classes of workers, a much simpler tax system, and a more egalitarian society, to name just a few of the more tangible features. And we have been impressed at how compliant the large majority of our neighbors are with the current stay-at-home rule.
A writer for The Herald, a NZ news source, commented “New Zealand does have a good shot at this [stemming the pandemic] because there is trust in government – unlike in America – and we’re a small, relatively cohesive society, with good social capital that the Government can make use of.”
Trust in Government?! Right, THAT’s different than in America for sure.
But what’s this social capital?
Wikipedia says “Social capital is the effective functioning of social groups through interpersonal relationships, a shared sense of identity, a shared understanding, shared norms, shared values, trust, cooperation, and reciprocity.”
It all sounds very nice, doesn’t it? A shared sense of identity, shared values….yes, there’s definitely more of that in NZ than in the US. Not perfect by any means, not a utopia or anything close to it, still littered with ugly bits of human nature, but I’m often surprised at how much more shared values and trust there is than what I’d expect, from growing up in America.
We watched “Country Calendar” yesterday, a NZ institution that showcases rural farms weekly, and has since 1966. All the commercial breaks had a government ad encouraging people to unite against Covid19 by staying at home to, and by doing so protecting the essential services workers that have to be out and about. And I reckon most people are taking that to heart, at least at this stage.