Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No Reward Sought Or Needed

With Russel Norman's excessive suggestion of an "earthquake tax" on already overtaxed (and recently tax-increased kiwi citizens) still ringing in my ear, comes another excessive suggestion - this time from Australia, but with implications here.
Sydney Morning Herald's Michael Gordon strongly questions his PM Julia Gillard's idea of a new ''national emergency medal''. Bear with me as I paraphrase him...
After the Queensland floods Gillard announced the idea of a new medal for those who'd performed extraordinary acts of service during the emergency: a national emergency medal, recognising extraordinary or sustained services to others during times of disaster (to be backdated to cover the 2009 Victorian bushfires). She also mentioned a new scheme to ensure everyone who helped with the floods rescue and recovery effort in their community received "due acknowledgement".
Nice sentiment, but Gordon sees several problems:
(1) Plenty of scope exists already to recognise heroism and community service. The danger of a new award, distinguishing acts of heroism in national emergencies from other situations, is that it will debase the value of existing awards.
(2) Why highlight individual acts of courage and community service during emergencies, when these events have been defined by collective acts of humanity and sacrifice on an almost universal scale?
There's no upside to the death and destruction of the Oz floods or the Christchurch earthquake, but much to admire in the response from those who stepped up to the plate. They helped because they just did - without wanting any reward. That determination to help each other transcends all boundaries.
(3) And that's another concern: in a world increasingly without borders, why limit recognition to domestic catastrophes? Would that make the Oz rescuers in Christchurch ineligible?
Any idea for a national emergency medal should be dumped. It risks underplaying acts of basic human kindness by entire communities.
Let's hope no-one suggests the same idea here in NZ!

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