How to stop dividing
In our country, division is the motif of the moment. The protesters who were recently removed from outside of Parliament have been largely ignored by leading politicians. When Wellington Mayor Andy Foster and ACT’s David Seymour spoke with them, some labelled this natural and civil act as ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’.
The phrase ‘anti-vax’ has become a catchall code word, and dismissal.
Economic uncertainty produced by COVID plays a role. Omicron is acknowledged to be less deadly than Delta, but the fiscal effect seems equally chilling. Exacerbated by a rampaging real-estate market that in some areas rose by 20% in a year, the class divide has been labelled a “chasm”. Small businesses are under increasing pressure, particularly hospitality and tourism. Recently I was in Queenstown for business. One of only three guests in a 52 room hotel, I was the sole breakfast diner. The clink of my spoon on the bowl in the abandoned dining room was deafening.
Even more noisy is the language of division, which has crowded our public square. The phrase ‘anti-vax’ has become a catchall code word, and dismissal. Recipients of this epithet are anti-science, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, foul, violent, in the words one politician, ‘a river of filth’. The great benefits of using this very baggy term is freedom to misunderstand those it’s being used to describe.
Politicians who fret about division need to do less ‘Phooey!’ and more hui.
Note: This mode was already present. Consider the charges that typically follow: ‘All men…’ The assumption is similar: males think and act the same way. While convenient, it’s not true.
Assumed homogeneity amongst the protesters is also incorrect. A recent poll of them indicates that, while they’ve been accused of being anti-vax (three quarters aren’t vaxxed), overwhelmingly they’re protesting the mandates. Almost half are Labour or Green Party voters; more than a quarter voted for National or ACT in the last election. Surprised?
Data can be clarifying; so how our institutions explain us to ourselves becomes crucial. Politicians who fret about division need to do less ‘Phooey!’ and more hui. Mainstream news is welcome to its headlines, but also needs to supply the kind of texture that the quoted poll gives.
Have you fallen out with a family member over mandates or vaccines? Perhaps it might pay to give them a call.
Fortunately one institution has shown a good example. While Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has attracted criticism for being soft, in fact he deserves praise. Up until forcibly evicting the protesters, de-escalation and dialogue were the Police’s model. Commissioner Coster acted judiciously in the face of a probity vacuum from numerous political leaders. The strategy didn’t always work out, but without this mode, the situation may well have quickly worsened as it did overseas.
Might the same apply to our own lives? Have you fallen out with a family member over mandates or vaccines? Perhaps it might pay to give them a call. And please, put away the divisive language and dramatic narratives, as cheaply satisfying as they may be. Civility goes a long way. It’s all very well to wag a finger at our leaders, but dealing with division starts at ground level.
Yes, we’re at odds. Yes, we’re angry. Let’s break the cycle. Talking may be well dangerous; not talking at all is certainly terminal.go back