Talk to me
It is easy to get caught up in the idea that being right is the most important thing. We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us what to think and who to believe, and it can be challenging to remember that dialogue with those we disagree with is just as vital to the health of our society.
It served as a reminder that democracy thrives on dialogue, even when disagreements are vehement.
Last Thursday, as Brian Tamaki and his protest against “Agenda 2030” arrived in Wellington, people’s minds drifted back to the three-week-long occupation of Parliament in 2022. The Police closed inner-city streets. There was a palpable sense of fear in the air.
Given how the day was covered by the media, you would be excused for not realising that at least four separate groups were converging on Parliament that day. Alongside Tamaki’s protest, there was the “Stop Co-governance” march, an “anti-fascist” counter-protest, and the event that truly caught my attention: the arrival of a hikoi protesting the gang policies of National and ACT.
Looking back on the protests of 2022, it’s clear that dialogue could have played a more significant role in addressing the issues that led to those protests
Among all the other events happening, why was it the 12-person hikoi that stood out?
Unlike the protesters who sought to capture attention and dominate the headlines, the families of gang members were there to engage in a different kind of activism: one based on dialogue and engagement. At a time when echo chambers and ideological fortresses have become the norm, the families of gang members and National’s police spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, who greeted them as they presented a petition, engaged in a conversation marked by disagreement.
Whether you agree or disagree with the policies or the protesters doesn’t matter.
It served as a reminder that democracy thrives on dialogue, even when disagreements are vehement. The issues that each of them had still needed to be resolved. Mitchell even refused to accept their petition. But that wasn’t the point. A conversation took place. Someone was “brave” enough to go and meet with some people they disagreed with. Others could speak to the people they had grievances with and felt heard. Matilda Kahotea, the leader of the hikoi, mother of three gang members, and a colourful character was pleased that he came, “good on him. Thank you. I’m glad he was here, he got to hear us.”
Looking back on the protests of 2022, it’s clear that dialogue could have played a more significant role in addressing the issues that led to those protests. By providing a platform for constructive dialogue and demonstrating a willingness to listen, we could have made those who felt marginalised or unheard a part of the democratic process. Instead, the protests were met by dismissal and hostility, with no acceptance that the protestors had a legitimate point of view that should, at the least, be listened to.
Whether you agree or disagree with the policies or the protesters doesn’t matter. Talking and listening are two of the most important things we can do for this country. If you can listen to the people you disagree with, we can start healing our nation’s divisions.go back