Are you sitting comfortably children? Then let’s begin.
by Martin Harris 14/6/20
A long time ago, in the early 1980’s there was a little country called New Zealand. Up until the early years of that decade, NZ had been a rather secluded and tranquil place, famous for it’s sheep, spectacular scenery, flightless birds and more sheep.
However, when new prime minister David Lange and his Labour government took the reigns, a decades-long process of drastic political and economic reforms began, that captured the attention of the world at large.
But of all the revolutionary political goings-on in those tempestuous times, it was a single extraordinary proclamation that rocked the world.
David Lange said “no nukes!” and our allies gasped. Not only that, but Lange backed up that proclamation with his outstanding oratory and debating skills, and the world headlines celebrated “The Mouse That Roared”.
This act, more than any other, put New Zealand on the map. And what’s more, the vast majority of Kiwis supported Lange’s government in their anti-nuclear stance. In fact, so vital and well-supported this anti-nuclear stance had become to New Zealand, that successive governments regardless of being Left or Right, Progressive or Conservative, have wisely upheld the edict against ‘nukes (at least paying lip service to it, there are questions…).
You see, New Zealand at large can have been said, in the mid 1980’s, to be a “team of 3 million” when it came to ‘nukes: “An opinion poll commissioned by the 1986 Defence Committee of Enquiry confirmed that 92 per cent now opposed nuclear weapons in New Zealand and 69 per cent opposed warship visits; 92 per cent wanted New Zealand to promote nuclear disarmament through the UN, while 88 per cent supported the promotion of nuclear free zones” according to Wikipedia.
“In 2018, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reinstated the ministerial portfolio of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control. Ardern stated that it is important that the Government acknowledges New Zealand’s long held anti nuclear stance. “The pursuit of disarmament is as vital today as it was when Norman Kirk and David Lange proclaimed New Zealand’s opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear testing in the Pacific,” she said.”
If any New Zealand prime minister can be said to have “Wowed the World”, David Lange was the one. Regardless of what one thought of his Labour government or it’s policies and reforms, that one, single act galvanised and united this small nation like no other.
Our anti nuclear stance has been celebrated in books, documentaries, dramatisations and even television and radio advertisements. Subsequent leaders, including the present PM, stand or fall by it’s continuation, as candidate Don Brash demonstrated with his “gone by lunchtime” statement.
In spite of all this publicity, I do not recall a children’s book being published about “How David Lange Wowed the World”. And I think many of us would agree that such a thing doesn’t seem right somehow. Propaganda to brainwash young minds. Certainly it should be an important part of our history that should be taught, discussed, and dissected at High School level where young adults are ready to explore the pros and cons and significance, and form their own opinions and thoughts on the matter.
Which brings us to Jacinda Ardern. NZ’s third female prime minister behind Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark.
To be sure, some extraordinary and tragic events have transpired during her current term as PM. The infamous mosque shootings, after which Ardern became world famous for donning the hijab in support of the Muslim community, and embarking on a massive and unprecedented media censorship campaign, which has been controversial and of dubious benefit. One does not learn anything from a tragedy by attempting to erase it, and those who support the gunman’s actions are simply driven under ground by such censorship.
The other event, almost exactly a year later, is the COVID 19 pandemic and NZ’s much-acclaimed response and recovery.
But was it really all that remarkable? New Zealand’s small population and relative geographical isolation, coupled with the generally easygoing nature of Kiwis, made the COVID response easy to manage. In fact, considering the rather slack attitude to border checks and closure it could be argued that the initial government response was lacklustre to say the least. More to the point, the recovery moves through Level Two down to Level one were dictated not by Ardern, but by “we the people”. How so?
When New Zealand’s lockdown went to Level Two, Ardern dictated gatherings of no more than ten individuals, disappointing Churchgoers and the Maori population wishing to hold traditional Tangi (funeral and wake). This disappointment turned to anger when documentation came to light from the NZ Police contradicting Ardern’s “10 only” edict (allowing 100 in a gathering). Ardern quickly changed her tune at the next conference, with the caveat that Level Two would continue for four weeks. A long wait considering there were no new cases in NZ. This time Ardern’s hand was forced by the rapid developments following the George Floyd killing and the protestors here in NZ, much as elsewhere in the world, ignoring Social Distancing protocols and lockdown rules in general.
That left Ardern’s government between a rock and a hard place. Quell the protests, get heavy handed, and risk negative press and lose her core (Social-Democratic) voters, or go easy on the protestors and risk calls of double standards and hypocrisy from those obeying the rules. Hence, the only safe option: Fast-track the move to Level One.
It was not Jacinda Ardern who called the shots in the Lockdown, despite her calling us her “Team of Five Million”, it was the people.
In fact, strip away these two defining events, and Ardern’s performance has been rather unremarkable. Where is the Light Rail that was the highlight of her campaign patter? Her Kiwibuild scheme to bring affordable housing to all is a catastrophe. Her popularity, in fact, seams to be propelled by charisma, feelings over facts, and a great propaganda machine. The media love Ardern because she is a relatively young and photogenic personality, and became a mother to a baby daughter after taking office. Unlike any other prime minister, however, the media seem to be remarkably reticent with their usual questioning and criticism. She is perceived and presented with something dangerously close to religious reverence.
So, unlike David Lange, Jacinda Ardern gets a children’s book. Ironically titled “Taking The Lead”, Something like this we would usually associate with the indoctrination tactics of a communist regime. At least, so far, this book is NOT compulsory reading at primary school. Although it would be a useful tool in teaching young minds about discerning fact versus opinion, or an example of how propaganda works.
And below is the book & an intro about Adern taken from Google books website.
QUOTE: “An inspiring illustrated story for children about Jacinda Ardern, and her meteoric rise to become the world’s youngest female leader. Nobody is too young to start changing the world. When Jacinda was little, she wanted to be a clown. But when she saw schoolmates who didn’t have lunch, or even shoes, she knew she had to do something. Some kids laughed at her for wanting to help people so much, or said she couldn’t do it. But that didn’t stop Jacinda. She became the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the worlds youngest female leader. This is the true story of a trailblazer who has inspired people around the planet, told by an award-winning author and illustrator.”
Thanks to Pam at EWR for the post that inspired this article.