A response to “Leader’s Address – COVID and Divided Society”
Mr. Luxon, I’ve watched your speech “Leader’s Address – COVID and Divided Society” and read the text several times. I was left cold by the actual livestreamed speech and the manner in which it was delivered and quite honestly felt alienated by it.
I felt like I was watching a CEO addressing managers at a board meeting.
What I was hoping for was a combination of practical business sense and empathy, genuine empathy not the false empathy of Ardern. I didn’t feel enraged, but neither did I feel engaged.
Having read the text of the speech, I felt differently.
I felt that, had the speech been articulated with more genuine emotion and charisma, I would have been fairly impressed.
For the most part I agree with the points raised and addressed.
Two points however, jarred with me, from the perspective of a pro-choice/anti mandate protestor.
Firstly the remark “Vaccinated versus the un-vaccinated”. Poor choice of wording. One thing that has been demonstrated at these protests is that a considerable proportion of attendees have been vaccinated, but did so through mandate rather than by choice. I say “demonstrated” because every protest I have attended includes a “show of hands”.
This showing of hands also reveals the number of people attending protests who refused to be mandated and thus lost their jobs. What is truly worrying is that the majority of those are teachers, healthcare workers, firemen and police officers. None of these are uneducated, uninformed or gullible people. They made informed choices that the government happens to disagree with based on advice from credentialed experts whom the government carefully curated based on their alignment with the government’s stance. (Similarly credentialed experts who disagree with the government are conveniently sidelined or tarred with the “misinformation” brush).
Perhaps a better choice of wording would have been “Pro choice versus pro-mandate”.
“The protest at Parliament includes people who are showing a flagrant disregard for the law – blocking off streets, ignoring rules and abusing Wellingtonians.”
The wording of the live speech delivered is slightly different from the text, but the effect is the same. To emphasise the actions of the minority who do not belong to, or identify with any of the organised groups attending this coalition protest action.
While criticism has been aimed at the organisers for their inability to “keep the peace”, the remarks and evidence from on the ground demonstrate that the protest has been remarkable well organised and predominantly peaceful. No acknowledgement of this fact was given in the speech, nor any mention of the majority on Parliament grounds who are not showing disregard for the law nor behaving in an abusive manner.
I would remark that the protestors appear to have shown more courage, resilience, organisation and innovational skills in the past few weeks than the Labour government has displayed in it’s two terms attempting to run the country. Some acknowledgement along these lines might have won you a vote or two?
I am extremely disappointed at the failure of National to engage with the leaders and representatives of the protestors.
Recent polls have shown a 30% support for the protests: a considerable segment of the population. It is my educated and informed opinion that the support would be considerably higher had it not been for the highly biased media coverage focussing on the negative elements. Many people rely purely on news media coverage, and from what I’ve seen, such coverage has been shamefully one-sided.
These people are your potential supporters. But first, you, as a leader, need to support them. That starts with distinguishing the legitimate protestors from the inevitable trouble-makers.
To close, I will say that I, like many others attending protest actions up and down the country, have never previously even considered being part of a protest group. Indeed I have always viewed this form of activism with benevolent scepticism. I get the same comment from many of those attending.
However, I am a father of three children, and the effect on my family and on other families I know has been heartbreaking. The mental health aspect of these mandates, coupled with the near-total collapse of an overwhelmed and underfunded healthcare system, has caused this mature adult of 54 years to cry openly more in the past year than I ever did in my childhood.
This is what caused me to join with the protestors in Christchurch in October 2021. What else could I do? One feels so helpless when the government refuses to listen or even acknowledge.
I thought I would be joining a small group of hippies and new-agers perhaps. I was wrong.
The next day, the news media reported, with laughable understatement, a crowd of “over a hundred” along with references to “Conspiracy theorists”, “Anti-Vaxxers” and “Far Right elements”.
What I witnessed, and continue to witness at ongoing events, was an estimated attendance of ten thousand. People from all cultures and races, all walks of life, the young side by side with the elderly, the rich rubbing shoulders with the poor, all marching together with a common message that is crystal clear: We’ve had enough of this government and we want the Covid mandates dropped.
What impressed me about these events, in Christchurch at least, is the total lack of trouble or any sign of violence. The marches are well managed and peaceful.
What disappoints me, Mr. Luxon, is your dismissal of this movement, representing as it does a wide cross-section of the New Zealand population, in a couple of brief sentences, and your refusal to engage with protest organisers on Parliament grounds based on the actions of a minority who, to repeat, are not representative of the organisers or their group members. Perhaps if you had taken the opportunity to see firsthand you might have a different perspective.
I do notice, however, that Winston Peters, true to form, filled the vacuum and took the opportunity.
In any event, the mandates will almost certainly have been dropped well before the next elections and although Ardern will deny it, there is no doubt in my mind that the unprecedented protests, as demonstrated in many other countries, have played a significant and meaningful role in bringing about positive changes and restoration of freedoms. If nothing else, they have brought together people who would not have otherwise associated, and thus done their part to heal the divisions brought about by Ardern’s divisive government.
Some acknowledgement of this would not go amiss.