The anti-mandate occupation protest in Wellington

Fairly early in the occupation protest against mandatory vaccination, I walked through the site on my commute to work from Wellington Railway Station.  I didn’t “go exploring”, just went my usual way, but slowly. 

I was unmasked but carrying my mask in my hand, as I had just worn it on the train and would soon wear it again to get into my workplace.

It was earlyish and the relatively few protesters up and about were making breakfast or other preparations for the day.  If anyone looked up to notice me, I’d say or nod “Good morning”, and occasionally the degree of eye-contact enabled me to stop and ask a question or two – for example, about the meaning of nearby banners.

I was neither for them nor against them on the issue of mandatory vaccination, just curious, and that seemed to be enough to enable a conversation or two to take place.  Those I spoke to were civil and friendly, not vehement, aggressive or mad-eyed – just Kiwis, though upset Kiwis.

That experience enabled me to maintain a basic sympathy through all the drama that ensued – the size and duration of the protest, the motley causes, the chronic protesters and simple trouble makers that attached themselves to the main cause, the resulting inconvenience to some Wellingtonians and the very bad behaviour of some participants in the occupation.

I found that this sympathy was reinforced by the constant and pervasive barrage of condemnation and vilification of the protesters by countless journalists and letters to the editor.  This commentary was uniformly furious and contemptuous – and was unjustly directed at all the protesters, not just those who behaved badly. 

They were described as anti-science, superstitious, ignorant, filthy, spreaders of disease, anarchists, deluded religious cranks, free-loaders (whose benefits should be cut), and on it went day after day.  It quickly became repetitive and just kept hammering away.

Much of this commentary was not even genuine, but entirely capricious and hypocritical.  I know this because I asked a friend who was railing against the protesters’ behaviour whether he was equally critical of similar behaviour at leftist protests (eg BLM and LGBTQI+).  I suspected that his judgement (and the judgement of many others) about protester behaviour was linked to his view of the protesters’ cause.  I was astonished by his candour: “No”, he replied, he gave those superior leftist protesters a free pass for their conduct.  To his credit, he was discomfited by this revelation. 

The same caprice was evident in opinion articles by “expert” protest organisers (such as Kassie Hartendorp, “The real meaning of freedom for all”, Dominion Post 18/2) who wrote lyrically about their support for the democratic right of protest – Hartendorp says protest is “spiritual” – with the minor caveat that their support depended on protesters’ “values”.  Here’s Kassie Hartendorp (online version) (if you think I haven’t been fair to her and her article, do please let me know):

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/300519788/understanding-freedom-means-recognising-we-are-all-in-this-together

Despite all this caprice, the commentary included the reasonable point that freedom carries responsibility.  However, only some participants in the occupation acted irresponsibly (and even criminally).  I have no reason to believe the leaders of the core protest were able to control the behaviour of everyone who showed up.

The commentary tended to overlook the fact that the organisers of this protest are relatively new to the game.  They lack the expertise of leftist protesters who have learned from many decades of practice at protesting, both with and without violence.  At grass-roots level, the left pretty much “owns” the skill of manipulative messaging; and even their violence is well organised, courtesy of Antifa and other groups.

Of all the wrong things that took place during the occupation, it was the unrelenting supremacist commentary, and the moral conceit underlying it, that made the biggest impression on me.

This impression deepened further when I noticed that so many commentators used the apparent minority status of the protesters as just another reason to revile them.  New Zealand culture has been strangely dominated by minorities in recent years.  By some minorities, I mean.  It turns out that this influence has nothing to do with minority status at all – nothing to do with supporting the underdog – as we now know that some “other” minorities (the wrong ones) are given so special recognition or support at all.  In fact, they are despised.

It seems to me that New Zealand’s exciting new cultural values are a little murky; and that it is time they were put on the table, face up, and discussed.

We have now witnessed the creation of a leper class.  I hope that merely recognising that something this dreadful has happened will give rise to a pause during which we can gather around that table and discuss those values.  This discussion is urgent.

“Individualism” is not the problem

Critique of Western culture

Unlike most cultures, the West has long permitted internal critique.  Lately, it is being criticised for its “individualism”. 

This kind of criticism used to be focused on capitalist or neoliberal excess, but the new critique is more fundamental.

In a 2010 journal article, Robin Di Angelo, who later wrote the now [in]famous White Fragility, described individualism as “the concept that each of us are unique individuals and that our group memberships, such as our race, class, or gender, are not important or relevant to our opportunities”, and said it results in “relations of unequal power” (https://escholarship.org/uc/item/5fm4h8wm).

In a recent newspaper article, Andrew Shepherd (a lecturer in Theology & Public Issues at the University of Otago) goes further.  Commenting on claims about individual freedom in recent protests against mandatory vaccination, he says not only that individualism results in injustice, but that it isn’t even realistic!  To quote:

Within modern Western liberal thought, the “freedom of the individual” is accorded the highest moral priorityBut is understanding ourselves as individuals an honest description of reality?  …  We are social beings.  … [We are] constituted in and through our relationality with others. (https://www.pressreader.com/new-zealand/manawatu-standard/20211110/281784222329554)

The writer of a recent letter to the Editor of the Dominion Post (12 November 2021) makes the point even more plainly: “We are not individuals in any way”.   (I apologise for my inability to link to this.)

And journalist Donna Miles shows us where this thinking leads.  She wants “a departure from the selfish approach, which prioritises the individual, to an approach that considers the collective interest as paramount” (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/127111345/time-for-the-national-party-to-embrace-kindness).

Individual responsibility

It is plainly observable that we are, in fact, individuals – each a unique mixed bag of countless inherited and acquired characteristics (some admirable and likeable, some not) topped up with unique experience.

It is equally observable that selfishness, and the harm it does, has nothing to do with ideology but is a basic human phenomenon.  The drive to “look after number 1” has always been with us and isn’t going anywhere.

Selfishness is not something optional or supplementary that we can avoid, but something intrinsic that we have to manage.  Our solution in the West has long been the pervasive and non-negotiable moral imperative, “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

The flipside of the value we attach to the individual has long been the individual’s responsibility for themselves and for the equally valuable individuals surrounding them.

Groups

We unique individuals are also members of groups – not just 2 or 3, though, as each of our countless characteristics can be seen and treated as a grouping.

Western “individualist” thought does not ignore groups.  It can’t do this because every group is a group of highly valued individuals.  In fact, this is why groups are important.  The same is true of the large group we call “the community”.

When groups are ignored, as when any other injustice occurs, it is not due to the value we attach to individual human beings, but to a moral failure by individuals – a failure to “love their neighbour” – especially those whose decisions have great impact.

Groups benefit from morally-guided individual responsibility; however, the converse is not true. Members of groups benefit, and are safe, only when the group values each member.  Collectivism and group-think, on the other hand, routinely operate at the expense of the individual.  In fact, this effect is inevitable because individuals are accorded no intrinsic value: only the group/collective has value and there is no reason to avoid sacrificing the individual to the collective interest.

“Individualism” causes harm when individuals fail morally, but Collectivism causes harm even when it succeeds!

Separation of morality and State

An individual failure is a moral failure for which the individual is morally accountable.  If tangible harm is caused, the law steps in – for example, when a lie amounts to fraud.

This demarcation between morality (traditionally, “Church”) and law (the State) is an essential feature of the West.  Blurring this line means morality is enforced the way the law is – as in theocracies and collectivist republics with their emphasis on total control.  (Indeed, the same blurring of the morality/law line occurs when any non-theistic morality is enforced, regardless of Collectivism – ie in a society that becomes an “ideocracy”.)

The West’s few but extremely boisterous and influential inhouse critics don’t seem to have noticed the global phenomenon of migrants and asylum seekers streaming to the West, not away. 

The West isn’t perfect but, to improve it, we don’t need to pull it inside out or re-imagine it.  Rather, we need to be better behaved individuals – all of us in everything we do, including our public work in corporations and institutions – by taking “Love your neighbour” more seriously.

______________________________________

De-Christianising NZ #2: pervasive Christian presence

Introduction

In De-Christianising New Zealand I: a re-colonisation, I said “Like it or not, Christianity is a critical dimension of ‘who’ New Zealand is” and that de-Christianisation “will uproot New Zealand’s identity”. 

The pervasive presence and significance of Christianity is evident in many ways – from the way we structure our lives, to the way we speak, to the way we think.

This article describes some of the more obvious aspects of what I have in mind.  (Another article or two will follow.)  There is so much to say about the obvious influence of Christianity that this article will unavoidably read rather like a list.

It’s, like, a list

There are churches everywhere!  Some are disused, heritage listed, or repurposed either by Christian communities or by others as art galleries, restaurants or even private homes; but the great majority are still operating.

It is the year 2021 because it is that many years since Jesus.  Although we have replaced “AD” (Anno Domini, the Year of Our Lord) with “CE” (the common era), this common era exists due to the global significance of Christianity.

Years and months are defined by the movements of our planet and its moon, but our 7-day week is Judeo-Christian.

Our Easter break and the focus of our summer break on Christmas are Christian.  It makes no difference that these festivals were superimposed over earlier, northern hemisphere pagan festivals: their significance in New Zealand is Christian. 

Our most familiar constellation is called the Southern Cross, not the Southern Diamond, because of the central importance of the cross to Christianity.  The cross is so important to Christianity that we use it to describe how any thing is of central importance to anything else – that it is “crucial”, or “the crux” of the matter. 

The top-left corner of New Zealand’s flag is not just about Great Britain in a geopolitical sense: the Union Jack cannot be explained without reference to the Christian saints it represents.

Until only 2 or 3 decades ago, a person’s personal name was called their “Christian” name.  Countless personal names come from:

  • the Bible (both Testaments) – eg Adam, Eve, Noah, Sarah, Joshua, Deborah, Isaac, Rebecca, David, Ruth, Jacob, Hannah, Daniel, Rachel, Karen, Miriam, Mary, Joseph, Anna, Peter, Martha, John, Phoebe, Matthew, Elizabeth, James, Julia, Andrew, Chloe, Luke, Stephen, Lois, Thomas, Joanna, Paul and many, many more;
  • saints – eg Francis, Theresa, Dominic, Brigid, Patrick, Clare, Edward, Emily and many, many more;
  • angels – eg Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, even Angela/Angelo;
  • virtues and other concepts – eg Grace, Gloria, Faith, Hope, Mercy, Xavier.

Until relatively recently, swearing on the Bible was the only means of guaranteeing honesty.  It is still used, though no longer exclusively.  Even informally, to guarantee the truth of what they are saying, people will “swear” that it is true.

It is generally known that Biblical and other Christian concepts and references have pervaded English literature from its very beginning; unfortunately, it is beyond my competence to describe this in any detail.  Christianity also pervades our spoken language, including our vernacular.  To illustrate:

  • Heaven and Hell, free will, original sin, Adam & Eve, the Ten Commandments, Gospel truth, Judgment Day, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, the Holy Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit), the Church;
  • “good” is Olde English for God;
  • we describe situations, things and people as divine, heavenly, angelic, saintly, hellish, purgatorial, devilish/fiendish/diabolical/demonic;
  • we give the Devil his due and discern him lurking in the detail;
  • we swear, bless, curse and damn, and describe profoundly precious things as sacred;
  • we speak of being a good Samaritan, a good shepherd, a lost sheep, a sacrificial lamb, a martyr, a prodigal son, a Judas or a Pontius Pilate;
  • we speak of being “crucified” when treated unfairly, of being resurrected (or res’d) in a computer game, of being treated like a leper, of casting the first stone, casting pearls before swine, living & dying by the sword;
  • an authoritative source of information and instruction is often referred to as the “bible” of a field of knowledge: the surgeon’s bible, the bread-making bible (etc);
  • we love our neighbour, including our enemy, and we consider the meek, the merciful and peacemakers (among others) to be blessed;
  • a very particular beloved is the apple of my eye;
  • we teach children to honour their mother & father;
  • we are wary of pride (which goes before a fall), money (the love of which is the root of evil) and forbidden fruit;
  • a reason not to judge others is the knowledge I may be no better: “There but for the grace of God go I”;
  • we appraise a person’s character by reference to their actions, because a tree is known by its fruit;
  • we describe a good person as the salt of the earth; we warn bad actors that they will reap what they sow; we warn of an imminent ending by referring to the writing on the wall; we describe strict, harsh justice as “an eye for an eye”; we see vengeance as the Lord’s not ours, it is preferable to turn the other cheek; we take refuge in a santuary;
  • when 2 people think the same, we say there has been a marriage of minds, while we advise warring couples not to let the sun go down on their anger;
  • we describe a person who is morally conceited as believing they can walk on water or, in an extreme case, as having a messianic complex (or, if their conceit is about self-sacrifice, a martydom complex);
  • we describe uncultured people as Philistines, very unequal contests as “David and Goliath” situations, dangerous places one enters voluntarily as lion’s dens and self-righteous assertions as pharasaical;
  • days off are still called holy days (almost), while longer periods might be called sabatticals (after the Sabbath, the biblical day of rest);
  • a long list might be a litany; something that prompts a memory “rings a bell”;
  • startling news is a revelation, an unexpected good result is miraculous, enormous phenomana are biblical in proportion (or, on a bad day, apocalyptic), a harsh initiation is a baptism of fire, the highest award or achievement in a field of effort is that field’s holy grail;
  • OMG, TGIF, Godzone.

There is much more, of course: I’ve only mentioned what has come to mind.  The point is, Christianity pervades New Zealand.  This is true, whether or not Christianity is true or good and whether or not you like it.

Not all references to Christianity (and Christ) are positive.  In fact, negative references are also pervasive, and that pervasiveness also supports the point I’m making here. 

These references range from bible bashing, God bothering, being delusional (and polyphobic), being holier than thou, Catholic guilt, Pope jokes and pontificating to “OMFG”, “For f***’s sake”, “Holy s**t”, “Jeezuz!”, “Jesus Christ!”, “Jesus f******g Christ”, “Christ on a stick”, “They beat the bejeezus out of him”, etc.  In addition to this casual but brutal contempt for Christianity, for the person of Jesus Christ and for those who claim an association with Him, there is the very serious and determined hostility to be found in some other theistic religions, in Satanism and in aggressive forms of atheism (eg socialism, generally speaking).  Not to mention art that considers itself “important” because it scorns Christ: (eg Piss Christ).

Before recent times, “irreverent” language used openly tended to be fairly light, just playing loose with reverence and being, say, “almost blasphemous” – eg strewth (God’s truth), bloody (by Our Lady), Crikey (and other Cri-expressions), Jesus H. Christ, Jeepers Creepers (and other JC-expressions).  There was always some real opposition, of course, but it was not in the public mainstream except in the form of serious discussion (say, by atheist philosophers or communist advocates).  Now, open and confident hostility and contempt are a mainstream phenomenon.

The emotional impact of this on Christians, who tend to love God very dearly, is seldom considered – except perhaps where that impact is intended.

Conclusion

For better or worse, Christianity is pervasive in New Zealand society culture: this is just a fact, whether you like it or not.  Not in control, but pervasive.  This view is even supported by popular hostility to Christianity: Christianity is attacked because it is too significant for its attackers’ liking. 

I reiterate that I am not arguing here that Christianity is good, or even true, only that its pervasive presence makes it extremely significant to New Zealand society.  It is an intrinsic part of the root system of New Zealand culture.

For this reason alone, I suggest that to actively de-Christianise New Zealand by taking steps to remove, repress, misrepresent or marginalise Christianity is not only unjust and cruel to New Zealand’s many Christians, but very dangerous to New Zealand as a whole. 

Apparently, the Bible contains hate speech

A Finnish MP is being accused of hate speech (inciting hatred) towards LGBTQI+ people (LGBs, anyway) by tweeting a Bible verse that expresses disapproval of same-sex physical intimacy.  The police are involved, so it appears to be a criminal offence.

https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/christian-mp-facing-prison-sentence-in-finland-for-tweeting-bible-verse?utm_source=Premier%20Christian%20Media&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=12349221_daily%20news%2001%20May%202021&dm_i=16DQ,7COPX,SX1NPR,TU54Y,1

This is relevant because hate speech is being discussed in New Zealand.

Some Christians have been concerned for some time that “hate speech” might be given a meaning that has the effect of banning Bible passages that some people consider hateful.  Usually, these Christians are reassured, “No, that will not happen. It won’t come to that”.  Actually, it looks as though it will: it’s happening in Finland and I understand the Finns are just about as nice as we are.

Many passages of the Bible express disapproval (God’s disapproval, we Christians would say) of some actions or behaviours, including same-sex physical intimacy.  The same is true of the Q’ran and many moral codes. 

Leaving homosexuality aside, it would be difficult to find a system of morality (God or no God) that doesn’t express disapproval of some behaviour or other. 

How much does it matter when someone disapproves of my behaviour?

We would all prefer that everyone approve of all our behaviour, but it isn’t realistic.  There will always be someone “out there” who disapproves of some of my behaviour.  For example, Hindus object to me eating beef, Muslims to me eating pork and drinking alcohol, vegetarians to me eating any meat, vegans to me consuming any animal products, zealous greenies to my half-hearted recycling.  Atheists object to my “deluded” belief in God: I suppose this isn’t strictly a moral objection, although I think some of them are offended by my stupidity. 

Some of these people are quite vocal about their disapproval, some not.  I suppose some of them might hate me, I don’t know, but their disapproval of my behaviour doesn’t on its own mean that they do.

What Christian disapproval means

When mainstream Christians endorse God’s disapproval of some behaviour or other, they (we) do so out of love for God and in the interests of integrity and reason: we see God as sovereign as we believe our moral views hold together reasonably well.  It has nothing to do with loving or hating people who do things we disapprove of (which is everyone, after all, including ourselves). On the contrary, the very same God instructs us in no uncertain terms to love “sinners” – not according to how they behave, but merely because they are among our human neighbours. Where is the hate? Nowhere at all.

Disapproval of same-sex physical intimacy is just an example.

This is why Israel Folau, when he was posting, went further that quoting Scriptural disapproval and offered a solution: Jesus Christ.  This is my take on Folau’s perspective: LGBs (and adulterers, drunkards and a number of others) are on a bus that he believes is speeding towards a cliff they can’t see; he says “Stop, you’re heading towards a cliff!”; if he hated them, he’d say nothing and just enjoy the show.

The difference between action and actor is critical here.  It isn’t news to distinguish between the two.  For example, evangelical Christians “hate the sin, not the sinner”; atheists “attack ideas, not people”; sportspeople “play the ball, not the player”.  At the end of a criminal trial, the court might know the defendant did the deed but must still judge the defendant more broadly and personally in order to determine an appropriate outcome (punishment etc). 

This distinction is between action and actor is rudimentary as a matter of logic; and, in the West, it’s common sense. Although glaringly obvious, it’s amazing how easy it is to overlook this: we too easily, for example, describe a person who tells a lie as a liar. However, although it is common enough to not notice the distinction or simply fail to apply it, I have never known anyone to consciously deny its existence and importance. Until recently.

Not getting the obvious

Unfortunately, there are some people who just can’t seem to grasp this common sense.  At least, they speak as though they don’t get it.  To be honest, I think they do get it.  And I believe that to deliberately misunderstand someone (the way some people appear to misunderstand Christians and basic Western thought) is actually a kind of dishonesty.

If I’m mistaken, and they really don’t see or understand the fundamental distinction between judging an action and judging a person, then I must conclude that something very awful has happened to their minds.

Discrimination and compassion

Anna Fifeld, Editor of The Dominion Post, writes on 1 May 2021:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/300289748/letter-from-the-editor-can-we-please-get-wellington-moving

My letter to the Editor, which may or may not be published, reads as follows:

Editor Anna Fifield is right to call out China for “the Communist Party’s oppression of the Uyghurs” (1/5).  However, given her “background in China”, Fifield is well placed to know the Communist Party oppresses all sorts of people in addition to Uyghur Muslims – including Tibetans, Falun Gong and Christians.  As an international journalist, she must also know Christians are oppressed (including by being beaten, raped and killed) in many other countries as well, most commonly where there is a Muslim majority.  Why speak of Muslims only as victims?

If we’re serious about being non-discriminatory, this should apply even when it comes to expressing compassion.

De-Christianising NZ’s national anthem

James Nikose writes in the The Dominion Post on 30 April 2021 – “These are the real Kiwi anthems that unite us”:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/124982414/what-are-our-real-kiwi-anthems

My letter to the Editor, which may or may not be published, reads as follows:

Deriding New Zealand’s anthem, James Nokise says “we’re all imperially required to sing God Defend New Zealand”.  He ignores how many Māori warmly embrace the Christian faith, and also that Christianity is not foreign, but global (cosmic, even): Christians came here from the Northern Hemisphere, but Christ came to the whole world from Elsewhere.

Nokise makes traditional Kiwi gatherings (“BBQs, garage parties, pubs”) sound profoundly important by borrowing from Christianity: these are “holy areas” where “sacred songs” are sung, one of the greatest being Slice of Heaven.

If you need Christian language to write profoundly, that’s a reminder that Christianity is profoundly important in New Zealand, despite all the populist derision.

De-Christianising New Zealand #1: a re-colonisation

“Modernising” public holidays – how sensible and benign

Stuff journalist Lana Hart wants to replace the Easter break with a Matariki break in July, and to replace the Queen’s Birthday holiday with Suffrage Day:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/122742166/lets-rearrange-the-holidays-weve-got-to-modernise-our-calendar

She targets Easter and the Queen’s Birthday for demotion because those “holidays celebrate ideas that are no longer meaningful to most Kiwis”.  She doesn’t do a very good job of supporting this claim.  She gives the Christian count as “just over a third of us”, which sounds like a lot to me, the only bigger groups I know of being women, men, and Pākehā.  And she doesn’t give a number for “royalists” at all, perhaps because they too might be a surprisingly big number.

I can see how Suffrage Day would appeal to a lot of people, though it seems to me to be primarily a Pākehā day as it concerns the operation of a “colonial” electoral system.  Conversely, although some Pākehā will adopt Matariki, it is only directly relevant to Māori, a far smaller group than those considered by Hart to be unimportant.

In other words, there is nothing democratic or egalitarian about what Hart is proposing: she just prefers some groups over others.  I mention democracy and egalitarianism because Hart promotes Suffrage Day by saying it is “humming with the Kiwi tunes of egalitarianism, democracy, and innovation”.  I think her focus is really innovation, and she has decided to adorn it with some more solidly important ideas.

(In case it needs to be said, I’m not against innovation.  However, it varies in quality and impact and should be neither opposed nor venerated.  Everything was an innovation once upon a time.)

Promoting Matariki over Easter, Hart says “Matariki is a time to come together with friends and whānau, sharing meals, playing games, and reflecting on the past and future”.  Sounds a bit like Easter to me.

Reasoning this shabby is further evidence of a cultural coup that only grows less interested in analysis and discussion as time passes.

It’s not just about public holidays

The general theme is “Out with the old, in with the new”.  Not all the old, only what gets in the way: for the time being, Māori culture and world view are being promoted to help remove the real difficulties.  And not just anything new, only what the elite has already decided on.

Malcontents have been dissing Christianity and, if I may, “Britishness” (from English literature and classical studies to the monarchy and Guy Fawkes Day) for a long while now.

I believe that de-Christianising New Zealand is an altogether bad idea – partly because I am a Christian who believes Christianity to be true, but also for other reasons.  Like it or not, Christianity is a critical dimension of “who” New Zealand is.  (This claim will require another article.)

When I moved from Melbourne to Wellington in 2015, I knew I was coming to a place that is far more British than Australia, and I never saw it as my role to question or resent this.  As a Christian of the Irish Catholic variety, I am not sensitive about dissing the Brits but, no matter how I “feel” about Britishness (or, the British version of being Western), I know it that it too is integral to New Zealand’s identity.

Hart stumbles across this when she mentions New Zealand’s “colonial roots”.  She says “roots”, but doesn’t take the idea seriously.

If New Zealand is de-Christianised or de-Westernised, this process will uproot New Zealand’s identity – a very destructive process that should not even be considered without wide, deep and long discussion that is not managed by partisan interests.

I am not arguing that being Christian and/or Western is good.  I personally believe it is, but that is not the present point.  I also don’t wish to conflate “Christian” and “Western” just because they arrived here at about the same time.  Christianity is both Western and Eastern, and the West, while deeply Christian, has for some time accommodated other religions and schools of thought that oppose religious belief.

I am only saying that, good or bad, these characteristics are the larger part of New Zealand’s cultural root system and that fact must be taken seriously.

(I realise the other key component of our root system is Māori culture and world view.  Important as this is, it isn’t relevant to this article; and, as a recent arrival, I’m not qualified to say much about it.)

It shouldn’t be necessary to make such a self-evident point but, unfortunately, some New Zealanders are willing to expose New Zealand to the risks involved in uprooting it by erasing most of its identity – and, as we are increasingly aware, replacing that identity with something else of their choosing.

Things are moving fast

Although that “something else” is finally moving into focus, we know it will not be discussed openly and critically; it will just fall on us all like Stephen King’s “Dome”.  Some people are speaking about “decolonising” New Zealand.  What is actually happening is New Zealand is being recolonised – this time by an exclusive and domineering alien ideology that is already deeply entrenched and will not enter a treaty with those who were here before it hit the beach.


Kindness #2: The advocates

In Kindness #1, I argue that telling people just to “Be kind” is both inadequate and potentially dangerous and suggest that one should be wary of the motives of the person doing the telling.  That person is worth considering more closely.

“Be kind”: What do they mean?

A Covid message – or a message on any strained occasion – about kindness should really be “Be kind when kindness is called for. In the present situation of upheaval and uncertainty, kindness may be called for more often than usual or may be more difficult to practise than usual, so please do kindness readily”.

It could be said in defence of the kindness advocates that this is all they mean by “Be kind” – that they are just being succinct instead of long-winded (like me).

Kindness advocates as role models

“Be kind”: do they mean it? 

This claim on their behalf might be believable if the ethos they practise themselves included the range of loving qualities that are necessary for life, and not just kindness.  But it doesn’t: their own moral itinerary is very limited.

I don’t just mean their broadcast itinerary (kindness, empathy, inclusiveness etc), I’m also talking about their behaviour.  Our woke role models routinely behave in a way that is the very opposite of loving.

Some examples:

Love is “not boastful or conceited” (see the quoted passage in Kindness #1): The popular pastime of virtue signalling is pure bragging and moral posturing – a new self-righteousness. The opposite of love, and therefore morally wrong.

Love “does not take offence or store up grievances”: We see the woke taking offence so readily, and even eagerly, that they often exaggerate or even manufacture the offence (untruthful) or presumptuously take offence on behalf of others (untruthful and boastful). And some encourage others to take offence – and to maintain that state of offence – instead of helping them recover from their hurt.  Again, the opposite of love.

Love “does not rejoice in wrongdoing”: For example, we see the woke simplistically and unfairly labelling people according to woke’s priority characteristics – and judging and punishing on this discriminatory basis.  This is wrong, not love.

Love finds “joy in the truth”: Integrity is nowhere to be seen in the new moral order: it is not even mentioned. Instead, we see untruth, selective truth, bias, blatant inconsistency (eg “Believe the science” for some issues, “Ignore the science” for others), conjuring new definitions of familiar words and then relying on the moral force of the old familiar meaning, silencing of those who wish to speak truth and falsely accusing those people of hatred.  This is all dishonest.  It is more wrongdoing, the opposite of love.

As it turns out, woke behaviour even lacks the qualities of nurture, especially kindness.  Examples:

  • the degree of control and muzzling that we see and experience (unkind);
  • the treatment of people who hold “wrong opinions” (unkind);
  • the selective focus of nurture on certain victim groups, and the pointed ignoring of others (unkind to the latter);
  • encouraging victims to maintain a victim mindset – a perverted nurture that further harms the victims;
  • the use of sympathy and blame to divide society, setting groups against each other (unkind to everyone!).

When nurture is called for, its absence or perversion is a failure to love, and is morally wrong.

Another aspect of nurture – patience – also seems to be missing from the woke moral itinerary.  It is clear that the moral and cultural revolution is in a headlong rush, quite willing to ride roughshod over any idea, opinion, person or group that gets in its way.

No, they don’t

All this is the opposite of love, and much of it is even the opposite of kindness.  Indeed, it is seriously, obviously and consistently the opposite of love.

So, what is to be said about the kindness advocates’ incessant urging to “Be kind”?

They don’t mean it (I don’t know how else to interpret their behaviour).  What does this tell us about them?

I should be clearer about who I mean by “they” and “them”.  I don’t mean everyone who urges kindness, because kindness is often exactly what is required.  I don’t even mean everyone who says kindness is all we need because they’ve been trained to believe it and say it.  I mean those who trained them and who lead them from behind – the generals, not the cannon fodder.

Conclusion

Kindness (and nurture generally) is not enough; and, on its own, it’s dangerous.  And the conspicuous and abject failure of its advocates to practise kindness (along with other essential elements of love) reveals their deep insincerity, and should make us very suspicious about their actual agenda.

We’re being conned, and we should think about why that might be.


Kindness #1: A part of love

“Be kind”

During New Zealand’s first Covid lockdown, I lost track of the number of journalists, DJs, Mayors and other commentators and public figures urging us all to be kind to each other.   In the current resurgence, we are again being urged by all and sundry to be kind – just kind – and the cry is now echoed elsewhere such as along Australia’s eastern seaboard. 

Apart from obeying the Covid rules, it seems that kindness is considered by some to be the only behaviour needed to get us through the pandemic (and, I suppose, through whatever else the future may hold). 

We all know how good and important kindness is.  Its value is especially apparent to people who routinely experience its opposite (malice) or even just its absence (indifference).

Receiving a little kindness can make an enormous difference to a day that is otherwise bleak (or worse).  People who are acutely aware of this include people whose work involves frequent interaction with members of the public – such as workers on the retail frontline, who serve a hundred or more people a day, many of whom don’t bestow a civil word or even eye-contact and some of whom are overtly rude.  Even a little kindness can give colour and sweetness to a person’s day.

So, I have nothing to say against kindness: I’m all for it.  However, I do object to urgings that speak of kindness as though it is all we need – because it isn’t, it’s not even close.

Kindness and love

“Kindness” is the short form of “lovingkindness”, which is how it used to be referred to.  This is presumably because kindness is an element of love.  This is an old association that runs deep in our culture: we are all familiar with a passage from the New Testament that begins with “Love is patient and kind” and is commonly used at both church and secular weddings.  The passage reads as follows:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.  It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.  Love never comes to an end.  (1 Cor. 13: 4-8a)

While most familiar at weddings, this passage was not written for married couples.  It was part of a letter written to the early Christian community of Corinth and is concerned with behaviour in the community context.  It fills out “love” in “Love your neighbour …”.

The passage reveals that there is a great deal more to loving your neighbour (and your spouse, of course) than just being kind to them.

For this reason, a narrow focus on kindness will not really help us.

Nurture is not enough

Returning to the above passage, I would say that kindness – and, I suggest, patience and being “ready to make allowances” – represent what might be called the nurturing side of love.  Along with qualities like empathy, compassion, inclusiveness – which the proponents of kindness have also been urging on us for some time as though these qualities were the sum total of morality.

However, nurture is only a part of a viable ethos.

In fact, some of the other ingredients of love are quite unlike kindness and nurture: for example, endurance (plain hard work) and valuing the truth (which can sometimes seem unkind).  All just as necessary as kindness – all just as loving.

These nurturing virtues are the sweets of morality – lovely but not a balanced meal, and certainly not a balanced diet that sustains life or a community. 

Those moral moderns (known as the “woke”, for the time being) who urge only kindness and other sweets don’t appear to have heard of “tough love”; nor the constraint of doing right (eg telling the truth) without always deferring to feelings; nor endurance, which is critical because, after all, serious love is for the long haul.  They seem to prefer the path of least resistance – saying “Yes”, which might seem kind to the person you’re talking to.

In fact, nurture on its own can actually be dangerous.  Our cultural wisdom about “moderation in all things” exists because all good things can be done badly: a person can “have too much of a good thing”.  Our wisdom even warns us that you can “kill with kindness”.  Consider parents who can only say Yes to their child and the disastrous impact this has on the child.  Recall that teachers are increasingly required to indulge students in the same way.  This pampering and indulgence create narcissistic entitlement and unrealistic expectations: today, we see its dysfunctional product all around us.

Too much nurture is bad for you.  Being held too tight can stunt growth.  Some embraces smother.  Love and morality are an adult subject, not an occasion for handing out lollies and putting everyone on a sugar high.

Conclusion

So, while kindness (or nurture generally) is necessary and wonderfully good, it is nowhere near enough.  Love is for all seasons, kindness is for use when kindness is what love requires.  In fact, when love requires something different, kindness can be dangerous. 

Advocating kindness as a complete ethos is such extreme soft-sell that it should make the buyer wary.


Cardinal George Pell’s acquittal: #HimToo

Cardinal George Pell’s recent acquittal in the High Court of Australia hardly made the news here in New Zealand.  On the face of it, this is strange when you consider how much media attention was given to the Royal Commission’s findings over there, the charges laid against Pell, his trial and conviction and the failure of his appeal to the Victorian Court of Appeal (in the Supreme Court of Victoria).  These events were all big news, reported on heavily, even gleefully.

Of course, it’s only strange “on the face of it”: once you take into consideration the deep and heated anti-Christian prejudice in the New Zealand media, the silence about Pell’s acquittal is hardly remarkable.  Perhaps they hoped New Zealanders wouldn’t even know about the acquittal.  Perhaps they’re right.

It’s been more difficult for the Australian media to squash the story, so the focus has been on such petulant nit-picking as, “They didn’t find him innocent”.  Never mind that courts never find people “innocent”.  They don’t need to.  We are presumed innocent until a court says otherwise.  Pell has been returned to that state of presumed innocence, which is the same legal state that you and I occupy.  In the law, that’s as innocent as it gets.

Petulance is the grief response of the bitter and immature.

Pell was hung, drawn and quartered in the Australian media for several years.  Every time a complainant made a statement or gave an interview, there was a frenzy of reporting.  No analysis, though.  No critique.  Just strident repetition.

The public was not given much of an idea about the strength of the case when charges were laid by the police, when the Magistrates’ court referred the matter to trial, when the Office of Public Prosecutions filed its indictment, when the trial judge charged the jury, when the jury gave its verdict, when Pell appealed the verdict or when that appeal failed.  And now we know why.

The recent decision of the High Court of Australia – a joint unanimous judgment of the Full Bench (7 judges) – is the first time the case against Pell has been laid out in all its dubious glory.  The HCA’s conclusion:

“there is a significant possibility in relation to charges one to four that an innocent person has been convicted”.

This seeming understatement is as damning a conclusion as can be reached in the upper echelon of the criminal justice system.

The HCA decision can be read here:

http://eresources.hcourt.gov.au/downloadPdf/2020/HCA/12

Reading the judgment, you know immediately that whatever drove the Police, the OPP, the trial judge and the Victorian Court of Appeal, it was not the evidence.

The Police and the OPP might be forgiven if it were to emerge that the aggressively anti-Christian (sorry, “progressive”) Victorian Government pressured them into laying charges and launching the prosecution.  However, the members of the Victorian Court of Appeal have no such excuse.  The majority should have been above faddish cultural ideology, and they weren’t: they swallowed it whole.

It’s very disturbing to see just how high the rot has risen in the Victorian criminal justice system.  I say “rot” because a weaker word won’t suffice.  The majority of the Victorian Court of Appeal strayed so far from first principles that it is still hard to believe it happened.

The HCA decision reveals that the prosecution, trial and appeal were wrong at the most fundamental level.  Anyone who’s ever worked in prosecution knows that the prosecution has to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt.  We know this means that, if the available interpretations of the evidence include one that is reasonably consistent with innocence – if there is, you might say, a reasonable (not fanciful) possibility of innocence – then acquittal must follow.  And we know this analysis applies to the whole body of evidence, taken together.

Here, the onus was shifted, and not just slightly.  It seems that the majority of the Court of Appeal were so impressed with the demeanour of the primary complainant that they decided to accept his evidence as prima facie true, and then looked at the rest of the evidence critically to assess its impact on that truth.  They concluded that the evidence of the many witnesses who gave evidence of the after-Mass movements of Pell and others on the day in question (the “opportunity witnesses”), although also persuasive, still left a possibility of the complainant’s evidence still being true – a possibility of guilt, in other words.

This completely inverts the proper reasoning.  They decided at the outset to rank the evidence (and the witnesses who gave it), rather than analyse and evaluate the whole body of evidence.

Why would they do such an outlandish thing?  It seems that their methodology was very like “Believe the victim” – let’s say, “Believe the victim if he presents as believable”.  They appear to have been powerfully influenced by the ludicrous “Believe the victim” of #MeToo.  I don’t know how else to explain their wayward reasoning.

Whatever the solution is to the real and significant problems #MeToo has unearthed, “Believe the victim” is not it.  The Victorian Court of Appeal only met #MeToo halfway and still produced a gross injustice.

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