If you are outside New Zealand you may be unaware that we have a fairly large group of protesters camped on our Parliamentary grounds. They have been there for about 5 days now.
Like many Kiwis, I remained pretty sceptical about the protester’s motives and relied on the media to help me understand what was happening, why and who was involved.
The media showed lots of footage of tents, sodden protestors dancing and waving placards (yes it has been raining there for the last two days and today a tropical cyclone is dumping an ocean of water on us), Police arresting people (there is even a “live stream” camera set up on an adjacent building so we can watch this in glorious live time) and occasional interviews.
From this very limited source of information, I have managed to work out a few details that are close to the facts that I can find.
The protests are directed at the Government, the wider group of politicians who work in Parliament and the media.
The protests seem to encompass a melting pot of views covering issues such as vaccine mandates, censorship, the right for citizens to choose whether they should have a vaccine put into their body and that right to be upheld without discrimination, as well as political views on proposed water infrastructure reform, the use of poison to kill opossums, the freedom for citizens to assemble and hear from their elected representatives, as well as a number of other issues that seem to appear on the odd placard.
When the protestors arrived at Parliament, like many Kiwis, I considered that they had the right to go there, protest and be heard. However as one day dragged into several days and things started to get pretty heated with arrests, scuffles and the establishment of a tent city, a Mexican stand off has developed.
For the last two days, the heavens have opened up on the protestors and the wall of Police they face. The Speaker of the House ordered that the lawn sprinklers be turned on, and then ordered that Barry Manilow music be played at a loud level to force the protestors to leave.
Yes you read it right…. Barry Manilow music. I feel for any Barry fans out there because surely his music shouldn’t be used that way. I would personally go for some 80’s heavy metal, Boney M or the Wiggles but hey Im not making the choice. Besides the Police and all the surrounding residents have to listen to it as well.
I had kind of decided that these folk were extreme, obviously unemployed as they could camp there for a week, and represented a fringe of society. It also seemed that they had worn out their welcome.
But driving back in the car yesterday, my wife started to read out the “list” of issues and positions that these people were espousing. As she read through this pretty long list, I found myself saying “Hey actually I agree with that point”, and “No I don’t agree with that but see what they mean”.
My reaction to the list was “I think everyone would find some points in that list that they would agree with”.
So what is this telling me?
Firstly the right to protest is sacrosanct and generations before us have died to preserve that. It should be maintained at all cost.
Secondly, the right to march to Parliament peacefully, to have a point of view and to be heard by their elected officials is also sacrosanct.
Thirdly, nothing you are told through media is 100% correct. In fact it is simply the views of the reporting journalists, their editors and the owners of the media outlets. If you trust all of them completely then you are a bigger mug than all of us.
Fourthly, whilst I do not agree with all the points these people have, I do not disagree with them all too and this is because the issues they are chanting about are far too complex to be judged individually. They concern broad issues about freedom of expression, the right to choose certain things and how the majority of community and society deal with that, and finally and most importantly, the right to be heard.
This last point is the one I am starting to become concerned about. Where are the politicians (of any ilk) that should be at least fronting up to this ? Why do they hide behind our Police force, barricades and Barry Manilow (wow that is a weird thing to do). Why are they not accepting that they are accountable instead of disappearing and remaining silent? That isn’t what I voted for my political representative to do? I voted (and pay) for them to meet my fellow Kiwis who are sitting out in the rain, and to hear what they have to say.
Taking my personal views on the myriad of issues that these folk have out of the equation, I am starting to get angry at those in power, those who claim to know best and accept the salaries we all pay them, to do a job.
Front up you bunch of spineless politicians. If any of you would have bothered to come down and hear these protesters on day one (and obviously copped some abuse in the process), maybe all this could have been avoided.