December 15, 2021

There is no division in New Zealand

The same people pushing social division, deny it’s a thing

Protester faces police at rally against covid restrictions and jab mandates, Wellington, November 9 2021.

The current media and Government line about the social division caused by vaccine mandates and certificates is that it’s over-hyped and not really true.

They say that because around 90 per cent of Kiwis are now vaccinated, we can assume there is a broad and unusually rare consensus on the necessity for the measures. Both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson are on the record for this.

But with at least 40 per cent of the work force under mandatory vaccination orders imposed by the Government and increasing numbers of private businesses implementing their own mandates, it’s clear a very large number of people have been vaccinated in order to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Commentators argue, as if trying to convince themselves, that talk of Government policies rending the social fabric in two (see here & here) is greatly exaggerated, and offer up dubious numbers to prove their point.

This from Newsroom political reporter Marc Daalder on twitter last month:

“Even the largest anti-vax Telegram channels have only about 10,000 members. Even if they were all actually from NZ (many aren’t), that’s still just 0.2% of the population….

“They couldn’t fill even half of Eden Park….”

RNZ’s The Hui presenter Mihingarangi Forbes also tweeted last month (these numbers are out of date now), “73% of Māori and 88% of all NZers have had at least one vaccination. Helpful to remember when some are convinced it’s dividing the country.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on 6 November, speaking to Newshub political editor Tova O’Brien that, “Actually the group of people that are strongly anti-vaccination, remains relatively small. But as you can see, they can be quite vocal.”

Lobbyist and former advisor to Jacinda Ardern, Neale Jones, who has repeatedly used the term ‘extremist’ to refer to people who don’t want to take the jab, also denied a social split was taking place, after TVNZ political editor Jessica Much McKay wrote a piece arguing protestors and hecklers had shifted the political mood.

“A small handful of deranged extremists protesting against vaccination, which ~90% of the population has done, doesn’t reflect a shift in the public mood. If there is a shift, it won’t be this.”

By this view, the roughly 20,000 strong cohort of protestors at parliament on 9 November were ‘extremists’, not ordinary citizens who have deep concerns about the safety of a new drug, and the loss of their rights, incomes and freedom of movement. No, they are adjacent to people who undertake ritual beheadings, mass stabbings and bombings, according to Jones.

You can now scapegoat and dehumanise people with impunity, who for whatever reason have chosen not to take the jab, then turn around and say ‘there is no division in New Zealand’.

This is news to the tens of thousands of people now out of a job, at risk of losing their assets and unable to get a haircut or even sit in a cafe and drink a cup of coffee because of the Ardern’s covid policies.

The media has increased the division by not representing their views and joined in the name-calling and bullying by mischaracterising the unjabbed as ‘anti-vax’ and all protesters as ‘right-wing conspiracy theorists’.

An upset worker @thistooisagift, posted on 14 December:

“Cleaned out my office this evening. Working from home until they fire me I guess … just a question of how long they will allow it before I’m gone. Decades of service, bloody hard work, and being a top performer. Feel so angry and sad, but mostly betrayed. Fuck NZ.”

You can see hundreds of such posts on Twitter.

It seems apt to recall an iconic Kiwi post punk classic here – Blam Blam Blam’s There is No Depression in New Zealand, 30 years on.

The 1981 song was adopted as an alternative national anthem by some due to its satirical take on the socioeconomic and political vibes of the day – high unemployment, industrial disputes, and disaffection with the Muldoon government, as well as a country divided by the upcoming Springbok rugby tour.

About writing the lyrics, Richard von Sturmer told the Sunday Magazine in 2015: “It was a reaction to the really grey, repressive Muldoon years. I wasn’t prompted by a single event; it was more the general atmosphere … It’s an ironic song.”

“Grey and repressive” feels familiar. It’s arguable that the country hasn’t since experienced a period of such high tension until now, with the possible exception of the 2004 hīkoi against the proposed foreshore and seabed legislation.

Speaking to people out and about, the festive season isn’t feeling that festive, and anecdotally nearly everyone you speak to, no matter which side of the ‘divide’ they fall on, is experiencing mental health issues, from anxiety to depression to panic attacks.

Still, many people are holding out and refusing to get jabbed. As of 14 December, 21% of the total population has not been injected at all and 24% have not yet had a second dose. And while that includes children who are not yet eligible, it’s hardly a tiny minority.

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