Friday 18 February 2022

Caught In The Crossfire.

Paradigm Shift: Suddenly, a motley crew of lumpenproletarians were being presented as ordinary, decent working-class battlers. Suddenly, their frothing irrationality and anti-social demands were being presented as reasonable propositions – worthy of serious discussion.

IT WAS ONLY a matter of time before the Let-Covid-Rip lobby cottoned-on to the political usefulness of the Freedom Convoy.

Throughout the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic the Government’s policies have come under fire from two very different positions.

The first to draw a bead on the Government’s efforts to protect New Zealanders from the Coronavirus were the business interests most directly affected by the closure of the border and lockdowns.

The Education Industry began squealing almost immediately. Understandably, I suppose, since its business model was predicated on a constant inward flow of full fee-paying overseas students.

Close behind them, and for very similar reasons, was the Tourism Industry. It had benefited hugely from the “hyper-tourism” of the previous ten years. Fuelled by super-cheap airfares, the ever-increasing inflow of foreign visitors had made tourism one of this country’s biggest earners of overseas funds.

Hot on the heels of education and tourism came the hospitality and retail sectors. Without overseas students and tourists, and with their domestic patrons and customers locked down inside their homes, the ongoing viability of many businesses operating in these sectors looked increasingly doubtful.

Nor should we forget the agricultural sector. Many New Zealanders were surprised by their country’s biggest earner’s hitherto unnoticed dependence on foreign workers to keep its farms, orchards and vineyards operating efficiently.

Put all these sectors together, and what you get is a powerful combination of interests constantly in the Government’s ear to open the borders and lift the lockdowns.

Similar lobbies sprang up more-or-less overnight in the UK, the USA and Europe. Their arguments in favour of letting the virus rip in order to build up “herd immunity”, not to mention their claims that the threat of the Coronavirus was being over-hyped, spread swiftly around the world.

Remember the arguments advanced by the promoters of our own “Plan B”?

The second firing position was set up in response to the development and roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines. What had been expected to take years, was achieved in just a few months. Inevitably, given the already deeply entrenched communities of anti-vaccination sentiment here and around the world, shrill voices were soon declaring their absolute refusal to be injected with the new vaccines.

What the Let-Covid-Rip lobbyists hadn’t counted on, however, was the extraordinary success of Jacinda Ardern’s efforts to keep New Zealanders safe from Covid-19. With the overwhelming majority of citizens behind her, and results that spoke for themselves, the Prime Minister felt able to over-rule the business interests which, in so many other countries, had successfully bullied their politicians into opening up too early.

Ardern’s spectacular victory at the polls in 2020 offered further incentive for the Covid-impacted sectors to get along by going along.

For the anti-vaxxers, however, going along wasn’t an option. With the new Delta variant of Covid-19 making 90 percent-plus vaccination rates essential, the Government was required to introduce “No Jab, No Job” vaccination mandates and issue vaccination passes.

For the vaccine hesitant these measures were enough. For the hardcore vaccine resisters, however, the same irrationality which had driven them to refuse inoculation in the first instance, now drove them down social media rabbit-holes and into the arms of an irrationality that was much bigger and more malign.

Just how tightly that irrationality now grips them has been on display in Parliament Grounds for more than a week.

Initially, the Let-Covid-Rip apologists saw only what the rest of the country saw in the “Freedom Convoy” and its illegal encampment – nuts. Like most of us, they assumed the Police would move swiftly to reclaim the streets of Wellington from the protesters’ vehicles, and Parliament Grounds from its inchoate community of conspiracy theorists.

When that didn’t happen, and the public condemned the Government’s evident ineffectuality. When the absurdist interventions of Speaker Mallard caused people to wonder whether there were any adults at all left in the Government’s room. That was the moment when it began to dawn on the Let-Covid-Rip lobby that the longer this folly went on, the weaker Ardern’s Government would become.

Suddenly, a motley crew of lumpenproletarians were being presented as ordinary, decent working-class battlers. Suddenly, their frothing irrationality and anti-social demands were being presented as reasonable propositions – worthy of serious discussion.

Caught in their enemies’ deadly crossfire, our embattled Government turns in desperation towards the Police.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 18 February 2022.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Some of those in the business community don't give much of a shit about their workers getting sick. Someone I was in a room with a while ago underwent a covid test, and my wife who works in the tertiary sector instantly began working from home – no problem. My son who lives with us was told that he was expected at work, even though he is lucky enough to be able to work from home. A close relative of someone else at his work has tested positive, so will he now be allowed to work from home? Don't know yet.
And I'm a little pissed off at the police for treating these people with kid gloves considering how anti-Vietnam war and particularly anti-Apartheid demonstrators were treated in the past. And I guarantee that many of the conservative commentators here would have been cheering on the red squad – but now apparently this group of disunited, irrational lunatics are to be listened to not dispersed.

greywarbler said...

There was another way of dealing with the protesters - give them their day or two in public, tell them at the first that their time was limited and that the government was not interested in their representations of their cowardly inability to cope with vaccinations for their own and the good of their children, family and the wider public and business.

Putting it in that way would have made it clear what government's feelings were.
Second - ask them to put their problems to the government in A4 page explanations that were coherent. and a budget for manpower (theirs?), and time for their imagined implementation. They had to do this within two days. Give names for contact and phone numbers.

On the third day, advise them that time was up, thank them for making the effort to come to Wellington and meet, and advise that farewell-mostly-NZ music would be played so all could finish on a good note!

A serious but light-handed approach with boundaries. The music would have been pleasant and final. And many would have gone home.

But some would be having difficulty. They could call an 0800 number and advise why they couldn't leave, and how they could be helped. They might need money for petrol, a tow to outside the city etc., these being the sort of people to throw themselves into the fray and think afterwards.

The ones left would be the hard-line and they would be warned of difficulties if they did not move. They might deliberately dismantle their vehicles etc. But there would be less of them to deal with. They might have children, who would be treated carefully, as possibly having been psyched to think 'authority bad and reaction good'. There would be hard-luck stories so good for police to present a Disturbance Diary on Radionz each day advising what they had done and giving stats. Similar to Covid report on Radionz.

boudicca said...

Whatever it takes to get Jacinda and co out of the Beehive - I'm for it Chris. Yes there are a few nutjobs amongst the mob, and the police should be removing the dangerous ones, leaving the rest who have genuine grievances. I'm triple vaxxed now, but as the vax has been shown to offer little protection against Omcicron, it is time for mandates to end and for us to take responsibility for our own health. I will still be masking, distancing and QR scanning until I feel it is safe to give up those precautions. I don't need the government telling me

Kit Slater said...

I decided the best view of the protest was from the windows of Bellamy’s restaurant, where I was treated like royalty as their sole lunch guest. (It gets my unreserved recommendation for food and service, by the way, though the coffee was past its use-by date, and the security to get in makes airports look lax.) It’s anecdotal, sure, but the median age of protestors was around mid-30s, and there was no noticeable sex imbalance. Notably, I saw no Asians – Indians, Chinese or Middle Easterners – busy working, perhaps, or just too damn smart. So, predominantly Pakehas with a disproportionate number of Maoris, easily 25%. I was the only masked man around but got no aggro at all. The seemingly natural and spontaneous evolution of festival-style organisation was impressive, and the atmosphere was friendly and cooperative. At this stage I can’t see it petering out.

Christians will say love is the most important virtue in society, but to my way of thinking, ‘trust’ has greater value, and it seems its absence at the protest was what everyone was sharing. They had taken a stand against vaccination but weren’t prepared to accept the consequences, instead, they held the government responsible for their own predicament – classic blame-shifting. Still, governmental capitulation to protesters’ demands would be the worst of all outcomes, so it’s interesting to consider how civil disobedience of this sort, opposed in vain by the authorities, will develop on future occasions. Civil war by other means?

The Barron said...

I hope someone in the future can do a study of the NZ Police leadership, how Coster and Cahill believe it is better for large numbers of the force and membership to be exposed to illness, and possible permanent disability through Long Covid while avoiding doing their job, than risk limited chance of injury actually doing their job.

I hope the rank and file of the Police withdraw any confidence in leadership abdicating responsibility for their health and well-being, and take the appropriate legal action against the Commissioner and Association when exposed to the virus due to prolonged passively standing in front of the unvaccinated, unmasked mob.

sumsuch said...

They signify the freemarket nondelivery. If the Left can't allow the expression of that it comes out in this anti-rational fascism.

It is good fun how all their individual facts are wrong but the FACT of their expression is entirely right.

Criticism thus is useless. Social democracy is the only response.