PAT PILCHER interrupts normal Witchdoctor service to point out some sobering truths.
Just weeks after the horrific massacre at two Christchurch mosques where 50 people were gunned down, New Zealand is again facing the same hatred and bigotry that was behind the shootings, and which shook New Zealand as a nation to its very core.
After the shootings social media rang loudly with cries of, “this is not who we are!” Three weeks later, I’m now beginning to wonder if it IS in fact who we are, as a small but vocal minority of New Zealanders continue to behave appallingly and get away with it.
“The sad reality is that bigotry and hatred is still popping up throughout New Zealand”
Many – myself included – hoped that after the shootings hate would be met with compassion and empathy. The sad reality is that bigotry and hatred is still popping up throughout New Zealand and sweet bugger all is being done about it.
A case in point was the ugly situation that developed just two weeks after the shootings when the Titahi Bay RSA announced they would allow a Muslim cleric to conduct prayers as part of ANZAC ceremonies as a way of remembering those who had been murdered.
These plans were ultimately dropped due to security concerns arising out of what RSA employees told media were threats made to the RSA. Some of these threats were so severe that the RSA consulted with both police and members of the Muslim community.
That Turkey (whose population is largely Muslim) has hosted Kiwis and Aussies for decades and tolerated non-Muslim ceremonies, as part of ANZAC memorial services seems to be largely beside the point. That large numbers of Muslim soldiers fought alongside the Allies in WW2 also seems to have escaped the attention of whoever the idiots were that made the threats to the RSA.
“Yet here we are, letting the same sort of hateful nonsense happen again”
As a nation, we wrung our hands and expressed sorrow and outrage at the shootings, yet here we are, letting the same sort of hateful nonsense happen again. I can already hear readers sighing, saying, “that’s just one isolated example”. Well, guess what! There’s more – so much more.
A week after the shootings, a 15-year-old Muslim girl in Christchurch was refused entry onto a bus, which drove off, leaving her to find her own way home. A man wearing a Trump t-Shirt stood next to police and yelled abuse at people entering one of the Christchurch Mosques, kicking memorial items left to remember those killed as he departed. In Auckland, a couple confronted a man delivering offensive ‘One Treaty, One Nation’ pamphlets. And there are many more such stories.
It isn’t all bad though. The bus company reviewed security footage and found the complaint that the driver had closed the doors on the Muslim girl was justified. They also confirmed that the driver is undergoing a disciplinary process. The following day, the Trump t-shirt wearer was eventually arrested for disorderly conduct. In the Auckland case, the pamphleteer was chased out of the street by a woman who yelled, “Stay out of our neighbourhood, asshole!” Good job!
Sadly, the news is not so flash with the Titahi Bay RSA. The bigots who made the threats are still at large and are unlikely to ever face charges. Perhaps the RSA could publicly name and shame them to provide an incentive for others to think twice before sharing their bigotry publicly.
In the aftermath of the attack, “this is not us” was a common refrain. Sadly, it appears that bigotry does indeed appear to be us, as hatred and intolerance has repeatedly been demonstrated to be an inherent part of New Zealand’s culture. Perhaps we need to focus on what we need to be by facing this irrational hatred and ignorance with zero tolerance.
Hate speech, racism and anti-discrimination laws need to be given sharper teeth, and above all, enforced without exception. Most importantly of all, individuals need to step up. Apathy is no longer acceptable, and we all need to be accountable, not just to our own conscience but to the future welfare of all New Zealanders if we are to beat hate into submission. If this means calling people out on racism and other forms of hatred, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable, so be it.