I’m going to apologise in advance for this – I promised myself that I wasn’t going to write two boring-as-hell politics-are-important essays in a row. Sometimes things just don’t happen the way you want them to. Next week I promise you’ll get something different.
The last couple of weeks have been like a really weird series of stress tests in regards to New Zealand’s wider political fabric.
I think it’s not unreasonable to say that one of the distinguishing features of New Zealand’s political climate at the moment is how relatively not-toxic it is. That’s not to say that engaging with our political sphere isn’t inherently exhausting (it absolutely is). Just that when compared
But rather, it feels like we’re really one of a very short list of countries in the world right now that isn’t struggling with growing extremism and political division.
Now, one might reasonably wonder exactly why that is. And there are lots of different answers that one might give.
The argument that is probably most appealing to a lot of people is that there’s just something about New Zealand that protects us from this kind of behaviour, that we have some kind of cultural vaccine against bastardness. It’s certainly true sense of progressiveness and tolerance is more or less a core part of our national identity at this point – although it’s arguable the extent to which that’s actually reflected in the reality.
In many ways, our collective reaction to Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern’s visit last week indicates that it is something inherent about us.
Molyneux and Southern’s shtick ultimately relies on the general public being more willing to believe that they’re the victim than they are to listen to groups who are hurt by the things that they do and say.
But it isn’t good enough to just assume that it’s a character-base thing. it might just be that we’re small, and that the stakes aren’t high enough for people to really want to rip this country apart over their hatred for their political opponents.
It might be that our relative isolation has basically cut us off from a lot of these issues – a lot of the most contentious debate, globally speaking, seems to be rooted in a fear of a massive influx of migrants.
You can also argue that our relative prosperity – and, in particular, the fact that we, as a country, managed to collectively avoid the worst of the Global Financial Crisis – has worked as a form of social insulation.
And it’s probably actually a combination of culture and all those other factors, right? Which means that we really need to be on the lookout for forces that might overcome those defences and transform our culture into something much uglier.
In the meantime, we really should spend more time being proud of what our country has been able to achieve. We’re the only country to successfully shut down a Molyneux and Southern event – which I think says pretty good things about who we collectively are.