The recent ‘convoy’ protest encampment of people outside Parliament and the chaotic confrontation with Police which eventually dispersed the camp has generated some disturbing questions in relation to the social and political landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand. A variety of commentators have attempted to explore the roots of this event and many of us are struggling to develop a coherent analysis. What is it that has made people susceptible to the confused strands of ideology that we saw running riot? It seems clear that an eclectic mix of disaffected individuals and influences coalesced. I have been trying to make sense of all of this myself. I am not there yet, but some of the following is true.
We have protesters camped around Parliament. They say they want freedom. They are not the only ones. But freedom to please yourself regardless of the interests of others in a society structured by privilege and money isn’t any kind of freedom at all: it is merely a recipe for intolerance and injustice. Freedom for Māori to exercise their collective sovereignty and freedom for workers to organise and protect themselves from exploitation are the freedoms we should be focused on as a society. Sadly, I don’t expect to win any arguments with the freedom mob here. However, this post invites readers to think about progressive social change in Aotearoa through a wider lens.
The beauty of (and the trouble with) ideas, particularly dissenting ideas, is that they call for action. I am not referring to the manipulative propaganda of the alternative right when I think of dissenting ideas. Notions of individual sovereign freedom that have no room for the common good or racist propaganda which blames migrants or other minority groups for the social and economic suffering aren’t a form of genuine dissent. Such ideas are merely fuel for reaction – anger or discontent that ultimately reinforces current relations of privilege and which undermines progressive politics as seen in the illusions / delusions of the Trump presidency in the U.S.
A guest post from David Kenkel
What I am aiming to do in this piece is to connect some threads that I don’t see commonly linked and raise some questions about who benefits from the anti-mandate movement and the potential position of social work in managing our current situation.
In this final RSW post for 2021 Neil Ballantyne and Ian Hyslop reflect on the conflicted and generative relationship between social injustice and social work. It has been a difficult year for many. Our old certainties have been challenged as the pandemic has spread suffering globally, particularly, as always, for the poor and dispossessed. The title of this post – “Ka whawhai tonu mātou” (struggle without end) is taken from the title of Ranginui Walker’s classic text. It was the cry that met British soldiers as they invaded Ōrākau Pā in Kihikihi, in 1864: “We will fight on forever”.