Some protests define nations
Protests and civil unrest were a feature of my youth. Most notably, I marched the streets of Wellington in the 1981 Springbok Tour riots wearing the all-important accessory of a motorcycle helmet. Near Parliament grounds in Molesworth Street, we were beaten and bloodied while our Prime Minister was in London attending the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.
At a test match held at Wellington’s Athletic Park a couple of months later, for one night, we blocked the motorway exits into the city as well as road and pedestrian access to the park.
Nearly 1% of our adult population marched in protest of apartheid and racism between July and September 1981. It stimulated debate about New Zealand’s own racism and the place of Māori. It was a ‘coming of age’ moment in time.
Others achieve little but help us let off steam in a peaceful way about something that scares us
Another notable protest in my youth was at the women’s peace camp at the Greenham Common base in Britain, housing American nuclear weapons. In December 1982, 30,000 women joined hands around the base at the Embrace the Base event.
My favourite media memory from that time is an article dismissing our message because we were, apparently, “lentil-eating lesbians”.
The last missiles left Greenham Common in 1991 because of a Treaty signed between the Soviet Union and American, designed to facilitate de-escalation. The peace camp remained at the base all that time but is unlikely to have had any influence on the achievement of the international Treaty.
The women who stayed at Greenham Common all that time, however, were peaceful. They were passionate about having a voice that promoted a positive future for their children and grandchildren, like climate change activists today.
Other protests are counter-intuitive and counter-productive
In the Middle Ages, it is estimated that up to 200 million people were killed by the plague. That disease is thought to have originated in East Asia, then carried across Western Asia, Europe, and Africa by fleas on the backs of rats. Once humans were infected, it spread person-to-person as a type of pneumonia and, in some cases, a type of blood poisoning.
Protests were common. Many people - probably most people in those unscientific times - lashed out at powers they could not understand.
Wellington’s Molesworth Street is once again the site of protests.
As in the Middle Ages, this so-called anti-vaccine mandate protest is merely a mingling of conspiracy theorists, thugs, and people who lack the power of rational reasoning and comprehension.
But there aren’t many of them. New Zealand has an adult population of 4 million now, which means that we’d need to see 40,000 people protesting (whether in Wellington or across the country) to achieve a 1% turnout.
There are not that many people protesting: there is only a small handful of the most disenfranchised and anti-social that can be found in all societies.
Some are sad and some are scary thugs who say and do horrible things. Many are unlikely to be able to earn an income, so the vaccine mandate is probably irrelevant. Most will have difficulties with comprehension, reading, and analysis.
They have nowhere else to be, nothing else to do, and no one to do it with. But they are having their day in the sun holding the rest of New Zealand to ransom.
Let’s not be held to ransom. Let the media not bother to cover their protests on the news anymore - they are not news! Let’s shut down the social media accounts they use to spread messages of misinformation, hatred, violence, and abuse. Let’s shut off their welfare benefits because, clearly, they are not looking for work if they are sitting in a tent in the grounds of Parliament – and looking for work is a requirement for receiving some benefits.
Let’s turn our faces away from them and refuse to engage with people who remain in the Middle Ages.