Friday, 11 February 2022

Anti-Vaxxer Protesters, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand, February, 2022

Last night I listened to John Minto speaking to Karen Hay on the protests in Wellington on Radio New Zealand (RNZ). I thought Minto was being too kind to the protesters; he said they were products of the last forty years, people who had been betrayed by both National and Labour governments of that forty years. Having said that, I wished he would have unpacked that further because on one level at least, people have been betrayed just as he said. Betrayed by neoliberalism, by the ever-increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, and the poor, as a class in Aotearoa/New Zealand increasingly lack opportunity, and worse, lack hope.

Perhaps the anger at Jacinda even has reason. In that first campaign she promised a transformative government. She promised to get rid of poverty in New Zealand. But more and more people cannot afford rents in this land, more and more are struggling to put food on the table they probably don't even own. We see children without shoes, not attending schools through lack of school lunches or uniforms to wear. Charities are forced to step in. Meantime we see landlords becoming more wealthy. We see supermarkets posting millions in profits. Is it any wonder people are angry, but may lack the education to respond in a sensible manner. Instead, they become fodder for Q'anon and social media conspiracy theories.
Labour could have brought in capitalist gains taxes. They could put ceiling limits on rents. They could enforce the regulations that do exist instead of leaving it up to tenants to report landlords transgressions. They could raise benefit levels to something families might be able to live on, maybe something more akin to what workers got to keep heart and soul together in 2020. They could take important utilities like electricity back into public ownership.
This Labour government headed by Jacinda have been awesome though, through so many crises over their governance, far better than any government we have had since I don't know when. They have held us together as the previous Key government never would have, actually didn't, if you think about the Christchurch earthquakes, and the mess National made of that. But the betrayed, immersed in anger, don't see that. Instead they hear the empty rhetoric of Trump and the like, and they believe in that instead.
I guess that's how it seems to me anyhow.
On our screens we see an amorphous rabble that make no sense to us. They make no sense to me either. I see their great big cars and trucks, and I wonder how they afforded the petrol. Like everyone else I get annoyed by their ignorance and aggressiveness, their entitled behaviour when they demand rights with no apparent idea of responsibility, their horrible videos on YouTube.
And yet, around me, in this suburb of the lowest vaccination rate in Christchurch, I know so many decent people. Nice people. Thirty year olds whose parents became anti-vaxxers in the nineties following that appalling UK doctor who insisted vaccinations made children autistic. To this day their children have had no vaccinations, instead they held kids parties to get their kids immunised "naturally". Only high vaccination rates in this country kept those children safe, but they don't see that. They literally see vaccinating children as child abuse. They were misled, and they misled their children who are now parents themselves. They saw "big pharma", the privatised and apparently uncaring pharmaceutical companies making huge profits, developing drugs for wealthy markets while ignoring the needs of the poor. Again. Neoliberalism. More fodder for social media.
However, I think the people who annoy me the most are the people that probably think they are above the "rabble" but remain unvaccinated for their "individual health". I cannot pretend to understand this mindset, but they appear to be middle class people who have swallowed the neoliberalist rhetoric of of individualism, hook, line, and sinker. They make decisions based upon their own perceived individual good. The concept of looking out for others, of team spirit is over their heads. They think we all have a level playing field. They are also products of the last forty years but unlike the betrayed, they have done well out of neoliberalism.
And okay, while I am on a roll here, let me not forget the whinging business people, especially those of what might well be a fossilised tourist industry. Those ones who throughout the pandemic have wanted borders opened regardless of the sickness and deaths that would have resulted, because they are losing money. Those that have their arms open wide for any handouts from government, while still maintaining beneficiaries as bludgers. In this world where we must reduce emissions to keep the future viability of our species alive, the tourist industry is as exploitative as the coal and oil industries, and the filthy dairy industry.

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