More than Covid at play for the freedom army
OPINION: Poor old ‘‘Freedom.’’ It used to be an inspiring word. Nowadays, it has become a catch cry of surly resentment for people who think the vaccine mandates were devised solely to make their own lives more difficult.
Newsflash: vaccine mandates apply to everyone and most of the public support them.
Like the road code and the provisions in the Crimes Act, the mandates have had bad consequences only for people who chose not to abide by them. Their choice, and their consequences. Freedom
But no, the Freedom Convoy parked on the parliamentary lawn has demanded that everyone else has to live less safely, to satisfy its preferences.
Its members demand the scrapping of the mandates, even though – arguably – many of them are alive today only because of New Zealand’s strongly proactive response to the pandemic. Covid may not be the only issue here, though.
The Freedom Convoy contains quite a few fellow travellers who simply don’t like the government, any government, telling them what to do.
Judging by their social media commentary, they especially do not like being told what to do by a government led by a relatively young woman.
This strain of misogyny links the Freedom Convoy to groups beyond the wilfully unvaccinated. A similar sense of persecution is rife among other groups demanding liberation from the shackles of state regulation.
As Aussie journalist Bernard Keane recently pointed out, the same calls for ‘‘Freedom!’’ are being expressed by a group of people who tend to be relatively privileged, white and male.
These people have convinced themselves (and some of their peers) that they are the victims of a progressive agenda hellbent on their displacement.
This perceived upheaval in the natural order is seen to be accruing to the advantage of ‘‘minorities’’ who – as Keane says – actually comprise most of the population, in that they include women, people of colour, LGBTIQ people, and people with disabilities.
There’s a political dimension to this, of course. Every society has ingrained imbalances in wealth and opportunity. Yet in New Zealand, those structures have not been created by a cabal of feminists and left-wing academics who have somehow bent society to their will. Far from it.
The power held by the relatively few women in high office and by lefty academics is actually vanishingly small, but they serve as handy scapegoats. As a consequence, a lot of energy is currently being wasted over the alleged perils of New Zealand’s proposed hate speech legislation and over the revision of its history curriculum. Not to mention the existential fears about teaching kids about the legacies of colonisation, and about an imaginary feminist crusade against men and all their works.
It used to be the Centre-Left that railed against Big Government. Now the Centre-Right seems the natural home for a conspiracy-minded bloc of white blokes. Far from being silenced, many of them appear to have relatively easy access to media platforms to complain about their lot.
Supposedly, they are being victimised by a conspiracy between Jacinda Ardern, political correctness and radical feminism. Finding a path to freedom from such a world view will be no easy matter.*