27 February 2014
The tactic is not new. It is as old as humanity, and has been tried many times before, sometimes with monstrous and chilling effect.
It is consistently roundly condemned and reviled as unacceptable in a civilised society, yet it persistently rears its head from time to time, and no matter the moral outrage it engenders, finds a small, but dogged, audience to lap it up.
No, I am not referring to the shadowy and dubious tactics of intelligence services, although, heaven knows, they deserve opprobrium, but to the even more sinister practice of isolating one group in the community – invariably migrants – and blaming all society’s ills upon them.
In New Zealand, this despicable space has been consistently occupied by small, ultra-right wing white supremacist groups that have been around the political fringes for some time. While they have had no influence whatsoever, their cause is given a cloak of dubious respectability every time New Zealand First launches an attack on migrant communities. Divisive and racist, the moves are no more than cynical political tactics designed to appeal to fears and uncertainties for short-term gain. But their impact goes far beyond that. Racial intolerance is given a veneer of credibility because of the way it is treated by an established political party, and many people who have come to this country, both seeking to contribute their skills and enjoy a better standard of living for themselves and their families are denigrated and stigmatised as a consequence.
The mainstream reaction has been sadly too effete. Liberal opinion, while deeply offended, has opted for silence, lest it give the cause too much oxygen. Conservatives have similarly preferred to let the sleeping dog lie, lest they be forced to confront it directly. And so, the cancer spreads quietly and perniciously.
It is time to stop letting things just slip by.
My view is that New Zealand’s future rests on the opportunity the mix of cultures we have today gives us to become one of the world’s truly harmonious multi-ethnic societies. Our Māori and Pacific heritage, the strong background of European migration, and the more recent influx of new migrants from Asia and Africa provide that near unique opportunity for us. This is what we should be celebrating and embracing, rather than resisting and resiling from. This generation has the chance to shape the destiny of the New Zealanders of the future, perhaps like no other. It is the opportunity to develop a people as at home in the worlds of Māori and Pasifika, and Africa and Asia, as they are with more traditional European roots.
Promoting this positive vision for our future, and standing up the racists, will be a key part of UnitedFuture’s campaign this year.