With the election season well under way, the stakes and emotions are rising as the dreaded date gets closer. It's also a time when people retreat further into their political tribes and social media enclaves, where only the bravest of souls will venture with a dissenting opinion.
And there is one method of attack of people's opinions that is really starting to rankle with me. It's the ad hominem attack. A bit of name calling to emphasise a point, or perhaps the entire basis of an argument. We saw Kelvin Davis use his first opportunity on TVNZ's Q+A as Labour's deputy leader to indulge himself in this way and have a crack at his opponents. It didn't work. Probably the only person he demeaned was himself.
Personally, I've pretty much had a gutsful with arguments and ad hominem attacks that treat an opinion as less valid because the person expressing it happens to be... a white male. Yes, folks, run screaming into the hills right now. But, I have read stories, opinion pieces and countless social media posts criticising people's ideas, where this argument raises its head solely as a means of discrediting someone's point of view.
My recent experience of this was in relation to an opinion I wrote about Metiria Turei. In my case, criticism it seemed to be based on an assumption that as a white male, I apparently come from a position of privilege and so can't possibly relate to the plight of someone like Turei. So I was therefore not sufficiently qualified to have an opinion.
This outlook is not only short-sighted but a potent combination of sexism and racism. And in the case of the latter, not in the way that you might think.
Firstly, on the question of gender, while I can't speak for everyone, I want to point out the bleeding obvious. There isn't a secret club (at least not that I am a member of) where all white males get together to plot the downfall and subjugation of anyone who doesn't resemble us.
Like most men, in addition to many close female friendships over the years, my wife and my mum, I have two wonderful young daughters for whom I want the very best in life. I want them to have the benefit of every opportunity that comes their way, without any inhibition to their ambitions or dreams because, well, I am on their side, I'm invested in their success and in a country where we can all express our views and seize opportunities regardless of which demographic we are squeezed into.
Secondly, there is something particularly odious about the suggestion that the colour of your skin disqualifies your right to have an opinion on certain issues in New Zealand. In seeking to defend Turei, for instance, one writer made the point that the white male enjoys among other things "a wide network of social and family connections and support".
This is in my view a shameful generalisation. At its worst it arguably implies that other ethnicities, largely, do not enjoy such benefits.
In Rotorua where I grew up, of the schools I attended, it wouldn't be a stretch to say Pakeha were in the minority. I would hazard a guess that many of my Maori and Pacific Island teammates and school friends would consider themselves and their families poorly portrayed by such a patronising and generalised depiction of their own family values and support networks. It's also dismissive of people who have struggled and yet don't fit into that politically expedient definition of who should or shouldn't be listened to.
I don't think we live in a New Zealand where we live in such clearly defined and segregated groups. So, if you have an argument you want to win, how about doing it on the issue and not disqualifying an opinion based on some crude and tiresome stereotype of the person you disagree with. Because regardless of the issue, there is likely someone who strongly resembles your opponent, and is in fact, on your side.
Tim Beveridge is a radio host on Newstalk ZB.