The "wellbeing" Budget posed an interesting question: How does one measure a country's health? One way might be to measure neo-Nazis per capita.
As useful as such a measure might be, we don't have it. In fact, measuring the degree and depth of white supremacy in New Zealand is difficult and becoming harder.
Given this, it's easy to understate the problem or overstate it. Neither gets us far toward wellbeing.
In the past, the job of identifying white supremacists was rather easy; they stomped around in Dr Martens boots, with shaved heads and braces. The genesis of this trend was 1970s Britain. Many of those early skinheads were not overtly racist, though; they were simply a part of a working-class subculture.
That changed. By the 1990s skinhead gangs were decidedly racist and in New Zealand they had an obvious presence, most notably in South Island towns and cities.
In the early 1990s, the economy hit its lowest ebb in modern times, and hardship began to bite deep into Pākehā poor. Skinheads served the same function that Black Power and the Mongrel Mob did for disenfranchised Maori. But the skins struck out at those they felt were to blame. Asian immigration at that time gave the skins an ill-considered focus for their often very real issues.
So there they were, marching around. "Oi! Oi! Oi!" We could see them and the police could police them. But despite the street presence of these gangs all but disappearing in the 2000s, things have not necessarily changed for the better.
When the atrocity of March 15 occurred, I was with my colleague at Independent Research Solutions, Ben Elley. He's been studying the alt-right — the new neo-Nazis — for some time. But on that afternoon, in the dark and heavy atmosphere of our locked-down offices, I become necessarily more interested.
Today's neo-Nazis are not a bunch of society's flotsam hanging out on street corners, sneering at outsiders. They have a veneer of respectability.
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Modern white supremacists are just as angry, but they express it differently — mostly because they come from a different part of society. Whereas skinheads largely were working-class dropouts, the alt-right is more likely to be lower middle-class and have a formal education. They see themselves as more intellectual than earlier incarnations of the far-right, dressing up antiquated ideas and bogus racial science as though scholarly fact.
While young white men face fewer disadvantages than most of their peers, in many ways they are part of a generation worse off than that which came before, and one that faces environmental uncertainty and a swiftly changing social order.
The future looks unlikely to meet the expectations of many and yet they are told they are "privileged". Suddenly minority voices are to blame for their situation. These views are exacerbated and incubated online. The street corner has been superseded by the world wide web. Old flats adorned with swastikas have made way for websites such as 4chan and 8chan.
The issues facing society are complex and difficult to respond to, but the far-right world is simple and uncomplicated. It tells people who their enemies are, and makes them feel like heroes for hating them. Some join groups in real life, congregating around themes of exercise or survival skills, but most stay online and are wary of revealing their views in public, knowing the reaction they get will often not be kind.
While it means those with extreme views are off the street, it also makes it nearly impossible to monitor or police them — let alone work to prevent such ideas spreading.
We really only see the alt-right when they make vicious attacks — often anonymous — online at liberal politicians, feminists, and journalists who they see as peddling "fake news". Because left-wing politicians, radical feminism and news reporting are obviously open to critique, even when delivered viciously it's difficult to tell if someone is a regular moron, a provocateur or something more sinister. The tick ... tick ... tick of tragedy.
Clearly, the white supremacy issue is different to the one New Zealand faced in the 1990s, but whether it's bigger or smaller is simply unknown. More than that, changing people who don't feel that they need help — who are, in fact, dedicated to their position — is virtually impossible.
The Budget focused heavily on mental health, an important issue, but in large part the solutions to those problems are well established. The same cannot be said for the deep complexities that produce racial extremism.
• Dr Jarrod Gilbert is a sociologist at the University of Canterbury.