It hasn't really mattered all that much when people of varying degrees of celebrity have come out in support of anti-vaxxers and their steadfast objection to receiving Pfizer's drops of messenger ribonucleic acid. Eric Clapton, Van Morrison – insane in the brain since forever. Liz Gunn – like all newsreaders, not exactly recognised as an avatar of rational thought, or any thought.
But it was gutting to hear social media rumours over Labour Weekend that the league of anti-vax included Sir Dave Dobbyn.
Not DD. Not good ol' Dave, the cosiest armchair in the furniture of New Zealand music. Not the guy who composed and sang "Welcome Home", the best immigration policy in the history of New Zealand politics. When Twitter tried to out him, it was too much to even contemplate that he'd gone over to the dark side – and a massive relief to hear by the end of Labour Weekend that it wasn't true. Not our best minister of immigration, not good ol' Dave, not DD, after all.
He was unequivocal. He declared on Facebook, "I am double vaccinated. I encourage it for everyone." His manager, Lorraine Barry, provided backing harmonies on Twitter, where she wrote, "Sorry anti-vaxxers, you need to take Sir Dave Dobbyn poster off your bedroom wall."
Good one. It brought to an end a nasty little episode, and the only thing that set it off was Dobbyn's defence of people who haven't, for whatever reason, got the jab. As he wrote on Facebook, "I call out the unkindness directed at those who haven't yet taken the step." He was showing mercy or even just plain good manners. That sort of behaviour only ever leads to trouble in our age of shame and blame, our need to tear down and cancel.
Dobbyn initially ran for cover. He shut down his Twitter account. "Good move," announced David Farrier, from way up high on his little Webworm site. "It's kinda painful watching New Zealand heroes go down the vaccine conspiracy route." I don't know who died and made Farrier the Pope of New Zealand journalism but his continually updated register of correct moral conduct can read like one damned papal edict after another.
Dobbyn's twice-jabbed arms refute or at least contradict the accusation that he's gone down the "vaccine conspiracy route". Maybe it's more complicated than that - I guess you can be vaxxed, and still have anti-vax views; certainly it's possible to do one thing and think another – but really it seems that he was only repeating the great mantra of 2020, and asking people to be kind.
Kindness has long been a virtue in Dobbyn's career. As well as a great voice (his former manager, Mike Chunn, once said, rather unfortunately in the circumstances, "I see him like the Van Morrison of New Zealand"), warmth and companionship flow through his amazing songbook. It's there in the we're-all-drunk-together anthem "Bliss", the romantic classics "You Oughta Be In Love" and "Loyal", and the one about God's salvation (probably), "Whaling".
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
It's there in the way he always comes across, a humble guy brought up in a state house in Glen Innes, the third of five children. His brother, Kevin, is a former Marist missionary in Kiribati, now based in the Diocese of Palmerston North.
Dave Dobbyn, too, has his Christian faith, but also his demons. He fell into despair after the 1984 Queen St riots. Dobbyn was accused of inciting the violence. There was a six-month wait till he appeared in court. "I escaped into a world of drugs and alcohol," he said in an interview with Greg Dixon for Metro. "There was a definite sense of abandonment. I've always been afraid of abandonment. That's part of the reason you jump on a stage, to be accepted. It was the deepest kind of abandonment in your hometown to be perceived that way."
He was acquitted of all charges. He should be again, in the great Labour Weekend witch-hunt of 2021. Free the Dave. We are loyal; keep it that way.