Watching the protest march in Wellington recently made me sad.
Our right to protest is enshrined in our open and safe culture.
Remember back over the years where protest led to positive changes in New Zealand. I remember the protests about Vietnam, apartheid, abortion, nuclear issues, homosexual law reform and many other causes.
These protests led to a more just and fairer society.
They were, in their individual ways, noble causes where people who cared and were brave enough stood up for what they believed in, often at some personal cost. I have always quietly admired activists if not agreeing with all their causes.
They are brave and will put themselves out there, be different. I have never protested about anything really, well not openly. Not my style.
I was sad because I was trying to find the nobility in the cause the hodge-podge of groups gathered together seemed to be protesting about. I get that they were protesting basically about freedom of choice. Normally a very important freedom and one worth defending.
But their cause was, in my view, about the freedom of choice to be selfish.
When nearly 90 per cent of New Zealanders, maybe by the time you are reading this a figure that has been achieved in many parts of New Zealand, undertake an unwritten contract with the country and with each other to keep each other safe it is hard to accept that some people regard their own right to become infected with Covid-19 and to blithely infect others, especially the vulnerable very young, as anything noble.
In my opinion, it is utter selfishness. If they get sick, and many will as Covid is about to start a national tour, they will gladly accept any treatment going, possibly stopping or delaying treatment of others for other deadly diseases due to the limitations of our hospital system.
Most of us have taken the vaccine, not because we wanted to, we needed to. We saw that this was a way to firstly protect ourselves but also our loved ones and community.
Many of those protesting at Parliament were probably not alive in the 1950s and 1960s when much of the population faced years of vaccinations to stamp out terrible diseases that took or shortened lives. Diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles, polio to name a few.
In my childhood, people caught mumps, measles, whooping cough and chicken pox as vaccines had not yet been developed for them. Some got very sick, some died. Most survived but then achieved a natural immunity.
Most of these diseases have disappeared since, but I can personally attest to the misery of suffering them as many older New Zealanders can. Scars from chicken pox can still be seen on the faces of some older people. Children died.
Eavesdropping on parents we would learn of why there was a sadness in our community. We were mostly too young to understand.
Lining up as 5 and 6-year-olds at school, firstly for that horrible polio injection with the old glass syringe with a needle that seemed like a nail. Yes, it hurt, it made some cry, but it stopped us getting polio.
A few years later another polio vaccine was required, this one we drank out of tiny paper cups.
Now, thankfully vaccines are available to stop some of these terrible diseases. A few have, due to diligence and decent vaccination programmes, actually disappeared totally thankfully.
From what I could gather listening to some of the interviews most of these people just do not like being told what to do. That's fine, not necessarily a bad trait in my book, but I believe it is a trait that has to be tempered with compassion and common sense, qualities that in my view seemed to be lacking in these individuals.
Yes, you have a right to not be jabbed but with any decision there are consequences.
This may mean that your community, for the safety of everybody, particularly its most vulnerable, exercises its right collectively to not engage with you, to ask you to stay away from social events and workplaces until you are vaccinated.
There are rights and rights. A basic human behaviour of protection against threat will arise.
Something that we rarely see in our mostly benign and caring society.
I am also sad as I can recall the last time New Zealand was so polarised. That was in 1981 when another country's political system almost ripped our country apart. It was awful and something that I had hoped never to see again in my lifetime. New Zealanders are a lot more passionate than we are given credit for. Thankfully mostly our passions are about noble causes that are worthy and do make the majority think.
In my view, There is nothing noble in this selfishness and heartlessness in many who should know better.