Thursday, March 21, 2019

Clive Bibby: Who should we blame?

The aftermath of the Christchurch tragedy is already showing us that too often we learn nothing from events that should have taught us much about ourselves.

If that proves to be the case here, then it will be a wasted opportunity to do something positive in memory of those individuals who were mercilessly gunned down in an environment that should have been amongst one of our most protected.

Alas, we now know that those sort of naive assumptions about even our places of worship were misplaced. In one act of "infamy", the terrorist has shattered all the preconceived ideas about the shrinking number of areas on the planet that could be regarded as safe havens.

This brutal assault on our national marketing strategy of a place to escape the world's troubles has effectively shown that nobody can make that claim anymore.

We are all as vulnerable as the next.

A realisation that their expectations of security might have been misplaced must be one of the hardest messages being absorbed by the members of the mainly immigrant families who have lost so much in this horrific episode. It will be of little comfort to know that New Zealand is still one of the safest places on the planet due in part to the efficient operation of our police force but probably more as a result of the level of tolerance that exists in most communities but even that is now a measure of relativity.

However, the question must be asked - "are we really more tolerant than other countries we rush to criticise as being the "breeding grounds" of the crusaders of hate?"

Probably not but, even though we hope the development of this type of warped thinking is not wide spread in New Zealand, the endgame can still become a monstrous reality without too much trouble. 50 innocent deaths have proved that to be true.

Ironically, to eliminate the possibility of this horrible experience happening again, we need to look at the things we tolerate as closely as the things we identify as undesirable characteristics of our society.

That won't be easy to do because there are many activities in this country that have an outward look of working together but in reality are just reinforcing the divisiveness of identity politics - them and us!

An obvious example is the support given to those groups who have been considered marginalised for long periods. In making the effort to understand their particular grievance, we are often allowing them to rewrite history as a version that is more favourable to their ancestors than the factual record of that involvement. Having encouraged them to take this opportunity, we then feel obliged to accept the new version as being a more acceptable re-telling of our history than the one we have promoted for generations.

Sadly, the end result can be a demonstrably false account of our heritage that is deliberately designed to be the textbook issued to classrooms as the definitive version.

Whether the new "bunch of cobblers" is any worse than the old is not the point.

Our survival as a tolerant society will totally depend on seeking out the truth about who we are and how we got here. We are all entitled to our own place in the sun and thankfully, this country ahead of most others, has developed a record of independence and tolerance to be proud of that should allow us all to share in the wealth we have to distribute.

It isn't perfect but it is a good basis for moving forward.

But any advancement can't be made at the expense of one section of society over another. We must be careful to lift the downtrodden or disadvantaged up while not creating another group to take their place.

Resentment of another person's perceived privileged position in our community, whether justified or not, is the reason for most of the troubles we endure.

Revolutions against this form of envy have proved to be an ineffective method of redressing the balance but we still seem unable to suppress this basic instinctive reaction to a difference we don't understand.  We need to blame someone - anyone!

The secret of success is to look inwardly at ourselves as individuals in need of rehabilitation rather than looking for someone else to blame.

Clive Bibby is a 4th generation member of a CHB farming family who has been living in Tolaga Bay for the last 40 yrs. He is a social commentator, community worker and heritage consultant.

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