Monday, July 11, 2005

Rant: New Zealanders really are disappointing sometimes

In the past five days there have been numerous war-related historic occasions:
  • The 60th anniversary of the end of WWII
  • The 20th anniversary of the bombing of the rainbow warrior (arguably the only act of war -- or terrorism -- perpetrated on New Zealand since colonisation)
  • The 10th anniversary of a massacre of Bosnian Muslims in former Yugoslavia
  • The London terror attacks
I mention all these to give context to the rant to come. My rant is to express disappointment in some of my fellow New Zealanders. I am disappointed in those New Zealanders who. at an individual and institutional level, have made the decision to show little respect in light of these historic occasions.

At an individual level, some new Zealanders have chosen to attack mosques in Auckland, our largest city. Six mosques were desecrated, one of them ending up with the text "RIP London" spraypainted on the wall.

This pointless act of destruction and disrespect, particularly so near the anniversary of a time where the world's Muslim community was itself the internationally recognised victim of terrorism, makes me very sad. I hope these people are not people who are old enough to reme4mber when we New Zealanders experienced terrorism on our shores; I hope that experience would dissuade anyone fr0mrandom political violence. Still, I had hoped that we, in New Zealand, might be more tolerant and avoid a backlash reaction. Sadly, that has not been the case.

What is worse, however, is the opinion cartoon in today's Waikato Times, a provincial newspaper that nevertheless reaches a significant chunk of the nation's population. I have never found this newspaper to be a particularly intellectually inspired publication, and I never buy it myself. However, today it arrived in the letterbox as part of a promotion, where we are to receive it free for a week. I am sad to say that my opinion of it has not been even slightly improved; in fact I think less of it today than I ever have before in my life.

The cartoon in question shows two views of a generic entrance to the London Underground, one labelled 1941, and the other labelled 2005. In the 1941 picture, a man looking at the sky is running into the underground. In the 2005 view this same 'everyman' is running back out.

My partner and I both have friends and loved ones in London, or who happened to be in London at the time of the attacks. We were travelling at the time of the attacks, and we each spent several tense hours waiting to hear whether those we cared about were safe. One New Zealand family is still waiting to hear about their daughter. So many New Zealanders have been through the same thing this week (New Zealand has much closer ties to the UK than the US, and so this tragedy has seemed much closer to home than 9/11). Nevertheless, our experience, shock, and sadness must be tiny compared to that of Britain, and London in particular. It is disgusting for a cartoonist to make light of this, and even worse for a newspaper to print such a thing.

However, the cartoon does not stop there. It also denigrates the fear felt by Londoners, and the sacrifices made by servicepeople, families, and civilians during WWII on 60th anniversary of the end of the war. I don't doubt that the newspaper has some readers who are among those, who made these sacrifices, either.

Needless to say I have sent a letter to the editor of the paper telling them that free week or no free week I will not be subscribing to their paper now or in the future.

So, so far we have had people attacking the places of worship, a religious leader using the attacks for political capital for his party, and a newspaper making light of the whole thing. I really hope that we will see a vast improvement in the attitude of certain New Zealanders at all levels in the next few days.

P.S. I didn't start this as a political blog. If you're reading I apologise. I will try to write about something less inflammatory next time.

No comments: