E nga iwi, e nga mana, e nga maunga, e nga moana, e nga reo, e rau rangatira ma, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
We grieve. We grieve with you. We grieve for you.
On Friday, New Zealanders saw white supremacist hate. Not in a dark alleyway. Not in the comments sections of news websites. Not on a radio talkback show. Not in the fringes of the internet. But in the main streets of one of our main cities. And, no, it had no intention of hiding. Rather, white supremacist hate came in through our front door. Unashamedly, in the open, in broad daylight, strutting its vile hatred. In our face and in our place.
I struggle to find the words.
We are supposed to look after our family. But we now know that 50 of our family were taken from us. And more will be scarred forever. We couldn't keep our family safe from the forces of hate. It hurts. A lot.
Hurt. Disbelief. Denial. Pain. Sorrow. Sadness. Anger. Outrage. Senseless. Powerless. The words just don’t do justice.
For some New Zealanders, encountering white supremacist hate is a regular event. For some, this will be a New Zealand they may have heard about occasionally. For some, this will be a New Zealand they don’t know exists. For others, it is a New Zealand they refuse to believe exists.
But, the values we share and the Aotearoa we aspire to will unambiguously reject these vile views. And, as the Prime Minister has said, love and compassion must be our answer. It is our weapon against hate. We must stay strong and true to our values. Not doing so will be to let hate win.
However, we have to go beyond ‘thoughts and prayers’. Along with love and compassion, we must question our gun laws, our hate speech laws, and our security services and their efforts to keep our family safe.
Leaders have to courageously talk about rights – gun rights and free speech rights. They will have to be especially brave to assert that rights are not absolute. Rather, they are privileges that we all enjoy. For us to continue enjoying them, they must be exercised responsibly. Where they are used to incite hatred and violence against others, then such privileges and rights must be rapidly curtailed.
Whenever I hear about rights and freedoms, or I hear the words ‘free’, the red warning lights start flashing on my dashboard. For, as an economist, I know nothing is ‘free’. There are always costs and burdens to be weighed.
I know that ‘free’ markets impose costs and restrict opportunities for various population groups. That is why we (should) call for government intervention and regulations to eliminate these harms. Similarly, ‘free’ trade impacts on many least able to adjust or adapt. Hence, we argue for transition policies and assistance.
Unsurprisingly, those citing free rights are almost always those in positions of power, or with access to powerful platforms. And they are usually the ones striving for even more rights and freedoms. And, almost without exception, the ones left carrying the burden, costs, and scars of others exercising such rights and freedoms are those with little power, or the powerless.
And, so it is with ‘free’ speech. Rights to free speech are being used to promote the bigots charter. The right to free speech is being used against the powerless. The rights of the powerless continue to be trampled; as those in privileged positions, or with privileged platforms, exercise their own rights.
Tomorrow I am scheduled to give a conference presentation on the topic of “inclusive growth”. Inclusion is about a sense of belonging and the opportunity to contribute. There are many that have systematically been excluded from enjoying the fruits of our economy. Consequently, they are excluded from our community. For many, that sense of belonging has been strained for some time.
Inclusion means those with power must acknowledge the impacts of their decisions and actions on those less powerful. Rather, we would be ensuring that our rights and power are exercised in a way that includes all.
So, yes to aroha. But the powerless also need protecting, so they too can enjoy the privilege of exerting their rights responsibly.
If we are to stay true to our values – and if we honestly believe that Friday was “not New Zealand” – then we must confront the white supremacist hate that already resides here. And, thereafter, confront it wherever it re-appears and arises. And then, and only then, will our grief not have been in vain.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, kia ora koutou katoa.