If Shakespeare Could Tell Brian Tamaki A Thing Or Two
These are trying times. Like every other Aucklander I am impacted by lockdown. In my introspective moments I am literally seething over Brian Tamaki’s lockdown protest last weekend in the Auckland Domain.
The madding crowd of hundreds came to Tamaki’s protest. They came in droves. They came in gangs. They waved their “pro-choice” signs and flaunted wearing masks and social distancing. The elderly came and so did children.
Uncharacteristically, I could not find the words to express my frustration at the risk from Covid spread that Tamaki placed all Aucklanders in.
So I went down the road well travelled. I called on William Shakespeare. I imagined that if William Shakespeare was alive today, he would have a thing or two to say to Apostle Brian Tamaki.
I can see Shakespeare now. He would look Tamaki square in the eyes (avoiding the tattooed eyebrows) and says: “Thou doth protest too much, methinks.”
And I would agree. I don’t want Tamaki to protest anymore. I am eternally grateful to see that he has been charged by police over the anti-lockdown protest he organised in Level 3.
Brian Tamaki hath now been summonsed to court. And not a moment too soon.
While the mere mortals among us remain legally restricted from attending public gatherings in Level 3, Tamaki and his flock simply didn’t care. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was ‘a slap in the face for Aucklanders’.
As Tamaki spoke to his enthralled audience at the protest about how Ardern had turned everyday Kiwis into prisoners and stripped us of our freedom it drew me to Shakespeare again.
Shakespeare, ghostlike and foggy, emerged from the edges of history. I imagined he would say to Tamaki:
“You speak an infinite deal of nothing.”
Indeed. Tamaki spoke of nothingness. He refused to acknowledge that he may just have spread Covid even further. He failed to realise that the protest may become a ‘super spreader’ event and potentially plunge New Zealand into an even longer lockdown.
I don’t believe that what Tamaki did falls in the realm of a peaceful protest. Peaceful protests are a cornerstone of democracy. Peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are perfectly legitimate and healthy ways to try and achieve social change.
Mahatma Gandhi is considered the ‘father of peaceful protest’. He fought for civil rights in India and he resisted British colonization. For his troubles he was arrested thirteen times during his lifetime.
Ghandi showed the world that social change can be achieved without violence. He was an inspirational leader in human rights. He triggered other civil rights movements led by activists such as Martin Luther King jr, Cesar Chavez, Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela.
As Shakespeare says: “Be not afraid of greatness.”
But what Tamaki did is not is the same ball park. It was not greatness. Instead of protecting people he put them at risk.
And so, Tamaki let me address you directly. To quote Shakespeare again - "Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.”
In other words, please Tamaki stop thy talking. Listen instead.
The human rights of people from vulnerable groups during a Covid outbreak need to be considered.
The issues surrounding the notion of human rights and Covid lockdowns are complex and entangled. Lockdowns can protect people who are vulnerable to Covid virus such as older adults and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Extending this further, Covid affects people throughout the community unevenly even outside of the aforementioned vulnerabilities. For example, poor living arrangements and financial instability, disability, and homelessness can also worsen the risk of Covid for people. Unvaccinated children are also at risk. So are refugees and immigrants.
Tamaki, you should listen to the sacrifices other Aucklanders made to keep New Zealand safe. Some of those sacrifices have been heart-breaking. Many of those in Auckland cannot attend funerals or visit dying relatives. Yet you thought it was okay to have a picnic with a thousand plus people.
I will leave the last words to Shakespeare.
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”