The Posie Parker Stouche: Some Positive Lessons For Our Election
By Tim Wilson, Executive Director, Maxim Institute*
What does politics produce when mixed with violence and intimidation?
Sadly nothing constructive, plus a humungous helping of anger, division, recrimination, spleen and confusion. Oh, and headlines. Lots of headlines.
All of the above were present in and around the Albert Park event held by self-described women’s rights (or, in her opponents’ parlance, “anti-trans”) campaigner Posie Parker. Parker was doused in tomato juice by an activist. Angry protestors pushed down barricades. Fights broke out. Greens Leader and Minister of Violence Prevention Marama Davidson, freshly hit by a motorcycle, made (at best) ill-judged comments about heterosexual (or cis-gendered) white men being the sole cause of violence in the world.
Much column space has been expended, litigating the rights and wrongs of what happened. Let’s instead consider what we can learn and how it might be applied to the upcoming election campaign positively.
First, we must acknowledge the genuine human anguish in these exchanges. Some charge that Posie Parker deliberately created the melee by holding an outdoor meeting. However, it’s difficult to feel genuine joy at the sight of a diminutive woman being escorted by security through a baying mob. Moreover, the activist who threw the tomato juice has a tortured history of being shamed and disparaged for their gender journey. Wounded people wound.
Next, beware the ideology cartoon. Jargon like “anti-women” and “TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist)” hinders rather than helps. Such vocabulary exacerbates division. Political movements throughout history have used words to drain the humanity from their opponents. Let’s syphon the cortisol from the lingo.
(It is not to the media’s credit that it accepts and repeats these crude summaries in the service of an equally dangerous idol: The Clickbait-Inducing Headline.)
Another reflection: Majorities aren’t always right and don’t always support free speech. More than 2000 protestors were against Posie Parker, wanting to stop her from speaking; her own group was significantly smaller. Yet free speech expert Jacob Mchangama contends that free speech has historically assisted the vulnerable, for example during the American Civil Rights battle.
Moreover, context is essential. Given the vehemence in and around the issue of trans rights and how they may impinge on the rights of others, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we have a problem with trans people here. Not so; apparently, we’re world leaders in respecting transgender rights.
Lastly, hate (no matter how self-righteously obtained) cannot extinguish injustice.
American Civil Rights icon Dr Martin Luther King Jr was familiar with protest, anger and redemption. In one of his most famous sermons, Dr King preached, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already deprived of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Wise words indeed; much needed now.
*Maxim Institute is an independent think tank working to promote the dignity of every person in New Zealand by standing for freedom, justice, compassion, and hope.