On Jim Mora’s programme on Sunday morning Jim discussed data results, with Research NZ managing partner Emanuel Kalafatelis, about NZers views on people who perform various roles in our society.
High on the popularity list are people who perform the role in the fire service, ambulance staff, teachers, front line hospital staff and those who performed “essential services” during the lockdown. Even if we don’t pay them all properly.
At the bottom of the list are politicians, both from Central and Local Government. Followed closely behind by the media.
These numbers caused me to think. If those who are despised in political life did not perform their roles, those who are loved would not have the resources to perform what we all love. In other words, the despised fund the loved ones. So, why the gap in support? Is it because we are fed up with the daily diet of nonsense we are fed by the media about politicians? The media decides what is “news” which drives politicians to behave in a certain manner. Maybe it’s time for them all to stop and have a hard think about behaviour which is causing them all to be despised.
On the same Sunday programme, in Media Watch, there was some analysis of the media response to the mosque murders last year. It was fascinating to read how the media responded to the Prime Minister stating that “I will not mention his name”. She, as a leader should do, steered the public debate to focusing on the causes of this dreadful crime on innocent people at prayer. The media, this time, didn’t tear her comments apart as they do so often. Instead, they thoughtfully provided stories and opinion which this country’s citizens lapped up. This resulted in much approved legislation, which was widely supported, restricting access to the sort of weapons used by this mass murderer.
These two stories in RNZ reminded me of the educating responsibility of the media. Also, that of politicians. Instead of rolling around in the ghastly detail of this crime, the media focused us on society’s responsibility to support the whanau of the victims. We also had serious discussions on the right to have different opinions, and for us to respect and honour these differences.
This was an example of politicians leading, from all sorts of political persuasions, and the media playing the proper role of the Fourth Estate and encouraging all sorts of voices to comment; and for our society to be a better place as a result. This proved that screaming from the roof tops about wrongs, and petty debates, is not really what we need as a society, which is our normal media click bait. What normally would have occurred would have been we would have revelled in standing on those who have failed, and holding up their human frailty and berating them. In this case both the politicians and the media led the debate in a sensible and sensitive manner.
When I had a role in politics there was little, if any, trolls who banged us as politicians at the bottom of articles in the papers. This has multiplied after I left, 12 years ago. Those with the desire to be nasty in my day, rang into Radio Talkback, and that was their outlet. In a way, it was almost innocent. Nowadays, if any of us have any dark thoughts (and we all have them) we can express them anonymously underneath articles. Or we can berate politicians, or public servants, on Facebook.
The sad thing is all my friends and colleagues, of all political opinions, respond to these dark thoughts and trolls. They sweat over their Facebook page. They say that they do not read the opinion comments at the bottom of articles, but they do.
Doesn’t this polling by Research NZ call us to raise our game? To become a more caring society. To elect politicians who are prepared to be courageous, and opinion leaders. To force politics to be about the exchange of ideas; and for this to be driven by passion.
When I was approached to stand for elected office, I visited one of my mentors, Alan Dingwall. I asked him should I stand. If I did, would I have his support. His reply was my mantra right through my time in office. He said “when you are a politician, you are in a position of great responsibility. You are privy to information which will either make this a better place, or it won’t. As a politician you must be a community teacher. You have a responsibility to educate people on issues, and enable them to make their minds up about what you have told them about. If you are prepared to carry out this responsibility as a community teacher, you have my support”.
I gave him that undertaking, and he signed my nomination.
I will conclude today by quoting Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who has recently been driven out of the military by President Trump, after he spoke honestly and openly in from the Congress in the states about Trump’s dishonest behaviour. He spoke about collective responsibility by all in society. Without this collectivism our society will descend into chaos. Everybody has the responsibility to ensure this will not happen.
Here is what he said:
“We are stronger as a woven rope, than as unbound threads.”