David Seymour: Imagining NZ without identity politics

Opinion 25/03/2019
Photo: File.

By David Seymour, ACT Party leader.

Imagine all the people, living life in peace. John Lennon got it right. He didn’t ask us to imagine all the peoples, or races or religions or any other identity, just all the people. He asked us to imagine no countries, and no religion, too.

Lennon asked us to imagine a world without identity politics, where there was nothing to kill or die for. Sadly over the past week, we’ve seen some of the people who think they’re helping make us into identities first and people second.

They’re trying to help but they just don’t get it. The terrorist believes there are two kinds of people, white people and the rest. It’s a chilling view, because it denies our common humanity. It says that if you’re part of a group I don’t like, then I don’t have to acknowledge your inherent value and inalienable rights as an individual.

One example is Brodie Kane. Normally it is impossible to not like Brodie, but there is something very dislikeable about her recent column that is filled with racial profiling to an obsessive degree.

"But what I will give time to, what I must give time to, is what this awful event has done to change the way I am going to be as a human being.

"I need to be clear, this is not some sort of "look at me, look what I am doing" piece, this is me being honest about how I want to do better. How I MUST do better."

Now, if Brodie wants to change her life, good for her. The strange thing is the obsession with ‘white privilege’ peppered through the column.

"I am white... And I am privileged… I can no longer wake up, as a privileged white woman... I can no longer go around living my life with my white privileged head shoved up my own backside... I can wake up every day and cruise around in my white privilege life…"

David Seymour. Photo: Mediaworks.

The same column could have been written without the race profiling. After all, there are hard up white people and privileged non-whites everywhere. Even if we notice trends, how are they relevant to how we treat any individual we come across? I don’t think for a minute that Brodie set out to mirror the kind of thinking behind the terror attacks, but when you see everyone as part of a group you risk overlooking the members’ humanity.

Then there’s some of the Green MPs, who have long been guilty of pedalling enough identity politics for the whole Parliament. As their co-leader Marama Davidson told Parliament:

The agenda that drove this violence wants to harm many other communities: Jewish communities, Sikh communities, Buddhist followers, people of colour communities, brown immigrants and refugees, tangata whenua and Pacific peoples, women and disabled peoples.

The terrorist is evil and probably did want to harm all of those people, but again it is a mistake to buy into his rhetoric. There are lots of people who want to harm each other in the world. History tells us no group is more guilty than the others, but we all have in common that as humans we’d like to be safe.  Addressing people by their group first, means those individual rights and freedoms can only come second.

A better way is to acknowledge the individual rights and freedoms given every New Zealander in the Bill of Rights. They include freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion, of peaceful assembly, of association, of movement and of expression, and freedom from discrimination.

None of these rights or freedoms is given to a group of people. They are all held by individuals because it is the individual who has the ability to think, express themselves, move, assemble and worship. Even the ‘rights of minorities’ section gives individuals the right to preserve their culture. It does not give any group a right.

We are bound together by a common humanity. All our lives have inherent value and we each have inalienable rights and freedoms. That’s why an attack on those rights and freedoms is an attack on all of us. But the most dangerous long-term threat is being dehumanised and made mere members of a group in the name of identity politics.

David Seymour is leader of the ACT Party.