Looking back over the past 12 months there is much to be proud of and just a little to intensely dislike about us Kiwis. Reflection is something we like to do in the aftermath of Christmas indulgence which some of us resolve never to repeat but mostly fail.
Considering what fate threw at us last year and how we responded we can congratulate ourselves for being a nation of genuinely good people with only a few disappointing exceptions.
Early in the year, when the deadly Covid-19 appeared on the world scene, we were faced with some tough decisions between saving the economy and keeping vulnerable people alive. Not everyone agreed with those decisions, made on our behalf by a Government led by a popular Prime Minister and an equally popular Director General of Health. They had never been faced with anything like it but, with very few exceptions, we followed instructions and managed to get through the worst of it so far. We never had the astonishing stupidity of large numbers of people insisting on their rights to risk their lives and the lives of those around them. Decent Kiwis tend not to be that selfish. Sadly we lost 25 fellow New Zealanders to the virus but our lives are now closer to normal with fewer restrictions than most other countries. We should be very proud of that.
We don’t have to look very far to see the tragic results for those whose governments did not make those decisions early enough, or not at all, and its hard not to feel a little smug along with the sympathy we have for them.
Then towards the end of the year we cast our ballots in one of the most dramatic general elections in living memory. We had no wild accusations of fraud or four-year-old tantrums at the result. The wheels of government have carried on without hesitation while the new Government settle in. We lost some outstanding and accomplished politicians who accepted the results with the good grace and dignity we have come to expect of those who serve us in Parliament. There have been no riots in the streets, no rallies chanting obvious disinformation, no threats of violence or anyone trying to hold the nation to ransom. While such things are the norm for decent Kiwis they are not for millions of other people around the world.
During the year also the uncomfortable issues of racism, hate speech and intolerance in their many forms was thrust in our collective faces from a number of quarters again. One of the most compelling of these came in the aftermath of the shocking terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques in 2019 by a foreigner. A year on and we still have examples of intolerance towards Muslims by a minority of ignorant people. Other demands for change have come from Maoridom, something they have campaigned on for generations. Rather than sweep it under the proverbial carpet as before, this time there appears to be a genuine determination to find solutions.
In spite of some recent inaccurate rhetoric from both sides of the political debate racism has always been here, as it has in most other nations and communities. It is as difficult to define as it will be to eradicate and screaming racism at everything we don’t like or understand doesn’t help. But, if anyone can succeed we can and we will be the first nation in the world to do so.
We are not however a nation made up entirely of angels and saints. We have our share of ratbags, drug dealers and criminals who prey on the vulnerable and worse but by and large we are mostly an honourable and honest lot. We rallied around those struck by tragic earthquakes, a terrorist mass murderer and an erupting volcano and we help those less fortunate than ourselves in many ways. It has been said with some justification that, if all our volunteers stopped volunteering today New Zealand would grind to a halt tomorrow. That makes the exceptions to our normally commendable conduct, even petty theft, strike a raw nerve.
A case in point was the opportunistic theft of a motorcycle in Hamilton just days before Christmas by a foolish couple who, by the look of their clear images captured on security cameras, were old enough to have known better. They of course had no way of knowing the bike was the treasured and comforting possession of a young woman who has had much more than her share of grief and tragedy recently. A decent Kiwi, thief or otherwise, worthy of the title would at least leave that bike somewhere where it could be found and returned to her. That might restore her faith in her fellow Kiwis for 2021…and mine.