New Zealand’s aroha to counter hate

The sepulchre is oblivious to the cause tagged to its occupant and simply embraces the effect. It’s the living whose insolence attaches a weight to the final rest. This insolence is perhaps showcased in all its vulgarity in the USA where the number of mass shooting incidents in 2019 is higher than that of the same time period in 2018, in which 48 incidents occurred through March 19, 2018. Yet, the authorities have been indolent at best and staunch activists of the 2nd amendment at worst, a behavioural trait that could be dismissed as quirkily American if not for the magnitude of violence that this unleashes on a fandango-isque tempo on the society.

Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 22, 2019 [Reuters/Jorge Silva]

Contrast this with the response of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who just hours after a white nationalist terrorist used five firearms, including two semi-automatic weapons, to kill 50 people and injure dozens of others at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, said something few American politicians would ever rummage around to provide- a promise.

“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” Ardern said . “Now is the time for change.” Even while thousands gathered to support the community in their Friday prayers and saw their love reflecting back. The luminous act after the dastard hate crime was the New Zealand authorities will to recognize a public health approach by bringing reforms to reduce gun deaths by focusing less on changing human behavior of would-be murderers and more on creating an environment where everyone is less likely to be injured by a firearm – an atonement for an oversight committed a couple of decades ago when New Zealand decided to stay away from the gun reform policies initiated in Australia after the Tasmania massacre.

The contrasting approach by the USA and New Zealand could well possibly be rationalized by National Rifle Association’s lobbying in the former and the left-liberal political climate in New Zealand. However, it would be reductive to look at their actions through this prism. The different responses of these two countries to a systematic and gradual increase in islamophobia and white supremacist tendencies lies rooted in their vastly differing cultural edifices. These are entrenched in the social fabric of each society and have provided the required ecosystem for the germination of NRA in USA and a liberal and inclusive atmosphere in New Zealand.

While the Americans have romanticized guns helped along by Hollywood in their wild-west fantasies, and internalized their security over a looming sense of doom based on a variety of external factors and a climate of distrust. The New Zealand government’s response has been moulded by years of conscious awakening to the realization that the whole state of New Zealand Was Britain’s imperial project, premised on the superiority of the white race. The island nation has been on a long trek to inclusiveness since the realization of a history of dispossession and cultural destruction for the indigenous Maori.  This slow awakening has helped the Kiwis to embrace the bearer of the tattooed face and a remembrance of the first voyage has helped create a welcoming culture towards the kaleidoscope of other immigrant faces.

The sepulchre is oblivious to the cause, but for those who were left stranded at the vast expanse of doom, for those victims who were nearly scorched by hate, the antidote of Aroha as National Geographic’s Kennedy Warne puts it, is a beacon of hope. And for the political leaders world over, riding on the crest of populism and a resurgent supremacist aggression garbed in nationalism, Jacinda Ardern’s response should be a reminder of the duty of a prime minister- that there is no “other” here.

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