Is #Convoy22 revealing hypocrisy within liberal political values? / A.J. Hendry

The protest happening currently in Wellington presents us with yet another moment to examine who we want to be as a people.

What are the values that underpin who we are as a community?

What is it that we as Aotearoa New Zealand want to be known for?

Regardless of whether you agree with the people camping out on the front lawn of Parliament currently, you can’t say that they aren’t people of conviction. Whatever their reason is for being there (and by all accounts there are diverse views held by those who have gathered), they believe passionately in their cause. Passionately enough that they have been willing to camp in the cold, wet and the mud for (at the time of writing) 7 days now.

Now, it’s easy to write people off because we disagree with them. Easier still in our current environment in which reality is filtered through the lens of our social media algorithms. But, in the midst of debate and disagreement it is vital that we keep sight of the humanity of those who are sitting across the table from us. I spoke about this more in my last article (which you can find here), and in it I talked about the importance of holding to Love even in the midst of disagreement and discomfort. I discussed how the best way to insulate our communities from the extremism and violence that is the fruit of the marginalized and unheard, is to Love and embrace those in our community who may be feeling other or excluded due to the mandates or differing political perspectives.

Now, I’m not trying to sanitize the protests at all, there has been some terrible stuff that has occurred. Threats to the lives of politicians, health professional’s and journalists. Harassment of school children for wearing masks, even acts of aggression and violence. None of this is ok. It needs to be addressed, and those who are threatening the lives of others should be held to account. I also should make it clear that I have supported the Government’s health response all the way through. I think our Prime Ministers and her team have done an outstanding job to bring us through this pandemic to the point we are at now. New Zealand has led the world, and we have much to appreciate about how our Government has handled the pandemic. And sure, I don’t think their response has been faultless, nor have I loved seeing the mandates put into place and the impact the restrictions have had on the social cohesion of our communities. It saddens me to see people lose their jobs, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the pain that Red Light restrictions have had on people I love, and yet I also understand why these decisions have been necessary and can see why the Government has opted to use mandates for this phase of the pandemic.

And yet I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the manner in which people who are not fully on board with the government’s response have been discussed in liberal and progressive spaces.

 The Way of Love is something we speak about a lot here on When Lambs Are Silent. When we speak about it here, we are talking about a sort of Love that is unconditional, it is self-sacrificing, it isn’t soft, or flimsy, it isn’t afraid of confrontation. Love engages in challenging conversations, but it does so with the other at the heart of it. Love doesn’t shun, or shame, or pull away due to disagreement or political differences. Love isn’t just about being right. Love Loves. Love does not hate but seeks to always hold a posture of embrace. Love is the Way.

Now, in progressive and liberal circles it is not uncommon for people to speak of holding Love for the poor and the vulnerable at the center of our politics. It is also often one of the chief accusations flung at conservatives, that they do not love people, that instead all they care about is their self and their greed (now, I’m sure most conservatives would protest the generalization, but we won’t’ go there today).

And yet, I have found it curious of late to observe that though Love is discussed often, its practice seems to be reserved for those who belong within the “right” tribe or group.

For example, it has become common within liberal and progressive spaces to shame, condemn, and dehumanize people who are either not vaccinated, or hold political perspectives that either critique or challenge the Government’s health response. Those who hold these perspectives are branded as conspiracy theorists, selfish, crazy and generally other. Judgements made forgetting that there is a diverse group of people who oppose mandates, some who are vaccinated, some who choose not to be, and others who can’t be vaccinated due to legitimate health conditions. And further still, if you belong to certain parts of the liberal/progressive social media-verse you may have noted the overwhelming vibe of glee that followed the Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard’s proclamation that he was going to make things decidedly uncomfortable for the protesters, and then proceeded to turn on the sprinklers, and blast the protesters with music and covid19 messaging (an act that if it occurred at any other protest would be rightly condemned as petty and childish).

I’ve also noted people – who would generally be the first to condemn any slight abuse of police power – calling for the police to use “whatever means necessary” to crack some heads and move the protestors on.

As I’ve observed this, reflecting on the values of inclusivity, love, and compassion that are often advocated for from those on the Left, it has concerned me that so many of us have become so blind to these people’s humanity.

Instead of seeing the protest for what it is – a physical manifestation of collective anxiety, fear and pain – the protesters have been written off, dehumanized and degraded in the minds of people unwilling to recognize or even see the humanity that stands before Parliament right now.

Instead, the protest has magnified an ugly side of liberal/progressive culture. A side that has no room for those that disagree, no room for those who are different, or difficult, no room for the other. For all the talk of loving our neighbor, and of holding compassion for the poor and vulnerable, so much of the commentary on this movement has been devoid of Love or compassion. The superb irony is that amongst those at the protest are many who belong to our structurally marginalized communities. People who have valid reasons for questioning whether the government would ever act in their best interests, people belonging to structurally marginalized communities who Liberals often say they stand for and with.

And yet, the thing about Love, inclusivity, compassion, is that if we truly hold these values and desire to embody them in our daily lives, then we don’t get to choose who we Love. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge narratives and worldviews that we believe are harmful (in fact Love requires that we do so), but it does mean that if we truly hold these values we cannot dehumanize, degrade and otherize those who do not hold our perspective or agree with our way of seeing the world.

After the traffic Light was announced I wrote a piece arguing that the Health Restrictions were not what would divide us, the division would come from within our own communities (you can find that piece here). We are seeing this play out today. We have decided to segregate ourselves, many of us having made the decision to go beyond the health advice and cut people out of our lives who we no longer agree with.

This is a hard moment, and yet it won’t last forever.

One day the mandates will be gone, and yet as history teaches us, the scares we inflict upon one another have the potential to endure generations.

If we desire healing and restoration within our community, if we want to embody the noble values of Love, inclusivity and compassion that many on the Left so staunchly advocate for, then we must allow ourselves to see and hear those across the political divide.

We must refuse to ignore the humanity of those we may hopelessly struggle to understand.

We must Hope courageously.

We must Love staunchly.

We must remember…


A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also an advocate working collectively to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.

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2 thoughts on “Is #Convoy22 revealing hypocrisy within liberal political values? / A.J. Hendry

  1. Wow AJ your piece is so challenging so prophetic. The part of me that wants to bring in the tear gas is at war with the part of me that wants to love. So I’m a manifestation of our society conflicted. That’s why we need someone to speak the truth with love, someone to challenge the narrative, someone to remind us to be compassionate. That’s just so happens to be you today AJ. I already feel myself softening inside as I reconnect to the teaching that God is love and I thank you for that. I’m not quite ready to head down to Wellington with freshly baked bread but I’m right off the tear gas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. whenlambsaresilent 14/02/2022 — 10:31 am

      Bless you my friend, I’m glad it resonated 🙂


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