OPINION: Of all the things I hate about this pandemic, nothing else gives me such a pit of anxiety and frustration in my gut quite like white male saviour complex. So this weekend, when John Key’s op-ed ran in all the Sunday papers and other mainstream media platforms, I felt queasy AF. Come Monday morning, when I saw the words ‘John Key talks to Mike Hosking’, I firmly pushed my porridge to one side.
Whether it’s John Key, Rob Fyfe, or Nick Mowbray, the continued rolling out of wealthy white men to provide commentary about what the government is doing wrong, and what they would do differently if they were in charge, is like constantly hearing your parents fight (if one of your parents was doing the best they could and the other was a moron).
While it’s irritating to hear Judith Collins struggle with the concept of hypocrisy, she at least has a duty as leader of the opposition to critique and weigh in on what the government is doing.
It’s easy to have an idea, or an opinion, when you’re not the person dealing with the execution of it amidst a myriad of complex and ever-changing parts. Also, I hate to say it, but the wealthy white men are going to be okay.
If there’s anyone I am interested in hearing from right now it’s Pasifika and Māori leaders and those who are able to make a difference to their at-risk communities.
John Key’s solution to the slow vaccine uptake of these groups is to offer Māori and Pacific health providers money, which speaks volumes of his attitudes to them. Perhaps he is partly fueled by guilt - after all, he and his National government are responsible for sending many in these communities spiralling further down into the abyss of poverty.
Key has also highlighted his embarrassing lack of understanding of why these groups are hesitant in the first place, and his apparent ignorance of the fact that the government has already been giving extra funding to these health providers by way of recognition of the incredible work they are doing.
The key to vaccine success is communities coming together to support each other, and for those with the privilege of access, youth and health to understand their part in the ecosystem. Not to shout down from their ivory tower.
The pandemic mansplaining we’ve had inflicted on us over the past 18 months reeks of men in power who hate to see a woman wielding more. It’s clearly an uncomfortable and unusual feeling for some. Strange that so many platforms are giving them a space to work through their pain, though the broadsheets and talkback radio have long been their natural habitat.
The idea clearly scrambles their thinking so much that they reach for false equivalences like comparing the NASA programme to a pandemic, and likening Aotearoa to North Korea. This kind of flawed reasoning is as dangerous as it is disingenuous as its intentions are always to stir up high emotions despite being based on illogical codswallop.
The repeated mentions of North Korea and hermit kingdoms are nothing more than a dog whistle to other pale stale males (and sadly some females) keen to link Jacinda to a communist agenda.
Switch Key’s out-of-touch ramblings for one of the uglier signs from the recent farmer’s protests and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. Both have equal levels of nuance and appreciation of the bigger picture, and are about as useful as Key’s idea of parking a vaccine bus outside a nightclub.
Pandemics are scary. You know what’s also scary? That 1 in 500 people in America have died from Covid-19.
Another scary thought? The idea of opening up Aotearoa to let people from countries with statistics like that come on in. Talk to any health provider and they will tell you plenty of other terrifying facts about the number of ICU beds and ventilators, staffing shortages and all the other things that keep them awake at night.
When choosing between the usual reaction to fear – fight or flight – Key has chosen apparently flight, though probably nothing less than a business class seat would suffice.
You need only look at what Key wants to do with the money currently being spent keeping workers paid through lockdowns to understand exactly whose interests he has at heart. The two things he mentions are the latest cancer drugs and more police. Innovative cancer treatments take a long time to be funded, and are much more the domain of the rich. This is why you’ll often see people crowdfunding for friends and whanau to receive new cancer treatment. And more police? Really? Mate, were you asleep for 2020 or do you really need more patrol cars in Parnell?
A final note on smugness. I would argue that the overriding emotion of people in Aotearoa in the 12 months before Delta made its way to our shores was a mixture of relief and gratitude, rather than smugness.
Too many of us are connected all over the world to loved ones who were suffering under governments who didn’t or couldn’t put enough money and resources into taking Covid seriously to ever feel smug about it.
In the paraphrased words of Julia Gillard: I will not be lectured about smugness by this man.