Flat White New Zealand

Dear New Zealand, it’s time to end Covid discrimination

3 January 2022

4:00 AM

3 January 2022

4:00 AM

Dear New Zealand,

It’s a shame that we as a country have decided to follow a policy of discrimination. Supporting the creation of a two-tiered society is unarguably immoral. Regardless of the reasons, no matter how real they currently appear, discrimination is always wrong and is no different to the discrimination against physically and mentally disabled people, those with the ‘wrong’ skin colour, the ‘wrong’ sexual orientation, the ‘wrong’ religion, the ‘wrong’ sex, and now the ‘wrong’ medical status.

The Lancet has recently published articles like this one, COVID-19: Stigmatising the Unvaccinated is not Justified. Interestingly, this article was written by a German who, from my own personal observations, are often highly sensitive to broad social discrimination.

Most New Zealanders will have a relatively stable family history. By this I mean, not a very violent one. For myself, coming from Hungarian Jewish descent, we have twenty-three names on the memorial board at the Holocaust museum in Budapest. There are twenty more from our family who were murdered and who are not on that board, as their histories have been erased.

Even though this was two generations ago, the impact of those murders and the reasons for them are still at the forefront of my consciousness. My relatives, through no fault of their own, were also treated as second-class citizens and in the lead up to the Holocaust in 1944, had fewer rights than everyone else. Laws were changed to severely restrict the number of Jews permitted to hold academic positions, work in various professions, and hold government jobs. Jews were excluded from municipal bodies and many were deprived of the right to vote. Jews were banned from local spas, markets, or the centralised food distribution system in many localities.

All this was done because people did not have the courage to speak out against this discrimination and advocate for those who were the target.

The famous psychology experiment conducted at Yale University 1961 called the Milgram experiment, gave useful insight about why people are still able to do things despite knowing their actions are causing harm. It’s a very interesting experiment and if you are not familiar with it, reading it will be a worthy use of your time – although there are some who challenge the validity of the experiments. Nonetheless, the principal interpretation of the results are shocking and suggest that ordinary people tend to obey orders, even to the point of killing someone, if they believe that the authority will accept responsibility for what happens. When these participants were reminded that they had responsibility for their own actions, almost none of them were prepared to obey.

I would argue we are in a similar situation now.

Most Kiwis do not support discrimination. Policies of discrimination therefore, should not exist. However, one exists here now, denying the Covid-vaccine-free the same rights as the Covid-vaccinated. The only reason it exists is because the majority of people obey, despite knowing discrimination is immoral. This obedience comes from believing the government will accept responsibility for this discrimination under the mandate. As you know though, governments come and go, times change and history is a very harsh judge on those who support discrimination, especially when recent research is showing the Covid-vaccinated are a significant source of transmission.

Perhaps Japan’s Ministry Of Health, Labour and Welfare’s Covid vaccination roll out is one that suits our country more than the current one.

‘Although we encourage all citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, it is not compulsory or mandatory. Vaccination will be given only with the consent of the person to be vaccinated after the information provided. Please get vaccinated of your own decision, understanding both the effectiveness in preventing infectious diseases and the risk of side effects. No vaccination will be given without consent. Please do not force anyone in your workplace or those who around you to be vaccinated, and do not discriminate against those who have not been vaccinated.’

Covid and the fear surrounding it will go away like it did for the bubonic plague from 1346-53, the 1918-20 Spanish Flu, HIV AIDS from 1981 onward, and the ten other global pandemics which most people do not even know about. What will be remembered is how people responded to it and which side they chose.

Unfortunately, we have chosen discrimination and history will not forget that.

David Clyne (changed from Klein after WWII)

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