New Zealand’s darkest day

I write this with heavy heart and deep sadness. My thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy in Christchurch; I stand by them, as do all Kiwis. As I write this, I hear reports that the youngest victim was just five, pursued and gunned down in cold blood. There are no words to describe just how appalling all this has been. This is not New Zealand.

Yesterday, 15 March, was an extraordinary day. It was the day of the ‘school strike,’ the protest at climate change. I walked through Parliament grounds, as I sometimes do around lunchtime. It’s always open to the public. People often picnic in the grounds. As I walked by the crowd was being addressed by Green party leaders, urging them to keep talking to their MP’s.

I reflected on how lucky New Zealand is – one of the top four democracies in the world by the EIU’s 2018 democracy list.  Only Norway, Iceland and Sweden rank ahead of us. We are one of the few nations in the world to be made a democracy from the start – specifically, by the 1852 Constitution Act. In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to introduce universal suffrage.

It’s a country where diversity is welcomed; where kindness, tolerance and compassion are virtues. New Zealand is a place where those oppressed elsewhere know they can be safe; where ordinary people can express reasonable views without fear of being persecuted.

Then, as the afternoon unfolded, something appalling happened. Something I would never have thought to see in New Zealand, the country I was born in, the country where a large part of my life’s work has been dedicated to understanding how it came to be as it is today. By evening, the death toll stood at 49, with 48 in hospital, some critically wounded.

Based on what the Prime Minister outlined in her media conference last night, all was conducted by one man and a couple of friends – extremists. Doubtless the full story will unfold as police and intelligence services investigate. But it begs questions. How can anybody sully this country with such evil? And where now for New Zealand?

As we weep in our hearts and stand beside those who have suffered loss, who are suffering, and who will continue to suffer from an event of darkest evil, without precedent or parallel in our history – I think New Zealand in general has no choice other than to move forward with the tolerance, kindness and compassion that has been so much a part of our life and society.

Through that, I think, we can show a strength far greater than that of cowards who believe they can resolve their own insecurities by blaming others and then destroying their lives.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019

14 thoughts on “New Zealand’s darkest day

  1. Words become frail vessels in a case like this. We’ve gotten too used to it here in the States. I’m with the previous commentator. It’s heart-breaking. I have tried many times and failed each of them to picture the sort of mind who is OK with a crime of this nature. The only thing I can come up with is a person so weak and afraid down into their souls that an action such as this looks like strength to them. But I suspect I fall short yet again.

    It’s a dark and sad day for all of us, Matthew, and you folks in New Zealand most of all.

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  2. It is a very dark day here. New Zealand doesn’t have terrorism; the sole prior act was committed by the French government, when they blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour in 1985. There have been occasional lunatics with guns, the most recent in 2009 in my own home town – but all of them have been personal and, largely, spur-of-the-moment events. This latest seems somehow different on so many levels. Like you, I struggle to imagine how anybody can have become so deranged in their thinking as to perpetrate anything of this nature. I suspect, as you say, that it is to cover up their own weakness; they translate their insecurities into hate for others and believe they are strong for expressing it. What worries me is that this kind of reaction seems all too common these days.

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  3. As always you words are so well stated. Thank you for your posts and I certainly extend our best wishes to all New Zealanders.


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    1. Thanks Greg. It’s been a shocking 24 hours. I keep thinking of the victims – and the wounded, several are apparently critical still. Just dreadful. I understand the accused was stopped only through acts of bravery by the police. Who would have ever imagined, in a million years, that anything like this might happen in New Zealand?

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  4. This is truly a sad day and my thoughts are with you all. To think that this was orchestrated by a fellow Australian only makes it worse. We are shocked, angry, sickened. We are better than this!

    I don’t know if you have seen this from The Project, but Waleed’s words are beautifully said and bring tears to the eyes.

    We stand with you New Zealand! xx

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    1. Thanks Debbie! Yes, a sad day indeed. I think all humanity should be better than this. I fear that the potential for such behaviour exists in any society, even those who share and live by values of care and kindness; we have but to look at Norway, classified as the world’s best democracy (2018 figures) and their experience with Breivik back in 2011. But that does not lessen the impact when it happens.

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