Conformity tokens

Being considerate and friendly to people who serve us, and to strangers, taking our turn, being honest in our relationships; these are but the beginning of a long list of behaviours that we value in our communities. There’s nothing wrong with conformity, until it becomes inhibiting.

Some examples:  wearing, or not wearing, a white ribbon, a red poppy, taking, or not ‘taking the knee.’ Conforming to these public gestures is supposed to signify opposition to violence against women, a patriotic view of the first World War, and a demonstration that black lives matter. An unwillingness to conform to these gestures could mean anything, of course, but to certain sections of the community it indicates that you don’t think black lives matter, don’t care about the lives wasted in the first World War and don’t particularly mind if woman are violated.

Determining correct thinking is always a problem, usually associated with tokenism and posturing. In America, and increasingly in Australia, it seems, a lot of people’s understanding of freedom, to wear or not wear a mask, for instance, or lock-down or roam around, is confined to a belief that other people’s needs don’t matter. And they get as mad as hell if people tell them otherwise.

Flags and statues, mere images, may be less important but they are equally controversial. Was James Cook sufficiently correct in his thinking in 1769? And are we correct in our thinking by deciding to leave him alone or throw him into the sea? Does it matter?

Mind you, there are a lot of statues about and I stop and stare at them and wonder ‘what the . . .?’ And public buildings too: ‘This stone was laid by the honourable . . .’ member of parliament. But why do they get to be remembered in stone forever in communities around the country that are as distant to the minds of these honourable, as the honourable is distant to the furrowed brows of residents who stand staring at these foundation stones? Still, they’ll all disappear one day, as will Queen Victoria.

I don’t suppose too many people would be distressed if Queen Victoria was thrown into a convenient harbour. Although apparently she was dead against slavery, so she thought black lives mattered! Still, she’s old hat and she probably had some incorrect thoughts about homosexuals, so chuck her in, eh?

Most ancient identities are boring to us now. So let’s have a look at our modern heroes? This is the first batch I came across on google, and this in itself is guaranteed to have us frothing at the mouth in disagreement. In the following order:

Edmund Hilary, Earnest Rutherford, Peter Jackson, Jonah Lomu, and Kiri Te Kanawa; a mountain climber, scientist, film-maker, rugby player, and a singer. What they have in common, as well as being highly regarded in their field, is that, more importantly, they are favoured by a highly regarded international reputation, which makes us feel good about ourselves, so we won’t bother examining the correctness of their thoughts… eh?


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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.