More than 10 years ago, I chose to make the beautiful country of New Zealand my home. As an immigrant, I quickly learned how uniquely our national identity is tied to our sense of community.
You see, while the USA is often considered a young country, it was first settled by Europeans more than 200 years before ours.
While the USA is considered a nation of immigrants, there are families who can trace back their American lineage by several generations.
In New Zealand, the majority of kiwis either moved here themselves or at most are the children or grandchildren of immigrants (excepting, of course, the Maori; the original Kiwis).
We choose to identify as Kiwi when we chose to make this place our home. Almost every one of us is an immigrant, but we are also proud New Zealanders who love our country, and bring our own cultures into a melting pot that exemplifies the best of cultural exchange and social harmony, and creates happy, integrated people.
We aren’t perfect, but we’re one of the most peaceful and free countries in the world, and we are almost unique in our practice of a culturally diverse but still united national identity.
This is why, when a man chose to commit an act of terror against us by killing 50 people, including children, in our mosques, our country has felt hurt and angry in a way others may not be fully able to comprehend.
This was not an attack on our “Muslim community” or our “immigrant community”, this was an attack on New Zealand. This was an attack on us.
New Zealanders have very little separation between different immigrant diasporas or racial groups, so the foreign-born terrorist’s rhetoric about ‘foreign invaders’ feels absolutely absurd when this country is built by immigrants.
And yet, our country still risks being torn apart in the aftermath, as our knee jerk reactions serve to hand everything outlined in the shooter’s manifesto over as if on a silver platter.
The manifesto, which I cannot link to given its constant removal by service providers, is something everyone should read. The shooter was almost prescient in his descriptions of the outcomes of his actions, and has illustrated that the media and governments around the world can be counted on to pounce on such tragic events to push the same tribal agendas we have grown accustomed to over the last few years.
He knew that by using a gun, governments would move to remove gun rights from non-criminals. He was right.
He knew that by mentioning Trump, and prominent internet personalities, the media would latch on to smear them as they have at every opportunity, forcing fan backlash. Again, he was right.
Despite describing himself as anti-capitalist, and expressing support for Communist China, he knew he would be labelled right wing. Of course, he was right.
That he was right about these things does not say so much about his own insightfulness, but speaks volumes to the pattern of behaviour we have seen from media establishments and governments, that they can be predictably manipulated to use their self-serving agenda in service to the goals of madmen.
In the aftermath, we have seen our New Zealand government calling to restrict gun ownership, apparently ignorant to the irony that one of the Muslim worshipers able to protect themselves with a weapon may now have that right taken from them.
We have seen corporations banding together to censor the internet, preventing Kiwis from accessing the video of the event and the shooter’s manifesto, effectively removing our ability to understand the horrific nature of this crime.
We have seen a resurgence of articles, videos and opinion pieces calling for freedom of speech to be restricted, the press to be controlled, and the rights of ordinary people to be curtailed because we will give anything for the illusion of a little more safety.
And so we have given this killer everything he has asked for.
In my cynicism, I can’t help but feel this is because our media and our government want the exact same thing.
The shooter talked of tribalism, and of forcing people to pick sides in a cultural and racial war. He is, for lack of a better word, a white-identitarian.
Identitarianism has seen a resurgence in the past few years, and the terrifying aspect of this event and its aftermath is how similar the rhetoric is on all sides.
The reason the shooter was able to reliably predict and manipulate the media was that they believe the same things he does.
They believe in using people’s identities, like their race, religion and sexual orientation, as ways to categorize and organize people for political purposes. They believe that certain groups of people should have different rights, or different treatment under the law.
They believe that certain crimes should be treated differently depending on who it is perpetrated by, or against.
Fundamentally, like the Christchurch shooter, these people believe in collectivism. In group-identity as a way to stoke tribalism and fear in order to achieve their own ends.
While the shooter wanted to empower white people to commit violence, the media and governments would seek to utilize this rhetoric to empower themselves. To expand the powers of government, to make money, and to pit people against one another so they remain too divided to unite against those who would take away their rights.
Our country is now at risk of following the path laid out by so many other western countries. Allowing the actions of a few evil men to alter the lives and remove the freedoms of millions.
It is vitally important that we rediscover Individualism, Liberalism and the power of discussion.
We must be united as New Zealanders, as Kiwis. Most importantly, we must be willing to discuss contentious issues and refuse to engage with the identity politics that fueled this attack.
Together, we can protect the freedoms on which our country is built.
“God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.”
~”God defend New Zealand”
the New Zealand national anthem