Time for the National Party to embrace kindness – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: November 28, 2021 at 9:53 pm

OPINION: I know some people would be rolling their eyes at the thought of the National Party embracing the kindness brand.

These are the same people who continually and openly mock Jacinda Ardern for her advocacy for kindness, seeing it as virtue-signalling and a coy attempt at garnering domestic and international popularity.

I dont buy these criticisms because they are simply not consistent with the inner character and behaviour of the prime minister, whose propensity for empathy seems as natural as Donald Trumps propensity for self-adulation.

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Donna Miles says interim National Party leader Shane Reti is an obvious permanent choice as a leader who displays, communicates and prioritises the values of decency and kindness, rather than domination and power.

But there are other criticisms of Labours kindness brand worth mentioning. It is said that Kiwis living in poor neighbourhoods of South Auckland, with large Mori and Pasifika populations, whose problems have been exacerbated by Covid and lockdowns, have not felt much kindness.

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The housing crisis, child poverty and rising inequality have also left many New Zealanders feeling neglected and uncared for.

But these are not arguments against kindness - if anything, these are good reasons for thinking deeper about what a kind New Zealand should really look like, and how a healthy, empathetic society can ensure no-one is left behind.

People who belittle kindness as a value in politics and business often do so to justify their own selfishness and cruelty. But times are changing and even businesses are thinking and committing to kindness, wanting it to become an everyday thought and a consistent part of their mindset and communication.

It all makes sense. Kindness, its argued, is highly recognisable, especially when it happens directly to us - and all of us, bar sociopaths, are capable of exhibiting kindness.

To my Iranian mum, whose English is not good enough to follow New Zealand politics in great detail, the kindness of Jacinda Ardern has always been too obvious to miss. It is in her mannerism and countenance, Mum says of the way the PM conducts and carries herself.

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Donna Miles: Even I cannot help but like our PM for her decorum and decency.

She also openly says that she loves Jacinda Ardern. I firmly believe political leaders should not be idolised in any way, lest they be exempt from scrutiny and accountability, but even I cannot help but like our PM for her decorum and decency. I think it is a human condition to be more forgiving of people that we like, and to be overly critical of people we don't like.

This brings me to the National Partys current leadership crisis. As I write this, there is no clear indication of whom the future leader of the party will be.

But I do hope that this new change will bring with it a discontinuation of past practices and a departure from the party's current image. From dirty politics to wanting to appear tough on important issues such as crime and asylum response to these issues should be guided by evidence, not fleeting populism the National Partys anti-kindness approach has not only been detrimental to ordinary Kiwis, it clearly has also led to continual division and spite within the party.

I will never forget how the National Party behaved after high-profile Kurdish refugee author Behrouz Boochani was granted asylum in New Zealand. When Boochani arrived in Christchurch for a speaking engagement at the Word festival, he called the Christchurch welcome a reminder of kindness.

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Donna Miles says she will never forget the National Partys treatment of Kurdish-Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani after his arrival in New Zealand last year.

But soon after he was granted asylum, the National Party suggested political interference because, they said, the author had connections in the Greens and the Labour Party. All of it was untrue, of course, and the allegations seemed to many, including some National supporters, entirely pointless and mean-spirited.

National, having underestimated Boochanis support, quietly changed tack. If National had kindness as its guiding principle, it would have not made those allegations without any evidence, or consideration of their impact on Boochani, who had already suffered prolonged cruelty in Australian offshore detention centres on Manus Island.

Almost all modern crises faced by humanity require a departure from a selfish approach, which prioritises the individual, to an approach which considers the collective interest as paramount.

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Donna Miles: Almost all modern crises faced by humanity require a departure from a selfish approach, which prioritises the individual ...

The hard reality is that without a great deal of altruism and self-sacrifice, serious issues such as the climate change crisis, housing crisis, refugee crisis, inequality crisis and even the pandemic will not be resolved. But there is another just as urgent reason for more politicians to embrace the kindness brand and that is the growing mental health crisis.

Constant nastiness and bickering in politics is disengaging for voters and detrimental to everyones mental wellbeing, including the politicians themselves.

National now has a chance to appoint a leader who displays, communicates and prioritises the values of decency and kindness, rather than domination and power.

There is an obvious choice in Dr Shane Reti. The question is, will the National Party take it?

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Time for the National Party to embrace kindness - Stuff.co.nz

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