One thing I love about New Zealanders, is their ingenuity and perseverance. What’s been called the ‘No. 8 wire’ approach is arguably attributed from those early settler days, when everyday (Western) provisions were unavailable; Kiwis had to ‘make do and mend’ in every way possible. Recycling and trading in skills and services, produce and time, in order to obtain those essential (and ‘luxury’) items for your family was an intrinsic part of everyday life. Farmers’ markets are symbolic of this socio-cultural approach, and now, in our new ‘pro-choice’ communities, these strategies have developed new meanings.
Being excluded from society is emotionally traumatising. I’ve seen children in tears because they couldn’t join their team-mates in a sporting or performance event, adults venting anger at not being allowed into their favourite bar. As an educationalist engaged in promoting widening participation in lifelong learning all my career, I’m appalled to witness my students prohibited from entering a library. There’s a shameful element to exclusion that is highly effective, even for those included who feel they cannot speak up. That feeling of shame – the most powerful of social control tools, especially when it is based on anti-science and fearmongering propaganda – can be overwhelming.
So, it’s no surprise that it didn’t take long for many businesses faced with enforcing rules of exclusion to instead decide to ignore those illogical policies. Nationally, companies like BGT Developments and Beaurepaires tyres and locally, companies like Wilks Penny and many others, declared discrimination was illegal in NZ and all their customers would be welcomed, whatever their medical status. Those who want to proactively avoid potentially stressful situations, whatever their vaccination status, seek-out and support these businesses. To enable this, many websites and Google Docs have been quickly generated to help Kiwis navigate this new (and exciting) terrain.
But many Government-funded organisations claim they have ‘no choice’ but to enforce the discrimination – their short-term view is that any financial future depends upon their compliance. Universities, swimming pools and museums are among these organisations and present new challenges for groups developing parallel societies; individuals need these facilities to thrive.
It is heartening to see the regular ‘pro-choice’ groups meeting locally throughout the country and helping each other. Some are establishing their own mini-libraries, some offer their swimming-pool for others to enjoy learning to swim in a safe and informal environment. Home-schooling is becoming extremely popular; there is apparently an eight week waiting-list for the necessary paperwork from the authorities that allows families to study at home. Highly-skilled parents with qualifications and valuable skills, (eg in healthcare, teaching, carpentry, music or sports etc,) share time with groups of children to impart their knowledge and passion for their subjects. Experiential learning is front and centre; essential literacy and numeracy skills are embedded with hands-on practical skills, like caring for animals or changing a vehicle tyre. The creativity of these groups of professionals, working together for our children’s future is inspiring. My own role includes helping parents with understandings of assessment theory and curriculum content, and children often lead the way in this journey.
Recently, we attended the local Farmers’ Market, it was our first time at any retail space for many months. Lockdowns and endless changes to rules had made us wary of anything other than grocery and online shopping. But this market was a ‘break away’ group of numerous stall holders, who had decided the discriminatory rules were too restrictive: why should face masks be compulsory in a spacious open-air environment in Summer? Why shouldn’t healthy, attractive produce be available to everyone?
We heard the soothing live music from the car-park and instead of stern security gate-keepers there were balloons for the kids. The buzz of lots of happy smiling people, of all ages and backgrounds, without masks or anxieties, was a joy to be a part of. Music played and laughter was abundant. It reminded me of ‘the old days’. We lingered longer than we planned – even through a Summer rain shower – met friends old and new, and spent lots of cash on delicious fresh food.
These positive experiences, and more, can give us all hope for a new New Zealand, one where we will not be restricted and subservient to unethical Government mandates and illogical policies. Instead, we will embrace the back-to-basics ‘No. 8 wire’ approach, that is based on authentic respect for one another, and a sharing of the elements of our country that we all love and genuinely care about. We need to protect the next generation and grow natural curiosity and critical thinking skills in new and meaningful ways. What better place to begin this journey, than in authentic conversations with each other, at a local farmers’ market?