I met a white supremacist while I was out for my swim last week. She was a woman, in her mid-fifties, who would simply not let me escape. I believe we began with Muslims. The rant was the usual stuff: they are taking our places, they require halal meat that we have to pay for, girls are routinely raped from age nine and have compulsory clitorectomies, Mohammed blah blah and so on.
I politely asked her how she could feel like this about Muslims in the wake of the Christchurch shootings. Aren’t we all now kotahitanga, one together? This shut her up for a minute and I managed to escape to the other end of the pool.
“We used to be able to trust our government but no longer can”, she exclaimed, following me. “Have you heard of Agenda 21? The aim is for all the politicians to take control of the world. It is a conspiracy against the people! Haven’t you heard of Agenda 21???”
I said that I quite liked our current government and, having just arrived back from the UK, where the politics is toxic, I was pleased to be home. “BORIS!” She said. “All they had to do was leave him to do his good work and Britain would be free. And instead the world order has said he must be stopped! He is only trying to give the people what they wanted”
I was not rude to her (pool etiquette) but I did observe that her view of the world and mine were almost diametrically opposed. In truth, this is the first person I have personally met (do I lead a sheltered life, perhaps – maybe white supremacists are on every corner?) who has personally constructed a world view, largely from the Facebook pages she adheres to, that is so extreme.
The views she held were naïve and blatantly wrong but stitched together diligently into a coherent theory of the world, that was a bit frightening. She was intelligent. I certainly got the feeling that, under certain circumstances, she might act on such views. I certainly believe she had the ability to recruit young people to the cause.
I told her that I was not a fan of attacking groups, and thought that it almost constituted hate speech. “HATE SPEECH?” she shouted, “that is what the new world order calls free speech. People are being put in prison for giving their own views. Can’t you feel how everyone is being pushed into having the same beliefs?” Errr…. No, I can’t.
There was a little more of this stuff, she was very pro-Trump because he stood up against the real powers and for the people (OMG), until she abruptly returned to a discussion of New Zealand. “In New Zealand, there are two sets of people, the Māori and the white people….”, she commenced.
And I knew what was coming. My beloved time swimming had been thoroughly disrupted, I felt tense and angry instead of relaxed and calm, and I was about to hear her views about how the Māori were either (a) ignorant savages who were saved by the white people, or (b) not evolved enough to live in our society. I have heard such views before and am not impressed.
“Must go,” I said, and fled the pool, kerfuffled.
Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.