Dr Liz Gordon: Liberty and equality: the anti-lockdown marches


Many of the great civil rights movements of the postwar period stemmed from the desire of populations to be freed from something or another: racism and segregation; capitalist oppression; fascism and dictatorship; class bias; gender inequalities and so on.

In such formulations, the state being requested is ‘freedom from’ attitudes, values, laws, regimes and forms of social organisation that prevent some other outcome: an equal society, perhaps, or a redistribution of goods.

Workers of the world, unite!  You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Negative liberty is the shedding of shackles that constrain the human spirit. The outcome is the ability to meet one’s potential, to be fully human, to “fly free”.  It is heady stuff. It should not be under-estimated.  

And I saw, in Brian Tamaki’s deplorable gathering at the weekend, a strong yearning in the audience for freedom from the current system.

I am certain that they have come to believe that they are being unreasonably oppressed by the system. Watching them sing and sway, it took me right back to the 1960s when, at the age of about 12, I sang ‘We shall overcome” with such passion, such conviction, that masked the fact that I had no understanding at all of what we were trying to overcome.

I am sure that my common comment was “I just want to be free”.  There was certainly a lot of shaking out of my long, thick, curly hair so that only my glasses peaked through the mess. Hair was important in those days. It drove my parents mad, to the extent they noticed (sober, before about 5pm).

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I have always thought that protest songs are most powerful tools.  You feel it right down in your gut: the pain, the passion, the struggle.  And I saw this in them.

But now, I find myself firmly establishment in the matter of freedom from masks, vaccines, lockdowns.  I support the government and think it has done as well as any can against such a slippery enemy. I am strongly against hosting superspreader events, condemning of those who do, railing against the stupidity of people holding a rally in the middle of a pandemic.

Generally speaking, the protests of the 1960s were, in the UK at least, peaceful. Peace was one of our things, of course. I did not see violent protests until the grim marches against the forces of the state during the Springbok tour, many years later. Some of the footage shown in recent months on the 40th anniversary renewed those traumas.

The protestors on Saturday called for freedom. This is a negative freedom.  Whether it is freedom from masks, lockdowns, state mandates, Treaty breaches (I noticed a couple of tino rangatiratanga and United Tribes (He Whakaputanga) flags among the banners), poverty, ideologies or what, they definitely meant business.  For a wide range of reasons (see Martyn’s excellent blog on the fractions that make up the protest movement), those people were determined that the barriers of life far outweighed the benefits at the present time.

Their feelings of oppression are not going to be fixed by kind words.  They are certainly not going to be fixed by violent action.  Calls for protestors to be arrested for breaches are misguided – you would simply set up martyrs, and further increase the barriers that exist between the majority ‘us’ and the passion-filled them. You can’t discipline people out of their beliefs, only their actions.

It is not news to anyone who reads this blog that there are big gaps between groups in society in wealth, power, status, goods and access to resources of all kinds.  That they have come to crystallize around an anti-lockdown, anti-vaxx movement is perhaps not all together surprising, but it does involve a lot of ironies and realities.

The first is that the most vulnerable to infection are putting themselves and their families and associates most at risk.  While the rest of Auckland might be mildly inconvenienced, the Covid spreading that may ensue will occur primarily among those who are not vaccinated.

The second is that Brian Tamaki is a terrible leader. The promised land that he is leading his followers to will not remove shackles and bring freedom – perhaps just replace some shackles with others.

Finally, we face a long, hard road to bring vaccination rates up to 80%, let alone 90%.  We are getting to the sharp end now, where pressures to re-open New Zealand will continue to build.  The government is going to get bombarded, as in this past week, with numerous contradictory views.  The political management of Covid has been, relatively speaking, a breeze to date, but may become a hurricane over the next little while.

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.


  1. Renters need to take to the streets en masse, maybe then she will finally do something about her monstrous house prices.

    • What a silly comment jonesy, do you think that the housing situation only became apparent in the last few years? For 9 years the National Government propped up the economy by increasing immigration without a thought to the infrastructure to support increased numbers and at the same time denied that there was a crisis.

      • Yeah, well they’re gone now, so let’s stop wasting energyon them. What is this majority Labour government doing about it? Because it has significantly worsened under there watch.

        • Yeah nah, worsening? Got some evidence to support this or are you like the political homicidal maniac The Kraut, barking at every parked car?

          • Triggered again Bert. Look at the social housing waiting list for just one area that is significantly worse. Or shall we continue to do nothing and blame John Key?

            • Triggered again Mickeytwoblueeyes. People have come forward for social housing rather than living on the streets, thousands have returned home because of a government that cares. Do the math, many didn’t bother going on the housing register because of an uncaring government, now they have.

          • When John Key left office the average house price change was at running at +14% per annum and had stopped increasing. When the Nats left it was running at +11 to 12% and falling. The highest the last Nats Govt ever got to was +15% but not for long, Key stepped down shortly after that peak. The current Govt’s got it running at over 20% and it is still climbing.
            Source: RBNZ

            • Not quite sure your figures are right Maggie but tell me if there was not a change of Government in 2017, where would you expect house price percentage changes to be now?

          • “Political Homicidal Maniac”…That’s why I love TDB!!! Priceless!!! Very good Ernie, sorry…Bert. I always get my muppets mixed up. I will make free t-shirts with PHM. Who wants one? Size? Colour? Also giving away ‘Dr Jah-Spin-dah’ t-shirts.

      • And before that. Clark, Cullen, Labour initiated the plan to make middle-class home owners the next generation of rentiers.
        Financed them as there was cheap cash available and also they did nothing about increasing the state housing stock. They let it decline and did not maintain the property’s deliberately so that they could be sold off due to the fact that the housing stock became too expensive to maintain.

    • Just look at the run around the govt just gave cannabis users. Screwed the referendum, allowed right wing fanatic religious nutters to spread whatever nonsense they wanted, the legislation written was more to dissuade people voting yes and to top it off made it non binding in case we won.
      We made medical the issue to get it started because all we had was Sativex or Tilray which are too expensive and wanted our own industry so the govt handed it to a bunch of corporates and then created regulations so steep they are impossible to pass affordably, the end result is going to be products more expensive. So 6 years of theatrics and we’re actually worse off rather than better, and green fairies are still getting busted.

      Housing market wont be any different, the govt isnt interested in us poor minions, in fact they have done more to help rich people make money than try and redress the past hardships created by National, in fact nothing has changed for the less well off in this country.
      I have a feeling they want to keep us in cattle class because someone has to pay their rich mates mortgages.

      To be honest we need to replace all those bloody politicians, change the political structure away from business and rich people donations, its kinda showing the flaws in the process carrying on how we are, the system is completely geared towards helping rich and the expense of the poor.

      • Given that some people for whatever reason already see this government as being left I don’t like your chances. The words socialist and or communist are raised to evil status, and that frankly is because so many people understand what they really are. China ‘communist’ now how many billionaires are there in China.

  2. A great post by DR G. Her reasoning for the irrational actions of the Tamaki followers makes sense to me. The power to take advantage of others for your own advantage has been used by many in power not just B Tamaki. The clever manipulation of others is used by other churches and evangelists, and world leaders of course. We’ve seen it used for evil in Hitler and the like but also for good. As Liz Gordon highlights, the disenfranchised and disadvantaged are easy pickings. This same manipulative charisma is better hidden in the likes of John Key and our Jacinda who has had her team of 5 million trailing behind her as she plays the pipe. Sooner or later they are found out if the plight of their followers doesn’t improve. Brian Tamaki does have the advantage of blaming everyone else for the plight of his worshipers while he can stand two meters clear behind his pulpit.

  3. Excellent post @ Dr LG.
    I see human evolution analogically as being similar to ascending stairs…one step at a time. There’s an effort in stepping up but the view’s always slightly better than before.
    I wonder, then, just how far up the stairs we are now as a species overall?
    History’s a great lens on the telescope into the future. History shows me that the greater the wealth of individuals, the greater the risks humanity’s exposed to. If c-19 had been handled by private enterprise, for example, we’d all be dead or dying while one or two made trillions ( ‘Billions’ are sooooo last century dahlings. )
    The thing that most irks the narcissistic, sociopathic riche must surely be that general social collaboration and empathy is the only way to slow c-19 down, hopefully into extinction .
    That’s why we must all be extremely vigilant of, and suspicious of, the dreaded national party and its God botherer cohorts.
    They use the concept of ‘liberty’ to deflect their fascist determinations to crush us and control us simply to financially exploit us. Sir ANZ jonky might have an opinion on that?
    In a nut shell. We need to purge ourselves of the leach that’s THEIR capitalist democracy and reestablish OUR socialist democracy.

  4. Brian Tamaki is all about promoting himself. Like many individuals of his ilk his preachings are empty and vacuous. Unfortunately there are people who although they might not necessarily go along with his absurd ethos, they certainly support his ramblings to the point of even attending his stupid rally in the weekend and they are the ones who will prevent Auckland reaching the vaccination target to let us drop down to a restriction level that will allow businesses to open again.

    I think one word sums up Tamaki and his followers and hangers on – selfish.

    • It was just Tamaki at his day job. He was at work, working a crowd to get change which would see mass crowds allowed at his church to give him money. He was advertising.

      Some getting covid? Pshaw, mere collateral. Some dying? The same. God’s will and all that.

      • Totally utterly agree. He is a money making Grifter. Not a Christian as far as I can tell, not a good man. Just someone who is using good and often poor and marginalised people to make money and lots of it.

        His latest actions are not about freedom or helping people, they are about greed and greed at the expense of other New Zealanders, particularly those poor people in his ‘flock’.

    • Selfish is right. While in lockdown Pope Brian the Vacuous cant hold services, therefore can’t tithe his followers %10 of their earnings (before tax), guarantee his modest lifestyle. This therefore constitutes tyranny or fascism for our poor man of Christ.

  5. That photo’s a but of a doozy. For someone that vehemently opposes banning gay conversion therapy, he’s looking quite stereotypically camp. Slap a bit of lipstick on that pig and you could call it Bryony

    • Jordan do you know what a gang is? I am sure there is no law to allow people to be put in prison until they get vaccinated. We still do have choice on this.

      There are many groups that I would term gangs but they just don’t have that title.

      Rotary, that group of elite businessmen who get together to raise a bit of money in-between eating nice food and drinking and they decide who are the deserving poor. These shits never ever want real change, because they have their little niche in society and gee they wouldn’t really want to move people up the ladder, they might become equal one day and we can’t have that, we’ve worked hard to get where we are.

  6. If we get to a situation where all the information, expense, patience and coaxing is ignored and the ignorant, the misguided and the plain stupid start dying from exposure to Covid then so be it.
    We can call it Darwinian and move on.

  7. Hurricane – as in children getting COVID for Christmas?

    We’ve adopted Key’s plan. Community spread in Auckland to 100 a day and going nationwide by the end of this month. By the end of next month pressure on hospitals and school closures lest …. , and it will be a Level 3 lock down nationwide before Christmas.

  8. Oh well. 5 October and Tamaki has been charged by the Police.
    I’m sure he’s hoping he’ll get convicted and sentenced so that he’ll finally have access to all the prisoners he wants.
    His request that has been declined many times by correction is now come to fruition for him. His perseverance paid off.

  9. Hey Bert, just Google any search term about nz house price chart etc result example:
    New Zealand median house prices skyrocket 25 percent in a single year to new record high – Aug 2021 newshub.

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