Be kind - no excuses

Not so very long ago, the phrase "be kind" seemed jaded. Its use could quickly trigger an eye-roll of Big Dipper proportions, a huge sigh, and a cynical, verbal reaction.

Since when did a politician tell the public to be kind? How could somebody in the most ruthless business and the most cut-throat of environments presume to tell the rest of us how to behave, and even know what kindness is?

It appeared more than a trifle forced and potentially smacked of the same copybook that bad managers use when callously making staff redundant and telling their colleagues to be kind to them.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Since when did a politician tell the public to be kind? Photo: NZ...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Since when did a politician tell the public to be kind? Photo: NZ Herald
Yet, in Jacinda Ardern, we have had a prime minister who appears to genuinely believe in the kinder side of politics. That takes enormous courage, especially in a country like New Zealand where lifting one’s head above the parapet is often not admired or welcomed.

Ms Ardern’s kindness approach has made us the envy of many across the world. But, as a consequence, she has had to put up with the most vitriolic and appalling abuse, much of it on social media from people who would not have the guts to say the same things to her face.

Frankly, New Zealanders could do with a large injection of kindness at the moment. Some days it really seems to be in short supply.

People in many corners of the country have experienced a worrying rise in crime in recent months, notably ram-raids on dairies and bottle stores, and what seems to be an explosion of casual violence involving knife attacks and shootings.

This has never been the New Zealand way and it would be dreadful to think our mostly safe streets are becoming places to be avoided when alone or after dark.

We are hearing it more and more often from people that this is not the New Zealand they thought they knew. It sounds melodramatic, but there’s more than a grain of truth in such comments.

Auckland has been particularly hard-hit by this wave of violence. The horrific killing of 34-year-old Sandringham dairy worker Janak Patel last Wednesday evening has left the entire country shocked and outraged.

Dairy and other small-business owners have understandably protested about what they say is a lack of Government action on crime against them and a slowness by the police to respond or help with security measures.

But it’s impossible to blame just one person for this, not even the prime minister, who is MP for the Mount Albert electorate in which the killing happened.

Ms Ardern attended the funeral of Mr Patel on Sunday at the invitation of his family. While a few politicians might simply use such an occasion to make political capital, we know Ms Ardern is a highly empathetic person moved by people’s tragedies and who wants to make things right.

Breakfast presenter Jenny-May Clarkson, who glibly calls all sportspeople and non-politicians "mate", eschewed any similar kindnesses in her interview with Ms Ardern on Monday, asking her "Did the family want you there?" and if she only went because she was invited.

These may be valid questions, but the manner in which Ms Clarkson asked them, and her body language, seemed unnecessarily aggressive and judgemental.

Anyone around in the 1970s and ’80s will remember the fun, generosity and spirit of the hugely successful telethons, which raised millions of dollars for various charities.

Perhaps it is time for another of these, to help all those victims of violent crime in recent months and push back the increasingly nasty edge creeping into our society? It’s an inconvenient truth that both the levels of crime and of kindness are linked to the state of the economy.

But being kind is its own reward. And kindness comes back to you a hundred-fold - perhaps not today, or next week or this year, but eventually, some way down the track.

While you watch those who followed the path of ruthlessness and selfishness crash and burn.