Stories in the Taranaki Daily News this week concerning the reaction to the council decision to introduce Maori wards probably surprises few. For whatever reason, many people fervently disagree with the concept, but most would agree that personal attacks, hate mail and the withdrawal of "friendship" are not the way civilised, thinking people behave. The right to disagree is an integral part of our society. We have seen what happens when that right is withdrawn - people in Germany under the Nazis all suffered horrifically when they spoke up against their totalitarian rulers. Freedom of speech is a right we hold dearly and one we must always maintain, but the freedom to express our thoughts should not, and must not, extend to personal vitriol. Sadly, in today's world of the internet, it appears to be acceptable to ignore rational thinking and rely merely on abuse. If someone disagrees with another's opinion, the most effective reaction would be to listen and reason with him or her. By verbally attacking the messenger, sympathy often shifts from the abuser to the abused. It's hard to ignore the probability that the anonymity the internet provides is a factor in the levels of vitriol that masquerade as opinion. Social media is a recent phenomenon, but judging by a lot of feedback posted online, it is proving to be a refuge for haters.
OPINION: The rise in cyber bullying is causing angst in schools and with parents, yet one does not have to look at too many sites to find that sort of behaviour by so-called adults. It is cowardly to use a nom-de-plume and write offensive comments. If the subject is so important, then surely it should be debated in a reasoned manner?
A majority of New Plymouth District councillors voted democratically to introduce a Maori ward at the next election. Under the Local Government Act, that opportunity can only be considered every six years.
The New Plymouth branch of Grey Power clearly signalled they would seek to overturn that decision through a petition. That is also their democratic right.
So let us have the debate, but in an informed respectful manner.
- Taranaki Daily News
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