OneAction NZ

Democracy Co-operative

Can I touch your body?

Posted by Rhys Goodwin on October 31, 2021 · 7 mins read

Kia ora folks, this is a heavy topic but I’m sure it’s one we’ve all given at least some thought to lately, and I don’t feel that it’s been fairly canvased by the media. But not addressing it and sweeping it under the carpet would be to let each other down. By each other I mean us people of Aotearoa New Zealand – because we are all part of this community and we’re all responsible for it.

Imagine you’re walking down the street and someone comes up to you and says, “can I kiss you on the forehead?” They may be someone you know, or they may be a total stranger – in any case you reply “No, no you may not!” The person demands a reason – ”Why not!?”

What justification do you have to give for not wanting someone to touch your person? What do you owe them? You might choose to retort with a reason, or if you know them you might try to let them down tenderly, but there is no case where they automatically have a right to touch you and no case where you must give a justification for not wanting them to do so. I think there are very few people who would disagree with this. This is the essence of individual autonomy.

What about vaccinations then? They might not have outed themselves yet but invariably there are people in your circles, people you care about, who do not want to receive the COVID 19 vaccination. It could be to do with health risks, it could be for religious reasons, it could be because they believe that the vaccination might have a negative impact on their health long term. They might even believe there is some kind of worldwide conspiracy going on here. It really doesn’t matter why – in no case does someone have to justify not wanting to take something into their body. But that’s ok because people do have a choice. Right?

What would it mean to remove that choice? What is coercion? The ultimate form of coercion would be to physically detain and restrain a person while the vaccination is administered. If we had a show of hands right now as to whether we should use the police force or the defence force to carry out such a “program”, I think (I hope) most New Zealanders would stand with their hands firmly at their sides.

If holding people down and jabbing them is going too far, perhaps just detaining them in camps where they can mix and mingle with each other and where the basics like food are provided but they cannot mix with the vaccinated population. Would that be ok with you? People would still have a choice – they don’t have to receive the vaccine. Their right to refuse the vaccine (and not to give a justification) is upheld. Happy days.

Still too far? Unjust?

Right now, in Aotearoa New Zealand we are coercing people to receive the COVID vaccination in several different ways. For example, we’ll require vaccination for people to attend large gatherings such as concerts. That’s perhaps at the more frivolous end of the spectrum. How do you feel about that? What about the right to attend a concert without the risk of getting sick? That must be important too? Here we find a trade-off of rights.

Far more serious is the fact that we are coercing people by forcing them to choose between their livelihoods or careers and taking the vaccine. We’re using legal force to limit choices or require people to justify refusal of the vaccine. We have done this for teachers and now it looks like we are going to extend it much further.

If 10 percent of the population refuse the vaccine – for reasons that are entirely personal to them, for which they do not owe us an explanation – that’s over 400,000 people for whom we are strong-arming and significantly removing choices for. That’s over 400,000 people we are backing into a corner using some pretty big guns.

I say we because it’s us – you and me. We’re doing this. We are coercing people by forcing them to either take a substance into their bodies or give up what might be a lifelong dream, or to give up livelihoods.

Perhaps you think it’s justified to use such coercive force? For example, maybe you see the risk of a child getting COVID from an unvaccinated teacher is so significant that it warrants terminating employment.

My point is not to argue which trade-offs are or are not justified. My point is that we need to look at and own what we are doing. It’s a big deal. This is our political community, we set the rules. If you don’t think it’s your responsibility, or you don’t think you have any say in the matter, then that suggests that the way we’re doing politics is broken. And of course it’s broken, we know this. Taking responsibility means being part of the decision and owning it. The practice of politics is supposed to be a way for us to navigate these issues, but our politics is not fit-for-purpose.

So, what I’m suggesting then is that we build a better way of doing politics using technology which allows us to take on more of the responsability for the direction of this waka, so we’re not just passive passengers. It’s entirely possible. It will require a very small amount of mahi from a very large number of us to get it off the ground though, so please consider joining the monthly TallyUp of people who support OneAction’s vision. And please consider sharing this in earnest with someone else. Likewise, get in contact if you’d like to get more involved.

Ngā mihi