How exactly are you supposed to react when a bunch of far-right, flag brandishing, anti-social types gather in a public place in your city? Do you confront their racist hate with equally militant anger? Do you stage a quiet but dignified protest in response? Should you simply ignore them, as you would a small child's tantrum, until they go away?
I take my hat off to my fellow Wellingtonians who showed their commitment to the anti-racism movement by protesting Saturday morning's National Front rally. It's so reassuring to see that people give a shit. I must be getting old: ten years ago I would have been right there with them, not sifting around in my PJs in the burbs. But leaving aside the fact that my advancing years are making me go a bit crusty, I've got some worries about combating the National Front with angry protest, no matter how justified the anger.
Of course, I've got no problem at all with protests per se. One important achievement of today's demonstration was showing solidarity with those Kiwis of non-European descent that the National Front sets out to intimidate. But it looks to me as though the National Front and others of their ilk thrive on conflict. It seems to reinforce their sense of being persecuted outsiders, marginalised, pushed out of 'kiwi jobs' by 'those people', their cultural heritage disrespected. My guess is that their self-importance gets a testosterone-fueled boost when the Police are called on to keep the peace at their rallies. It's easy to see how this sort of thinking can lead to the crazy, violent fantasies that the far right seem to indulge. They may be ludicrous, but they're not harmless, as the sadistic murder of tourist Jae Hyeon Kim by skinheads showed only too clearly.
It's hard to know how counter people as solidly committed to being nutty as the National Front. To me, the existence of these extreme racist views underscores the importance of standing against day-to-day racism - New Zealand First's immigration policies, Lockwood Smith's recent comments about foreign workers, the racial disparaties of wealth and wellbeing seemingly entrenched in our society, the guy behind the wine shop counter who made a dumb joke with me about his dislike of Maori culture. Maybe, if there was less tolerance for racism in everyday life, life on the lunatic fringe would be less tenable?