Chris Penk

The BFD is serialising National MP Chris Penk’s book Flattening the Country by publishing an extract every day.

Kind of ridiculous

Is there anything more absurd than an instruction to “be kind”?

For one thing, it’s illogical.  The essence of kindness is that a person acts in a thoughtful or helpful way despite not being required to do so.

Requiring a person to be kind – to do things that they’re not required to do – therefore makes no sense.

Compulsory kindness is oxymoronic.  And moronic.  And insulting.

To be instructed to “be kind” is not to be trusted to act kindly on one’s own initiative.

Kiwis are mostly kind and caring anyway.  Exponents of Kiwi exceptionalism will claim that we’re more kind and caring than the citizens of other countries.  That may or may not be so and a story for another day, perhaps.

The other interesting thing about an instruction to “be kind” is that the instructor is placing himself or herself on a rather high pedestal.

The institutional unkindness of various Alert Level restrictions was breath taking at times.

Perhaps most infamous was the rule restricting funeral attendance to 10 people, which persisted even into Level 2.  In the face of huge public pressure – and outstanding advocacy on the part of my Party, if I may say so – the government eventually relented to the extent that 50 people would be allowed.

That number is of course still only half the number of people allowed at various other much less significant gatherings, such as at cinemas, shopping malls, restaurants and sporting fields.  The ridiculousness of allowing sweaty rugby players to pack down in scrums (but not grieving grandmothers to hug loved ones at a funeral) was beyond words.

Ardern’s excuse for the crass controlling nature of the rule was more or less along the lines that there’s lots of emotion at a funeral or tangi, as if that matters to a virus.  And funeral directors were not to be trusted, apparently, in the way that cinema owners and restaurateurs were.  Absolutely absurd.

If anything, though, the rule against loved ones spending time at the bedside of a dying person was still more cruel.

The same government that practically filled in arrivals cards for the coronavirus just weeks earlier now refused the entreaties of the desperate and dying.

Confronted by this challenge to her regime’s mantra of kindness, Ardern claimed that 18 out of 24 applications for leniency had been allowed.

This proved false, although apparently the result of incompetence rather than intention to deceive.

The real number of applications approved out of the 24 tendered was zero.  That’s eighteen fewer than eighteen.

RNZ explained the situation in this way, along with a heartbreaking example:

So far 24 people have applied for an exemption to visit someone dying or close to dying and all have been turned down.

In some cases the traveller was still in isolation when their relative died.

About 50 other people who applied for an exemption from the mandatory 14-day isolation on other compassionate grounds were also rejected. […]

Among those turned down for a dispensation from managed isolation were two sisters from Melbourne who spoke to RNZ last week about travelling to be with their dying mother.

To the eternal shame of the government, it took last-minute litigation by one determined and resourceful son (Oliver Christiansen) for the dubious decision in his dad’s case to be overturned.

So it wasn’t just that the rules were ridiculous; they weren’t even being applied correctly but rather in a blanket way.  That’s ticking neither the box marked “competent” nor the one marked “kind”.

Short words like ‘no’ are all-too-easy to spit out when you’re drunk on power.

Some readers may be objecting at this stage.  Wasn’t I advocating earlier that quarantine arrangements be implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on these shores?

In general, yes, quarantining overseas arrivals at the height of a global pandemic makes sense.  But to be kind (or even just halfway decent as a human being) you need to think about how rules should be applied in special cases.

The system had allowed for applications to be made in cases such as this, so that was positive as far as it went.

There was no good reason that visiting a dying relative couldn’t have been made conditional on the visitor from ashore testing negative for covid-19, however, with precautions then to be observed for the actual visit.

In the case of Mr Christiansen, he was not only willing to be tested but in fact requested it only to be refused on the basis that he was displaying no symptoms for having the virus.  Unbelievable.

And while we’re at it, why was a limit of three adults imposed “to be with someone in the last stages of their life”?

Any reasonable number of relatives should have been allowed, provided that the 2-metre physical distancing protocol was observed and surfaces wiped (etc).

Remember, all this remained the case even after the plaudits had been earned for Ardern’s announcement that covid-19 had been “eliminated”.

If the dying person had been in a “bubble” with four people, would one of them had to have left that bubble to get down to the nominated number?  Again, it made no sense whatsoever for such blunt instruments to be wielded in ways that were objectively exactly the opposite of “kindness”.


You can order a signed copy of Flattening the Country for $20 (per copy, including postage and packaging) by:

  1. sending Chris Penk an email at [email protected] with:
  • your name
  • your postal address
  • the number of copies you’d like (if more than one)
  • confirmation of payment; and
  1. making your $20 payment to:


(ASB account of Chris Penk MP)

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