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A figure for celebration – and emulation

A member of the Times-Age newsroom received an, uh, interesting response to an article about a Carterton District Council [CDC] proposal to erect a memorial statue of former Carterton mayor and member of Parliament Georgina Beyer earlier this week.

As well as arguably illustrating the correlation between limited literacy and an inability to present a coherent argument, the blurt of bile was a prime example of the way those in the grip of irrational hatred invariably seek to dehumanise the target of their wrath [among other things, Beyer was referred to as a “thing”].

You won’t be surprised to learn that the correspondent isn’t in favour of the statue.

Sadly, Beyer was no stranger to such abuse.

However, one of the qualities that marked her out as exceptional – especially today, when the bizarre belief that ‘words are literal violence’ is worryingly widespread – is that she refused to crumple in the face of such crude contempt, and nor did she allow it to coarsen her own approach to advocating for what she believed in.

That said, she was no shrinking violet either and was more prepared to participate in no-holds-barred debates with the likes of Brian Tamaki or – when the opportunity for civil discourse was off the menu – simply stand her ground and eyeball those who had an issue with her and the causes she promoted, as she famously did on the steps of Parliament before the serried ranks of those opposed to civil unions.

Even if you disagreed with Beyer’s views or the way she lived her life, surely the way she approached her advocacy should be applauded?

If only many current activists were more inclined to heed her sage words.

On the vexed issue of ‘trans rights’, for example, she had the following to say in a 2018 interview on TVNZ’s ‘Q&A’: “If you actually want to get anywhere, you must bring the public along with you, and they need to be sufficiently educated to understand what the hell you’re talking about.”

As well as: “Look, I get a bit worried about people who wallow in their victimhood, frankly. They have got to move forward and stop being so introverted and looking into themselves. They want to sit there and analyse and overanalyse why they are what they are and all of that sort of thing. Actually, just move beyond that. Look at the wider society and see that actually, we’re in a pretty good place here in New Zealand. Don’t blow it by getting people working against you.”

And: “We need to be able to talk without being offended. Yes, you may hear something you disagree with. So be it.”

During a time in which our society is riven with what appear to be widening ideological fissures about a plethora of issues and all too many seek to shut down the views of those they disagree with, the way in which Beyer persistently, gracefully, courageously, and humorously insisted on continuing to engage with opponents in an effort to find common ground rooted in our shared human experience, is something that – now, more than ever – deserves to be celebrated, as well as emulated.

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