The Herald reports:
The Defence Minister has made clear his dissatisfaction with army top brass after an essay criticising moves to increase diversity in the ranks won a writing competition, only to be taken off the website amid an internal backlash.
On July 1 the essay titled Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat was published on the Knowledge-Enabled Army (KEA) website as winner of the “private writing” category in the Chief of Army’s Writing Competition.
The Army Chief had an essay competition which was a good thing. There were categories – best essay from an officer, from an NCO and from a grunt. The winning essay in the officer section was Reconciliation or reimagination? Shifting the diversity dialogue from force design to cultural design. For NCOs it was Diversity and Inclusion Threats to the NZ Army’s Warrior Ethos and War-Fighting Culture and for grunts it was Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat.
Two of them were very pro-diversity and one was more sceptical. So a range of views. Once upon a time that was seen as a good thing. The idea of essay competitions is to provoke, to challenge, to make people think. Giving high marks to an essay doesn’t mean you agree with it. I’d never have passed a university paper if my lecturers had to agree with my essays.
It’s a bit like debating. I remember at school I was on a team proposing that soccer had replaced rugby as the national sport. This was in 1982. We were judged the winning team, which delighted and surprised us. The judge was a former All Black. I have no doubt he didn’t agree with us – he just thought we had argued well.
So three essays were picked as winners. But the woke warriors couldn’t handle that an essay had been published they they disagreed with. So they howled and complained until in a fit of cowardice the Chief of Army deleted the winning essay. No explanation (originally) as to why. Just cancelled. God forbid that people would realise there is a diversity of views in the Army.
The original essay is on the FSU site. It is inoffensive. Its crime is that the woke warriors are terrified others might read it and agree with it. The main points he made are:
- the Army has actually done a good job in terms of racial inclusivity with Maori over-represented, relative to the population
- this synergy of Maori and British cultures is one of the unique features of the NZ Army that has contributed to its reputation for ‘punching above its weight’ in theatres of war across the globe.
- increasing focus on these identity-based notions of Diversity only sews greater division and dischord in society and would, I fear, within the Army too
- there is value in the fusion of cultures but a deliberate effort to engineer diversity will do more harm than good
- a trend to increasingly focus on race, gender and sexual orientation feels like a return to a pre-social revolution era where these arbitrary features of a person were given so much more weight than they deserve
- the kinds of diversity that should matter to an organisation like the Army are diversity of opinion, experience, attitude, class and background.
- The Army should be more inclusive by relaxing some of the barriers to entry such as mental health conditions
Now you can agree or disagree with what he wrote, but to delete the winning essay because some people disagree with it is ludicrous.
He actually is pro-diversity in itself, but is saying you shouldn’t try to artificially engineer it.
After questioning from Newstalk ZB, Defence Minister Peeni Henare said he delivered a blunt message to Defence Force chief Air Marshal Kevin Short yesterday.
He told Short his expectations were that “we’re better than that, and have values that don’t align with the essay.”
“Ultimately, the decision to either put it up or take it down sits with the Army.”
Henare said he first heard about the essay on Tuesday, once it was posted online.
By Wednesday afternoon, Henare hadn’t read it, but said he was satisfied with the outcome.
So the Minister didn’t even read the essay but felt strongly enough to lambast the Defence Force Chief about. Henare has totally failed to deliver any of the extra capital items that the Government promised last term, but he does have the time to stamp on an essay.
Ironically Private Dell started his essay by noting:
The open discussion of any issue must be possible without fear of repercussions on both sides of the debate if the best outcome is ever to be reached.
Rather than have open discussion, we have a poor private who has been publicly humiliated by both the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the Army because he submitted an essay. This is punching down massively.
The Army is meant to protect democracy. Now it is there to censor views that don’t confirm with the prevailing ideology.