Pressure to conform is stifling freedom and creativity

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By Guy Hatchard

Anthony Fauci has declared that the pandemic is over and Denmark has decided to cease its vaccination programme. New Zealand has decided to vaccinate and mask its population into the foreseeable future. Those dissenting are shunned, reviled, excluded, and their voices stifled.

Leadership is not about telling people what to do, it involves helping people to fulfil their aspirations and being able to use non-conformity. Actually, non-conformity is misunderstood, non-conformists are often the creatives that drive progress.

This morning in the Independent newspaper published an article “Heat Battery invention could make millions of homes gas-free”. A new sort of battery that uses just salt and water has been invented that promises to revolutionise our dependence on fossil fuels. It does this by smoothing and extending the ups and downs of energy availability and production from alternative sources such as wind and solar. The creatives have it.

New Zealand is thousands of kilometres from our nearest neighbour, of necessity we have a long history of independent thought and a creative can do attitude. Not so anymore. Today we have a highly prescriptive education system that can stifle creative thought. This has also ensured that we are forgetting key milestones from our past, a sure recipe to limit individual potential.

A few years ago I spent a fruitful and exciting year teaching in a school designed to help young, mostly rebellious children who had previously dropped out of school. The standard entry tests of aptitude revealed dismal levels of achievement in English and Maths.

The school directors advised me to teach English using Wreckit Ralph cartoons and spoon-fed answers. I decided to teach Romeo and Juliet and creative writing (for which I was censored). I soon found out that my pupils had an educational history of suppression and rejection. We went through a process together of discovering their capacity to tell their story. The teaching style involved encouragement, praise, and validation.

The results were remarkable. I discovered I was teaching a group of creative nonconformists who had something very special to contribute to society. Their end of year grades were excellent. The education department became concerned and audited their work. The auditor wrote back that he would die to have students like these and raised their marks further. The irony is that the auditor worked within the same system that had rejected them earlier.

Our education system has taken on the character of a Dickensian schoolroom…

Our government is a one size fits all organisation. Forcing people to conform has become an obsession. It is promoting a generation whose capacity to understand science as simultaneously an open, rational, empirical, and creative process is becoming truncated.

Our education system has taken on the character of a Dickensian schoolroom where brains are viewed as a row of empty pots to be filled by a limited set of prescriptive facts. History is full of creative ‘aha’ moments, but they do not arise in a restricted environment.

Curricula aim to encourage critical and creative thinking, but do they work in practice? A child at play may feel as though they make real choices, but has the parent only set out a very limited set of toys? If there are few open questions, there will be few open minds.

Our government has ended up in the position of a petty bureaucrat…

The pandemic appears to have accelerated intolerance of open debate and created a myopic view of contrary data. If it was just a question of adjusting our educational outlook, it might be tackled through the process of national debate, but pandemic conformity has a frightening international dimension.

Our government has ended up in the position of a petty bureaucrat, obsequious to those it considers among its betters and dismissive and oppressive to those who fall under it. Have we become uncritically subservient to the financial interests of foreign billionaires, global powers, and pharmaceutical companies?

At a point when our global network of communication was becoming a means of trade, education, equality, and political participation, its scope and access has been diminished and censored. New Zealand has replaced this with a ‘government should be your one source of truth’ ideology, something that is worthy of tyranny but not democracy. Stalin, Hitler, and Mao all controlled information ruthlessly.

The controlling outlook is not a stable basis for a system of government. Inherently we are a diversified and creative people. We aspire to freedom. We aim for the stars. A wise leader knows that, as Robert Frost said, “some things have to be left to God”. Government has to facilitate debate, not repress it.

I was feeling used!
All they see is the entrance and exit sign 
Plastered on my body like I’m nothing
They don’t care about me
They walk all over my feelings 
Foreign words they engrave into my skin 
They look right through me
I touch hands with many people
But still no one sees me for what I am
I feel a connection 
But all I am to them is an easy way to their destination 
I’m just a door you’re passing through


Guy Hatchard PhD was formerly a senior manager at Genetic ID a global food safety testing and certification company (now known as FoodChain ID)

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