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Dame Anne Salmond: The danger of “pernicious polarisation” in society

Summarised by Centrist

Dame Anne Salmond reflects on a workshop she participated in in 1993 at Oxford University in the UK, which discussed the outbreak of war in Bosnia, where societal divisions escalated rapidly. She says that any society, under the wrong leadership, could witness similar destruction and warned that peaceful relationships among different social groups should never be taken for granted.

Salmond observes that today’s democracies are splintering. “Pernicious polarisation,” driven by self-interested elites, fuels divisions, reducing identities to simple binaries and silencing moderate voices. 

Salmond says in NZ both sides of the political spectrum are at fault. After the 2020 election, Labour’s absolute majority led to unilateral decisions that amplified existing social divisions, including central vs. local government, rural vs. urban communities, and Māori vs. others. 

In turn, she says in forming the new Government, the National Party forged alliances with smaller, more extreme parties, which is also a mistake. 

Her solution involves bolstering the middle ground through bipartisan policy-making, inclusive advisory groups, broad civic engagement, and moderated discussions on divisive issues, like citizens’ assemblies, for instance.

Read more over at Newsroom

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