A few years back, in the early stages of this Government, I wrote an article entitled “The protesters shall inherit the earth”. The column centred on a view that those who shout the loudest will get the attention and that many in the current Government have come from a background of protest. If anything, the present political climate has seen that shift become even more exaggerated today.

If you think about the combination of the current Government, or those supporting it, we have the Labour Party with their close links to the union movement, the Greens with their history of environmental and anti-establishment leanings, and the Māori party with their history of pushing for racial equality.

The result is a Government today with a “protester ethic” that is sympathetic to minority groups, megaphones and placards in hand, challenging the establishment as loudly as possible, while the majority of us calmly move on.

Of course, we have minority groups championing plenty of causes. It may be equality, gender, immigration, race, sustainability, environmental matters, availability of medicines or even democracy itself that is under discussion.

We have to remember that for the most part, the ability to peacefully protest has been a critical factor in improving outcomes for society at large. The women who vote, the improved lot of indigenous populations, wider acceptance of fringe communities, dismantling of racism and apartheid, and decreasing acceptance of harassment and bullying are all a result of the efforts of people who challenged the status quo.

Protest comes in many forms. There is plenty you can do other than marching down the street. Petitions, writing articles, social media posts and the recently profiled art of lobbying can all play a part in getting your voice heard.

For the most part, such protest is polite, constructive and well meant. But every now and then it gets out of control. Unfortunately, we are starting to see situations where the right to protest is trumping (no pun intended) the rights of those who would prefer the status quo.

The Posie Parker rally was one such situation. Before we go much further, I’m no Posie Parker fan. Like most of us, I hadn’t heard of her until a few weeks ago. But I looked her up and didn’t particularly like what I saw. But there’s a saying that goes around every time one of these incidents pops up. It goes something like this: “You don’t have to agree with what people say but you should defend their right to say it”.

For me, Posie Parker and her ilk fall into that category.

You see, we allowed Ms Parker (whose real name is Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull) to come into the country to speak at rallies where she was planning to discuss her view that the rights of transgender women should not come at the expense of the rights of biological women.

What subsequently happened was that a group of protesters, representing the members of the rainbow community, prevented Ms Parker from delivering her message.

We’ve had another, lower profile instance recently that had similar overtones. A group hosting meetings around the country, protesting against co-governance, have in some instances had their meetings cancelled or abandoned because the owners of the venues where the events were to be conducted — in many cases our own local councils — have withdrawn their offer to host them.

So I’m starting to think we may have things the wrong way around here. Let’s put the boot on the other foot.

Imagine for a moment, if a group of suburban mums and dads turned up with placards and megaphones to stop a symposium being hosted by the rainbow community. Or if a collective of iwi sought the use of a council facility to discuss their own views supporting co-governance and were turned down because of the content of their discussions.

I suspect that the outcome of those situations would be very different to the examples above. And that’s the problem. If we are to progress, we need to consider all sides of an argument or a discussion with an even hand.

But we seem to cater more and more to the minority. And every time we challenge the concept of free speech, or take the rights of one group away by granting different rights to another group, we run the risk of further alienating those on whom we rely the most and who cost us less per head to serve and support: that group of people known as the majority.

We have a large majority of people in New Zealand who are not particularly exercised by the issues that other people protest about. These are typical suburban people who work hard, pay their taxes and do their best to ensure that their kids are fed and educated and in a position to have a better life than their parents. We don’t hear much from those people, but they are our majority.

And we ignore the majority at our peril. This majority is having a tough time. They are our hardworking people who travel on inadequate roads, pay ever-increasing mortgages and worry about where to send their kids to school. They are the victims, rather than the perpetrators of crime. They’re the ones who struggle to get healthcare or medicines when they need them. Some, but not all, will have a view on either side of the conflicts mentioned above. But for the most part, they want to get on with life and do the best that they can.

The criminal justice system is pretty tough on this majority too and provides another illustration of the same point.

I get it that criminal justice is always going to focus on the minority — the perpetrators of crime. But what if the police also had the resources and focus to enable them to provide genuine responsiveness and support for the victims of crime? What if we called the cops for a petty burglary or house break-in — crimes that don’t involve a gun or a knife — and they actually responded? Rather than saying “pop down to the station and fill out a complaint”, what if the police turned up at the scene of the crime, took it seriously, provided emotional and physical support to the victim of the crime if needed, and then went about tracking down and catching and, most importantly, penalising those liable?

Those same responsible, accountable members of society who get it right most of the time, are often penalised harshly for the most minor of indiscretions. A $150 fine for driving your vehicle into a bus lane 10 metres before the lane ends, irrespective of whether a bus is present. A $400 fine for accidentally bringing a piece of fruit, that you forgot to eat on the plane, through the airport Customs. The law-abiding citizen will typically pay the fine — one that often doesn’t reflect the scale of their misdemeanour — and move on. No excuses. No details seeking a sympathetic ear because of their forgetful upbringing or colour blindness. Accountability. Take the punishment. Move on.

Meanwhile, at the more serious end of the criminal curve, the judicial system with highly paid defence lawyers, often funded by the taxpayer, are delving into family backgrounds and education records in order to generate a list of excuses as to why their “client” may have acted the way they did, and the need for some leniency in their sentence because of what happened to them as they grew up. In other words, they are attempting to make the perpetrator less accountable.

So, I’m starting to worry that we might have things around the wrong way.

There is mounting evidence to suggest we are taking the majority for granted and that their views seem to matter less to those in positions of power, than those of the offended minority.

In many cases, the minorities with their megaphones and placards are silencing those whose demands are less extreme and who prefer the status quo. I’m not sure that’s the way it’s meant to be.

Of course, evolution is both necessary and inevitable across matters of politics, all elements of diversity, the environment and the many social issues we now face. And equally, regardless of the nature that change, peaceful protest has a critical role to play in the delivery of the transformation that follows.

There are plenty of sectors of society that need to be heard. Many of them have a minority view. That doesn’t mean their needs are less or that their view is wrong. Someone recently asked the question: “What’s more important — would you rather spend government money on the legal defence of an innocent man or woman, or on a hip replacement for an active mother or father?” I’m sure that the recipient in each case would rate their case as the more important cause. And that’s the point. There’s no right answer.

But should interest groups, those representing a minority subset of our society, really be able to influence how the rest of us should live? Should the small interest groups have their point of view heard while preventing the alternative view from being presented? I’m not so sure.

There is no question that many of our minorities have good points to make and rights to better support or solutions. But an argument, any argument, should be won or lost on the facts of the matter at hand, rather than by who shouts the loudest.