The recent debacle involving Mayor Andrew Judd from New Plymouth proclaiming himself as a “recovering racist” was a special moment in our story. The fact that a typical small town businessman becomes Mayor of a region, a region with a special history and a special people, while remaining utterly unfamiliar with its history, speaks volumes about our Pakeha culture.
How can you become Mayor of a place and not know its story? How?
Very easily if you are a New Zealander. We are very good at avoiding history and avoiding facts. Recently we conducted a referendum on changing our flag. Our flag is too colonial, we were told. That’s embarrassing. Much discussion took place. Not a word however about the actual name of our country or where the original Zeeland is, who they are and what they might think about it all. That might involve reading actual history and geography books.
We were going to have a republican flag and a colonial name, because we are that stupid.
Time and again we tell Maori to build a bridge and get over it. The presumption is of course that everyone belongs on our side of the bridge. The really dumb side where people don’t know much. The side of the bridge so unfamiliar with the word culture that when we make a film about it we choose a British story about hobbits, written by some British author, based on Celtic myths and full of vastly overpaid British actors while we are proud to be the stupid underpaid colonials lurking about in the background stabbing each other in the back. That’s our idea of culture and of telling our stories. Telling someone else’s story because we are all a bit too confused and somewhat dim. Just forget about changing our flag, we need to change our mindset first.
Then after delving deeply into someone else’s past, we tell Maori to get over theirs.
Celebrity shock jock Mike Hosking told us that we are out of touch with mainstream New Zealand. Mike who drives a yummy sports car. Mike who is paid hundreds of thousands while other New Zealanders get to enjoy their bright new future by sleeping out on the street. Spending the night on the backseat with their children in their rockstar mobile accommodation. Mike who once said he votes to the right of Roger Douglas. Mike who bombards us day and night with his little opinions, devoid of any history, first on radio, then in Aunty Herald and later on through mainstream television, which for some reason, seems to be slowly going out of business. Mike who knows the right people. We are not focusing on telling the truth says Mike, who once admitted that he had a celebrity deal with SkyCity. Yes for some reason it is we who are out of touch.
Well newsflash here. Richie McCaw does not lead from the middle of the pack.
Mike’s biggest criticism of Andrew Judd was that he was proposing something undemocratic. That giving Maori a place on Council would bring racism into our democratic process. This is all well and good and it is truthful until you learn some actual history. Until you tell the story. The story of apartheid was already there, when the New Zealand government proclaimed that it was legal to arrest any Maori for any reason, and then to confine them in prison, kill them if necessary without the need to ever bring charges. This is the history of Andrew Judd’s territory. Apartheid and racism was already there by government decree when our government passed the New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863, enabling the ethnic clearance of an area of land some five times larger than Auckland. Maori land.
Ethnic cleansing and the burning down of villages on an area five times larger than Auckland.
When the local constabulary confronted the Maori settlement at Parihaka they were greeted by lines of singing children. This was a peaceable protest against settler greed and dishonesty. This is what our brave colonial forces attacked. The land was “freed”. When we say freed we mean freed of any Maori. When we say clearance we meant clear the land of brown fellas.They were imprisoned, not because they were waging war with guns but merely because they recognised the legal rights of occupation that they had been granted under the treaty.
Putting it simply, they were better educated than us.
So now having been forced off their land, having watched us attack their children, having watched people imprisoned without charge, having watched people killed for greed, having watched their land stolen, having watched it lied about, having been prevented from bringing the matter to court right up until the late 1980’s, having been denied a normal vote in our democracy until 1975, having been prevented from speaking their language and then having to buy their land back off the local government who stole it in the first place and finally having been informed that they hold Maori privilege, Mike tells these people to trust in democracy.
Nice one Mike.
You are right, they are out of touch with the great white majority. That’s because they know their history.
This is not merely a matter of history. At Bastion Point the ugly white demon once again raised its head when we, the great moral majority, combined police and army to cleanse an ethnic minority off their own land. We wouldn’t do that to white people. You do not normally make the police the army. Police are police and army is army. Again, their story was never told. The story of their village being burnt down and people forcibly evicted; the denial from Council that they burnt it down; the broken promises and the lies but most importantly, our refusal to allow them into the democratic process by accessing normal legal processes that we granted to white people.
Isn’t it funny that when you use the term “white people” instead of “Pakeha”, they still get offended? Maybe we just don’t like to see the truth in any shade.
There is another area where we hide from history. The Maori vote. We promulgate the myth that New Zealand was one of the first countries to allow every citizen the vote, regardless of sex or race. No we weren’t. Maori were only allowed a limited vote. The Maori seats were only ever established to steal more land off them. To give them the illusion of democracy while ring fencing them out of Pakeha society. Only a small number of Maori on freehold not communal Maori land were allowed to vote in the main arena. The vast majority were kept out of the main voting arena until 1975. 1975 people. Same as the Australian aboriginal. Prior to this only “half castes” (a vile word at best) were allowed to choose between electoral systems.
Look it up. Don’t be scared. It’s interesting.
This region of stolen land in Taranaki was huge and there are today thousands of farmers sitting on that land. All strenuously avoiding history. Five times the size of Auckland. That is a mother load of denial. Suddenly, according to Mike, these people sitting on stolen property are all going to rush up and vote for the very people that they stole the land off in the first place. Trust in democracy, he says.
Would we let Maori keep stolen property?
Some of us need to learn some history.
Today there is a plaque down there commemorating a cemetery where members of the local armed forces were killed during the “Maori trouble”. Not the British trouble. Not the greed trouble. The Maori trouble. Just like we used to call the New Zealand Wars the “Maori Wars”. When we do recognise history, we want it all to be on our terms.
One seat in twelve was never going to enable these people to overrule democracy. It was to give them a voice. More importantly Andrew wished to discuss the issue. Maori have long wished to discuss the issue. For this, for raising the issue, he was spat on in public and in front of his children.
Well the issue remains. The unspoken history remains. We are only too keen to delve back into history when it involves Gallipoli or Anzac Day. When it involves our myths and our vanity. When Maori engage in their history however, we become deeply resentful.
The strategic leadership failure of Gallipoli is moulded into some sort of cultural triumph. The Maori tactical victory at Gate Pa is strenuously ignored and has been historically lied about.
This history will, from time to time, speak. We have failed to learn that as a nation.
Trust in the democratic process, we are told. Well thousands of Jews and Poles did just that and had their children gassed to death. They trusted in democracy and were exterminated. Adolf Hitler earned his place in the Reichstag through a thoroughly democratic process. The problem there was that people were not educated enough in their history.
And take careful note that it was not Adolf who killed those people. It was German citizens who had been misinformed over their history.
A democratic process involving the burning of books.
2 thoughts on “Hiding From History”
A “recovering racist,” what on earth is that? Is this meant to imply that racism is borne out of some addictive habit like alcoholism, that it has nothing to do with bigotry, that it is a thing one can get over with a little help from one’s friends, that it is not merely having a lack of compassion or intellect?
Racism is ignorance and by the sound of this chap being ignorant is his forté.
“The Lord of the Rings” was Tolkien’s attempt at writing an English mythology. You see, we English were forever borrowing our myths from the French and the Irish and claiming them as our own. The English are odd like that. They have only been on our islands since the 4th century but they like to think they own the place. A bit like the people you write of here in your excellent post. A bit like the old colonials who did what people from history always do when colonising another people. Having raped, mutilated, murdered and slaughtered thousands of innocents they then claim, to remove their guilt perhaps or is that me providing excuses for their vile acts, that they educated and civilised them in the process. Personally, I prefer the truth, the real history to the fictionalised history of the conqueror.
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Russell what the Black n’ Tans did in Ireland in towns like Cork is basically what we did here in colonial New Zealand. The Maori were clever, using guerrilla tactics so we needed a force to achieve land clearances. The Maori were one of only two nations that were never beaten by the British ; we needed to write a Treaty to get things under control. Today we deny even this. Having formed up our militia, like the Black n’ Tans, we could never quite decide whether they were army or police – so we made them both. When governments do this it is always a dead giveaway because it is a process of using the army against the people and of using the military to battle the truth to battle words.
This is exactly what we did and it has been a worldwide process.
My first history lecture at university was a special one. The first speaker was a German, an ex member of Hitler Youth who later served on the Eastern Front. We were stunned by his every word. He stepped down and was followed by a little lady who promptly rolled up her sleeve to show us a tattooed number.
When people lose their history anything can happen. When people recreate the truth with racial myths violence and injustice usually follows.
Colonials came here with much baggage. Axes, muskets, fabrics and nails. The one thing they lacked was a sense of history and therefore a sense of identity. SInce coming here we avidly indulge in history when it suits us; retelling tales of the “settlers” or making our soldiers in Gallipoli into heroes. Yet when Maori recount their history we tell them to stop living in the past.
In the U.K. and Ireland you are surrounded by history. You are comfortable with it. You live with it. In general so are Maori and it is a good thing. Here, most of us on one side forgot our history as we thought we no longer needed it.
A recovering racist is simply someone who realises that, not only did they not learn things but what they did learn was all wrong. This mayor is to be commended for his honesty and for honouring a very powerful process, the true power of civilisation and progress, one that no longer requires bullets and guns.
The affirmation that we can learn and quietly improve. All of us.
I love Tolkien’s works and read them all as a thirteen and fourteen year old. When we tell Maori not to live in the past however, and then dig up someone else’s and name it culture, then I need to bring our my words and go into battle.
Thanks so much for your comment Russell and I look forward to more of your published writing.