Friday, June 15, 2012

Looking for trouble in Tonga: a reply to Vomiting Diamonds

A blogger with the alarming name Vomiting Diamonds has criticised the emphases of my posts about Tongan history. Diamonds is a Marxist, and he believes that there is too little conflict in my picture of the Tongan past:

Anyway, where does class exploitation and resistance fits in to all this? It seems to me it's a bit in the background in all this somewhat abstract discussion of modes of production.

Diamonds makes a fair point. I do give the impression, in my previous blog post and in certain other posts I have made about modern Tonga, that rulers like King Tupou I and Queen Salote operated completely independently of any pressure from social forces. In my last post I praised documents like the Emancipation Edict of 1862 and the  of 1875 Constitution as historically progressive, yet gave the impression that they were the doing of Tupou, and Tupou alone, rather than the achievement of the sort of popular movement which is usually responsible for the success of progressive social measures.

Every society is a mixture of cohesion and conflict, but social scientists tend to disagree about whether the conflict or the cohesion is more worthy of study. Marxist historians, with their belief in the ubiquity and importance of class struggle, are likely to be disappointed with the emphases made by some of the leading scholars of the Tongan past.

The two pioneering scholars of nineteenth and twentieth century Tongan history are Ian Campbell and Sione Latukefu. In his book Island Kingdom: Tonga Ancient and Modern Campbell brings together findings from archaeological digs, the scribblings of early European visitors to the Pacific, and a lot of economic data to create a lucid narrative of Tongan history. Latukefu, a Methodist minister as well as an academic, spent decades interviewing Tongans about the histories of their families, villages, and churches, and was thus able to escape the Eurocentrism of many palangi commentators on his society.
For any outsider interested in learning about Tongan history, Campbell and Latukefu provide very useful introductions. But both are inclined to emphasise the cohesion of Tongan society over the past century and a half, and neither gives much attention to the experiences of subaltern groups like poor farmers, urban labourers, criminalised youth, and inhabitants of isolated outer islands.

Campbell and Latukefu often give the impression that the course of Tongan history has been determined by  a handful of great men and women. Island Kingdom includes a couple of fascinating chapters on Tupou I's reforms of Tongan society, but these chapters leave us with the impression that these changes came about because of the wisdom of Tupou I and his close adviser, the Wesleyan missionary Shirley Baker, rather than because of anything the mass of Tongans said or did.

But there are hints in some of the work of younger scholars about how the limitations of Campbell and Latukefu might be surmounted.

In his book Tonga in Crisis the anthropologist and poet 'Okusitino Mahina compares the pro-democracy protests which culminated in the riot that razed half of Nuku'alofa in November 2007 with events in the nineteenth century:

[T]he introduction of Codes of Law beginning with the Vava'u Code in 1839, followed by the 1862 Emancipation Edict and the promulgation of the 1875 Constitution...were the direct results of major political upheavals that threw the whole of Tonga into some fifty years of bloody Civil Wars...Characterised by bloodshed, burning and destruction, these political and religious conflicts, which culminated in the promulgation of the 1875 Constitution, raise some serious questions. Should we embrace the 1875 Constitution and treat the political violence that led to its formation as a complete disgrace? Or, should we embrace the political violence and regard the Constitution as a total disgrace? 
Where Campbell and Latukefu often seem to regard the Civil Wars of the early nineteenth century as struggles between members of the Tongan elite - between chiefs using private armies to settle disputes over traditional kingships, and over religious doctrine - Mahina sees them as conflicts in which the Tongan masses are players. And where Campbell and Latukefu treat the Civil Wars as a temporary departure from the pattern of Tongan history, and regard Tupou I's accession to power in the 1830s and '40s as a restoration of normality and stability, Mahina argues that conflict continued, in one form or another, throughout the reign of Tupou. Measures like the 1875 Constitution were the product of this continuing conflict, not a reflection of its end. Unfortunately, Mahina did not have space to develop his interpretation of nineteenth century history in Tonga in Crisis.

If we wanted to flesh out Mahina's claims ourselves, we could do worse than deploy a technique EP Thompson developed during his researches into nineteenth and eighteenth century English history. Thompson was a man who spent decades railing against attempts to portray British society as traditionally cohesive rather than conflict-ridden, and who insisted that history had to be seen from the 'bottom up', through the eyes of subaltern groups, as well as through the narratives left by Prime Ministers and diplomats and generals.

As he worked his way through stodgy official histories, old government reports, and yellowing court records, Thompson learned to read between the lines of his material: to 'listen' for the voices of  marginalised and unfashionable individuals and groups. By attending to the oversights of official histories, and the lacunae in supposedly exhaustive documents, Thompson was able to reveal another side to his country's history.

I want to suggest how the Thompsonian technique might be applied to Tongan history by pointing to what I think is a significant silence in standard accounts of one of the most important phases of the country's nineteenth century civil wars.
After proclaiming himself King of Tonga in 1831, Tupou I began a long military campaign to unify his country, which had broken into warring statelets at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Tupou was an early Tongan convert to Christianity, and his campaign soon took on the character of a holy war.

After subduing all of his native Ha'apai archipelago in central Tonga, Tupou moved north, and took control of the Vava'u Islands. Soon Tupou was fighting on Tongatapu, the large southern island which has usually dominated Tonga. As the site of the traditional Tongan capital of Mu'a and tens of thousands of hectares of rich plantations, Tongatapu was indispensable to Tupou.

In 1835 a handful of Tongatapu chiefs converted from paganism to Christianity, and established, with the help of a few British missionaries, a fortified settlement around a church in Nuku'alofa, on the northern coast of the island. Tupou arrived with an army in 1837, after pagan forces besieged the little outpost of Christendom. Tupou's troops relieved the siege, and made a series of attacks on pagan villages in the interior of Tongatapu. As each village fell to the holy warriors, its people were slaughtered. Several historians have suggested that the missionaries in Nuku'alofa goaded Tupou into these massacres, by quoting some of the gorier passages of the Old Testament to him.

Although Tupou appeared to pacify much of Tongatapu in 1837, his rule was not accepted by the survivors of his invasion, and in 1840 he was forced to mount a new campaign against his pagan enemies.

During his second war for Tongatapu Tupou made a radical change in tactics. Gathering his army outside Kolovai, a pagan stronghold on the western tip of Tongatapu, he made a speech without precedent in Tongan history:

We did wrong in the last war when we did not fight as Christians; then our object was not to save but to destroy. Now, I tell you all that we must not fight in that way again. If the enemy come out of their fort tomorrow morning, every man must try to seize them, but not to shoot them, except in a case of life or death.

For a fortnight Tupou's army sat outside Kolovai's high earth walls, waiting for its enemies to surrender. The soldiers inside the fortress were mostly serfs, who had been compelled to take up arms by the chiefs whose lands they worked. As word of Tupou's speech reached them, they began to sneak out of the fortress. When Tupou finally advanced on Kolovai the fort's depleted garrison surrendered immediately.

After the fall of Kolovai, Tongatapu's pagan chiefs began peace talks with Tupou, and the war soon petered out. When another rebellion against his rule broke out on Tongatapu in 1852, Tupou used the tactic which had defeated his enemies at Kolovai. Once again, mass desertions took the wind out of the rebels. After 1852 Tupou never faced another armed uprising.
Historians have tended to treat the defeat of the 1840 and 1852 rebellions as evidence of Tupou's wisdom and political nous. There has been little discussion, though, about how Tupou's tactic of peacefully waiting out his enemies could have enjoyed such remarkable success. What made the soldiers of villages like Kolovai so ready to defy their chiefs by throwing down their arms and deserting their posts? Why was the pagan feudal class of Tongatapau, which had for hundreds of years raised powerful armies, suddenly unable to put up a fight against a Christian upstart from Ha'apai? Is it possible that Tupou was able to triumph peacefully over the rebels of 1840 and 1852 because he made an informal alliance with a peasantry that was ready to revolt against its traditional masters?

When we ponder these questions we need to remember the origins and development of feudalism on Tongatapu.

The Lapita people, the ancestors of today's Polynesians, brought a relatively egalitarian society with them when they colonised Tonga three thousand years ago. Based as it was on fishing and small-scale farming, the Lapita economy was incapable of generating the sort of surplus that could support a privileged and idle class.

Over millennia, though, Tongatapu's inhabitants developed a sophisticated and highly productive system of agriculture to support their growing population. A chiefly class rose to appropriate the surplus produced by this economy; priests and poets were deployed to justify and beautify the privileges of this new class. When Cook arrived on Tongatapu in 1773 he found a fantastically stratified society. Chiefs regarded the serfs who worked their estates as members of a different race, and denied that they had souls.
In the early decades of the nineteenth century, though, the feudal order was destabilised. New-fangled muskets and cannons upset the balance of power between chiefs and emboldened raiders from northern islands; Christianity undermined old religious apologies for the powerful. The need for firearms and other European goods led chiefs to sell or barter much of their harvests to traders, rather than offer it to the priests, poets, and sacred king who lived in Mu'a. Young serfs could dream of escaping their lot by leaping aboard a passing European ship or enlisting in the army of some enemy of their chief.

In 1839, after taking advice from some missionaries, Tupou had created the 'Vava'u Code', Tonga's first set of written laws. The Vava'u Code ordered chiefs to give their serfs a fair amount of land to farm for subsistence purposes, asserted the universality of human rights under Christianity, and demanded that every able-bodied Tongan perform useful work. The Vava'u Code foreshadowed the Emancipation Edict, which removed serfs from the control of chiefs, and the Constitution of 1875, which transferred chiefs' properties to the state. Although it was a modest document, compared to the reforms that were to come, the Vava'u Code nevertheless announced that Tupou would not tolerate some of the old excesses of the chiefs.

News of Tupou's Christian religion and his irreverent attitude toward some Tongan shibboleths would have preceded his arrival on Tongatapu. Is it possible that the willingness of the defenders of villages like Kolovai to capitulate to Tupou I was in part a declaration of no confidence in Tongatapu's local feudal class? Did Tupou, with his attacks on the privileges of the chiefs, his Christian rhetoric about the brotherhood of man, and his promise not to mistreat captured enemies, seem like a potential ally to some of Tongatapu's beleagured peasants? Is some sort of peasant rebellion hidden by conventional accounts of the 1840 and 1852 wars on Tongatapu?

[Posted by Maps/Scott]

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

gross
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_-vNgDZMy_EQ/TE9i4mwaENI/AAAAAAAABUw/-QhE4Ca5yXc/s1600/Uoleva+Ha'apai+.JPG

2:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, democracy is WAAAAAYYYYYYY overrated. It really ought to be called what it is – Demagogy – the manipulation of the people. Democracy was born in ancient Greece, yet what no modern day people don’t mention is that Democracy in Ancient Greece was riddled with corruption, greater interests, shady dealings etc. This is well documented in Herodotus as well as others. It is a rotten system to the core, since it’s inception. It runs on manipulation, greed, lack of transparency and it’s prerequisite of public idiocy is maintained in the long run to perpetuate it’s survival – see olympic games, theatre, arts etc… Socrates was ostracised for pointing out cracks in the foundation as is any whistleblower today. I can’t imagine the scope for digital and intellectual manipulation that the advent of direct digital democracy offers to TPTB (policy voting).

Centralisation=convenience for TPTB.
Decentralisation=power to the people to live in micro-civilisations.

Fuck Democracy. Fuck the powers that be and Fuck anyone who thinks they are fit to rule anyone else. FUCK HUMANITY.

12:33 am  
Blogger Richard said...

How large is the (written) history of Tonga?

Interesting they had a feudal society. I had also heard there were many ward with Samoa with different results.

[Perhaps BTW our friend Botur might be interested in doing a history of Tonga?!!]

- Democracy in Greece - it has to be remembered that the democracy in Greece was rather limited but it more or less arose there but serfdom exists as did slavery for thousands of years despite Greece.
Socrates argued (de facto ) against democvacy or showed there were contradictions in "freedom" etc so in fact he was invited to commit suicide as he was, well, using logic to prove the impossible, in fact my take on that is that his arguments are done to show that all is not as it is and not to push any view specific...that said I think Plato (appropriated by the Christians for his Ideal Forms etc) etc was probably rather right wing. Aristotle seems to have had the more "open" views (he also did a lot of science, but some of his ideas were also appropriated, not always for bad reasons...) ...depends whether you are and Idealist or maybe a Materialist...or some combination. Heraclitus was also fond of contradictions...

From what has been presented here though the culture and history of Tonga is deeper, more complex and richer than most of us Europeans in NZ etc imagine. Just as English or British society is also very complex, as Thompson found. Greece in the days of Heraclitus etc wasn't much bigger in population than as Tonga and Samoa together and then as now most people weren't philosophers or a "readers" (which is not to say they were unintelligent or "unsophisticated" in their own way. They were.

And class or "people" forces were certainly at work, as they still are.

9:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

REAL trouble in Tonga
http://www.themosttraveled.com/new/tonga.html

2:07 pm  
Anonymous vomitingdiamonds said...

Thanks for this, it was an enjoyable read about rebellions I did not know about. Mahina's book looks interesting. I can't comment much due to a nasty bout of overwork imposed on me from above, but nonetheless here a couple of points you may like to bounce off.

Did the rebellions continue or simmer away after 1872? In short, how did we get from the 1870s to the Nuku'alofa riot of 2006?

"Every society is a mixture of cohesion and conflict, but social scientists tend to disagree about whether the conflict or the cohesion is more worthy of study. Marxist historians, with their belief in the ubiquity and importance of class struggle, are likely to be disappointed with the emphases made by some of the leading scholars of the Tongan past."

Yes, but a minor point, there are many Marxists (and 'post-Marxists') who emphasise the hegemony of capital over and through us eg, Western Marxists (including Gramsci), situationists and the like. A NZ example was Bruce Jesson (who railed against the crude Marxism of the Leninist 'sects' as he called them). Of course, E P Thompson himself fumed against this pessimistic marxism. Other marxists used a similar method to Thompson to uncover the hidden resistance of the 1950s and 1960s (except they applied it to the present) like the 'Forest-Johnson tendency' in the US including the famous C L R James and Martin Glaberman.

Anyway, another minor point, surely it would be difficult to strictly use Thompson's method on Tongan history if there is a lack of documents - I would assume that like other Polynesians, Tongans have a largely oral tradition and culture surely? Didn't Thompson dislike oral history for some reason if i remember rightly?

"Is it possible that the willingness of the defenders of villages like Kolovai to capitulate to Tupou I was in part a declaration of no confidence in Tongatapu's local feudal class? Did Tupou, with his attacks on the privileges of the chiefs, his Christian rhetoric about the brotherhood of man, and his promise not to mistreat captured enemies, seem like a potential ally to some of Tongatapu's beleagured peasants?"

You make an OK case for this, but then the counter to this is that they were surely submitting to a more powerful chief who presumably used christianity in a forked tongue manner - i.e. spoke of universal 'brotherhood', but then used it as an ideology to reinforce his rule and wealth. (Even if local chiefs treated the 'commoners' worse).

And a basic question, 'cuse my igorance: (that might be answered somewhere else on your blog), when capital slowly arrived in Tonga in the C19th?, did it contribute to any of the Tongan kings enclosing communally (or semi-communally) owned land? Or was the land always owned by the aristocracy?

3:48 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

This guy:

"...would fly in to Nuku’alofa, skip the town and its rather flat boring island, and take an internal flight to beautiful, mountainous Vava’u, an hour to the north. I would snorkel, sail and go beachcombing, where I would be guaranteed lots of privacy and quiet in the true Friendly Islands..."

He's missed the whole point! He's not in Dr Hamilton's league...years ago in Fiji I mixed it, sure I toured around, but I went to see as much of the place and people as I could. I didn't necessarily want quiet...obviously I didn't want to be killed either, but I wanted to learn something at least...even if from interaction from other tourists, and given as non resident I couldn't nose around too much but I did happen to meet some interesting local people & so on...mind you that was 1974 or so! But the principle is the same.

Jack Belden the US journalist and adventurer went to China and was virtually a part of Mao's armies and even saw fighting first hand - so he could write his book "China Shakes the World."

It was a pretty weak response to the riot which sounds exciting and no e the main events in recent times to happen to Tonga. (Which is not to exclude "ordinary life" (and , no I wouldn't want to egt killed or injured on trip overseas myself, but..)...but if one does too much snorkeling one would think Tonga was just a lot of beautiful & colourful fish...

4:02 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Like they all think NZ is Hobbittsville or my Insect Workshop.

4:05 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I bloody sick of working with that moron filmmaker Jackson on his stupid fantasy movies.

4:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tongan culture has always been driven by their recognition of one person among them (Tui Tonga) to be superior in rank and status, due to hereditary disposition. Although their recognition of higher powers (Gods - Tangaloas and Mauis) existed, the higher powers had become secondary or became mythological status thus making the Tui Tonga, their active form in person. By giving proper respects and homage to the Tui Tonga, the requirements of the Gods are therefore, met. For the Tui Tonga title, in itself, became Godlike status. This was the perception in Tonga throughout ages because of their belief, the Tui Tonga was a direct descendant of Ahoeitu, the son of God (Tangaloa Eitumatupu’a) himself. So, anyone, I mean anyone in Tonga who claimed to be of “Eiki” blood, is directly related to this Ahoeitu mythology or the Tui Tonga.

Because ignorance of history is prevalence in Tonga, many people claim they have “Eiki” status. But in reality, they are not.

4:55 pm  
Anonymous FG said...

There is no such thing as a Christian nation. There is, the kingdom of God, which consists of some (not all) people from all nations. “And they shall come from the east and west, and from the north and south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” – Luke 13:29

‘Israel’ in the Bible refers to God’s people, not the people of the country Israel, many of whom reject Christ as the Saviour of the world, and will be judged for that together with many Tongans who continue to practise heathenism, ancestor worship, withcraft (faipele etc) and are committing blasphemy day in and day out – by continuously declaring that the tu’i tonga was half man, half god (uhhum!.. ko e kui hongofulu ‘ahai na’a ne plagiarise hono fa’ele’i ‘a Sisu?) and attritube god-like character to the king, royal family and the hou’eiki. May be we should go back to calling our Lord, ‘Yahweh’ in order not to be confused with the countless lords in Tonga. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Kuo taimi ke tuku ‘etau lohiaki’i pe ‘ekitautolu ‘akitautolu ko e fonua Kalisitiane ‘a Tonga. Takitaha ‘ilo pe ‘a e tukuingata ‘o ‘ene lotu. ‘Ikai ke ‘i ai ha taimi ‘e ha mahino ai hotau tukunga fakalaumalie ka koha ouau fakafonua, hange ko e hala ‘a e Tu’i. Hopo hake ‘a e kau taulatevolo ‘o pulotu ‘oku nau tauhi mo fakatolonga ‘a e ngaahi ouau fakahiteni, ‘o lue fakataha mo e kau faifekau ‘oku nau malanga’i ‘a e Kosipeli. ‘Ikai ke ‘i ai ha kete ‘a e kau tangata malanga ‘o e Kosipeli ke nau lea ‘o ta’ofi ‘a e fa’ahinga ouau mo e tukufakaholo ta’efaka‘Otua (ie. ‘Otua ‘o e kakai Kalisitiane!). Ko e ha ‘enau tali ‘e fai ki he ‘Eiki ‘i he ‘aho fakamaau?

5:48 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Richard,

obviously the Tongans didn't have a written language (the Rapa Nui people are the Polynesians who definitely did - and today no one can make out their texts!), but a reasonable amount has been written about the place over the past couple of hundred years. Martin Daly published a very nice survey of this literature called Tonga: A New Bibliography in 2009:
http://uhpress.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/tonga-a-new-bibliography/

Here's the Uni of Hawa'ii Press blurb:

'Tonga is a fascinating and subtle combination of a traditional Polynesian kingdom—the only one to survive the impact of colonization in the nineteenth century and remain independent—and a thoroughly Christian country.

This comprehensive bibliography is a selective guide to the most significant and accessible English-language books, papers, and articles on every aspect of the kingdom’s history, culture, arts, politics, environment, and economy. It is a much updated and expanded edition of the original version that was published in 1999 as part of the World Bibliographical Series, with the addition of more than 200 new entries. Each of the approximately 600 described and annotated items is organized under broad subject headings, and indexed by author, title, and subject. In addition—and new to this edition—all known Ph.D. theses, although not annotated, are shown within their appropriate subject categories and indexed.

Also new is a section on the most important Tonga-related websites. A general introduction describes the Tongan kingdom, its history and society, and its current situation.'

This blog hasn't had a best of list for some time - it'd be fun to do a Top Twenty Tongan Books, and invite nominations...

11:12 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Diamonds,

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with trying to look back into Tongan history through the prism of the 2006 riot, but I think leftists who live outside Tonga have to careful about simplifying and beautifying that event. A number of palangi leftists have tried to present the riot as some sort of spontaneous outpouring of class hatred towards the Tongan aristocracy and bourgeoisie. The Tongan accounts of the riot read quite differently.

Kelefi Moala is Tonga's pre-eminent journalist and a longstanding thorn in the side of the country's establishment, so his account of the 2006 riot in his book In Search of the Friendly Islands ought to be worth careful consideration.

Moala denies that the riot was either spontaneous or progressive. He says that political and business rivals of the Tongan establishment made careful plans for a sectarian and racist attack on Nuku'alofa in the days before the riot. They decided to ply teenagers turning up to a pro-democracy march with large amounts of booze, and then to encourage them to loot and burn shops in Nuku'alofa's central business district that were linked to the royal family, the leadership of the Wesleyan church, and the Chinese immigrant community. Shops connected to the opposition Friendly Islands Democratic Party and the Catholic church were to be left alone. Petrol was stockpiled so that fires could be started, and vehicles were organised to take away looted goods.

Moala was particularly angry at the attacks on Tonga's Chinese community. He pointed out that many of the Chinese were people of modest means who had come to Tonga to get away from their country's dictatorial government, and noted that they had made great efforts to fit into Tongan society, learning the local language and even converting to Christianity. For their pains they had to watch the small businesses they had set up looted and burned.

Moala's view of the 2006 riot is certainly shared by many Tongans.

Paul Janman captured the riot on film, and included some of it in his movie Tongan Ark (tonganark.net), which has been discussed at some length on this blog (http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2011/12/boarding-ark.html) and is being shown at this year's Auckland Film Festival. Paul characterised many of the rioters as mindless looters, and says that some of them were not even Tongans, let alone Tongan democrats. His footage of the riot includes an interview with a palangi visitor to Tonga who had decided to score a few free cellphones!

1:18 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

I should emphasise that my claim that there were peasant rebellions in 1840 and 1852 is highly speculative. I've sent 'Okusitino Mahina a link to this post, so hopefully he'll tell me at some stage whether he thinks I'm talking nonsense or not. I tried my peasant revolt theory out on Sisi'uno Helu, the daughter of Futa Helu and Director of the 'Atenisi Institute last night, and she seemed pretty unimpressed. Sisi'uno suggested that large numbers of Tongatapuans might have given up the fight against Tupou I simply because he seemed unstoppable.

There have been real rebellions, or at least opposition movements, against Tonga monarchs which we could discuss. One is the fakaongo movement, whose members refused in the 1880s to go along with Tupou I's decision to break away from the international Methodist movement, which he suspected of being a tool of British foreign policy, and form his own Free Wesleyan Church. The faka'ongo movement was persecuted, and many of its members were exiled to Fiji from 1885-1887. Nevertheless, they held onto their beliefs, and were eventually accepted as part of Tongan society.

I mentioned an interesting series of acts of defiance against Queen Salote in the 1940s and '50s in a discussion on this blog with Michael Horowitz back in January:
http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2012/01/burning-and-looting-and-philosophising.html (see the comment thread)

The epic struggle in the 1950s of the people of Niuafo'ou to resettle their home island, in the face of opposition from Queen Salote and Prince Tungi and the rest of the Tongan elite, offers an example of the use of tapu by a marginalised section of society.

The Niuafo'ouans had been evacuated en masse from their island in the far north of the kingdom after it erupted, and resettled on the much cooler and less hospitable southern island of 'Eua. While some of the Niuafo'ouans made a new life on 'Eua, hundreds campaigned to return to their homeland in the years after the eruption. They justified their defiance of the Tongan state by pointing out that their ancestors were buried on Niuafo'ou, and that they would be failing in their ritual duties to the dead if they did not return home.'

Garth Rogers published a very fine oral history of the Niuafo'ou campaign to return to their homeland:
http://www.tongatapu.net.to/tonga/news/books/reviews/fire.html

1:21 am  
Anonymous vomiting diamonds said...

I think we need to look a lot deeper as to why looting occurs than these two commentators are suggesting, and take a bottom-up perspective, rather than see riots as being the product of top-down manipulation. Contra Janman’s simplistic (and very conservative) view, I don’t think looting is ‘mindless’ at all – there is nothing wrong with impoverished people in a society characterised by enormous difference in wealth freely taking goods for their own needs, to turn the exchange-value of commodities into immediate use values, in a society that is based on capital taking from us ie. class exploitation. Sure, looting is a limited form of class rebellion as I noted – e.g. prole shopping is a form of consumerism in itself as has been often noted – but there always has been a long tradition of proles and peasants from around the world rioting and looting – E P Thompson ably examined the English tradition of food and bread riots, noting that it was a legitimate form of class rebellion against profiteering:

'In 18th-century Britain riotous actions assumed two different forms: that of more or less spontaneous popular direct action; and that of the deliberate use of the crowd as an instrument of pressure, by persons “above” or apart from he crowd. The first form has not received the attention which it merits. It rested upon more articulate popular sanctions and was validated by more sophisticated traditions than the word “riot” suggests. The most common example is the bread or food riot, repeated cases of which can be found in almost every town and county until the 1840s. This was rarely a mere uproar which culminated in the breaking open of barns or the looting of shops. It was legitimised by the assumptions of an older moral economy, which taught the immorality of any unfair method of forcing up the price of provisions by profiteering upon the necessities of the people.' (Thompson, Making of the English Working Class, 62-63)

And in more recent times, there have been waves of ‘anti-IMF riots’ in the 1980s and 1990s around the world (as I note in the article), and French anthropologist Alain Bertho has called the last few years ‘the times of the riot.’

see the rest of my comment here: (please scroll down) http://vomitingdiamonds.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/the-tongan-riot-of-2006/

Due to excessively horrible deadlines and 80 hour work weeks over the next month I will not be able to reply to any replies to this comment, even if Scott wrote 600,000 dismissive words or more on my comment! (I envy the amount of time you seem to have to do your own writing, it is such a luxury viewed from my perspective). So this is my last comment on this.

11:23 am  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Seeing as I've been cited in this debate, I may as well clear up a few factual inaccuracies. Firstly, I've never characterized the 2006 Nuku'alofa rioters as 'mindless' in the way that Vomiing implies. Being on the streets in 2006 was something in the nexus of a drunken carnival atmosphere born out of frustration, a legitimate 'free for all' by disenfranchised consumers and a manipulative incitement of youth by a group of businessmen agitators. It was a complex of forces that was neither 'from above' nor 'below' and it will not fit any polarized theoretical construct.

The palangi with the cellphones on the street was not a visitor but a long term resident and he is probably mentally deranged. On my walk through the riots, I saw kids in trucks with molotov cocktails, high school girls clutching stolen mops and grandmas stealing packs of nappies from Chinese shops. In Tongan Ark I tried to reveal the inherent contradictions in Tongan society as the cause of the riots. The space between, which people had exploited for whatever end became the object of the film. The result was neither simplistic nor conservative.

9:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tonga has survived the era of the colonizing white man. only to be left with the white mans religion (Christianity). Most tongans have no idea the humiliation that other colonized nations suffered from the whites. I believe that tonga is the only real thing that could bring back all Polynesia not as their king but culturally. Jews killed jesus(a jew) and the rest of us believe he is the son of Jehovah(Jew god) it does not make sense. my island has been praying to Jehovah for over 100 years now and I think he doesn't understand a word those poor people are saying. Havea Hikule'o o pulotu foki mai ki Tongaeiki.

6:21 pm  

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