Near the end of the 1950s the elderly Carl Jung published a small book called Flying Saucers: a modern myth of things seen in the skies.
For Jung, what was interesting about flying saucers and other UFOs was not the question of whether or not they really contained extraterrestrials making visits to earth, but the need that they seemed to meet amongst earth-bound humans.
In the post-war era traditional religion had begun to decline in the West, but tensions between nuclear-armed superpowers had suddenly made the future of humanity precarious. Jung suggested that the strange saucer and cigar-shaped objects that appeared in the skies over America and Europe in the 1950s were a response to the human need to believe in some much more advanced and powerful being or force. They were the icons of a new religion.
Jung's explanation for the UFO phenomenon has been influential, and I think it could be extended, without too much trouble, to the contemporary fascination with time travel. In recent decades a stream of alleged time travellers have outed themselves in the Western media, time travel movies and novels have won mass audiences, and reporters from respectable newspapers have pestered astrophysicists like Stephen Hawking about the possibility of constructing elaborate machines which might travel in time.
It is notable how many of the time travellers we have met in recent decades have chosen to admonish us for our backwardness, and remark on the ethical and technological superiority of their native eras. When the crew of the USS Enterprise time travelled from the twenty-third century to contemporary America in Star Trek IV: the Journey Home
, one of the first time travel movies to enjoy mainstream success, they were full of scorn for twentieth century doctors, who used surgery where a pill and a pat on the head would suffice, for zoologists who failed to recognise that whales were superior creatures to humans, and for many other benighted inhabitants of our age. The time travel story can be a way of critiquing the present, by presenting it with a representative of a better future world.
In some time travel stories, like Robert Silverberg's novel Up the Line
, specially trained 'time agents' are despatched from the future to monitor and occasionally alter the present. These powerful beings move amongst us in disguise, just as Dionysus and other mischievous gods moved in disguise through the marketplaces and taverns of ancient Greece.
The following document, which Paul Janman and I created as part of our contribution to the A Sense of Place
exhibition that opened last Saturday in Papakura's art gallery, purports to be an order misplaced by a time agent from the year 3066 AD, where an almost supernaturally powerful government has decided to systematically rectify all of the sins of humanity's history.
The document is aimed at Mercer, a small town built close to the Mangatawhiri Stream, a tributary of the Waikato that at the beginning of the 1860s formed the border between Pakeha-controlled New Zealand and the realm of King Tawhiao. The Waikato War began when British troops crossed the Mangatawhiri by whaleboat on the morning of July the 12th, 1863. After the war, Mercer's Railway Hotel hosted many travellers between Auckland and the newly subjugated lands of the Waikato.
In 1889, the elderly Te Kooti spent a night in Mercer's hotel, on his way home from Auckland, where he had been imprisoned after being illegally deported from his homeland on the east coast of Te Ika a Maui. Crowds of rudely curious Pakeha followed the train that carried the legendary prophet and warrior south.
We have hidden this document in a geocache close to Mercer's hotel (look at the map on this page
for directions), and also left it amongst other artefacts on a table set up inside the Papakura Art Gallery.
DECLARATION BY THE UNITED STATES OF
MIND, AOTEAROA QUADRANT, 3066 A.D., TO BE DELIVERED BY THE NEXT AVAILABLE TIME
AGENT TO THE LAST POST TAVERN IN MERCER
AN APOLOGY TO TE KOOTI, AND AN ORDER
TO THE LAST POST TAVERN
and permanent government of the nation formerly known as New Zealand, which was
elected in 3066 A.D. by psychic conference and affiliates voluntarily with the
United States of Mind, hereby apologises, on behalf of its imperfect and
temporary antecedents, for the arrest of Te Kooti Te Turuki Arikirangi on the
outskirts of Turanga/Gisborne one evening in 1889.
Te Kooti and
his followers attempted to enter Turanga/Gisborne, the prophet’s old home, and
preach their religion’s gospel of peace. The prophet and his lieutenants were
armed only with Ringatu chants, and their horses needed a rest.
government, which is sited on an eminence high above the rubble of history, and
can therefore speak with the cool sureness of an angel, deplores the decision
of the colonists of Gisborne to greet Te Kooti and his followers with an armed
militia, rather than with refreshments and beds for the night. We further
deplore the deportation of Te Kooti to Auckland, his imprisonment in Mount Eden
Prison, and the lack of generosity shown to him during his stay at the Railway
Hotel on his way home from Auckland.
absolve Te Kooti of blame for his arrest and detainment, apologise for his
treatment, and decree that the Last Post Tavern, which claims, through its
name, an affinity with the era when Mercer was the frontier between New Zealand and the Waikato Kingdom that gave Te Kooti shelter, create an unlimited bar tab for
the prophet the next time he enters their establishment.
apology is to be more than a solemn and sententious proclamation from a smugly
remote future era, then the physical reality common to Te Kooti and his
persecutors will have to be restored. The prophet must rise, like Barbarossa
and Arthur before him, from his obscure and meticulously guarded resting place;
his followers must gather again, don their chaotic uniforms, relearn their
chants of peace, and climb onto long-dead horses; and huia must resume their
broadcasts from the razed forests outside Turanga.
Post Tavern’s walls must be made from peat and raupo, rather than steel and
treated pine, and the tavern’s liquors must be brewed on an abandoned still in
the Whangamarino swamp, and seasoned with manuka bark, rather than with sodium
and various other anachronistic chemicals.
There can be
no redemption without repetition. The geo-engineering cadre of the perfect and
permanent government of the country once known as New Zealand are addressing
STATEMENT MADE AT UPPER NEW RANANA ON
JANUARY THE THIRD, 3066 A.D., AND VALID FOR ALL TIMES AND PLACES
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]