Thursday, July 09, 2020

For empty plinths

A lot of Pakeha think that warmongers & land-grabbers are the only forebears we have, but history's more complex than that. At the Spinoff I've suggested four nineteenth century Pakeha heroes who could be elevated to empty plinths.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Five theses on the non-existence of the present

1 Wars are fought first in the imagination. The invasion of the Waikato was planned in Auckland; the city's toponyms record its guilt. Pt Chevalier had a firing range; the suburb is named after a top marksman. On nearby Meola Reef a dummy Maori pa was built; soldiers shelled and sniped at it.

2 The photo was taken in the German port of Kiel in 1916. It shows mines being loaded onto SMS Wolf, a raider headed for the Pacific. In April 1919 Edward Whare & two friends were riding down a beach near Raglan. They spotted a strange object, stopped. The smoke column was seen miles away. The war had taken its last victims.

3 Events metastasise. In 1863 imperial troops moving through Ramarama's puriri forest were ambushed & gunned down by Waikato guerrillas. 80 years later Private Bryan Sharp fled from nearby Ravensthorpe convalescent hospital, hid in a remnant of the ancient forest, & shot himself.

4 On an autumn night in 1948 two men - one imaginary, one real - were killed at Auckland's Town Hall. Joe Burns, a professional Canadian-Hawai'ian boxer, lay still after being smashed by local fighter Tommy Downes. Burns' real name was Peni Latinidavetalevu. He was not a pro.

Latinidavetalevu was an illegal migrant from Fiji. He had stowed away on a ship to Auckland & created Joe Burns, complete with a publicity photo & stories of US fights. Fijian police saw the photo & recognised him. He would have been arrested, had he survived his fight.

5 Auckland had a blood moon last month. I don't like that phrase, nor the overproduced photos of the event. Neither can convey the peculiar sense of intimacy I felt, as I looked into the ruddy face leaning over Glen Eden's rooftops. TE Hulme died in 1917, but he saw my moon:

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.