Friday, April 27, 2007

Anti-Anzac and anti-Maori?

The recent Anzac Day protests by anti-war activists have prompted furious debates on indymedia and other parts of the internet. Here's one piece of criticism that appeared on indymedia, together with a reply from me.

I'm 15 and will eventually join the army as an officer. You bastards this is not about glorifying war. It is about the fallen men of New Zealand and Australia. Yes there is a time for protest but why now, why on Aotearoa's day of remembrance. Your forefathers would ashamed of you. My Dad was in Timor, Afghanistan and the Solomons not for war, but to keep the peace, which of course is why you protested isn't it...for peace! This song is my favourite:

Maori Battalion march to victory
Maori Battalion staunch and true
Maori Battalion march to glory
Take the honour of the people with you
We will march, march, march to the enemy
And we'll fight right to the end.
For God! For King! And for Country!
AU - E! Ake, ake, kia kaha e!

These protesting pigs need to be thrown in jail. I am going to join the forces not because I want to kill...which many of you pigs reckon...But because of my family tradition. I'm Maori and would die for my whanau and my country. Not like you cowards who hide behind signs smoking dak. What does protesting prove? Nothing...

We were bound by our own free will to defend Britain and go to war for her. Yes World War One was pointless and many lives were lost that should not have been. But the fact is it happened and our soldiers belived that they were doing the right thing by going to fight for King and country. The protesters are entitled to their opinion and could have chosen any other day to voice it to any other authority and they would have been appluaded by many including myself. Now I am nothing but angry with them and I feel they have insulted me, my ancestors an all that fought in, died in and returned from the wars and conflicts that this country has served in.

Here's my reply:

You need to question a few of those assumptions.

Being Maori doesn't mean having to take part in the wars of the British and American Empires. Did you know that the very first Anzacs fought not at Gallipoli but in the Waikato War of 1863-64, when land-hungry Europeans attacked the independent Waikato Kingdom? Some of them are buried in the yard outside St John's Church in the village of Drury, where I grew up.

When the first World War broke out, Tainui and several other iwi refused to take part. 'Why should we fight for an Empire that stole our land and resources?' they asked. Princess Te Puea, the great leader of the Tainui people, made an alliance with Pakeha trade unionists and socialists and led a campaign of resistance when attempts were made to conscript young Maori men. In his biography of Te Puea, Michael King describes thousands of men who refused to serve gathering at Mangatawhiri Marae near Mercer, where they were arrested. They were imprisoned in places like Mt Eden Prison and Narrowneck Naval Base; dozens were killed by the inhumane conditions there.

The year after the bungled invasion of Turkey that you want to celebrate, armed Pakeha cops attacked the town that Tuhoe had established underneath their sacred mountain Maungapohatu in the Urewera Ranges. Because the leader of the Tuhoe, the prophet Rua Kenana, had advised Maori to refuse to fight in the war, the town at Maungapohatu was sacked. Kenana was arrested and imprisoned, and one of his sons was shot dead.

It's true that some Maori took part in the First World War and more took part in the Second. The Maori Battalion was set up by leaders like Apirana Ngata, who believed that Maori should turn their back on their history of resistance to colonialism, and instead try to win the 'respect' of the Pakeha establishment by fighting in wars on the other side of the world.

There's no doubt that Maori did fight and die with courage in both World Wars. They died in such great numbers that many whanau and hapu were deprived of a generation of males. But was the sacrifice worth it? Ngata’s hopes that the blood Maori spilt on the mud of the western front and the deserts of North Africa would persuade Pakeha governments to honour the Treaty of Waitangi and reverse the land and resource theft begun in the nineteenth century were disappointed. After the war, Maori remained second-class citizens in their own country. The path of compromise with the government in Wellington and its imperialist allies did not bring justice.

It was only in the 1970s, when a new generation of Maori rejected Ngata's moderation and launched land occupations and other protests, that progress began to come. By taking direct action, and forging alliances with trade unions and left-wing groups, Maori have won back some stolen land at places like Raglan and Bastion Point, as well as state recognition of and funding for their language and other parts of their culture.

At every step of the way, though, the state forces which you want to celebrate have been used against Maori trying to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. There’s a movie from 1980 called Bastion Point: Day 507 which you should watch. It documents the day in 1978 when a convoy of massive New Zealand army trucks rolled through Auckland to Bastion Point, where Ngati Whatua and their supporters had been occupying land stolen from the tribe. Soldiers from the army you want to celebrate were used to demolish the village Ngati Whatua had built at Bastion Point, as hundreds of Maori and their supporters were arrested (Ngati Whatua would eventually win their land back a decade later).

The events of that day in 1978 show that the army is a tool of the New Zealand state, a state that was founded on the dispossession of Maori. And the army acts in the same way abroad as it does at home. In Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and now East Timor Maori soldiers have acted as foot soldiers for the same sort of aggressive imperialism that stole their own land and resources in the nineteenth century. Half of the Kiwi troops who fought in America’s war on Vietnam were Maori; many of them have never recovered from the experience.

Last February, Anzac troops staged an attack on a refugee camp near the East Timorese capital Dili which had many parallels to the attack on Bastion Point. Supported by two tanks, the Anzacs smashed their way through barricades into the camp, whose homeless residents had been refusing government demands that they move away. Three Timorese the same age as you were shot in cold blood by these heroic Anzacs; two of them died of their wounds.

If you become an Anzac, you’ll end up on missions like the one to Comoro refugee camp, doing the dirty work for American and Australian imperialism. With US imperialism in crisis and lashing out desperately around the world, there will be no shortage of new wars and colonial occupations for you to take part in. You might find yourself on the streets of Kabul, or in the mountains of Iran, or in the jungles of South America. You might even find yourself aiming a gun at protesters in Aotearoa. Wherever you go, though, you’ll be despised, as a hired thug for imperialism. Go and talk to one of the soldiers who fought against the tangata whenua of Vietnam, and are still filled with self-hatred. There are easier things to do with your life, comrade.


Blogger Asher said...

I thought that was a fantastic reply, Maps.

Thanks for your consistent support,
Asher (one of the Welly protesters)

4:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto - thanks for your support... it's made me feel a lot better after being attacked from all fronts. :)

4:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work Mappy. For the first time time this year Aboriginal diggers staged a seperate march thru Redfern, initally opposed by the RSL. One digger interviewed on tv said that marched, fought and died with white Australians, but when they got home they discovered they weren't entitled to the benefits and assistance provided to white diggers.

There was no reported similar activites by the Australian left.

9:17 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The young Maori fellow is sincere and angry (and proablytyppicalof manypoel and aprticalyof anumberof young men his age - great and well resoned reply Maps.

To the point he says

"Yes World War One was pointless and many lives were lost that should not have been. But the fact is it happened and our soldiers belived that they were doing the right thing by going to fight for King and country."

He is aware that WW1 was futile - but what is this "king and country" (it is a terrible cliche) (cliches and rhetoric in the wrong hands cause deaths) - what king? -it is so abstract all this dying for a country or a king or "the future" - I would rather be a coward - save my own life and others (by not shooting them) than be killed as hero in some stupid war.

I recommend the film "Born on the Fourth of July" - the young man there believes (it was true story) in the US and country and so on but he is castrated by enemy fire and from then on he learns more and more about the horrifc and futile war he has lost his "manhood" in.

War is terrible - armies never go anywhere to "wage peace" - we don't need armies for that - in fact we don't need arms or armies.

My uncle was English and he was a pilot in the RAF in WW2 - all his companions from many countries were killed - then one day he decided -as they were flying towards France on the way to Britain that, as they were to go on leave after the bombing drop that they would just fly straight to England and they dropped the bombs in the Atlantic.

The war had traumatic effect on him. I convinced him that -he later had a job in New Guinea -that the British (Australians also -he worked for the Australian Govt as an architect in Port Moresby for some time) were ripping off the poeple of new Guinea - he argued at first then finally agreed.

The young fellow would be surpesd how many people refused to fight ie both wars.

These are the most courageous.

12:26 am  
Blogger Richard said...

asher - anarchafairy - anon

You are the couragoeus ones - to protest is hard - it is not popular - it is dangerous - it does take courage - I was in the protests in the 70s and was battoned in the face in 1981 I also saw Bastion point and was supportive of that action. I marched with the great Maori people. I feel priviliged to have been able to do that.

To fight in a war like a sheep is easy.

I am opposed to the RSA, war and warmongers. To oppose war takes courage - to show up the hypocrisies of our Govt and others takes courage - it is easy to stand stupidly in a parade surrounded by militarists - mesmerised by cliches.

This ANZAC stuff is absolute cows muck for morons.

12:36 am  
Blogger Richard said...

That should have been -

"The young Maori fellow is sincere and angry (and probably typical of many people and particularly of a number of young men his age - a great and well reasoned reply Maps. "

And indeed - there would have been ANZACS attacking Maori in the Waikato wars.

And New Zealand soldiers massacred Samoans when they protested for Independence.

Now we are a party to killings in Indonesia and Iraq and Afghanistan.

Helen Clark turns her hypocritical gaze from it all -her hands are covered in blood - as much were those of Lady Macbeth's.

12:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with your points I don't understand why you take it for granted that just because the poster has Maori ancestry, he should therefore give precedence to a pan-Maori, nationalist identity over identifying with his own particular whanau and hapu allegiences - which is what he seems to be trying to express.

You bring up Tuhoi and the Kingitanga but for all you know his people were solid kupapa. It's like a sort of "all you Maori are the same and should think alike" argument, and as such, comes across as patronising.

I also understand from following your link over to Indymedia that you've actually cobbled together the comments of more than one person here and presented it as "one piece of criticism"? The author of the third paragraph seems to have told you he didn't write the first bit, and the middle piece isn't necessarily written by either of them.

While I can see that all this comes out of your desire for solidarity (and while I agree with most of your overall points and agree with your cause) this is a procrustean approach which ignores the validity and the reality of this person's emotional connection to his family traditions and his need to honour his dead, so it misses the mark.

We need to pay attention to who exactly it is we're addressing, otherwise all we end up doing is preaching to the choir.

3:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was the guy I'm replying to who said he going into the army because he was Maori and it was part of his culture. He didn't mention an iwi or hapu.

What I'm arguing is that Maori shouldn't see the New Zealand state and its army as their friends. Even if every member of every iwi had always taken the opposite view, I'd still argue my corner. In the same way, I'd still argue that, say, the invasion of Iraq was wrong, even if nobody agreed with me. We can't take political positions on the basis of opinion polls.

As it happens, though, there are numerous examples of Maori from various iwi taking a strong stand against the state and against things like conscription. You're right that for every example there is a counterexample. There are counterexamples even within the iwi I discuss. Princess Te Puea, for example, eventually became a strong supporter of the Maori Battalion. Today there is a strong tradition of military service within many Tuhoe families.

On the other hand, there are counter-examples - people swimming against the stream - in the 'kupapa' iwi you mention. For example, Ngati Porou took the side of the government in the New Zealand Wars only after defeating a hauhau rebellion in their own ranks. If you are Ngati Porou you can cite the rebel tradition that was defeated at Tikitiki as part of your heritage, as well as the assimilationist tradition associated with Apirana Ngata.

The whole point I'm making to this guy - and I'm sorry if I've cut and pasted his comments wrongly, it's hard when there are so many anonnymous commenters on indymedia - is that he shouldn't just jump into the army because his Dad and other ancestors have told him it's part of his Maori heritage. He should consider whether it's a good idea. And, if he's worried, there are a whole heap of Maori who haven't agreed with his Dad.

I'm sure the guy I'm replying to is not going to throw the lessons of a lifetime out the window just because some know it all middle class Pakeha gave him a lecture on the internet. But what's the alternative - to ignore him when he makes a contribution to a debate? I think that's more patronising, in a way.

The debate about Anzac Day and about the nature of the Kiwi army is only just beginning and will probably take many years, and a succession of occupations and nasty little wars, to reach a point where it gains the ears of most New Zealanders. At the moment we're just throwing some stones in to the pond and seeing if we can create a few ripples. I am quite encouraged by the fact that a part of the left, at least, is now taking the occupation of East Timor and Anzac imperialism seriously, rather than simply focusing on easy targets like the war in Iraq and George Bush.

4:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not saying "ignore him", I'm saying acknowledge where he is standing.

Acknowledge where he is coming from and what he is actually expressing (and no, it isn't "I'm Maori so I support the New Zealand state) and then bring your argument to bear on THAT.

I agree with your point but you're asking him to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

6:48 pm  
Blogger OLLY said...

What a well rounded and beautiful way you expressed your points e hoa Maps. It was sensitively done annd obviously you are a mature, well informed and educated person. I salute you. My uncles and brothers served in the military. My uncles were all in the Maori battalion who were applauded for their bravery and their significant part they played in the war effort. How can guns and killing bring about peace? Can't we take a lesson from the gangs who use this sort of reasoning to solve their territorial problems? None of my uncles or any member of the Maori battalion who fought so valiantly received free land handouts which were given to Pakeha soldiers. Richard Taylor is correct - there is no longer any need for soldiers or for fighting with guns. Modern warfare tactics have developed way beyond the foot soldier, tanks and guns etc... This is why the USA has pulled back in regards further development of nuclear arms. They have a silent and more deadlier weapon - HAARP. I won't go into it here but would like anyone reading this to google it and then perhaps we can dialogue. My city and region has been shattered by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shouldn't have happened here as there were no faultlines under our region. Some of us who are aware of HAARP and who have backgrounds in broadcasting are concerned that there may be US military pressure being brought to bare in retaliation for our anti-nuclear stance and the refusal to allow nuclear ships into our ports. The build up of radio wave technology structures around Canterbury since the ex Prime Minister David Lange days seems too deliberate to be co-incidental as the need for such a proliferation of towers and receivers is more than would be necessary simply for ordinary radio/satellite transmissions. But please take a look at HAARP and we'll go from there.

9:06 am  
Blogger OLLY said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:06 am  
Blogger OLLY said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:08 am  
Blogger OLLY said...

Sorry guys. I'm pretty new to using sites like this. I didn't realise my stuff had already been placed. What came back to me was a failure two times annd so I resubmitted it.
My apologies

9:16 am  
Anonymous David Geary said...

Thanks Maps and everyone for some great korero. This debate needs to get out there more so we can get beyond the 'buy a poppy, listen to The Last Post, have a holiday' sort of ANZAC DAYS. It should be a day where we question why we are fighting in and supporting certain wars now, and re-examine our military history. We honour those who died in past wars by doing this, by trying to ensure it does not happen again.

3:04 am  
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9:15 pm  

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