Monday, November 23, 2015

Memory aids

As I near the end of my D'Arcy Residency and work to finish my my ten - or fifteen, or perhaps twenty - thousand word essay about TongaI'm flicking through photographs I took during our last visit to the kingdom in July and August. As I strive to remember the difference between a cassava and a tapioca plant, or the way the sun feels when it is reflected from a coral road on Tonagatapu at two in the afternoon, or the colour schemes various denominations favour on the rooves of their churches, the photographs have become essential references. After looking at them too long and too wistfully, I've begun to unlearn geography. I look out the window of my study at suburban Auckland, half-expecting to see the fruit bats and sperm whales of the Tongatapu channel.  

Here are Cerian and Aneirin, dining under the cool gaze of the late King Tupou V; the fleet of fishing boats at Ohonua, the capital village and only port of 'Eua Island; the old gas station on 'Eua's plateau; the cemetery named Pangai, on the road out of Ohonua, where some of the original refugees from the slave raid on 'Ata are buried; a Free Wesleyan Church on the plateau, with cyclone-proof pillars and Mondrianesque plastic windows; our 'Atan friends Pisaina and Masalu Halahala having lunch with us at the Hideaway lodge; and the half-dead shark that fishermen brought up from the Tongatapu channel in a blue ute one afternoon.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A quick post about poetry and the attack on Paris

While bombs were exploding in Paris Murray Edmond and I were reading poetry at Titirangi Public Library. Murray had been asked to read to a meeting of the Titirangi Poets group, and he'd asked me to come along as a support act.

Murray read a series of poems from his new book, Shaggy Magpie Songs. A piece that went down particularly well described a meeting between the young Murray Edmond and Jean-Paul Sartre beside the Waikato River. The two men talked extravagantly, and perhaps drunkenly, about the meaning of life, before the great philosopher made a pass at a young woman who had wandered out of the local pub. The woman and Sartre ended up jumping in the Waikato. Murray ended up bemused.

The audience loved the poem, and not only because of the half-mocking, half-reverential Left Bank accent in which Murray delivered Sartre's lines.

With his intellectual bravura, unabashed concupiscence, and political elan, Jean-Paul Sartre represents much of what I admire about French culture, or a part of French culture. Sartre also represents the antithesis of the life-denying creed of ISIS. No wonder that the suicidal volunteers of ISIS aimed their weapons at the Parisian streets and cafes that Sartre made into a workshop.

The Islamophobes who have responded to the Paris atrocities with demands for the mass deportation of Muslims and the carpet bombing of Middle Eastern cities are the corollary of ISIS, rather than genuine opponents of the group's ideology. When they assert that secular Islam is a contradiction in terms, and that a true Muslim is a violent opponent of civil society and democracy, they echo the pronouncements of ISIS.

The Islamophobes claim that the collective punishment of Muslims is necessary if ISIS is to be defeated. They cannot acknowledge that ISIS is being defeated right now, in the Middle East, by secular Muslims. In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books Jonathan Steele describes how left-wing Kurds, whose militia include hundreds of female volunteers, have liberated a series of towns from ISIS and created their own state in northern Syria. Auckland's Kurdish community has marched down Queen Street to show its support for the fight by their compatriots against ISIS.

The Kurds defeating ISIS in northern Syria have much more in common with Jean-Paul Sartre than they do with the likes of the late and unlamented Jihadi John.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]

Monday, November 09, 2015

Waipoua Forest and the incredible shrinking conspiracy theory

[I regularly find folks at websites like Reddit, Wikipedia, Grownupsnz, and Kiwiblog linking to posts I've made about theories that a pre-Maori civilisation existed in New Zealand. Recently I followed a link to Kiwiblog, where a prolific commenter who uses the slightly sinister nom de plume Unity was talking darkly about a conspiracy by scholars, museologists, Maori radicals, and the Key government, a conspiracy designed to obscure the peoples who supposedly settled these islands hundreds or thousands of years before Maori. 
I had a long conversation with Unity and Kiwiblog, and I thought this conversation was interesting, because of the way it showed how a very elaborate conspiracy theory can be made to rest upon the slightest and most trifling fact.]
...the Ngapuhi elder, David Rankin has said that in stories passed down through the ages, it was said there were always other people here before – blonde, blue eyes, red hair? He also said Maori weren’t indigenous or great navigators. They came here in the main on a tidal drift. They all arrived here by boat. That was news to me but it makes sense because if they were such great navigators, why didn’t they never return to their homelands at some stage? Life must have been very hard here. 


Polynesians most certainly did return from Aotearoa to the tropics, Unity – we know this because we’ve found obsidian from the Bay of Plenty amongst prehistoric artefacts on Raoull Island. And DNA analysis of the kiore, or Polynesian rat, indicates a genetic diversity that would be hard to account for if only one group of settlers from one island got here. Far from being hard here, life would have been extraordinarily good, compared to life on the small and relatively poorly resources islands of Eastern Polynesia.
David Rankin is not a rangatira, and is not taken seriously within Nga Puhi – he represents nobody but himself. Having said that, he’s as entitled to an opinion as anyone else and if he ever presents any evidence for ancient Celts/Atlanteans/Martians coming here thousands of years ago then I’ll certainly be interested in taking a look. Until then I’ll go with the science. The rest of it is hidden behind a paywall, but here’s the abstract for Lisa Matisoo-Smith’s paper about her DNA tests of kiore, where she argues that the range of genetic variation suggests multiple rather than a singe voyage by Polynesian settlers. 
I’ve been reading your comments with great interest, Scott. Are you able to tell me why a 75 year moratorium was placed on Waipoua Forest several years ago when Labour was in power? No archaeological digs are allowed to take place and it is well known that there are many sites in the forest that prove there were people here long before the 1300’s from when it is known that natives lived here. They weren’t called ‘Maori’ in those days. Why are we not allowed to examine these sites when there are so many of interest in there? I would have thought it was in the interests of all of us to know whatever there is to learn about the history of this country. It all seems very strange to me to hush these things up. It is also well known that ‘Maori’ have destroyed many sites elsewhere. Why?
I found the following link when Googling ‘Waipoua Forest Moratorium’. There are other interesting things under that Google heading too.
These conspiracy theory-related claims get bigger and bigger in the retelling. It would be pretty hard to put a ‘moratorium’ on Waipoua forest, which is vast and is full of public walking tracks. Numerous archaeological surveys and digs have been done in Waipoua forest; many of them have been written up and can be read in research libraries (there are half a dozen in the University of Auckland library catalogue).

A small amount of one report was apparently withheld from publication, after requests from local iwi. It isn’t at all unusual for moratoriums to be put on documents that contain sensitive information – I was recently looking through the Hillary papers, and noticed that Sir Ed’s family have put moratoria on various documents that are related to his personal life. When I wrote a PhD on EP Thompson I had to put up with a fifty year moratorium on the papers he left the Bodleian library. I would guess that the deleted paragraphs in the Waipoua report relate to burial sites. A lot of iwi now keep information about burial caves close to their chests because of damage done to these sites by ghoulish fossickers.

Martin Doutre has erected an enormous fantasy on the top of a couple of deleted passages in a single report on Waipoua. He thinks there’s a huge Celtic city in the forest, and that the report has been censored to hide this fact. But thousands of people visit Waipoua every year and numerous archaeologists have studied the forest.

With regard to the 75 year moratorium placed on archaeological digs in the Waipoua Forest it’s all in the following link, Scott.


I had a quick look at that site, which is run by Martin Doutre, and even by his account it seems there’s less to the Waipoua case than I thought. Some documents in national archives were held back from scrutiny on the request of an iwi – until 1996! What moratorium are we talking about then, Unity?


Right at the very beginning of that article is the front page of the Archives document which states very clearly in handwriting ‘restricted until 2063’. Up until that date it requires the approval of Iwi. Why? It was very clearly imposing a restriction on certain information related to the extensive and very expensive archaeological excavations conducted in the Waipoua Forest between the late 1970’s until the late 1980’s. Obviously they found something and one wonders why we are not allowed to know.
After that there was much ducking and diving by various departments and people trying to say there never was a moratorium. I cannot for the life of me understand why the archaeological excavations were not allowed to continue and why we are not allowed to delve into our history. I can’t think of any other country where archaeological digs are curtailed and what was already discovered is ‘covered up’. I also have it on very good authority that today if someone went into the forest and tried to delve into things in there, they are very quickly ushered out by ‘Maori’. One would think they too would be very interested to learn what is in there because there are most definitely several things that we already know of that point to a much more advanced civilisation than the native one.
I hope this answers your question.
I feel you may be misunderstanding the note that’s been written on the document at the top of the page, which appears to be Michael Taylor’s report on his work at Waiopua. You seem to think that the note indicates that Taylor’s work was called off, and the site he was studying was placed off limits until 2063. But doesn’t the handwritten amendment call for passages of Taylor’s report on his work to be restricted until 2063? That’s quite a different thing. As I mentioned earlier, a moratorium on part of the report needn’t have been motivated by sinister ends – huge numbers of documents in all our research libraries are the subject of moratoria for one reason or another (I mentioned the Hillary papers). But as the later letters show, the Taylor report was not restricted until 2063. The letter from Philida Bunkle says that copies of the report filed with National Archives have been available since 1996.
I can’t see, then, how you get the idea that the government somehow intervened and called off archaeological work at Waipoua until 2063. And archaeological work has continued at the forest since 1988, when Taylor made his report. I just looked in the University of Auckland library catalogue and I see it has a report by Taylor on his work in Waipoua in 1988. Isn’t this the document that Doutre claims was repressed? It doesn’t look like the sinister forces charged with hiding our true history made much of a job of it!
Title: Waipoua Archaeological Project stages II and III : management and research undertaken during 1985-87
Author(s): Michael Taylor
Annetta Sutton; New Zealand. Department of Conservation.; Waipoua Archaeological Project.
Published: Auckland N.Z. : Dept. of Conservation 1988
Description: 70, [110] p. (1 folded) : ill., facsims., maps ; 30 cm..
Subjects: Excavations (Archaeology) — New Zealand — Waipoua State Forest; Maori (New Zealand people) — Antiquities; Waipoua State Forest (N.Z.) — Antiquities
Related Titles: Variant Title: Waipoua Archaeological Project.
Notes: Cover title: Waipoua Archaeological Project.
“Unpublished internal report”–Disclaimer.
“February 1988.”
Includes bibliographical references (p. 67-70 (1st sequence)).
Data Source: Alma: 21154978930002091
This all seems like a pretty small foundation for Doutre’s claims of a conspiracy to hide NZ’s ancient Celtic history. And I find it curious that Doutre apparently hasn’t bothered to go to Wellington and read a copy of Taylor’s report, in the nineteenth years since it was made available to the public. Wouldn’t he want to get his hands on the document and publicise its explosive contents?
But of course the point is that if Doutre’s theory were correct, and a huge and technologically sophisticated Celtic civilisation existed all over NZ thousands of years ago, we wouldn’t have to go scratching about in the backwoods of Northland to find evidence of such a civilisation. Doutre claims Auckland was crammed with settlements thousands of years ago, and claims that the stones on the tops of our volcanoes are the remains of ancient observatories. If it were true that a European great city lay across this isthmus thousands of years ago, why haven’t the tens of thousands of excavations carried out not by archaeologists but by spades and diggers and road building gangs over the past one hundred and fifty years found a single artefact – a sword, a piece of pottery, a coin, anything – from an antique European culture buried under the city? The British can’t build a chicken coop without discovering some Roman coin or road.

Thank you for that, Scott. However, it still seems rather strange that Taylor’s work would initially be suppressed until 2063. What on earth could he have discovered that couldn’t be seen until 2063? I would have thought that more care would be taken with sites of interest and finding the truth for everyone whatever their ethnicity. Why did one Maori man say that some carbon dating preceded Maori by 500 years and then a moratorium was placed on everything? If it is now permitted to see this archaeological information, I’m not convinced that it is all being seen rather than selected parts of it.
Also how about the hassling, threatening notices left on cars etc that still happen today? There is something very fishy no matter how people try to dress it up. I’m not defending Doutre or whoever was responsible for the Celtic site but I need to be convinced in my own mind and that hasn’t happened yet.
That’s the first I’ve heard of ‘a huge and technologically sophisticated Celtic civilisation existed all over NZ thousands of years ago.’ A bit over the top don’t you think? I don’t even know that it was Celtic but that’s not the important point which is that some of our archaelogical work is being suppressed and I want to know why. We should all know about whatever turns up no matter how inconvenient it might be to what we have always believed our history to be. My mind will always remain open but also questioning especially when we aren’t being told everything.


I was just talking about the theories of Martin Doutre, the bloke whose site you linked to, Unity. Doutre claims that at least half a million white people created an advanced civilisation here thousands of years ago after arriving here via South America and Easter Island. Read the rest of his website.

But I don’t think that Doutre claims that the page you linked to shows there’s a seventy-five year moratorium on archaeological work in Waipoua. Assuming they are genuine, the documents on his page show that there was a seventy-five year moratorium put on passages in a report on Waipoua that was written in 1988, and that this moratorium was lifted in 1996 – nineteen years ago. So where is the suppression of history?

I’m more interested in the suppressing of archaeological information which is not Maori and is carbon dated 500 years before they are reputed to have arrived here. However because of the stories I have heard from Maori, Moriori and others, I do believe (until someone can refute it) that this country was occupied by others earlier than the official version. Also, in favour of the Celtic theory, there are many designs in Scotland that are the same as those attributed to Maori. Did Maori learn them from someone else? How do you know that all the archaeological information that was suppressed and then released covered everything and not just selected pieces of it?

You say you’re not too interested in arguing the pros and cons of Martin Doutre and his views, but would rather focus on the radiocarbon test results from Waipoua that were repressed because they indicated a people lived on the site five hundred years before Maori arrived. The trouble is that you’ve taken the latter claim straight from the website of a certain Martin Doutre, and the claim is not supported by anything other than the word of the same Martin Doutre. There’s no name given for the Maori who supposedly witnessed the suppression of the radiocarbon data, no date is given for this dirty deed, the artefact that was tested is not named, and no indication is given about what happened to said artefact.
Given all this, it’s a bit rich for you to say you’re not interested in considering the credibility of Doutre and his ideas. I’ve already talked about why I consider the Celtic New Zealand theory fantastic, but I wonder if you’re aware of some of the other rather dubious claims that Doutre makes about the world and its history. He’s an enthusiastic proponent of the idea that the 9/11 attacks were not the work of the Osama bin Laden but an ‘inside job’ by sinister elements within the American and Israeli governments. He denies that a plane even hit the Pentagon on 9/11.  
Doutre is also a committed Holocaust denier, who believes that Hitler is a victim of a Jewish conspiracy to blacken his name in the years since World War Two. I’ve highlighted his explicit Holocaust denial here.
We’re faced, then, with a man with a history of making fantastic, demonstrably false, and deeply bigoted statements aiming a very serious allegation of criminal conspiracy against a group of New Zealand scientists – an allegation which he has no substantiated with a single piece of evidence. You’ll forgive me if I don’t take Doutre’s allegation seriously. I wonder why you’ve chosen to take it seriously.
The funny is that, back in the ’90s, when Doutre alleges this huge coverup was taking place, Kiwi scientists really did come up with a radiocarbon dating that predated accepted estimates for the Maori arrival in these islands. They responded not with a coverup but by publishing their results and beginning a debate that continues to this day. That’s how scholars, as opposed to conspiracy theorists, behave.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Islamophobia, and other ways to lose a war

Warda Jawad applied for a job as a psychologist attached to the New Zealand Defence Force, but was rejected after she was deemed a security risk. Jawad was born in Iraq, but left that country for New Zealand when she was three. She is a Muslim. 

The news that foreign-born Muslims are viewed with suspicion by the Security Intelligence Service, the agency charged with assessing would-be recruits to the military, has prompted a variety of responses. Labour Party spokesman Phil Goff and National Party pollster and blogger David Farrar have both called the rejection of Jawad stupid, but at right-wing blogs many commenters have insisted that Muslims should have no place in New Zealand's public service, let alone its defence forces. For these commenters, people like Warda Jawad can serve no conceivable purpose in the forces, and might even endanger the safety of the Kiwi troops stationed in Iraq. The Islamophobes at David Farrar's Kiwiblog condemned their host for cowardice in the face of the enemy.

The negative reactions to Jawad show how little conservative New Zealanders have learned from the failure of the West's recent military adventures in the Middle East.

In 2001 and 2003 Western armies occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, and guerrilla campaigns against their presence began. Armies of occupation faced with an insurgencies always need local collaborators and high-quality intelligence, but it’s often very difficult for them to get these things, because of the vacuum that tends to exist between occupier and the occupied. 
In his account of the Iraq war, which he witnessed as an embedded journalist, George Packer shows how the US initially tried to respond to the Iraqi insurgency with simple force. This approach was an extension of the ‘shock and awe’ strategy that had characterised the first phase of the war, and had seen the Americans aim missiles and mortars at anything resembling an enemy combatant or position. For more than a year after it occupied Iraq, the Bush government refused even to use 'insurgency' to describe the armed resistance it was facing. The word was associated with Vietnam.

As American casualties rose, though, local commanders became desperate, and began to improvise their own counter-insurgency campaigns. Packer shows the Americans flicking through old manuals of counter-insurgency produced by the British, and trying some of the same tactics - propaganda, fraternisation, cooption, intelligence gathering, anthropological surveys - that helped the British subdue the armed uprisings that strew the history of their empire. The more daring American commanders began to live amongst Iraqis, to learn Arabic, and to cultivate local tribal and sectarian networks. Sometimes they were able to take advantage of old divisions and disputes, as Iraqis hostile to the insurgency because of blood or theology passed on news about planned attacks or drew the locations of ammunition dumps and training bases on maps.
The British Empire lasted as long as it did largely because its administrators were so skilled at coopting local leaders and creating intelligence networks. As Tony Ballantyne shows in his book Webs of Empire, the British ran thousands of spies and won many local factions to their campaigns during their nineteenth century conquests of India and Aotearoa. In 1863, when he was planning his invasion of the Waikato Kingdom, Governor George Grey was opening letter after letter from chiefs opposed to the Waikato. Iwi hoping for booty or wanting to continue old wars volunteered to fight under the Union Jack. Grey and the governors of Britain's scores of other colonies knew that ruling meant dividing. 
Packer describes how an increasingly coherent anti-insurgent strategy gradually developed in Iraq during 2005 and 2006, as local American commanders swapped tips and interpreters and fragments of intelligence. But this strategy never got very far, partly because of the gap between the American top brass and local Iraqi culture. When local American commanders were able to make connections and win intelligence, they were often pulled up by their bosses, who distrusted any close collaboration with Iraqis and Muslims. American troops were increasingly withdrawn into enormous bases, from which they ventured occasionally in helicopters. Iraqis who had assisted the occupiers, like the hundreds of interpreters employed by the American army, were either abandoned or flown out of Iraq.  
The new Western military adventure in Iraq also relies upon huge bases and a soldiery insulated from the Iraqi population. As Phil Goff pointed out last week, when he criticised the rebuke to Warda Jawad, the New Zealand defence forces are flying blind in Iraq, because they have few members who can even speak the local language, let alone interpret the local culture. 
The anti-Muslim feeling that has grown up in the West, and which is perhaps particularly strong in parts of the security forces of Western countries, ultimately makes the defeat of insurgents in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan impossible, because it prevents the creation of alliances with local forces, and prevents the gathering of quality intelligence. The old British imperialists were more subtle and intelligent than today’s variety. They would have sent Warda Jawad to Iraq, and put her to work. As someone who thinks that the world would be better off if every last Western soldier, oilman, and economic adviser were to leave the Middle East, I’m pleased by the ineptitude of the neo-imperialists.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]