Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Bromhead's folly

As if Garrick Tremain's joke about Samoa were not bad enough, Peter Bromhead has today published a cartoon in the New Zealand Herald that compares Maori trying to regenerate the forest on the Auckland maunga of Owairaka to Nazis.

As odd as it sounds, Bromhead is not the first Pakeha to allege a spurious connection between Maori culture & European fascism.

When New Zealand went to war against Germany in 1914 & '39, media & politicians quickly began to attack the Kaiser & Hitler's regimes as 'barbarous' & 'savage'. Germans were called 'the red Indians of Europe', & 'Mongolianised Europeans'. The language used against the Germans drew on a colonial fear & loathing of indigenous peoples.

Maori prophet Te Kooti's violent resistance to Pakeha rule in the 19th century made him a sort of precursor to fascism, in Pakeha consciousness. In 1943 the Auckland Star explained to its readers that the stiff-armed salute of Europe's fascists had been pioneered by Te Kooti, who had named his religious movement Ringatu, or the upraised hand, after a gesture members used in worship. During World War One Te Kooti's successor, the anti-colonial prophet Rua Kenana, was accused of being a German agent by journalists & politicians.

In 1916 a Pakeha army attacked Kenana's utopian village in the Ureweras. Papers presented the expedition to Maungapohatu as a blow against the Kaiser. Tonga's government, which delayed cutting its valuable commercial ties with the Kaiser, was likewise condemned as a tool of the Hun, & subjected to a visit from New Zealand troops.

During World War Two Princess Te Puea was accused so often of Nazi sympathies that she eventually persuaded Peter Fraser's Labour government to make a statement condemning such rumours. Te Puea's Pai Marire religion & Maori nationalism were linked, in many Pakeha minds, to Hitlerism.

In the 1970s & '80s activist groups like Nga Tamatoa & gangs like the Stormtroopers & the Mongrel Mob were compared to Nazis by conservative Pakehas like cop & National MP Ross Meurant. In 1979 Maori activists beat up Auckland engineering students who were preparing to perform their annual drunken parody of the haka. The 'haka party riot' prompted accusations of brown fascism from Auckland's newspapers.

As the Maori Renaissance & the Treaty settlements process quickened in the late '80s & '90s, the comparisons between Maori culture & fascism continued, but took on a different tenor. The conspiracy theories of one-time National and Act ad man John Ansell reflect the change. Earlier racists had connected what they saw as the volatility, irrationality & violence of 'savage' Polynesians with the behaviour of the Nazis. But as he railed against a supposed conspiracy by Maori to take over New Zealand, Ansell focused on a different aspect of Nazism.

During a lecture tour of New Zealand, Ansell displayed a huge portrait of Hitler, & talked of the Nazis' manipulation of minds. Ansell claimed a parallel between the Nazis' bureaucratic might & NZ's supposed 'Treaty industry'. Both were vast, calculating, cynical. With his bathetic cartoon for today's New Zealand Herald, which compares iwi employees to the functionaries of the bureaucratic & evil Nazi state, Bromhead is channeling John Ansell. It is disappointing stuff, coming from a cartoonist who once lampooned political absurdity.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of people act like Nazis. Most countries with a military. Hence drones and wars. The US killed more civilians than the Germans in WWII. They continued to act like Nazis. The Israelis act like Nazis, similar ideas of being the chosen race etc.

The suppression of Kenana and a lot of the NZ Wars was not quite "like the Nazis" but certainly on the other side Maori were, in the main, not 'like the Nazis'. Anyone can become anyone.

I just started reading Dick Scott's book on Parihaka. That remains a classic. Another is 'The Prophet and the Policeman'....come in Scott....


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