Sunday, June 21, 2020

Suddenly his mind went blank

Cities smoke, statues collapse, & the oranges in our yard swell & brighten. The indifference of nature is both frightening & consoling. The kids try to knock the oranges out of the tree with sticks. I want to watch them rot & fall of their own accord.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Listen to the bishop

As a few articles in the media show, I've been busy arguing that Akaroa's Bully Hayes restaurant and Bar should change its name, and was pleased to find today that the establishment's owner, Wayne Jones, now agrees with me. Jones has rethought the name, and has issued a gracious and generous statement. 

I talked about the issue today on Radio New Zealand. 

I've had a few angry messages from conservative New Zealanders who seem to believe that the Pacific slave trade is a mirage created in recent years by 'woke academics'. I don't think the phrase 'woke academic' fits John Coleridge Patteson, the first Anglican bishop of Melanesia & the William Wilberforce of the Pacific. Patteson died fighting the slave trade.
Patteson ran the Melanesian mission in Auckland & later Norfolk, where young men were trained in Christianity & various trades. In the 1860s he began hearing terrible stories from them, of 'catch catch boats' & stolen villages. Patteson began to write & speak against the slavers.

Thanks to the Anglican church's Project Canterbury, we can now access some of Patteson's denunciations of slavery. They make sad reading, with their accounts of canoes run down & their passengers seized, & islanders made to sign contracts they could not read.

Patteson travelled through the Pacific collecting stories of slave raids. Imperial administrators and some his superiors in the Anglican church began to resent his detailed and withering reports.
Patteson was a brilliant linguist, who eventually learned about a dozen Melanesian languages. He became steadily more sympathetic towards the region's indigenous cultures, & argued against missionaries' attempts to impose Western dress & manners on them.
In 1870 Patteson was recovering in Auckland from exhaustion when he realised that a schooner called the Lulu, a boat funded by Auckland's business elite, had arrived with 27 ni-Vanuatu slaves. Patteson began to campaign against the introduction of slavery to NZ.
Slavers hated Patteson, but knew he was popular on many islands. They began to dress up as him, so that they could lure victims aboard their boats. These masquerades & their continuing violent raids may well have led to Patteson's death.
In 1871 Patteson landed alone on Nukapu Island, in the far southeast of the Solomons. He was slain. Nukapu had recently been raided by slavers. Huge memorial meetings were held for Patteson throughout NZ; resolutions against Pacific slavery were passed.
Britain responded to Patteson's death by sending the HMS Rosario to Nukapu, via Auckland, where its crew played locals in the first international rugby game in NZ's history. The HMS Rosario shelled Nukapu, & armed men stormed the tiny atoll. Dozens of islanders died.
Patteson is revered as a martyr today by many Melanesian Anglicans. For anyone interested in learning about the Pacific slave trade, biographies of Patteson & his own writings are invaluable. It is sad that, nearly 150 years after his death, some still don't hear his message.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Akaroa's slaver

In the US & UK monuments celebrating slavery are coming down. The people of Bristol have thrown the statue of their slaver Coulston into the sea. Here in NZ we have a popular restaurant & bar whose name is a tribute to the most notorious of all the Pacific's slave traders.
Akaroa's Bully Hayes Restaurant & Bar takes its name from the American slaver, sadist & pedophile who preyed on the islands of the Pacific for years, from bases in Apia & the Marshall Islands. Hayes stole islanders & sold them to the plantations of Tahiti, Fiji, & Queensland.
Hayes raped many of the girls & young women he abducted. In his meticulous book The White Pacific, African American scholar Gerald Horne shows that the slaver was protected by high-placed relatives in Washington DC.
The website of the Bully Hayes Restaurant & Bar includes a short account of Hayes' 'colourful' career. Hayes' exploits during the Otago gold rush are noted, but not the slave raids that are still remembered with sorrow on islands across the Pacific.
I ran into Hayes & the restaurant that honours him when I was researching my book The Stolen Island. I was amazed that anyone imagined Hayes a romantic, even admirable figure. Now would be a good time for the restaurant to rethink its moniker.
Here's the website for the restaurant & bar. Here's their facebook page. I imagine that many New Zealanders would feel reluctant to eat and drink at the place, if they knew that its name celebrated pedophilia and slavery.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

The ruin

We spent the long weekend with my brother-in-law, who has resettled in the Kaipara. We watched his old American neighbourhood burn on TV, then walked into the hills to look for kaka. A black fungus covered the trunks and branches of manuka and kanuka, so that they resembled victims of forest fires.
On the way home we stopped at Warkworth's cement factory. New Zealand's factories are its ruined abbeys. They commemorate our Sutchian era of economic nationalism, an era of indigenous car plants and tariffed electronic, an era ended by neo-liberal politicians as ruthless as Henry VIII. Like the mutilated monasteries of England and Wales, Warkworth's factory is beautiful because it represents defeat.

The apocalypse does not belong to science fiction. It is an ancient genre, present in the foundations of English literature. A medieval Briton wrote 'The Ruin', in which he described the wrecked Roman city of Bath as the work of giants who had suffered pyrde (fate). 'The Ruin' survives in a fire-damaged manuscript. I enter the poem at Warkworth's cement works.