Sunday, February 22, 2009


The forecast for Friday was for rain. Lots of rain, with severe weather and flood warnings for much of the country. I walked anyway, 30 kms in the rain. The same forecast gave rain for ensuing days. Saturday morning, I awoke to the sound of rain battering on the roof. This reminded me that I had not had a rest day for some weeks. In fact I have walked about 500 kms since the last pause. I was obviously in need of a day off, so no kilometres that day.

I used the day to catch up on my reading. The book I am part way through at the moment is “Monday's Warriors” by Maurice Shadbolt. I'll be back to that in a minute but first I will mention that I recently read “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”, a book which encapsulates some of the shocking history of the United States towards their native population. In a nutshell, government policy and professional soldiers were used to displace and virtually wipe out the vast majority of the Native Americans. Time and again, treaties which the Indians had only recently signed, at the behest of the government, were abrogated, frequently by the means of the army riding into the centre of townships, and proceeding to massacre the people, kill all the animals, and dismantle and torch the dwellings, all in the interests of the inexorable westward advance of the European settlers, and “manifest destiny”.

It is a disgraceful story of which all Americans should be ashamed. Some are. A tale of ethnic cleansing before the term came into use, and a blueprint for others to use from then on. It couldn't happen here – or could it?

Back to my current reading. “Monday's Warriors” is a novel, but the author makes it quite clear that the events portrayed actually took place. I grew up and attended school while the British Empire was still in existence. In our history lessons, where they concerned New Zealand, we learned of the proud Maori people, with their romantic bearing and warrior past. How they integrated themselves willingly and, apart from a few skirmishes, peacefully, into “The Empire On Which The Sun Never Sets”.

I have since discovered that this is not quite true and that the few skirmishes were much more than that. They were wars between an implacable, righteous, colonising army and a fierce and brutal foe. They were nasty. Last year I read another book by Maurice Shadbolt, “The Season Of The Jew”. Also a fictionalised account of real events, this tells the story of Te Kooti, a Maori leader who convinced himself that the Maori were reliving the story of the persecuted Old Testament Hebrews, and proceeded to smite accordingly. An excellent book.

In “Monday's Warriors” I find that, like the United States cavalry, the British Army in New Zealand were given to the same procedure of charging into peaceful settlements, maiming and killing, burning and destroying.

The events of which I am reading took place in the 1860s and 1870s, long years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (between Maori chiefs and representatives of Her Britannic Majesty, but guess who wrote it!). The Treaty is still, to this day, a hot political issue in New Zealand
One such sacking of a village and slaughter of its inhabitants in this Paradise took place only 75 years before I was born.

Can anybody tell me, what does civilisation mean, and when will we achieve it?

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