Tuesday, October 23, 2007


On Friday in the Herald and again in the SST on Sunday were parallel stories with potted, and in both instances fairly sympathetic, histories of the Tuhoe people backgrounding the rather turbulent relationship between the "Children of the Mist" and GOvernments in years past.

I have mentioned before that my parents taught in the school at Te Whaiti in the more northern parts of the Ureweras. It is a time that made an indelible impression on me as an eight year old; not least being the fact that I went from being one of a majority of white children to one of a very small minority in what was essentially a "foreign" culture. To that latter end, I recall the old man's reaction when the School Inspectors gave him a right bollicking for allowing the speaking of Maori in the playgrounds, and reminding him that it was illegal for that to happen. As Headmaster that put responsibilities on him to ensure that English was the only language to be heard. The old man's response was to encourage his Assistant Teacher and some of the local Maori community to take Maori cultural activities during school time.

Now that the dust is settling after the raids there are two things to be noted -

First is the very quiet - no, the total absence of any - response from the government to either the raids or the public reaction.

The second is the apparent desire from some sections of the community to have the "terrorist" stories to be true. To that end a "informal poll" conducted by SST showed some 77% of respondants think that the police action was justified. The poll carries the normal warning that it is not statistically accurate as it is the views only of the respondants and not from a random sample of all NZers...

Just because Tame's arse is a fairly terrifying sight does not in any way make him a terrorist. Just because he was tried on charges of discharging a gun in a public place and shooting up on a poor defenseless NZ flag does not imply that he has direct intention to overthrow the rule of law let alone the government. Just because he has the mana and the power to speak truth that is very uncomfortable for the pakeha majority does not mean that they will be his next target.

I only caught this article in the Herald yesterday during a coffee stop and lunch on our way home from Opo. It is not an earth-shattering article, or even all that well written. But it does have a very dark element of truth in it...
It's peak reality du jour; the savvy among us know that nothing is as it seems. If you are intelligent enough, sophisticated enough, or cynical enough, the truth can be uncoiled from the hidden snake of evil political machinations - once you figure out how to charm that sucker out of its basket.

Seeing the political world from an Oliver Stone perspective is easy. Growing up, the Zapruder home movie of the Kennedy assassination was as much a part of my childhood as Kermit the Frog. I'm supposed to get it. But I refuse.

These fractured fairy tales stink. If you are a "sheeple", as Conspiracists would label me, it would be easy enough to laugh off some of the wilder theories with researched fact - but there's a problem.

The pungency of these conspiracy theories is spreading like weapons of mass hate. This is no fringe occurrence, it is worldwide. Today, millions of Americans think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in September 11 and that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis.

A Scripps-Howard poll recently found a whopping 36 per cent of Americans thought it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that US Government officials either allowed the attacks or carried out the attacks themselves.

On the flip side, many in the Arab world believe a myth that 4000 Jews working in the World Trade Centre had been warned to stay home that day. A Pew Global Attitudes poll found that the number who do not believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks is soaring; 59 per cent of Turks and Egyptians, 65 per cent of Indonesians, 53 per cent of Jordanians, 41 per cent of Pakistanis, and even 56 per cent of British Muslims, as reported in the Washington Post.

What are we looking for when we substitute the simplest answer for some mysterious, more exciting complexity? Is this the ultimate in political sophistication or just mass denial when real answers are loaded with complicated truths that we don't want to see?

It's natural to look for meaning and explanation to give us a sense of control over something that feels bigger than we are. But today we have learned to jettison the obvious truth for the conspiracy du jour - and what do you know - it just so happens to confirm our existing beliefs. Psychologists call that "confirmation bias."

We're fostering a world where the truth can be picked out of a hat. Arabs, Jews or Americans themselves felled the Twin Towers, depending on whether you sit in Tel Aviv, Tehran, or Texas.

We are creating a new politics of hidden agenda, and the biggest irony of all is that it's smothering the simplest truths.

Sociologist Frank Furedi of the University of Kent warns that this simplistic worldview of conspiracy thinking displaces critical engagement with public life and instead replaces it with a destructive search for hidden motives, for the story behind the story as a way of avoiding larger core issues.

Isn't that what this is really all about, our inability to see the ugliness of the world as it sometimes is?

Two children continue shouting about who started the fight because neither is ready to begin the process of figuring out how to play together again.

Sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy. Maybe it's just as simple as that - at least that's how any lone "sheeple" would see it from this grassy knoll.

What we are blindly refusing to see is how to fix it.

Now I am not certain quite how Tracey Barnett proposes "fixing it". The simplistic, instant gratification (especially for members of NRA and ex-Marines) solutions are rapidly being exhausted. Even OBL seems to be running out of ideas as to how best get his message across to an Administration that just refuses to give up. No, not because they are winning - unless the score is kept in terms of how many enemies you can make during the duration of the game. Her bio gives no indication of her political leanings, other than that she is American and President Bush "owes her" for what America has lost.

As for us NZers, how many are "sheeple" and how many are the conspiracists who try to stoke the fires of the anti-police sentiments; the worthy who believe that Auntie Helen has lost it completely and is using the Police to prop up a failed government; the lost who believe that there are a majority of Police who have motives that would end with a Police Totalitarian State - a bit like Fiji perhap; and how many fall in the ranks of the apathetic who could care less until their beer costs too much. There is a very small number who I would like to number myself among who believe that there is still a system of Justice which believe in innocence until guilt is proven.

And there I must confess to an increasing concern. In some respects it is the consequence of the Rickard affair; this interview with Ross Meurant does not help assuage the concern.

But the most pressing, the most concerning, was this news item and interview...
Tonight, for the first time anywhere, someone who attended Tame Iti's secret training camps in the Urewera's, talks about what took place.

Today, at courts in Auckland and Wellington, all evidence relating to what allegedly happened at these camps, was suppressed.

But we can talk to someone who has not been arrested and charged.

One Whakatane man attended Iti's camps until the most recent one, only two weeks ago.

He says there were two reasons for him going.

One, to train for a high paying security job in conflict zones like Iraq.

Two, to protect Tuhoe land and the people who live on it, although he was not able to explain from whom, or why.

To protect his identity, he wanted to wear a balaclava.

This is his story of what went on in those hills.

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