The New Zealand Wars: Parihaka and the Birth of Nonviolent Resistance

The New Zealand Wars Part 5: The East Coast Wars

Directed by Stephen Tainui (2017)

Film Review

Part 5 mainly covers the East Coast wars between 1865-72. Triggered by the Māori murder of a missionary caught spying for the Armed Constabulary, these wars killed more unarmed civilians than the earlier conflicts.

In 1866, despite fighting alongside government forces against Hauhau members of Pai Marire movement, the Māori leader Te Kooti was accused of espionage and imprisoned (without trial), along with captive Hauhau in the Chatham Islands.* Led by Te Kooti, 300 prisoners overwhelmed their guards, seized a supply ship, and forced the crew to return them to the North Island.

Taking refuge in the Urewera Mountains, they survived three unsuccessful attempts to recapture them. Eventually defeated at Ngātapa pā, Te Kooti and his remaining supporters retreated to King Country – still regarded as sovereign Mäori land under the protection of the Mäori king.

In 1870, government forces ambushed Te Kooti and his remaining supporters after luring them to Rotorua under the false pretense of peace negotiations. After Te Kooti himself escaped to the Urewera mountains, the government undertook a brutal campaign of burning farms and slaughtering local Tuhoe who supported him. Nine years later he received a formal pardon and a plot of land (belonging to another iwi) to facilitate government plans to open up King Country to European settlement.

Although most historians date the end of the New Zealand wards as 1873, Mäori continued to exert sovereign control over discrete areas of New Zealand for an extended period.

King Country remained closed to Europeans until the mid-1880s, when iwi leaders agreed to the extension of the North Island Main Trunk Railroad.

South Taranaki resisted settler incursions until the peace colony at Parikaha was invaded in 1881 by 1,500 members of the Armed Constabulary. The latter slaughtered many of the men (and raped many of the women) and sentenced surviving men to forced labor in the South Island.

Parts of Northland remained sovereign until 1890, with Māori losing most of their Northland holdings through the Native Land Court and Public Works Act confiscations.

Parts of the Urewa forest also remained off limits to Europeans until heavily militarized police invaded Maungapohatu in 1916.


An important fact not mentioned in this series is that Māori only lost 4 million acres of land in the New Zealand Wars, in contrast to 8 million acres lost (between 1860 and 1890) via the Native Land Court and legal confiscations. In 1890 they still controlled 40% of New Zealand. By 1910 they controlled only 27%;  in 2000 only 4%. See https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/interactive/maori-land-1860-2000.


*The Chatham Islands form an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean about 800 kilometers east of the South Island of New Zealand.

**Many historians view Parihaka as the birthplace of nonviolent resistance, based on evidence Gandhi was influenced by the history of peace colony’s nonviolent movement. Parihaka’s leaders greeted invading forces by sending children hot with hot bread for the soldiers.

The New Zealand War: Divide and Conquer

The New Zealand War Part 4: Taranaki Prophets

Directed by Tainui Stephens (2017)

Film Review

Part 4 mainly concerns the formation of the New Zealand Armed Constabulary (colonial troops assisted by Irish and Australian volunteers) after the British began withdrawing their forces in 1865; the formation of the Pai Mārire* movement in Taranaki in 1863; and the increasing involvement of kūpapa (Māori warriors) in the Armed Constabulary as British regiments departed.

This segment depicts the growing divide between Māori determined to fight British land confiscation and those who benefited from lucrative trade with the settlers. The motivation of the kūpapa was complex. First they tended not to see other Māori iwi as their own people. Secondly they demanded (and received) vastly better pay than European soldiers. Thirdly they were promised four seats in the New Zealand parliament in return for their military service.**

While the kūpapa were extremely valuable in several campaigns, they believed they were fighting the Pai Marire movement on their own behalf and balked at taking orders from European officers.

The fourth episode mainly covers battles in Taranaki and Whanganui triggered by a new government policy of “creeping confiscation.” Beginning in 1865, the New Zealand government arbitrarily declared vast tracks of Taranaki land “confiscated.” In one of the largest battles, Tītokowaru and 80 warriors defeated 400 New Zealand troops led by Prussian mercenary Gustavus von Tempsky to win back all the confiscated Taranaki land.

Following von Tempsky’s death in the battle of Te Ngutu o te Manu, Colonel George Whitmore rebuilt the colonial forces to march through south Taranaki burning all Māori land and reclaiming it for the government.

Tarananki resistance to government occupation collapsed at this point when Tītokowaru’s warriors abandoned him. Why they did so is a matter of conjecture – the prevailing theory blames an illicit affair he was having with another chieftain’s daughter.


*The Pai Mārire movement was a syncretic Māori religion or cult founded in Taranaki by the prophet Te Ua Haumēne. Opposing British land confiscation, it flourished in the North Island from about 1863 to 1874,

**This was during a period when Māori still vastly outnumbered the settler population.

 

 

 

 

 

New Zealand Wars: The Failed British Effort to Destroy the Maori King Movement

The New Zealand Wars Part 3: The Invasion of Waikato

Directed by Tainui Stephens (2017)

Film Review

Part 3 begins by describing an 1863 audience between 16 Mäori entertainers and Queen Victoria – in which she promises to let them keep their land. This meeting occurs, ironically, just 12 days after British soldiers invade Waikato.

By now Governor Grey’s main objective is to kill the Mäori king and destroy the King movement. Although iwi continue to be divided whether to fight or trade with the British, there is now sufficient unity under the King movement to assemble a force of 4,000 warriors.

By lying to British authorities about a fictitious Mäori plot to invade Auckland, Grey requests and receives several armored battleships with canon and thousands of additional troops.

Again vastly outnumbered (by 18,000 British troops), Mäori lose the Waikato War due to a strategic blunder – failing to allow for an escape route from Ōrākau pā. Although they successfully repulse all British attacks, they eventually run out of water and ammunition and leave the pā, facing overwhelming British fire power.

Following their victory at Ōrākau, British troops proceed to occupy one million acres of Mäori land in the Waikato. Over several decades, settlers convert it to dairy farms.

The British were unsuccessful in their goal of destroying the Māori King movement, which persists to the present day.

 

 

 

Bangladesh: A Study in Western Colonial Exploitation

Scrapped

RT (2015)

Film Review

Scrapped is a documentary about the shipbreaking industry in Chittagong, which dismantles and reclaims the vast majority of the world’s ships. The second largest industry in Bangladesh, it produces enormous profits, given the country has no metal resources of its own.

Located in the poorest region in Bangladesh, the industry pays an average wage of $3 a day. Owners seem oblivious to national child labor and workplace safety laws, with 13 workers killed on the job in 2013 and 12 in 2015. As the mayor of Chittagong runs his own shipbreaking yard, the city is quite lax about legal enforcement.

After paying a yard manager a substantial bribe, cameramen are allowed to film inside one shipyard for three minutes.

Otherwise filmmakers rely on a local “human rights” activist for most of their information. The latter receives a €2,500 annual grant from the European Union to monitor worker safety in his city’s shipbreaking yards.

 

The History of the 20th Century: BBC Propaganda at Its Best

History of the World Episode 8 – Age of Extremes

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This final episode is almost pure BBC propaganda and contains a large number of jingoist assertions that are totally unsupported by historical record.  Age of Extremes covers the rise of Hitler (while neglecting to mention the support he received from Wall Street and German corporations); the founding of the first birth control clinic in Britain by feminist Margaret Sanger and the “sexual revolution” brought about by the birth control pill in the 1960s; Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle for Indian independence; the US invention and deployment of the atomic bomb; the murderous Chinese Cultural Revolution that started in 1967;  the capitalist reforms instigated by Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s; the fall of the Berlin Wall (allegedly ending the Cold War) in 1989; and the defeat of world chess champion Gary Kasparov by IBM computer Deep Blue.

Among the more nauseating claims made:

  • That the US developed and deployed nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki because that was the only way to force the Japanese government to surrender (“Japanese civilians would pay for their leaders’ refusal to surrender”).  Declassified records reveal Japan was attempting to surrender in July 1945 but Truman refused, owing to his determination to intimidate the Soviets by deploying atomic weapons. The deliberate targeting of Japanese civilians (more than 300,000 died within days of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings) was a war crime under the Geneva Convention.
  • That Artificial Intelligence will be as significant for mankind as the agricultural and the industrial revolution
  • That modern day humans live longer, healthier lives than their ancestors.*
  • That despite “altered climate” and mass extinctions “humans have always overcome challenges we are face with and prospered.”**

*This may be true of a few extremely wealthy individuals, but many people of my generation are dying earlier than their parents owing to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, disease, drug/alcohol addiction, and suicide (US numbers have been high enough to reduce average life expectancy).

**It’s obvious the filmmakers have never read Collapse by Gerard Diamond

The Role of the Industrial Revolution and Modern Warfare in Third World Colonization

History of the World Part 7 – The Age of Industry

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This second-to-last focuses on the role of the Western industrial revolution in facilitating wholesale colonization of the Third World: British opium wars launched against China to make the world safe for western industrial capitalism, the US Civil War, Japan’s war against their traditional Samurai class, and World War I.

In the middle of the episode, the filmmakers take a break from war to depict the brutal enslavement of the Congo (as his personal fiefdom) by Belgian King Leopold II and to re-enact the invention of the steam engine and railroad, as well as Leo Tolstoy’s efforts to educate and free his serfs.

Part 7 begins with the brutal opium wars the UK used to force China to open up to western trade. At the beginning of the 19th century, a massive British demand for tea was draining their treasury of the silver European countries had expropriated from South America. However because China refused to import western goods, the British had no legal way to get  this silver back.

They eventually fell back illegal opium smuggling to pry open the Chinese import market. The result was an estimated 17 million Chinese opium addicts by 1839. The emperor’s clampdown on smuggling led to a British declaration of war. China’s primitive wooden warships were no match for the gunships born of Britain’s industrial revolution. After two wars, the peace treaty the UK imposed ceded Hong Kong to British control and forced China to open all their markets to western trade.

Modern weaponry would also give the industrialized North a clear advantage over the agricultural South in a Civil War resulting that killed over 650,000.

When Japan refused to open their country to international trade, it was US warships that fired on their capitol in 1853. When Japan modernized their military with Western weapons and tens of thousands of new recruits, their elite Samurai class, solely responsible for centuries for the emperor’s protection, rebelled. In 1877 an army of 40,000 Samurai faced certain defeat against a modern military force with at least twice as many men and Western military hardware.

The segment about Leopold II’s personal conquest of the Congo (and its rich mineral and human resources) under the cover of a “humanitarian charity” is well worth watching. Likewise the one about German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann’s efforts to form a military alliance with Mexico during World War I – to help them reclaim territory the US stole during the US-Mexican War (1846-1848).

Otherwise the openly anti-German propaganda in the final segment totally obscures the real origins of World War I, as revealed by recently declassified British and US documents. This is covered really well in James Corbett’s 2018 documentary The World War I Conspiracy:. The World War I Conspiracy

 

 

The BBC Does Colonialism

The History of the World Part 5 – Age of Plunder

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This episode concerns the role of  plunder (ie colonialism) in the founding of the capitalist economic system. The major weakness of the fifth episode is its promotion of two notorious myths about Columbus that historians debunked several decades ago. The first maintains that most of Europe regarded the Earth as flat prior to Columbus. Untrue. Europeans sailors had known for centuries that the Earth was round from the way a ship disappears over the horizon (hull first and sails last). The other myth is that Columbus died believing he had reached India. This myth, traced to an 1828 biography by Washington Irving, is debunked by the explorer’s own writings.*

The primary outcome of Columbus’s voyage to the new world was the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans and the pilfering of 45,000 tons of gold and silver (valued at £10 trillion in modern currency). The precious metals would be used to decorate churches and noble palaces and to fund religious wars during the Protestant Reformation.

The Catholic Church obtained their share of these riches (used to build St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican) by selling “indulgences,” paper certificates that guaranteed Catholics entry to eternal life. It was mainly opposition to this corrupt practice that led Martin Luther to break with the Church in 1517.

In 1580 Ivan the Terrible hired Cossack warriors to invade Siberia, which was still ruled by a descendant of Genghis Khan. His goal: plundering 5,000 Siberian pelts from traders. With the start of the 300 year Little Ice Age in 1530, there was a thriving market for furs in Western Europe.

In the early 17th century, the Dutch East India Company captured and enslaved the Banda spice islands in South East Asia for their nutmeg crop. Believed to be a cure for plague, it was the most valuable commodity in the world. As the British East Indian Company also claimed the spice islands, this would lead to four Anglo-Dutch wars beginning in 1652. In 1667, the wars ended when the Dutch agreed to trade Manhattan Island for the main nutmeg islands.

The fifth episode ends with the creation of the world’s first stock exchange in Holland in 1608 and the resulting speculation in tulip bulbs. The world’s first recorded speculative bubble burst in 1637, ruining thousands of Dutch investors.


*Both myths are debunked in James Loewen’s 1995 Lies My Teacher Told Me