12 August 2011
12 things we should know about imperialism, and how it affects our people.
1 What is imperialism?
The word "imperialism" comes from the word "empire" which refers to a system in which one person rules over many peoples, or iwi.
2 How did New Zealand become associated with imperialism?
New Zealand formally became part of the British empire in 1840, when the ruler of that empire was Queen Victoria, known to our people as Kuini Wikitoria. On the coins issued in her name she was given the title of "Imperator", the Roman word for Emperor or imperial ruler. By the middle of the twentieth century New Zealand's colonial rulers had stopped their praise for the "the British empire" and "the British race" due to public disillusionment with the imperial system and British racial supremacy, but the reality has remained with us. The present British monarch, Elizabeth Windsor, is still the one person who rules over the many peoples in what is left of the British empire.
3 Is imperialism racist?
The answer to that question is "Yes and no". Because empires combine many iwi under one rule, and because they desire control over the resources and manpower of all iwi, the empire will at least make a show of respect for every iwi under its jurisdiction. Therefore an empire will not be openly racist with respect to the iwi over which it rules. The British empire gloried in its diversity of peoples, and imperial rulers spoke fondly of "our Maori people". However every empire begins as an instrument for the advancement of a particular people, and indeed, of a particular class within that people. As a result, one particular people is always given de facto supremacy within the empire. In the Roman empire it was the people of Rome, in the French empire it was the people of France, in the German empire it was the people of Germany, and in the British empire it was the British people.
4 What is the connection between Imperialism and democracy?
Nearly every empire since Rome has arisen out of some kind of democratic political system. Democracy gives rise to independent minded citizens who have a stake in the nation which they believe is worth defending, and who usually make brave and resourceful soldiers. Rome was a successful democracy for hundreds of years before the foundation of the Roman empire. Britain became a democracy in 1640 before going on to create its own empire in the eighteenth century and to colonise New Zealand in the nineteenth century. France underwent a democratic revolution in the eighteenth century which was followed just a few years later by the establishment of the French empire which eventually extended into the Polynesian pacific.
5 Does the connection between imperialism and democracy mean that empires are a good thing?
No. An unfortunate consequence of democracy is that while it can make a people strong, at the same time it can inspire the excessive national pride, militarism and contempt for the rights of other peoples which lays the ground for empires in which the benefits of democracy are only enjoyed by those who live at the heart of the empire. Empires swiftly become corrupt and oppressive. They begin fraying at the edges as colonised iwi fight for their freedom, and those living at the heart of the empire become lawless and amoral. We are seeing this now, as our people struggle to re-assert their mana, while Britain itself is convulsed in waves of corruption and lawlessness.
6 What are the conditions under which a democracy transforms itself into an empire?
Empires only arise out of democracies which have lost their way. The people lose mana, a military leader makes a bid for autocratic power, a professional army replaces the volunteer citizen army, and the business of the state changes from the protection of its citizens to making war upon other iwi. In Rome, General of the Army Julius Caesar took power by marching the army over the river Rubicon into the territory of Rome, and seizing power from the elected representatives of the people. In Britain Oliver Cromwell, and in France Napoleon Bonaparte used their military power to depose democratic rule and establish the empires which still hold sway here in the South Pacific. (The best democracies are often iwi confederations such as Maori established prior to the establishment of imperial rule in New Zealand. In a confederation people learn genuine respect for the rights and independence of those who are of different iwi, or who speak different dialects).
7 Do empires have any redeeming features?
Empires base their claim to legitimacy upon their ability to bring "order" and "civilization" to "savage" or "barbarian" peoples. It is certainly true that a successful empire must be highly ordered and regulated, both in the military and civil services. However "order" and "civilisation" is only maintained by a faceless, passionless and essentially inhuman bureaucracy, against which the people will sooner or later revolt.
8 Don't empires encourage global commerce?
That is certainly true, though it is not necessarily a good thing. Global commerce meant that the British imperial rulers of Ireland were able to export grain from Ireland at a time when the Irish people were dying in their hundreds of thousands from a disastrous famine. The same kind of thing is happening here in Aotearoa today, though not yet in such dramatic fashion.
9 Don't empires allow the free movement of people around the world?
Again, that is true in a sense, but also misleading. People are not so much "free" as compelled to leave their home country. They may be transported as slaves, like the Africans sent to the British Caribbean and the Melanesians "blackbirded" to Australia, or they may become forced economic migrants, such as the Irish who flocked to the United States, or those of our own people who are now moving to Australia.
10 Don't empires keep peace between different iwi?
This idea originates with the "Pax romana", the supposed peace which Rome established between the different peoples in its empire. The British are also supposed to have established peace between the different iwi in New Zealand. But this is only a small part of the truth, if it is true at all. If the British empire in New Zealand had wanted peace between iwi, it would not have enlisted Te Arawa to fight Tuhoe, or Ngati Porou to counter Tainui. The imperial motto has always been "divide and rule". Peace may be preferred for the sake of the imperial power, but not for the sake of iwi. The empire engages in all manner of violence to suit its own purposes, and goes about its normal business with cynical disregard for the violent consequences. For example the forced movement of peoples throughout the British empire has lead to bloody civil conflicts in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Fiji and Palestine to name but a few nations that have suffered the effects of British imperial rule.
11 Why did Lockwood Smith react so angrily when Hone Harawira tried to put his allegiance to his own iwi before allegiance to the British monarch?
Lockwood Smith reacted because he saw Hone's stand as a challenge to the system of imperial rule, and British racial supremacy. The colonial regime is desperately afraid that the people will send representatives to parliament who will be irreconcilably opposed to the British imperial system.
12 How else does the New Zealand regime seek to maintain imperial rule?
Imperialism is a cynical ideology. In the days of the Roman empire
its central premise was that the people can be kept in submission by giving
them "bread and circuses". In New Zealand we have alcohol and
tobacco, social welfare and Rugby World Cups. We should not be blind
to the fact that the colonial regime seeks to degrade us as individuals
and as a people, and that our mana is being constantly undermined.
The colonial regime also tries to whip up militarist sentiment, and to
encourage our people to support foreign military adventures on behalf of
the empire, such as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
These invasions are aimed at enforcing colonial rule over people who are
fundamentally no different to ourselves. Before we can win our own
freedom, we must stop being used by the colonial regime as tools in hopeless
attempts to deny freedom to other victims of imperialism around the world.
This is the time for us to act, because we as a people have no future within
the British imperial system.