Great New Zealand Argument by Various Artists

Standing Upright

by Traue

Jim Traue, one of the authors of Great New Zealand Argument: Ideas about ourselves joined us at the recent launch for the book in Wellington, and made a lively and forthright contribution to a panel discussion on ideas raised in the book. It was a pleasure to meet with and hear Jim, a former chief librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library and the author of the essay 'Ancestors of the Mind: A Pakeha Whakapapa' in the book. He was good enough to put some what what he talked about on the night into prose, which follows. RB.

Great New Zealand Argument: Ideas about ourselves is available for purchase, along with other books by Public Address bloggers, at the Public Address online store.

Russell Brown asked me: "One thing I find fascinating about the era in which New Zealand literature emerged-which is really the centre of gravity of Great New Zealand Argument-is that the great themes were often explored by poets. And that exploration is still resonant. There are few lines that move me more than Allen Curnow's "Not I, but some child born in a marvelous year / Will learn the trick of standing upright here". Where are these ideas explored now?"

I think our writers have now learned the trick of standing upright here. From the sixties onwards they sound as if they have made it, and are feeling comfortable and "at home" in New Zealand, the end that Robin Hyde looks forward to. They have a new confidence, and that confident upright stance of the writer who has made it in a creole society. Geoffrey Serle in his study of Australian culture writes about the progress in a creole society through the cultural cringe, to the nationalist strut, to the confident upright stance. We went through our period of colonial cringe, we didn't have quite the nationalist strut of the Australians-more like a self-conscious shuffle-but our writers had come through by the sixties and seventies. However, another group in society is looking unsteady on their feet and it is from them that you are picking up these interesting resonances.

I can see a new mood in the later Frank Sargeson, the later Curnow and, after a shaky start, in Maurice Shadbolt. Compare the gloom the tightness and the strangled prose of the early Sargeson with his later exuberance, his relish in words. And Shadbolt's verbal exuberance, his enjoyment of New Zealandness, and his playfulness when dealing with New Zealand history. And you can see it in Sinclair's 1959 Penguin history of New Zealand, and in his 1963 essay in Great New Zealand Argument. He has gone well beyond being just "at home" in New Zealand, his subject is greatness and the new civilization being created in New Zealand, themes that had dropped out of public discussion in New Zealand for some 100 years since Wakefield and Grey. The self consciousness that Robin Hyde identifies as characteristic of the writers of the 20s and 30s has been succeeded by a new self confidence.

In a literate creole society, where the majority are native born descendants of settlers from elsewhere, the creative writers are the first to face the problems of such a society. How do you deal with your inherited written culture, that vast wagon train of books that literates drag behind them wherever they go, and the unique experience of a new country. All writers in creole cultures face this problem-the Americans were wrestling with it throughout the nineteenth century, complaining about the loneliness of the writer and the lack of an American tradition, as were the Canadians, Australians, Latin Americans, and South Africans. The writers in Greek and Roman colonies around the Mediterranean in pre-modern times had, I suspect, much the same problem. Poets, who rely so heavily on allusion, metaphor and simile, have the hardest task. They need a certain depth of shared experience, shared myths, and shared symbols if they are to write poems and not documentaries. Henry James, who finally escaped from America to Europe to find the "accumulation of history and custom, the complexity of manners and types to form a fund of suggestion for a novelist" put it succinctly "It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature", and then poetically, "The flower of art blooms only where the soil is deep".

The assumption we all made was that the breakthrough first achieved by the writers would work its way down through the majority, who were too busy getting on with practical things (in Robin Hyde's marvellous image, writing on the landscape with pickaxe and mattock) to worry about questions of national identity. The creation of a New Zealand literature, dealing honestly with our experience in this land, and written New Zealand histories, would provide a depth of experience to replace the facile myths that most people held loosely in their subconscious minds. The media and the education system would do the rest.

But something different has happened, something nobody counted on. The writers are steady on their feet and assured, but many mainstream New Zealanders, who thought their feet, instinctively, had a good purchase on the land, are now finding it hard to stand upright here. Their concerns were quickly picked up by Winston, and now the focus groups for the Labour and National parties are on to it. I wouldn't be worried if they were asking "what does this mean", but alas their interest is in how these concerns can be used to avoid losing, or to win, an upcoming election.

Mainstream New Zealanders have experienced two major shocks in the past twenty years or so, two tectonic shifts. First, the welfare/equality consensus that began with the Liberals in 1890, was strengthened by the first Labour Government in the 1930s, and accepted by the National Party when it came to power in 1949, has been shattered. Sinclair, writing in 1963, was clearly convinced that the equality/social welfare consensus was permanent and that it was the secure basis on which a civilization could be built by focussing on quality, what we had been neglecting, in the future. That consensus was overthrown by Rogernomics and Ruthanomics in the 1980s and 1990s. Equality has gone out the window, and the shortcomings of the welfare state became glaringly evident in the face of government-induced unemployment. Ours is now a grossly unequal society, where the wealthy and powerful at the top flaunt their wealth and the poor and powerless starve at home and beg on the streets. I was in my fifties before I saw my first beggar on the streets of New Zealand. The other members of the panel have a different experience, you are young enough to have grown up with beggars around you. I had seen beggars in the great American cities, Washington, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, when I lived there in the mid-sixties, and in London in my few days there. Whenever I saw one I said to myself, thank God I am a New Zealander, we have managed to solve that problem once and for all. That first experience of a beggar in New Zealand was like being kicked in the stomach. First the involuntary tears, then the desire to hit back at those responsible. It was then that I started developing my ideas on the reintroduction of

hanging, drawing and quartering for political crimes against the people.

Then there was the wider availability of a New Zealand history that showed us that we had a rather spotty colonial past. We hadn't used the whole arsenal available to colonial powers-annihilation (that worked quite well in Tasmania), expulsion, subjugation, segregation, integration and assimilation-but we had tried several of them with, what was now becoming apparent, limited success.

But the other big shock was the challenge from the new Maori nationalism to mainstream assumptions about racial equality and our local success story in race relations. Worse still we were being told that we Pakeha were foreigners, that our right to be in New Zealand was only as visitors, tauiwi, and that right dependent on a piece of paper signed in 1840. We lacked any spiritual relationship with the land. Only the tangatawhenua possessed that deep connection. Then there were the accusations that we had no culture compared with the Maori.

People who had never really thought about national identity, about where they belonged, about what it meant to be a New Zealander, and who had only a few threadbare myths about social equality and good race relations to call on if the going got tough, found these shocks very destabilising. It is going to take a long time, and a great deal of good argument-the new Great New Zealand Argument-to build a new consensus in New Zealand which will enable all of us to stand upright here.

Always in the back of my mind is the example of what has happened in the recent past when people in the mainstream of another country, a nation recently formed from a group of principalities previously divided by religious wars, and believing they had at last found their destiny, were destabilised and unable to maintain their balance in their own country. They turned to a strong man, no great believer in rational argument, and the solution was nasty and Nazi.

Russell Brown asked me: "Our fiction writers and poets once seemed to be very happy to weigh into commentary, to write hard-nosed non-fiction. Is that still the case now? If not, why not?"

I think you are right, and that novelists and poets are less prominent as social critics in the newspapers and on radio and TV. As well there appears to me to be a marked decline in the contribution of the public intellectuals after a minor flowering in the sixties and seventies. Fewer are prepared to descend from their ivory towers to engage in the debate at the street level. It isn't confined to New Zealand; there have been anguished articles, and earlier this year a book, lamenting the decline of the public intellectual in the United States. By a public intellectual I mean anyone who works with ideas and words and arguments and uses them to question. They are always a minority operating at the margins of society, they are Sinclair's elite, the people who make the major contributions to the formation of civilization.

My public intellectual hero has always been John Milton, the shy aesthete who, as he was approaching his peak as a poet, descended into the battle of the pamphleteers in the streets of London in the mid seventeenth century and spent almost twenty years arguing for the people against tyrannical kings, for freedom of expression, for divorce on the grounds of incompatibility, and for the individual conscience. One of my favourite quotations is from William Blake. "The voice of honest indignation is the voice of God." I have my own variation, "The voice of honest dissent is the voice of evolution."

There are fewer poets and novelists acting as social critics because the pool of intellectuals is bigger. We have a lawyer such as Jane Kelsey, and an economist such as Brian Easton, now engaged at street level. Also, the marketplace for opinion is getting rather crowded. Journalists, and there are hundreds every year being produced by the professional schools, are flooding into the opinion business and crowding out the space in the newspapers. Far worse are the celebrity media personalities who are proliferating as public debate is being reduced to another commodity in the entertainment market place. It began with Paul Holmes, who copies assiduously trends in the commercial media in the United States, who has two media nonentities masquerading as experts on everything each morning on commercial radio. The infection has now spread to public radio where Linda Clark has two clowns (I use the word advisably, they are both professional clowns) who translate public affairs into entertainment just before midday on most mornings.

But a major reason is that public debate on radio and television has become more like bare-knuckle brawling. Have you seen the ill-mannered shouting matches on television that are offered to us as debate? In decent debate when a dissenting opinion is advanced, one should expect a counter argument. Genuine debate is conducted by gentlemen's rules, argument and counter argument, until someone is declared the winner on points. These days you are more likely to get a counter punch. Our public debaters on radio and television are like bare-knuckle fighters, circling each other to land the knockout blow, scorning a win on points. The counter punches most likely to hit you are the time-honoured left hook, "Elitist", and if that doesn't floor you, the more recent right cross, "Racist", or the blatant knee in the groin, "Sexist". Intellectuals are unlikely to win, or even manage to defend themselves, in such contests, and appear to be opting out.

That is why I am here tonight, to support you in your attempt to reclaim public debate back from the media personalities and the bullies. I hope that that is why so many have come here tonight. Or will be convinced to go out there and do battle for the cause. We need to wrest debate out of the mouths of those who are prostituting debate and focus it back on the arguments.

4 July 2005

This post is sponsored by Karajoz Coffee Company

The Historian as Prophet


The University of Auckland Winter Lecture series of 1963 took the theme of The Future of New Zealand. The seven lectures in the series were subsequently published as The Future of New Zealand, edited by Muriel F. Lloyd Prichard and published by Whitcombe & Tombs.

The book includes lectures by Allen Curnow and Bill Sutch on New Zealand literature and the future of manufacturing respectively, but it is perhaps the last entry in the book, Keith Sinclair's The Historian as Prophet: Equality, Inequality and Civilization that has weathered best.

Sir Keith's essay is copyright to the University of Auckland and is used with the permission of Raewyn Dalziel. It was retyped from the original book by Fiona Rae. Its publication here is made possible by the kind sponsorship of Karajoz Coffee Company.

The Historian as Prophet: Equality, Inequality and Civilization

You must wonder what on earth an historian is doing in a series of lectures on the future. And so did I when I was asked to give this talk. An historian is a man who examines evidence, usually documents, according to certain techniques, and seeks answers to certain types of problems. He is generally concerned with what happened, and how and why it happened. The most conspicuous thing about the future is that it apparently hasn’t happened. There is plenty of evidence available for the study of the future, indeed an embarrassing abundance of evidence. But until I know what events I am studying, I don’t know which evidence is relevant. I am in the position of the detective in the first chapter of a whodunit. He is confident that a murder will be committed, but he doesn’t know who will be the victim. Consequently everything is a clue to the solution of the crime: everything and nothing.

Can we extrapolate present trends into the future? This is the question that these lectures beg. The answer is – not very far. Even a trend of which we have the best evidence, for instance, population movements, may prove in twenty years to have been a phase and not a ‘trend’ at all. One thing an historian can confidently say, from studying the past, is that the future is almost always different from what people predict, though rarely, perhaps, completely different. Some of our expectations will be realized. But which ones? It may be that what I think important – our balance of payments problems, for instance – may vanish, while what I think a crisis invented by ageing, frustrated newspaper editors – juvenile delinquency – will soon wreck our democracy and produce a decrepit police state, a dictatorship of senility.

Most of what I might say about the future is either widely agreed – the need for more diversified economy, the need for closer relations with Asia – or else, like most prophecy, it is wishful thinking.

When I weighted these considerations; looked at the situation of the historian miscast as prophet; one thought I had was to pretend to be a future historian. I decided not to peer into the future at all, but to imagine myself a very rational historian a century or two hence, in a rational society, and to imagine what he would think of our society today. This seemed a justifiable approach, for criticism of the present naturally implies notions of how to improve in the future. But it struck me that most of the things an unborn historian would think remarkable about New Zealand in 1963 are not peculiar to us. For instance, it seems to me highly probable that this historian will think we exaggerate the difference between communism and capitalist democracy, as they are practised, and devote too little thought to their common problems, such as how the growing state machine may be controlled by the population. Or again, the future rational man would be appalled by the way in which, in capitalist societies at least, truth, honour, and our language – the most precious tools of civilization – are degraded every day by advertising. He would be struck, for instance, by the fact that it is legal to advertise cigarettes, a well known poison, and to aim this appeal to young people (though I am glad to learn that this practice is forbidden by the N.Z.B.C.). He would be amazed by our local follies. Some hospitals, for instance, derive their staff fund from sales in the hospital canteens, which sell cigarettes. The annual staff parties are thus financed by selling poison to patients.

But this approach seemed to lend itself increasingly to a rather ‘superior’ satire, and to be evading the challenge which was plainly inherent in my task. So I am going to talk about our future in a more serious way, despite the occupational hazards, though I am going to keep my unborn historian by me as a useful prop. I am going to talk about the future, not as a prophet or an historian, but as myself, a New Zealander who is partly an historian and a university teacher.

In a recent press report, the director of the Dominion Physical Laboratory, Mr W. H. Ward, is alleged to have said that ‘the safest plan for New Zealand would be to decide what the country is going to be in the future and then settle down to plan how to get there’.

We can’t, of course, decide what the future will be. Nor can we produce the future, as though we are carrying out a laboratory experiment, confident of the results. The most we can do is to decide what we would like New Zealand to be in the future, taking into account fairly plain limiting circumstances, such as that it is unlikely to become a great power, that it is inhabited by two races, that it is in the Pacific, and so on. We may then work towards the achievement of our ideal, not so much according to plan, a blueprint, but by daily making choices and decisions that appear to head in the right direction.

Ideals, visions of the future, are important facts, which exert immense influence on social development, without ever perfectly controlling it. A passionate vision of white mastery and black slavery has moulded South Africa: a pleasant dream of taking tea at Lyons Corner House – or Buckingham Palace – has shaped society in Remuera and St Heliers. It is of visions that I will talks today; our fathers’ visions, and my own. I do not apologise for looking backwards as well as forwards. A. J. P. Taylor rightly says: ‘Men see the past when they peer into the future.’ And the future will be influenced by our past. We have to remember that there is an obvious sense in which the past is more real than the present. The past is immutable. The present is a moment, a point. Men commonly liken time to a stream. I would remind you of the Greek saying that you can’t put foot in the same stream twice. Someone said you can’t put foot in the same stream once. That is what the present is like. Here and gone. As soon as we touch it, it is past. The Greeks sometimes thought that the future was the past. Their word opiso, which means either ‘behind’ or ‘in the future’, contains the idea of time coming up behind men, who are stationary, passing them, and becoming the ‘past’ laid before their eyes. Or, putting it another way, the past is seen and known, and therefore before us; the future is unseen; it is what lies behind us.

The kind of questions I would ask are: can we conceive for our country a future more important or meaningful than success at exporting lambs or butter? Can we avoid the fate – or reputation – of Switzerland which (according to Graham Greene) is famous for the invention of the cuckoo clock? What can our people do that would be important? What could the word ‘greatness’ ever mean here? They are, you will agree, unusual, and to many people, plainly absurd questions.

It was not always so. Many of the founders of our state had such questions in mind frequently. Grey, Wakefield, Henry Williams, William Pember Reeves – they all hoped they were starting something important, though when they spoke of greatness they often spoke cant. Sir George Grey’s mind dwelt so continually on the idea that New Zealand would produce a great nation, that he could not debate a Bill to alter the conditions of entry into the law profession without invoking the support of our unborn millions. (For twelve years, from 1880 to 1892, he tried to exclude Latin from the law examinations – apparently equating greatness with ignorance of the classics. ‘I say’, he said, ‘our greatness will arise from studying laws made by ourselves, and not by clinging to musty records …’) I am aware, you see, of the dangers I run between the sublime and the ridiculous; but to keep to my subject I must use the big words, and risk being naïve.

Two grand natal ideas lay at the foundation of our state, both parental gifts. One was the desire, which led the British Government to annex these islands, to achieve better racial relations here than had hitherto existed in the non-European world that Europe was busily invading. This ideal, of racial harmony, has exerted immense and benevolent influence. Perhaps before any other people we widened the concept of democracy to include non-Europeans. The Maoris received manhood suffrage in 1867. Though the ideal is, as yet, imperfectly achieved, it is achieved sufficiently to form our chief distinction. I do not mean that it is now done ‘near enough’.

The other natal idea was Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s. The grand objective of his system of colonization was that a high civilization should be established in colonies. He could not conceive of a new civilization developing there; indeed, if the colonists became what he called ‘a new people’, he thought they would be barbarous. So he hoped, by means of several mechanisms of land sales and immigration, to preserve in colonies the leisured, wealthy élite which he thought embodied civilization in Great Britain.

The means which he chose to that end were impracticable, but we must doubt whether any could, in the short run, have been effective. Is not the very idea of a ‘civilized colony’ a paradox? Had it been done, it would not, in my view, have been well done. There would have been, at best, an effete simulacrum of English middle-class culture. But the first generation of colonists, while holding to Wakefield’s ideal of being British, took little heed of the fact that what he wanted was British civilization. His ideal was decisively rejected by the next generation who, led by the Liberals in the eighteen nineties, chose, instead, an ideal described by William Pember Reeves in two questions: 'Is it possible to have a civilization which is no mere lacquer on the surface of society? Can a community be civilized throughout, and trained to consist of educated, vigorous men and women; efficient workers, yet not lacking in the essentials of refinement?'

In choosing the ideal of educational equality, the New Zealanders made a break with an essential feature of British society which, right up to the present day, through private schools, the ’11 plus’, Oxford and Cambridge, educates a quite small élite. The New Zealanders also chose, of course, at the same time, the twin ideal of what we now call social welfare. Now many modern societies, communist and capitalist, have made those choices, but in those days they were remarkable.

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New Zealand: A Maori Lament

by JACK TUAWHAIKI III (aka Bob Gormack), 1948

Ignorance can have its purpose. When I was reading through issue one of Bookie, a 1948 "miscellany" from Christchurch's Nag's Head Press for items that might make a Great New Zealand Argument, I was particularly taken with a polemic poem - New Zealand: A Maori Lament - by a Jack Tuawhaiki III.

From the context, I took the author to perhaps be a descend of the well-known Otago Ngai Tahu chief Tuhawaiki, or "Bloody Jack". Keen to do the right thing, I called the whakapapa office at Ngai Tahu to see if they could turn up anything more. (In retrospect, what was I thinking?)The chap there agreed that the poem sounded like good stuff.

It was only after that that I contacted Bob Gormack, the founder of Nag's Head, who still lives in Christchurch - and discovered that, in fact, he was the author of the poem, as he was of all the other merry diversions in the book. Did I still like the poem? Even more, in a way.

So Bob has a bottle of wine for his trouble He explains:

"We had a printing press in town called The Raven Press, and we were in opposition to the Caxton Press, in a way. They had a sort of monopoly on cultural attitudes. And it was a bit of a satirical answer to some the Caxton productions. They had a series of miscellanies called Book.

"I wrote it pretty quickly, really. We'd reached the stage with Raven Press where my partner wanted out of it, and we in the process more or less of selling out - so I thought I'd better do something while we had the chance. I wanted to do some writing - I had ambitions in that line. So I made sure I'd done something on the Raven Press before we lost control of it. It went to three rehab soldiers, who came back from the ware and took it over."

Bob couldn't say exactly from whence the poem below had sprung. But here it is, with all the original notes.

New Zealand: A Maori Lament
By Jack Tuawhaiki III (aka Bob Gormack)


O New Zealand!
O land of the long white cloud!
O home of my Polynesian ancestors!
O Lost land of the Pacific!
Let me write of your present-day sorrows;
Let me write them in savage syllables, in words of wormwood, with a pen dipped in vinegar;
Let me act as acid on marble, as leaven in baker's dough, as a raisin inserted in a bottle of beer;
Let me tell the troubles of your sick heart;
Give me strength to utter true words,
To brave the wrath of my pakeha brothers with strong words,
To force a true cultural consciousness upon my pakeha brothers with deep, penetrating, vital, Polynesian words.
O New Zealand!

O New Zealand!
Why do the pakeha poets reject you?
Why do they complain of your cultural claustrophobia, your insular isolation, your geographical gimcracks?
Why do they reject your tuis and bellbirds and red rata flowers?
Why do they blame it all on you?
Why do they say these hard things about you?

That your streams deepen so slowly,
That your rivers run so remorselessly,
That erosion takes place,
That your hills wait so endlessly,
That your mountains rise so rapidly,
That your beaches flatten so horizontally,
That your volcanoes belch so unsympathetically,
That your lakes lie so incredibly deep,
That the seas so insuperably encircle you,
That your bush darkens so despairingly,
That your bellbirds and tuis sing so somberly in your dark despairing bush,
That your red rata flowers are no credit to your dark pre-pakeha bush.

Why do they say these things?
Why do they blame it all on you?
Don't they realise that there are streams, rivers, hills, mountains, beaches, volcanoes, lakes, bush, flowers and singing birds in other parts of the world?
Why do they blame it all on you?
What is the matter with them?
O New Zealand!

O New Zealand!
O land of my fathers!
O miracle of Maui!
What about the other pakehas, the silent ones, the ordinary ones, the mere, middle-class, mercantile, motor-car-owning, make-a-living pakehas?
(It is always so hard to write of the other pakehas.)
Why do they fulminate so furiously at football matches?
Why are they so gone on gambling?
Why are they so hopeless and hot-headed about horse-racing?
Why are they so miserably mortified by mortgages, magpies and mercantile firms?
Why is the R.S.A.?
Why is there no one comfortable and complacent in the whole length of the land?
Why don't they give you some of the credit for it?
Why don't they say some nice things about you for a change? -
That you are God's own country,
That you provide the highest standard of living in the world,
That your peoples are the most generous and hospitable in all the world,
That freedom exists within your confines, as never freedom has existed before,
That your scenery is the most scenic in the Southern Hemisphere,
That you don't do so badly, geographically speaking,
That you don't do so badly, politically speaking,
That you don't do so badly, climatically speaking,
That your fighting men are the most magnificent among many nations,
That your footballers have phenomenal fame.
Why don't they say some of these nice things about you?
Why don't they give you some of the credit for it all?
Why don't they?
What is the matter with them?
O New Zealand!

O New Zealand!
O home of my Polynesian ancestors!
O Romahapa, Rangi-ruru, Taranaki, Rerewaka, Urenui!
What a country it is to live in!
What a collection of petty, pesky pakehas have come to inhabit here!
O let me fade and fall away into forgetfulness!
Tutaekuri ...
Let me merge into antiquity like a moa into the mountains!
Tutaekuri, tutaekuri ...
Let me melt into the myth of the miracle of Maui!
Tutaekuri, tutaekuri, tutaekuri ...
Let me return to my Polynesian ancestors as quickly as I can ...

Author's Note: Ake! Ake! Kia kaha!

Translator's Note: At a time when so little modern Maori is being written or spoken in New Zealand, it is important that every effort should be made to foster and encourage the few among our native population who have discovered the need for vocal self-expression. In this connection the Editors of "Bookie" deserve to be congratulated for giving me this opportunity to bring the work of a little known Maori poet to the notice of a wider pakeha public. I must also state that the first suggestion of this translation came from a modest student of Polynesian languages on the staff of the Nag's Head Press. Every reader of the above poem will agree that the effort has been worth while. There can be little doubt that the works of Jack Tuhawhaiki III deserve to be better known to the educated white people of the Dominion. For my own part, however, I can take very little credit for the performance. It is a commonplace that all poetry loses greatly in the course of translation, but most particularly is this so of modern Maori poetry. Jack Tuahawhaiki III's poem is so full of the brooding mystery that Gaugin sensed in the Polynesian, his language so vivid and colourful, his imagery so vital and topical, his rhythms so subtle and alluring, that I have found it next to impossible to reproduce in cold English the true beauty and force of the original. I have almost despaired of catching the delicate nuances of feeling that are expressed so easily and naturally in the Maori tongue; but if I have managed to convey anything at all of this haunting Polynesian mystery I shall be well satisfied. I should point out that several words and phrases towards the end of the poem, old tribal names

and traditional cries of lamentation, have proved untranslatable. These, I have had to leave as I found them.

Editor's Note: Mr. Wakefield has too much of the modesty of the true scholar. We feel sure that his able and instructive translation requires not subsequent apology from his pen. Indeed, on a first reading of his English version, not only do we experience a certain measure of the brooding mystery that Gaugin sensed in the Polynesian, but we also share more than a slight suggestion of the haunting strangeness that Jack Tuhawhaiki III, the Polynesian, doubtless senses in his pakeha countrymen.

Typographical Advisor's Note: Taking into consideration the length of this poem it would neither be advisable nor economical to have it hand-set. The ideal face for a machine-setting of the work would be Linotype Baskerville - 11-point on a 12-point base. The correct tone of the pages could them be maintained by setting the title in some sympathetic 18-point type and the notes in some unobtrusive 8-point with italic captions.

Linotype Operator's Note: Set like a jelly! Baskerville is best!

Proof-reader's Note: I have nothing but admiration for these quiet, unassuming, unpretentious linotype operators (the busy backstage-men of the typographical world), who can unravel the most difficult passages of hand-written copy and yet makle sich a low percentagge of errors. This Baskerville type is eminently readable.

Compositor's Note: Occasional lines on these pages have been speced with 24-em (pica) 2-point leads. In some cases two 1-point leads were used in place of one 2-point lead.

Printer's Notes: These pages were hand-fed on to an old, German, power-driven, platen press. Very little make-ready was used. The actual printing was performed in the usual manner with hand-fed presses, .i.e., feeding with the right hand and flying with the left hand, at a rate of approximately 900 impressions per hour. As I worked on this job I could not help thinking, with some pride, of the humble contribution I was making to New Zealand literature. Such things are worth-while! I am representative of the working class and I can say so without, I hope, any suggestion of sentimentality. There can be no comparison between doing work of this kind and ordinary, commercial printing-jobs. Work of this nature makes one feel an individual, a craftsman. One becomes conscious of one's soul.

The Singers of Loneliness

by Robin Hyde

Written from memory, a long way from home, and in the midst of a war, Robin Hyde’s 'The Singers of Loneliness' is a something of a letter in a bottle. This impassioned assessment of New Zealand literature - an account of “what has been saved, what thrown away, and what is still possible and urgent” - made its debut in August 1938 in an unlikely venue: a small internationalist magazine out of Shanghai called the T’ien Hsia Monthly.

Why T’ien Hsia? Why Shanghai? In January of 1938, Robin Hyde had set off on her long-awaited journey to England. The original plan was to sail from Auckland to Hong Kong, and then travel overland to the mother country via the Orient Express. But while waiting in Hong Kong for her Russian visa, Hyde decided to travel to Shanghai, and from there ventured into the interior of China. The country was being overrun by the Japanese, and Hyde felt compelled to stay and write about what she saw.

Stay she did, for the next six months. In Shanghai she met Rewi Alley; in Hong Kong she met the New Zealander James Bertram, who had traveled with the Eighth Route Army. With their help she made contact with local newspapers and magazines, and travelled to the front - the first white woman journalist to do so - on a pass signed by Chiang Kai Shek. She was volunteering in a hospital in Hsuchowfu when the city fell to the Japanese.

During much of this period, as far as New Zealand was concerned, she was missing and presumed dead. Hyde’s letters written at the time suggest that she, too, feared she would not survive. She eventually walked her way to safety, stumbling along the Lunghai railway line for more than 50 miles. Her successful escape was all the more impressive given that she was lame in one knee to begin with, badly battered after a vicious encounter with Japanese soldiers, temporarily blinded in one eye, and severely undernourished and ill, not to mention unable to speak Chinese beyond a handful of words. All the way, she carried her suitcase full of writing.

After recuperating briefly in a hospital, Hyde continued her journey to England, where she published her book about China (Dragon Rampant) and worked to raise awareness of the plight of China. She had hoped to return to New Zealand; she had also hoped, once peace was restored to China, to take up a visiting lectureship at Wuhan University, the university on whose steps she begins 'The Singers of Loneliness'. Instead, in ill health and despair, she committed suicide in London on the eve of the war in Europe, in August 1939.

'The Singers of Loneliness' is equal parts celebration, indictment, and call to action. New Zealand of the 1930s is a place “where little local history and no knowledge of the Maori language is taught in schools, though in certain advanced university courses a knowledge of Icelandic is requisite.” The writers of her generation, Hyde argues, suffered from this official ignorance. They grew up “loving every inch of the terrain, feeling it grow into mind and bones, but knowing little of its story or cultural past except what, unconsciously hungry for some background, we were able to invent.” And yet hers was the generation that became, as she famously put it, no longer “for ever England”: “We became, for as long as we have a country, New Zealand.”

The article was rediscovered in the 1980s, and republished by Gillian Boddy and Jacqueline Matthews in their excellent 1991 anthology of Hyde’s journalism, Disputed Ground. Here now, as one installment of the Great New Zealand Argument, Hyde’s letter in a bottle makes its way from Shanghai to New Zealand and back out into the world.
Jolisa Gracewood


The Singers of Loneliness
Tien Hsia Monthly, August 1938
Published under the auspices of the Sun Yat-sen Institute for the Advancement of Culture and Education

Coming down the steps of Wuhan University, whose blue-tiled roofs, ornamented with crouching stone hounds, glittered over the horse chestnut trees, I talked with a Chinese Professor of Literature whose friend, a notable young poet, had translated Katherine Mansfield’s works into Chinese.

‘For most of us, K.M. is New Zealand, and New Zealand is K.M.,’ wrote Max Kenyon, well-known English critic. But though Katherine Mansfield was the most famous and best-beloved writer of the Antipodes, there have been others. There must, unless New Zealand is to remain a locked treasure-chest, be many more. So far, (momentarily leaving Katherine Mansfield out of the question) three generalizations about New Zealand letters can be made. Pioneer New Zealanders were in contact with an immense wealth of native myth and poetry, which had never been written down. Though most of this was grossly wasted, a little has been saved and used, or is still available for writers of the future. Secondly, after a long period when the literary life of the country seemed so benumbed that its expressions were purely childish, prose writers like Elsdon Best, Jane Mander and William Satchell, poets like Eileen Duggan, R.A.K. Mason and others of genuine merit arose and produced work recognized as good. Thirdly, the world depression had several disastrous effects on the underpopulated country of New Zealand, which lives mainly by export of its primary produce, and is still in a quarter-developed condition: but its stimulating effect on the thought and culture of rebellious young minds, in a silent country which at last learned to be articulate, was probably worth all the hardship involved. No New Zealand writer regrets the depression.

But to get some idea of what has been saved, what thrown away, and what is still possible and urgent, one must go back to times a little before organized pioneer expeditions, like Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s, set out from London. Individuals ‘came to a country’ which while certainly not flowing with milk and honey, was still quick with the sap of a native Polynesian mythology and poesy, so vitally a part of pre-Europeanised Maori life that it is unjust to dismiss it as a crude primitive culture. The first intelligent and educated white men to frequent New Zealand, before the Treaty of Waitangi (signed in 1840) claimed it as a British possession, did not make this mistake. By far the most entertaining historical and semi-autobiographical book written by any New Zealander is still F.E. Maning’s Old New Zealand; by a Pakeha Maori. The author knew enough to treat the Maoris as equals, and draw on their tremendous mine of cultural and human knowledge. A Pakeha Maori (Pakeha – literal translation ‘pale driftwood’, common meaning ‘a white man’) is one who has fraternized with the Maoris until accepted as one of them – and usually trying, of course, to be one-and-a-half of them. The Maoris don’t mind; Maori names were invariably conferred upon early white settlers, inter-marriage was free and frequent, and less than a generation ago, a law had to be passed preventing Maoris from adopting little white children, and enriching them at the expense of their own. The real aristocracy of the far north are still the descendants of white saw-millers and traders who settled in kauri country along the northern rivers and Maori ladies, often of high blood and wealthy inheritance.

So when the Treaty came to be signed, after debate in a great beflagged marquee crowded with white dignitaries and tall chieftains in great cloaks of shining feathers, snowy dogskin or tasselled flax, nephrite ornaments or pierced mako-shark teeth dangling from their ears, the conclave was interrupted by a huge red-bearded Irishman, who in fluent Maori advised the chiefs to think better of it, and throw the white man out. This was F.E. Maning: he had nothing against the white man, as such, but believed that the Maoris were being optimistic. But no man’s hand can press back the tide, and so a day began to die, and another day to dawn.

Maning, who lived in a golden-glowing house of heart-of-kauri, far to the north, was not the only one of his kind. Over a decade before, Edward Markham left a journal recording his ten months’ stay among Maoris of the Hokianga and Bay of Islands districts (‘the Hell of the Pacific’). If published, (it has never reached the press) this would be an entertaining and valuable record. But in New Zealand, where little local history and no knowledge of the Maori language is taught in schools, though in certain advanced university courses a knowledge of Icelandic is a requisite, there are walls of glass-locked library cupboards between the seeker, and a knowledge of those days one hundred years ago. If one discovers anything, it is by accident or through persistence. Wonderful old Maori fairytales – real fairytales, with their mingled grotesquerie and illogicality, their no-beginning and no-ending, flowing on in the mind of the race – are sandwiched between reports of early Agricultural Shows, and pamphlets on chicken-rearing. The tales have, of course, been transcribed, for the Maori had no written culture, though the all-important genealogical tree was sometimes marked on whalebone, and a big Maori building panelled with dyed flax and carved in the old way, with eyes of paua shell squinting down over its carved red-ochred spirals, tells an important tribal story in every detail of workmanship. But the Maoris were never stingy with their legends, and men of some vision took them down, as they fell from the lips of old men dreaming in the sun. Also the Maori system of chant-memorising, taught by the tohungas (priests) to selected students, was deeply ingrained, and is still a true key, though a rusty one. But I see mouldering away, unread, unknown, Willoughby Shortland’s fairytale transcripts, side by side with Markham’s journal, and the remarkable sketchbook of Gilfillan, a pioneer artist whose pencil sketches of Maori life are probably the best in existence, though the Maoris repaid him by putting the red flower of fire to his thatch, nearly killing him, murdering his wife and all but one of his children. In some of the best Antipodean libraries, it is forbidden even to quote from Mss.; which is commonly regarded as conservatism, but which to me seems a crime against our rudimentary culture.

It is important, none the less, to know that about the time when England was starving John Keats like a dying rat, Maoris were maintaining poets and poetesses (there is a considerable degree of sex equality), as rare tribal possessions, even loaning them out to friendly tribes. And very bloody-minded most of these poets, who spurred tribes on to battle or recounted the victories of famous chiefs, commonly were. Battles bore such names as ‘The Fall of the Hawks’, ‘The Gathering of Many Canoes’; a chief’s canoe was Te Waikiekie, or ‘Waters Kiss-Kiss’; the two main islands, Te-Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Maui, an ancestor god) and Te Wahe Pounamu (the Place of Greenstone, or Maori jade). Rocks, mountains, forests, lakes, were alive with diversified chanted or whispered legend and song, known to every child. Te Taniwha, the water-dragon, could be good or evil; te maeroro, the inhuman ogre, hunted in the bush; usually gentle were the turehu or piti-pae-arehe, white Maori fairies, who did no worse than steal the shadows of ornaments or weapons, and who taught the Maoris net-making. The crimson seaweed washing out under the keel of your boat near Whangarei Heads is, of course, the hair of Manaia’s daughter, and anyone will tell you how Manaia, his wife and his dog all sit turned to rocks, seen at high tide. The Maori sentinel on the high, slenderly spiked stockade chanted over sleepers and moonlit whares (huts) his time-old formula of assurance. And behind this carved and ochred façade of big and little Maori gods, which I can only describe as a mingling of ancestor-worship and animism, well coloured up by legendry, was the single religion of Io, the sacred Breath of Being – a far from despicable deity.

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Ancestors of the Mind: A Pakeha Whakapapa

by Jim Traue

It's easy to forget that today's debates about culture and identity are not all new, and that the thinking of years past can be usefully applied today. I was alerted to Jim Traue's 1990 pamphlet Ancestors of the Mind by a friend who had had it "kicking around the house" for years. I read it and agreed it had much that was useful for us now.

Jim kindly agreed to its republication as part of Great New Zealand Argument, and also supplied a comment on how the essay came to be, and what has happened to it since its original publication by Gondwanaland Press - RB:

"I began thinking about the ideas developed in this pamphlet when I was told by a Maori acting as a consultant to the National Library that Pakeha New Zealanders had no culture. This seemed distinctly odd to me--we were sitting in a building containing over one million volumes of books documenting the written culture of Pakeha and their European forebears. I puzzled away at why someone could hold such a belief, and then everything came into focus on that marae at Otaki.

"Since this pamphlet appeared I have had hundreds of letters thanking me for setting down what many people were struggling to find words to express. Scores have asked for multiple copies to give to their children or grandchildren. Later, at Michael King's request, I placed this in a personal context in my essay "Citizen of the Polis with a Library Card and Borrowing Rights", published in Pakeha: the Quest for Identity in New Zealand (Penguin Books, 1991) . Copies of Ancestors of the Mind are still available from the Gondwanaland Press, 24 Glasgow Street, Kelburn, Wellington (e-mail for $5."

Ancestors of the Mind
A Pakeha Whakapapa
J. E. Traue
Chief Librarian
Alexander Turnbull Libraay

This is the amended text of a talk first delivered at the Rotary Club of Wellington on 26 June 1989

A short time ago I spent a weekend on a marae. It was the Ngati Raukawa marae at Otaki and a group of us were there for a two-day seminar to talk about the relationships between our institution and the Maori people and their culture.

On the first night, after the evening meal, we gathered together in the meeting house and one after another we introduced ourselves to the others in a brief speech. My Pakeha colleagues did this by giving their names, sometimes the place where they were born, and their jobs. It almost seemed as if their jobs made them, defined them as individuals. The local Maori introduced themselves by name, by place of birth and tribal affiliations. Some went back one or two generations while the more eloquent went back fifty generations. They defined themselves by their ancestral lands and the features of those lands – the rivers and mountains – and their family links to those lands; by their bloodlines, their ancestors.

I thought about the different approaches of the two, Pakeha and Maori, as I waited my turn. I did not believe that my bloodlines were adequate to define me; that my physical ancestors and their relationships to an area of land were that important for me. On the other hand I did not believe that my present job defined me as a person. I think of myself as very much the product of my wider culture.

When my turn came I attempted to place myself within that culture, a culture of the written record and of the individual, just as the Maori has placed themselves within their culture, an oral culture of the closely-knit tribal group with a base in a particular locality.

The next day I wrote down an account of what I had said – it had created quite a stir – and then substantially extend my account to cover what I really wanted to say to that group, especially to the Maori members, about the cultural heritage of people like me. This is that extended account. It is what I shall say next time I am on a marae and am invited to introduce myself to the group.

My name is Jim Traue. I was born in Auckland; as a child and young man I lived in Palmerston North, Hawera, Rotorua, Frankton Junction and then back in Auckland; but I have lived most of my life in Wellington. By birth, by domicile, by loyalty I am a New Zealander. I have no other home.

My parents were born in New Zealand, and their parents before them. My paternal great-grandfather, the first Traue in New Zealand, was born in Berlin in the Kingdom of Prussia. He cam here in the early 1870s and married a Fitzgerald, born in British India of Irish parents. Since then there has been an admixture of Welsh and English blood to this original German-Irish stock.

They, my ancestors, have determined my genetic inheritance. They have determined my height, my shape, the colour of my eyes, the colour of my hair (and, alas, the lack of it). They may well have determined how I react, how I respond, that is my temperament. That strong Celtic strain from my ancestors may explain a certain gift for words. But my great-grandfather also had a love of the English language and wrote it like an angel though he spoke with a German accent.

But others, all of them outside my blood lines, have shaped my ideas, my beliefs, my values; from others I have learned the things I hold dear, the things that identify me as a person, a unique individual, and that have given me my standing, my reputation in the community.

My ancestors of the mind include my teachers; Miss Davidson at the Rotorua Primary School who believed in me and encouraged my development; Mr Taylor, Mr Morton, Mr Gudex, who provided encouragement or models to emulate at secondary school; Professor Musgrove and Professor Airey, Keith Sinclair, John Reid, Allen Curnow, Bob Chapman, M. K. Joseph, Bill Pearson and the other university teachers who opened my mind to exciting new worlds of books and ideas.

My ancestors of the mind include the men and women with whom I studied; the men and women with whom I have worked; the great leaders in librarianship, Geoffrey Alley and Graham Bagnall in New Zealand, who have been my mentors; Lawrence Clark Powell, Archibald MacLeish, Paul Raabe, some of my heroes from overseas.

They include the man whose cloak has been passed down to me, Alexander Turnbull the collector, who built a great library to comprehend the European, Polynesian and Maori inheritances of this country. A man who believed that the writings of the Englishman John Milton in the seventeenth century were as relevant to New Zealanders as the written records of our pas in New Zealand; the histories of Maori traditional beliefs, the records of European settlement in New Zealand, our distinctive New Zealand literature and history.

Behind every one of them, and the source of their ideas and their values, is the great culture which belongs to all of us, the culture of the Western European peoples, the culture of what was once called Christendom.

My ancestors of the mind, nay, our ancestors of the mind, are all those men and women, most of them long dead, who recorded in their books the ideas and the values of that culture, a culture going back some 3000 years.

Our ancestors of the mind include the great thinkers of Ancient Greece. The dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; the poet Homer; the scientists Archimedes and Ptolemy; the mathematicians Euclid and Pythagoras; the historians Herodotus and Thucydides; the philosophers and moralists Socrates and Plato and Aristotle. All believed in the importance of ideas, the power of ideas, all believed that the highest purposed of humanity was to define the nature of truth, beauty, and justice.

Our ancestors of the mind include the poets and essayists, historians, political philosophers, architects, engineers of Ancient Rome; Terence, Horace, Livy, Cicero, Vergil, Ovid, Seneca, Catullus, Plutarch, Lucretius, Pliny, Tacitus; and the jurists of Rome who attempted to lay the basis for laws to guarantee justice, fairness and equality of treatment for all.

Our ancestors of the mind include too the scribes and prophets of the books of the Hebrews we call the Old Testament; Moses, Joshua, Job, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, men who sought a meaning in history and who believed that humanity had enough of the divine to uncover the secrets of God’s creation. The great King Solomon said ‘The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out’.

Our ancestors of the mind number also Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Paul and Peter, and the others who record in the New Testament the new covenant of God with his creation; St Jerome and St Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Eramus and Luther, Wycliffe, Calvin and John Knox and John Wesley who helped define the new religion of Christendom and create its rich tradition and literature, a tradition which still permeates our society and affects our everyday lives in countless ways. A tradition which has reinforced the ideas we inherited from the Greeks and Romans and the Hebrews about the importance of the individual, which emphasises the quality of humankind and the rights of the individual conscience.

Our ancestors of the mind include the great army of thinkers and writers of the new societies created within the last 1000 years in Europe and beyond in the Americas and Africa and the Pacific, the ‘tribes’ of the Western tradition, as it were, who drew on the ideas and values of Greece, Rome, the Hebrews and the Christians, and on each other, to develop their own cultures and values.

We may of course be grievously mistaken, but those of us who belong to the western tradition believe that reason and natural justice are the right tools to deal with the world; we see the human condition in terms of problems to be tackled; we believe that wrongs should be put right; that progress is always worth the struggle. Mysticism and resignation leave us puzzled. But this concept of duty coexists with the conviction that the interests of the individual must be protected, even against the state itself. We believe that the life of the mind and the need for action have equal claims; we like to think we are tolerant of the views of others.

Our is a written tradition, and because it has been a written culture for 3,000 years the knowledge and the wisdom of 3,000 years of experience has accumulated in our libraries and our archives and our books; and it belongs to everyone of us. As the inheritors of a written culture we can wear it lightly because we no longer need to depend on memory. We may not be able to recite our genealogies, or all of Shakespeare or Milton or the Bible, but nevertheless they are there, indestructible, immutable, always there when we need them, safe in the storehouses outside of our minds which our culture has created.

Just as agricultural societies could store their surplus food, so literate societies could store their intellectual surplus, their experience, to call on in the future when it was needed.

Our ancestors of the mind come from all languages and civilizations that have left written records. We are all part of the international community of the book, the library, the archive.

The Frenchmen Montaigne and Moliere and Voltaire and Rousseau; the Germans Goethe and Herder and Lessing; the Russians Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are just as much our ancestors of the mind as Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton, Defoe, Dryden and Dickens, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot, Allen Curnow, Frank Sargeson, A. R. D. Fairburn, R. A. K. Mason, Janet Frame and Karl Stead.

Our ancestors of the mind include Aristotle, Plato, Bacon, Descrates, Leibnitz, Hume, Kant and Wittgenstein; Locke and Rousseau, Tom Paine and Robert Owen and Karl Marx; they include Adam Smith and J. M Keynes and Milton Friedman; Voltaire and Gibbon and Ranke and Keith Sinclair and Bill Oliver; Coke and Montesquieu and Blackstone; Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo and Newton, Linnaeus and Darwin and Einstein, Marie Curie and Rutherford.

Our ancestors of the mind are innumerable, encompassing many races and religions and times and places; and their ideas, their creations, are available to me and to you, to everyone, in the millions of books that fill our libraries.

Who am I? I am one of the heirs to all this. Every one of us, whether we wished it or not, whether we wished it or not, whether we deserved it or not, have been given this same inheritance of the written and printed words of our culture. You must not suppose I am claiming close personal acquaintance with all these writers. A written culture does not work like that. We do not have to memorise it to make it our own, or call on someone else to recite it to us. It is always there and we can go directly to it and read it an interpret it for ourselves. It is the most democratic of cultures because it belongs to everyone. Most of us do not need to read more than a fraction of the original works. The ideas they contain are always present, are never lost or forgotten. Our ancestors of the mind are immortal on the printed page.

I am proud of my ancestors, my ancestors of the mind, as proud as any Maori is of his ancestors. I have listed only a tiny fraction of them by name. There are countless millions who, by recording their experience in some permanent form, have become my ancestors of the mind, who have in some way contributed to making me what I am.

That is my genealogy, that is my whakapapa.

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