New Zealand great white shark research


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Great white shark, Pip

In the second of our series on New Zealand great whites we’re introducing you to Pip. She’s a recent addition to our tagging programme and is a decent size at 3.3 metres long.

From Wildlife Extra:

Great white shark project reveals surprising facts to NZ researchers

A 10-year project to find out more about the great white sharks that inhabit New Zealand waters is coming to an end as scientists tackle the final phases of data analysis.

The project was run jointly by the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the NZ Department of Conservation project to fisheries scientist and shark expert Dr Malcolm Francis is one of several scientists who have spent the past decade tagging great whites – a protected species – and following their movements.

Dr Francis said the initial aims of the project were to find out how mobile the sharks were, how far they travelled and where to, and their habitat requirements.

The tagging programme involved the use of acoustic tags, determining how the sharks use their habitat near seal colonies, pop-up tags that gather data on light, depth and temperature, and electronic tags attached to a shark’s dorsal fin to track their movements.

Since 2005, the team has tagged 95 sharks, mainly at the Chatham Islands and Stewart Island and have made some surprising discoveries.

“We found that most migrate to the tropics during winter,” he said. “The first one or two we saw do this came as a real surprise. They go between May and July and return between December and March, spending more time out of New Zealand waters than in.”

A 3.3m-long great white named Pip by the researchers, arrived in New South Wales near Sydney, with tracking data showing she took 20 days to travel 2,020km from the southern Snares Shelf. She has since moved steadily northwards, and recently entered Queensland waters.

By comparison, great white sharks that live around the southern Australian coast travel mainly up the east or west coasts, but do not often venture into the open ocean.

The New Zealand tagging also showed that the sharks travel in a remarkably straight line on their migrations, averaging about 5km/h or 100km/day, but have done up to 150km a day.

In the afternoons they tend to spend time at the surface but also make regular dives between 200 and 800m – the record depth is 1,246m.

“We don’t know why they’re doing that,” said Francis. “We assume they’re feeding. We also don’t know how they navigate in a straight line or why. It’s a big puzzle and not one we are likely to work out.

“While we’ve found out some answers to some questions, our work has also raised a series of other questions. We’ve found out about the large scale, and where and when they hang out around northern Stewart Island, but not what they do close to mainland New Zealand.

Clinton Duffy, shark scientist with the Department of Conservation, said, “We confirmed that juveniles inhabit shallow coastal waters and harbours around New Zealand, feeding mainly on fish.

“Once they grow to about 3m long, the sharks begin to feed on marine mammals. They continue to feed on fish or squid but they tend to aggregate near seal colonies, so there are large behaviour changes.”

The information gathered on the distribution of sharks will now be compared with the distribution of commercial fishing to figure out where and when the sharks are at greatest risk of being inadvertently caught by fishing gear.

See Warwick Lyon, a marine biologist on the project, talking about two of the sharks they have been monitoring, Pip and Scarface, in the videos.

This video says about itself:

Great white shark, Scarface

Meet Scarface, a great white we have been monitoring for a couple of years. He’s a bit of a character, inquisitive and a little aggressive. Watch the video to find out how Scarface got his name.

Rare takahē birds released in New Zealand


This video says about itself:

Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue: Burwood — Motutapu Transfer

Saving Takahē is a big job! With only about 260 birds left, they’re critically endangered; that means the next step could be extinction. We want to save this unique part of New Zealand so partner with the Department of Conservation on the Takahē Recovery Programme.

A big part of the programme involves carefully managing the population and moving birds around to predator free sites and in November 2012 one of the biggest transfers occurred with nine birds travelling the length of the country in one day to reach a safe new home.

Check out this video to follow their journey and to find out more about takahē rescue efforts.

This video says about itself:

Takahē release on Motutapu Island

12 November 2012

There are only 260 takahē in the world and nine were released on Motutapu on Sunday 4 November. Motutapu is a pest free island half an hour by ferry from downtown Auckland.

Takahē were once widespread throughout New Zealand but have been brought to the brink of extinction by predators, particularly stoats, and the destruction of their habitat.

From the Department of Conservation in New Zealand:

Island home for takahē lovebirds

Date: 24 July 2014

By Amy Cameron | Partnerships Ranger, based in Auckland

A pair of takahē lovebirds have a new home on Motutapu Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. He Maipi and Autahi flew up from the Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit near Te Anau yesterday with the help of Air New Zealand.

They were welcomed to the island by Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki and the Motutapu Restoration Trust.

This pair will bring the number of takahē on the island to 18. It’s hoped He Maipi and Autahi will thrive on pest-free Motutapu and that the pitter patter of tiny takahē feet will not be too far away.

The Department of Conservation works with Mitre 10 to ensure the survival, growth and security of takahē populations throughout New Zealand.

Foreign soldiers killed Afghan peasants


This video says about itself:

Investigative journalist Jon Stephenson talks about New Zealand’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Marae Investigates TVNZ 24 April 2011.

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

Civilians were killed in New Zealand-US raid on Afghan village

5 July 2014

An investigation by journalist Jon Stephenson, broadcast on Maori Television on Monday, found that a raid on an Afghan village on August 22, 2010, involving New Zealand, US and Afghan soldiers, resulted in 21 casualties, all of them innocent civilians.

According to the report—based on interviews with survivors, NGOs and Afghan government officials, and cell phone videos of the dead—six people were killed, including a three-year-old girl, and 15 were wounded.

The night-time raid on the village of Tirgiran in Baghlan province was in retaliation for an insurgent attack on New Zealand soldiers in neighbouring Bamiyan province on August 4 that killed Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell.

The US-led attack, which unleashed awesome firepower against an apparently defenceless village, was typical of the operations of the occupation forces. The war, which has lasted more than 12 years and caused tens of thousands of deaths, is a neo-colonial venture that faces widespread and entrenched opposition. The aim of such attacks is to terrorise the population into submission.

US helicopter gunships repeatedly fired on houses and dropped off NZ SAS troops, who burst into people’s homes. According to a press statement at the time by the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), 12 “insurgents” were killed. But ISAF also said there was a “possibility” of civilian deaths because a helicopter gun “malfunction” led to soldiers shooting into the wrong building. The New York Times quoted district governor Mohammed Ismail two days after the raid, who said eight people had been killed, including two women and a child.

In April 2011, NZ’s then defence minister Wayne Mapp told TVNZ that the raid was necessary “to protect our people.” He said allegations of civilian deaths had “been investigated and proven to be false.”

However, Said Ahmad, a 38-year-old farmer, who received shrapnel wounds from the raid, told Stephenson: “There were no Taliban. All of the people that were killed or wounded were innocent people … The helicopters were going, coming, going and coming in circles and firing on people. They shot at us and killed and wounded defenseless people.”

Mohammad Iqbal, another farmer who still has shrapnel lodged in his back and is unable to work, claimed that nine of those wounded were women.

Dr Abdul Rahman, one of the first people who arrived after the attack, showed Stephenson pictures of the dead and the wounded, and explained that he helped to bury a three-year-old girl named Fatima. Rahman provided a certificate issued by the former district governor, listing the names of the dead and wounded.

Stephenson noted that the United Nations and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission both acknowledged the civilian casualties in a 2011 report. He also stated: “SAS troopers who took part in the mission are concerned that civilians died there.” He said there were no claims that NZ troops had themselves killed civilians.

Despite the extensive evidence that the raid on Tirgiran resulted in a massacre of innocent people, the NZ government dismissed Stephenson’s report. Prime Minister John Key told TV3 last Tuesday that a “thorough review” by the Chief of Defence Force had found that “there were insurgents that were killed but that was it.”

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman was more evasive. He told reporters: “New Zealanders were not involved—and that’s categorical—in any civilian casualties or deaths.” Then he added that he “couldn’t rule out” that civilians had died in the raid “through actions taken by other forces.”

Stephenson hit back at the government, telling TV3 that, in addition to the eyewitness accounts in his report, “I did a lot of other investigation and confirmed from very senior Afghan officials, and from people like hospital directors and NGOs, that those accounts were accurate. So I think the prime minister’s in another world if he thinks that all this evidence counts for nothing and that he is categorically right.”

Stephenson has been harassed and spied on by the government and the military for previous reports exposing the complicity of NZ forces in war crimes—including a May 2011 report that revealed NZ troops had handed over prisoners to US and Afghan authorities for torture.

Last year the Sunday Star-Times revealed that the NZ military collaborated with US spy agencies to monitor Stephenson’s phone calls, and those of his associates, when he was in Afghanistan. A Defence Force manual leaked to the newspaper said “certain investigative journalists” should be regarded as a subversive “threat.” It said they could “obtain politically sensitive information” that could “bring the Government into disrepute” and called for “counter-intelligence” operations against them.

In June 2011, Stephenson complained to police after allegedly receiving a death threat from a senior SAS officer at a Wellington bar. Police said they investigated but did not lay charges.

Following Stephenson’s latest report, the political establishment closed ranks to defend the military. Labour leader David Cunliffe made a vague call for an “investigation” into the raid, while declaring that “New Zealand’s military has a proud record … It’s likely that New Zealand troops are not culpable but I think all New Zealanders would want to see the air cleared and the New Zealand military’s honour upheld.”

It was the 1999-2008 Labour government, supported by the “left wing” Alliance Party, that first sent SAS commandos into Afghanistan in 2001. More than a hundred NZ soldiers remained in the country until April 2013. Ten of them died.

Journalist Nicky Hager’s 2011 book Other People’s Wars revealed that intelligence agents from NZ’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) also worked throughout the war under US commanders, helping to select targets for assassination by ground troops or air strikes across Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Greens, who supported the main troop deployment to Afghanistan, have remained silent on Stephenson’s revelations. So has the Maori nationalist Mana Party and its electoral ally, the Internet Party.

The coverup is driven by a definite agenda. Successive governments have strengthened military and intelligence ties with Washington, on which NZ’s ruling elite relies to conduct its own neo-colonial interests in the South Pacific.

Labour and the Greens, along with the National Party government, have not only indicated that they would support direct US intervention in Syria and Iraq. The political establishment backs the US military build-up in the Asia-Pacific, aimed at preparing for war against China. Key’s visit to Washington last month signalled closer collaboration with the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.”

The author also recommends:

NZ government aligns more closely with US amid rising tensions with China
[2 July 2014]

AFGHAN Defence Ministry spokesman General Mohammmad Zahir Azimi blamed a “terrorist in an army uniform” yesterday for a shooting spree that left a US general dead and 15 soldiers wounded. …Earlier, 200 people took part in an angry demonstration in Herat after a Nato helicopter strike killed four Afghan civilians: here.

On Tuesday, a soldier in the Afghan army opened fire on a group of high-ranking NATO coalition members, killing an American major general. The attack, which occurred at the British-run Marshall Fahim National Defense University outside of Kabul, comes amidst an increase in violence in Afghanistan over the past year: here.

Marine conservation writing competition for young people


This video is called Earthrace – R.I.P – Tribute.

From Wildlife Extra:

Conservationist Pete Bethune launches a writing competition for young people

New Zealander, Pete Bethune, founder of marine conservation organisation, Earthrace, has set a challenge for all young ocean activists around the world.

His aim is to encourage a growing network of children and young people from around the world who care about preserving and protecting the oceans by launching a writing competition.

First prize is a model remote control replica of Pete’s Earthrace boat which broke the round the world speed record in 2008 but was sunk by Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 2010.

Apart from being a world-record holder for the fastest trip around the world in a powerboat, Pete has become a passionate supporter of marine life conservation as a result of his experiences on that trip. He is the author of two best-selling books, one of which, Whale Warrior, covers his time in Antarctica.

Pete is also the founder of the Earthrace Junior Activists Club, which began in 2008 and is run by Earthrace volunteers Alison Banks, Natalie Borghardt and Junior Activist Captain, 17-year-old Zach Affolter.

There are now over 1,200 young members who all share a passion to help protect the oceans and marine life.

“I can tell from the many letters, emails and messages that I receive from children and young people all over the world that they are as concerned about the state of the oceans as I am,” Pete said. “I hope this challenge will encourage many more young people to really think about what the oceans mean to them and to take actions to help protect them.

“Their words will inspire others of all ages to follow their lead and begin to understand how important marine life and the environment are for all us, whether or not we live near the ocean or not.”

The competition

Pete is asking anyone up to the age of 18 to submit an essay or short story of no more than 500 words based on ‘what the oceans mean to me’.

There are four age categories for the ocean writing challenge: Under 10; 10-12 years, 13-15 years; and 16-18 years.

As well as the main prize of the Earthrace remote control boat, there are more prizes to be won in the shape of a remote control shark, signed copies of Pete’s book Whale Warrior, Junior Activist t-shirts, caps, bumper stickers, signed posters, plush Maui’s dolphin toys and wristbands.

Entries should be sent by email to alison@earthrace.net by the closing date of 31 August 2014.

All entries must include the name of the author, age, email address and mailing address.

All winners will be notified no more than one month after the closing date and the winning entries will be posted on the Earthrace Junior Activist Facebook page and published in a future issue of the Earthrace online magazine, Our Backyard.For more information visit the Earthrace Junior Activists Club page at www.earthraceconservation.org/eco-junior-activist-club.

New Zealand historian against government’s glorifying of World War I


By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

New Zealand historian discusses government’s book glorifying World War I

7 June 2014

The World Socialist Web Site recently spoke to historian Stevan Eldred-Grigg about the government-produced book, New Zealand and the First World War 1914–1919, published last November. The Ministry of Culture collaborated with the Defence Force and hired the ardent militarist Damien Fenton to write the book, which is one of about a dozen being produced as part of the country’s centenary commemorations of WWI.

Stevan Eldred-Grigg

Stevan Eldred-Grigg

The WSWS review characterised the book as pro-war propaganda, based on falsifications, omissions and distortions, designed to numb the consciousness of workers and youth in order to prepare them for future wars. WWI was an imperialist war, caused by the breakdown of the capitalist system, expressed in the struggle between the major powers in Europe, Asia and America for domination of colonies, markets and profits. More than 10 million people were killed, including 18,500 New Zealanders, and millions more were maimed. New Zealand’s ruling elite joined the war, as a junior partner in the British Empire, in order to expand its wealth and colonies in the South Pacific.

Fenton falsely presents the war against Germany and its allies as an altruistic endeavour. He celebrates New Zealand’s involvement, including its seizure of German-held Samoa, and its share in the plunder from Nauru. He concludes that WWI was “largely successful and profitable” for the country.

Eldred-Grigg is the author of The Great Wrong War: New Zealand Society in WWI (Random House, 2010), which examines the disastrous impact of the war on the country. He has written several other works of history and novels, including The Rich: A New Zealand History, New Zealand Working People, and Oracles and Miracles.

Tom Peters: As a historian, what do you make of Fenton’s book as a whole?

Stevan Eldred-Grigg: The fact that such an uncritical text is one that gets the official imprimatur is, of course, depressing—deeply depressing. It’s not surprising that it’s got the government, or the prime minister’s backing. But they [the researchers at the Ministry of Culture] should know better than that. They’re proper historians. Basically, he’s not a historian. He’s an antiquarian. Antiquarians are those who gather all the information they can about a subject and don’t know what to do with it, don’t know how to argue, how to critically appraise or analyse.

TP: There’s virtually no discussion of New Zealand’s invasion of Samoa at the start of the war.

EG: It gets one little box, and the carve-up of Nauru gets half a line—where it’s described as beneficial, as you pointed out in your review. No mention of the gross exploitation that was going on in Nauru. By the end of the war, one Samoan historian argues, Samoa had just become one big prison camp. There were curfews and very strict racial segregation of four groups: the whites, the Cantonese coolies (who were the bottom of the heap), the Samoans and the afekasi (part Samoan, part white).

Until The Great Wrong War, no New Zealand historian had discussed—in any mainstream history of New Zealand or about the war—our seizure of Samoa. Fenton should have integrated what I said about it. He hasn’t taken any account of my book. It’s not in the bibliography.

TP: You point out that there were long-standing designs on Samoa, Nauru and other places throughout the Pacific, even Hawaii at one stage.

EG: The New Zealand governing groups, the Liberals and Reform, both seem to have been equally strong on the idea of a New Zealand colonial empire in the Pacific. That actually seems to have been quite an important strand in the political elite’s thinking when we decided not to join the Federation of Australia—the sense that New Zealand should look towards the Pacific, that we had our own “manifest destiny.”

TP: Fenton claims New Zealand went to war partly because it faced a naval threat from Germany and relied on Britain for protection.

EG: That’s of course nonsense. Historians of the right have argued that our trade depended on Britain. Fenton accepts that. I went to a great deal of trouble to show that the largest market for our wool exports may well have been Germany, and they were also an important market for frozen meat. The German shipping line Norddeutscher Lloyd, one of the largest in the world, was also going to break the British shipping monopoly between Europe and New Zealand.

Then there’s the military defence argument: that we depended on the British navy to keep the seas clear of other navies, because if they didn’t do that, all those other predatory powers that wanted us would take us. Who exactly were those predatory powers? The only ones that had the capacity were the US and Japan. Japan was an ally, the US was neutral and became an ally. France, Britain and Germany were of no account in the Pacific by 1914.

Then they always add: the great majority of New Zealanders emotionally identified as British.

TP: Which is what he says.

EG: First of all, you have to take out the 10 to 12 percent Catholic Irish, who certainly did not see themselves as British, and saw the British Empire as a very dodgy enterprise. You have to take out most Maori, who—unlike what he says—did not flock to the colours, but stayed away in droves. You have to take out German and Scandinavian New Zealanders, for the most part, and a large number of Croat New Zealanders, and you have to take out Chinese New Zealanders.

Then there’s our colonial peoples, who had to be shovelled in to fill the recruitment quotas. Kalaisi Folau and Margaret Pointer have written a really moving work about the poor Niueans. Some of them volunteered, some got brow-beaten. They had terrible experiences. Most of them just got sick. In return, the whole community of Niue got a type-written letter with a mimeographed signature from the war minister, and some portraits of the king and queen to hang in a village hall.

You’ve still got an overwhelming majority of Anglo-Scots, something like 75 percent. But then of course you can start doing your class analysis.

TP: Fenton doesn’t discuss class at all.

EG: No, of course, class doesn’t exist, we’re all one united people. He talks about “New Zealand” as though it’s an organic unity.

It was really polarised. If you read the private papers of wealthy, conservative people before the war, there was a widespread anxiety about revolution—as there was everywhere in the capitalist world. There was also the very strong idea that “the people”—the working class—had become too prosperous, too demanding, and had lost touch with reality, and that war would restore true values. That was very widespread in New Zealand among conservatives, just as much as it was in Prussia, England, France and St Petersburg.

TP: And it was a very militarised society, as you explain.

EG: It was. One of the things I was struck by, when I first began looking at newspapers before the war, was the salience of military and naval images. The governors wore military uniforms. Children, boys and girls, wore naval uniforms. There was a lot of anger about compulsory military training among working class people and among Methodists and Baptists from the middle class. Those were the stalwarts of the peace movement.

In fact, in the years before the war, pamphlets were being published back in Britain, by New Zealanders, warning British working class people not to accept the blandishments of the New Zealand government giving them assisted migration, because their sons would end up being turned into cannon fodder.

TP: One of the shocking aspects of the book is that he completely endorses all the repressive measures taken by the government.

EG: Yes. Ostensibly, of course, a war fought for democracy and freedom, that’s what they kept banging on about. And the first thing you do, as soon as war breaks out, you bring in a whole lot of regulations to suppress democracy and freedom. As the war went on, the measures got sterner, and sterner, and sterner. They were continuing to strengthen them towards the end of the war.

TP: Anti-war meetings were prohibited.

EG: Anti-conscription meetings were prohibited as well, once it was introduced. And you couldn’t even speak in private against the war, so people were self-censoring.

Amelia Turnbull, an ordinary citizen, while seated at the family breakfast table, heard her son-in-law say something about not caring if Germany won the war. She dobbed him in, and he was sent to prison for twelve months. A bewildered old Norwegian woman, on the railway station at Palmerston North, who was having trouble with her baggage, began to abuse “you Britishers”, and she was sent to prison for six months.

So you couldn’t speak out, even in your own home. Of course, people did anyway, not everyone had that sort of mother-in-law.

The tradition which I grew up in, in my mum’s family, the unskilled working class, was that the whole thing was stupid: a stupid war. Mum had about eight uncles and of them one got into uniform. The others wagged, they ran away, they messed up the medicals. These were not idealistic conscientious objectors. These were just men who felt: this is stupid, it’s a fat man’s war, nothing to do with me.

A lot of people ran away to Australia or the US, especially the Irish. That’s another thing Fenton doesn’t touch on, the Catholic Irish opposition.

TP: He says there was a tiny proportion of people who resisted conscription.

EG: He doesn’t make any reference to the women’s riot in Christchurch that I looked at [1]. The government was very careful to phase in conscription: first of all targeting the single, then later on the young married with no children. By the time the married with children were being conscripted in 1917, the anger was widespread, and you got those huge crowds protesting about conscription and wartime inflation.

I was born in Blackball, a working class mining town, and in Blackball there’s a well-known story. There were a lot of men running away from conscription, or who’d deserted from the army. Some cops arrived in town to try and track some of them down, and some people from the miners’ union led the cops to the top of a big limestone bluff over what’s called Coal Creek. And they said, “See down there? It’s a long way, isn’t it? If you come back here doing this again, you’ll find yourself at the bottom.” That was the feeling in places like that.

There were quite a lot of strikes, because there was this increasing sense as the war went on that the working class were being shafted to pay for it. So they began to try to claw back some of their losses.

Blomfield cartoon, from the National Library of New Zealand

Blomfield cartoon, from the National Library of New Zealand

TP: Fenton claims that this cartoon from the Observer [see left] in December 1916 “illustrates the public anger at the prospect of coal miners and workers in other essential industries using wartime conditions to win higher pay and better conditions.”

EG: “The public anger”! Rather than capitalist anger… It’s worrying. The first task of a historian is to look at a piece of evidence and ask: who wrote it? Why did they write it? Who were they trying to persuade, of what, for what purpose? And he just doesn’t do that. He just accepts the newspapers!

TP: What do you think of how Fenton writes about the fighting itself? He praises the British general Douglas Haig and French general Henri-Philippe Petain, among others.

EG: I just find it so distasteful. In the 1960s and 1970s, when the world of historiography was largely liberal and left, we were being told that these people were wholesale slaughterers of the working class. But then there was a reaction against this. The New Right came in and stripped off, quite quickly, the thin skin of leftish liberalism on a lot of people.

So by the 1990s there were some historians in the old British Empire who were beginning to argue that the 60s and 70s response was just a sentimental, wet response, and a dry way of looking at it was: Britain won the war. That’s good, because Britain is good, it stands for justice. So, how did it do it? By killing millions of its soldiers, but by killing even more millions of the other people’s soldiers. Ipso facto, it was worth doing.

Some historians also began to stress what had previously just been regarded by the liberal left as the British rationale for intervention, which was the invasion of Belgium and the violation of an international treaty. So I went to some pains to point out how Britain violated two international treaties as soon as the war broke out.

TP: By attacking German colonies in Africa…

EG: Also, the British illegally and unilaterally, within a few months of the outbreak of war, defined contraband to mean anything going to the enemy, even to feed the civilians. But that’s not discussed by Fenton.

TP: He generally sanitises the fighting and New Zealand’s role.

EG: He doesn’t talk about the violence and exploitative behaviour of the New Zealand soldiers towards the Egyptians, which was all through the war. It was sustained and systematic.

He talks briefly about what has become glamorised as a romantic interlude: the riot in the Cairo brothel district. This is “our boys” attacking a lot of sex workers, who are making a really crap living. There’s no suggestion that the men, by buying these sexual services, are exploiting them. Then they get beaten up for their pains and have their houses burnt down.

TP: He says there was “mutual hostility” between the Egyptians and the Allied soldiers.

EG: Yes, as though it equals out. Rather than the New Zealanders being in an occupation force, with the population naturally enough not wanting to be occupied. The accounts of people who were there, written subsequently, talk about a lot of nasty stuff: New Zealand soldiers taking pot shots at Egyptians from the trains—things like that.

TP: What do you think of the images in the book, which are a large part of it?

The battle of Chunuk Bair

The battle of Chunuk Bair [2]

EG: The pictures are easy to look at and hardly any of them show the cost. Look at this painting of Gallipoli [see above]. Where’s the blood? Where are the body parts? That was a really disgusting battle. Within an hour or so, there were all these body parts everywhere. This is just total propaganda: good-looking young men, well dressed, not an intestine to be seen, not an eyeball hanging out.

It doesn’t show what it’s like to be killed or maimed in a pointless, bloody war. And what’s it like for the people left behind, who’ve got to carry the can. It’s just so heartless, it’s emotionless, its passionless, it has no real love of people.

TP: Why hasn’t it been criticised by anyone? The reviews all praise it.

EG: The Great Wrong War was my most unpopular book ever. All the reviews were very, very hostile. Because what you’re implying is that “our boys” suffered needlessly.

People haven’t really been encouraged to think critically about the two world wars. In the 1990s there was a lot of anxiety about how boys were not succeeding in the education system. So the content of New Zealand history was looked at, and it was decided to try to hook in boys by putting war in there. One unfortunate consequence has been that all these kids are now being taught war history in a quite an uncritical way.

A unit called “The Origins of the First World War” was taught at School Certificate level in the 1960s. It was great! It looked at imperialism, capitalism and all states aggressively manoeuvring, and all equally culpable.

The way it’s taught in schools now is that the war was like a tsunami, a natural force that came to New Zealand. Sort of dark, sad, but at the same time there were elements of heroism, and it drew us together and we did well and were brave. I think that’s a big part of why young people turn up in growing numbers for Anzac Day. It’s social engineering.

Note:

[1] See The Great Wrong War, pp. 373–374. Thousands of women rioted one afternoon in May, 1918, outside the King Edward Barracks in Christchurch. They shouted down officers who were attempting to take a roll call of conscripts, and called on the men not to go to camp.

[2] “The battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915.” The sesquicentennial gift to the nation from the New Zealand Defence Force. By Ion G. Brown, Major, Army artist. [Wellington, New Zealand Defence Force, 1990] http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=40955

Five weeks away from New Zealand’s election, the August 13 release of investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics has thrown a spanner in the National Party government’s re-election campaign: here.

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