Friday 17 February 2012

A Modern Mark Anthony?

All Honourable Men: Is Paul Holmes playing Mark Anthony to John Key's Julius Caesar? In response to Maoridom's attack on the Government's "partial" privatisation programme did he decide to let slip the dogs of Pakeha racism? Is it possible he wrote his grossly offensive Weekend Herald column not to praise, but bury, Clause 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act?

“CRY ‘HAVOC!’ and let slip the dogs of war!” These are the incendiary words that Mark Anthony puts into the mouth of Julius Caesar’s ghost as he surveys the bloody work of his assassins. Though Mark Anthony insists he’s come “to bury Caesar – not to praise him”, his true purpose is to turn Rome’s citizens against the “honourable men” who have slain his – and Rome’s – best friend.

How would a modern Mark Anthony provoke revolution?

A few years ago, Wellington’s Circa Theatre staged a “modernised” version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which Mark Anthony’s speech is beamed into a Roman pub. Its motley collection of patrons are at first barely interested in the live television broadcast from Caesar’s funeral, but gradually, word by word, they get drawn into Mark Anthony’s superbly constructed speech until, thoroughly “ruffled up”, they pour onto the streets in “rage and mutiny”.

Equally, a modern Mark Anthony might avail himself of talk-back radio, or the columns of a mass-circulation newspaper, to capture the attention of his countrymen, ruffle up their spirits, and “put a tongue” into every one of their wounds and grievances.

Were he in a position to do so, a modern Mark Anthony might cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war across the whole media: television, radio, Internet and press.

But to what purpose? Mark Anthony had two: to revenge Caesar death, and to deal a death-blow to the tottering Roman Republic. How better to achieve these aims than by setting the Roman mob against Brutus: Caesar’s assassin and the Republic’s staunchest defender?

If we translate the Shakespearian drama into a contemporary New Zealand context, who best fits the description of Mark Anthony? Who has stepped forward to defend Caesar and attack his enemies? Who took advantage of a solemn civic occasion to shout in the ears of the sleeping dogs of war? Who, with carefully chosen words, has ruffled up the spirits of his countrymen to rage and mutiny?

Who else but Mr Paul Holmes?

From the “bully pulpit” of his column in the weekend edition of the NZ Herald, was it not Mr Holmes who unleashed a storm of criticism against the whole of Maoridom? Did he not call for Waitangi Day – “a bullshit day”, “a day of lies” – to be abandoned, and for the Treaty itself to be cast aside? Was it not Mr Holmes who, in his rhetorical fury at Waitangi Day protest, suggested that every person of Maori descent was guilty of “bashing their babies”? Did he not say that if the ghosts of family members who fought and died at Gallipoli, El Alamein and Casino were somehow able to witness the event, none could be persuaded that Waitangi Day was “anything but filth”?

In unleashing this vicious and indiscriminate attack against Waitangi Day, the Treaty, and all things Maori, Mr Holmes must have known that he was striking at the very heart of the relationship which binds the Maori Party to the National Party. Nor would it have escaped him that, by rousing the sleeping dogs of Pakeha racism, he was putting that relationship in danger. Given the precarious balance of political forces in the House of Representatives, why would he want to do any of these things?

Unless, Mark Anthony-like, his purpose was to assist his beleaguered friend, the Prime Minister, by toppling something that, already fatally weakened, was about to fall?

The Maori Party’s concern at the damage even the partial sale of state assets could inflict upon the Treaty Partnership, and its threat to withdraw from its Confidence & Supply Agreement with the Government, have clearly been interpreted as an attack on John Key. A case of “E tu Tariana?” Has he voiced in private, what he cannot publicly declare: that the judicially-defined “Treaty Partnership” has outlived its usefulness?

Is that why Mr Holmes cried ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of Pakeha racism? Not to praise Clause 9 – but to bury it?

This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Otago Daily Times, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 17 February 2012.


Jono said...

Based on the attire, I think Paul is more Marc Anthony, not Mark Antony.

Victor said...

Increasingly, though, Mr Holmes resembles more a character created by Lewis Carroll than by William Shakespeare.

Anonymous said...

What a convoluted crock.

And neither was Pauls column written by little green men, although that is a more credible scenario.

Brian Edwards theory is much more likely, Holmes wrote his dog vomit post when he was pissed.

Not that I share Edwards rosy view of Holmes deep and meaningful erudition when sober. When Holmes is sober I mean.

Mark Wilson said...

"Was it not Mr Holmes who, in his rhetorical fury at Waitangi Day protest, suggested that every person of Maori descent was guilty of “bashing their babies”?"

Well actually Chris no he didn't say that.

And I challenge you to deny that if Pakeha acted that way to Maori leaders there would not be a violent response?

The fact is you are racist - Maori bad behaviour is OK but not Pakeha bad behaviour.

Anonymous said...

Top drawer brother, sweet truth in literary nectar.

As Edwards insists, Holmes is no fool: and as a mighty-ten megalomaniac with a leg in the grave, in no feasible hurry to build the legacy of ignoramus bigot. Pissed or not.

Brash tried Orewa One II, but was denied the machine; it may have interfered with the Rule Alone goal. An own goal, as it turned out.

But this one has the imprimatur written all over it; which means the threat must be large.

The unholy convergence of rural, Maori, elderly, youthful, petit-bourgeoise angst and final rejection of the false neo-liberal god?

Something's afoot, and about to grow legs. The focus groups have spoken, and old debts are called in.

One final throw of the hatemongering die: but too little, too disgusting, too late.


blueleopardthinks said...

Never mind Shakespeare, how about this one:

"I d like to talk about the things that brings us together.
Things that point out our similarities instead of our differences
coz that’s all you will be hearing about in this country are differences,
that all the media, the poli -tic- icans are talking about , the things
that separate us, things that make us different from one another.
That’s the way the ruling class operates in any society.

They try to divide the rest of the people;
they keep the lower and the middle classes fighting with each other;
so that they, the rich, can run off with all the ** money (bailout),

fairly simple thing happens to work.
You know anything different that’s what they gonna talk about:
race, religion, ethnic and national background, jobs, income, education, social status
sexuality, anything that they can do to keep us fighting with each other,
so that they can keep goin’ to the bank.

You know how I describe the economic and social classes in this country :
the upper-class keeps all of the money pays none of the taxes
the middleclass pays all of the taxes and does all of the work
the poor are there to just to scare the shit out of the middleclass, to keep ‘em showin’ up at those jobs
SO stirrin’ up the ** is something I like to do from time to time"

George Carlin "The Ruling Class"

Anonymous said...

Actually (I admit to loathing Paul Holmes) both his Waitangi Day column and his "cheeky darky" comment are perfectly understandable.

One would have to be a certain age to twig to the "cheeky darkey".

It was common fare in British comic books pre 1970.

Holmes Waitangi rant might be upsetting to those of thin skins but would be a fair reflection of a lot of commentary around the country.

Does it not occur to anyone that Mr Holmes is being deeply ironic?

Certainly the issues he raises need debating.

Why not concentrate on the issues, rather than the personalities?

Mark Anthony's speech and Holmes rant being comparable would be an interesting Ph.D thesis.

Anonymous said...


Holmes' column is just an extreme example of the trolling that has been substituted for much of journalism in our country. I guess it gets people to watch.

I was watching 3 news the other day and got the impression that they had joyfully embraced the Rovian ideal of "creating their own realities". I swear that sometimes you can see them thinking: "we can say whatever we like, because we're the media, and no-one can do anything about it".

Paulus said...

Not everybody read Holmes's column and interpreted it the way here described.

Pete said...

I wonder who will be the left's Augustus.

Anonymous said...

The Treaty of Waitangi needs to be amended like the American Constitution and not keep New Zealand in a constant time warp of 1840. Paul was only expressing the silent views of the majority of middle class Kiwi’s - it’s time to move on.
Why our politicians beat a path to Titewhai Harawira's patch and exchange pleasantries is beyond me – she was convicted of assault against her own and now pretends to be the next messiah.
As long as the grievance gravy train barrels along Waitangi day will remain a festering sore for us all. New Zealand must be the only country were we don’t embrace our birth as a nation in a day of celebration.

peterquixote said...

I like the picture of the boss holding up two bottles of the good oil in one hand. I see no antiquated
relevance or association.
We have a competent Prime Minister, but we need to pull him up on asset sales. No big deal. I am doing it myself

guerilla surgeon said...

Native Americans don't celebrate Columbus day. Australian Aboriginals don't want a bar of Australia day mostly. Who is WE?

Anonymous said...

The Treaty was never a "partnership" between Maori and Pakeha. It was an agreement between deliberately ill-informed chiefs and the British Crown.

The New Zealand Company had already settled Wellington and was planning further settlements of Nelson, Wanganui and Dunedin in 1840. In the age of revolutions, the horror for the monarchy was that the settlement at Port Nicholson (as New Zealand Company policy for all of its settlements asserted) had established democratic self-government without the monarchy.. or as Hobson condemned a "South Seas republic".

After the Treaty signing, Commander Shortland was dispatched by New Zealand's new military governor to Port Nicholson. He arrived with the Waitangi proclamation, a Union Jack, a policeman and a detachment of the army. Upon his arrival, the settlement newspaper commented that "His Excellency has it not in his power either to extend or limit our rights; consequently, if we were, so we are now, entitled to the Representative Government we have for some time enjoyed". The settlers were wrong. Democracy was the first victim of the Treaty. The colony wouldn't get any form of self-government until anger was at boiling point a decade later. It would be another half century before settlers would regain general suffrage & a further eighty years before all Maori enjoyed the same legal equality as settlers that was the basis behind the Treaty.

The Southern Cross published a damning warning on the Treaty in 1843 which finished by stating:
"Ist, That the British Government have no other title to New Zealand, excepting that which they may acquire by the intelligent consent of the natives.
2nd, That the Treaty entered into by Captain Hobson for the Cession of Sovereignty has not been signed by one tenth of the Chiefs of New Zealand.
3rd. That many of those who have signed it were paid for so doing.
4th. That none of the natives understood its nature or meaning.
sth. That the Treaty itself is perfectly, useless;- that nothing whatever is conceded by the natives to the Crown of England"

New Zealand's settlers considered Hobson's Treaty to lie somewhere between a travesty and a farce. Maybe condemnation of the Treaty is the one thing all kiwis can gain unity with on our National Day.


guerilla surgeon said...

Time for another column, I'm tired of looking at Holmes :-).

Anonymous said...

The treaty has been given legs by those who have an axe to grind to make Maori 1st class citizens and other peoples money to gain.

This is the 21st century and rightly all citizens should be equal no matter when their forfathers came here or how they got here.

The Chinese couple who got citizens hip last week in Wellington's town hall are equal to my Dutch mates from the 70's and my whanau at Ngati Hikitanga Te Paea.

Put the treaty in Te Papa where it belongs, We don't recognise it as living document and neither should you.

All are equal if they are citizens and carry the passport.

Mike Mckee